36th Parliament, 1st Session

L085 - Mon 10 Jun 1996 / Lun 10 Jun 1996


















































The House met at 1333.




Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I rise today on behalf of the Liberal Party for the purpose of recognizing an important event that dates back 416 years ago and has been celebrated as Portugal National Day since 1880.

The celebration of the national day of Portugal is special and unique in the pages of history. Unlike some dates that commemorate an important political event, such as declaration of independence, on this historic occasion we ask the people of Ontario to join our Canadians of Portuguese heritage in the remembrance of a great, world-renowned poet and writer, Luís de Camões. Although he passed away more than 400 years ago, Camões left a living legacy of meaningful poetry, of immortal beauty that has not withered with age.

We're all cognizant and appreciative of the tremendous contributions that our Portuguese friends have made to the development and growth of our province and country, both in economic and cultural fields. Yet, as important as the economic contributions are, the attention of Canadian Portuguese children today is focused not on the prosperity and wealth that opportunities in Canada create but on our democratic system of government, which allows the people of Ontario to celebrate the national literary hero of their forefathers' original homeland as a right.

Indeed, Luís de Camões is an intellectual giant whose footsteps have crossed centuries of time and the Atlantic Ocean to implant into Canada a great heritage of love for literature, poetry and education.

Today in the gallery we recognize the consul general of Portugal and his distinguished guests.

Remarks in Portuguese.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I too am glad to have the chance today to acknowledge and to celebrate with Canadians of Portuguese background Portugal National Day and the Day of Camões, and to note that the Portuguese have chosen the day that celebrates also a poet, Luís de Camões, as the day to celebrate their national day. It is symbolic of the sprit that is typical of the Portuguese as they have travelled the world, and certainly in the great poem, the Lusiads of Luís de Camões, is commemorated the travels of the Portuguese throughout the world.

We are the stronger for it, that many of them have chosen to settle in Ontario over the years and now form a vital part of our great Ontario community. It is indeed that spirit that I want to pay tribute to, the spirit of the Portuguese Canadians, the hard work they have brought to this province to help to build this province -- to build the roads, to build the buildings -- and as they now are clearly growing continuously year to year and are present in many areas, whether in the world of politics, in the world of the arts or in the world of business. It is with great pride as one who represents many thousands of Portuguese Canadians in this House that I too today, as the great Camões did, sing the Lusian spirit bright and bold.

Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East): It is my privilege to rise today to speak on the occasion of celebrations of Portugal Day. I rise today not only as the member for Mississauga East but as a member who today speaks on behalf of over half a million people of Portuguese background in Ontario, a community almost as large as the population of Newfoundland and three times larger than that of Prince Edward Island.

Statistics Canada in 1991 reported Portuguese as the most predominant non-official language spoken in the city of Toronto. It ranks third in Metro and third overall in Ontario, and it is the fourth most popular non-official language spoken in Canada.

Mr Speaker, through you to all the members of this House I'd like to say that at least 50% of the ridings in Ontario have a sizeable population of people of Portuguese background. They make up 12% to 15% of the population of Cambridge and over 25% of the population in Fort York, Dovercourt and Parkdale. They are homeowners in London Centre, Middlesex, Brampton, Hamilton, High Park-Swansea, Oakville, Ottawa East, Simcoe Centre and Kitchener.

As Ontario's and Canada's first parliamentarian of Portuguese background, and on behalf of the government of Premier Mike Harris, I take this opportunity to wish the entire Portuguese Canadian community a happy Portugal Day.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The government's relentless attack on the north continues unabated as more jobs and services are removed from our part of the province. As the Solicitor General knows, the manager of the OPP garage operations in Orillia is coming up to northwestern Ontario today to deliver layoff notices to the workers at the OPP service garage in Thunder Bay tomorrow.

Despite the fact that closing down this garage, which presently services a 520-car fleet from Wawa to the Manitoba border and maintains first nations vehicles from 50 communities in the northwest, will clearly cost the taxpayers considerably more money, the government continues to focus only on its short-term goal of cutting jobs from the public service.

I've written the minister asking him to provide some evidence that closing the Thunder Bay facility will actually save taxpayers' dollars. I've asked him how isolated communities, some accessible only by air throughout most of the year, can possibly have less expensive, let alone improved, service when the Thunder Bay garages close down.

The minister has not responded to my letter because he knows that this closure means increased costs and, more alarmingly, it also means we may have more vehicles out of service for longer periods of time, which ultimately means a reduction in the force's ability to do its job.

Today I want to put the Solicitor General on notice: We will monitor the cost to the taxpayer of that decision. The heartless attempt to achieve your short-term goals will not be forgotten.



Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My statement too is on the theme of the national day of Portugal. Today Portuguese Canadians celebrate the life of Portugal's greatest poet, Luís de Camões. De Camões's legacy lives on and today we share in the beauty and richness of the Portuguese culture, language and people.

In 1955 the first immigrants arrived in Canada from Portugal, Madeira and the Azores. There are currently more than 300,000 people of Portuguese origin living in Canada; 72% live in Ontario, representing the sixth-largest community of ethnic origin in this province.

There are more than 40,000 Portuguese Canadians under the age of 24. They are the future of the Portuguese Canadian community and it is my pleasure this afternoon to introduce examples of their great work.

One of them is the first edition of Origins, the University of Toronto Portuguese Association magazine. Written in Portuguese and English, its goal is to promote communication among all members of the Portuguese Canadian community. The creativity, enthusiasm and spirit of these young people are an inspiration to us all. For their literary endeavour, Luís de Camões would be proud.

For the past few years I've also had the pleasure of working with Portuguese Canadian university students at the Portuguese Canadian Student Federation and with the Portuguese Canadian high school students youth council. Their efforts are bringing their cultural capital back into the community at large. Efforts like these help preserve the Portuguese Canadian culture for generations to come. Together, we must all work to foster, strengthen and encourage these young people so that they may follow the dreams of their ancestors of 43 years ago.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I want to extend my personal congratulations to the Portuguese people of this province. But I rise today to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of Ontario's information technology sector.

In my role as parliamentary assistant for small business, I recently had the opportunity to meet with the business leaders of the information technology sector in Ottawa. After discussing with the Ottawa-Carleton Research Institute, the Canadian Advanced Technology Association and touring firms like Mitel and Newbridge, I can tell you that the information technology sector is a model for all of Ontario.

Companies are finding new sources of venture capital, innovating their production, enhancing their marketing and sales approach, and creating hundreds of new jobs each and every week to the tune of about 300 per month.

So when the critics say this government is not fulfilling its commitment to work with business and industry to create an environment for job creation, they can clearly look at the information technology sector. The confidence the IT sector has displayed in investing in Ontario proves that the Harris government is working with industry to create long-term, well-paying jobs.

I hope my colleagues in the Legislature can join me in congratulating the information technology sector on a job well done.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Members of the Ontario Legislature will be aware of my efforts over the past five years to secure permission from the Ontario Ministry of Health to establish an MRI scanner, a magnetic resonance imager, in St Catharines.

When the Ministry of Health announced in February 1995 that it was releasing its request for proposals for 22 new MRI scanners across Ontario, I was confident that St Catharines would be the site of one of those diagnostic machines, and this was confirmed by the ministry last Friday when it was stated that the St Catharines General Hospital would house the new unit.

I wish to thank those presiding officers in the Legislative Assembly who have been tolerant enough to permit me to make reference to the need for an MRI scanner in St Catharines at virtually every possible opportunity, even when the subject under discussion had nothing to do with the medical machine.

Many are under the impression that the Ministry of Health provides this diagnostic instrument and pays for its operation. I wish that were so, but it is not.

The St Catharines General Hospital will have to conduct a $5-million fund-raising campaign to pay for the cost of the MRI, associated renovations and additional complementary diagnostic equipment. Also, the Ministry of Health will cover only $150,000 per year of the cost of the operation of the scanner, with the hospital forced to find an additional $667,000 out of its own shrinking budget to ensure that the MRI is operational. I am confident, however, that our community will rise to the occasion and meet the $5-million fund-raising goal.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I rise also to join with colleagues in the House in celebrating Portugal National Day. In Hamilton on Saturday we had the launching of the sixth annual Lusofest celebration, which is a week-long celebration of the Portuguese Canadian community in Hamilton, particularly in my riding of downtown Hamilton where most of the first wave of immigrants settled in.

We celebrate at a time when in Hamilton we are also celebrating our sesquicentennial, the 150th birthday of Hamilton being incorporated as a city.


Mr Christopherson: On behalf of Hamiltonians, I thank all the members for their applause in acknowledging our 150th birthday. Indeed, we had the Governor General in town for the entire weekend at a number of important events. I think it speaks volumes that at the same time we were celebrating the rich cultural diversity and important diversity that we have in Hamilton, Lusofest was launched in the middle of that in downtown Hamilton.

I want to join with all members in acknowledging and thanking the Portuguese community for its contribution. They have helped to make Hamilton the beautiful, culturally diverse, exciting place that it is, and the roots that they have set in Hamilton have helped make our 150th birthday that much greater an important celebration.


Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): We've heard many times in this place that learning is a lifelong pursuit, and it's my great pleasure to congratulate the city of Toronto for proclaiming June 10 to be Seniors Education Day.

More than 10,000 senior citizens are involved in programs which take place in community centres and seniors' housing, giving them the opportunity to meet new friends and learn new skills.

Helping our senior citizens to remain active lifelong goes a long way to improving both the physical and mental wellbeing of these very important people.

Participants in these programs assist with the costs of administration by returning the proceeds of arts and crafts made through their classes. This is another example of how we all benefit from citizens who actively contribute to their own wellbeing.

One week remains in a 10-day long celebration of these programs. Several events are taking place across the city of Toronto involving both participants and members of the larger community. I invite all members to lend their support to worthwhile programs such as these, and I congratulate the Toronto Board of Education for its efforts.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today a delegation from the Alliance of Portuguese Clubs and Associations of Ontario, accompanied by Mr Antonio Montenegro, consul general of Portugal. Please join me in welcoming our guests.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I have in the east public gallery today a dear friend by the name of Marion Duncanson celebrating her 77th birthday. She's here with the Elgin Liberal riding association.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member does not have a point of order.



Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): A key promise of the Common Sense Revolution was that our government would move quickly to ensure a reliable and affordable electricity system for the people of Ontario. This is an integral part of meeting our responsibility to attract investment and maintain a strong, competitive economy in the face of upcoming global economic and technological changes.

As the members know, this past Friday I received the report of the Advisory Committee on Competition on Ontario's Electricity System entitled A Framework for Competition. This is a pivotal report in dealing with all the competitive challenges of the future.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the committee members for accomplishing a remarkable task in a very short time. I believe the committee's work provides us with the framework needed to discuss how our province can continue to attract investment, create jobs and compete globally.

The recommendations in this report call for profound change, introducing competition and market discipline into the current monopoly system in Ontario. They also include, with competitive rates, introducing a system of competitive bidding and the creation of a level playing field among a mix of public and private generators to achieve low rates; with regard to responding to change, separating Ontario Hydro's generating, transmission and distribution functions into distinct companies to open up the current monopoly; with regard to community control of local decision-making, streamlining Ontario Hydro and municipal distribution businesses to ensure local accountability, efficiency and competition at the retail level; and with regard to protection for the consumer, empowering a regulator to ensure customer protection, fairness and transparency in a competitive market.

This issue is about how to respond to the competitive challenges Ontario increasingly faces from all around the Great Lakes basin and from the northeastern continental electrical transmission grid. It's about how we best achieve a safe, reliable and competitive electricity system to ensure Ontario's economic viability in providing competitive jobs and quality of life in a rapidly changing world. It's about ensuring Ontario's communities have the competitive energy and controls to best represent the needs of their region. This government welcomes responses from consumers, industry and members of this Legislature as it begins to formulate its future direction in the fall.



Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): This government will not accept a system that allows victims of crime to suffer twice, first at the hands of the criminal and second at the hands of a justice system that does not respond to and respect victims' needs. Victims have told us that they feel alienated by the justice system. They are intimidated by the system and made to feel that their needs are secondary to the rights of the accused.

Earlier today I had the opportunity to join my colleague the Honourable Dianne Cunningham, the minister responsible for women's issues, to announce our government's latest victims' initiatives. In the Victims' Bill of Rights, we have established a victims' justice fund that guarantees that moneys collected under the victim fine surcharge are dedicated solely to providing services for victims. Our legislation was designed to ensure that victim services were enhanced so that victims receive the support and assistance they need. The victims' initiatives that we are announcing outline how we intend to provide the services to victims that the Victims' Bill of Rights envisioned.

We recognize the need to help victims. That is why the government introduced the Victims' Bill of Rights. Tomorrow, the Victims' Bill of Rights will be proclaimed into law and henceforth June 11 will be designated as the annual day of commemoration for victims of crime.

In conjunction with the proclamation of the Victims' Bill of Rights, I will be announcing the following new initiatives to enhance services for victims: (1) the victim notification system; (2) increased resources for existing victim/witness assistance programs; (3) the expansion of the victim/witness assistance program to new locations; (4) the creation of a community victims' initiative program.

Ontario's justice ministries will be establishing the victim notification system, which will be the first of its kind in Canada. This innovative program is used in many other jurisdictions across North America. It will permit a victim to access by telephone information about their case or about the accused 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This program responds to the need for victims to be kept informed of the status of their case and their offender at all times.

The criminal justice system can be confusing and an intimidating process for victims and witnesses called upon to testify at a criminal trial. Testifying at a trial can be a traumatic experience, especially for women and children. The victim/witness assistance program provides services to victims to help reduce this trauma. The program provides the victims and witnesses, particularly women and children, with the information and support they need to be able to provide effective testimony and to reduce the trauma caused by the court process.

Between 1988 and 1994, the program's combined monthly caseload of wife assault, child abuse and sexual assault victims increased by 225%, yet additional resources were not dedicated to the program during this period. In order to respond to the demand for these services, funding at existing victim/witness assistance program sites will be enhanced. In addition, the victim/witness assistance program, which is currently operating in 13 sites across the province, will be doubled over the next two years. Victims have told us that they want their communities to be more involved in the healing process and that they need flexible and responsive services.

The fourth part of our announcement is the creation of a community victims' initiative program. We believe that community groups providing services directly to victims should be supported. Individual non-profit groups will be funded by up to $50,000 to provide services to victims of crime. The focus of this year's funding will be directed towards initiatives to prevent violence against women. Within the first year the program will provide victims and their communities with up to $500,000 to provide much-needed services directly to victims of crime.

Victims of crime are a priority for this government. We are expanding victims' services and creating new and innovative programs to help victims in order to ensure that victims of crime receive the support and respect they deserve. We are dedicated to bringing about meaningful change in the way victims, especially women and children, are treated in the criminal justice system.

Today's initiatives are another step towards striking a balance between the needs of victims and the rights of the accused. These initiatives will help to restore victims' confidence in the justice system.

Finally, I would like to thank the Honourable Cam Jackson for all his support, direction and leadership in the fight to improve the plight of victims, which has been an invaluable asset to our efforts.

The government is investing $10.2 million over the next two years to enhance services to victims. These funds will be spent addressing the concerns that victims have articulated.

My colleague Bob Runciman, the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services, will now outline the final part of our announcement: how the government intends to enhance services to victims prior to and after the court process.

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I am announcing today the expansion of an important program to provide emotional support and practical assistance to victims of crime. I'm also announcing the beginning of a new program to develop an automated system to notify victims of crime when criminals are released from custody.

As my colleague the Attorney General mentioned a few minutes ago, we take our commitment to improve conditions for victims of crime very seriously. Our intention is to provide a coherent system of support for victims that begins with the first involvement of police services and which continues throughout the judicial process and through the release of criminals following any period of incarceration. We want to ensure that the judicial system does not impose further penalties on those who have already suffered from the actions of criminals.

I'm especially pleased to announce an expansion of the victim crisis assistance and referral service that will see it triple in size this year and become five times larger by the end of next year. The service is operating at four sites now, by the end of this year it will be in 12 locations and by the end of next year it will be in 20 locations.

Many members of the public are not aware of the victim crisis assistance and referral service. We call it VCARS. It is one of those programs that go along without making any waves, doing excellent work for people across this province without attracting a great deal of attention. VCARS is a community-based program that provides immediate crisis assistance to victims of crime or tragic circumstances 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In communities where the program operates, police officers attending the scene of a crime can call VCARS for assistance. VCARS will send out a team of trained volunteers to help the victim and to make sure she gets the follow-up help she needs from other community organizations. I say "she" because 70% of all victims assisted by the program are women; a large proportion are victims of domestic assault or abusive relationships. Last year 400 VCARS volunteers contributed about 200,000 hours of unpaid work. They gave immediate emotional support and practical assistance to more than 5,000 victims of crime.

I also wish to announce to this House the steps the government is taking to ensure that victims of crime are notified of significant developments in the cases that affect them, especially the release from custody of the criminals who harmed them. Beginning immediately, technical staff in my ministry will begin developing an automated system to provide information to victims of crime by telephone.


Victims will be able to register for this service and would be given a personal identification number. The notification system would be connected to the offender management database used by the correctional service.

When an offender is released from custody on parole or temporary absence, the system would automatically telephone the victim and keep calling until it received an answer, verified with the personal identification number. If the victim didn't respond, the system will notify the local police.

The cost of these two programs and the other programs for victims announced by the Attorney General a few moments ago will amount to about $10.2 million over the next two years. That money will be taken from the victims' justice fund which this government enshrined in the Victims' Bill of Rights. This government has made a commitment to use that money for the benefit of victims. Today we are following through on that commitment by improving the services and the information available to victims of crime.

This government takes very seriously our commitment to rebalance the criminal justice system so that the rights of victims are given greater weight. The programs we are announcing today are among the steps we are taking to honour those commitments.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I say to the two justice ministers that these four programs that flow from the Victims' Bill of Rights legislation are very important programs to the people of Ontario. It is certainly a sad commentary on criminal justice matters in this province that we have to bring in programs such as this because we have such a great need with the many victims of crime that we have, as we only have to continue to read even as of this weekend here in Toronto.

I say to the ministers that the victim fine surcharge program has been in place for the last two years and it has amassed some $20 million, which has only gone into the general government coffers, and it is certainly timely now that finally we start to use this money for these programs.

In regard to that money, there is still some money left from the last two years, and I would say that victims' rights organizations in Ontario will want to see some accountability of that money and to make sure all of the money that comes from the perpetrators of crime is used towards restitution for those victims.

We would also be very interested to know what the criteria are for the disbursement of all this money into these programs and to make sure the various community groups, the policing groups and the victims' rights organizations are involved in an indirect way as far as consultation but also in a direct way so that they can spend that money at the community level. As the minister would be well aware, at the police summit this weekend the police supported this concept for victims' rights at the community level.

I would also, though, wave this flag of warning to everyone in this Legislature. This is a government party that said in the election it would not be touching any money that went towards the criminal justice system, and of course we have seen many, many cuts since they took office. In fact, there are over $19 million in cuts to date in the criminal justice system. These cuts include a $600,000 reduction in funding for major criminal law prosecutions, a $4.74-million cut to the Partners in Community Safety programming, which is a main community policing program that would do a lot, as all studies have attested, towards the prevention of crime in the first place and therefore the reduction of victims at the front end rather than at the bottom end.

The cuts go on, and we will hold the government's feet to the fire when it comes to criminal justice matters to make sure that it works very hard at crime prevention as well as victims' rights.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): On behalf of my colleagues, I want to say a word about the Minister of Energy's statement today about the report of the so-called Macdonald commission on electricity reform in Ontario.

Like all members, I certainly appreciated the good work that Mr Macdonald, Mr McKeough and others on that panel did. The report was released, as the minister indicated, on Friday morning. It is thoughtful, thought-provoking. It deals with an issue that is an extremely important one for the province as a whole.

I want to say to the minister that my colleagues and I have some very real concerns about some of what Mr Macdonald has commented upon and recommended. I have particular concerns about some aspects of the policy that do not appear to be developed in any significant way. It strikes me, for example, that if one is a rural Hydro customer in 1996, one would want to know whether the new electricity order is gong to provide the kind of support that the rural rate assistance program has provided over these past number of years and decades.

Let me simply say to the minister that it is clear from this report, the Macdonald report, that the panel rejected the Mike Harris-William Farlinger plan for wholesale privatization of Ontario Hydro, and to that extent we certainly appreciate the work of the panel. But we are concerned that as of this afternoon we still do not know what the policy framework and what the political timetable of the Ontario provincial government led by Mr Harris are going to be. We have in the minister's statement this afternoon no comment whatsoever on what particular kind of timetable and within what kind of government policy framework electricity reform is now going to unfold. Industrial and residential electricity consumers around Ontario want to know what your policy directive and timetable are going to be as we look at the electricity sector in the coming weeks and months.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Friday was a dark day for the future of electric power in Ontario. Donald Macdonald is a one-man energy conglomerate whose companies, like TransCanada PipeLines, would love to take advantage of the recommendations he's now making.

Our party is in favour of competition provided it can be done in a way that doesn't jeopardize equitable rates for rural and northern communities, hurt the environment or leave taxpayers picking up the tab for Hydro's assets. We also agree that when Hydro needs new supply it will likely be in the form of small renewable projects and gas-fired cogeneration plants; of course we're in favour of that. We should also make an aggressive effort through energy conservation to avoid new supply.

The problem is that Macdonald's love affair with privatization and the private market has caused him to make a giant leap of faith into private power. He wants to privatize almost a third of Hydro's generating capacity. While he says "pure politics" means he won't recommend selling off Niagara Falls, he wants to put a For Sale sign on every other waterfall in the province. These are Hydro's most profitable assets. They pay for the nuclear stations. Why get rid of them?

He also wants to sell off the fossil fuel plants. These are Hydro's dirtiest plants. Right now they are used only to fill peak demand, but if they're sold off you can bet the new owners will want a guarantee they can run them more often. That means more acid rain and more pollution.

Then there's the issue of rates. For many people this is the top issue. Hydro's own discussion paper -- Competition, Convergence and Customer Choice -- issued last September says privatization would drive up rates by 26% to 30%. Where are those figures now? That's because a private electric company would have to pay investors a high rate of return and because such a company would have to pay taxes. Yet Donald Macdonald somehow comes to the conclusion that rates would go down. How? A study done by an anonymous brokerage house that amazingly ignores the whole impact of privatization on rates. It's absurd.

I should note that even Macdonald didn't recommend privatization of nuclear power stations -- at least at this time, he said -- or Niagara Falls. Macdonald understands what the Premier and the government should also understand, that the people of Ontario will not stand to have Hydro's key assets sold off.

I call on the minister today to hold full public hearings on this report, and that all relevant documents be released immediately to the public so we can see what's really going on behind the scenes.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): The announcement by the two justice ministers is good news for victims in the province. We are delighted to see this government finally moving on plans that would have been in place some time ago had they not taken over and interrupted what was already announced and in place to take place during this past fiscal year, 1995-96. It's very important when people listen to this announcement to understand it in the context of the budgetary constraints that have already happened: $5 million this year has been taken out of victims' services like second-stage housing, male batterers' programs, prevention, education and training programs. And it is very important for victims to understand that the prevention initiative undertaken by our ministry, which would have totalled $9 million over five years going out to Partners in Community Safety, was cancelled by this government.

My colleague the member for Timiskaming rightly pointed out that the victim fine surcharge fund, which we as a government set up in February 1994, now has over $20 million in it, which increases each year. Estimates were that there would be at least $9 million a year, and this government is putting in $10.2 million over two years.

This is a dedicated fund. It was dedicated by us and it was confirmed by your Victims' Bill of Rights that it would be dedicated, and we want to know where the rest of the dollars are going. If victim fine surcharges are not being levied by the courts or asked for by crown attorneys, it is the responsibility of the Attorney General to ensure that those instructions are given to crown attorneys and the responsibility of his ministry to consult with the groups that are concerned. This is good news, but it's not as good news as it should be, given the amount of the funds that should be available.



Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Mr Speaker, to beg your indulgence for a moment, I'm sure the House would want me to observe that yesterday, June 9, was the 19th anniversary of the first election to this place of our colleagues Mr Sterling, Mr Bradley and Mr Cooke. Some of us can't imagine how it is possible that one could be in a place like this for 19 years, but we wish them many happy returns on that anniversary.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Transportation. I ask this question, recognizing that all of us are concerned about jobs. Do you know how many jobs would be created by the Sheppard subway line completion?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I thank the honourable member for the question. I couldn't really give you the exact number, but I believe it's over 2,000 FTE.

Mrs McLeod: I beg to correct the minister. In terms of the total impact, the project would create some 43,700 direct and indirect jobs -- 19,000 construction jobs alone. These are the jobs you killed last Thursday. Your government talked a lot about seeing new jobs created for the unemployed in this province; nowhere did you talk about killing jobs, and yet last Thursday the thousands of people who were planning on working on the Sheppard subway got the news. Last Thursday, when most of us had already gone off to our constituency offices, you quietly killed the Sheppard subway and all the jobs that would have gone with it.

Given the job crisis this province is facing, why did you tell these thousands of workers that they might as well just hit the road? Why have you killed this investment? Why have you driven a stake through the Sheppard subway?

Hon Mr Palladini: The honourable member is somewhat correct as far as the total number of jobs if you take into consideration input from within the industry.

So $511 million is killing the Sheppard subway? This government is committing $511 million to build Sheppard at a time when we've had to tighten our belt and govern with fiscal responsibility, and the honourable member says that this government is killing Sheppard? The government is committed to building Sheppard, and we're committed by spending $511 million to do it.

Mrs McLeod: That is certainly not what Mel Lastman said last Friday. He said that not only had this government's cuts threatened the Sheppard subway, this cut had killed the Sheppard subway. It's $117 million taken out of this project alone and almost $100 million taken out of TTC's renovation costs on top of that. Does the minister really think they would be able to go ahead with it?

It is obvious that your understanding of public transit or your concern for it doesn't extend beyond the lot of Pine Tree Lincoln-Mercury and that your government has absolutely no concern for public transit. We've had the Minister of Environment openly showing her disdain for public transit, and we've had you telling us that everybody has a car and cell phone, so why worry about it anyway?

It's clear that you don't worry about public transit. It's equally clear that you have no concern for the jobs you have just killed and that the only jobs your government is creating are going to be for unemployment councillors. Last month alone, the province of Ontario lost 17,000 jobs.

Minister, do you believe that your decision to kill the Sheppard subway and the 43,700 jobs that would have gone with it is going to make that unemployment situation better or worse?

Hon Mr Palladini: I would like to correct one part of the honourable member's question. I am now in the transportation business, not the car business. However, let's talk about the TTC repair.


Hon Mr Palladini: I have been in this House for approximately six months and I always have the courtesy to listen to the question. Some members of the opposition have no respect for this House or its procedures, and I would appreciate it, Mr Speaker, if you would ask for some calmness and quiet.


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

Hon Mr Palladini: This government has been saying right from the beginning that we want a balanced transportation system, and we've shown our commitments to achieving that not only by investing $350 million back in our highway infrastructure, which the last two governments allowed to deteriorate, but we are also investing $390 million to rehabilitate transit systems across the province. That's a firm commitment to making sure our public transit, number one, is safe.

The Toronto Transit Commission is one of the least effective agencies across the continent. If you were to compare it with other municipalities, if you were to compare it with --


Hon Mr Palladini: Here we go again, Mr Speaker. They don't want to hear the answer.

The Speaker: Order.


The Speaker: It's your time you're wasting. Minister, try and wrap up your answer.

Hon Mr Palladini: I just want to share some numbers with the honourable members. The Toronto Transit Commission employs approximately 9,800 people in the transit system; 41% of those employed in the TTC actually drive a bus or collect a token. It is the worst transit system across the country. There are provinces --


Hon Mr Palladini: If they want to have more information, maybe they can be quiet, Mr Speaker. There are provinces that are operating at 70% efficiency with bus drivers and token collectors. We are committed --

The Speaker: The question has been answered. New question; the leader of the official opposition.

Mrs McLeod: Obviously the Minister of Transportation is hearing so many other voices that he couldn't hear the simple question, why did he kill the Sheppard subway?


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I'll turn now to the Minister of Education and Training with my second question. Minister, you have said repeatedly that the policy of your government is that cuts to school boards are not supposed to increase the tax rates for local property taxpayers. In fact, I believe the Premier has stated on more than one occasion that if a school board should raise property taxes as a way of dealing with your cuts to them, he may personally intervene. I ask, is it still your government's policy that boards should find the ways to manage your cuts without raising property taxes?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm sure the honourable member knows from her experience in government that over the course of the last decade there have been considerable increases to the local taxpayer based on the policies of both the former Liberal and former NDP governments; in fact, those are fairly extraordinary in some cases.


However, I believe, having examined the financial situation in the education system in Ontario -- and we've dealt with that in the House here on many occasions, the amount of money that's spent outside of the classroom, the difference between what we spend here in Ontario and what they spend in other jurisdictions across Canada -- there's every evidence that we can make the reductions that we've asked for: less than 2% for every school board in the province, less than 2% reduction overall in the cost of education. Surely, those reductions can be made outside of the classroom.

Mrs McLeod: Since that's exactly the same answer that the minister's given to every question that I've raised in this House, I did understand that that was his government's stated policy. So it came as rather a surprise when we learned recently that your own ministry has directed some school boards in northern Ontario to increase their property taxes by 5%. This is according to a memo from your ministry, Mr Minister, a memo of April that says very clearly that if an isolate school board wants to offer junior kindergarten, they must increase their property taxes by 5%. You'll be aware that these are isolate boards that serve communities in remote areas of northern Ontario.

But I remind you that you have previously stated to all boards in the province that junior kindergarten is now a local option. If the board wants to provide it, if they can find a way to fund it, they can go ahead. Now you're telling these boards that if they can find a way to fund junior kindergarten from their existing budget without raising taxes, they are still going to be required to increase their property tax rate by 5%.

I find myself wondering whether this is some unique brand of common sense that you will have to explain to us. How can you explain that the Ministry of Education and Training is ordering boards to increase property tax rates when your own government policy clearly states that your funding cuts are not to be passed on to local ratepayers?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm sure that the honourable member opposite knows, the Leader of the Opposition knows, that's not the policy of the ministry, and if the leader would like to send a copy of whatever she's reading from over here, I'll examine it.

But let me say this. This government kept its promise to the people of Ontario and kept its commitment to the people of Ontario that we made very clearly in the Common Sense Revolution, and that is simply, around the issue of junior kindergarten, that we would restore it as a local option. We would allow local boards, including isolate boards and other boards across the province, the option of meeting their local needs. Surely that's the role of local boards, and that's the role we've asked them to uphold.

Mrs McLeod: I will be happy to send the minister a copy of his ministry's memo, since he's clearly not aware that his ministry is imposing a 5% increase in property taxes on these boards if they choose to keep junior kindergarten. I'll also send the minister a copy of a letter that was written to him from the Connell and Pondsford board, a letter on May 10, in which they asked the minister if he will not give them the option of being able to fund junior kindergarten from within their own resources, or at least decide themselves whether they want to raise property taxes. Clearly, the minister's answer must have been no, because this board has now written to the minister saying they have made the difficult decision to cancel junior kindergarten, a program which they have run for 17 years.

The Upsala board of education has said very clearly they can run junior kindergarten within their existing resources, they don't need to raise property taxes, but they've been told they can't do that. You're not giving them the option. They either kill junior kindergarten or they raise taxes by 5%.

So I ask you again, why are you forcing these boards to raise taxes? If you don't think that your cuts require tax increases, why are you imposing them on these boards?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm a little perplexed, perhaps, about the kind of questioning, and I'll get to that in just a moment.

Obviously, I think people across the province understand that a 1.8% reduction in operating costs is doable in a system where a considerable amount of our costs have been outside of the classroom. There are choices that need to be made, but they're choices around where to spend the money outside of the classroom, and we believe those things can be done.

I'd like to say that there are school boards across the province that have been able to make those reductions and have been able to offer a full plate of services that are considered valuable in their communities.

But let me go to the fundamental question the Leader of the Opposition has raised today, and that is the whole question around raising mill rates, the local taxes. The Leader of the Opposition will know about raising mill rates, because from 1985 to 1990, 242 school boards raised mill rates during her government. Let me give you some ideas of what these percentages were: Oshawa, 76%; Port Hope, 76%, Collingwood, 74%; New Liskeard 68%; Newark, 64%; Vaughan, 64% -- and the list goes on.

If the members of the third party are smiling, it's because their double-digit increases during their term of office were slightly smaller. From 1990 to 1993, Port Hope, 28% --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The question has been responded to. New question; third party.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, I don't like to dispute with you, but it hasn't been responded to. The point is that the minister doesn't seem to know what an isolate board is or that his own ministry has told boards that have found savings they have to impose a 5% increase.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): My question is to the Solicitor General regarding the situation at Elgin-Middlesex. The minister obviously is responsible for the activities carried out by the staff of his ministry or for actions not taken by the ministry staff. The fact is that the incident took place on February 29. Allegations were made and investigations were initiated by the advocate. We understand that the advocate reported on findings on an ongoing basis to the minister's ministry staff. When was the minister aware of the serious allegations that were raised around the incident at Elgin-Middlesex that allegedly occurred on February 29?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I indicated last week, in response to a question from the third party, actually, that I was advised following cabinet last Wednesday.

Mr Wildman: We know that on March 4 Judy Finlay, the child and family advocate, said that she informed the acting deputy minister of her concerns regarding alleged excessive use of force at Elgin-Middlesex. When did the acting deputy minister and the assistant deputy minister, correctional services division, first find out about these allegations? Were they aware of them before the advocate contacted them? When was the exact date that they knew?

Hon Mr Runciman: My understanding is that they were aware at the March 4 briefing, as the leader indicates. This was following or in fact during the OPP investigation of the Bluewater incident and other matters surrounding that. Ms Finlay indicated her concerns and was encouraged to conduct a full investigation surrounding those concerns.

Mr Wildman: As recently as January 12, 1996, the assistant deputy minister, Neil McKerrell, sent out a ministry directive regarding proper procedures to be followed when allegations of serious criminal activity arise within the ministry. On page 3 of that document, it states, "In the event that the manager is unable to determine whether an incident constitutes serious criminal activity, including physical assault, the police will be consulted." Not "should be," but "will be." "In cases where there is an allegation that criminal activity, including physical assault, involving employees or clients related to the conduct of ministry business, the manager shall report the allegation to the local police service or the Ontario Provincial Police detachment."


Why was this directive not followed with regard to the situation at Elgin-Middlesex? Who decided that these serious allegations about possible criminal activity within the ministry at Elgin-Middlesex about young offenders being beaten or mistreated did not warrant calling in the police until three months after the incident, at the end of May?

Hon Mr Runciman: I would remind the leader that the police were involved. I mentioned on March 4 --

Mr Wildman: No, not at Elgin-Middlesex.

Hon Mr Runciman: Well, they were involved with dealing with the young offenders.

Mr Wildman: At Bluewater, not Elgin-Middlesex.

Hon Mr Runciman: They were interviewing young offenders during that whole period of time. On March 4, when the discussion took place that the leader has referred to, the OPP investigation was still ongoing. At that point in time, the advocate indicated to the acting deputy that she had concerns based on some preliminary interviews that she had had with some of the transferred young offenders that they may have indeed been abused. She was encouraged to conduct a full and thorough investigation, which she did. Following completion of that investigation and tabling and delivery of that report, the ministry responded very promptly and appropriately.

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

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'd like to also go to the Solicitor General because, Minister, it's quite clear from the statements that you've made here in this House that you are claiming to be completely unaware of what was going on in your ministry, despite the fact that as the minister of the crown you should have known and, in fact, there is a policy set out in your own ministry that requires that the minister be informed when serious allegations of this kind are made. You're telling us you weren't informed, so obviously you have a problem in your ministry. It's your responsibility when there are allegations of assault to know what's happening through the chain of command within your institutions.

Your ministry was made aware of the situation at Elgin-Middlesex as early as March 4, and you did nothing until May 31. Even more seriously, we received information informing us that at 10 am on Saturday morning last, June 8, managers began arriving at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. We understand that Jack Huber, the deputy superintendent; Peter Buglass, the security officer; Kevin Killough, the health care coordinator; and Gary Hogarth, assistant superintendent of corrections, went to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. We are told they did not leave that facility until 4 am on Sunday morning, and we are told that during that lengthy period of time those managers were in the facility, a considerable amount of shredding of documents took place.

Minister, in view of the ongoing investigations, can you explain to this House why government documents at Elgin-Middlesex were being shredded this past weekend by management staff?

Hon Mr Runciman: That's an allegation being made by the member, and it will indeed be pursued. The suggestion that nothing took place from the time that ministry officials were made aware of these concerns is simply inaccurate. In fact, there was a very extensive and thorough investigation carried out by the child advocate. I met with the child advocate this morning, and she indicated to me that she was indeed very satisfied with the cooperation and support she received from corporate officials within the ministry and, in turn, with the response that the ministry has made with receipt of the document.

With respect to the fact that I was not apprised of the allegations, I certainly concede that that was a failure, that there was a breakdown in terms of the communication system. This is not something new to this ministry, as that member will be aware and as the Liberal government will be aware. There have been historical problems with respect to reporting mechanisms and accountability. We're certainly moving in terms of the internal investigation to ensure that those safeguards that apparently were not in place will be in place in the future.

Mrs Boyd: Clearly the minister did not answer the question. Minister, we've been told there was the shredding of documents at that centre, a centre that's under investigation by your own ministry, and other investigations.

You know very well that events at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre have raised considerable controversy and it is very, very important that you understand that the questions that have been raised about your conduct and your knowledge as minister and about your deputy minister and the staff within your ministry are serious questions. They're questions of confidence, because we need to have confidence that the systems that have been put in place to protect prisoners are working and that the way in which incidents of this kind are handled are geared to the safety of individuals.

Again I ask you, Minister, will you explain to this House what documents were being shredded this past weekend, and what do you and your ministry have to hide?

Hon Mr Runciman: The member has raised another very serious allegation with respect to the conduct of ministry officials and I've committed today to undertaking a thorough investigation to determine if indeed those are accurate in terms of what she's suggesting here today. If indeed that's the case, we will provide a full explanation. If the explanation is not satisfactory, we'll take the appropriate action.

Mrs Boyd: Minister, frankly you're stretching our imagination a little further than it can go and than is logically reasonable. Can you give me some explanation? What possible reason would management staff have to be at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre from 10 am on Saturday morning till 4 am on Sunday and to be present while documents were being shredded? Can the minister explain what logical explanation there could be for that very unusual circumstance?

Hon Mr Runciman: I'm not sure I understand the continued line of questioning here. I have indicated very clearly that you've raised a serious series of questions and that I will pursue them and we will provide answers.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): My question is for the Minster of Environment and Energy. Minister, I learned today that you are firing from your ministry Bill Keller, the world's foremost authority on acid rain. Mr Keller has devoted over 25 years as a faithful Ontario public servant studying the effects of acid rain on northern Ontario lakes. Not only did Bill discover what was causing thousands of our lakes to die, but his research continues to tell us how to attack this problem and how we can bring our dead lakes back to life.

Bill had received countless awards for his research, including some from your ministry. He's been published on over 40 different occasions, including in Nature magazine, a copy of which I have here, which is the environmental equivalent of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Last fall, Premier Harris awarded Bill Keller the Amethyst Award for outstanding achievement in the Ontario public service. Today you fired him in a move to downsize.

Minister, how can you fire the world's foremost authority on acid rain? How can you deprive your ministry and the people of this province of the tremendous benefits of his continuing work?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): What I can say to my colleague across the way is it's never easy when anyone has to be dismissed from a position. Downsizing is occurring in all of our ministries. One of the things I have come to realize in my ministry is that there are very, very many qualified people who are exemplary in their work.

As part of our attempt to restore this province to fiscal soundness we have undertaken to reduce the staffing in our ministry and unfortunately the gentleman who is referred to by my colleague across the way is one of the gentlemen whose positions will no longer be continued.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, the signal you send when you fire Bill Keller is the signal you've been sending many times already as minister of environment. It's the same signal you sent when you changed Ontario laws to encourage urban sprawl; it's the same signal you sent when you changed Ontario laws to help wind up our conservation authorities; it's the same signal you sent when you got rid of intervenor funding; it's the same signal you are sending at present when you're refusing to support mandatory vehicle emissions testing.

The signal is quite clearly this: When it comes to the environment, you don't care. You don't care if your ministry is dismantled. You don't care if you will no longer have enough staff to enforce our laws. Here's a chance to send a different signal.

Keep Bill Keller on staff. Keep the world's foremost authority on acid rain working for the people of this province so that we and our lakes can benefit from his work. Bill Keller is asking to stay on with you. He's only 43 years of age. He loves his work. The international scientific community is asking that you keep him on. You've received faxes from Norway, Sweden and Germany in this regard. On behalf of all Ontario citizens, I'm asking that you keep Bill Keller on staff so he can continue his work of such vital importance to our lakes. Will you do that?

Hon Mrs Elliott: As my colleague across the way will understand, when a position is being downsized there are certain procedures that must be followed, and this is of course the case with this position as well. While he may think we are somehow not taking care of the environment, what we are doing is taking very good care of the environment by focusing our resources, by sticking to the core business.

The former government decided that it could, through the Ministry of Environment and Energy, do everything. It is not possible. We've approached financial bankruptcy in this province as a result of that kind of thinking. It cannot continue; it will not continue in the Ministry of Environment and Energy. We will focus on our core businesses and we will do them extremely well for the protection of the environment.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Solicitor General. In the advocate's summary report dated May 24 that was submitted to you, the advocate concluded that the youth at EMDC were subjected to treatment inappropriate for young offenders, which can be roughly classified in two categories: excessive force and insufficient care. They were subjected to excessive force and intimidation under a number of circumstances. During the admission process they were verbally and physically intimidated, prodded, struck, kicked, humiliated, many of them sustaining injuries.

It is my understanding that all of the young offenders who are admitted to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre are seen by health care staff subsequent to their admission. Could you confirm that this was the case in this particular instance?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I don't believe that happened in this situation. Elgin-Middlesex has an adult unit and a youth component. In this particular situation, because of the riot at Bluewater and the 40 transferees from Bluewater to Elgin-Middlesex, they were put into an isolated adult unit and not into the young offenders' unit at that facility. Of course, as the member is aware, this was during a labour difficulty, a strike situation. I'm not justifying in any way, shape or form that perhaps the normal proceedings weren't undertaken, but I think we should put it in the appropriate context.

The member raised some names in her earlier question. I have a note that confirms that the names the member used are part of the internal investigation team looking into the question surrounding this. She raised the issue of shredding, a very serious allegation, and we will pursue that.

Mrs Boyd: It is very clear from the advocate's report that these young offenders had been beaten and mistreated. One assumes that there would have been some medical evidence if that were indeed the case. It's not clear to me. Is the minister telling me that these young people were never seen by medical staff and that there are no medical reports available? That's a fairly serious issue, given the responsibility that is the minister's under the Young Offenders Act for care of young offenders. It's a very serious problem if there are no medical records. If there were medical reports, to whom were they submitted and why was no action taken? The minister is well aware that the police rely on medical reports in cases of assault as part of their evidence. If there were assaults, first of all, why was the appropriate procedure not followed in the case of young offenders? Number two, why were the police not called if medical staff were aware of injuries?

Hon Mr Runciman: Those are indeed valid questions, and I think the advocate raises many of them as well with respect to her report and in terms of her concerns about injuries that were, in her view, obvious and apparent. I guess there could be some question in terms of where those injuries occurred and how they occurred and who was involved in inflicting the damages. Those are all part, I agree, of the police investigation and certainly an element of the internal investigation as well that's being carried on by the ministry.

I cannot address that in an any fuller sense, other than obviously I agree with you. These are legitimate concerns and they're being pursued.


Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): My question today is again for the Solicitor General. Recently there have been some media reports concerning the illegal activities of motorcycle gangs and some illegal activities including violence. I wonder if the Solicitor General could give us some information as to how he plans to handle this particular problem.

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I think we all recognize there's growing public concern with respect to this whole problem and the potential for an escalating level of violence. Our government supports the resolutions passed at the chiefs of police law enforcement summit in Ottawa in February 1996, and the province has moved to expand its province-wide enforcement responsibilities in this area. We have assigned expert personnel who are now dedicated to investigate and monitor the illegal activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs in Ontario, nationally and internationally. The province of Ontario is very strongly committed to immediate and sustained enforcement action which will send a message to biker gangs that Ontario is not open or available for business supported by illegal activities.

On May 30, 1996, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police announced the kickoff of a new nationwide joint initiative in law enforcement communities campaign to curtail the illegal activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs, and the OPP is involved and fully supports this initiative.

Mr Doyle: Apparently the weekend reports also had reported that the motorcycle gangs indeed are attempting to merge so they can become more powerful, and I wonder if you could tell the people of Ontario what your plans are to put a stop to this.

Hon Mr Runciman: At the recent federal-provincial- territorial justice ministers' meeting, both the Attorney General and I raised the concern that Canada is the only G-7 nation without legislation to combat organized crime. We urged the federal minister, Mr Rock, to amend the existing legislation to permit a statute similar to the racketeer influence and corruption organization statute in the US, commonly referred to as the RICO statute, which will permit law enforcement agencies in this country to attack the overall structure of organized crime, including illegal biker gangs. We will continue to pursue that with the federal government.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question to the Minister of Environment and Energy. Electricity consumers across Ontario were told on Friday that there is a way to reform the electricity sector in this province to moderate and reduce rates for both residential and industrial consumers. On behalf of those electricity consumers, let me ask you what you and your colleagues in government intend to do to bring about this brave new world, and how and when you're going to go about your business in this respect.

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): Certainly one of the reasons we undertook to form the Macdonald commission and to seek advice from across the province was to determine ideas and viewpoints on how exactly to reduce the rates in this province. It's very important that Ontario's electricity sector is competitive, has rates that allow our industries and our businesses to flourish as they compete in a global market. We are concerned that our rates are no longer competitive here in this province. How then do we transform or change the industry such that we maintain our competitive advantage?

Now that we have received the Macdonald report and we've had an opportunity to examine the ideas in that report, what we are saying is that since this began from an opportunity of listening to people and their concerns, we would now like people to come to us, through all our elected representatives here in the House, all our MPPs, to give us their viewpoints on the report itself and on the issue of electricity restructuring in general.


Mr Conway: The Macdonald panel told you on Friday that there was an urgency to these matters in terms of the electricity sector. They also observed that the status quo was not an option.

Electricity consumers around Ontario, residential, industrial and commercial, want to know more precisely how you and your colleagues in government are going to proceed. Will you be striking a select committee of this Legislature in the near future to accept amendments to the Power Corporation Act, or more likely a complete rewrite of the Power Corporation Act? What policy guidelines are you going to pursue in the coming months to ensure that the doctrine of competition, which has been embraced by many, will work to the advantage of all electricity consumers, whether they live in Toronto or in northern Ontario, whether they're residential or industrial?

Hon Mrs Elliott: When we were elected we heard from people that they had a tremendous concern about our rates. There is a school of thought that says we must act very quickly as deregulation occurs around the province, as we see rates being reduced in other jurisdictions nearby. While we acknowledge that there is tremendous change occurring around us and it's very important that we maintain our competitive advantage, we are not going to rush headlong into this. This is a very serious matter. This is one of the largest utilities in North America. It will require careful and serious deliberation in determining how exactly to go forward.

We have said that we will consult over the summer and that we ask all of our MPPs to meet with their constituents. They can use the Macdonald commission as their framework for discussion and bring their ideas back to the government. Once we have had an opportunity to hear some feedback on this, we will come forth in the fall with a plan to determine how next to proceed.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Solicitor General. The allegations that have been made about the destruction of documents at EMDC are very serious. When those making the allegations attempted to call the London police who, according to your statement in this House last week, were called in to investigate these allegations on May 30, they were informed that no one had been assigned to the case. We found out today that some investigators began today. That means there had been no securing of possible evidence or relevant documentation by the police, as would normally be the case in such a matter. You have, several times in your answers, referred to the OPP investigation, but as you know, while the OPP have jurisdiction at Bluewater, the London police would normally undertake an investigation at EMDC, which is in their jurisdiction.

Are we to believe that neither the OPP nor the London police, who you told us were in charge of this case, took any actions to secure documents in this very serious case and that it may be possible that relevant records may no longer be available for those investigating this incident?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I wouldn't want to speculate on that. I certainly hope that is not the case. I have some indication that was given to me in a note just now that the people mentioned by the member are, as I mentioned earlier, part of the interministerial investigative unit and that no shredding occurred, that they were photocopying.

Mrs Boyd: That's very interesting, because if you look carefully at the individuals, they are members of the management at EMDC. Does that mean the minister is telling us that the management at that institution, who have been accused of abusing these prisoners, are investigating themselves? That's the implication of what you are saying, because these people, if you will recall, were the people who were actually at the location itself; the health officer, for example, and the assistant deputy superintendent of the facility. Is the minister telling us that the investigation is being carried out by the very people who may be implicated in the investigation? If so, that's enormously interesting and very serious indeed.

Hon Mr Runciman: A suggestion may be made that certainly perhaps individual members of the internal investigations unit could make a claim that they're being slandered by some of the charges being levelled here today, and certainly very serious suggestions about the integrity of the internal investigations unit. I have indicated as clearly as I can that we'll pursue the concerns she has raised. We're certainly addressing very actively the concerns raised by the child advocate. It's unfortunate that the questioning is proceeding in this kind of direction.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): My question is for the Minister of Transportation. For the 25 years prior to being elected to this House, I had the opportunity to work in the automotive service business, working on cars and trucks, and in both categories thousands of vehicles came through our shop.

The residents of Scarborough East were very pleased to hear that you're going to act on the recommendations of the coroner's inquest into the Angela Worona death on Highway 401 and you're moving to raise fines for truck safety violations. While it's reassuring to know the penalties will no longer be just the cost of doing business but will in fact be a significant disincentive to those who want to risk others on the roads by driving defective and poorly maintained vehicles, I'm curious to know, since both the drivers and owners can be charged, could the minister inform the House exactly how it will be decided who gets charged under your new regime?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank my colleague the member for Scarborough East. Both drivers and operators have a responsibility to ensure that whatever vehicle they are going to take on our provincial highways is safe. That's why enforcement officers laying those charges on the safety violations have a choice of charging either the driver or the operator, or both. Their decision is going to be based on each situation. It depends on several factors. Past enforcement experience with the driver and carrier would be one of them; the nature and severity of violation; whether the driver is also the carrier; whether the driver reports being coerced, that he's being forced by the operator to drive an unsafe vehicle. MTO acknowledges that there are differences in the respective safety responsibilities of drivers and carriers. Normal charging procedures are to request a lower fine against the driver than the carrier. Let me assure this House that this ministry is going to make sure that safety on our highways is going to be respected by the industry.

Mr Gilchrist: I thank the minister for his first response. While at some point in the future I hope we make similar moves against the owners of cars that are poorly maintained, I'm certainly glad to hear that policies are now in place for the truck operators.


Mr Gilchrist: Not any more.

In light of the incredible statistics we've heard over the last week alone, where up to 45% of all the trucks on the road were inspected and found to have defective equipment to a greater or lesser extent, I wonder if you could elaborate on the process by which the driver or the owner will be charged.

Hon Mr Palladini: In the case of unsafe vehicle violation, who gets charged often depends on who conducted the pre-trip inspection on the truck -- the tractor and the trailer. If the pre-trip inspection was conducted and signed off by the carrier would also be something we would take into consideration, the mechanic or whatever company represented him. Where safety defects were found, charges would normally be laid against the carrier, not the driver. In the case where the driver conducted the pre-trip inspection and defects were found, both driver and carrier are going to be charged. In accident situations, where vehicle conditions or driver hours of work are found to be excessive, both driver and carrier will tend to be charged.


Hon Mr Palladini: The members across the way don't want to know how we enforce safety on our highways. I can just say that we are going to do the job that needs to get done, contrary to the previous two governments. So I would just like to tell my colleague that this government is committed to making sure that we carry through with safety on our highways.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Minister, it's widely speculated you will announce some time this week or early next week the long-awaited government workfare program. In the past, Minister, you have threatened municipal councils, you have threatened the firing of social service directors across Ontario in various municipalities, you have threatened to withhold funding from municipalities that refuse to participate in workfare. Despite your threats, municipalities like Kingston and Windsor have said they're not going to participate.

Minister, I want to ask you about the agencies that are to be involved in the program. Of course, you have said that it's going to be non-profit, private sector volunteer agencies. Can you advise the House today, if community and social service agencies, on principle or because it opposes their mission of helping the needy or for whatever reason they feel is appropriate, refuse to participate in workfare programs, can you assure the House that there will not be any retribution from your government, that there will be no penalty and that they will not be punished financially for refusing to participate?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I thank the member for his question, but as his wont is normally, he makes certain allegations that really aren't true.

What I would like to indicate is there's been so much enthusiasm right now for this particular program across the province that I don't think we even have to get into that. It's quite a moot question. We will have difficulty getting down to 15 communities in order for us to complete our first phase, and I don't think we even have to get into what the member has, but certainly we haven't done any of what he's said at all.

Mr Agostino: First of all, I certainly don't have to take any lessons on the accuracy of my information from a minister who was constantly rated an F this weekend across Ontario for his performance, and I won't take any lessons from you.

But, Minister, let me go back again because you failed to answer the question. If municipalities for legitimate reasons in their own mind refuse to participate, you already have told them you're going to fire their directors. You have told them you're going to withhold their funding. My question revolves around the agencies who are to have the volunteers, the day care centres, the various social service agencies, the women's shelters, agencies that are potentially going to be used for workfare placements, for volunteer work, agencies that are going to be involved. If these agencies, for whatever reason, refuse to participate, can you guarantee us today again that there will not be any retribution, there will not be any penalty, there will not be any financial withholding of funds from any agency across Ontario that refuses to take workfare placements -- not the councils, not the municipalities but the agencies directly? Will you give us that guarantee in the House? It's very simple: Yes or no?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First of all, the particular member repeated something that I certainly didn't say. Secondly, the member is getting into some very strange questions, as normal, but we have a lot of indications of interest from a lot of non-profit organizations already. Unfortunately, his question's a little nonsensical, so that's why I'm not going to really get too much into the nuts and bolts.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Answer the question.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The answer is, we have a lot of organizations that are interested already. It's a moot point. I know that the member is trying to be critical about our particular program, so I think we should just share with you something the honourable member has stated before, on April 18, 1994. He was speaking about a local proposal which is similar to workfare.

He said, "One of the things I like about it is often you hear people saying that people who receive welfare should be made to work for their assistance. Well, here we have a program that does just that; the recipient picks up the job experience and knowledge and the senior or the disabled receives a benefit as well."

He said it better on May 20, 1994, again in the Hamilton Spectator, where he indicated welfare recipients work for the city or the region for 16 weeks. Mr Agostino said, "They pick up on-the-job skills and much-needed work experience which they can use on a résumé."

Clearly this member supports workfare; unfortunately, he doesn't know what kind of questions to ask.

Mr Agostino: On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: The minister deliberately misinterpreted the comments and misled this House --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Take your seat.

Now, would the member please withdraw.

Mr Agostino: Speaker, I will ask you to also ask the minister --

The Speaker: Order. Just withdraw the word "mislead."

Mr Agostino: Speaker, I ask you to rule. I asked you on a point of personal privilege --

The Speaker: Order. The word you used in the House which is unparliamentary, will you withdraw it?

Mr Agostino: What would you like me to withdraw?

The Speaker: Will you withdraw the word or not?

Mr Agostino: Which --

The Speaker: I'm asking the member, will he withdraw? I won't warn him again. Are you going to withdraw?

Mr Agostino: Which one, Mr Speaker? I also ask you to review the comments of the minister.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Solicitor General. Solicitor General, you've made a comment in this House about people who work at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre being members of your internal ministry investigation, and that's a rather serious issue of conflict of interest, given the allegations that have surfaced.

Minister, would you tell us who is on that internal investigation committee, what their positions are, and will you guarantee us that no one will be investigating this incident who might in any way be implicated as a result of the findings of that investigation?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I don't see any problem with providing the members of the opposition with the list. If there is, I will quickly respond to it, but from a personal perspective I don't see any reason we should not be prepared to provide members of the assembly, if indeed they're interested in the names, with that kind of list.

Mrs Boyd: I'm completely amazed that the minister can't simply tell us. Does he not have that information? He was busy telling us that these people were part of the investigation team, and yet he doesn't seem to know who else is on the investigation team.

There's been incident after incident of incompetence in this whole sad, long story. First of all, you're not told, even though parents apparently called your office. You said you'd look into that. We had a letter released last Friday that on April 11 staff within your own ministry informed their superintendent about their concerns around this and nothing happened, the police weren't called.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): And he's on that investigation team.

Mrs Boyd: And he apparently is on that investigation team, the person who received that complaint.

What we are seeing is just a multiplication of errors in this case and a real lack of confidence that you take seriously the fact that young people under your care as Minister of Correctional Services are alleging that very serious offences were committed against them. Frankly, you seem to be taking this extraordinarily casually. You do not seem to understand the seriousness of a three-month delay in dealing with this and dealing with the safety of those young offenders in that facility. It is very, very hard for the rest of us to understand why you do not have at your fingertips information on an issue that has been raised now for almost a week and clearly is being taken very seriously.

Minister, I ask you again, why is it that you don't have this information available and why is it that you are not taking more vigorous action to protect the charges you have under the Young Offenders Act?

Hon Mr Runciman: Again, it's regrettable, the kind of rhetoric we're hearing from this member with respect to the way the ministry has responded and the way I feel about these kinds of allegations. I've said from the outset that indeed I believe them and take them to be very serious indeed, and I have certainly asked for them to be treated that way by officials within my ministry.

I would suggest to the honourable member that she take the time to sit down and speak with the child advocate with respect to her experiences throughout this process. The member has indicated that these have been buried under a bush somewhere for the past number of months, but in fact the child advocate is very strongly supportive of the process.

I've clearly indicated that there was a breakdown in terms of the communication system with respect to the minister's office. There's no denial of that, and we're going to move to make sure that doesn't happen in the future. But to suggest it has any implications beyond that is shabby at best.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is to the Minister of Health. The minister will be very aware of the great work done at the Ottawa Heart Institute at Civic Hospital in Ottawa. The minister will also be aware that last year Civic Hospital ran a large surplus, well into the millions of dollars.

There's a concern among many in our community that the annual allotment from the Ministry of Health, which is over $200 million, is not being targeted towards cardiac care in Ottawa-Carleton. Until 1989, the institute received its own line funding which saw the public funds targeted directly towards cardiac care. Earlier this year you made a health care reinvestment in the Ontario cardiac care network, and this saw the long waiting list begin to fall.

Could the minister tell the House what his ministry and he as minister are doing to ensure that these publicly available funds are being targeted towards cardiac care in Ottawa-Carleton?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I thank my colleague for his very good question. Members will recall that last September, when Dr Keon brought the issue of excessive waiting lists in the Ottawa-Carleton region to my attention, to the government's attention, we encouraged the Ottawa Civic Hospital at that time to do about 150 additional surgeries. That was followed by an announcement in December of 16 million new dollars put into cardiac services in the province to increase the capacity of surgeries by 19%, or 1,435 surgeries.

The honourable member from Nepean, though, did bring this matter to my attention about three weeks ago when we found out that Civic Hospital, in spite of sitting on a $17-million operating surplus account, which should be spent on patients and not sitting in a bank account -- $17 million -- the honourable member brought it to my attention that only 38 of those 150 surgeries that we had requested be done to decrease the waiting list in Ottawa-Carleton had in fact been done.

I'm pleased to report to the honourable members that since then, though, the hospital has agreed to spend some of that $17 million it has, which is taxpayers' money, on patients. I'm told they will fully live up to their commitment to fund the 150 surgeries and the extra surgeries we're making possible through our new funding, and we should see a dramatic shortening of the waiting list in Ottawa-Carleton and across the province.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Mr Speaker, pursuant to standing order 34(a), I wish to advise you of my dissatisfaction with the response of the Minister of Community and Social Services to my question on workfare.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: I would like to congratulate the member for Ottawa East on a very memorable event in his lifetime. The member for Ottawa East has been playing golf for some 50-odd years; he plays three times every weekend. Despite that number of rounds, he had his first hole in one this weekend, on a 173-yard hole, with a great Big Bertha.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I think you will find that there is unanimous consent to deem debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 49, An Act to amend the Employment Standards Act, to be concluded, to deem that a division has been requested and the vote will take place immediately, with a five-minute bell. Therefore I ask you, Mr Speaker, for that consent.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Do we have unanimous consent? Agreed. Call in the members. It'll be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1515 to 1520.

The Speaker: Would members take their seats, please.

All those in favour of the bill standing in the name of Mrs Witmer will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Grimmett, Bill

Pettit, Trevor

Baird, John R.

Guzzo, Garry J.

Preston, Peter

Barrett, Toby

Hardeman, Ernie

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Bassett, Isabel

Harnick, Charles

Ross, Lillian

Beaubien, Marcel

Hastings, John

Sampson, Rob

Boushy, Dave

Hodgson, Chris

Saunderson, William

Brown, Jim

Hudak, Tim

Shea, Derwyn

Carr, Gary

Jackson, Cameron

Sheehan, Frank

Carroll, Jack

Johns, Helen

Snobelen, John

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, David

Spina, Joseph

Clement, Tony

Johnson, Ron

Sterling, Norman W.

Cunningham, Dianne

Jordan, Leo

Stewart, R. Gary

Danford, Harry

Kells, Morley

Tilson, David

DeFaria, Carl

Klees, Frank

Tsubouchi, David H.

Doyle, Ed

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Ecker, Janet

Munro, Julia

Vankoughnet, Bill

Elliott, Brenda

Mushinski, Marilyn

Wilson, Jim

Eves, Ernie L.

Newman, Dan

Witmer, Elizabeth

Fisher, Barbara

O'Toole, John

Wood, Bob

Ford, Douglas B.

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Young, Terence H.

Galt, Doug

Palladini, Al


Gilchrist, Steve

Parker, John L.


The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise.


Agostino, Dominic

Crozier, Bruce

Martin, Tony

Bartolucci, Rick

Duncan, Dwight

McGuinty, Dalton

Bisson, Gilles

Gerretsen, John

McLeod, Lyn

Boyd, Marion

Grandmaître, Bernard

Miclash, Frank

Bradley, James J.

Gravelle, Michael

Morin, Gilles E.

Brown, Michael A.

Hampton, Howard

Pouliot, Gilles

Caplan, Elinor

Hoy, Pat

Pupatello, Sandra

Christopherson, David

Kennedy, Gerard

Ramsay, David

Churley, Marilyn

Kormos, Peter

Ruprecht, Tony

Cleary, John C.

Kwinter, Monte

Silipo, Tony

Conway, Sean G.

Lankin, Frances

Wildman, Bud

Cooke, David S.

Marchese, Rosario

Wood, Len

Cordiano, Joseph

Martel, Shelley


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 64; the nays are 38.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): The bill will go to the resources committee.

The Speaker: To the resources development committee.



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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): This is one of the petitions that comes from the Metropolitan Toronto Housing company and it reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

"Do not make government cuts to housing, particularly those to the Metro Toronto Housing company. They place too much burden on those who can least afford them. We urge the Legislative Assembly to restore access to medical treatment by abolishing user fees, and to maintain current levels of funding to our programs and social services. Respect our seniors, families, singles and children."

I attach my signature to this.


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): Whereas Jeffrey Theriault, a grade 6 student from Sarnia, has demonstrated such an interest and awareness of how our provincial government works that he has collected 1,275 signatures for a petition, I am proud to read this into the record as Jeffrey and his mother look on from the members' gallery. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, wish to see a change in Ontario's new bicycle helmet law to include adults as well. Adults can be just as seriously injured as children can. If they get hurt, or worse, who will care for the children?"

I'll be glad to affix my signature to the petition.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): "Whereas the Dellcrest Children's Centre is planning to open a 10-bed open custody residence for troubled children in south Parkdale; and

"Whereas the residence is an inappropriate site for the rehabilitation of troubled children because it is within walking distance to illicit drug and prostitution activities, a large number of unsupervised and supervised rooming houses that are homes 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 persons;

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition signed by thousands of Ontario workers angry over this government's continuing attack on their workplace health and safety rights.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas it is vital that occupational health and safety services provided to workers be conducted by organizations in which workers have faith; and

"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers have provided such services on behalf of workers for many years; and

"Whereas the centre and clinics have made a significant contribution to improvements in workplace health and safety and the reduction of injuries, illnesses and death caused by work;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to oppose any attempt to erode the structure, services or funding of the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers;

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that education and training of Ontario workers continue in its present form through the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and that professional and that technical expertise and advice continue to be provided through the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers."

I affix my signature also.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition here signed by approximately 4,900 residents in the area of Midland in my riding. These petitions concern the decision around the driver examination centre in Midland, and I'm presenting them today.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the honourable Solicitor General and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

Because this is of such importance, I sign my name to it.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition signed by 61 residents of the riding of Sudbury East. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature to it, and I agree entirely with the petitioners.


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

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

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

"Whereas it has been shown that massive cuts to health services, school systems and social services have a definite impact on the statistics of children and youth in crisis; and

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

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

I sign my name to this.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas TVOntario has been providing Ontarians of all ages with high-quality educational programs and services delivered through television and other media for 25 years;

"Whereas TVOntario provides universal access to educational broadcasting in the most effective way possible;

"Whereas TVOntario provides essential broadcast services to communities in northern Ontario;

"Whereas TVOntario has an extensive, community-based advisory network spanning the province;

"Whereas TVOntario is committed to increasing net self-generated revenues by 15% every year;

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

"To formally commit to the province's continued support of TVOntario as a publicly owned educational network."

This is signed by hundreds of my constituents, and I have affixed my signature.


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

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

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

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across 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 incomes 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 decision to introduce the most insidious form of gambling, video lottery terminals, to restaurants and bars in the province."

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


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

"Whereas over 70% of the orphaned cubs do not survive the first year; and

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): "Whereas since March 1996, gasoline prices have increased on average a dramatic 10 cents a litre, which is over 45 cents a gallon; and

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

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

"We, the undersigned, petition Mike 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 Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): "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 place my name to it.


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

"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 complete agreement with its contents.




Mr Danford, on behalf of Mr Villeneuve, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 46, An Act to amend or revoke various statutes administered by or affecting the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and to enact other statutes administered by the ministry / Projet de loi 46, Loi modifiant ou abrogeant diverses lois appliquées par le ministère de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ou qui touchent ce ministère, et visant à édicter d'autres lois appliquées par le ministère.

Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I'm very pleased today to move second reading of the Ontario agrifood and rural business bill.

The agrifood and rural business bill lays the groundwork for future growth in Ontario's farming, food and rural sectors. The Ontario agrifood and rural business bill accomplishes two key things:

First, it recognizes the major contribution the agricultural and food industry and rural communities make to the economic growth and wellbeing of the province as a whole.

Second, the bill permits the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to move ahead on implementing its business plan.

OMAFRA's business plan is built around four key principles: increased self-reliance for clients, more efficient administration, reduced regulatory control and effective customer service.

I should also point out that the plan was not created in isolation. Instead, it reflects the collective thinking of our clients, the men and women of the agrifood industry and the residents of rural Ontario.

Through last fall and winter, we held table talks and other informal consultations with clients across the province to determine the kinds of support they believe government should be providing as they head into the next century. What we heard has been incorporated in OMAFRA's business plan.

In consultation with our stakeholders, the ministry has redefined its core businesses, and they are: research and technology transfer, investment attraction, market development and rural economic development.

I can assure the members that our business plan is not going to sit on the shelf gathering dust. We are acting on it right away. In fact the budget recently tabled by my colleague the honourable Minister of Finance supports the agrifood and rural sectors in a number of ways, just two of which are:

(1) Up to $20 million has been set aside to provide a rebate of the 8% retail sales tax paid on building materials purchased by commercial farmers to upgrade or modernize their farm operation and keep us competitive;

(2) The $15 million Grow Ontario investment program, which will strengthen the capacity of small and medium-sized farms and food sector groups in rural communities to compete again in the global marketplace.

Both stem from our business plan and are designed to boost growth, increase investment and reduce barriers to agribusiness in Ontario. By investing in this sector, we are helping Ontarians involved in agriculture and food to prosper here at home and be more competitive in the global marketplace.

The Ontario agrifood and rural business plan includes the legislative changes necessary to put our business plan into action. Our ultimate objective is not only to maintain our strong agricultural base but also to help Ontario's agrifood industry move in bold new directions. With this bill and the business plan it supports, today's agrifood and rural vision can become tomorrow's reality.

Working with the parliamentary assistant for rural affairs, the member for Lambton, and the Red Tape Review Commission, one of our important goals is to reduce the red tape and overregulation that are choking innovation and putting a damper on the emergence and development of new approaches to doing business. The idea is to treat Ontario's agriculture and food sector as a priority business.

The bill does not jeopardize the programs or service delivery now available to the sector. Instead, it reduces regulatory barriers and red tape. Several items of legislation were found to be decades old and in need of updating or elimination.

For instance, we are repealing the Oleomargarine Act, the law that regulated the colour of margarine, an act which has not been enforced for several years. We're also repealing the Junior Farmer Establishment Act. This act has not given out a single new mortgage since 1967.

Furthermore, after consulting with the dairy farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Dairy Council, we are amending the Milk Act to ensure that regulations made by the Farm Products Marketing Commission are under the sole authority of the commission, and we're strengthening the authority for Ontario to enter into national pooling arrangements and accommodating the creation of national promotion and research agencies.

I certainly don't have to tell you that our stakeholders are firmly behind these amendments. Just like NDP Saskatchewan and Liberal New Brunswick, the Ontario agrifood and rural business bill moves Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs out of the direct delivery of some services that can be better carried out by others. For example, it provides for the establishment of a crown agency, to be known as AgriCorp, that will deliver crop insurance, market revenue programs and other related farm programs to producers. Not only will AgriCorp help cut government costs while maintaining existing programs, but it gives the people who depend on these programs more control over how they are administered, and it should be noted that AgriCorp has been endorsed in the past in this House by both parties opposite.

The bill also provides for the alternative delivery of research, education and laboratory programs. During our stakeholder consultations, people said that research and education were of paramount importance to the long-term competitiveness and viability of Ontario's agrifood sector. We agree, and we want to ensure that the sector continues to benefit from a comprehensive approach to research and education. We also want to get the maximum value from every dollar spent in this critical area. To this end, I am very pleased to say that we have signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Guelph which provides a framework for an enhanced partnership for research, education and laboratory services in Ontario. This partnership would include the university and all existing labs and colleges and would protect Ontario's position as a global leader in agrifood research and education.

During the business plan process, the ministry also reviewed all of its agricultural and food legislation and regulations. Our aim is to reduce barriers to business and encourage more industry self-reliance. Several pieces of legislation are decades old and need to be updated or eliminated. Based on this, the bill amends several acts and repeals others. On the whole, OMAFRA's business plan is thorough and fair, and it shows that we have kept our commitment to rural Ontario, our commitment to see that agriculture receives its fair share of government support and our commitment of doing better for less.

As I previously stated, the new Grow Ontario program and the retail sales tax exemption are excellent examples of this government's investment in rural Ontario. Most important, the bill reflects our commitment to an industry that pumps billions of dollars into this province's economy each year and provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of Ontarians. The Ontario agrifood and rural business bill supports the ministry's long-term plans, and the agricultural community supports the Ontario agrifood and rural business bill.

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario has stated: "This legislative change creates opportunities for farm community."

It should also be noted that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture president, Tony Morris, had some concerns about the implementation of this bill. Let me quote from a letter dated June 4, 1996:

"As you know, on behalf of the federation, I have publicly endorsed the overall principles underlying this legislation, but as you will remember I did so conditionally on the basis that farmers would have significant input into the way AgriCorp was to be funded, administered and governed.

"I and other farm leaders were becoming increasingly anxious that the consultative phase of implementation was going to be overlooked."

I want to assure you that we have had an opportunity to clear up this matter. The OFA has now written to the minister stating that it expects significant progress shortly on the outstanding technical issues regarding the implementation of Bill 46.

It is with the support of the agricultural community that this bill and the minister's business plan prepare OMAFRA for the challenges that we feel lie ahead, because when rural Ontario prospers all of Ontario benefits.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments?

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I'm a bit surprised. The fact of the matter is that this bill involves much more than housekeeping. This bill involves a fundamental restructuring of the Ministry of Agriculture and it involves a fundamental change in the way services are provided in some cases to farmers or in the services that are not provided to farmers and rural residents across this province.

The reality is that residents of rural Ontario are facing some real pressures. Their school boards' funding is being cut. We have government MPPs lobbying the Minister of Education and Training for special deals for their rural school boards. Rural hospitals and rural health care are under increasing pressure, and it's very likely that some of those rural hospitals and rural health care facilities will be closed down. Rural highways are in desperate shape. I would challenge the government member to go out there and travel over some of those roads. Rural municipalities are in desperate shape, having had their budgets cut in one form or another, knowing that their budgets will be cut even further over the next two years.

There is incredible pressure on people in rural Ontario from all sorts of directions, yet the government member has nothing to say about that. I would have thought that in introducing this legislation and all that goes with it and all that is happening out there in rural Ontario and all the things that are affecting residents of rural Ontario, the government member --

The Acting Speaker: The member's time is up. Further questions or comments? Seeing none, the member for Hastings-Peterborough has two minutes to respond.

Mr Danford: I'm very pleased to respond to the comments the member opposite has made. He spoke of two or three particular points. He spoke about the extra funding that he says has been cut and is not there to support some of the issues he mentioned. He mentioned health care. I find it rather strange that he would bring up health care, because if you refer to the budget you'll well realize that there is an extra amount of money placed in this budget this year that exceeds the guaranteed figure we had said we would put there -- over $17 billion. You should refer to those figures and realize that the extra funding is there to be put into the health care system.

Also to the MTO; he made a comment about the quality of the roads. We recognize the quality of the roads. We recognize the deterioration of the roads that has happened over the last number of years. I'm surprised that member would also bring up that point, because if you look in the budget you will see an extra $60 million this year to bring the roads back up to an acceptable standard. Ontario needs good transportation corridors to bring our economy back to a prosperous level so that this province can be put back on track and deal with those issues.

I am really surprised that the member would bring up those issues because they're totally addressed in the budget. That alone should answer his questions without my having to stand up here and reply to them. Those are my responses.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Speaker, I would ask if I could have unanimous consent to share the time with the member for Cornwall.

The Acting Speaker: Is there consent? Agreed.

Mr Hoy: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill 46 today. As everyone here would know, this is the first agricultural bill this government has introduced as a standalone bill. By that, I'm referring to the fact that in the labour bill, Bill 7, there was agriculturally related legislation passed, and that was the repealing of the old Bill 91. But this is the first agricultural bill this government has brought forward since its election just a little over a year ago now.

This legislation repeals eight acts, amends six others, creates AgriCorp and the Agriculture and Food Institute, and has dealings with the old Crop Insurance Act (Ontario). The bill is very large. It has a great effect on a number of other pieces of legislation.

For example, the government wants to repeal the Fur Farms Act. Jurisdiction in this area would fall under a new Game and Fish Act, and that could have an effect on people who are in alternative farming, such as emu, ostrich, perhaps exotic fish. We have to be careful about even the so-called minor parts of the act, that we're not infringing in areas that will stifle farmers as they seek new ways of acquiring income by the use of alternative farming methods. Even though one might admit that some of these acts are dated, there are relationships to the present and perhaps even to the very far future.

The timing and introduction of this bill is very interesting indeed. As you know, the government's been working at breakneck speed in all areas. They started even before we sat in this Legislature to cut, downsize, lay plans for their future agenda items.

I find very interesting that this bill is introduced at this particular time. This happens to be the season when most farmers are out trying to plant their crops. As I discussed with other agricultural groups their opinion of this bill, they said, "Pat, it couldn't have been worse timing." The only time it might have been worse was if they were harvesting. Of course, I would admit that in some agriculture-related industries, from spring to fall they are constantly working -- there is no lull period -- such as the fruit and vegetable industry. It's interesting that the minister would wait until the farmers were the most busy to introduce this bill.

The backdrop to this bill, though, is that the government has been very busy, having slashed $82 million from the agriculture budget. They could find time for that in the cold winter months, the lateness of last year, but when they really want to have the farmers be involved in an agriculture-oriented bill, they introduce it in June. Even in my area, which is one of the quickest to plant their crops, they're still behind because of rains and the cold weather we've experienced this spring.

We know that they cut $82 million from the agriculture budget and we know that agriculture receives a very small portion of the total Ontario budget. It receives less than half of 1% of all government spending; it's one of the smaller fractions you will ever use in describing spending in this House. However, agriculture and the food industry contribute greatly to the economy: 5.8% of Ontario's gross domestic product comes from agricultural food industries. Agriculture is second only to the automotive trade in Ontario in terms of economics.


We are the largest agricultural producing province, and 30% of the economic activity in the counties of Essex and Kent is generated through agriculture. Agriculture and food and the beverage industry have annual sales of $40 billion. The agriculture and food industry provides 640,000 jobs and will be the engine of growth into the next century and beyond.

Clearly Ontario is seeking out, and any government should be seeking out, any area of our economy that will provide jobs for our youth, and for our adults at this time, as unemployment is extremely high. The farm cash receipts in Ontario totalled $6.2 billion in the census year 1994. All this is proof that agriculture is vital to Ontario. The security of foodservice is also vital to Ontario and the country.

Agriculture helps to weave the rural lifestyle that many of us enjoy throughout this great province. History has shown us the difficult times that countries have when they can neither produce their food nor buy it, and the despair those people have without enough food, the inability to create an economic engine within their country, is apparent to all of us, so we need to maintain a vital agricultural community here in Ontario. Any legislation that affects the industry must be clearly thought out and fully discussed.

In a highly competitive world we must be certain that our actions prepare us not only for tomorrow but for the future. You only need to look back at some suggestions I made on the first minor act, as some would say, that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. We must be prepared for the future.

The bill is being discussed at one of the busiest times in the farming community's calendar. As I talked to directors of boards they said, "We have agenda items that we would like to talk about, and in particular Bill 46, but I don't think I can get my farmers to come out of the field at that date in June and sacrifice their livelihood to discuss this bill properly and effectively." I don't think it was fair to the farmers of Ontario to introduce a bill -- some have called it an omnibus bill -- that affects so many pieces of legislation, and to introduce it at this time of year was in poor taste, to say the very least.

We've watched this government's approach over the many months to consultation, or lack thereof. I have to wonder if the minister specifically planned to introduce this legislation during the spring planting season. In that it is only his first bill, one might assume he could have introduced it much earlier in this session. However, we've noticed on this side of the House that consultation is not the hallmark of the Harris government.

Even when consultation does occur, people from time to time are still not certain of what the government is going to do. I want to give you an example with the Artificial Insemination of Livestock Act -- some call it the AI act. The stakeholders were uncertain of the process and had a true believing that there would be a discussion paper on what would happen to the report and the conversations involved in the artificial insemination act. They believed there would be a discussion paper, but no, they found out much to their surprise that the act is going to be repealed. They weren't asked what they thought about that situation and they were quite astounded to learn that the consultation process was much shorter than they were led to believe and that the act is simply repealed. Clearly we're watching the government and being sure that any introduction of bills has full consultation, full discussion and actually makes sense.

Bill 46, in part, establishes AgriCorp as a crown corporation. The minister likes to point out on all occasions that our party also introduced AgriCorp as legislation. He's quite right; we introduced legislation that would have created an AgriCorp. However, there were some key differences to our approach.

Firstly, we wanted to help communities economically. We wanted to assist other regions of Ontario further away perhaps from what is commonly known as the Golden Horseshoe. What we were going to do was have the office of AgriCorp set up in the city of Chatham, an opportunity for new jobs. At the time Chatham was hard depressed. It was an opportunity for jobs and spinoffs and economic growth for Chatham and the county of Kent. In the main street people were more than pleased to learn that all of their stores would benefit from well-paying jobs that would be moved into Chatham. But I don't believe now that AgriCorp has a chance of being put in Chatham, and my understanding is that the new building at Guelph won't even be filled by the government itself and may have to rent out space.

We were looking to provide jobs to regions and areas around the province. We weren't cutting jobs. Certainly we wouldn't have cut 10,600 jobs. We were trying to save jobs, create jobs and have economic viability. We were looking to assist small rural areas and small urban areas in centres like Chatham.

I often wonder what the parliamentary assistant to the minister responsible for rural affairs is doing to help rural Ontario. I often wonder what the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs is doing to help rural Ontario.

There have been a number of closings of travel centres throughout the regions of Ontario. I'll only speak to my riding of Essex-Kent and the county of Kent, but offices were closed in Ridgetown, Tilbury, and in Kent county, Wallaceburg, Dresden. Is this a way of helping rural Ontario, by closing travel points throughout the area?

Indeed, have these two parliamentary assistants, whose mandate is to help rural Ontario, gone and said to the Minister of Health that Kent county is short by 32 doctors? We have an extreme doctor shortage. Essex county, part of which is in my riding, and the city of Windsor have a shortfall of 96 family physicians. I hope they're working at that and I'd be pleased to hear when we leave the chamber if they tell me that they are. In Essex and Kent there are three communities which are designated as underserviced: Blenheim, Tilbury and Wallaceburg. Blenheim has been waiting for a doctor for two years. Other areas -- Thamesville, Windsor and the whole county of Essex -- are looking for doctors and are applying for underserviced designation.

The timing of this bill makes it difficult for the farm community to contribute to a bill that affects it so exclusively. The minister is introducing legislation on AgriCorp for the purpose of administering the Crop Insurance Act. Crop insurance is a plan that both the provincial and federal governments pay into. As well, the farmers of Ontario pay in terms of their premiums. It's an insurance plan that will make up the shortfalls in yield should the farmers of Ontario in any particular region suffer from excess rain, drought, hail or wind, to mention a few of the hazards.


Crop insurance, I believe, is a beneficial program to the farmers in that it gives them stability coming off a calamity such as a tornado and allows them to go back into business the next year because they were insured against a particular yield; through a formula they were protected against a particular yield.

It's also good for the public that crop insurance is available. We have a constant source of food in Ontario. The stores are full. You rarely see the shelves empty. You might see the stores not having one particular product, but I'm sure the competitive product is there on the shelf alongside it.

Importantly enough, crop insurance is very important for the government. It keeps them out of ad hoc assistance programs. When large calamities occur through vast areas of Ontario, the minister can indeed say, "We have a viable Crop Insurance Act in place in consultation with the federal government and this is what should be able to provide for your downfalls."

However, AgriCorp will be allowed to perform more than those duties. It will have duties conferred on it under any act of Ontario. It will have duties conferred on it under any order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council or any agreement made between the government of Ontario or any of its agencies and any one or more of the government of Canada, any of its agencies, AgriCorp or any person, so AgriCorp's activities are certainly not limited to the administration and delivery of crop insurance, or even to the delivery of GRIP or market revenue. GRIP and market revenue are, out in the farming areas, referred to as one.

In the past, discussions on AgriCorp's powers were always related to the safety net issues, those being crop insurance, market revenue or GRIP. The slashing of the ministry's budget and the reductions in staff at OMAFRA cause one to wonder if AgriCorp will indeed be involved in many more programs.

On the issue of staffing, the minister some time ago announced that there would be 954 jobs cut at OMAFRA. Almost 50% of all workers were told, "You're going to be cut." Later, these people found out that many of them will be returning to AgriCorp or to the University of Guelph. I'm pleased to know that, although I understand there could be 300 people not returning. Can you imagine the heartache these OMAFRA staff had when they were told that 50% of all staff was going to be terminated? Only those with the highest levels of seniority had any reason to feel that their job was safe.

This was no ordinary announcement, "We're going to downsize by 5%, 10%"; they were going to downsize by 50%. Those persons who went home must have felt for the next few days, "My job is indeed in jeopardy." I think it was inhumane to announce layoffs of this size only to turn around and rehire these people. This was done in the name of cutting administrative costs, and it was shameful the way that was put to these people at OMAFRA, that 50% of the jobs would be gone and then some day later on to say, "We're going to bring you back." It was an inhumane act.

The ministry estimates show a line item called "ministry administration." The Tories' often stated goal is to reduce wasteful administrative costs while protecting programs, funding and core services. This is the minister's boast: "Core services will be maintained. Program funding will be maintained."

In most ministries, the estimates show administration down slightly, except at MTO, where it's up $842,000, and in agriculture, where administration is up $3.9 million. While the government is slashing, the administration at OMAFRA has gone up $3.9 million.

We are concerned with provisions under the act that allow for the collection of fees and service charges. I want to speak a little bit about fees. In a recent magazine put out by the Ontario Corn Producers' Association they say, "OMAFRA officials have indicated that the Ontario grain and oilseeds industry -- that being farmers, elevator operators and dealers -- will be expected to pay for more or all of the cost of the associated regulatory functions through new and higher user fees." I reiterate, new or higher user fees. The government may argue that they're not going to do that, but we've already seen action taken: a $25 user fee to farmers who are applying for the summer experience wage assistance program that was announced recently.

Clearly this government has an appetite for user fees. If they don't implement them themselves, they don't seem to have much to say about those that are forced to, have to. It's a user-fee agenda on the other side of the House. They only need to look at their recent announcement on summer wage employment and the $25 fee for farmers to take up that program. Either directly or indirectly, the government promotes user fees through the municipalities, which must bring in fees to parks, libraries, transit, fire department calls. The proliferation of fees and cuts to OMAFRA cause us to be concerned about the level of fees this government would indeed introduce on the agrifood sector. User fees imposed on Ontario farmers could be very detrimental to our economic future.

Let's consider the US farm bill for a moment. Mr Harris seems to like American-style economics, but he doesn't share the American concern to protect and subsidize the farm market. In an edition of the Ontario Corn Producer, the US farm bill "is a seven-year contract with farmers over the life of the farm bill, from 52 cents a bushel in 1997 to 28 cents a bushel in the year 2002. It is paid regardless of whether the price is high or low or whether a farmer produced a lot or a little or anything at all. The system provides US producers with a markedly different situation compared to you." They're speaking about farmers. "South of the border, a producer knows today the exact level of government support payments to be received annually through the year 2002, will receive cheques every six months, will receive payouts regardless of actual production, and they do not have to wait for prices to collapse in order to receive a payout. This situation is in marked contrast to your situation north of the border."

In an article from Farm and Country magazine, it states, "The US has committed $47 billion to farmers over the next seven years."

Here we have US competition, farmers being paid whether they grow or not, regardless of the price, whether the Chicago market says it's up or down, and let's not forget that's where the grain prices are set. Here we have the US competition for the next seven years paying out to farmers approximately every six months, even before their crop year is finished, and we're talking about user fees. Clearly, we cannot have a proliferation of user fees in Ontario when our US counterparts are receiving these greater amounts of money that seem to be triggered by no real criteria.


If we look at the Agriculture and Food Institute, we see the words "fees and service charges." If we look at the provisions for the appeal board and its powers, we see the words "fees and service charges." Look at the amendments to the Farm Products Grades and Sales Act. We see, "The minister may establish and collect fees payable."

Along with these powers to set fees, the farm community has raised concerns for the future of the grain financial protection program. This program compensates farmers for losses when their stored grain is in a facility that enters into financial difficulty and oftentimes bankruptcy. The farmers can be compensated for 90% of the value of the stored crop. When that business should fail, in the end, the farmers would probably receive 90% of whatever amount of crop they had in that facility.

Money in this plan is generated by a checkoff on the producer. The farmers are self-insured. If they sell a bushel or a pound or some other metric conversion of grain and product, there is a checkoff that goes into this fund and the farmers have insured themselves against other businesses going bankrupt with their grain in the elevator. I well remember the legislation when it was brought in.

We understand that the government has an involvement in this plan as well as the dealers through license fees. Dealers contribute about $40,000 to $50,000 a year in fees to the plan while the government provides about $200,000 a year for staff and inspection. One of the farm groups said if we really get into this, perhaps by the time we found out a little bit more about this staffing and buildings and so on, it could run up as high as $300,000. The government is discussing the possibilities of withdrawing from this plan and having the farmers take over; they want someone else to pay. The farmers pool into the plan and now are asked to be part of the delivery process as well in the event that someone else goes broke. Some suggest that AgriCorp will be the agency to handle this program. So AgriCorp, we can indeed see, may be earmarked for many more things to come.

As well, the government said it would not cut programs and here we're looking at the grain financial protection program and the government is thinking of, we'll say, dumping it. The shift to user fees can be seen most dramatically when this comes about within this particular plan I'm speaking to.

If it does, as the farm organizations believe it will, the question then becomes, where do the farmers get these dollars? How do they compete if their wallet is always open to more and more user fees? The US farmer will be wondering if he needs a new money belt for the next windfall, while the Ontario farmer will be shelling out dollars for new or higher-priced user fees. We're in a global market. Think this bill through.

The competition will be fierce. This change in the grain financial protection program would be another broken promise by Premier Harris. He had fun describing his plans for agriculture during the election, stating that not a single nickel would be cut. The first thing that happened was they cut $13 million. When he started making massive cuts, his tune changed to, "No agricultural program will be cut." Then the first thing they did was cut the fruit land preservation program early last year. So you wonder why the farm community and we on this side of the House are watching the government so very closely in regard to agriculture. Now farm groups say that the grain financial protection program will be cut.

This erodes the level of trust between the farm community when we talk about the institution of user fees or service charges. It's the past performance of the government that has them wondering: "They said they wouldn't cut programs, and now they're talking, `Well, maybe we'll cut one or two.' They said, `We won't cut agriculture at all,' and then they cut it by millions." As a matter of fact, I think the agricultural cuts were a part of almost every economic statement the finance minister made, so you're eroding the level of trust.

To illustrate our concerns for the government's future directions on this bill or any part of it, let's look back to the days of OPSEU and the strike. During the strike, the government sought to have meat inspectors declared essential services. Many people were asking for you to consider that. You wanted them to be essential services, and now look what you've done -- you've laid them off. You've laid the meat inspectors off. Where's the logic in this? Does this government think things through as it goes from month to month? Essential service one month; "We don't need you any more" the next.

I have great difficulty with those actions. But I'm sure the backbenchers are telling the minister of all these things before he places the bill and saying: "You know, we wanted essential services in my riding for meat inspectors. Remember that, Minister? You certainly wouldn't let them go now." The two don't correlate.

Or are all actions for the sake of the deficit and the need to cut 30% from our taxes? Is there no regard for consistency? Is there any regard for any of your actions on the people of Ontario? I've met meat packers who say they are going to have to pay more now to have their meat inspected. These are small facilities. Oftentimes they're run by families, family members. They work hard. I met one the other day. He works seven days a week, even when he's closed. He's in a rural area and people knock on his door past 9 o'clock at night and say: "Hey, would you like to open up your cooler? I'd like to buy some of your fine meats." They work hard, and now he expects to pay more for meat inspection -- an essential service one day, and the next day, "We don't need so many of you."

These few examples give us cause to question the views on user fees. Your removal of outdated legislation in Bill 46 appears to cut red tape, but only masks your potential for user fees. Let me just say, when I asked the minister if he consulted with the farm community on user fees back on May 7, from Hansard, this was his answer:

"We discussed what agriculture and the people who work in the agrifood business, who produce the food, see as their ideal for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I can tell my honourable colleague that user fees in the likes of AgriCorp -- the AgriCorp administration will be what is now known as the Crop Insurance Commission in the short term." That was his answer. There's another sentence; I'll read it if I must: "If the honourable member is unhappy with farmers looking after their business, he should put that on record, because I believe farmers can best administer what touches them."

But he did not answer the question, did you discuss user fees -- as he told me he did -- with the farm community? When he got to the words "user fees in the likes of AgriCorp," he stopped and rethought again and came up with the rest of what I put into the record.

There will be user fees that will allow for appeals. Now under appeals, I know we have to have an appeal process; I know we have to deal with frivolous appeals. I've been involved in an appeal process, not as an appellant but on the other side of the table, and you need to deal with frivolous appeals. You have to give the right to appeal, and that right to appeal shouldn't be denied anyone just because of cost. I think those persons who win their appeal shouldn't be charged at all.

I want to tell you, the fees and expenses of the appeal board, as shown in the crop insurance report ending March 1995, were $48,352. The administration costs for crop insurance was $10.165 million to March 31, 1995. How many of these administrative dollars would the government wish to recover? How many dollars would a future minister wish to recover from the farmers of Ontario?


The documents the minister would make business plans on and directives and other documents that flow back and forth between the minister and AgriCorp should be made public so that we have a full understanding of where AgriCorp will lead us as we go into the future, and hopefully there will not be a proliferation of user fees on the farmers of Ontario.

We've shown that the government has said one thing on occasions and done another somewhere else in regard to not cutting programs -- in regard to meat inspectors being essential and then not so essential.

Finally, we find shades of Bill 26 in this bill. Bill 26 was an omnibus bill. Some referred to it as the bully bill. Here in Bill 46 we have AgriCorp making regulations, AgriCorp providing for the collection of levies or charges by AgriCorp, the corporation to which they are payable, and on any class of person. What does that mean? It very well could mean that we would be charging people who don't even use AgriCorp directly. The same language as Bill 26 is in this bill, charging any class of person who may not even use AgriCorp.

Charges beyond the scope of services offered could be also read into this "any class of person" section. What could that mean? That could mean that AgriCorp could be the bank, we'll say, the receiving body, the receiving crown corporation for fees for going to your ag office. It could be the receiving body for fees on the farm tax rebate administration. It could mean perhaps an administration fee on the stable funding that farmers enjoy. AgriCorp has nothing to do with these, but this section suggests that they can reach out their tentacles and take in fees on things not clearly stated in this bill. Therefore, we question the government about user fees. Why do you have this clause? What's your intention? If you don't need it, withdraw it.

The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will have the power to issue directives in writing to AgriCorp. If they don't want fees at AgriCorp, the minister could give his directive. The AgriCorp directors could say: "We don't need a fee. We don't think the farmers of Ontario would be treated fairly in a global market to expand fees and bring them in on these people in light of the US farm bill and other areas around the world." But the minister could write a directive and say, "I think you should introduce some fees." These directives are not public under the act, but certainly they should be.

AgriCorp doesn't need legislative or cabinet approval for charging user fees. We would like to know who will be the directors of AgriCorp, and I'm sure the farm community would like to know, particularly when we have this user fee aura around this government. Will they be accountants? Will they be lawyers? Will they be party faithful to those across the way? Who will be the directors of AgriCorp to protect the interests of the farmers from the directive of the minister or any future minister on user fees?

I want to move to the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario Act. I notice that the parliamentary assistant, in his opening remarks, said they had an MOU, a memorandum of understanding, with Guelph. He didn't say they were going to withdraw this part of the bill.

We know the importance of research. Research is rated high by the farm community. Everyone recognizes the value of research and technology and education, and it applies no less to agrifood and agriculture than any other sector. We know that for every $1 invested $40 is returned to the province when we spend money on research.

We need to keep pace with other countries. By the way, the United States is spending this money on their producers, as I mentioned before. At the same time they are keeping their commitment to research. They are not letting one thing fall to save another. They're keeping their research dollars intact.

This act includes the ability of guiding research at the University of Guelph and other facilities. The institute will oversee the laboratories across Ontario. People have a concern that we're going to be into more user fees in this area. They will have authority in the area of education and accreditation, and could include the veterinary labs. I've heard remarks that people are fearful that new or higher user fees will be implemented here as well.

The colleges here in Ontario are world leaders in technology. This didn't happen overnight. It took hard work attracting the right people to work at these colleges and universities in Kemptville, Alfred and Ridgetown. They are efficient and economical. The tuition at these other colleges is half what it is at the University of Guelph.

Let's make sure that these colleges are maintained, that courses aren't taken away from them and brought back to the University of Guelph, and that then someday someone says, "There's only X number of students at Ridgetown; we're going to have to close it." Let's hope the transfers to Guelph are done in a way that it can remain viable without harming Kemptville, Alfred and Ridgetown.

I'm told by ministry staff with regard to the move of the 954 people to AgriCorp in Guelph that the savings will come down the road when the transfers diminish. We have to watch out for that. The University of Guelph should not be withdrawing its support from these outer regions.

The legislation permits service fees for the veterinary labs and food testing labs, and provides for the privatization of lab functions. The bill is full of the words "fees and service charges."

I want to read to you from the OCPA newsletter in regard to the colleges. They say, "Although Ontario grain and oilseed organizations wrote to the Honourable Noble Villeneuve, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, to request that representatives of the agrifood sectors in southern and eastern Ontario be an integral part of negotiations to amalgamate the colleges with the University of Guelph, this request also appears to have been ignored."

Those are the great consulters over here. This is the June edition; I did not go back. It's the total lack of consultation that makes people nervous about this bill. It's a very good article you're holding up there; I like the picture on the second page myself.

The act states that the members will be appointed by the minister. Many will be, I believe, civil servants -- because we don't have the Lieutenant Governor making appointments; we have the minister doing that -- or those who have the ideology of the government. I asked who would be on the board of directors of AgriCorp. I hope that the farmers of Ontario have the bulk of the seats, if not indeed all of the seats.


The institute will be able to establish fees and service charges. Their administrative changes are just that and they are not legislated, so where are the safeguards against higher and more user fees, and what of future cuts to Guelph? The farmers say there is a lack of consultation on many of these points.

I want to touch just very quickly on ARDA, the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act -- it's also contained in the bill -- and say that I hope the government would listen to suggestions by the Ontario Cattlemen's Association. This part of the bill seems in the main to pertain to northern Ontario and pasture lands. It would seem reasonable that co-ops, if indeed they are formed, would have a reasonable chance and opportunity to acquire those lands back.

I also want to make a remark about acid rain, which has an effect on crop insurance. Acid rain can have a serious effect on crops in Ontario, and today we learned that the man with most of the knowledge, if not indeed all of the knowledge, and the best knowledge on acid rain, has been let go by the government. This acid rain, for the people who live in the city, is the same stuff that discolours the hood of your car. You can imagine what it does to the tender leaves on fruits, vegetables and other crops.

With that, I urge the government to be very, very careful about their usage of user fees, that they keep in mind that the world is somewhere out and beyond the Toronto area and that the United States is planning to pay their farmers very well, and we are to be competing with them directly. I hope they remember that and don't allow our farmers to fall into an economic trap because of Bill 46. I conclude my remarks and I welcome hearing from my colleague the member for Cornwall.

Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on the bill that is now before the House, second reading of Bill 46, An Act to amend or revoke various statutes administered by or affecting the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and to enact other statutes administered by the ministry, which could otherwise be entitled "A bill which mixes, mangles and mulches over 14 different agricultural bills into one big omnibus bill."

I know the minister has taken the time to call it "just a bit of housekeeping," but let's make no mistake what this bill is really about. Bill 46 fundamentally alters the structures of many farm programs, removes the government from direct responsibility, and allows the introduction of user fees. The bill also accommodates some previously announced changes that will reduce the ministry staff by half and turn over some of the programs to the private sector.

What the bill is really about is new user fees and offloading responsibility, just the same as they've been doing on school boards, municipalities and hospitals. When I heard the Minister of Agriculture trying to explain the bill away as good news last Wednesday, I almost had to laugh. New hidden taxes are hardly good news.

You may protest all you want, but what this bill is really about is new user fees. It's quite plain and right there in the bill: user fees for just about every farm and rural service. Does anyone in the House really believe that farmers will welcome the new user fees that will be imposed on them as a result of the bill? For example, turn to page 36, section 29:

"(3) The minister may, by regulation, grant to a promotion research agency the authority, in relation to the marketing of the milk product in Ontario,

"(a) to fix, impose and collect levies or charges from producers of the milk product...."

It is plainly written in the bill; the minister wants a new dairy production tax. And so it goes throughout the bill. If the minister thinks that's good news, I'd advise he talk directly to the farmers and see what they have to say. But as the minister doesn't have time, let me assure you that I have heard from milk producers on what they think about the proposal of a new fee, levy, charge and whatever. Call it what you want, but by any name, it's still a new tax for farmers. And you know what? They are not calling it good news or taking out their best stationery to send out thank you notes.

I have more to say about the new tax on milk producers, but first I want to comment on the other so-called good news the minister delivered to farmers and rural Ontario.

Since being elected one year and two days ago, the minister has slashed over $80 million and dismantled half his staff, including field staff, after promising that there would be no cuts. That is why we're here today and why the minister needs Bill 46.

The minister's first stab at farmers was last July, when he took $13-million worth of cuts; then in November another $13.1 million. Then in April he announced he was cutting another $56 million for farmers over the course of the next year. The total damage was astonishing: $82 million in reductions and elimination of farm programs. These cuts are why we are here today with Bill 46, a continuation of the minister scrambling to offload his responsibilities and generate new revenue for government or its agencies.

Bill 46 before us today is an extension of the following cuts: cancellation of the milk utilization audit program; reduction of the Foodland Ontario food service program; closing of the Brighton veterinary laboratory; cancelling of the Niagara tender fruit lands program; cancelling of the private mortgage guarantee program; reduction of the tile drainage loan program; reduction of the financial assistance program; cuts in research administration; reduction in field services; closing or amalgamating agricultural offices in Cayuga, Waterloo, Matheson, Newmarket and -- can you believe it? -- in Alexandria. Tthe residents of the agricultural community in Alexandria, the commodity groups, offered to put funding together to keep the agricultural office open because there was a need for it in the community. They could not get the government to agree to it.

Also closure in Fenwick; in Plantagenet and Embrum, amalgamation to Alfred College; Huntsville and Dryden to share space with other offices; reductions to research funding to agricultural universities; abandoning the Ontario Agricultural Museum; not to mention that the minister has abolished the jobs of 954 of his ministry's employees. I hope some of that will be temporary.

Perhaps this doesn't sound like a lot, considering the potential that the across-the-board government layoffs may be as high -- and they're predicting as high -- as 20,000 people from all departments. That's just what we've been reading in the paper. But it is overwhelming when one considers that the agriculture ministry only has about 1,900 employees in the first place. The minister at the present time is in the position of wiping out half of that, 50%, for now. This includes the elimination of 81, almost 25%, field staff. That's a big issue in rural Ontario.


Why are these people being let go, the people who were responsible for providing services and programs to farmers? So that they may be replaced by other people, other outside corporations and agencies that are being set up under Bill 46, who may then collect fees and hidden taxes from farmers who pay for these services.

The minister is now playing a shell game to do his Tory bit to fund tax rebates that mostly benefit some of the more wealthy residents of Ontario, and not particularly farmers. These cuts you are making are targeted from only about 35% of your budget because, as you know, one third of the ministry's budget, not quite $150 million, is allotted to direct ministry operation expenditures of all other ministry programs and staffing. The other 60%, for the time being at least, belongs to the farm property tax rebate, safety nets and to Guelph university.

As much as the minister might love to raid this 60% of the budget, perhaps to hand out larger personal income tax rebates to some of the wealthy Tories, he can't. That's one good thing. So somehow, from only one third of the minister's budget, he has managed to ransack millions.

Mega-corporations, and likely even the Premier, would not consider the dollars at hand to be sufficient, because the entire agriculture and food industry is very tiny in comparison and represents less than 1% of the total government spending. As small as it may be, though, every single dollar is vital to the industry. Every single dollar in the farm program is essential to farmers.

Somehow, though, this minister has managed to scrape away $82 million in just one year, with the potential damage in Bill 46 to be calculated. This becomes even more flagrant mistreatment, considering that the cuts go directly against what the agriculture minister and the Premier promised during the election campaign last spring. Your promise, minister -- if he were here -- to sustain the agriculture budget was very clear and stated repeatedly by you and your colleagues and the Premier in the election documents.

On page 6 of the Mike Harris task force report released one year prior to the election: "Under a Mike Harris government, agriculture will regain its fair share of government support. That is why there are no cuts to agriculture programs in our policy plan the Common Sense Revolution."

"No cuts," the document says. "No cuts," you promised. You even capitalized the word "no" in the document to really drive home the message. Your commitment couldn't have been clearer, yet here we are debating Bill 46, one year and two days after the election campaign, and you have failed to live up to your commitment. Why should farmers or members have trust in government or Bill 46, when it's been said your pre-election commitments are not worth the paper they are written on?

As one of your own caucus members has said about your about-face in agriculture: "I don't want anyone to make a liar out of me. It would be an embarrassment to me and every other person who ran for government. We said it wouldn't be cut, but the simple truth is that we have made the cuts to agriculture."

You have made a liar out of the member for Brant-Haldimand and every other member of the government side. You've already made outrageous cuts to agriculture, and this bill before the House today serves to offload your responsibilities and hurt farmers through the introduction of many user fees.

The drop in funding is even more unfair, since the agriculture ministry has already been cut 24% under a previous administration. At that time, the then critic for the Tory party was very critical, but I must say, he has taken all the records in cutting agriculture, dropping from $590 million in 1991-92 to $450 million in 1995-96 and from 0.9% to 0.5% of all provincial spending.

So it is no wonder that backbenchers of their own party are rebelling. You know who they are: the committee of 17, who belatedly passed a motion requesting that the Premier keep his commitment of no cuts. One of your party members, the member for Brant-Haldimand, was quoted as saying in reaction to the agriculture cuts versus other ministries: "Agriculture is already lean and mean. Asking agriculture to take another hit, even the same hit as other ministries, is like asking a long-distance runner and a couch potato to each lose 30 pounds."

Is the general agriculture industry -- commodity groups and farmers -- happy about the introduction of Bill 46 and those cuts?

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture called your reduction plan "totally unacceptable," and "We expect nothing less than [those task force report] promises be kept."

The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario has gone public saying, "A promise made is a promise owed, and you've broken your promise." The group demands a written letter of apology from the Premier, who failed to keep his word.

The Ontario Soybean Growers' Marketing Board called upon the government to live up to a pre-election promise, as did the Ontario Agriculture Commodity Council, calling any cuts totally unacceptable: "Rural Ontario expects the Harris team to keep its word. Honesty is important to rural Ontario, and promises are promises."

The Cattlemen's Association has written in strong terms that they also expect the government to keep the "no cuts to agriculture" commitment the Premier made to rural Ontario prior to the election.

With Bill 46, not only are you continuing to make cuts to the services offered by your ministry and also to offload your responsibilities, you are venturing deep into the pockets of farmers for new user fees, which by the admission of even the Premier are the same as new taxes.

While I join farmers across Ontario in being surprised that you would promise one thing to get elected and then take a different path, after all, this government has a history of neglecting Ontario farmers, with today's bill just an extension of the cuts and drawbacks the government started in 1980.

When the Tory government was last in power, Ontario had the distinction of being the farm bankruptcy capital of Canada. From 1981 to 1984, all government spending increases soared by 21%, and agriculture spending from 1981 to 1984 decreased. Agriculture spending fell behind the rate of inflation at that time.

The OFA even took drastic steps at that time, calling on the Premier to fire the agriculture minister. They even tried to deny responsibility for the growing farm crisis by claiming that 1% of the farmers were in any trouble, but federal studies were saying that 18% of the farmers were in severe financial problems. It wasn't until the 1985 election that the Tories admitted they were in a crisis.


It is obvious that the government plans for abandoning agriculture have been in the making, but Bill 46 is only the continuation of that. Let me point out, for example, that schedule J of Bill 46 calls for the repeal of the Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act, which may prove to be the axe to the community where they depend on pastures.

Many farmers have expressed concern that the government repealing their Agricultural Rehabilitation and Development Act likely means that these pastures will be sold off. If this happens, 12 community pastures across the province may become a thing of the past, even though it is agreed that they are a good thing for rural Ontario by way of livestock management, crop demonstrations and environmental programs. The government may send this positive rural project down the drain.

The Milk Act: To return to the concerns of the milk producers over the new tax for research contained in Bill 46, I was somewhat pacified to note that the bill stated something along the lines that if the commission is of the opinion that the majority of producers in Ontario are in favour of this new levy or charge, the commission may recommend that the charge be established. Other than having a vote, I can think of no way that the ministry and the milk commission would have full assurance that this new tax has the support and approval of the majority of milk producers across the province. If a vote were held and farmers voted in favour of this new tax, only then would I be satisfied. Until that point, I cannot imagine that the milk producers of Ontario want any part of a new user fee included in Bill 46.

Grain Elevator Storage Act and Farm Products Grades and Sales Act: Corn farmers are also expressing unease about how Bill 46 will impact on them, particularly as a result of your plan to eliminate the Ontario Grain Elevator Storage Act and those parts of the Ontario Farm Products Grades and Sales Act that affect grain marketing -- and transfer the responsibility to a new grains act -- and, at the same time, incur new and higher regulatory fees.

The Farm Products Grades and Sales Act: Meanwhile, horticultural farmers are similarly wary about the amendments Bill 46 is proposing to the Farm Products Grades and Sales Act as well as the inspection programs. In fact, when reacting to Bill 46, an executive member of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association has been quoted as saying, "This government didn't listen" to its priorities and core business needs from government.

Minister, after hearing accusations against you and the bill, accusations which are readily available in agricultural print and media, are you still trying to tell me and the other members of the House that Bill 46 is good news to the fruit and vegetable growers? That's about as positive as when you told the Niagara fruit growers that you would be pulling out of a $20-million fruit land plan last July. I heard your ministry was being sued for breach of contract over that. How about farmers suing you for breach of commitments you made in the task force report and the election documents?

Are there any other concerns about Bill 46 from growers? Industry representatives are saying that Bill 46 changes will result in a reduced level of service based on risk. They are worried that some of the services -- such as pesticides and residue sampling, nursery inspections, apple minimum pressure tests, honey and maple product inspections, and consumer complaints -- may be redirected and others simply abolished.

AgriCorp: There is also an industry-wide rumbling of concern about the lack of details on how the AgriCorp Act, which will oversee crop insurance and market revenue insurance programs, will be administered and how the board of directors will be chosen.

It's also no wonder that the minister is trying to offload -- and I say that again and again -- with this bill, perhaps in recognition that he can't do it himself.

In setting up AgriCorp to administer crop and market revenue programs, the minister meanwhile has failed to live up to his commitment to fully fund these programs. AgriCorp begs the question of, is the minister just looking for a scapegoat to take the heat off his own failures or is he proceeding because it is yet another way to slam new user fees or hidden taxes on farmers?

Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario Act: Bill 46 also renames the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario with a slightly revised name, the Agriculture and Food Institute of Ontario. This is being done for the purpose of shifting responsibilities for delivery of research, laboratory and education programs away from the ministry over to transfer partners that include the University of Guelph and private corporations.

Anyway, all the things this bill will change will reflect on many of the residents of Ontario. This government promised when it came in to get the closed parks open to create jobs in Ontario. Nothing done. This government is blaming everyone but itself for the condition of our highways, and our transport drivers are complaining bitterly about the condition of the highways. Our agriculture community is complaining too, because they transfer all their food. We've got all the garbage and everything, and all they answer is: "It was the strike. It was the weather conditions."

Well, tell me. You've been governing for over a year, so none of them is worth the salt you -- the other thing we're concerned about in agriculture is the cutting back on all the inspections, because every resident of Ontario depends on clean water, inspected food and fresh air. All these ministries are being hit very hard and I'm not sure the residents of Ontario will have that in the very near future.


The municipal people are very concerned too, and a lot of them come from agricultural communities. They're concerned about the municipal boundaries. There's no leadership and no guidelines to help those municipalities in any way. I meet with them often and they say the ministry doesn't even answer their letters.

I'd like to conclude by saying that the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs should come clean with what Bill 46 is really about. This bill is not about improving the business of agriculture, food and rural affairs unless the business in question is not about improving farming itself but about establishing and collecting taxes from rural residents.

Unless I am mistaken and the farmers of Ontario really are waiting to see what this bill will bring to them, many do not think that it's a housekeeping bill and that many good things will come from the bill.

As I have mentioned, the bill is really about how to dissolve existing programs and then backtrack to reintroduce those services by farmers paying hidden tax upon hidden tax on them. Farmers are to cough up new taxes for AgriCorp. Many farmers will pay hidden taxes to the Agriculture and Food Institute of Ontario.

Bill 46 is not an honest bill for the farmers of Ontario. We have a government that insists it's not hiding taxes, but this is exactly what this bill does. Before voting on second reading of Bill 46, I encourage every member of the House to demand that the minister tally up all of the revenues and angles he has included in Bill 46 to impose new taxes on farm services. Tally up the figures and be prepared to provide to farmers across Ontario that information about what they can really expect as a result of this piece of legislation.

My colleagues and I call upon the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and all government members to ensure that no user fees are introduced as a result of this bill, because we all know the Premier's well-quoted words that "a fee increase is the same as a tax hike." As it stands now, that's what this bill is really about -- off-loading and tax hikes.

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

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): With respect to this bill, the member for Essex-Kent questioned the consultation process. Many of us representing rural ridings have an excellent method of consultation through our local federation of agriculture. Leading up to this bill, I've had an opportunity to speak with the Norfolk federation, which has two different branches in my riding. Also, Minister Noble Villeneuve conducted the table talk sessions across Ontario.

The feedback we received, which I feel has direct bearing on this agrifood and rural business bill, Bill 46, relates to the problem of red tape. Farmers are businessmen, like anyone else. Red tape, rules, the silly regulations are killing the business of farming and taking the fun out of it, just as much as they're taking the fun out of doing any kind of business. This is a bill that by streamlining the various acts -- many of them had outworn their usefulness -- gives us an opportunity to eliminate some red tape.

The member for Essex-Kent mentioned crop insurance. The jewel in the crown as far as this bill is concerned is AgriCorp, in my opinion, and its pulling together of the business of a safety net, GRIP and NISA, bringing it under, initially, the Crop Insurance Commission.

The member also mentioned the US farm bill. Much of the work on that lies under the federal government. We are negotiating with the federal government a bilateral safety net program. This will result in a total of approximately $600 million in assistance to Ontario farmers over the next three years.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I just wish to make a few brief comments on the fine presentations by the member for Essex-Kent and the member for Cornwall, two people who are very familiar with the agriculture community and the agriculture business in the province of Ontario.

As I listened to their speeches, I think there's nothing clearer than that this is the standard government rhetoric of less service for more money. That's what this is about. Make no mistake out there, this is about reaching into farmers' pockets and then delivering less service. That's what this bill is about and that's what's going to happen.

I think about the farm community in Algoma-Manitoulin; I think about the beef farmers. We have a very large, prosperous beef community at most times. Right now, as members would know, commodity prices for beef are very low, making it a very difficult time for the farm community in my area.

I'm surprised that the government, in its wisdom, is looking at destroying a program for veterinarians that has been in this province across the northern districts and some of the northern counties in this province. They are reducing the funding and making it very difficult for livestock producers in my area and across northern Ontario and in the northern counties to have veterinarian service.

I think about the dairy farmers who, without any consultation, are having their milk now pooled into one large northern pool. This was done. It was a surprise to both producers and processors in northern Ontario, and they are shocked.

I just would like, in a brief period of time, to congratulate the members for bringing important issues before this Legislature.

Mr Danford: It's a pleasure to have the chance to respond to the two members opposite who have made some points that refer to our new bill.

I'll have to support what my colleague said. Certainly the consultation process was extensive. It was dealt with with all the groups that are affected, and we have had endorsement from those groups that actually put some of this plan together. So I have a real problem with saying it was not dealt with in an effective way, because actually some of the actions that are contained in this bill reflect solely what has been suggested to us by those different groups.

In fact, the two parties opposite have also in the past endorsed many of the aspects of this plan. I think it's great to see that they've had that support in the past, and that's why we're working towards this end.

Referring directly to AgriCorp, AgriCorp is actually an opportunity for the industry to be directly involved, and they've made that very clear to us, in the decisions that will direct and affect their industry and allow them to be part of the program that will deal with the current programs that are needed for the future. It is a real opportunity.

The other thing I'd like to touch on perhaps is reference to the Milk Act and how it will be affected. It's interesting to note in particular that the changes there were supported by both the DFO and the Ontario Dairy Council. Being a former milk producer and involved with that industry, I well remember how the production and the promotion used to be done, in some cases on a national basis. This allows those groups the opportunity they've been requesting for a number of years. I think all those things are part of the background of why this is an important bill and benefit.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's a pleasure to be able to respond to the members for Essex-Kent and for Cornwall. I noticed they were criticizing quite a bit the reduction in the number of staff, the reduction and cuts in some programs or in the amounts of money to the ministry.

Let's take a look at what's going on. We're now spending far more than we're taking in. The interest is up to $8 billion, and that's about how much more we're spending than we're able to take in. Why are we there? Because we have a debt of $100 billion, most of which has occurred in the last 10 years. In the last 10 years the debt has increased more than ever, since the beginning of time. Where does the blame lie? Right across the floor with the Liberals and the NDP that were in government at that time. We're now spending $1 million an hour more in interest. We just don't have that kind of money.

During the 1980s, in the good times, the Liberals couldn't balance the budget.


The Acting Speaker: Order. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin, you're going too far; and the member for Nipigon.

Mr Galt: In the 1990s, the NDP tried to spend their way out of debt, in recessionary times, of all the foolish things to try to do. If you have a partnership and one person goes out and overspends, and later on the other partner tries to balance the budget and get things under control, who's at fault, the one trying to get it under control or the one who went out and spent a whole lot to begin with?

Who has failed recently to live up to promises? A Liberal in Hamilton who's out in a by-election now trying to get re-elected, that's who hasn't been paying any attention to the promises.

Recently I was in Cornwall and I couldn't coax a debate on your radio station. There wasn't an insult that came in. They were all supportive of what this government is doing.

The Acting Speaker: The member has two minutes in reply.

Mr Hoy: The members opposite are talking about the great consultation process that went into Bill 46. I had the opportunity to talk to the president of the OFA and I can understand that the government certainly wouldn't want me to know what was going on over there. By all accounts they're doing very well. We get no press releases from the minister, only after the fact -- maybe three or four days after -- we get no speeches from the minister. I asked for a cordial briefing from the minister when I got here, in July and August; we aren't getting that either.

I know you're not going to tell me your deepest, darkest thoughts, but I thought it would be nice if we could have a relationship where you would tell me a few things once in a while. If you want to be that way, that's fine. We'll wade through the bill and probably know more about it than the backbenchers do in any regard. The PA may know something about it.

If there was this great consultation process, why did we get a letter from the Ontario Corn Producers' Association, dated June 7, suggesting to the minister what's wrong with the bill? If they had this preconsultation, the bill wouldn't have these things in it. The OCPA would have written back and said, "We think your bill is fine due to the consultation process we had," but clearly they did not. To give you an example, "the minister...should also make such documents public," something that I suggested as well. If the consultation process was so wide and so long, how come you get letters at the last minute, even after first reading, telling you the bill has errors?

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Hampton: I appreciate the opportunity to get involved in this debate. This is, as we know, essentially omnibus legislation, so I'm going to cover the turf in terms of where this bill will strike and all its implications.

It was striking, as I listened to the speaker from Hastings-Peterborough earlier try to portray this yet again as a little bit of housekeeping legislation, when we know that the impacts of this bill will be felt far and wide across rural Ontario. I want to go through some of those impacts, all the impacts that the member failed to mention.

The government has spoken a lot about restructuring with respect to agriculture and rural affairs.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): There's someone else who knows nothing about his riding. You don't know a thing about his riding.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Sudbury East, order, please. The member for Rainy River, please take your seat. When the Speaker stands, the member takes his seat.

The member for Rainy River.

Mr Hampton: The Conservative government has put out a lot of jargon in terms of restructuring the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. What they don't point out to people when they use the term "restructuring" is that farmers and residents of rural Ontario across this province are going to pick up some very hefty hidden taxes. I want to go through some implications of what's going on here.

In effect, the deregulation of the farm sector means that someone is going to have to pick up the cost of many institutions and many organizations that in the past the Ministry of Agriculture has covered or has provided the particular services for. Who is going to pick up those fees, charges and assessments? In the end, it's going to be farmers and rural residents, yet the government has conducted very little discussion on these subjects. There's a reason for that. I believe the government intends to get the bill passed and then, after the bill is passed, they will go to farm organizations and rural communities and say: "This is now the law, and these are the costs that we think are going to have to be covered to do all these things. Now we need to talk to you about the costs."

The government's strategy is that after passing the legislation, they will get around to talking about the fees. The fees, the costs will be directed at what it is going to cost, who's going to have to cover the expense of providing existing services. That's very much what the focus will be on. It won't be on, for example, what are the services that farmers need to move into the 21st century? What are the services and programs that the farm sector in Ontario needs to be productive in terms of the 21st century? None of that seems to be on the table either. What will be on the table is, "These are the things the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs used to cover; these are the things you farmers and rural residents will now have to cover."

My sense is that farmers and residents of rural Ontario generally are not opposed to some elements of cost recovery. What they're interested in is fairness. They don't want to pay more at the end of this process than they have been paying in the past. They don't want to pay more in terms of hidden taxes than they were promised or that they were told would be waiting for them.

There's another piece that figures into this calculation, and it's not just about the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The reality is that this Conservative government is going to pass on all kinds of other costs to rural municipalities. For example, residents of rural Ontario will have to pick up more and more of the road budget for their municipality; residents of rural municipalities will have to pick up more and more of the social service budget; residents of rural Ontario will have to pick up more and more of the education budget.

In looking at what's happening in rural Ontario, it's important to look first at all of this bill, and this bill is mainly about passing off costs that used to be covered by government generally, that used to be covered out of the general revenue fund, that are now going to be passed on to rural residents.


It's important to look at that, but it's also important to look at all of those other costs that are going to be passed on to rural residents: the increased costs of education, the increased costs of roads and highways, the increased costs of social assistance. When you factor all this in together, what is happening out there as a result of this government is that residents of rural Ontario are being hit with the highest tax increases they have ever seen historically in the province. I'm going to go through that and demonstrate it.

I also want to reflect back on what was said in the so-called Common Sense Revolution and in the other policy documents the Conservative Party issued before the last election. What they said in those policy discussions was that there would be no cuts to agriculture. We already know that's completely phoney and false. In July 1995, $13 million was cut from the agricultural budget; in November, another $13.1 million; and in April of this year a further $56.7 million budget cut was announced. If you add up the figures, it comes to close to $85 million that has already been cut from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs despite the promise that there would be no cut to agriculture. In fact, 954 out of approximately 1,850 positions have now been cut from the Ministry of Agriculture.

In that context we need to look as well at what the Conservative Party was saying before the election and the reality they're creating after the election. People will judge for themselves about a party that said before the election, "There will be no cuts to agriculture." They've now cut more than $85 million from agriculture and they've cut more than 954 positions out of rural Ontario.

The services that have been affected? Meat inspection services. There's an irony there, an irony because during the OPSEU strike this is a government that was going to court saying that meat inspection services were absolutely essential. Then, after the strike is over, they go lay off a whole bunch of meat inspectors. The public will have to judge for themselves about the honesty and integrity of the government on this particular issue with respect to meat inspection.

Horticultural inspection services are going to be cut, and I'll go into that in some detail. Foodland Ontario is cut; there's a reduction in field offices. The Niagara tender fruit lands program is cut. The veterinary assistance policy for designated areas is cut, and that's going to hurt particularly in northern Ontario and the more remote parts of rural Ontario.

Then there is of course the Ontario Agricultural Museum. The irony about the agricultural museum is that most of the exhibits and much of the money for the agricultural museum were made available by private citizens in the form of donations. Here you've got a government that says: "We don't care about that. We're simply going to do away with it."

I want to now turn to AgriCorp, because that seems to be the centrepiece of what the government is out there talking about. I want to deal with what I believe is actually happening in AgriCorp. In effect, AgriCorp is now going to deliver crop insurance and market revenue programs and any other related bipartite and tripartite safety net programs developed in the future.

It's important to note the Conservative conception of AgriCorp. There have been discussions in the past about what AgriCorp should look like, but the body that is being created by this government is, I predict, going to be mainly a body for the collection of revenues, the collection of fees, the collection of charges, the collection of assessments from farmers across the province. The fact of the matter is that AgriCorp is expected to generate revenues to cover the cost of its programs and the administrative services that were previously provided by the government.

I go back to the argument: The government, out of its general coffers, out of its general revenue, used to cover some of these services for farmers. That's not going to happen now. The general revenues will not be available to cover these services for farmers. Farmers will have to pay for all of that themselves, and that, by any other name, is a tax being imposed on farmers. We're saying to farmers, "If you want these services, you will have to pay these taxes." That's what's happened.

Again striking are the government's position before the election and the government's position after the election. The now Premier said frequently before the election that user fees by any other name were taxes. That doesn't seem to be true any more. Somehow the now Premier doesn't associate user fees with taxes.

The president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is not being fooled. He said, in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record on May 3, 1996, that the government is "breaking their promise of no new taxes by proposing to partially fund AgriCorp through user fees." He said, "User fees in my books is a tax by any other name." That's Tony Morris, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, May 3, 1996.

How will these fees happen? I believe we need to look at some of the documentation, some of what is actually there. Before I do that, however, I want to point out another issue.

If you accept that AgriCorp is to deliver not only the existing crop insurance and the existing market revenue programs and any other related bipartite and tripartite safety net programs developed in the future, you can see that this becomes an open-ended vehicle to impose more and more fees and service charges on farmers.

In other words, if the federal government or farm organizations should go to this provincial government in the future and say, "We've got a problem here in a particular commodity area," or, "We've got some destabilization of agricultural markets happening because of conditions in Europe or conditions in the United States and we want to work with you on this," this legislation will make it possible for the government to say, "Oh, we can do this, but the assessment fee for doing this, the charges for doing this will be such-and-such."

This is a very open-ended piece of legislation for imposing more and more user charges, user fees, assessments, hidden taxes on farmers and rural residents across the province. Again, more taxes.

We need to talk also about the other centrepiece of this legislation, the Agriculture and Food Institute of Ontario. In effect, this legislation will change the name of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario to the Agriculture and Food Institute of Ontario, and the AFIO will become a schedule 3 agency. It will shift responsibility for the delivery of research, laboratory and education programs to partners, including the University of Guelph, Agriculture Canada, private corporations and farmers.

What's interesting here is this: If you go out and talk to farm organizations, they will tell you that for agriculture to do well in this province research is important, maintaining the laboratories and laboratory facilities is important, and the education and applied education and technology transfer aspects are all important. In other words, if agriculture in Ontario is to improve, if agriculture in Ontario is to advance, we have to continue to do applied research, we have to have the laboratory facilities and we have to have the mechanisms, the institutions to then take the results of that research and put them in the hands of farmers in the form of technology transfer, in the form of applied education.


What is really happening here, with the establishment of the Agriculture and Food Institute of Ontario and the way it's going to be financed, is that the government is in effect saying, "If you want to do research, if you want to do applied research, if you want to maintain the laboratory framework, if you want to maintain the education programs and the applied education programs, you're going to pay for it." That's essentially what the government is saying: "If you want these things, you're going to pay for it."

But it's interesting; you have to note the mechanism. First they're going to transfer it over to the so-called partners. Then later they're going to come to the partners and say: "This is how much it costs. Where are you going to get the money?" What the government is really trying to do here is this: They're subtly trying to shift political responsibility.

If you turn over responsibility for these things, the responsibility for administration, the responsibility for running these things, to farm organizations, to the University of Guelph, to farmers in general, and then you say to them, "Where are you going to find the money?" you put them in the position of effectively having to close down these institutions, of having to curtail research, of having to curtail applied research. You put them in the position of having to say, "I guess we can't operate this college, or we can't operate this college at the level that we operated it before." That's really what's going on here.

It's saying to farmers, and I know some farmers have already figured out the puzzle, "If you want these services, you pay additional for them, and if you can't afford to pay additional for them, then you close them down." If you sort through this puzzle, what it comes down to again is the imposition of added charges, fees, assessments -- taxes -- on rural residents, farmers and farm organizations. Then it says to all those folks in rural Ontario, "If you can't afford to pay these, if in addition to the increased education taxes, the increased property taxes, the increased costs of maintaining your roads, the increase in other fees and assessments for agricultural services, if you can't afford to maintain all this, then you shut it down."

I predict that that's really what's going on here and a year or a year and a half from now when these farm organizations and farm partners come back to the government and say, "We really want to maintain these, we really want to do the work here," I suspect the government is going to say: "No, it's your responsibility. You look after it. You take care of it. If you can't do it, close it down."

The fact is that already, as the government is making this transfer, three of the colleges are being positioned for closure. The Ridgetown agricultural college, the Kemptville agricultural college and the Alfred agricultural college are all being positioned for closure. I go back to what the now Premier said before the election: "There will be no cuts to agriculture. There will be no cuts to agricultural programs." Yet we're seeing three of the colleges which are integral to doing that applied research and then distributing that applied research so it can be used by farmers -- those very colleges are being cut and closed.

I want to go on to horticultural inspection. The fact is that 12 of the 16 OMAFRA horticultural inspectors have already gotten their pink slips. Folks might ask, "What's so important about that?" There's something very important about that for consumers and for farmers. The fact of the matter is that farmers, if they want to maintain the reputation they have out there with the public, the reputation they have with food processors, if they want to maintain their reputation for producing good-quality, healthy food that is safe to eat, they have to show that there is a reputable inspection program in place. You could get away without having horticultural inspectors for some period of time, but that will catch up with you.

The government is firing, laying off, 12 of the 16 horticultural inspectors. What they're positioning for is that they're going to say to the fruit and vegetable growers, "If you want to maintain your reputation for producing good-quality fruits and vegetables that are healthy and safe for people to eat, you pick up the cost of inspection; you find a way to pay for these inspectors." What does that amount to? Again it is the downloading of more fees, assessments, charges, hidden taxes upon farmers. The general revenues of Ontario will no longer cover any of these costs for farmers. Farmers will have to pay increased taxes if they want these very valuable services.

Fruit and vegetable growers should be concerned about this. They should be concerned about it from two perspectives. First, they should be concerned about it because it is going to add to their costs, and their costs of production enter very much into the calculus of how they are able to compete with producers outside the province, enter into the calculus of whether their business can survive. So they ought to be very concerned about this, but they ought to be very concerned about it from another perspective as well. That perspective is that if the public begins to take the view that Ontario fruits and vegetables are not adequately inspected, that their health and safety in terms of human consumption is not what it should be, there is a potential loss across the industry.

I will say to you that government here is playing with fire. They're playing with fire here in much the same way they're playing with fire in Ontario's forests. Ontario has a very well-off forest industry, a very productive forest industry. It employs literally hundreds of thousands of people.

The government assumes it can make all kinds of cuts in the forest sector yet we will continue to be able to sell our products in Ontario, elsewhere in Canada and outside the jurisdiction. I think we're going to run into trouble there. I think other jurisdictions are going to say: "The way you're running your forests, your natural environment, is not sustainable, and we are not going to buy your produce. We're not going to buy the products you produce out of your forests."

The government is playing with fire here in terms of fruits and vegetables and horticultural inspection as well. But this probably won't happen until two or three years down the road, and I suspect when it does happen two or three years down the road, the government will say: "The fruit and vegetable producers should have done something about this. They should have paid the additional costs to have inspectors in place. They should have paid the costs to have this quality assurance."

I want to turn now to some of the other elements of the bill, the Riding Horse Establishments Act. The government says this is unnecessary legislation, the Riding Horse Establishments Act. In fact, when they generally talk about these pieces of the bill, they say, "This is all ancient, old stuff and we don't need it." The Riding Horse Establishments Act is not ancient legislation. It was brought in 25 years ago by a Conservative government, to deal with and respond to some very serious situations.

There are over 500 riding schools in the province. Some of them operate at a very high level of quality; others do not. This legislation was brought in to ensure that horses used in these kinds of commercial establishments were properly treated and that there was no abuse. Again what the government is saying is that it will now tolerate some abuse, will tolerate a lowering of the standards. I say to the government that a lot of people in the province will not.


Mr Hampton: The members from the Conservative caucus want to make a bit of a racket over there. I would just quote to them that the University of Guelph's Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare considers the repeal of this legislation "a retrograde step." The Ontario Veterinary College agrees. They saw and still see a real need for this legislation in terms of protecting the welfare of horses in these kinds of commercial establishments. But as we know, this is a government that is all about making a quick buck and if animals are hurt in the process, if animals are abused in the process, well, they really don't care. What matters is that somebody be able to make a quick buck, and that's really what's going on here.


The Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is also very angry about this. They know what potentially can and will happen as a result of the taking out of this piece of legislation, but they've already spoken to the government, and as so often happens, this government is not interested in listening to those folks.

Then we come to the Abandoned Orchards Act. The government wants to say again that this is ancient legislation, it's not needed, so we'll get rid of it. The problems that this legislation was created to deal with are still out there and the problems will not go away. But again, let me tell you what the government's really up to here. What they want to do is they want to pass this responsibility off on to municipalities, and municipalities, through the property tax, will have to pay for this. But first, let me get into the problem.

This act was established and provided for action against neglected orchards in order to prevent the spread of disease and pests. When you're dealing with the fruit industry, when you're dealing with tender fruits especially, you've got to be on guard against the spread of disease and pests because, frankly, what was one farmer's problem in one area of the province can very soon become a problem of all farmers, and all farmers lose.

The abandoned orchards will now be designated under section 10 of the Weed Control Act and action will now have to be taken by the municipality. So the province is now saying -- once again, this is a service that used to be provided to farmers by the province -- "No, we're not doing this. We're going to pass it off to the municipality," and the municipality is going to have to raise fees to cover it.

I go back to my original argument: A fee, an assessment, a user charge is a tax. What the government is essentially doing here, it's increasing the taxes upon farmers and rural residents.

So now the municipality will have to cover these costs instead of the provincial entomologists. The costs of burning an abandoned orchard will have to be recovered by the municipality from the land owner, and if they can't recover the costs from the land owner, they will have to pass them on to municipal ratepayers.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has raised this issue and they say that although orchards will be designated under weed control, tender fruit and apple producers have concerns about the spread of disease. An apple producer from Georgian Bay believes that municipalities will not have the expertise or have the will to properly deal with the problems created by the abandoned orchards. An entomologist, in this case, would be expertise from outside of the local area making recommendations rather than the politically sensitive municipal reps, and if the recommendation from the municipality comes down to hiring the expertise, there will be a question of who pays. If municipalities have to take this on, it will be the municipal taxpayer, the municipal resident, the farmer who will pay. As I said, the switching of more costs, more taxes on to rural residents.

I want to go on and go through some of the correspondence that this legislation has engendered. I expect that the Conservative caucus members don't want to hear this, but they should hear it nonetheless because I think it is quite relevant.

Here's a letter from Tony Morris, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, June 4, 1996, and it's sent to the Honourable Noble Villeneuve, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. At the top of the letter, stamped in big, dark letters, is the word "urgent." In this letter he said he sees your legislation, but there has to be "significant input into the way AgriCorp was to be funded, administered and governed."

"I and other farm leaders were becoming increasingly anxious that the consultative phase of implementation was going to be overlooked. It was widely speculated in the farm community that this bill has been marked for speedy passage in order that the new agency be fully operational by January of 1997."

He then goes on to say to the government, "If you want this to have speedy passage, you better come and talk to us about how some of these fees and charges are going to happen."

I then go to the news release from the OFA, May 3, and he says very clearly in the news release: "If farmers are to be charged user fees, they must be allowed to contribute to the administration of AgriCorp. Farmers must have the opportunity to actively participate in decisions that affect their future and to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from scarce dollars."

This is an article in Farm and Country, Tuesday, May 14, and it says very clearly, "Will Farmers Pay for AgriCorp?" Again I quote Tony Morris: "Very clearly, producers are going to be asked to pay more for the services they now expect. If user fees are not another form of taxation, I'm not sure what you'd call it.

"I don't think we're going to be interested in smoke and mirrors and transferring the cost of the ministry to AgriCorp....We're going to be lobbying for majority control for the farm groups."

Interesting. Again, the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is very clear about what's going on. These are user fees, these are new taxes being applied to farmers.

I want to go to another article that was in Farm and Country on Tuesday, May 14, "Who Will Pay the Inspection Bill?" In this case, it's the inspection bill under the Farm Products Grades and Sales Act and the Grain Elevator Storage Act. These changes that are outlined in this bill will cut ministry spending by $250,000 a year. The question is, who is going to pick up the charges of doing these inspections?

"Don LeDrew, manager of the Ontario Corn Producers Association, says the province has told farm groups and elevator operators to find a new way to fund the inspection program." Translated, that says to farmers, "Yes, it's important that these facilities be inspected, but you pay for the inspection of these facilities." Then we go on to an article in Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the title of it is "Farm Laws to be Overhauled." Tony Morris says again, "The OFA is concerned, however, that the Conservatives are breaking their promise of no new taxes by proposing to partially fund AgriCorp through user fees." Morris says again, "User fees in my books is a tax by any other name."

The government strategy is not working out there. Certainly Tony Morris, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and other people actively involved in the farm organizations clearly understand what's going on. These are taxes.

There's another element here. It's not covered in the legislation, but it illustrates again the rising tide of fees, taxes and assessment that farmers are going to have to bear.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Would this be a good place to wrap up?

Mr Hampton: In that case, I'll leave this until the next day because I wouldn't want to miss this point on Ontario Hydro. Since the government has announced that it's in favour of the privatization of Ontario Hydro, I wouldn't want the people of Ontario, especially the people of rural Ontario, to not understand how much --

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

The House adjourned at 1800.