36th Parliament, 1st Session

L101 - Tue 1 Oct 1996 / Mar 1er Oct 1996




















































The House met at 1330.




Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I am pleased today to recognize St Jerome's Day --

The Speaker (Hon Ed Doyle): Excuse me. I am just going to recognize you here. Pardon me. I just want to make sure that I get it right.

Mr Grandmaître: And I get the amount of time that I'm supposed to.

The Speaker: The Chair recognizes Bernard Grandmaître from Ottawa East.

Mr Grandmaître: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and congratulations.

I'm pleased today to recognize St Jerome's Day, named after the Christian saint of translators. September 30 has been declared National and International Translation Day by the Canadian Translators and Interpreters Council and the International Federation of Translators, a worldwide organization having consultative status with UNESCO.

Here in our province, members of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario have been undertaking the valuable work of translating and interpreting since 1921. ATIO, which presently has about 1,000 members, is the oldest translators' association in Canada and the first in the world to attain legal status for its members in 1989.

La capacité de communiquer en nombreuses langues, compte tenu des particularités culturelles de chacun, est un facteur de toute première importance pour l'harmonie sociale et pour le développement de notre province.

Je profite de cette occasion pour rendre hommage aux membres de l'ATIO qui, de par leur travail dans les secteurs public et privé, contribuent si précieusement à l'atteinte de ces objectifs.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Today we awoke to the good news that in yesterday's election in the Yukon, the New Democrats were returned to a majority government. I say "to the good news" because it's quite important to note that in winning that very clear majority government, they defeated the Reform-minded, conservative Yukon Party.

I think there is a lesson there for the government that sits across from us, because just like voters in the Yukon rejected an attack on workers' rights and a right-wing conservative fiscal policy and agenda, so too the day will come in Ontario when we will see the same turfing out of a government that attacks workers, of a government that tries to deal with the problems it has on the backs of the average citizens across the province.

In congratulating Piers McDonald as the new leader of the government party in the Yukon and the new government in the Yukon, we also again I think want to send out a warning to the members across and to the leader of this party that they cannot continue to dismantle, piece by piece, the very fabric of this society and expect that the voters at the end of the day will not remember their actions. We will be here to remind them, but more importantly the people of the province will be here to remind them at the next election.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): It's with great pride that I rise to address the House today. This summer, on June 6, the South Simcoe public school in my riding of Oshawa celebrated its 80th anniversary.

Principal Sandra Dean has provided the initiative to see that the school is well prepared to enter the 21st century. Working together with community partners, this school has developed innovative education methods and has become a role model for other schools.

Ground is certainly being broken with the employability skills program which brings business managers into the school to teach students employability skills. The students also run their own school store, which provides exposure to those entrepreneurial skills. This innovative approach to education has attracted attention locally, nationally and at the international level.

Through initiatives such as these, the South Simcoe school of Oshawa has won the Conference Board of Canada Provincial Award and the Conference Board of Canada National Award. The partnerships forged between this school and the Oshawa business community have been exemplary.

The list of awards continues as the South Simcoe school received the Durham Board of Education's Director's Gold Award and the Bruce Mather Award, yet more awards for excellence in community partnerships and the professional development of others.

I am proud to say this school from Oshawa provides a shining example for all schools across the province to follow.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Yesterday in the House I asked the Minister of Health to release his submission to the Health Services Restructuring Commission in regard to its hospital closure decisions in Thunder Bay. Although the minister refused to release his position and in fact would not discuss its contents, we finally obtained a copy today.

Now it becomes clear why the minister was stonewalling us. The submission, signed by the Deputy Minister of Health, says, "The ministry supports the report and its directives and will work with the commission, hospitals and district health councils to ensure that the directives are met."

So we do not just have a staff report, as the minister stated yesterday, but a letter signed by the Deputy Minister of Health. It's not a bunch of data that would take 10 hours to explain, as we were led to believe by the minister; it's a three-page letter the minister could have easily outlined for the House.

It's what's missing in the submission that also causes concern, and that is there's no reference to funding, no reference to the fact that the Ministry of Health changed its capital funding policy for hospitals on the very day that the Thunder Bay report was released. On that date the ministry reduced its capital funding from two thirds to one half, which in Thunder Bay terms means that what was thought to be $48 million in provincial capital support on June 27 actually changed to $36 million in support.

What we have is a minister who submitted a report supporting cuts to Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario health services and a minister who cut funding for any redevelopment on the very day those cuts were announced. It's time for this minister and his ministry to be up front with all of us.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I rise today in regard to the announcements the government made yesterday in regard to the hospital restructuring committee in Sudbury. The minister stood in this House yesterday, and I heard through interviews afterwards that he didn't feel that the services offered to the region through the Sudbury hospital system would be affected.

I'm here to tell the minister directly that, yes, it will affect services, because what the government is proposing to do in closing the two hospitals, Sudbury Memorial and Sudbury General, will remove 200 acute care beds out of the Sudbury system, which is not only there to serve the people of Sudbury but is there to serve the people of the entire northeastern region. When you take 200 acute care beds out of the system the way you're doing, Minister, it means that people in Timmins, Iroquois Falls, Cochrane, Kirkland Lake who are referred to that hospital for everything from cardiac care to cancer care will have a much more difficult time getting beds in the system in Sudbury so that they can be treated. We already know that there are problems existing within the system as it is now in regard to waiting lists to get into those services. I don't see how for one instant what you are doing in regard to the reduction of budgets of those hospitals will do anything else to be able to deal with it.


Should there be hospital restructuring? Yes. Sudbury's not the first to go through it. Timmins and other communities such as Sault Ste Marie have gone through that process already. But the dollars that you take out of the system must be reinvested in northeastern Ontario so that people in the northeast are able to get access to health care services. What you are doing is stealing the money, putting it in the Treasurer's pocket, and helping to pay for a tax break at the expense of the people of northeastern Ontario.


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): I'm proud to inform the House of an exciting international link forged by Lambton College in Sarnia-Lambton: Lambton College in Sarnia, the St Clair County College in Port Huron, Michigan, and Universidad Technologica Americana in Mexico City. The agreement joining together the three schools links the development of programs, gives opportunities for student and staff exchanges, and encourages joint proposals to three governments for funding. It's a long-term agreement that establishes an international trade program in which students spend a year at each facility completing their education.

As Lambton College president Dr Tim Easley said so accurately, "In the era of free trade, having an understanding of our trading partners is clearly a step up in a global economy." This is NAFTA coming to Sarnia-Lambton.

This agreement is about working together, mutual understanding and cooperation. International agreements are the wave of the future, and Lambton College has once again proven its forward-looking vision. I congratulate the college for fostering a deeper understanding of other nations and offering its students a truly unique educational opportunity.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The newest target of the Mike Harris Conservative machine appears to be the amateur sports community in Ontario, that group of individuals who spend countless hours organizing and operating positive, healthy, constructive programs and activities for children and adults alike in our province.

Yesterday I quoted from an article in a major metropolitan daily newspaper detailing insulting comments made by the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Let me share with members who may not have had the opportunity to be here the comments of the MPP for Brampton South. The article reads as follows:

"Amateur sports groups in Ontario are welfare recipients who have to be taken off the dole, says Conservative MPP Tony Clement.

"`It's like a welfare dependency, a business welfare dependency,' Clement told the Star in an interview."

Well, I thought the best response that I've heard so far was from the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. He said the following:

"`That shows Tony's lack of feeling. He's just a hatchet man for the Harris government,' added Kells, who doesn't have much faith in Mushinski's qualifications for the job, either. `Mushinski's really only there to disassemble the...thing.'"

Sometimes the most telling remarks come from the government benches. In this case, the government benches have responded best to the minister and her parliamentary assistant.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I remember Mike Harris promising in the Common Sense Revolution and during the campaign that there would be no cuts to health care. And I remember the Conservative candidate in Sudbury during the election saying that if the Tories were elected, all three Sudbury hospitals would be kept open. My, how times have changed in Sudbury.

Yesterday, the local solution which had been arrived at after two and half years of work by community members was thrown entirely out the window, and the minister's hatchet commission is now trying to impose a "made in Toronto" solution in our community. Two of the three hospitals will be closed; 206 acute care beds will be closed. Only one third of the savings to be achieved are to be sent back to the community, if the minister agrees. There will be hundreds of health care workers who will lose their jobs, and the quality of health care in our community and in northeastern Ontario will be affected.

Sudbury's position and ability to act as a regional referral centre is being put in jeopardy. We treat patients from across northeastern Ontario, especially for cardiovascular care, and with 206 acute care beds being lost, it will be very difficult to continue to treat other northerners.

Sudbury is going to lose, at best, up to $29 million annually under the scheme proposed by the Tories. At worst, the figure will be $42 million if Jim Wilson tries to take all of the savings to help finance the tax cut.

People in Sudbury were betrayed by this Conservative government. They thought there would be no cuts to health care. They found out yesterday that you can't trust this government on that score.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): As the members are aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 1996, more than 7,100 Ontario women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 2,000 will die. Across Canada, 18,600 women will be diagnosed and 5,300 women will die with breast cancer.

Our government made a commitment in the spring budget to expand programs to aid in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer and will provide additional funds to treat women with breast cancer. This government wants to help women become more aware of the importance of methods of early detection, such as self-examination and the Ontario breast screening program. The Ontario breast screening program, which screens women over 50, has one of the highest detection rates in the world. We should all encourage the women we know who are over 50 to enrol in the program and be screened at one of the 18 centres across the province.

Breast cancer does not just affect women. The husbands, children and families of these women are also affected.

For the first time in history, lung cancer will be the leading cause of death among women. Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer. It is the intent of this government for breast cancer deaths to continue to decline. This issue remains a challenge, and our government will continue its fight against breast cancer.

The Speaker (Hon Ed Doyle): Statements from ministries. The Chair recognizes the Premier.



Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and might I congratulate you at my first opportunity on the good job you're doing running the House.

I rise today to announce this government's intention to fulfil another key commitment made to the people of Ontario. Long before the advent of the Common Sense Revolution, people told us that Ontarians are among the most overgoverned people in the world. We heard repeatedly that government at every level had become too big, too cumbersome, too costly and too unresponsive to the needs and aspirations of the people who pay for it, the taxpayers.

We had accumulated extra politicians, administrators, civil servants and officials over a very long period of time. It was an era in which the answer to each of society's problems seemed to be to add more programs, spend more money, build more buildings and put more people behind more desks to push more paper.

We know today that adding more politicians, creating more bureaucracy and spending more money has not solved our problems as a province. Rather, these costs have added to our debt load, and if they are allowed to continue to mount, they'll be passed on to our children. So today we're taking another definitive step to reduce the size and cost of government and to do better with less. Today, my colleague the government House leader will be tabling legislation which will see provincial riding boundaries aligned with their federal counterparts before the next election. The result will be to reduce the number of provincial politicians from the current 130 to 103.

The message is this: Savings will start at the top. Everyone must and will share in our common struggle as a province and a people to balance our books once and for all. This step, together with others we have taken since forming the government, means that restraint will be shouldered from the highest level of Queen's Park on down. This is only right and it's only fair. It is leadership by example.


This initiative adds to the growing list of actions taken by this government to reduce the size and cost of government on behalf of Ontario taxpayers: We scrapped the MPPs' gold-plated pensions and the tax-free allowances, and reduced our own pay by an additional 5%; we appointed the smallest cabinet this province has seen in 30 years; we have reduced internal government administrative costs by $200 million so far; we have saved $80 million to date by requiring government agencies, boards and commissions to operate more efficiently; and we have imposed strict limits on government advertising and publications.

Together with our measures to rein in spiralling program spending, these steps keep us firmly on track towards a fully balanced budget in fiscal 2000-01. At the same time as we are shrinking the public sector, we are cutting taxes to create jobs and reducing barriers to economic growth. This is our plan, and while we still have a long way to go to reach our goal of a better Ontario, the evidence is there for all to see: Our plan is working.


Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): It is with great pleasure that I rise on behalf of the government of Ontario to recognize International Day of Older Persons. It is a day to say thanks to more than one million Ontarians who are over the age of 65, men and women who have taught in our schools, built our homes, assembled our cars, produced the food on our tables, fought wars to save our freedom and made this such a wonderful province in which to live.

This government is committed to the elderly. That is why Premier Mike Harris decided to appoint a minister of his cabinet solely responsible for Ontario seniors.

That is why we've invested $170 million to provide more accessible, simplified, long-term care, providing health care services at home for another 80,000 people.

That is why we moved to protect the viability of the provincial drug plan, as the last province in Canada to ask those who benefit from this insurance plan to share in the cost of the premiums. In doing so, we have been able to add 275 products to the Drug Benefit Formulary -- that's nearly 20 new drugs every month this government has been in office -- and it is seniors who have benefited most from this initiative.

Finally, that is why my honourable colleague the health minister, Jim Wilson, has undertaken a major health care restructuring review that will reallocate funds to the front-line, direct health services, including $20 million for pneumonia prevention immunization for seniors; $15.5 million to reduce waiting lists for cardiac care -- those surgery lists will be reduced by one third -- $25 million to expanded kidney dialysis services; and almost eliminating previous waiting lists for cataract surgery for Ontario seniors.

It's called good health care management, it's patient-centred and it's achieved by a government not afraid to make tough decisions in its determination to do what the people of Ontario told us they wanted: Provide better service and better access at lower cost.

In the summer, my colleague the Minister of Health attended a meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial ministers in Fredericton. The group collectively agreed that future policies developed for seniors should be guided by five basic principles: dignity, independence, participation, fairness and security. This is the template this government will use as we work towards the year 1999, which the United Nations has declared International Year of Older Persons. Dignity, independence, participation, fairness and security -- this is what we owe our seniors.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I must say to the Premier that this is certainly a sad day for people in northern Ontario. During the campaign, in your document here -- you called it A Voice for the North -- you said you would give northerners a greater say on policies which affect them. Today you have, in essence, told us that our representation in this House will be cut by one third. Giving northerners a greater say is not what I'm hearing is happening. Your government refuses to meet with municipal associations, mayors and reeves. As a matter of fact, Mr Premier, even in the last campaign your candidate in the Rainy River riding suggested that this would never happen. May I quote:

"PC candidate Lynn Beyak certainly pooh-poohed that scenario in the final days of the campaign, claiming any talk of the ultimate demise of Rainy River riding was fearmongering by desperate politicians. In fact Lynn told voters at an all-candidates meeting here that she'd fight such suggestions tooth and nail." Mr Premier, this is a candidate who ran for you in the past campaign.

More important, do you actually realize that redistribution will give one member of this House, the member representing the Kenora-Rainy River riding, one third of the land mass of the entire province? That's over 307,560 square kilometres to one member in this House. That's bigger than the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island put together -- bigger than those land masses put together.

Mr Premier, I must say to you that this is certainly an insult to the intelligence of northerners. You're cheating the citizens of northern Ontario and they will not stand for it.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): This is all about increasing the executive branch of government's power at the expense of the legislative branch. It's putting more power into your office and your backbenchers know that. That's all this is about. It's about downsizing democracy, Mr Premier; it's you walking away from democracy. That's what this bill is all about because all you want to do eventually is replace all of us with 1-800 numbers and that's the kind of government you want, Mr Premier.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I'd like to respond to the minister for seniors programs and also recognize the International Day of Older Persons and, as he said, say thank you to our seniors for without them we would not have the kind of society we have.

I notice that the minister has developed a fairly selective list of activities of what the government has done for and to seniors. I would like to complete that list and remind you that when you say you have compassion, when you say you're concerned about dignity, I think there are a variety of areas in which that falls down.

I would remind you of the cutbacks, of the 21.6% in social assistance that seriously affects seniors at the moment. The new user fees for drugs, for example, has an impact on those seniors who need a great deal of medication, and as those dollars add up and you're on a fixed income, and it's less than what it was a year ago, that means a lot to seniors.

But cuts to Para Transpo affect many seniors who can now not afford to pay for their own transportation for other areas. Some of the cuts to the chronic care beds make it more difficult for seniors to respond because they can't now go to the chronic areas, and I'd say in my own area the universality of what's available. You have a veterans' facility in London, you have one here in Sunnybrook in Toronto and your government is breaching an agreement that it has made with the Perley veterans' health centre.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): That's not what the court says. Read the court cases.

Mr Patten: The Minister of Health says no, he hasn't, and we will get back to it. They want to honour that agreement. There will be less service. It will not be comparable to what it is now, to the other two institutions that happen to be in Toronto and happen to be in London but not in the Ottawa-Carleton and eastern Ontario area. Shame on you. When you talk about dignity, consult with some of the seniors and when you say you recognize them and you want to thank them for what they've done, remember we have a responsibility to exercise more than words.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I wish to respond to the Premier's statement today where he announces that the government intends to introduce legislation to reduce the number of members of the Legislature. First of all, let me say I am not opposed to redistribution. Redistribution based upon demographic changes may from time to time be in order. I am also in favour of examining ways of making democracy more efficient. I believe we need to recognize that what is being introduced here today is a fundamental change in democracy for Ontario, and when you're going to make fundamental changes in democracy in Ontario, the people deserve an opportunity to be heard. They deserve an opportunity to have public hearings so that people in different parts of this province may come to understand what the particular impacts are.


It's very interesting that the Premier's own spokesperson told the press on Thursday, September 26, "We haven't studied the specific impacts of redistribution." That was an admission from the Premier's chief press spokesperson.

People need to know what some of the potential impacts are: 23 constituencies in rural Ontario will be eliminated; 33% of the constituencies in northern Ontario, a full third, will be eliminated if the government proceeds. I believe that when you're going to make these kinds of fundamental changes in democracy, the people who are going to be disfranchised or potentially may be disfranchised deserve a chance to express their views in public hearings.

It is interesting to note that whenever in the past, going back to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and even into the 1980s, there has been such a fundamental change in the exercise of democracy, whatever the government of the day, public hearings were always held so that people across the province could be fully informed. I say to this government, why are you afraid of the public? What do you have to fear from the public? Why won't you hold public hearings with an independent commission?

The second issue I want to raise is this: The Premier says that this will save money. He tries to allude to that. We've had Conservative spokespersons in the media over the last two days admitting that this will not save any money. They admit that at most you might be talking about $1 million here. The other interesting plank is that the chief electoral officer appeared before the committee and said the other day that if the government proceeds with its referenda piece, the referenda plank which is part of this, the minimum cost is $23 million per referendum. To say this is a cost-saving measure is utter and total baloney. This is simply Mike Harris trying to appeal to the Reform Party elements in Ontario.

I say finally to the Premier, who says that everything is on line and that he is fulfilling all the promises, re-read the Common Sense Revolution. The Common Sense Revolution said you were not going to cut health care. We have seen $1.3 billion taken out of health care -- we saw a very vivid illustration of it yesterday with respect to Sudbury; and $1.6 billion is being taken out of education, and the government said it wasn't going to cut education. We see in the Toronto papers today that literally thousands of cases are going to be lost out of the criminal court system, but it said law enforcement and justice wouldn't be cut, and we see seniors being cut.

Health care is being cut, education is being cut, seniors are being cut, children are being cut; the only promise this government is fulfilling is to redistribute income to its wealthy friends.



Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I have a question for the Premier today. I would like to give the Premier a legitimate opportunity to clarify a very important issue that I'm sure many people, including many Conservative supporters, are wondering about. We're all aware of this government's singleminded approach to cutting government spending, but I ask the Premier in very simple, straightforward terms: Do you accept that government has a responsibility to consider more than just the bottom line, that decisions have to be based not just on fiscal considerations but must also take into account the human impact? Premier, do you agree that governments must be responsible for taking care of people as well as finances?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I appreciate the opportunity to engage with the member on both the philosophical and the very real reason why we were elected. We went into office, all of us on this side of the House, to help people get jobs, help them get meaningful employment, give them first-class health care, which is why we're now spending $300 million more than the previous government on providing first-class health care services, why in education we're prepared today and in the future to spend more than virtually any other jurisdiction in the world to ensure that we have a world-class, first-rate education system.

While we embark upon making some changes, we do so confident that we have the best teachers in the world right here in Ontario. But we have some problems in the bureaucracy and a number of people not in the classroom, so we deal with those. Everything we do is aimed at: "How do we help people? How do we balance the books so children will be free of that burden of debt in the future?" So certainly everything we do as a government is aimed at the very real human dimension of people who live in this great province.

Mr Cordiano: I'm sure everyone is relieved to hear that you care so much about improving people's lives. That's why I'm sure you have solid data to back up your decisions on something as important as health care. Surely you have the figures to reassure people that you have studied all the contingencies when you close a hospital, or two thirds of a community's hospitals, like in Sudbury this week. Surely planners in the Ministry of Health, working with your health services restructuring commission, have done detailed studies on the impact of hospital closures. You insist that services will be provided elsewhere in the system. Let's see the data to back that up. Are you prepared to share with the people of Ontario your health ministry's estimates on how many deaths and permanent disabilities you're expecting from the closings?

Hon Mr Harris: I know the Minister of Health will have that information.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The question is full of fearmongering. I would ask the member to check with his Liberal colleagues in New Brunswick. Why don't you check with your Liberal colleagues in New Brunswick or in Newfoundland or other provinces where three or four years ago they did the restructuring we're now going through? There is no evidence of the type of fearmongering the honourable member has mentioned.

Let's do Winnipeg, which is another Conservative jurisdiction: Access to angioplasties, cataract and knee replacement surgery increased as much as 33% when they consolidated and amalgamated a number of hospitals. The report from a group of academics at the University of Manitoba found that no decrease in access occurred for any demographic group for any service, and no decrease occurred in quality of care. "There is no evidence that downsizing has negatively influenced the quality of care delivered to patients."

Every province can point to better accessibility and greater quality when the restructuring is done right. That is the aim of this restructuring exercise, and I know the commission has that as their goal, first and foremost.

Mr Cordiano: I cannot believe that the Premier shirks his responsibility. People in this province want to know from you, Premier, that you're going to reassure them that health care will be provided in all the communities across this province that feel vulnerable by your actions to close down hospitals. This evasiveness tells me one of two things: Either you're hiding the impact studies -- obviously, from the answer we got from your minister, you don't have impact studies. You have no data to back up what you're saying; you have none.


Everyone knows that in a serious medical emergency, you only have so many minutes to get to a hospital. That's a serious problem for a heart attack victim who suddenly has to drive an extra 20 miles; it's a serious problem for someone who's suffered trauma in an accident; and it's surely a very real problem for parents who, in the middle of the night, have to rush their babies who are turning blue, suffocating -- real people, Premier, not just debits on a balance sheet. Real people with real concerns.

Have you even bothered to assess any of this? You haven't, obviously, from your answer that you just gave me. Why don't you show the people of this province any of the data that you have, any of the studies that you've done? People are truly concerned about this. You're talking about real lives being at stake.

Hon Mr Wilson: The commission itself, when it's made its announcements to date, has provided a full range of data. They have been very transparent in terms of the availability of information so that people can access whether the right decisions are being taken. The fact of the matter is these are experts in health care. They're backed up with dollars from the Ministry of Health so that they can provide and do all the assessments that are necessary in impact analysis. The highest authority in Canada, in my opinion -- and I think your health critic would agree -- is Dr David Naylor in the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, and he is the head of the research and analysis department of the commission.

So the commission is in very good hands. They have world-leading experts on this, and we have the experience of every other jurisdiction in Canada and of many other countries. Because we're so far behind in our restructuring, we have the advantage of learning from mistakes made in other jurisdictions, and we have the advantage that the highest expertise that's available in Canada happens to be located in our universities and research institutions. They're backing up the commission and I have their full confidence. I have full confidence in their ability to assess the data and to provide the answers that the honourable member requires.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't want to take up the time of question period, but I would ask your assistance to ensure that there is some consistency in this House with regard to the redirection of supplementaries. It has been long known in this House to members of the minority that this cannot be done, and in the last year this has been done repeatedly by the government. I ask you to review this matter and report to the members of the House.

The Speaker (Hon Ed Doyle): One moment, please. On that point of order, for the member for Algoma, we will review the matter and report to the House. The member for Lawrence.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I cannot believe the callousness with which the minister has answered that question. I cannot believe that you would close down hospitals without having done any impact studies in this province -- not the experiences of other provinces but in this province. People right across this province want to know what the impacts are.


Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I want to go on to a second question, and it's of a similar nature. Again I want to go to the Premier on this question, and it's a straightforward question.

We're all aware that you're slashing more than $1 billion in education. Will you tell us what impact studies have revealed with respect to these cuts and the impacts they're having on students?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): The Minister of Education and Training is not here today. He'd be delighted to answer in more detail and with specifics, but let me assure you of a couple of things.

Number one, we made a commitment to the people of the province of Ontario that while we felt there were savings to be had in administration, in the non-classroom spending in education, and that we intended to seek those savings -- and we said so in the Common Sense Revolution and we detailed several hundreds of millions of dollars that we felt should go towards balancing the books -- we made a couple of commitments. Number one was that we would still be funding in excess of the rest of the provinces in Canada. Number two was that we were very confident this level of funding, properly administered, not only wouldn't impact on the current classroom situation but in fact can, we feel, enhance classroom education.

So, yes, we have transitions to make. We have too many trustees; we have too many bureaucracies; we have too many teachers who are marvellous, excellent teachers who are not in the classroom teaching. Our commitment to make this transition is that we will protect classroom education.

Now, the member will know -- and I'm sure by way of supplementary he may have examples -- of the odd school board around the province that is not living up to that commitment. If that is so, we're very interested in that because we're not happy if the classroom is being impacted by actions of some of our partners. If it continues, we'll have to act.

Mr Cordiano: The Premier wants to blame everyone else. Pretty soon, he's going to start blaming my children, who are just going into school, for the fact that their classrooms are getting bigger in size. I think the Premier ought to stop answering these questions with all the business jargon and at least provide some of the real data we're asking for. We want to know what the impact of these cuts will be on classroom sizes, on the dropout rate, on province-wide test scores, on virtually every aspect of our school system. The people of Ontario have a real right to know what the human impact will be, not just the fiscal impact on your bottom line. If you have the information, why has it not been released? If you don't have the information, how can you justify your cuts?

Hon Mr Harris: It's interesting that you raise the issue of classroom testing and being able to measure, because it wasn't until the NDP government came along that we actually, through the member for Windsor-Riverside, started to get down to try to test and find out what our kids are learning and what is there. Your government threw millions more into the system without ever knowing. We applauded the initiative of the NDP at the time and we are carrying on. We are prepared to go with those results, as are the teachers and those in the system. We want to measure the real results, which are the important ones. Are our kids learning and how much, and will they be prepared for the next century?

Quite frankly, we are very confident. Yes, we reduced funding to the operating budgets of school boards in this province by about 1.8% last year. We are cutting ourselves about 30%. We have asked others to take reductions. Mr Sweeney, your former Liberal minister, says 47% -- I think that was Sweeney's study -- of the $14 billion spent on education does not go into the classroom. According to the former Liberal minister, we have 47% of the money to target without affecting the classroom. Our goal, though, is to affect the classroom positively -- better teaching, better class sizes, better responses in the classroom, better education for our children. Can we do it? Of course we can.

Mr Cordiano: I can't believe the Premier doesn't even know the facts. You've cut 9%; that's the impact you're having on kids in the classroom. They're being hurt by you and you simply don't care what happens to them. I cannot believe this and I'm not surprised to hear that kind of answer from the Premier, who's willing to give the green light to building jails but is going to give a red light to building schools. That's a real problem in this province.

Let's try something a little more specific: special education, obviously a critical program and one that often makes a huge difference in the lives of students who need it. By extension, it makes a huge difference in the lives of the rest of us by giving those students the extra attention they need to thrive later on in life. What is the impact on special education? Do you know, do you care or is it the bottom line that you're only concerned about in that government? Does anybody over there concern themselves with anything but the bottom line?

Hon Mr Harris: As I indicated earlier to this member, our bottom line is about children, about humans, about the human costs, about working conditions, about people in this province. That is our entire bottom line. To give you the exact figure, we reduced operating budgets by 1.8% last year. Are we concerned that some school boards hiked taxes up to 2%? Yes, we are. We think that was irresponsible. Are we concerned that some school boards suggested that adapting to this amount of reduction you can't look at the number of trustees, you can't look at the bureaucracy, you can't look at the 47% of the money that's not going into the classrooms? You won't believe this, but some have suggested that this will actually affect the classroom. Not while I'm Premier. Not while we're in the government. We are going to protect classroom education no matter what it takes.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is to the Premier. A year ago today, your government slashed social assistance payments to the neediest people in Ontario by 21.6%, with the money going into your tax break for your wealthy friends. The only hope you offered most vulnerable people was to haggle for dented cans of tuna or to hang on, because you said the Common Sense Revolution promises workfare. You promised in the Common Sense Revolution to invest $500 million in a new, innovative program. A year later, your promises are in shreds. You haven't been able to place a single welfare recipient into workfare. There are all kinds of people out there who need training, who need education and who need child care to get back into the workforce, but you've cut training, you've cut education and now you're cutting child care. The best the Minister of Community and Social Services can come up with is that you won't get into numerical targets.

Will you admit now that your workfare plan is simply not real, that your workfare plan is not meeting any of the promises you made, that you are well beyond the target, that you are well behind the dates you set? Will you admit that what you told Ontarians about workfare is simply not true?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the minister of Community and Social Services would be delighted to respond to the question.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I appreciate the honourable member's concern about the workfare programs we have in Ontario, given the fact that you have taken such a strong position against workfare and against giving people opportunities to get back into the job force. There are two things I'd like to draw to the attention of the honourable member. There's a quote that was made some time ago which says, "If there's one thing that just about everyone agrees with, it's that Ontario's welfare system isn't working" -- the Honourable Tony Silipo, NDP Minister of Community and Social Services. What about the comment from former Premier Mr Rae, who also said, "Paying people to stay at home is not smart"? This government knows that's not smart, and that's why we've put workfare into place. We're phasing it in across this province so that people will have the opportunity to get off social assistance, because that's what they want to do. Finally, we did not cut child care.

Mr Hampton: We know that people on social assistance need training, education and assistance with child care if they're going to get back into the workforce. We suspected that the government was never serious about providing the training, education or child care that is needed, and we're simply having that confirmed every day now as the dates when people were going to get real help to get jobs slide further and further.

There are laws in Ontario guaranteeing working conditions for people in the province. The Employment Standards Act is known as the bill of rights for working people in Ontario. We know that your Minister of Labour, through Bill 49, is trying to roll back those standards for the benefit of bad bosses all over the province. But I've got a copy here of a regulation that was filed August 16 that says the Employment Standards Act simply doesn't apply to anyone who takes part in the workfare program. If somebody is assigned to a workfare bad boss who makes them work 16 hours a day, you've stripped away the protection for those people. Those people have nothing they can do. You've taken away their rights.

Will you please explain to me and to people across Ontario why someone who's on social assistance who goes to work through workfare gets no protection, why you're going to allow them to be abused by bad bosses? Can you explain why you favour that?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I would like to give the honourable member across the way an answer in three parts, I suppose. I'd like to start by mentioning another quote about welfare reform:

"We need to create a social assistance system that enables people and helps people help themselves, that helps people get training, that helps them get job skills, that helps them get back into the labour market" -- Mr Hampton, NDP leadership convention. I have great difficulty understanding why he now opposes plans of this government to help get people back into the workforce.

Vis-à-vis child care, I can understand that perhaps they have some difficulty with numbers, when you look at their deficit targets and how they achieved them, but we're spending more in this province on child care, $600 million more than any government has spent on child care, because we recognize and know that child care is an important support to get and keep people in the workforce.

Finally, we have not stripped welfare recipients who will be participating in workfare from protection, and to suggest otherwise is very irresponsible.

Mr Hampton: I guess I'll have to quote from the regulation: "A participant in a program established under" workfare, and I add "workfare" here because it's referred to by number, is simply not covered by the Employment Standards Act.

Let me go a step further. We have in Ontario as well the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and it protects workers in terms of their health and safety in the workplace. So where you have a workplace with more than 20 workers or any construction project with more than 50 workers, you have to have a workplace joint health and safety committee to ensure that these issues, health and safety, are protected. But this government's workfare regulations also include an exemption from the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Under workfare, welfare recipients simply don't count. I guess maybe the government doesn't consider people on welfare human beings worthy of protection in terms of health and safety.

Beyond that, while some workfare recipients will probably qualify for some protection under the Workers' Compensation Act, others likely will not, especially if they work for local community groups.

Let me ask the minister, how do you justify taking even occupational health and safety protection away from people on workfare? Don't they deserve the basic human protections in terms of their life and safety in the workplace?

Hon Mrs Ecker: All I can say and repeat again is that those individuals on social assistance who need protection have that protection. We have not taken it away and we will ensure that those who are on Ontario Works programs will have that protection.

Mr Hampton: Everyone will have a chance to look at the regulations following question period, and we'll see why the minister tried so hard to avoid an answer.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health keeps saying, and he said here yesterday, that he will save $1.3 billion from hospital cuts. That is the amount that has been cut from the hospital budgets across the province. That $1.3 billion represents an 18% reduction in hospital funding. In Thunder Bay, his restructuring commission will cut 38% out of hospital budgets. In Sudbury, we found yesterday, it will cut 25% out of health care in Sudbury.

I ask the minister again, since you're making these drastic, draconian cuts to people's health care in Thunder Bay and in Sudbury, will you commit to reinvesting this money in community health care services so that people will not be forced to do without the services in Thunder Bay and in Sudbury? Will you make that commitment to reinvest?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The first major announcement, in fact the largest reinvestment of health care dollars in the history of Ontario, was made by this government in community based services, $170 million long before we've seen one penny of hospital restructuring money. So the answer to your question is very clearly yes. Long before we saw the hospital restructuring money, we've investing money in community services.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): It hasn't happened.

Hon Mr Wilson: Yes, it has happened.

Mr Hampton: I'll take that as a commitment from the minister that he's prepared to put all the money that he's taking out of Sudbury back into Sudbury in the form of community services and all the money that he's taking out of Thunder Bay back into Thunder Bay in the form of community services.

I want to follow up, because something else that was very interesting happened yesterday. The commission, which is closing two hospitals in Sudbury, said the only hospital that will remain open should have some money invested in it in the way of reconfiguration and construction. It said that $68 million should be reinvested so that the one hospital that remains open in the community will be able to provide some services. But under your formula, half of the money for that reconfiguration and construction will have to come from the community. In other words, not only are you going to take $42 million out a year in health care, you're going to demand that people in Sudbury find $34 million out of their pockets to make up for the crater that you're creating.

If you take the number of households in Sudbury and you do a little division, the minister is asking people in Sudbury to pay $562 per household. If I figure out the tax cut in Sudbury that the Premier talks about, it works out to $176. You're asking people in Sudbury to find another $400. You're imposing a $400 tax on them. In Thunder Bay, if you do the same calculation, it works out to $1,000 per household that you are saying people have to pay.

I wonder if the Minister of Health can say where the fairness is here. You've cut their health care services and now you're going to impose a tax on them if they want to have a hospital service in the community that makes sense, $1,000 per household in Thunder Bay and over $500 per household in Sudbury. How do you justify this new tax on those residents in order that they can have one hospital that hopefully makes sense?

Hon Mr Wilson: Mr Speaker, where do you begin? The honourable member has answered his own question. He says we're taking $41 million, or 25%, out of Sudbury, and he wants all that reinvested in community-based care. Then he also mentions that the total tally that the commission wants invested in Sudbury is over $70 million. So I hope this answers your question of today and yesterday: We will be taking money from other parts of the province, putting more money in Sudbury than we'll be getting out of Sudbury for many, many years in terms of savings. That should answer your question.

It defies logic. In fact, if you use this logic that opposition parties seem to have made up, Windsor today would owe us money because there's no way in Windsor we've seen $48 million that we gave them last year.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): What a misstatement of fact. It's the difference between one-time capital costs and ongoing operating budgets.

The Speaker (Hon Ed Doyle): Order. Order, please.

Hon Mr Wilson: We've not seen any savings in Windsor, other than maybe a few small percentage points.

In order to do restructuring, you've got to do the investments up front. That's what the commission is saying and that's what the government is trying to respond to. During this 30-day period, part of the response from the Ministry of Health will be whether we can afford the pricetag that the commission is recommending.

Restructuring in Sudbury will require a great, huge, upfront investment of millions of dollars, and that money has to be found in the health care system and invested in Sudbury.

Mr Hampton: The Minister of Health can try to confuse the numbers all he wants. The fact is that people in Sudbury know -- and the people are on to the Minister of Health -- that the minister is going to take $42 million a year out of operating health care in Sudbury. The people in Thunder Bay know that in terms of the cuts to their health care, 38% of the operating health care budget is going to disappear in Thunder Bay.

Then the Minister of Health says that people in Thunder Bay should pay $1,000 per household to fix up the remaining hospitals so it will hopefully fill the gap, and that people in Sudbury should pay $576 per household. How does the minister justify cutting $42 million a year out of Sudbury, 38% of the hospital budgets out of Thunder Bay on an operating annual basis, and then come back to people and say: "Oh, by the way, if you do want at least one hospital that works, you're going to have to fork out money out of your own pocket. You're going to have to tax yourselves in order to make sure you've got hospitals that operate"? How does the minister justify that?

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member is referring to the normal split of capital dollars. When a community undergoes restructuring and the commission says, "We need $68 million for capital," that is the commission's orders to the government to come up with $68 million in capital.

We're not without experience here. We know in other jurisdictions that when communities are asked to undergo restructuring, it's difficult to do the fund-raising locally. In fact, communities throw up their arms and say, "Your commission's imposing this; you come up with the money." We understand that.

For you to take the figure that the commission is asking the government -- that is, all the taxpayers of Ontario -- to come up with and then divide that over the households really shows a complete lack of understanding of the restructuring that's gone on in Canada. I'd ask your researchers to talk to your NDP colleagues in British Columbia or in other provinces where you might have some friends and really get up to speed on modernizing the health care system, stop defending huge administrations, waste, duplication, and help us to drive all those dollars down to front-line services. A little cooperation would be appreciated.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): It's nice to see that the Premier is in the House today. I certainly hope he enjoyed his $250 banquet in Sudbury on Friday. Certainly, we invite him to come back to Sudbury, because the first course of the banquet would be Mike Harris's head on a platter. That's the way the people of Sudbury are thinking.

I'm going to do the Premier a favour: I'm going to direct my question to the Minister of Health, because I know he would direct it anyway.

Minister, yesterday you stood in this Legislature and defended the decision of the Big Blue Tory bulldozer called the Health Services Restructuring Commission to implement the three Rs of health services for northeastern Ontario -- that's restructure, reduce and remove health care in Sudbury and northeastern Ontario.


But, Minister, your government is consistent. Today the Premier has announced that he'll do the same thing. With redistribution, the north will get restructuring, reduction and removal of political representation for northern Ontario. So forget the voice for the north. The new Conservative jingle for northern Ontario is, "No meds, no beds, no MPPs." Besides cutting services and besides breaking promises to those people in Sudbury and northeastern Ontario, the one thing we can say is that you're at least consistent.

Minister, now that you agree with the decision of the Health Services Restructuring Commission to close the Sudbury General Hospital, to close the Sudbury Memorial Hospital --

The Speaker: Would the member ask the question, please.

Mr Bartolucci: -- how can you justify a system that had 751 beds going down to a system that includes chronic care beds, acute care beds, rehab beds and mental health beds to a tune of only 496? How can you justify Sudbury as being the northeastern referral centre with only 496 beds?

Hon Mr Wilson: I would refer the honourable member to the commission's interim report, where all of the answers are contained. I would also correct the honourable member. For him to twist what I have said -- what I have said very clearly is that there is a 30-day period here. He is to bring his concerns to the commission's attention. You can ask for another briefing. They went over all of that with you yesterday; they'll go over all the rest. They're quite prepared, as I understand it and as I've seen in their public announcements and in their briefings, to justify every decision they are taking.

Mr Bartolucci: I'm not worried about the commission. They've rendered their decision. I'm worried about you and I want your opinion and I want your direction, because you are the Minister of Health. The Tories' big bulldozer, the blue bulldozer that wreaked havoc on health care services in northern Ontario, is creating chaos. It hurts doctor recruitment. It hurts health care workers; they lose jobs. It hurts families. It hurts children. It hurts patient care in northeastern Ontario. It hurts the regional economy.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Bartolucci: It strips Sudbury and the region of much of its economic base. But more importantly, it reduces the number of operating rooms from 20 down to 12. In Sudbury --

The Speaker: Would you get to the question, please.

Mr Bartolucci: -- we already have physicians and surgeons waiting for operating time. We have plastic surgeons who can't get operating time. We have gynaecologists who can't complete their cases.

My question is to the Minister of Health. Under the Savings and Restructuring Act, section 6.7, you have the power to overturn the commission's recommendations. Minister, will you reverse the decision of the commission regarding the closure of the Sudbury General Hospital and the Sudbury Memorial Hospital?

Hon Mr Wilson: It's amazing how the honourable member, who most of the time doesn't even like me, now wants me to make all kinds of opinions.


Hon Mr Wilson: I'm still waiting for the dog you were going to send, for goodness' sake.

With respect to the details that the honourable member has asked, and those are very real concerns that people do ask, the commission is very prepared to answer those.

Again, where we've seen restructuring, and we take Winnipeg as one of the best examples, an amalgamation of several hospitals, surgeries went up by 33%. There is a way, when done properly, to restructure and increase your front-line services. And the commission, that is the eye that they have for the future, and they will fully answer your question about surgeries and I think you'll feel very good about their answer. This 30-day period is for you and others, including the ministry, to comment about the interim decisions that have been laid before us. We will, along with yourself, ask these specific questions and we will decide, you will decide, your public will decide, whether we're satisfied with the answers. At the end of the day, the important thing is that we improve quality and access while making the system more efficient.

I don't want to be political, but it's your federal cousins who cut the budget by $2.1 billion, which is far more than what we're asking hospitals to deal with in the restructuring over the next four years. So I suggest you take some of those questions to Ottawa and also help us --

The Speaker: The question has been answered.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Attorney General. Thousands of women and children across this province continue to be hurt by your mismanagement of the changes to the family support plan. There's a woman, a constituent in my riding, who has a small child and who was receiving her payments regularly for two years. As a result of your mishandling the transition period, she has now had to forgo purchasing the bus pass that she needs every month to go to work and to pick up her child from school, she's had to borrow money to pay her rent, and she's even had to go to a food bank to put food on the table.

Minister, you knew this was going to happen. Your own report, your leaked document of January 18, says, "The transition period will see a service reduction to clients for a period of time." You've apologized for this, but frankly that's not good enough. The people of Ontario deserve to know how you, a minister of the crown, could in good conscience, knowing you were going to hurt innocent women and children, go ahead with a plan that was going to damage their ability to provide for their children and live a half-decent life. Minister, how could you knowingly do that to the people of this province?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I have had the opportunity to provide answers to a number of members in the opposition and I have been satisfied that almost every single complaint of a cheque not being received has been resolved. The family support plan is holding no money in reserve or in trust accounts that is not being disbursed.

We have had a litany of problems with the family support plan long before the restructuring began. We have a plan that, when they took over as the government in 1990, had $300 million owing to women and children. By the time they left office, that amount of money had increased to $900 million. We are finally taking steps and we are going to provide enforcement tools to the plan to be able to deal with this plan and to allow people to have the confidence in this plan they should have. We are going to correct this plan once and for all. I am determined to do it and I'm not backing off.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My supplementary is to the minister. First let me say, and let me be very clear on this, that the woman my colleague is talking about was getting her money before. She is not getting it now. All of the people on the list I gave you were getting their money. They're not getting it.

Your answer was very interesting, because last week I gave you a list of women in Riverdale who did not get their support payments as recommended by the minister responsible for women's issues. You said here today that you took care of those cases. Well, I have news for you: It is true that many of those women received their September cheques, but it was neglected to be mentioned that they still haven't got their August cheques.


Minister, do you remember Ruby White, the woman with cancer whom we talked about last week who had to put over $400 for drugs on her credit card? It is totally unacceptable and, as I said last week, ridiculous to think you can solve this problem in trying to do it case by case. It's clear it isn't working even for those about whom it said on this list I got back, "These cases are flowing." They are not flowing. When are you going to stop playing politics with the women and children of this province and actually own up to your responsibility and do something about this problem?

Hon Mr Harnick: The member, in all her righteous indignation, sent me four cases from her office that were a problem for her. In the first case support payments are flowing and all moneys have been paid; in the second case support payments are flowing and other enforcement action is in process because of problems at the income source; in the third case that was given to me a support deduction notice was sent to the income source because the income source hasn't been remitting the money; and in the fourth case she didn't provide me with enough information so that we could identify the problem or the case. She might be righteously indignant, but the fact of the matter is that the problems she gave me are solved and the moneys are flowing and the plan is holding no moneys that are owing to her constituents.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I would like state my dissatisfaction with the answer to that question and call for a late show.

The Speaker (Hon Ed Doyle): That will be handled after question period.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Workfare was formally introduced to the people of Ontario in June this year. In announcing this program, Halton was chosen as one of the first-phase test sites. I have recently attended a number of fall fairs in my riding and spoken with constituents who have asked about recent reports that Ontario Works has set targets. Minister, are reports over targets true? If so, will you meet those targets?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I thank my colleague the member for Halton North for the question. Many communities wanted to participate in the first phase of workfare. We were only able to start in the first phase with 20, and we're very pleased that Halton was part of that.

I appreciate the concern some members may have over the criticism we've had over people thinking that we have somehow set artificial targets. We have not. Our goal is to get as many people off social assistance and back into the workforce as possible. We've certainly talked about the eligible numbers of people on the system who will be participating, but our goal is not to play the numbers game, because we're talking about people's lives here.

What we're trying to do is put programs in place, with the help of our municipal partners, to get these people back into the workforce. Have no doubt about it, despite the criticism from those across the floor who are adamantly opposed to helping people get back into the workforce, we are going ahead with this program; we are doing it, and it's being phased in for full implementation in 1998.

Mr Chudleigh: I thank the minister for the answer to my question. One concept of the Common Sense Revolution was workfare and its promise to create hope and opportunity for the people who have fallen into a cycle of dependency and getting all able-bodied recipients off social assistance and back into the workforce and a productive life, in effect giving people a hand up, not a handout.

Minister, my question to you is, how will the Ontario Works program help get people off social assistance?

Hon Mrs Ecker: We're working very closely with our municipal partners to develop programs that will help people get off social assistance. We are putting in the kinds of programs that will do things they need. We have to respect individuals' needs on this because many people on social assistance have different kinds of needs. We will have community placements where they'll have an opportunity to contribute back into their community for the betterment of the community; there will be job supports, training and job placements.

All the components are part of the workfare plan, and that's what we are doing to get people back in, because I think most people on social assistance want to get back into the workforce. I think it's our obligation to help them do that. As well, it is our obligation to those who are paying for the system to make sure they know the money is being used well to help people get back into the workforce.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question too is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I'm astonished at the set-up question from your colleague. Recent reports of surveys done in the municipalities involved indicate that there are going to be about 5,000 postings, in a best-case scenario, one year from now as a result of your wastefare program. It is a program that you've allocated $120 million to in the first year.

As the business spokesperson on that side of the room, as the group in the caucus that claims to understand how business operates and that you don't set targets and goals and dollar figures around knowing what you're doing, can you justify and explain to this House today how you rationalize an expenditure of $120 million in this province without having set goals and targets and knowing how many people you expect to place for the $120 million that you're spending?

Hon Mrs Ecker: My honourable colleague across the way, I understand, is having some difficulty with this program. First he criticized our government for doing workfare despite the fact that he campaigned on it himself and said he would be supportive of such a program, then he criticized us because we're moving too slowly, then he criticized us for spending too much on workfare programs, then he said that the only decent workfare programs are very expensive to implement and then did arithmetic on our numbers that I think would cause his math teacher to despair.

I keep waiting for their alternative. What are they going to do? What are they offering those people on social assistance who deserve the opportunity to get off? I think $120 million is worth reinvesting into the lives of people on social assistance. We're going to be spending more than that, sir, to make sure those people get the chance they want, and I would like very much to hear any better alternatives from across the way.

Mr Agostino: We have outlined alternatives, I've sent briefing papers to the former minister and we have told you what some of the alternatives are, and there's one clear solution to the welfare problem that you ignore: job creation and creating jobs so welfare recipients go to work.

You fail to understand that the welfare problem is not a social problem in Ontario; it is a job problem, a result of a lack of jobs. Your own numbers have unveiled that so far wastefare has not created one new opportunity for welfare recipients across Ontario. I'm astonished that you can sit there and justify $120 million without telling this House and the people of Ontario how many placements, how many individuals who are on welfare will now be working as a result of your program.

Our calculation -- you question my math teacher -- is based on the 5,000 placements that your own people whom you put out there have told us. That works out to an average of $27 per hour for a recipient doing volunteer work. You have created the most expensive volunteer program in the world and nothing else.

Minister, again I ask you specifically: Without all the rhetoric, without all the hoopla you've talked about, can you tell this House today how many individuals you expect in the workfare program at the end of the year? If you cannot provide the House with that number, will you commit to scrapping this program and bring some more welfare reform into the province of Ontario?


Hon Mrs Ecker: I believe I heard the honourable member across the way tell me that he would like this Ontario government to go back on the promise we made to the people of Ontario that we would bring in workfare. He asked me to scrap this program. I think that is an outrageous suggestion. I also think that to try and pretend that there has not been job growth in this province is also an attempt to ignore the facts; 150,000 new jobs are in this province. Those are jobs that were not created, did not exist because of an artificial short-term government program; those are jobs that came about because of economic growth. We believe very firmly on this side of the House that the people on social assistance want to get off and into the workforce. They want those jobs because the best form of social assistance, the best form of social security for those families is a job, and that's what we are working to do.

We had one of the coordinators on workfare from North Bay today report that he has stacks of letters and mail from people saying they want to have workfare people to help them better their community. Algoma's already got people out there working on it. We've got other communities that are criticizing our officials in the ministry because they want to move ahead. They've got plans, they've got placements and they've got people who want to give people a hand up, and that's what this is all about.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Attorney General, the minister responsible for native affairs in Ontario with regard to the Ipperwash situation. The minister will know that the special investigations unit has made a decision not to pursue its investigation of the beating of Cecil Bernard George on the night of September 6, 1995. Bernard George has been in and out of hospitals since that time for a number of operations. It's significant to note that Cecil Bernard George was charged with assault and has been acquitted of all charges related to those events. Judge Douglas Walker said, "The evidence was consistent with the intention to avoid being struck or run over, not to commit an assault."

A press release, dated July 23, 1996, issued by the SIU stated: "The director concluded that Bernard or Cecil George's injuries were the result of a violent confrontation between George and officers of the OPP. However, the investigation is frustrated by the fact that no one can identify the officers involved." The SIU has taken the position that their investigation is now complete. It's significant that somewhere between 20 and 50 officers apparently know nothing, saw nothing and will say nothing. As a result, the SIU has decided not to carry out any further investigations of criminal liability on the part of officers who may have been involved in the beating of Cecil Bernard George.

Now that you have a new director of the SIU, will the minister commit to asking the new director to review the decision of the SIU not to pursue this very serious issue and to ensure that justice is done for Cecil Bernard George and his family?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): It's important to know that the SIU is an independent body that does not operate at the direction of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General. It is an independent body that makes decisions and reviews cases that are brought before it without any outside pressure. It would be a very dangerous precedent for any political person to become involved in any attempt to direct the SIU into those areas that they feel or someone feels should or should not be investigated.

I understand the frustration of this particular case, but I think we have to look very carefully at the things we do around the SIU and the precedents those actions could perhaps create. In the overall context of the purpose of SIU, why it was created and what it does, it would be very dangerous for any political person to ever be directing the investigation unit.



Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): This is a petition which really shows the impacts of the cut of education transfer payments to my riding, and it's signed by 265 constituents of mine. It reads:

"We, the undersigned concerned parents and citizens of the Kenora area, and particularly the Valley Drive, Amethyst, Cambrian and Minto areas, feel we have no choice but to write this letter on behalf of the safety of our children.

"We have recently been informed that our children aged six and up will be required to walk to school. You say there are no safety risks to our children. We strongly disagree. There are no sidewalks on either North Campbell Street or 11th Avenue North leading to 9th Street North and, for that matter, Cambrian Drive, which poses a safety problem on any given day, especially in the winter.

"There is extensive vehicular traffic using the above-mentioned streets with most of this traffic far exceeding the town's speed limits. There have been problems with gangs, and we feel that suggesting that a small group of six-, seven- or eight-year-olds would be enough to deter a few older bullies or gang members is ludicrous. Safety issues aside, no matter how well dressed a child may be, how can we expect our children to walk in the extreme cold of winter?

"We are the taxpaying public and we insist that you reconsider your decision. Our children have the right to arrive at and return from school safely, and the burden should not be placed on the parents or caregivers who may be responsible for other children and as well may not have the means to escort their school-age children to and from school.

"We, the undersigned, understand about funding cuts etc, but our children's safety must be one of the major considerations in your decision-making process. Your proposal for limited bus service does not allow for the safety that our children deserve."

That's signed by some 265 constituents from the town of Kenora.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition signed by over 300 people who attend the adult learning centre in my riding. It states:

"We, the undersigned students of the city adult learning centre, submit that we have a fundamental right and responsibility to access adult education. We strongly urge the Minister of Education and Training to recognize the right to education and to work with us to maintain the unbiased availability of adult education. We urge strongly that the minister recognize the importance of equal funding for adult education."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I have with me a petition signed by hundreds of residents of my riding asking that a dusk curfew be established for rollerbladers and a helmet law for these in-line skaters be enforced.

This petition was circulated in the Chatham-Kent area following the tragic death in July of 14-year-old Shannon Bechard. Her mother Jodi and her aunt Pam Hamilton have spearheaded the project, dedicating it to the young girl's memory and calling it Shannon's law. The petition reads:

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

"In memory of Shannon, we are in favour of a curfew being issued to rollerbladers requiring them to be off the streets by dusk and a helmet law enforced. Too many lives are being taken due to motorists' inability to see the person or persons on rollerblades. The helmet law has been enforced for bicyclists; let's enforce it also for rollerbladers. Help save our children from serious injury or even death."

I have added my signature to this petition.


Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned business owners in the construction trades, contractors, employees and providers of goods and services, reside or operate businesses in eastern Ontario. We resolve to continue to actively bring forward the issue of fair labour mobility to all eastern Ontario MPPs and, through them, to the Ontario government with the objective of protecting Ontario taxpayer-funded jobs for Ontarians and their families."

I have signed this petition.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition signed by thousands of workers of the retail-wholesale Canada division of United Steelworkers of America union, the southwestern Ontario regional office, and their petition reads as follows:

"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;

"Therefore, 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 technical expertise and advice continue to be provided through the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers."

I add my name to theirs in support of this petition.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Ontario Progressive Conservative government has passed a resolution urging the government of Canada to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code of Canada to ensure that convicted murderers serve their entire sentences; and

"Whereas convicted first-degree murderers are allowed to apply to the court for a reduction of the parole eligibility period; and

"Whereas victims' families must relive the horrors of the original crime through a jury hearing for this early parole and relive this every time the killer is given rehearings for early parole; and

"Whereas the provincial government must bear a large degree of the costs involved for a jury hearing;

"We, the undersigned, ask the Attorney General of Ontario to request the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to reconsider his decision under Bill C-45 and to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code of Canada."

I affix my name to the over 260 names here.


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've affixed my signature.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Legislature which reads as follows:

"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 document;

"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;

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

"Whereas eliminating rent control will result in skyrocketing rents in Ontario,

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

As a member who represents a large number of tenants, I'm proud to affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I present a petition to the Parliament of Ontario entitled Scrap the Ammo Bill.

"Whereas the NDP government under former Premier Bob Rae passed legislation, Bill 181, the Ammunition Regulation Act, placing restrictions on the sale of ammunition in Ontario;

"Whereas the provisions contained in Bill 181 are time-consuming, onerous and create unnecessary red tape;

"Whereas the records for which these provisions have been produced do not track criminals;

"Whereas Bill 181 was passed in only one day, without any discussion with law-abiding gun owners such as farmers, collectors, hunters and recreational shooters, who understand and have a deep respect for the power of firearms and ammunition and the need to maintain and use their equipment in the safest of conditions;

"Whereas Bill 181 will do nothing to combat the use of illegal ammunition;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to repeal Bill 181, protect the rights of responsible firearms owners and work for tougher penalties against weapons offences."

I support this petition and have therefore signed it.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I'm happy to present this petition on behalf of many people from the riding of Windsor-Sandwich:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has a responsibility to regulate the distribution of lottery machines; and

"Whereas the 6/49 lottery machines are distributed under the rules and regulations outlined under the Ontario Lottery Corp; and

"Whereas small, independent operators are routinely discriminated against by the Ontario Lottery Corp because they lack the power and influence of larger corporations;

"We, the undersigned, petition Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to consider revising the rules set out by the Ontario Lottery Corp to provide small, independent operators with the opportunity to obtain 6/49 lottery machines."


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to save the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers.

"To Premier Harris:

"We, the undersigned, 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.

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I wish to present a petition to the Legislative Assembly, signed by 342 people:

"Whereas we are opposed to the Ministry of Natural Resources slot size of 45-61 cm (18-24 in) on rainbow trout;

"Whereas we do not support the implementation of an extended sanctuary on the Bayfield, Maitland, Nine Mile rivers on all species;

"Whereas we do not support the closing of all species fishing in extended sanctuary policy proposal;

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

"To undergo further public consultation regarding proposed recommendations of the Lake Huron Rainbow Trout Public Advisory Committee;

"To eliminate any restriction to slot sizes on rainbow trout;

"To eliminate any extended sanctuary on the Bayfield, Maitland, Nine Mile rivers and the closing of all species in these rivers and tributaries flowing into Lake Huron."


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition from a large number of people in the St Catharines area that reads as follows:

"Whereas the Conservative government of Mike Harris has closed three out of five hospitals in Thunder Bay and two out of the three hospitals in Sudbury;

"Whereas drastic funding cuts to hospitals across Ontario are intimidating hospital boards, district health councils and local hospital restructuring commissions into considering the closing of local hospitals;

"Whereas hospitals in the Niagara region have provided an outstanding essential service to patients and have been important facilities for medical staff to treat the residents of the Niagara Peninsula and will be required for people in Niagara for years to come;

"Whereas the population of Niagara is on average older than that in most areas of the province;

"We, the undersigned, call upon the Minister of Health to restore adequate funding to hospitals in the Niagara region and guarantee that his government will not close any hospitals in the Niagara Peninsula."

I affix my signature to this petition and hand it to Trevor Nelson, a student from Ferndale public school, who is a page in the Legislative Assembly.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I have with me a petition signed by 580 people from the Wallaceburg area of my riding with respect to the Wallaceburg Police Services Board. The petition reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, residents of Wallaceburg, petition the provincial government to reinstate our local members of the Wallaceburg Police Services Board who were removed from representing the people of Wallaceburg.

"We further petition the provincial government to change provincial legislation, giving more budgetary control to municipalities."



Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): These are from seniors who are against the prescription user fees of Mike Harris:

"Whereas the government of Mike Harris has broken its pre-election promise not to impose user fees on health care;

"Whereas the user fees imposed by the Harris government on prescription drugs are causing low-income seniors grave hardship;

"Whereas the vast majority of seniors have worked very hard and have paid taxes for decades;

"Whereas seniors are most concerned that this will be the beginning of more and more user fees on health care;

"We, the undersigned, totally oppose the Mike Harris prescription user fees for seniors and petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"That the Mike Harris government place a moratorium on all health care user fees for seniors."

I affix my name to this petition.



Mr Gilchrist from the standing committee on resources development presented the following report and moved its adoption:

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

Bill 49, An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act/ Projet de loi 49, Loi visant à améliorer la Loi sur les normes d'emploi.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Shall the report be received and adopted? It is agreed.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? It is agreed.



Mr David Johnson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 81, An Act to reduce the number of members of the Legislative Assembly by making the number and boundaries of provincial electoral districts identical to those of their federal counterparts and to make consequential amendments to statutes concerning electoral representation / Projet de loi 81, Loi visant à réduire le nombre des députés à l'Assemblée législative en rendant identiques le nombre et les limites des circonscriptions électorales provinciales et fédérales et à apporter des modifications corrélatives à des lois concernant la représentation électorale.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? It is carried.

Does the minister have a statement?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Simply to point out again that this will reduce the number of provincial ridings from 130 to 103, the same number of ridings as there are federal ridings in the province of Ontario.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Sudbury has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Health concerning Sudbury health services restructuring.

Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Riverdale has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Attorney General concerning the family support plan.

These matters will be debated tonight.



Mrs McLeod moved opposition day motion number 1:

Whereas the Conservative Party promised voters in the last election through the Common Sense Revolution that "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut"; and

Whereas the Common Sense Revolution states that "Our obligation to those in need is even greater in the case of our children."; and

Whereas the Harris government's actions have resulted in special services at home funding and other individualized funding to families of people with disabilities to be cut by an average of 30%; and

Whereas many of these families were only receiving 10 to 12 hours of funding support before the Harris cuts; and

Whereas Mike Harris has broken his promise to protect the most vulnerable in our society; and

Whereas many of these individuals and their families have also been affected by the Harris cuts to municipalities which have consequently reduced transportation services such as Wheel-Trans and access to affordable housing; and

Whereas the Harris government broke its promise not to cut aid to seniors and persons with disabilities when it introduced a new user fee on the drugs that persons with disabilities are prescribed by their doctors; and

Whereas many of these children and their families will also be negatively affected by the $800-million cut to education as school boards eliminate teachers' aides for children with special needs; and

Whereas the cuts to individual families will place increased financial and emotional stress on families that are already under a tremendous amount of stress; and

Whereas people with disabilities who are on welfare or families on welfare with children who have special needs have been unfairly hurt by the treatment they have received from the Harris government; and

Whereas the government has acknowledged publicly that only a small portion of the funds currently allocated for people with disabilities living in those institutions targeted for closure will be reinvested in the community;

Therefore this House calls on the Mike Harris government to admit that their failure to meet the increased need for funding has resulted in reductions to individuals and their families; to do what Mike Harris promised when in opposition and allocate additional funding to people with disabilities and their families; to redress the current funding inequity that exists between disabled individuals who are cared for by their families in their homes and those who are in the care of an institution; and to re-evaluate the priorities and budgets of the various programs that assist people with disabilities and their families to ensure that the services they need are readily available.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I move this motion with a great deal of regret that it should be necessary, given the commitment that the members of this government made when they were campaigning to those with disabilities, the assurance they provided that people with disabilities would not be hurt by the budgetary cuts that this government was about to undertake. I regret that those cuts have taken place and they have hurt the disabled, and it's the intention of this motion and the debate today to draw attention and to force the government to acknowledge that the cuts have taken place and to recognize the impact that they have had on disabled individuals and families who are caring for the disabled.

I recognize that a number of my colleagues wish to address this because it's a concern for all of us in our individual constituencies, so I'm going to attempt to touch just briefly on each of the separate points that we make in our resolution.

The first point addresses our concern with the cuts to the special services at home program. This is an issue that we raised in the Legislature yesterday when we had with us Matthew Dolmage and his father, Jim, who were here to highlight their concern with the cut that had taken place in the special support that their family receives so that Matthew can stay at home in the care of his family, a cut of 50% in the support that family receives. But the Dolmages were also here to draw attention to the fact that 13,000 families across this province who are dependent upon that support of the special services at home program to be able to care for their disabled children have also suffered cuts of anywhere from 30% to 70% and even in some cases have been taken off the support program altogether.

My colleague Mr Gravelle, the MPP for Port Arthur, had wished to participate in the debate and is in committee today. He wanted me to bring forward at least two other cases that have been brought to his attention and mine in our constituencies in Thunder Bay. One was the case of a family who are caring for an autistic child. In the case of this family, they've had their support under this program cut from 780 hours, which was provided to them based on an assessment of their needs in 1991, to 624 hours, and now to 470 hours. This has not been a cut that is related to the assessment of need. The assessment of needs in 1991 provided this family with 780 hours of support care. This is a cut directly related to the limitations of the budget.

Another case from Thunder Bay that my colleague has brought forward is the case of a family that's caring for a child with cerebral palsy. This is a family that over the past three years has received 830 hours per year of service, and that has now been cut to 747 hours, making it extremely difficult for this family to continue to provide the care that their child needs.

The minister, in response to my questions in the House yesterday, indicated there were just not enough dollars in the program to stretch to meet the needs, and while there may be very few responses from the government ministers on which I concur, on that I do concur, because there are not enough dollars in this program to meet the needs and there are constantly emerging new needs for the special services at home program.


There were 8,000 families receiving special services at home support in 1991; there are now 13,000 families. This is a result of the fact that many programs that were providing full-time care are being closed and families with the option and perhaps the necessity of now providing care for their disabled offspring at home are needing some support to be able to do just that. It's also the result of the simple fact that as new children are born with special needs, they need to be receiving that support. They don't need to be sitting on waiting lists while their parents wonder how they're going to be able to manage as that child gets a little bit older and his or her needs have to be met.

The minister says that there just aren't enough resources to meet the needs, and that comment I have to take back and relate to what the members of the now government committed themselves to while they were in opposition and when they were campaigning. I have to take it back to the fact that the now Premier of the province recognized when he was leader of the third party, back on December 7, 1994, that the program support for special needs children living at home was inadequate, that in fact he said the program funding should be doubled. That might seem like an onerous commitment to call on the government to keep in these difficult financial times, but in fact the total budget for this program is $32 million. When the now Premier made his demand of the then government to double the program funding, it was $26 million and doubling it would have meant taking it to $52 million. I submit to you that in a program where the need has gone from serving 8,000 individuals and their families to 13,000 individuals and their families, a budget of $52 million is not too much to ask and should be affordable even in these difficult financial times.

The now Premier certainly thought so when he was campaigning, and I have the written response to this program which he made in campaigning, when he said, and this is in writing in his response to ARCH, the advocacy group for the disabled, in April 1995:

"We believe that the individualized funding model is the best model for future funding arrangements since it promotes individual development and recognizes unique capabilities. At the 1995 pre-budget consultations, the Ontario Association for Community Living asserted that a total budget of $52 million would meet the groundswell of demand for the current program. They demonstrated the success of the concept of individualized funding through the special services at home program. Individualized funding makes good sense and is economical."

Those words are still true. It makes good sense, it is economical, I say to this budget-driven, bottom-line-driven government, and it needs to be done so that these children can stay at home and receive the care they need at home.

This is an issue of particular concern to us because we are meeting with the families and we know the kinds of stress that these families are under. We have seen the tragedies that can occur when families that are caring for special needs children are driven to the point where they just feel they can cope no longer. I was told yesterday that two families in my own riding who have had their funding cut feel that they simply can't cope any longer and have had to resort to foster care.

The Premier spoke when he was campaigning of the economical sense of increasing funding to this program, and I suggest he was right, because you can't begin to count the cost of putting children who are now cared for at home with some support into full-time care, and we certainly can't begin to count the cost in human terms of those children having to leave their families to be placed into full-time care. It is not happy for the families, it certainly isn't happy for the disabled individuals, and so we call on the government to keep their commitment to their belief that the funding for this program needs to be increased.

I also want to point out that those who are in full-time care are bearing the brunt of this government's budgetary cuts. The Association for Community Living budgets across this province have been cut repeatedly, and those who are providing the alternative care to families providing care are struggling with the cuts that have been forced on them. I think that if these kinds of cuts continue, the agencies providing care to our children are soon going to be forced to redefine their core business, if I can use the jargon that this government likes to use, and their core business sadly, tragically, is going to be simply custodial care of our most vulnerable children.

I believe that in the last 20 years we have come a lot further than simply providing custodial care, that we have come a long way in encouraging truly independent living in our communities. I can't tell you how sad I am to see in the course of one short year that the clock has been rolled back so far for these people.

The second area of cuts that I want to touch on is the area of municipal cuts, municipal transit budget cuts specifically, which have resulted in cuts to the disabled transit and therefore reduced access to transportation for the disabled.

If there is any doubt about these cuts having taken place, Mr Speaker, I would refer you to a letter that was written by the Minister of Transportation, Mr Palladini, to the Toronto Transit Commission in August 1995 when the cuts were first being made and he says, "While we have talked about a cut of $6.99 million to conventional transit funding and $1.18 million to Wheel-Trans, the province's objective is to save $8.17 million regardless of how it is achieved."

If that isn't a cold-hearted, washing-my-hands-of-responsibility statement in writing, I don't know what it is. The minister's basically saying: "We're going to take the money out and we don't care how you find it. We don't care if the disabled are hurt by this. Just find the money."

But this minister has the sheer temerity to go on in the same paragraph by saying, "We give you the option of protecting the Wheel-Trans program and taking all of your cuts out of conventional transit because, after all, we don't care how you find it," and then he says he's disappointed, very disappointed that they have chosen to take the dollars out of Wheel-Trans and the disabled transit.

That is sheer hypocrisy, absolute and total hypocrisy, not only on the part of the Minister of Transportation but on the part of the government that makes cuts to municipal transit budgets, says, "We don't care where you find it, just find it," doesn't care about the impact and then expresses its disappointment and claims that it didn't really want to hurt the disabled and in fact hasn't hurt the disabled; it was the municipalities that did it.

We've had numerous letters from people who are concerned about the reductions in the Wheel-Trans budget. We have had letters from people who, I guess, have fallen under the category that one of the Toronto councillors described as "throwing the right people off disabled transit" and find that they're in the category of the people who are being thrown off. That includes at least three people with kidney dialysis who aren't able to get to their dialysis treatments any longer.

We have a letter from St Michael's Hospital expressing concern about how the decisions are made about which people get access to Wheel-Trans so that they can get to their dialysis. We have letters from people who are with the stroke association who say stroke patients are no longer able to access the transportation they need in order to get the care that they need.

Mr Speaker, I submit to you that that is a government cut and it is a government cut which is affecting the disabled.

I again want to just reference what Mike Harris said when he was campaigning about transit and about ensuring that the disabled would have access to transportation, and he again said this in writing in his response to ARCH in April 1995: "...a Mike Harris government would remain committed to funding fully accessible conventional public transportation, community buses, accessible taxis and specialized transit services." How far those words are from the reality of what has happened in the past year.

I am going to be able to touch only momentarily on another area which is of growing and great concern to me and to every member of my caucus and in fact to the families of every child who has special needs in this province, and that is the cuts that have been made to education, the cuts which the government says are 1.8% of their budgets, but which in fact we all know are 9% of the support that the government gives to education, the cuts that the Minister of Education and Training says are just a preliminary to the kinds of cuts that we're going to see this year. If we thought last year's cuts were tough, just wait till we see what's going to happen this year.

But what we saw with last year's cuts is a reduction of services to children with special needs. Again, the government says: "It's not our fault. We wash our hands of this. This has absolutely nothing to do with us. It's the school boards that are doing it. They could have cut somewhere else. They didn't need to cut special education services."

I wish when the minister says that, he would stop using words that mean nothing and get out into classrooms, that he would sit down with school boards who anguish over the kinds of choices they have to make in their budgets, school boards like my own Lakehead Board of Education, which is already well under the administrative cost-per-student target that the minister has set, that has cut administrative costs to the bone and had no choice but to make some reductions in special education funding in their budget this year. It's a school board and it is only one of every board across the province where we're seeing this happen, where we have a grade 8 class of 41 children, impossible in the first place, but a grade 8 class of 41 students with three special needs students in that classroom.


We have example after example where that is happening across this province. I know that others of my colleagues will address that and we'll continue to bring those examples forward until this government understands what the impact of their cuts in education is, until they realize that it is having a very direct effect on children with special needs. Because we see that these children, children who are coping with disabilities, are now receiving less support at school, we've seen that they're receiving less support at home, and we are wondering what chance they have.

I've touched for a moment on another direct hit that was made by this government a full year ago. That was when the welfare cuts were made. Again, the disabled were protected in all of the statements made by the government. Well, the disabled weren't protected, not if you were a disabled child being cared for by a family on welfare. Because those welfare families got the full 23% cut in their welfare payments, families that are already under financial stress, families that are already having difficulty finding affordable housing, families in many cases that were stressed just to put food on the table and find clothing for their children and at the same time were coping with the stresses of caring for a disabled child. These same families that had the 23% cut in their welfare payments had the stress of that coping added to them and also have had cuts in their support in special services at home. You wonder where it's going to end as stress after stress is heaped on these families.

The last one I'll touch on is another direct hit, and there's no way the government can wash its hands of this one. They can't find anybody else to blame because it was their decision, and their decision alone, to bring in a $2 fee for prescription drugs without any thought at all of how that would affect the disabled. So much for the promise not to hurt the disabled. They didn't think about psychiatric patients who may have to spend as much as $80 a month to have their prescriptions filled and who are more likely to say, "I'm not going to spend that money," because they didn't really want to comply with the prescription and the treatment anyway. They didn't think about that kind of impact.

Mr Speaker, I want to close by suggesting to you that they didn't think about the impact on a constituent of mine who wrote a rather heartfelt letter, and I won't take the time to read it all, a constituent who is coping with a disability, who is managing on a disability allowance, who is struggling to pay the $2 in prescription fees and who needs regular prescriptions filled for a disability, a constituent who talks about the fact that we live in one of the richest nations in the world and yet there is so much hopelessness about the future for our young and for the seniors who built this nation. This constituent of mine says: "We need to speak out. I didn't ask for this disability. We need your help."

That's the purpose of our motion today. We're speaking out on behalf of constituents like this constituent of mine to get this government to acknowledge that it has broken its promise not to hurt the disabled, that it has broken that promise time and time again, directly and indirectly, to get the government to understand the impact of the cuts it has made and the fact that those cuts are hurting the most vulnerable people in this province.

We don't believe the most vulnerable people in our communities should have to pay for the $5-billion tax cut promise that this government made. We are calling on the government to stop the cuts and to stop hurting the disabled and the most vulnerable members of our community.

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

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): It's a privilege today to be able to take part in this debate. I simply want to outline first of all the litany of broken promises that are the history of this government with respect to people who are disabled and people who are part of the disabled community.

The government trumpets the Common Sense Revolution and the government says the Common Sense Revolution is something that it is implementing and that it is going to fulfil its promises under the Common Sense Revolution. But when it comes to disabled people, the government has literally broken every promise.

For example, the government says it will not cut health care spending, but the government has dramatically cut, and is dramatically cutting, health care spending. Disabled people are among those who will be most affected.

The government said it would not cut with respect to seniors. It said it would not impose user fees with respect to seniors. We've seen now that the government has imposed a special tax on seniors under the Ontario drug benefit plan, and this special tax applies to disabled people as well.

Then, of course, if we go further we have issues like transportation. The fact of the matter is that this government has made drastic cuts to transportation and disabled people have been the people most affected.

I could go on and on and list all the ways this government has broken its promises with respect to people in Ontario who are disabled. Let me summarize, though, what I think is happening. The Harris Conservative government, like its Republican friends in the United States, is literally dividing Ontario and the people of Ontario into two groups. People who are already wealthy and powerful in Ontario are becoming more wealthy and more powerful, thanks to what this Conservative government has done. People who have had to struggle and make sacrifices, like people in the disabled community, are finding that their world is growing tougher by the day. Literally, this government is dividing Ontario in two. It's helping its wealthy friends -- they are becoming wealthier and more powerful -- and a great many other people are being pushed out and pushed down. That is what is happening to disabled people in Ontario, thanks to this Conservative government.

The government's agenda hits hardest on disabled people, seniors and the poor -- people who face systemic barriers in terms of access to jobs, goods and services, and housing. I repeat again the pledge the government made in the Common Sense Revolution. They said: "We will not cut health care.... It's far too important." They said, "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut." But again, it turns out that was all a shell game, a complete shell game, because health care has been cut and the disabled are being affected by that. Services like transportation have been cut and disabled people are being seriously affected by that. Things like the Ontario drug benefit plan have suffered cuts and disabled people are suffering seriously from that.

It's a fact that since the Conservatives took power the disabled community in this province has seen supports seriously eroded. Programs have been cut. Laws protecting the disabled have been repealed. Programs assisting the disabled have been eliminated. The Harris Conservatives have taken essential supports away from those who are most vulnerable in our society so that they can reward their wealthy friends with a tax break.

Earlier this year our justice critic, Marion Boyd, urged the Harris government to live up to its promise to initiate an Ontarians with Disabilities Act; that was in May of this year. People with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation. The resolution called on all members to recognize the barriers and to support the call for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The motion was passed unanimously, but unfortunately it turns out that the government will observe that motion with lip-service only. We have heard nothing from the government since then. The minister responsible for people with disabilities has met once with the Coalition for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The coalition has been organizing and now has chapters in Toronto, London, Ottawa and Hamilton, but the minister can only see fit to meet with them once.


There is a social cost involved in excluding disabled people from full participation in our society. Talented individuals who never get a chance to offer their full contribution, talented individuals who have a lot to contribute to our society are simply left out. If the government is concerned about dollar costs, there is a dollar cost for taking programs and funding away from people with disabilities. Look at the costs every time someone with a disability is denied an education or a job and is driven to rely on social assistance.

The Conservatives said, "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut." In spite of that Conservative election promise, the 21.6% cut in social assistance rates affects people with disabilities because only disabled adults have been spared the cut. Children whose parents receive social assistance and children who are disabled are victims of the 21.6% cut. Disabled children are doing with less food, less clothing and less shelter.

The Ontario drug benefit plan, just to go into detail on that: A $2 drug user fee is unfair for seniors and people with disabilities, Some 60% of the disabled in Ontario live below the poverty line. They are least able to afford the new drug benefit user fees, yet they are being hit by it. Every week, every month, every time they have to fill a prescription, these people who are least able to afford it, because 60% of them fall below the poverty line, are being hit by this government's actions. Those disabled people are having to choose between paying for their prescription medicine and putting food on the table.

I want to talk about the cuts of 5% from all social service agencies, including those that serve the disabled community. It's true that all social service agencies in this province were cut 5%. Those social service agencies that provide services for the disabled were not exempted. They were cut and they in turn had to pass that cut on to the disabled clients they serve.

Then there was the elimination of the advisory council on disability issues, the one body in the province that could provide information that could enlighten the government about how its cuts were hurting disabled people, about how the government was breaking its promises to disabled people. The one body in the province that could do that was also sacked by this Conservative government.

Let me get into the details of transportation. The Conservatives cut funding for transportation programs that contribute to the freedom and independence of people with disabilities. In fact, those very transportation programs are quite meaningful in terms of whether disabled people will be able to work. They're quite important in terms of determining if disabled people will be able to get to work. The $6 million is not a lot of money, yet it seriously affects the lives of thousands of disabled people across the province. The Toronto Transit Commission has translated the cut into almost a total removal of service for the so-called ambulatory disabled, about 40% of the 23,000 registered Wheel-Trans users. These are people who cannot use the regular transit system. These people have become trapped. Many will lose their jobs. This is a direct result of this government's cuts, a direct result of this government's broken promises with respect to disabled people.

Special services at home funding has been cut by an average of 25% to 30%. This is funding that goes to families and individuals to keep individuals and children with severe disabilities in their homes. To elaborate, there are all kinds of families across this province who want to look after a disabled child or a disabled adult in the family at home. They're willing to take on the added responsibility. This government has cut the only assistance that was open to those people, a really terrible act on the part of this government. The Conservatives go on and on about their efforts to move people out of institutions and into communities and back into their homes. Then they go and cut the funding which enables families to look after a disabled individual within the family.

Let's move to housing, to the broken promises with respect to housing. The government raced ahead with its plans to get out of non-profit housing. It cancelled 385 projects. Within these initiatives, there was a $17-million commitment to fund attendant care services as a part of long-term care. But the services can't be delivered to clients in buildings that haven't been built, so the money sits there. The people who would have received the services need the housing and the services. Where is the money? What is the government doing about all these disabled people who have been pushed down and pushed out by this cut?

Let me move on to disabled children, because I want to elaborate on that. The fact is that many social assistance recipients across the province have disabled children, have children with special needs. Did the government exempt from the social assistance cuts families where there are disabled children? No, perhaps the cruellest cut of all. Disabled children were singled out as victims of this government's 21.6% cut to social assistance.

It goes even further. Some funding for children with disabilities is provided through the Ministry of Health under long-term care. What did the government do there? The government has cut $33 million from its budget that was supposed to be available to better coordinate the long-term care system so that children with disabilities would be looked after. Again children with disabilities have been singled out by this government.

Then we have the cuts to school boards. What's happened there is this: The Conservatives have said they're not cutting special services, but people in the community are finding out very clearly that special needs educational assistants are being laid off and have been laid off. The Conservatives are downloading decision-making and refusing to enforce standards. What this means in the classroom is that kids with disabilities are not getting the supports they need to participate fully at school. Special needs assistants are crucial for integrating disabled children into the classroom. This helps children with disabilities learn and become full and equal participants in the school and down the road in society. Yet again a broken promise: The Conservative government has cut help for these children as well.


Let me go further in education. Under the Education Act, section 8, the minister is under statutory obligation to ensure that every child receives an appropriate education. What was appropriate last year is now quite different. Because of the cuts that have been made by this government, the government has in effect changed the rules. Disabled kids are losing out under the Education Act as well -- another broken promise.

Let me tell you what is perhaps even more inhumane. When parents who have disabled children in the education system speak up and say to the government, "Your cuts are really hurting my disabled child," do you know what the response of the government is? The response of the government is: "We have no responsibility here. We have no responsibility for these disabled children. Go to court and sue." What an incredible, callous and indifferent attitude to the most vulnerable people in our society.

There is more to come. There are rumours growing louder and stronger every day that the Conservatives are in the process of moving the program that provides benefits to the disabled out of the Ministry of Community and Social Services and into the Ministry of Health. Such a move would have serious implications for clients and advocates in the disabled community. People with disabilities and advocates have fought for years to stay out of the Ministry of Health. People who are blind are not ill. People who have to use a wheelchair to get around are not sick. Not all disabilities are physical disabilities; many are so-called hidden disabilities.

But what is worst of all about this, in terms of literally saying to disabled people, "You are sick; you are not well if you are disabled," is that on top of that, this is a mean and cruel shell game. It is a mean and cruel shell game to prop up the budget of the Ministry of Health at the expense of disabled people. What the Conservative government wants to be able to say is that despite slashing $1.3 billion from hospitals and despite slashing money from elsewhere in the health care system, by moving the budget for disabled people into the Ministry of Health, they want to be able to say, "We didn't cut." That is using disabled people in the meanest and cruellest shell game of all. It is manipulation of disabled people to achieve a disgusting political end.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): People will see through it.

Mr Hampton: And people will see through it. We are already getting people sending information to our caucus outlining for us exactly what has happened.

I want to deal just briefly with the definition of "disability." Premier Harris and the Conservatives have said that benefits to the disabled will be protected -- that's what they said -- yet they have confirmed that they will be changing the definition of disability. Will the government guarantee that no one will be cut off from benefits? No, they won't. It may sound like a simple bureaucratic adjustment, but people fear a change in definition will be a smokescreen for cutting yet more from the benefits of disabled people. Changing the definition is what the disabled community fears most, because it has serious implications for eligibility for benefits. The fear of disabled people of going to a medical definition of disability is that a strictly medical definition ignores the combination of medical, social and economic factors that will oftentimes make someone permanently unemployable and therefore eligible for benefits under the scheme that exists now but would make them ineligible for benefits under the kind of scheme the Conservative government is proposing.

The government will save money with its plans to move people out of institutions and into the community, because it costs less to support individuals in the community than in facilities. That's another part of the government's strategy, but will the government publicly commit to reinvest savings from deinstitutionalization, and when the government deinstitutionalizes, will they at the same time redefine what disabled means and use that process as an opportunity to cut off all kinds of disabled people? That's our fear.

I could go on and talk about rent control. I could say more about transportation. I could say a lot about the elimination of the Advocacy Act. I could say much about the building code changes, which are to the detriment of disabled people. I could say a number of things about all of those cuts that have happened to disabled people, but I don't want to take up too much more time. I know there are other people who want to speak.

I simply want to emphasize that 15% of people in Ontario have disabilities and 10% of people with disabilities are severely disabled, so if the government changes the definition of disability so that only those who are severely disabled receive benefits, 90% of those currently supported will be cut off. About 170,000 people receive disability-based welfare benefits. Is that the government's true agenda, to literally cut off 100,000 disabled people?

As I've said, this government has broken promise after promise after promise with respect to disabled people. This government has hurt disabled people in more ways than it would be possible to recount here this afternoon. At the same time that the government has singled out disabled people, it is giving the wealthiest people in this province a very lucrative tax cut. At the same time that it is cutting disabled people, this government is going to go out there over the next four years and borrow $22 billion in order that the wealthiest people in this province can get a tax break.

When you compare what is happening with disabled people as a result of this government's broken promises with the transfer of wealth and power to wealthy people in this province by this government, what is going on here is nothing less than disgusting. It is nothing less than disgusting and people across Ontario, when they contrast these two pictures, what is happening to the disabled on the one hand and what is happening to the wealthiest people in the province on the other hand, are starting to figure out now what the true agenda of this Conservative government is: cuts for the poor and the disabled, more wealth and power for the wealthy. That's the real Conservative agenda in this province.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): The only thing, with all due respect to my colleague across the way, that I have seen that is disgusting this afternoon is his attempts to scare those people out there who have disabilities and who are trying very hard to stay in the workforce and take care of their families, and the only thing that this government is singling out is the fiscal mismanagement from the two parties opposite that has put us in the position where we are having to make such difficult choices.

People with disabilities face barriers every day of their lives, and what our government is attempting to do is to help remove some of those barriers.


The Deputy Speaker: There's too much noise in here. I'll not tolerate it. Please bring yourself to order. Thank you.

Hon Mrs Ecker: The opposition says that we are provoking them, but I really feel that for them to pretend that they have the monopoly on caring and compassion and then to say the things that the leader of the third party has said about somehow or other what awful things he thinks are going to happen I think is fearmongering and misinformation.

We want to help remove some of the barriers that those with disabilities are facing every day by improving the delivery of services and programs to meet their needs.

People with disabilities have been calling on governments for some time to make these improvements, but other governments have not been able to do them. They have failed to act despite report after report calling for significant changes in how we can help people with disabilities.


Ironically, the previous government released a report entitled A Time for Action. Unfortunately for people with disabilities, they failed to take action. The report stated, and I quote:

"Some people who are ill or disabled may not be able to work, but they become more involved in community life, if given the opportunity. The system must be prepared to support people who are in need in a way that respects their individual dignity."


The Deputy Speaker: You have among you a person who used the term: "Don't bait the bear. Don't tease the bear." Today I am the bear. The minister for Durham West.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I will repeat, "The system must be prepared to support people who are in need in a way that respects their individual dignity," and that's what we are doing.

The previous government also failed to act on their intentions outlined in the blueprint for social assistance, a report called Turning Point. It stated: "Our goal is straightforward. We want to assist people moving as quickly as possible back to work. We want to provide long-term support to those who are unable to work."

Perhaps we can go back to a further report in 1988, the SARC report released by the Liberal government which recognized that "all disabled people should ultimately be removed from social assistance." Again unfortunately, that government failed to do anything. They simply repeated the need in their red book to remove people with disabilities off the welfare system. They stated, "We will begin our reforms by taking them out of the welfare system and giving them income support."

We believe that actions speak louder than words, and our government is going to keep our Common Sense Revolution commitment to move people with disabilities and seniors off the welfare system. The leader of the third party would love to make that as some sort of threat, but I think we've listened to the community, we've listened to the people in the disabled community, who have told us they don't want to be on the welfare system, who have told us that system is not meeting their needs. That is why we are committed to making a new income support program for them that is better designed to meet their needs and protect their benefits.

Our guaranteed income support is being developed with the input from people in the disabled community. My ministry has consulted with more than 40 groups, including executive directors of agencies that work with people with disabilities, on how a guaranteed support plan or an income support plan might work. That consultation process will continue because we need to hear from them in terms of how we can continue to do this. We believe that the agencies working with people with disabilities can help shape an income support program that truly meets the needs of the disabled. Our government has also protected rates for people with disabilities and seniors. These rates remain the highest of all the provinces, and we will continue to protect their benefits under a new program.

I'd also like to add that there have been a few comments and hoots and hollers from across the way about workfare. One of the things we had said in our campaign commitment, the Common Sense Revolution, was that the workfare program would exempt those with disabilities, and we heard from angry people with disabilities, from angry groups who said: "How dare you exempt us from work. How dare you imply that somehow or other we're not able to contribute, we're not able to be economically independent." That is why we want to make sure that we design a program that will help them to support them in the employment they may wish to have.

We are also trying to provide people with developmental disabilities with the opportunity of having a better quality of life. We are continuing a long-standing government policy from the mid-1970s of moving people out of large institutions. We are moving them back into smaller community settings so that they can be closer to their families and friends.

Over the next four years funding will be redirected from institutions to local community agencies to support people leaving facilities and people with developmental disabilities in the community. Over the next several years we estimate that $60 million will be redirected annually into communities to serve people with developmental disabilities. People advocating on behalf of individuals with disabilities have been calling for this move for some time. The president of the Ontario Association for Community Living, Nancy Stone, recently said: "I can't tell you how important we feel this initiative is. We have all been working so long and so hard to see the day when people who are housed in institutions are welcomed back into the community with dignity."

Even the previous two governments realized the advantages of moving people back into the community. Former NDP Minister of Community and Social Services Tony Silipo stated: "We believe that people with developmental disabilities have fuller, happier lives if they are close to their families and the people they know and are given the opportunity to participate as fully as possible in community life."

Former Liberal Minister of Community and Social Services John Sweeney told the Legislature: "This province must now continue to promote a level of integration and participation of its developmentally handicapped citizens that was never previously considered possible."

We have been successful, this ministry, and I don't claim that this government has been the only one who has started the downsizing of major institutions and facilities in order to move them into the community. It was a move that was started before because it was the right thing to do, and we support it, and we are trying to continue to help and devise individual plans and support. It's been very successful in the past, where we worked to develop individual plans for people to meet their needs and to ensure a smooth transition from institutionalized care to community-based care. No one will be moved back into the community until those appropriate supports are in place.

I think this ministry has had in the past several years the track record to prove that is indeed the case, and we will continue to follow that track record because we think it's important. I've got letters and the comments from those who have individuals in institutions, those who have had their family member placed back into the community, and they support that move. They say the quality of life for that individual is much, much better and it gives them the opportunity to participate in their community in a way that is not possible when they are in a larger institution.

I'd like to address some comments to the special services at home program, which the members opposite have commented on already today. We are supporting children with disabilities through that program. It helps parents with the cost of raising their child with disabilities, to help them keep that person at home. The program provides funding directly to parents to purchase services for their children. I think that aspect of the program is extremely important for them, because the family members know best which services that individual, that member of their family, needs. They know what will work best for them. What we have attempted to do in that program is to protect that funding, which we have done, so that we can continue to help even more families, which we are doing, with that program. We want to help as many families as we possibly can with those resources. Families may use that funding to purchase services such as parental relief and support and personal development opportunities for themselves.

Cases are reviewed on an annual basis, because they should be, to ensure the available funding is serving the families with highest need, to make sure they are appropriate services. For those who feel the decision that has been made is not appropriate, there is an appeal mechanism, which many individuals have availed themselves of. Many times there has been additional funding available for those people to make sure that those families who wish to care for their children at home take that responsibility, and they take it very seriously, because I've met many of them in my riding. We want to make sure those supports are there for them.

It's also important to note that we've protected funding for the handicapped children's benefit. It's another program that helps low-income families who do have a child who may well be disabled. The program assists families with the extraordinary costs that may be associated with raising a severely handicapped child at home. This program helps people with low and modest incomes and also those on social assistance to care for their child at home.

There's another area that I think we should mention. While the province tries to work closely with not only our municipal partners on many programs in the Ministry of Community and Social Services and work closely with the many agencies in the community that provide services to people, we've also attempted to work closely with Ottawa in this area, in the vocational rehabilitation for disabled persons agreement, to name one area.


The federal government has said that it wants to be active in helping us support the needs of the disabled. They say they have an obligation to act and to make improvements to help persons with disabilities, and that includes sharing the funding for this very, very important program. The federal government has yet to act. They have yet to show the leadership by working with the provinces to negotiate a future agreement, because this agreement is going to end. When I asked my federal counterpart, Mr Young, what the future of this agreement would be, whether we could count on this share of funding so that we can continue to protect services to the disabled, he was unable to give us that assurance. He hasn't even paid the bills from program commitments they already owe us.

This is a federal-provincial cost-sharing agreement. It funds employment programs for persons with disabilities. They made a commitment to begin discussions immediately with us. It is now October 1996 when they'll do it, and those negotiations have not been initiated. In other words, the federal government acknowledges its obligation in this area but has yet to take concrete action. I remain very concerned that they are not going to share our concern about the disabled, they are not going to make the priority decisions that have allowed us to protect so many of these programs, and that they are going to cut that funding, which is going to be a serious problem for many, many people in the community and for this government, because we wish to maintain our commitment to the disabled.

We've heard from the disabled community about the need to improve access to services. People with disabilities have told us they often have to go through numerous assessments for services. We want to make it easier for people with disabilities to access the services they need. We will be working with our community partners to improve access to those services. We want to remove any needless overlap and duplication to make sure that money is going to those front-line services, to make sure that money is going to those families, so they can purchase the services they need for a member of their family who is disabled.

Our government recognizes that people with disabilities have special needs to overcome the barriers they often face in their everyday lives. We are working with people with disabilities in communities to improve how we can meet their needs, and we will continue to do so.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This is an interesting issue to deal with and one which I'm pleased is before the House this afternoon. I've always taken the view that those of us who are elected to public office, particularly the Legislative Assembly or the Parliament of Canada, are here largely to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. We have to take into account the views and the best interests of all people in our society, but those who are very rich or very privileged or very powerful are much less in need of the intervention and the representation of members of this Legislature than those who are none of the above; in other words, those who are middle- or lower-income people, those who are disadvantaged in one way or another or disabled in one way or another.

I believe that people of all political stripes have a good deal of empathy and sympathy for those who find themselves in a vulnerable position, such as those we are dealing with today when we deal with those who are receiving special services at home from the provincial government.

I've had the opportunity to meet with some parents who have had children who are severely disabled, who have a lot of needs that have to be met. I suppose the easy thing to do with those children, for those parents -- easy in one way, difficult in another -- would be to allow them to be institutionalized, because they present many, many challenges to those parents and great disruption to their lives. But so many parents feel an obligation and a love for their children and want to ensure that they themselves, as much as possible, provide the services these children require. That's where the government can assist. That's where we as legislators can intervene on behalf of those who are not powerful and who need a voice in this assembly.

I note that the government will contend that it either has not cut or has cut in a very small way the funding for the services for children at home, often children who are developmentally disabled or physically disabled or both. I have visited the Niagara Peninsula Children's Centre on a number of occasions along with my colleagues from the Niagara Peninsula. We have seen children there who could be easily pushed into the background, who could be forgotten, and many in society no doubt dislike having to deal with the reality of children with multiple disabilities. But the parents of those children and the teachers and staff who are at the Niagara Peninsula Children's Centre, for instance, know of these problems and know what the solutions can be.

I remember sitting in on an interview of about two, two and a half hours with a young couple, their own marriage strained by the fact that they were dealing with a child with many, many challenges. They were looking for just a few more hours of assistance from the provincial government -- this was a couple of years ago now -- per week. They were receiving some, and they appreciated that very much and it was both a respite for them and an occasion for them to show that their child could make some progress, even if it was in small steps. I thought on that occasion that most people in Ontario, in excess of 99%, would not begrudge those children those funds. If you look at others in society, there's probably less sympathy out there. We all are compassionate towards those who are disadvantaged in one way or another, but I think if you wanted to pick the people for whom all of us in society have the most sympathy and the most empathy, it would certainly be those who are multiply disabled, both physically and mentally.

That is why I'm concerned when I see that the funding is not there to meet all of those needs. We did not have as many of these children in the past. One reason is that many children years ago died at birth or shortly after birth and many who were born prematurely never did get to live a full life. Today, the miracle of modern medicine and technology and know-how among our medical authorities has allowed many of these children who would have died in years gone by to live, but they will probably always need, certainly in their early years and perhaps in their later years, some form of assistance from the rest of us in society -- not from the government; from the rest of us in society. That can be best provided through the government itself.

The respite care is important as well. People think it's important to have the children looked after; it's important to have the programs that will allow them to show some progress within the home. But almost as important for the parents in order that they can sustain this circumstance is to be able to have some respite care so they can come back afresh and anew and deal with the challenges that are met by a multiply disabled child. For that reason, I hope the government will look again at its funding formula and provide those additional hours of respite care and of intervention that will allow these people to keep the children in their homes.

We've seen cuts in other areas, and some of the other speakers have mentioned them, that impact upon these children. One is in the field of transportation. When we see cutbacks, we see that we're going to have less money available to allow the disabled to use public transit systems. We have seen those cuts and various transit commissions have wrestled with the problem of making those cuts as a result of the cut in transfers from the provincial government and money coming from the provincial government.

We have seen associations for community living which have provided services to those who are developmentally disabled, who are mentally challenged individuals, and we've seen cutbacks in the services they can provide. Once again, if I look back at my very early days in this House, one group that I recognized early were people who were developmentally disabled -- that's not the terminology which was used in those days; it is today -- and my commitment and the commitment, I'm sure, of all members of this House remains to those individuals even today.


I look at the cuts within the school system. I've heard the minister and I've heard the Premier say that they don't impact upon the classroom, and most people hoped they wouldn't. Unfortunately, they do, because we have had this transfer of children with special challenges into the so-called regular classroom. That means there has been a need for either a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio or, correspondingly, additional assistance provided to the teacher to deal with those who otherwise might be institutionalized or kept out of the regular school stream, to allow those children to be part of a classroom. We're seeing those positions being eliminated because of the funding which is being cut by the Minister of Education to local boards of education. That indeed is unfortunate. It has an impact not only on those children but the other children in the classroom, because the teacher must now spend more time with the child with special needs and the other children don't have that time, whereas before that was not necessarily the circumstance.

The cut to welfare payments to families is another area where there's an impact on those with children with special needs. They are special needs and there are special costs associated with those needs, and I think we must take that into account. The across-the-board cut in welfare payments presents a more difficult challenge, a more onerous challenge, to those who have children who require special services in the home.

Others have quoted what the Premier had to say in opposition. I agreed with Mike Harris in opposition when he made many of these statements, and I have no reason to believe that he was not sincere at that time in making those statements. But it's important to translate those statements into action. It's important to know that the needs are growing, and when the needs are growing, that means the funding for those special needs is growing. If this government embarked upon additional funding to those who are receiving special services at home, I think they would have the support of virtually everybody in this province. There are other areas where, if the government decided to increase its expenditures, there would be a division in the province, some who would be very critical and some who would be very supportive, but in the area of helping the mentally or physically disabled and challenged individuals, I think we would have a consensus, not only among those of us who sit in this Legislature but among our society as a whole.

While I value what the volunteer does in this area, and it's important that we continue to have volunteers, we know that they alone cannot carry out the responsibilities and provide the services that are necessary. Many of the services provided through this program require people who have special training and special education and, frankly, a special personality to be able to meet the challenges of young people with multiple disabilities.

For that reason, I hope the government will take considerable note of the resolution that has been presented by the leader of the Liberal Party this afternoon and that the government will think again about its funding cutbacks. I recognize that one of the reasons we have them is because the government is insisting upon moving forward with the tax cut, yet I think if you went down any street in our communities and asked the people, "Would you rather have an income tax cut or would you rather have the needs met of children who require special services in the home?" I suggest to you that most people in this province of goodwill would take the option of allowing the government to provide that funding for them and would forgo the tax cut which is of particular benefit to the most wealthy and most powerful in our society.

I thank you for the opportunity to address this issue this afternoon and I hope the resolution will have the beneficial effect of convincing the government that it should rethink its policy and provide the necessary funding for mentally and physically disabled people in our province who are receiving special services within their homes.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I rise to speak in support of this resolution with, quite frankly, a lot of regret that we are dealing with an issue like this, because I have to say that when I look at the record of this government I've had occasions in the past to talk about the sense of betrayal that I think is there among people in the province as we look at what the government promised and what they are doing. I think that when we look at the area of people with disabilities and seniors -- but here particularly we're dealing with people with disabilities -- we see very clearly an area where the government, Mike Harris and the Tory caucus, said one thing during the election and what they are doing now is completely the opposite. They run around the province proudly proclaiming that they are keeping the promises that they made. And what was the promise that they made to seniors and the disabled? It was that "aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut." It couldn't have been clearer than that.

I listened with some interest earlier on as the Minister for Community and Social Services spoke and tried to defend the actions that her government has taken. I'm sorry, it's not defensible. It just is not defensible. When you look at the list of things, the list of programs that have been cut which in one way or another support people with disabilities, it just flies completely against the promise and the commitment that Mike Harris made that aid to people with disabilities would not be cut.

We've seen and we've talked about some of these in the past -- and I want to touch on just a couple of those -- but what we also know is that as bad as the cuts that have been made are, people with disabilities need to also look at what this government is likely to do yet, because we know that on the horizon, in addition to the severity of the different cuts in transportation, in social assistance, in many other areas in terms of serving children and adults with disabilities, looms the redefinition of disabled people, of people with disabilities.

Why should people with disabilities and all of us, for that matter, be concerned about that? Well, it's quite simply for this reason. We know that in the population of Ontario about 17% of people are people with disabilities, but we know that from within that 15% to 17% only a small proportion are what we would categorize as severely disabled. The rest of that 15% to 17% are people with disability but people who obviously have an ability to function in some capacity, either in work or in other ways, with some assistance obviously.

The fear that we have, and the fear that I believe people who are concerned about these issues and, more particularly, concerned about people with disabilities should have, is that in redefining the term "disability," what this government will undoubtedly do is define disability in such a way that it will exclude from that definition thousands of people who now are covered and who now are receiving some level of support.

I say to the minister with responsibility for seniors issues, who's also going to be, I think, having some responsibility for this issue because we know that a number of people with disabilities are seniors, that I hope he remembers in his current capacity some of the criticism that he lodged our way when he was sitting on this side of the House about how these issues ought to be approached. I hope that we will not see him standing up one day in the not-too-distant future defending further cuts to the variety of programs that we have in this province for people with disabilities.

Mr Christopherson: Look what he did to injured workers.

Mr Silipo: My colleague from Hamilton says, "Look what he did to injured workers," and that's my fear, that is exactly my fear, because what we have seen in this government is a constant pattern of saying, "We support this group, we support this program," while at the same time they're proceeding to cut.

I just want to touch on a couple of areas to make that point and to show that, in fact, I'm not just pulling these things out of the air but out of concrete steps that this government has taken.

When the current minister responsible for seniors was critic for the Ministry of Community and Social Services and I was then minister, I remember the criticism that he lodged our way when we were dealing with a program that served children with developmental disabilities, the special services at home program. It has been mentioned here earlier today. We were dealing then not with cuts to the program but with increases which, in the opinion of the member opposite and in the opinion of people out there, were not sufficient to deal with the needs that were out there.


So we were increasing the budget and people were saying it wasn't enough of an increase. We agreed that it wasn't enough of an increase. Through a number of steps, we managed to actually put some further dollars into that program, a program which supports children with disabilities, who are able to stay at home with some additional support, and their families are able to help take care of them, with some support offered in the community.

At that time, the then Conservative opposition caucus was crying out that the increase in spending that we had put into the program was not sufficient. Today they are trying to defend a 30% cut in that program. How does that make sense? How does that mesh? How could it be that they could in one year say that the increase in spending was not enough and now they are defending a cut of 30% to that program?

How could we say that their promise to safeguard spending for children with disabilities, to make sure they are not hit with the cuts, means anything when we hear again today the Minister of Community and Social Services reiterate, proudly proclaim, that they have not cut the handicapped children's benefit? That's true. What she forgot to mention -- what she chose not to mention, of course -- is the situation that many families are in, families with a child who is handicapped, so he or she is receiving the handicapped children's benefit, where the mother or father, in some cases both, because they have to spend so much time helping to take care of this child, are not able to work and therefore have to rely on social assistance. What has happened to those families? They got cut 22%.

I remember having to sit in my constituency office, as many others of us have had to, and listen to single mothers telling me that they were trying to get themselves off welfare, were trying to get themselves into training programs, but that they had to give up on those programs because, as a result of the 22% cut, they had no other way to deal with taking care of their children.

So when this government says it is not cutting funding for people with disabilities, I'm sorry, it just isn't true. It isn't true, not because I say so, but because thousands of families out there, on a day-to-day basis, are having to live with the effects of those cuts.

Add to those that I've mentioned already the hundreds, if not thousands, of people just here in Metropolitan Toronto, adults and seniors and others, people with disabilities, who because of the cuts in the transportation budget, the funding that goes from this government to the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto, to the public transit system, now are no longer able to use the Wheel-Trans system. The TTC has been forced into such a rigid selection system that people who are clearly disabled no longer meet the criteria. That is happening as we speak. That is happening every day. That's the reality out there.

We can continue to listen to speech after speech from the government benches, whether from the ministers or the backbenchers, but it doesn't change the reality that's out there. The reality is that what Mike Harris and the Tory caucus are doing is hurting people. It's hurting people who are among the most needy in this province. It's hurting the people that we should be saying need our support first and most. All for what purpose? So that we can put more money, through the tax cut, into the hands of those Ontarians who are already very well off, thank you very much. That's what's going on.

You can be sitting at 50% in the polls today and be comfortable in what you're doing, but I say to you that people are beginning to realize what is going on. The more they see that in this province under Mike Harris the rich are simply getting richer and the rest of us, particularly in this case people with disabilities, are worse off and will continue to be worse off, the more people see that that is exactly what is happening in Mike Harris's Ontario, then I'm optimistic that people will wake up to what Mike Harris is all about. I think that day will come, but I hope that in the meantime the government members begin to realize that too, because otherwise so many people, in addition to people with disabilities, will have been hurt in the process.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): It's a pleasure today to participate in this debate on the opposition day motion. I'd like to focus my remarks on two aspects of the motion, those of education and health care. I will be brief, because I know that several other members in our caucus would also like a chance to speak to this motion.

Ever since our government announced reductions of $400 million for Ontario school boards in the fiscal year, the opposition has accused our government of breaking our promise to guarantee funding for education. This, however, is not the case, and I want to begin by reminding members of the opposition about our commitment to education in the CSR. The Common Sense Revolution said that classroom funding for education will be guaranteed. That does not mean that savings cannot be found elsewhere in the education system. Too much money is now being spent on consultants, bureaucracy and administration. Not enough is being invested in the classroom. That's what we said in the CSR and I think today we'd all agree that that's still the case, even after recent reductions.

As you can see, we promised to find savings in education and to use the education dollars more effectively. The entire thrust of our commitment to education was to operate a more efficient system so that we can utilize the greatest share of public funds for classroom education. This is presently not the case. According to the report of the Ontario School Board Reduction Task Force, 47% of the almost $14 billion spent on education does not got into the classroom.

The opposition points to our reductions as the reason for the reductions in services for special needs children. It is wrong for them to suggest that we are to blame. Our recent spending reductions only amount to a 1.8% reduction in the school boards' operating budget. The reductions are clearly manageable, and school boards didn't have to lay off teachers or increase property taxes to find these savings.

The concerns raised about the way school boards have handled their reductions are coming not just from our government but from teachers and taxpayers right across the province. For instance, on March 20 of this year a teacher on the TVO program The View From Here said the following about school boards: "When you look at what the Toronto Board of Education at the moment is spending on a yearly basis and look at how much is actually filtering down to kids and how much of it is getting spent at the bureaucratic level on things that don't, in the end, make much difference to how a kid's day goes at school, I think that's wrong, and a lot of us are tired of that sort of bureaucracy." We agree.

In addition, a recent editorial, which appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on September 21, made the following comment on school boards: "It's true we have too many school boards and too many trustees. What we don't have in Ottawa-Carleton are many examples of the 73 trustees at six local school boards moving quickly to save taxpayers money by cooperating and consolidating services." These are the areas where we would like the school boards to focus their attention.

I'm not trying to generalize or say that all school boards act in such a manner, but by far, the vast majority of school boards in this province have done one of the following or a combination thereof: increased property taxes, reduced services or laid off teachers to find these savings. This should not have been the case. The savings could have been found in areas outside the classroom.

Last spring the member for Niagara South, Mr Hudak, and I led an education round table discussion in my area. We did this to discuss how we could find savings in education. The round table group had some unique ideas. They said that savings could be found in areas such as sharing of storage yards between boards or school facilities, especially during the summer, and busing, of course, which everyone has talked of. It also recommended the elimination of a $700 biannual payment for each teacher to attend a conference or undertake some form of in-service training. The round table also suggested that the practice of local curriculum rewrites may be eliminated or seriously curtailed. There are so many people writing and rewriting curriculum in this province that there are certainly savings to be found there.


At the same time, it should be pointed out that the government has taken more concrete steps to improve the quality of education in this province since being elected over a year ago than at any other time in the history of this province. Let me talk about some of those.

In response to the Royal Commission on Learning's recommendations, and living up to our commitments in the Common Sense Revolution, the Ministry of Education and Training is proceeding with a comprehensive testing plan to be administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. Under this plan students in grades 3, 6, 9 and 11 will be tested regularly in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics. Our government has instituted province-wide testing so families will be able to see how well their schools and children are performing compared to others.

We also implemented the College of Teachers, a body which will represent the professional interests of teachers and the public. This body will challenge teachers and enhance their ability to meet children's needs.

I'd like to point out that Lynn Beyak, chair of the Ontario Parent Council, said that mandatory participation of teachers in career-long learning will result in higher standards for the teaching profession, which can only benefit students in the classroom.

I also have to applaud the Minister of Education for creating the technology improvement partnership program. This program will spend $40 million on partnerships in technology. The technology will make a difference for our students' employment and competitive future and give all students the opportunity to become computer-literate.

All of these changes are being made to bring accountability to the education sector and to increase the quality of education. We owe this to our students.

Quickly, on health, because I want to save time for other members, in the Common Sense Revolution document the Premier made a commitment to the people of Ontario that our government would seal the health care envelope at $17.4 billion for our government's term in office. That commitment not only remains firm; I know that you know that it's actually $17.7 billion, an increase of $300 million.

We were very clear that we would change the way we deliver health services in this province, and given the fiscal pressures we are facing, there is some urgency to that task. We are committed to maintaining the spending envelope, but if you are asking our government to maintain the status quo, the same inefficiencies, maintain the duplication in the system, the answer is clearly no. We are prioritizing front-line services, but we stand firm that we are not satisfied with the past and will continue to look for improvements and savings in the health care system.

Even after we reduced spending by $2 billion last July, this Ontario still faces a deficit of $8.7 billion. When I say this province faces the deficit, I refer to the whole province, because it's not the government alone that faces this deficit. It is every person living in the province, as well as our future generations of Ontarians.

Much has been made lately about our restructuring of the hospital sector. I think it's absolutely essential that we get on to restructuring that system. We shouldn't be spending our money on bricks and mortar and gas bills and hydro bills, but we should be putting our money into front-line services, increasing the services that people have, increasing the number of people who provide those services by taking the money from the bricks and mortar and putting it back into the service sector.

If we didn't have this huge debt that we have to deal with, if we didn't have to spend over $8 billion on interest, which is a growing amount until we can get our deficit down to zero, we would be able to continue higher levels of spending in areas like education and health care. Dealing with the legacy that was left us, though, we're going to take the hard steps that we need to take so that we can provide positive education and health services for the future of this province.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm pleased to join in the debate on the motion dealing with services to persons with disabilities. The Minister of Community and Social Services accused the opposition of attempting to scare people and to say, "We have a deficit situation we have to deal with, and that's why we're doing it."

Well, I think people have a reason to be worried. I don't like the term "scared," but to be worried. We have some representatives in the gallery who play a key role in the area, and I would say they have every reason to be worried. Why? Because this government is only halfway through the cuts it's going to make. There are more cuts to come, and why? Fundamentally because you have to fund a $5-billion-a-year tax cut.

You say we have a deficit problem we have to deal with. I think Ontario understands that. But what Ontario can't understand is that if the deficit is such a huge problem -- by the way, the previous Conservative speaker said, "The reason we're making these cuts, and I'm sorry to have to make those cuts and we would spend more if we didn't have to make these cuts" -- the reason you're making the cuts is that the majority of the cuts will go right back out in the form of a tax break. This is straight out of your budget. The tax cut will cost the province of Ontario $5 billion a year in revenue. If the deficit is such a huge problem and if the disabled community has to do its share to fight the deficit, how can it be that the best-off people in this province, people making $100,000 a year, are going to get a $5,000-a-year tax break and the disabled in this province are going to see dramatic cuts in their services?

There's a fundamental inconsistency in the Conservative approach. Frankly, the tax cut is all about driving down support and services for people. That's what it's all about. The previous speaker talked about health care. That's why the community has a reason to be worried. I don't like to say this, but I don't trust the government. You ran on a platform of no copayments, no new user fees on drugs. What did you do? You broke that promise. It was clear-cut, specific, couldn't have been more clear-cut -- no copayments, no user fees -- and you broke that promise.

Our hospitals in this province are facing chaos right now, and that's the only way to describe it: chaos in Sudbury, chaos in Thunder Bay. I happen to represent a Metropolitan Toronto constituency, and we're about to face chaos. The cuts that you are imposing on the hospitals are driving hospital closures far beyond what anyone thought. In Metropolitan Toronto a study was done by the district health council and now the government has instructed the restructuring commission, "Cut deeper." Why? Why cut deeper? Because you are cutting 18% of the funding support for hospitals.

I will say to the Conservative members, you are forcing chaos on our health care sector, chaos on our hospital sector. In virtually all our communities across the province they see that you are going to cut 18% of the funding for hospitals. They have no choice, and now it is survival of the fittest and they are into a dogfight in every one of our communities across the province.

That is not a way to deal sensibly, logically, rationally with health care. Certainly in Metropolitan Toronto, in Chatham, I suspect, in Thunder Bay, in Sudbury, in all our communities, hospitals are being pitted against each other. Who's going to survive in a significant period of real draconian, drastic cuts in our health spending?

The reason I raise that is because this motion today is attempting to raise the awareness of all of us about what is taking place in our communities. I think all of us on a daily basis get parents coming to our offices saying: "Previously there were services in certain facilities that are no longer available. I'm looking for community-based support, and it's not there." I think most members in this Legislature support community-based care, allowing parents to keep their young people at home, but the services aren't there.


We have talked today about some of the cutbacks in education. Make no mistake about it: You ran on a platform of not touching the classroom, but I don't think there is a school board in this province that hasn't got significantly larger classes in September 1996 than it had a year ago. Find me a school board that has smaller classes. That's the challenge to the Minister of Education.

If I were a backbencher with the government, I would begin to try to rein in the Minister of Education. He makes statements on a daily basis that cause chaos in the system. One minute he's saying the system is broken -- by the way, on almost the same day that the Premier is lauding the system for offshore investors -- and then he's saying, "We are going to fund education in a completely different way; we're going to get rid of school boards." I don't think he knows where he's going.

In the meantime, I will challenge you: Find me a school board that has smaller classes in 1996 than it did a year ago. The fact is that it's right in the classroom that the cuts are being felt and the cuts are impacting. The number that was used today, that 47% of the spending takes place outside the classroom, is simply wrong. It is an incorrect number. You are using the wrong number to draw the wrong conclusions. Again, if I were on the back bench, I would raise it with my minister.

The other reason for worry is that I think for the first year the public assumed the government knew what it was doing, knew how to run things. They felt, "They at least can manage the system." Frankly, the wheels are starting to come off. I find it in my community. In the health sector, people are extremely worried. They don't think you are dealing effectively with any of the health sector. In the education sector, if you talk to parents, home and school groups, community groups, teacher groups, they're all saying, "The system is being put into turmoil."

We dealt this week with the family support plan, where literally thousands, mainly women, are not getting payment. By the way, in the public accounts that were released yesterday, the deficit was reduced by $42 million in 1995-96 because you brought in more revenue than you thought, mainly from fathers, and you put out less revenue than you thought, mainly to the mothers. We see a chaotic situation that you then use to reduce your deficit by $42 million more than you thought you would.

My point is this: In health care, in education, in the family support area and I think also in our correctional services, whatever is happening there, something isn't being run properly.

The Minister of Transportation is in the House. I know he cares about wheels falling off trucks, but that's been an issue with you since you got elected. Since you became the Minister of Transportation, the wheels keep coming off. It can't be that difficult. We've got to fix those things.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): There were even more coming off when you were in government.

Mr Phillips: The Minister of Agriculture chirps up as well. In his community, I suspect, the health sector is starting to ask some questions about Noble: "What's going on, Noble? Our doctors don't seem to be very understanding of the situation. Our hospitals in this province are under enormous stress. Our education system's under enormous stress. What's driving it?" It is that you are absolutely dedicated to a tax cut of $5 billion that is causing chaos in the services in this province, and frankly, it will cause chaos in your caucus eventually, I hope.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to rise today to speak to this motion. I think the disabled people in the province could be forgiven if they were watching this debate this afternoon and wondered whether it was really about their issues or not. It seems to me that although the focus of this resolution is around the needs and rights of disabled people, many who have spoken have gone on to other issues, and many disabled people out there are probably saying, "Why are they talking about all these other things and not about the things that concern me?"

I think the impression that disabled people often have of this place is that they are left out and excluded, not just physically -- we already know that they are excluded to a large extent physically from this building -- but from our considerations of policy and legislation. What disabled people want is the sense that they will be considered as we bring forward policy, as we bring forward legislation, that each part of those pieces of work that we bring forward will have been tested against how it affects those who are most vulnerable in our communities.

We know that 15% of the people in Ontario have disabilities and that of those, 10% are severely disabled. That means that 90% of those who have disabilities might not be considered disabled if there were a strict definition of severe disability causing inability to be employed. That is of great concern to disabled people. The dearest wish of disabled people is to be independent and self-sufficient. That is what they long for just as anyone else longs for it. The issue for them is that without the policies in place, without the provisions in place to allow them to exercise their talents and abilities, they will constantly be curbed and prevented from contributing to their society what they have to contribute.

At the present time about 170,000 people in this province receive disability-based welfare benefits. Many of those people are ready and willing to take jobs. They want to work, but unless they can get to work they are not able to do so, and most of them are unable to have a reliable transportation system that can accommodate them and get them to work. Those who have mental disabilities often require additional time to complete tasks they have and require job coaching to get themselves familiar enough with that task to be what we call productive workers. Yet we find that with retraction of grants to the very agencies, like community living associations, that provide those kinds of services for disabled people, they are unable to provide those services, unable to allow those disabled people to contribute as they wish and as they are able to do.

Sixty percent of people with disabilities in Ontario live below the poverty line, and that is under $15,000 of an annual income for a single person and under $24,000 for a couple with children. People with disabilities suffer the most extreme levels of unemployment within our community. In 1990, 80% of people with disabilities found themselves unemployed. With the recession and the layoffs that have occurred even within government those figures are worse, because the findings of the Management Board, in looking at the proportion of people who had been hired by government, were not nearly the objectives that had been set, and those who have been laid off, because they were often last in, has been higher. All the way along the line, with the cuts the government is doing, disabled people are suffering disproportionately.

We've heard talk here about the welfare rates and the drop in welfare rates. It is true that for those who have recognized disabilities, where someone in the Ministry of Community and Social Services has finally agreed that they have a disabling condition that prevents them from getting employment, those people's allowances have not been cut. But we also know, every single one of us who's an MPP, that moving from welfare assistance on to family benefits, on to that permanent disabled benefit, has taken a much longer time and continues to become more and more difficult.


We may have stopped in this place by our questions a redefinition of disabled last September, but administratively, in every welfare office in this province, we are seeing that new definition, that stricter definition, applied. People who had been deemed to be disabled, who have clear medical support for their disability, are finding themselves disentitled from disability benefits even though they have been enjoying those for a period of time.

Now we see, adding insult to injury, that disabled people are included in the copay for drugs. I really want to talk about this issue a little, because these are the people whose very lives, in most cases, rely upon the medications they take, yet they are being required to pay a $2 fee when they need a medication.

Let's look at a person in a wheelchair who has a real difficulty with bodily functions, a real difficulty with infection that is associated with those kinds of problems. Think very seriously about what that means in terms of quality of life. You take that person who has, say, 10 prescriptions a month -- and I'm being minimal here, because many people have more than 10 prescriptions a month, but say they have 10 prescriptions a month -- and you say, "That's only $20 a month." Well, that's great, but they're also being faced with higher fees to register for paratransit. In my community, in an effort to try to maintain at least some flexibility in the system, the registration fee had to be increased. In many others, those whose disability may not confine them to a device that assists them to be mobile may have been disentitled altogether. Transportation costs, whether they're in the paratransit area or in the regular area, have increased.

If people are fortunate enough to own a home and have become disabled or are disabled when they own that home, they're seeing all the user fees come in place that are required by municipalities in order to make up for the huge, drastic cut in grants that this government has done.

In other words, one after another after another after another, the actions of this government have impacted very severely on those who are on fixed incomes. Most disabled people -- not all, but most -- are in the situation that they have to live on a fixed income of one sort or another.

One of the realities that is also faced by people who are disabled is the real fear around the redefinition of disability that was promised by the previous minister and has not been denied by the current minister. This is a very insidious issue. Not only are people afraid that they will become deemed to be fully capable and their disability will be ignored in a new definition -- that is the fear -- but there is also real fear that the definition will not be flexible enough to meet needs. Let me give you the examples that we know of.

There are people who have what we call cyclical disabilities. People who have multiple sclerosis are a good example. People who have AIDS are another good example. People have an exacerbation of their condition for a period of time which makes them unable to work, but then as they begin to recover their strength and are able to work again, they go back to work knowing that another cyclical pattern may repeat itself. One of the real concerns we have around the redefinition of the disabled is that it will not take into account that cyclical effect, that people will have to jump through all the hoops each time they go through a period of time when they cannot work, when they need the support of their community. That is an issue that needs to be taken into account.

Many people are not disabled from birth. They become disabled when they are older. For those people, who have worked, have supported themselves, may have families they support, the blow that comes with finding they have a disabling condition or disease is made that much worse by the way in which they are treated by the system, because when their resources run out and they are forced to rely on the state for assistance, they hear from this government pejorative comments around those who need help.

The members of this government do not distinguish between those who would like to work -- I would suggest most people who are on assistance would like to work -- and those who in fact have been self-supporting and have lost their ability to be self-supporting through no fault of their own, through accident, through disease, through a growing condition, through a work injury. These are people who find themselves suddenly in a position that they never anticipated, and what do they find? They find themselves castigated by the very government that is supposed to offer them assistance and encouragement.

It is very clear that in a plan, for example, like the Trillium drug plan there is no provision for the suddenness with which disease or injury disables people and makes them unable to earn. In the Trillium drug plan, it is based on the dollars that someone made in the last tax year. Well, let me tell you, there are many disabled people who were earning very fine salaries in the previous tax year who suddenly find themselves with no income at all in this tax year, and yet they cannot qualify for the Trillium drug plan without a huge copayment that comes up front.

When we look at diseases, for example, like AIDS where the drugs are quite costly, if we look at Parkinson's, if we look at multiple sclerosis, again areas where new drugs are coming on stream that are very expensive, these are people who are unable to deal with their conditions and keep themselves as healthy as possible because the system is not flexible enough to support their taking the drugs they need. Those are the kinds of issues we need to deal with.

The reality is, if anyone thinks the cuts in education are not affecting the disabled, you haven't talked to any parents of disabled children. Those non-classroom costs often include the whole process of individual program plans which are a requirement under the Education Act for dealing with students with special needs. Those out-of-classroom costs often include the assessments and the efforts of other groups to help a school adapt to a child with special needs. Those out-of-classroom so-called expenses deal with the supports to the teacher in the classroom.

I'm not as concerned about growing classroom size as I am that growing classroom size will be used as an excuse to segregate disabled children further, pull them and push them away from the mainstream and make it impossible for them to have the real opportunity that they ought to have in their school and in their community.

What we are talking about is a whole list of things that this government has done. It has taken away the protection of the Employment Equity Act, which really gave hope to disabled people that they would be considered for jobs. They have taken away the Advocacy Act, which gave them some hope that if they were in an institution, if they were ill, they would have someone to speak on their behalf if they could not speak on their own. They have taken away the very opportunities that they have in terms of jobs by saying, "Oh, we're going to make a special system because they're unemployable." All of this tells disabled people that there is very little understanding on the part of this government of the real way to make people independent and self-sufficient and to deal with those who are disabled in our community.

Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I also would like to respond to the questions raised by the opposition leader. She was concerned about reduced transportation services for people with disabilities. Before I begin, let me make one thing very clear: The member was right about one thing. The Common Sense Revolution does promise to protect seniors and people with disabilities. However, she was misinformed about the funding for conventional and specialized transit. In fact, earlier this year, the Ministry of Transportation increased funding for capital projects by $140 million, for a total of $390 million. That money will help preserve existing transit facilities and focus on moving people safely and efficiently.


This government also provides funding to municipalities for specialized transit for people with disabilities, and more than that, in our economic statement last fall, we announced that we would maintain that funding at current levels.

Let me make this very clear. While we are looking for efficiencies right across government, we also promised Ontarians that we would focus on the services they value most, and that includes transportation services for people with disabilities. This government believes all Ontarians should be free to travel where they please. We also believe all Ontarians should have access to the transportation services they need to get there.

We are very concerned that the mobility and access needs of the people of Ontario are met. However, it is up to the local municipalities to determine the most cost-effective way to meet those needs, and the province has no direct role in that process. The role of the province is to provide funding. As I already mentioned, we provide 20% to 30% of the operating costs for specialized transit, plus we provide $3.50 for each passenger trip.

Ontario's guidelines for specialized transit have two criteria to determine who should have access to specialized transit. They include anyone who cannot climb or descend steps on conventional transit and anyone who cannot walk more than 175 metres. Municipalities are free to carry passengers on their transit service that fall outside our criteria, to apply their own criteria that meet their local needs.

Here in Toronto, it is the Toronto Transit Commission that sets the service levels and eligibility guidelines for Wheel-Trans. In January, a TTC advisory committee met with Wheel-Trans staff to develop new eligibility guidelines. Wheel-Trans hired a private firm to interview current passengers to determine who will continue to qualify for service. Municipalities are in the best position to determine the most cost-effective way to provide transit services that meet our customers' needs. The city of Toronto and the TTC are no exception. Given Ontario's fiscal situation, all public services must find ways to reduce waste and improve service. This government encourages transit authorities to streamline their operations.

In Ottawa-Carleton, the local transit authority recently awarded a contract to a new private contractor to provide specialized transit service. The move saved more than $4 million. That's $1 million for each year of the four-year contract. As a result, Para Transpo, as it's called, has not had to cut service or increase fares, and furthermore, the service accommodates almost 97% of all passengers who request it.

There are 98 specialized transit systems in the province, and every one of them has a unique approach to providing service. The province encourages all municipalities to find innovative ways to meet their communities' needs. The province supports municipalities that provide specialized transit services. We also support transit safety, and we will continue to support better, more cost-effective transit for all Ontarians.

I also need to mention that the Minister of Transportation, along with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced the launch of the community transportation action program on August 19, 1996, at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference. Community transportation includes school transportation, intercity bus services, health and social service agency vehicles, public transit and transportation services for seniors and people with disabilities.

Duplication inefficiencies can be found in some of these services. For example, one Ontario city has nearly 200 accessible vans operating within its boundaries. However, only 20 of these vans are part of a specialized transit fleet. Due to the lack of coordination, the specialized service has been turning down requests where available vehicles go unused. Provincial seed money will be available to support local proposals for improved coordination and restructuring of community transportation services.

Now I'll address the issue of housing assistance to seniors and people with disabilities. Our government knows that housing for people with special needs has a unique place in housing strategies. Supportive housing remains an important part of our efforts in this area, and a number of ministries continue to discuss ways to improve funding for support services. Supportive housing is housing for people who need essential support services to maintain their tenancy and live independently. Supportive housing is generally provided through agreement between the housing provider, a non-profit housing corporation or the Ontario Housing Corp and a support service agency.

On behalf of the government I'd like to emphasize that we intend to protect the existing stock of special needs units and increase the number of units of supportive housing available in this province wherever possible. With that in mind we intend to discuss possible options with non-profit providers, OHC, support service agencies and the ministries that fund the agencies. We're also looking at ways to better coordinate housing and supportive services so that tenants get better service and taxpayers get better value for their money.

As the House knows, our government's position has always been to spend money on people rather than bricks and mortar. Today there are nearly 4,100 units of non-profit supportive housing dedicated to people with developmental, physical or psychiatric disabilities and frail elderly. In addition there are about 3,750 special needs units in non-profit housing with no formal support services. But the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing does provide funding for enhanced housing activities in many instances.

On the other hand, we know that there are a number of special needs tenants who do not require support services to live independent lives: for example, people with physical disabilities who are capable of living independently as long as their housing has been modified to accommodate their disabilities. With particular regard to seniors, there are nearly 15,000 social housing units for seniors. More than 700 of those units are dedicated to frail elderly persons who receive support services enabling them to remain in their community.

Initially, seniors' housing in the Ontario Housing Corp portfolio was intended to serve seniors who were active and didn't need special support services; nearly 43% of the 84,000 units of public housing were intended for active seniors. Over time, however, they have aged and now a significant number receives support services. In these cases local housing authorities have arrangements with local support service agencies for provision of those services. Generally these arrangements include having support service agency staff onsite around the clock, having homemaker teams assigned to specific buildings where demand for these services is high and providing support services on a regular basis onsite, such as congregate dining and personal care. About 1,300 seniors in OHC housing are receiving support services through such arrangements, in addition to others who live in units covered by rent supplement agreements between OHC and private landlords. Many other seniors arrange to receive community support services on their own like any other member of the community.

In addition to all this, tenant associations of seniors also receive funding support and organizational assistance from the ministry. It needs to be remembered that today Ontario provides the highest level of rent-geared-to-income support of any province in Canada, and our social assistance rates are still 10% higher than the national average. It should be clear that our government understands its responsibility for the wellbeing of vulnerable people in Ontario; that is, it has always kept that responsibility in the forefront and continues to fulfil its commitment.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): In trying to put down some thoughts about this opposition day motion, I wanted to approach it from a very humanistic, very real point of view, as opposed to a political point of view, because I think it's that serious and it deserves that type of attention. I'll start with a little quote from Deborah Kent, who says, "Though people with disabilities have become more vocal in recent years, we still constitute a very small minority, yet the beautiful people, the slender, the fair, the perfect ones, form a minority that may be even smaller."

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope we're never associated or clumped in as politicians responsible for setting legislation for a province with the beautiful people -- the slender, the fair, the perfect ones -- for none of us can sit or stand in this House and say we are the beautiful people -- the fair, the slender or the perfect ones.


I thought for a few moments today that I would explain to you and give you a little bit of a history of some of the classrooms I was privileged to have in the various schools in Sudbury, the various schools that I was a teacher at, a vice-principal or a principal. They were classrooms that had special needs students in them, special education students in them, integrated in most cases but segregated in some instances as well. Let me tell you it is a privilege to say that you've worked with this type of individuals. The privilege extended to those students who had disabilities and exceptionalities that ranged from developmentally handicapped, Down syndrome, autistic, deaf-blind students, students with spina bifida, developmentally delayed students. I think we ran the gamut.

You had to go to any one of those classrooms, whether it be a segregated or an integrated classroom, to see the importance and the beauty of what can happen when people work together, when everyone has a common goal, a common need, when everyone understands that the bottom line in everything is the child whom we work with. So you saw an interaction between the child, the parent, the teacher, the early childhood educator, the developmental social worker. You saw the student aide, you saw parents come into the school, work with the student, but work as one member of a bigger group. We worked as a team.

It didn't only happen in the classroom though. It was beautiful when you saw all those people responsible for the education of a child with a disability working together within the confines of a school, but it was even more beautiful when you saw it happening in the home of the child, when you saw it happening in the community that housed the child. It happened on a continuing basis, and it happened because the resources were there to make it happen.

Don't ever think for a second that you can do this without resources. I don't think it's the intent of the government to deny resources to these children, to these children's families, but it's happening. I don't understand, for the life of me or for the good of these children, why you in opposition as government cannot understand that we must commit funding to this group of children, to this group of individuals. It's not enough to say that the funding's there but it's not being increased, because the demand placed upon us is increasing. As the demands increase, we must definitely provide increased dollars.

There is no magic answer to the situation, but there is a simple answer to the situation. It is to make sure that we commit enough money to the education system to allow school boards and individual schools to continue to employ early childhood workers, to continue to employ socially adapted workers, to ensure that we have enough resources in the school board and in the classroom and in the school to provide for student aides. We're not looking at teacher aides; we're looking at aides for the student, something that will help ensure that the child is treated as an individual, is respected as a person, with the knowledge that although they may be differently abled, they are able. It's something that the government would do well to understand.

I think of Bel Kaufman when she says: "Education is not a product. It's not a mark, diploma, job, money, in that order. It is a process, a never-ending process." I think that's what this government has to understand. As you look at educational funding, I don't want you to look at it as a business. I'm sorry, a child is not a product; a child deserves a process that is never-ending. In fact, if we're ever going to maximize the benefit of our educational dollars, we must ensure that we understand -- you in particular, because you are the government -- that funding for education is the best investment that you as a government can make, and that funding in education will provide for fairness for everyone.

The minister earlier spoke about the appeals process, and I think it's important that we spend just a few minutes talking about the appeals process, for the special services at home funding envelope. Clearly, it's our position that there isn't enough money in that funding envelope. But there is an appeal process, so an individual or a family goes through the appeals process and they get a letter from a ministry staffer that says: "The special services at home program has a fixed resource base. The appeals process is not the mechanism that will lead to an increase in the resources available to this program." I think that sends a terrible message, not only to that individual, but to all the people who require that program.

When you look at needs increasing by about 2,000 over the course of the last two years, you must understand that money has to be increased in the program. But you also must understand that these families don't like to compete against each other. They understand the uniqueness and the individuality of each case; they also understand the need in each case. Ladies and gentlemen, I want you, in particular the minister, to relook at the program, see how the need has increased, look at ways of increasing the funding -- certainly the money is there -- and ensure that each individual who needs this special funding is given this special funding. Indeed, we must understand that the youth of Ontario is its future. They deserve a chance, every single one of them.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): It is with great pleasure that I rise. I want to thank my honourable colleague for allowing me the opportunity to say a few things about some of the things the loyal opposition has said about transportation. I beg to differ, obviously, and for good reason at that. This government was elected to do better for less. I believe we are, on that scope.

The Leader of the Opposition would have you believe that we have no heart, that we do not care about disabled transit, that we have cut funding. On the contrary; that has not happened. We have not cut one dollar from disabled transit. This is something I said last year; this is something we've been saying all along. But as a matter of fact, something else I have been saying all along is that we are encouraging the transit operators to find efficiencies within the transit system. The opportunities that are there should be the funds that we would eventually save, not at the expense of disabled transit.

Governments have been saying "Yes, yes, yes," for far too long, and we have built a disabled transit system that is not affordable and is not feasible. It isn't working. We are spending three or four times the amount of money that we should be spending. That is one of the reasons why in August we announced a pilot project where we basically have asked transportation authorities from across the province to come up with innovative ways, working together with MTO staff and municipal affairs, to see if we can take advantage of the equipment we have sitting on a day-to-day basis, sitting not doing anything.


I'm really proud to say that we have taken the initiative in making sure these opportunities are within our grasp. We are asking municipalities to come forward: "Put your objectives together. We will work with you." We're even encouraging the private sector to come up with innovative ways so we can better utilize and deliver transportation.

I just have one other item I would like to mention. I don't know if the member for London Centre is really aware of this program that has been put together in her own city. In the city of London we have a pilot project in place right now where this opportunity is starting to take place, to take effect, to see how we can better deliver transit in a more cost-efficient way but at the same time utilize the equipment, and most important, give the disabled better service and give Ontarians a bigger bang for their buck.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): It's a pleasure for me to participate in the debate. I have been here since question period listening to the debate very intensely, and I appreciate the candour and the response we've received on all sides of the House.

As someone who has participated in debates in this House for over 11 years and witnessed many of the issues that have been raised in this Parliament over the course of that 11 years, I want to bring to the closing portion of this debate this evening some of my concerns and expressions of hope for the changes which are about to occur in this province as they relate not only to seniors but to those persons in life who are differently abled or disabled.

I wanted to start off by saying that quite clearly we in this province, all of us as citizens, accept the collective responsibility for the financial situation we find ourselves in. It bears repeating briefly, but we are all aware of it. Over the course of the last decade, we've seen our deficit grow from $27 billion to nearly $100 billion, and we've realized that the largest single program the government pays for on behalf of taxpayers is our debt service. If the direction we continue in doesn't stop, all the money we spend on health care will be surpassed by the amount we pay in debt service for this growing debt. We take the collective responsibility, therefore, for how we find solutions out of this problem.

Yes, our government clearly enunciated its direction with the Common Sense Revolution and, yes, we made that known to the citizens of Ontario a year in advance of the election. We wanted them to know how we would implement our plan in order to make those reforms. In that document there were clear and concise and determined references to what we would do to assist seniors, issues which we had raised on the floor of the Legislature for almost a decade, whether it was the separation of seniors and the disabled from our welfare rolls to give them the dignity and the support they require; quite frankly, separating them from being treated in the same category as welfare recipients.

What is of concern to me, having listened to part of the debate -- I want to go back to a critical time in history, which was 10 years ago, 11 years ago, when we had a minority government here and an opportunity for the party that came second and the party that came third to create a document which defined, for those politicians and those political parties, the future direction for this province. Clearly, they created in the accord document the opportunity to seize power and to direct the spending patterns for taxpayers and the programs of support and assistance to those most vulnerable.

I have in front of me that document. I keep it in my desk as a reminder of what the priorities were of the two political parties that each had the responsibility to manage and run the affairs of this province for five years. When I read the document I can't find the word "support" for seniors or the vulnerable or the disabled anywhere in this document.

If you read the opening statement, it says that on May 2, 1985, "The people of Ontario created an opportunity for change after 42 years of Conservative government." They said, "We are determined to accept responsibility for bringing about that change."

Well, we had a decade to see where the priorities were set by those governments, and we have had now a decade for this government sitting in opposition to understand where its priorities would be best spent.

I have listened very carefully to the debate. My colleague from St Catharines, with whom I enjoy lively debate from time to time, has indicated in his statements the need to protect those who cannot protect themselves, yet I am aware of programs and decisions made by that government during that five-year period, promises that were made but were never kept with respect to where their sense of priorities was. That was the government that built more school spaces, new renovations, expansion, a lot of capital, yet we have a situation where we've understood now as a society that it's not the bricks and mortar that are defining these program needs, that in fact the direction we should have gone is quite the opposite direction in terms of providing services at home.

This government has made a very clear determination that when it comes between institutionalization, whether it comes to building to create these large bureaucracies and entrench them, we want the flexibility in support that flows directly from programs and flows directly to those person who need them. That is not a theme, that is a commitment, and it's a commitment that our government has made.

The member for Dovercourt, another colleague in this House with whom I've enjoyed lively debate, named me as someone who rose in this House on many occasions to fight for additional funding for the special services at home program. The truth is that I rose in this House to fight for those programs because it was very clear, under the leadership of Mike Harris, that our party was prepared to govern and set priorities. What was happening in 1993, which the member for Dovercourt failed to remind the members of this House of, was that the former Treasurer, the member for Nickel Belt, who's in the House, who knows better than most the kinds of financial difficulties that this province had found itself in, imposed on his own budget and his own government an expenditure control plan. What was happening was that they were starting to reduce access to these programs. We said, "There's lots of programs you can reduce and in fact get rid of, and we want you to maintain and honour your commitment, because we believe you can invest more money in this area."

We won the day because of the debate in the House, because we were able to bring families forward, because we were able to make our arguments about the human side of this issue. But the truth of the matter was that in those days there was this committee of people, mostly in organized labour, friends of the NDP, who were vetting these programs, and they were saying: "Well, special services at home. You can go hire someone who's qualified, but they're not in a union, and that disrupts the way we think the province should be run." That's why the program wasn't getting the kind of expansion dollars it deserved.

I can tell you, on this side of the House we trust families to make those kinds of decisions; we trust families to make those critical decisions. That's why the program has been supported by this government and will continue to be supported, but as its basis we are prepared to work directly with families.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion and debate about some of the very positive programs occurring under the current administration, occurring in the individual associations. A reference was made earlier by one of the members -- I believe the member from Agincourt talked about the associations for community living. I want to share with the members of the House that there is some really progressive work going on in communities to deal with providing increased access, more efficient delivery of service for the disabled community.

In my community, the Burlington Association for Community Living has 17 group homes and 110 beds. They developed a program with a live-in model, it's called, or house mentoring program, where instead of having staff coming in in shifts around the clock, families actually move in and manage this. They're saving $50,000 per home. As a result of those savings passed on to taxpayers, with the same dollars that they were getting they have been able to increase seven places. They are actually building more group homes in communities in the municipality of Burlington.


What they're doing is they're taking traditional ways of doing business, the way we've serviced and assisted the disabled in this province, and we've done it that way for 30 or 40 years, and they're saying, "We know there's a better way of doing it and we know that if we work directly with what families need, we can get more efficient use of those dollars and greater access."

I'll give you a second example. In group homes all over this province, in Halton and in a couple of other areas in this province, they decided they would eliminate the little staff office in every group home. They didn't need it; it was just something the staff felt they should have in every group home, but it used up valuable space. What they did was designate this as a guest room, and respite care now is being offered in this space. By simply making that change, they've opened up opportunities for respite care without increasing cost to taxpayers.

This government is promoting those programs, we're encouraging those programs, and we're increasing access for the families who are raising their children and need the respite and for those in the disabled community to live with more dignity.

I have other examples of flexibility in day programming and in child services, in preschool programming for disabled, that again are hallmarks to the approach this government is taking with respect to doing better under the financial circumstances that we find ourselves in -- still protecting these programs, still enforcing them with a financial commitment, but yes, finding more creative ways. And we're doing it because we're listening, listening to what groups who are leading by example are providing for us.

The special services at home program is underutilized, and we should as a government be allowing associations for community living to assist families who are having difficulty. It hasn't been raised in the debate, but it's very difficult for families with disabled children because they have to do the training, the hiring, putting the ads in the paper, they have to do all this work, and then maybe not come up with a person who is capable and able to fit in with that family schedule. We need to step in and assist. We're still spending the money, but are we getting the maximum value in support for it?

The point I want to raise here -- I know it's been raised about the drug plan, and I wish I had a little more time to talk about that. I listened with interest when my colleague from London Centre raised in the House -- she sat in cabinet when her government, Ruth Grier, made it abundantly clear that it was their government's choice to bring in a copayment and a premium. I was in the House as I heard the Liberals make reference to this program as well.

The drug plan in this province has been typified over the last decade as clever and clandestine moves to remove some 200 drugs from the formulary. Many of these were expensive drugs, particularly designed for senior citizens. Liberal and NDP governments all across Canada have come to the conclusion that for an insurance drug plan to survive, you had to allow for participation in the premiums. The alternative was to water down and diffuse and to dismantle your drug plan so that seniors in Ontario two years ago were having to go into their pockets to pay $80, $90 and $100 for drugs that those political parties removed from the formulary.

We are reinforcing the drug plan. We are saving the drug plan. We have expanded 250-some-odd drugs into the plan, and those are drugs where seniors and the disabled are not responsible for paying 100% of their cost. Drugs are becoming increasingly more expensive as a result.

Frankly, the motion, as has been presented by the opposition party, is rather late in their collective history of support for the disabled and seniors, but as always, the debate and their contribution is welcome.

The Speaker (Hon Ed Doyle): Mrs McLeod has moved opposition day motion number 1. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."

All those opposed to the motion will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1756 to 1800.

The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please rise one by one.


Bartolucci, Rick

Grandmaître, Bernard

Martin, Tony

Boyd, Marion

Gravelle, Michael

McLeod, Lyn

Bradley, James J.

Hampton, Howard

Miclash, Frank

Brown, Michael A.

Hoy, Pat

Patten, Richard

Caplan, Elinor

Kennedy, Gerard

Phillips, Gerry

Christopherson, David

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Pouliot, Gilles

Churley, Marilyn

Lankin, Frances

Pupatello, Sandra

Colle, Mike

Laughren, Floyd

Ruprecht, Tony

Crozier, Bruce

Marchese, Rosario

Silipo, Tony

Duncan, Dwight

Martel, Shelley

Wildman, Bud

The Speaker: All those opposed to the motion will please rise one by one.


Arnott, Ted

Harnick, Charles

Ross, Lillian

Baird, John R.

Harris, Michael D.

Runciman, Robert W.

Beaubien, Marcel

Hastings, John

Sampson, Rob

Boushy, Dave

Jackson, Cameron

Shea, Derwyn

Brown, Jim

Johns, Helen

Sheehan, Frank

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, Bert

Skarica, Toni

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, David

Smith, Bruce

Clement, Tony

Jordan, W. Leo

Spina, Joseph

Danford, Harry

Kells, Morley

Sterling, Norman W.

DeFaria, Carl

Klees, Frank

Stewart, R. Gary

Ecker, Janet

Leach, Al

Stockwell, Chris

Elliott, Brenda

Marland, Margaret

Tascona, Joseph N.

Eves, Ernie L.

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tilson, David

Flaherty, Jim

Maves, Bart

Tsubouchi, David H.

Ford, Douglas B.

Mushinski, Marilyn

Turnbull, David

Fox, Gary

O'Toole, John

Vankoughnet, Bill

Froese, Tom

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Villeneuve, Noble

Galt, Doug

Palladini, Al

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Gilchrist, Steve

Parker, John L.

Wilson, Jim

Grimmett, Bill

Pettit, Trevor

Wood, Bob

Guzzo, Garry J.

Preston, Peter

Young, Terence H.

Hardeman, Ernie

Rollins, E.J. Douglas


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 30, the nays 65.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that the House now adjourn is deemed to have been made. However, the member for Sudbury has given notice of dissatisfaction with an answer to a question given yesterday by the Minister of Health. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter and the parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): First I would like to note that the rebuttal will be by the parliamentary assistant, Mrs Johns. The minister has left the chamber, and it's my understanding that he's not coming back. I would like that to go on the record, and normally we don't do that, but I want you to understand that this is very serious to the people of Sudbury, to the people of northeastern Ontario. I'm amazed that the minister wouldn't be here to listen to this five-minute reasoning so that he could at least contemplate a change of mind. This brashness, this pure arrogance will not be acceptable to the people of Sudbury or northeastern Ontario. Having said that, we have some very serious concerns to deal with over the course of the next few minutes.

The minister should know that the responses from the community are exactly as predicted. Hospital closings shock communities, for one. All I can say is, don't get sick; you'd better stay healthy. I see with regret that the General and Memorial hospitals will be closed. I guess the commission failed to see that we have at the General the only paediatric floor and the best trauma unit for all of northern Ontario. At the Memorial we have the best cardiac services in all of northern Ontario.

It is amazing to me that this government can downsize health services in northeastern Ontario so drastically. We are reducing from 558 beds down to 395, a reduction of acute care beds that will create chaos within northeastern Ontario. We are looking at a total bed downsizing of under 500; 495 beds will not be enough beds to deal with the health care services required if Sudbury is going to be a northeastern referral centre. I don't know, but maybe it's the intent of the government to go ahead with this restructuring and then, a year before the election, announce a multibillion-dollar expansion of health care services at North Bay so that North Bay can become the northeastern referral centre. It certainly has happened throughout the mandate of this government so far.

The dollars they're reinvesting in this community are disastrous. There is not enough money for transitional care: $2.8 million to $3.2 million just isn't enough money; $1.2 million of reinvestment in home care is just not enough money; specialist recruitment at $3.3 million is just not enough money; repatriation at $2 million is just not enough money.

The minister is well aware that the regional municipality of Sudbury sent him a brief outlining that a minimum of 100 repatriated beds is necessary. You will not get 100 repatriated beds with $3 million. Chronic care reinvestment of $1.4 million is actually disgusting and it is an insult to reinvest only that much money; rehabilitation at $600,000 is clearly not enough; acute mental health reinvestment of $700,000 is clearly not enough.

Today we received the Premier's ministerial statement for redistribution. Clearly the Premier of this province wants less representation in northern Ontario. Clearly the Minister of Health wants less quality health care in northern Ontario. As I said earlier, and I reaffirm, forget the voice for the north. From now on everything that comes from this Conservative government for the north should be titled No Beds, No Meds, No MPPs.

I find the commission's report disgusting, and it must be changed.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I am frankly surprised by the request for a late show after having read the questions and answers in yesterday's Hansard. I believe that the Minister of Health stated clearly what he believes is happening with respect to hospital restructuring. I would like to take the balance of my time to go over what he said in the House yesterday about, "Ontario is the last province" in Canada "to undergo hospital restructuring."

The process is necessary to ensure that we have high-quality patient care and that at the end of the day patient care is available to the people of Ontario. We have taken the politics out of health care. We have appointed a Health Services Restructuring Commission to ensure that all aspects of health care in the region are taken into account before they make their recommendations. They are telling us what the people in the community want.

Another challenge facing the commission is to recommend that training programs be available so that not only will restructuring be done, but the expertise we have in each community remains in place. I would argue that restructuring will attract more expertise into your area.

Every detail of the announcement from the Health Services Restructuring Commission has been justified. They are using data provided by Dr David Naylor and the research team of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. After the commission issues its report, there is a 30-day period for the community to express its support and concerns for the recommendations. The member opposite should make a submission for the commission so that his views are heard, but he should also remember that he needs to provide concrete solutions based on fact if he is to see results.

I would like also to remind the member of two very important issues.

First, our government has made the largest reinvestment to date of $170 million into community-based care. This alone will create 4,400 new jobs in the province and will provide better services so that people in Ontario will not fall through the cracks. We have spent approximately $37 million of the $170 million so that there are more services, and there is more money yet to be expended. Both Sudbury and Thunder Bay have had tremendous increases in their home care budgets in the last few years to ensure that patients do not fall through the cracks.

We are doing what other governments have failed to do: ensure that services are in place before the beds are closed. Previous governments have closed 6,700 beds, or the equivalent of 33 midsized hospitals, without ensuring that community services are developed first. I would like to point out as well that we are reinvesting this money first before we have seen any savings from hospital restructuring.

Second, we are making these reinvestments with $2.1 billion less from the federal Liberal government, your cousins. If the federal government had met its commitments, our job would be significantly easier.

We are not following politics like we did in the past. We are not reinvesting in the fourth year of our mandate. We are making sure, Mr Bartolucci, that we manage the health care system so it will be there for our children and our children's children.

We are confident that at the end of the process, as many other provinces have told us, the people of Ontario will continue to have the best health care in the world.

The honourable member said that there is not enough money in health care. We say $17.4 billion is enough money in the system. Taxpayers pay one third of every tax dollar to health care in Ontario. We believe the system must be managed for them and it must be restructured so that the health care system will be there for all generations.

The Speaker (Hon Ed Doyle): The member for Riverdale has served notice of dissatisfaction with an answer given on the family support plan by the Attorney General. This may be debated by the member for up to five minutes, and the minister may reply for five minutes.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): First, let me be clear. As has been said by many members of my caucus over the past few weeks on this issue, I do not deny that the family support plan needed improvement. That's obvious, and that's what the minister keeps saying, somehow putting the blame on this government and what we didn't or did do. The fact remains that improvements needed to be made and there were lots of problems.

The issue we're talking about here is that people, women and their children who used to get cheques, are not getting their cheques --

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Wrong.

Ms Churley: -- and that is a fact.

Hon Mr Harnick: Wrong.

Ms Churley: The minister is already saying: "Wrong. Wrong." I will be getting to that in a second. However, your actions have clearly not improved the system; in fact they have decimated it.

You've laid off 290 experienced and trained staff, closed the regional offices and expected the phone system to handle all the calls which were once handled by regional offices. You ended the case management system which ensured accountability for particular files by someone who was familiar with the case, and files are being put in boxes and are in transit to a new location. The process has nothing to do with getting essential support to children. It has everything to do with the cuts ordered to the AG's ministry and the determination to gut the plan.

Since the closure of the offices, the complaints are from cases where payment was being made, where families were counting on that money and were put in jeopardy because those payments, which had been deducted from the payor -- this is not about that issue, which is another problem -- did not get into the hands of the women and children. There are not enough staff to do the person-intensive work of ensuring the transition is completed even if there are some problems such as no file number on the cheque.

I say to the minister, you're not fixing the family support plan. You're destroying the very thing that made it the best agency for collection of family support anywhere. In fact your own ministry, in its own business plan of 1996, stated, "Ontario is the most cost-per-case efficient program in Canada." So what's happening here is you're making sure that even more children are left without basic necessities rather than making the moneys available to make sure they get the support they're entitled to.

After laying off hundreds of people, you have been forced to hire contract staff to answer the phones who clearly have no training or commitment to the program. They tell desperate women, and I have heard this directly myself, "Why don't you just go out and get a job?" One woman in Hamilton who finally got through to a live person today was told the person answering the phone was basically just an answering service and she said she would try to get the information or an agent back to her.

Minister, in order for the family support plan to work well, it needs the investment of funds, human resources and government commitment. You are destroying the family support plan in the name of improving it. The Harris government is not committed to the family support plan and does not see the collection of dollars ordered by the court for the benefit of children as a high priority.

I want to talk directly about what the minister said in answer to my question this afternoon about four cases in my riding. He was wrong about that information: wrong, wrong, wrong. I have talked directly to the women. Case one, all the money, she has not received her August support payment. She has made that clear to me. She's still expecting $1,400. Case two, you stated that there was a problem with the income source, but Ruby White says she has checked with the husband's employer and they say he's up to date. She's still owed $624. Case three, I'm not quite sure what's going on there. I can't speak to it at the moment. I'll be checking into it. Case four, you say you didn't get enough information. Her file number was provided with the --


Ms Churley: Yes, it is. I've got a copy of it here, Minister, of the file number. You could have followed up with my office or the woman herself. Plus you had all their names and you said you would help.


I want to close by saying you cannot manage this on a micro basis. You cannot manage all of these case by case by case. It's impossible to do. This needs a macro, big solution. As long as you continue to do it this way, I believe that some women who don't have access to their MPPs are probably being displaced by you phoning up the very few staff who are available, saying, "Let's make these a priority because MPPs are after us."

There are some real problems with trying to fix a major problem in the system by having MPPs going directly to the Attorney General asking for help. It clearly isn't working. The women have told me themselves that it isn't working. The Attorney General disagrees with that and is saying they're not telling the truth, but I'm telling him what they're saying. I would end by saying that this is no way to fix the plan.

Hon Mr Harnick: We are at the present time reconstructing the family support plan. Our motivation for reconstructing the family support plan is to ensure that the days of people phoning the plan and not being able to get through will end. We want to ensure that cheques are going to get out to clients of the plan in a faster and more up-to-date way in terms of the modern banking techniques that are now available. We're restructuring the plan to permit that to happen.

We also are going -- and I intend to do this within the next week or so -- to introduce a piece of legislation that for the first time will provide the family support plan with real tools to collect moneys owing to women and children. That amount is now $900 million. That amount was allowed to go, during the former government's period of time, from $300 million to $900 million, without anybody taking the initiative to bring in legislation to provide enforcement tools to permit the plan to operate.

Yes, we have had a problem in terms of getting cheques out. That problem has been rectified. We are providing a service that is necessary to ensure that all payments are being made while we go through the transition. We are targeting November for the opening of a new and modern centre out of which the plan will run. We are hiring and training new staff, many of whom will be some of the former staff of the plan, whom we've encouraged to apply for jobs. The difference is going to be that when people call the family support plan they will be able to get through, as clients should be able to, and the person who answers the phone will, for most cases, be able to provide an answer to the client immediately. That's the goal and the customer service that we want to provide to clients of the family support plan.

At the same time, those administrative improvements will mesh with the new enforcement techniques we are going to provide: the licence suspension, the reporting to credit bureaus, the expansion of the definition of "income source," the ability to get at people who are sheltering money in joint bank accounts. We are doing all of those things, all of those things that a prior government had no guts to deal with.

I want to deal with the four cases that my colleague from Riverdale has pointed out.

In the first case, I can tell you that every payment has been made, except that the payor is in arrears and the plan is trying to collect the arrears. All moneys that have been received by the plan have been dispersed. The moneys owing are owing because not all the payment has been made by the payor. It's as simple as that.

The second case involves an income source who is remitting at the legislated requirement of 50% of net wages. Additional enforcement action has been initiated to recover arrears. The last payment was sent to the recipient on September 23, 1996, and it was done by direct deposit right into that individual's account. The member for Riverdale screamed across the floor at me, yelling: "The August payment has not been made. The August payment has not been made." Well, I can assure you that the August payment has been made.

The third case is a case involving an initial support deduction notice having just been sent to the employer on September 16, 1996. The income source, the employer, now has 14 days to make the necessary calculations and payroll adjustments and must commence deductions no later than the first payday that falls after the 14 days. So that would be a payday coming up some time after October 1. That is why that case has not yet remitted money: None has been received. The income source has just received the notice and the time clock is ticking.

In so far as the final case is concerned, as I've indicated, we had difficulty dealing with locating it. We've been able to, and I hope that will be rectified.

The Speaker (Hon Ed Doyle): Time is up, Minister.

There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1826.