36th Parliament, 1st Session

L108 - Tue 15 Oct 1996 / Mar 15 Oct 1996


















































The House met at 1335.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House that I have today laid upon the table the 1996 Annual Report of the Provincial Auditor.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Today once again I rise to address the great hardship brought about by the government's broken promises to help people with disabilities, the sick, the frail and seniors in the Metro area.

These are the true victims of the Harris cuts: individuals who in most cases already face overwhelming hardships and need the services of GO Transit to get to their doctors or to hospital for life-saving treatment. An estimated 10,000 people will be deemed ineligible for Wheel-Trans, many of whom have hidden disabilities. Being denied Wheel-Trans will mean that they will not be able to do things like get to medical appointments, attend schools or work programs or even just get out into the community. Thanks to the Harris government's $8.7-million cuts to transportation, these people are now prisoners in their own homes.

Today, a total of 11 organizations are meeting with the Toronto Transit Commission to request that their constituents' right to transportation be protected and that thousands of GO Transit users not be cut off the service. These groups include the Coalition of Ambulatory Disabled Persons at Risk, the Aphasia Centre of North York, Bloorview MacMillan Centre, the Canadian Council of the Blind, the Epilepsy Association of Ontario, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Metro Stroke Leadership Coalition, the Ontario March of Dimes --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Time. The member for Beaches-Woodbine.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): It's one week and counting to October 22, which is the beginning of the Metro Days of Action. Community organizations and coalitions are being brought together right across this region of Metro in their joint effort and joint commitment to fight back against the Harris government victimization of so many in our province.

The Metro Days of Action are bringing people together who have never worked together before. They're being united around a goal and a vision of having a different kind of province from what we see today and what the Harris government is leaving.

As I look at the leaflet from the Metro Days of Action, I can see the reasons set out there, what they're trying to educate people about in terms of this government's action: Hospitals are being closed; health care waiting lists grow; loss of control of the school system; local control is threatened; affordable public housing and rent control are abandoned; the most vulnerable people -- the poor, the disadvantaged, first nations -- are scapegoated; seniors must pay user fees for drugs. It goes on and on.

They make a really important point at the end of their leaflet. They say to people: "After reading this, if you still think that you personally have little to lose, then please think about the kids. You can't blame an innocent child for not understanding what is happening in this province. There's no excuse for us."

I agree with that sentiment. I agree with the Days of Action. I support their protest. I'll be out there at community organizations, helping them protest against the Harris government. The movement is growing.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): The Canadian Red Cross has joined with home support agencies throughout Ontario and across Canada to celebrate National Homemaker/Home Support Worker Week 1996 from October 13 to 19.

Care in the home is the way of the future, not only because it helps people maintain independence in their time of need, but on a larger scale because reform of Ontario's health system means a growing shift towards community-based services. That shift includes the $170-million long-term-care facility funding program to give more people of all ages higher levels of care and support in their own homes and long-term-care facilities with cost-effective community services. It also includes the establishment of 43 community care access centres across Ontario to provide simplified access to a range of long-term-care services, including nursing, therapy, homemaking and long-term-care facilities.

The Red Cross offers a variety of programs and services that help people maintain a life in their own home. Without these services, many people would find themselves without any alternative but to leave their homes and live in an institution. I congratulate the Canadian Red Cross homemakers and home support workers for bringing a human touch to the lives of so many people. In doing so they also give independence, pride and dignity.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My statement today is in the form of a question. I'd like to know how serious the Minister of Health is in determining real care for pregnant women in my community. I'd like to tell all members of the House that my community is but the first. Many other communities which do not happen to be around teaching centres will be facing what my community is currently facing, and that is lack of care for women who are critically in need of it because they are pregnant women and in many instances are pregnant women at risk.

As of today OHIP is currently negotiating with American hospitals to determine the level of fees. As it was put to the American hospitals, they are trying to negotiate a discount based on volume. I have to ask the members opposite, how serious can our minister be in trying to negotiate in good faith with all of the physicians in Ontario while the other arm of the minister is busy negotiating with the American hospitals to determine fees at a discount because of volume? I find this just an affront -- an affront to the physicians all across Ontario, but more important, to the women in my community who are still looking for care. We currently have women who have had appointments with American doctors. They've been put off because the pre-approval simply did not come through on time. The Minister of Health has a responsibility to help all patients in Ontario, including pregnant women in my community.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I would like to take this opportunity to recognize National Co-op Week and congratulate Ontario's co-ops for the contribution they make to Ontario's communities and economy. Co-operatives have played a significant role in providing important goods and services in the agricultural sector, the child care sector, the insurance and financial service sectors, and increasingly in the provision of public services.

Co-ops continue to show how much people can achieve when they work together, pool resources and share skills for the benefit of their members and their communities. Because co-ops are locally based and member-owned, the benefits are invested back in Ontario communities and are an important catalyst for job creation and economic growth. Over 1,400 co-ops and 500 credit unions and caisses populaires now have over two million members in Ontario. Their combined assets of over $15 billion are a significant factor in Ontario's economy.

This year, as in previous years, the Canadian Co-operative Association is hosting its annual MPP reception. I encourage my colleagues to attend tomorrow's reception to learn about the achievements of Ontario co-operatives. Co-ops are an important resource for ensuring that in this time of cost restraints and restructuring public services remain affordable, accessible and accountable.


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I'm pleased today to bring to the honourable members' attention that we are celebrating the fourth annual Good Neighbours Week from October 14 through 20. Good Neighbours is a community-based public awareness program that helps make Ontario communities safer, friendlier and more responsive to people in need, especially those who are frail, vulnerable and isolated. The campaign is designated to encourage people to reach out and help others. For example, in my home community of Brampton, the Good Neighbours program comes under the umbrella of the Bramalea police advisory committee. The program will be involved in the Safe City initiative, which is part of the Brampton crime prevention program.

We are working to make our community, already one of the safest, even better. More people will get to know about the Good Neighbours program since it will be part of the community operations located in our regional mall, the Bramalea City Centre. The aim is to help communities become healthier and safer by creating informal networks that complement professional services already in place and reinforce the values found in caring, friendly neighbours.

Good Neighbours is a three-way partnership involving the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, corporate sponsors and community volunteers. It is an excellent example of the success that can be achieved when the public and private sectors work together to support community needs.

Simply put, being a good neighbour is helping those who need help. During this week and throughout the year I encourage all members to do as the Good Neighbours slogan says, "Take time to reach out."


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I rise today to recognize two North York public schools that have received awards of excellence in education from the National Quality Institute. Humber Summit Middle School and Grenoble Public School received national awards for their continuous improvement in student achievement and their strong partnerships with parents in the community. Humber Summit Middle School and Grenoble Public School are considered special needs schools. Students at both schools are performing above the North York average in mathematics and above the national average in reading and writing.

I'm pleased to report to the Legislature that schools and service departments at the Board of Education for the City of North York have won four out of five National Quality Institute education awards over the last two years. Through their continued quality improvement and outstanding commitment to quality education, the North York Board of Education has proven once again that its approach to quality education is working.

As Veronica Lacey, the North York education director, said, "Once again the board's schools and service departments have stood the test of the National Quality Institute's tough quality criteria and we came out winners."

On behalf of the Ontario Liberal caucus, and in the place of the Minister of Education, who should be making these kinds of statements, I'd like to congratulate Humber Summit Middle School, Grenoble Public School and the North York Board of Education for the excellence and leadership they have shown in education in Ontario.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I rise to raise a very sensitive issue in regard to comments the Premier is quoted as making when he was in Sault Ste Marie last week.

Mr Harris, according to the Sault Star, said that despite conflicting legal advice on the issue, the government may call an inquiry into the handling of sex abuse complaints by the Sault Ste Marie District Roman Catholic Separate School Board even though lawsuits against current and former board members are still before the court.

Mr Harris is quoted as saying, "I want to tell you we are very receptive and understanding and sympathetic to the desires of the community, and my sense is of the school board itself, to understand what happened, and we're concerned as a province for procedures that ought to be in place for school boards in the future."

The Premier, if he is stating government policy, is responding to a very serious and deep desire of the people of Sault Ste Marie and area that this matter should be inquired into. He is not agreeing with his colleague the Minister of Education and Training, who up to now has said that he would not call an inquiry.

I urge the Premier to exercise his role as the head of the government and direct that an inquiry be held as soon as possible into this very serious matter.


Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I'd like to inform my honourable colleagues in this chamber today about the fine work being done by Mr Patrick W. Olive, commissioner of economic development for Durham region.

At the annual meeting of the Economic Developers Association of Canada held September 21 to 24 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Mr Olive was proclaimed Canada's economic developer of the year. This singular honour is a credit not only to Mr Olive's involvement within Durham region but also to his contribution to the economic development profession in Ontario, Canada and around the world.

The criteria for this award are, firstly, substantial and recognized contributions to professional development and the educational requirements of the profession; secondly, public education on the role of economic development; thirdly, development of new strategies spearheading major developments; and finally, media promotion of economic development.

The program, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, hopes to foster a sincere effort to improve and develop professional conduct for Canadian economic development professionals that will lead to job and wealth creation for Canadians.

Mr Olive's efforts represent a benchmark for others to emulate. Let all of us as legislators congratulate Mr Olive on a job well done. It is through the efforts of individuals such as Mr Olive that the world will know that Ontario truly is open for business.




Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): My question today is for the Premier, but I see he's not in the House yet. The opposition was told he would be here.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): You can stand down your question until the Premier comes or put it to someone else.

Mr Duncan: I'll stand down the first question.

The Speaker: The second question, opposition.

Mr Duncan: The second question is also to the Premier, who is not in the House.


Mr Duncan: Here he is.

The Speaker: Reset the clock. The member for Windsor-Walkerville.

Mr Duncan: My question is for the Premier. Today the auditor's report condemned your decision to let the Highway 407 management and maintenance contract go without tender. It's not just any contract. We estimate its value could be in excess of half a billion dollars. Can you tell me why this contract would be let without the benefit of a public tender and how you can ensure the public will enjoy the benefits normally associated with tendering, that is, proper public accountability?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the minister can explain that.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): Certainly, as required by our collective agreement with OPSEU, the Ministry of Transportation made reasonable efforts to have the contractor make offers of employment to our workers as well. But the question the honourable member asked was: Why is this government taking this approach? This government is taking this approach to deliver the best possible service to the people of Ontario in the most cost-effective way. As far as the tendering process we have in place is concerned, certainly we have taken every precaution to make sure there was a fair process, and we've done that.

Mr Duncan: The minister obviously didn't get the question. We knew that the 407 was built as a bypass; we didn't know the government intended to use it as a bypass around the tendering process.

The auditor says quite clearly that taxpayers are on the hook for more than $1 billion. That's the fault of the New Democrats. Where you're negligent is that you took a sweetheart deal and added more sugar. By allowing the contract, a contract which could be worth half a billion dollars, you will know, as the auditor says, that you haven't gone through a proper process.

We're also interested to know that a member of the Premier's staff was going to work for the company that got the contracts involved, one Mitch Patten, the Premier's deputy principal secretary. He has announced that he's leaving the Premier's office and will be joining the very firm that was awarded the sweetheart deal. Can you tell me what role Mr Patten played in deciding to forgo the tendering process and in the whole sweetheart contract? Perhaps you'd like to throw it back to the Premier if you could.

Hon Mr Palladini: This is something the previous government initiated and agreed to do. All we've done, basically, is inherit what the previous government had negotiated. We have a contract that we must abide by. We've done just that. We've abided by the contracts that were in place in order to deliver the 407, and that's what we're doing.

Mr Duncan: The minister is clearly not in charge of his own brief. In fact we checked and it was your government that negotiated this deal, not the previous government. How could your government have allowed it to go on?

We've also heard that one Peter Clute is heading to the privatization scheme to head that up, I believe the chief of staff to the finance minister. This just confirms our worst fears about the entire privatization and is demonstrated by your own lack of knowledge and understanding on this very significant contract.

What are you doing around privatization and how are you going to ensure that the public benefits from privatization, that it's not just an effort to reward old Tory hacks, and make sure that honest companies doing business in this province can get access to government work?

Hon Mr Palladini: I can assure the honourable members that before anything does get privatized, everything will be done according to the proper processes in order to get to the delivery price.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): My question is again to the Premier. This time it has to do with recommendations from the Auditor General with respect to the Ministry of Environment and Energy. I'd like to quote to the Premier from the auditor.

"In order to properly safeguard the ecosystem and human health, the Ministry of Environment and Energy should update its standards for air pollutants. About 80% of all potentially harmful chemicals released in Ontario are released in the air. In 1992, the minister reviewed the standards for about 300 of these pollutants and determined that they had to be updated. Almost four years later, none of these 226 standards have been updated."

How does the Premier respond to this very serious concern that's been raised by the auditor on the issue of our healthy and clean environment?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I respond by referring it to the Minister of Environment and Energy.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I agree with the auditor.

Mr Duncan: Well, it's good, Minister, because your government has cut funding for the ministry by close to $88 million, one third of your entire staff. If you agree with the auditor, why did your government undertake these initiatives and what are you going to do to respond to ensure that our air and water continue to be safe and that your ministry fulfils its obligations?

Hon Mr Sterling: For the past 20 years, previous governments have ignored air quality standards and bringing them up to date. On Thursday I answered a question, and it's true, as outlined by the auditor and as outlined by the previous minister of the environment's report, in the 1992 report cited by the auditor, that these air quality standards must be updated. That's why my ministry has put forward a plan to deal with the most critical and most often used emissions in the province of Ontario. We plan to attack this problem frontally and we plan to attack it with seriousness, more seriousness than any of the previous governments have thought to do.

Mr Duncan: Your plan of attack is to attack the very people who enforce our environmental laws. Your plan of attack has nothing to do with improving the air and water quality in this province and has everything to do with gutting the very existence of government in this province and the very existence of the Ministry of Environment. That answer is absolutely shameful.

I'd like to read a little bit more from the auditor's report in case the minister hasn't had a chance to read it. It says: "Drinking water surveillance program, established in 1986: As of December 31, 1993, the program covered 120 of 490 water treatment plants serving about seven million or 70% of Ontario's population. The ministry had planned to extend the program to about 15 new plants every year. However, citing resource constraints, the ministry has added only 13 plants."

How do you jibe your answer with what the auditor's telling you? The auditor's telling you that air quality is suffering, that water quality is suffering, and that your government is not only not responding, but you're undermining our very ability to ensure that Ontarians have safe and healthy drinking water and a safe and healthy air supply. How do you respond to that and how will you ensure that these standards are enforced across this entire province?

Hon Mr Sterling: The water quality program the member refers to is an overlay of another monitoring program which is undertaken by all of the municipalities across the province of Ontario. Each municipality has the obligation to take samples of water on a routine basis, and if there is a discovery that there is a lack of quality in that water, then that is reported to the Ministry of Environment and Energy. It is at that stage that we implement the second stage of a monitoring program. Therefore, all water under municipal plants is monitored in this province, I am assured by my officials.

Quite frankly, the auditor says that we are dealing with water quality standards and soil quality standards in a satisfactory manner. If you read his report in full, you will find that. I am satisfied that we're dealing with the situation, we are dealing with the most pressing problems, and we feel we can do it with the resources we have at this time.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. Last week the Solicitor General informed us that your office was provided with a copy of a briefing note, which would have come to you on March 18, entitled Illegal Gambling, Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario Report. Did you read this briefing note or were you briefed on the contents of this briefing note by staff?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I've never read the briefing note, but I do recall being briefed on the contents, because I believe there was an article back last March or April in the Windsor paper. There was a briefing note on it and I think you may have a copy of the briefing note now. I think that was made available. There you go.

Mr Hampton: The briefing note wasn't made available; some people had to pry very hard to get it. The government doesn't want anybody to even see the report.

There's something passing strange here. Last week you were asked in a press scrum if you had heard about this report and you said you hadn't read the report and you didn't know if you should be concerned about it or not. What's unusual about that is that the issues raised in this briefing note are very clear. It says, "The purpose of this report is to identify the areas within the gaming industry that are susceptible to abuse by organized crime." Then it lists, very prominently, video gambling machines.

How could you have read the press report and had someone on your staff advise you of the briefing note, how could that happen without it raising some level of concern with you about legalized gambling and organized crime and its involvement in video lottery machines?

Hon Mr Harris: It did raise a concern with me. What I was asked was, I believe, ought I to be concerned that I hadn't read the report? I said no, I don't know that, I haven't read it. Am I concerned about the issue? Of course. Is the minister? Of course. Which is why we've responded with Bill 75. Which is why we've responded to try to get at the number of illegal machines the report refers to. The briefing I received said there are X number of illegal VLT machines out there. The report, as I recollect, says there are more illegal ones than we plan to make legal.

The report also says that we should be concerned about anti-gambling strategies, that we should make sure that the resources are there for the police. In the absence of any action -- you left such a mess, you refused to respond to any of that -- that's why, of course, we've been responding. We've received nothing but congratulations from the police and those involved for the way we've responded.

Mr Hampton: Let's see if we can cut through here. Let's see if we can cut through. Premier, this would be the briefing note that was prepared for the Ministry of the Solicitor General. This cover on it means that it went to cabinet office and that people in your office would have known about it. This is what the report says. The briefing note clearly states that "legalized gambling has never replaced illegal gambling, which has increased with interest shown in video gambling machines."

Anybody who even glanced at this casually would immediately have had a red light go off, and the red light would have signalled that there's a problem here, that merely trying to legalize video slot machines is not going to take out organized crime; in fact legalizing video slot machines is going to be a more open invitation than ever to organized crime.

So, Premier, let me ask you, didn't any of this occur to you? Didn't it occur to you that by legalizing these slot machines you might be climbing into bed with organized crime? Didn't that thought pass before your mind?

Hon Mr Harris: No, that thought has never passed before my mind. By having legal authority and control and more resources, our intention was to avoid organized crime, to avoid any illegal activity with all these forms of gambling -- with break-open tickets that you left uncontrolled for so long; with bingos, where you were a disgrace in not responding to the illegal activity taking place.

For you to suggest that the report says -- and I've not read it; maybe you've read the report. I doubt it says that getting involved in legalized VLTs would in fact invite organized crime. What I understand the report said, and as it was explained to me, it said it doesn't, all on its own, eliminate organized crime. That is why we have a whole strategy. We've asked the Solicitor General and the Attorney General for far more resources to be put into the whole area of controlling not only organized crime but all crime dealing with gambling.

Mr Hampton: I advise the Premier to read the briefing note, because it tells him that his whole strategy on video slot machines is wrong and it is an even greater invitation to organized crime than it has had before. But I suspect that's okay, because what you really want is the money.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My second question to the Premier is about the very bad announcement last week from Statistics Canada that 35,000 jobs were lost in Ontario in September. Of the job loss across Canada, three quarters of the jobs lost were in Ontario, and in fact, if you look at the notes, they acknowledge that there are 57,000 fewer jobs in Ontario today than there were a year ago at this time.

My question to the Premier is, what do you intend to do about the loss of 35,000 jobs in Ontario in the month of September?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): There was the report of the monthly statistics, which concerned us greatly, as it concerned the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister indicated he felt that the trends were positive, that this was a blip and that overall we should expect to see very positive gains. For you to stand up and say year over year -- when the same statistics say there are, I think, close to 100,000 net new jobs in the province of Ontario alone. Where you come up with your statistic of 57,000 I do not know, but Statistics Canada says all the trends are positive; Ontario is leading the way. Statistics Canada also says we're looking at 100,000 net new jobs in this province of Ontario.

Do the individual monthly statistics concern the federal government and our government? Of course they do. Any single person unemployed in this province concerns me, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure they have a job.

Mr Hampton: The reality is that we should enjoy job growth throughout the summer and we should enjoy job growth in September. The reality is that when the Americans have interest rates at an all-time low and they are pouring gasoline on their economy to create as many jobs as they can going into a US presidential election, Ontario should be creating literally tens of thousands of jobs each month.


My simple question to the Premier is this: Ontario lost 35,000 jobs in September. Three quarters of the total job loss in Canada was in Ontario. Premier, what are you going to do about the loss of 35,000 jobs in Ontario in a month when we should be creating jobs?

Hon Mr Harris: Since this is exactly the same question, the same answer applies, so if Hansard wants to repeat it to the supplementary, I'd be happy if they'd do that.

I find it passing strange that here's the leader of a party who, when he was campaigning for the leadership of the party, said: "Our first priority has to be to restore the labour relations agenda. The second priority is to get control over the economy. The third priority is to pass legislation which gives workers control over their pension funds. Finally, we need to restore the equity agenda." Nothing about jobs. You didn't seem to care about jobs, which is why we lost 10,000 jobs through your five-year mandate. Our whole agenda is to bring jobs and growth and prosperity back to Ontario, and we'll continue to work on that.

Mr Hampton: This may be news to the Premier, but having good labour relations in Ontario might mean that the auto industry would be working full-time. Having some control over our pension funds --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: Obviously I hit a nerve with the Conservative caucus. They don't want good labour relations in the province. I fear I have offended a nerve here. The fact of the matter is, if we had good labour legislation in this province, we would have fewer strikes and lockouts, we'd have more people working. You might want to think about that. Furthermore, if we had some organized strategy for the investment of pension funds, we might be using pension funds to create jobs rather than to kill them, which seems to be happening under your government.

Premier, you still haven't given us an answer. Your phoney tax scheme isn't working. Your phoney tax scheme is giving tax breaks to the really well-off, but it's killed 35,000 jobs in the month of September: jobs in the small business sector, jobs in the service sector and jobs in the construction sector. I merely ask you, since your phoney tax scheme isn't working, what are you going to do to create jobs in this province?

Hon Mr Harris: For all the puffery of the policies of the NDP, let me just set the record straight on two of them. Number one, in 1995 in Ontario there were 110 strikes during the first eight months. During the first eight months of 1996, there were 79.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Mike, unemployment is up again. Your policies are not working.

The Speaker: The member for Fort York, come to order.

Hon Mr Harris: There have been fewer strikes in the province of Ontario since our government took over and changed the disastrous labour legislation you brought in, so let's just set the record straight.

Let me also set the record straight on job creation. During the member's period, over five years we lost 10,000 jobs. To date, we have created close to 100,000 -- well on our way to the 725,000 target we set for our five years.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is to the Premier. You just said that legalized gambling will not invite illegal gambling into the province. I attended all of the meetings of the justice committee on Bill 75, and that's contrary to what any expert said, which was that any increase in gambling will also invite illegal gambling to flourish in Ontario. If you're really concerned about the infiltration of the criminal element into both legal and illegal gambling in the province with 20,000 slot machines being put in, will you withdraw Bill 75, which enables slot machines to be put all across this province?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): No.

Mr Crozier: Premier, I wouldn't have expected much more of an answer from you than that, because to pay for your tax cut, I think you have to have these video slot machines across this province.

For two weeks now, Bill 75 has been on the docket to be discussed and has been held back. I think that's prudent. I think a more prudent move, if you're really concerned about illegal gambling and what slot machines can do to the social fabric in this province, is that you would withdraw Bill 75. I give you one more opportunity to simply slough it off. Will you withdraw Bill 75?

Hon Mr Harris: Thank you very much for the second opportunity. The answer is still no.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I'd like to return to the issue of your report on child care reform and the proposals contained therein. As you know, one of the proposals is with respect to the elimination of much of the wage subsidy grant program that currently exists, and suggests that that money would be used to create 12,000 new subsidized spaces.

I'd like to understand how you arrive at that commitment, at that calculation, because as your government continues to cut transfer payments to municipalities, we in fact are losing spaces every day. I'd like to give you a couple of examples.

From the Woodstock Sentinel-Review last week, we see headlines: "Day Care Centres Closing: City Council Votes to Close Facilities in Woodstock and Ingersoll." Talking with officials there, the reason comes back to the cost pressures within the system and the absolute cut in transfers that they have experienced and their concerns with respect to that. They also have concerns about what might happen with your proposals.

That's similar to Metro Toronto, Minister, where they're looking at $11.3 million being taken out of their system, and they say your proposal would cost 10,000 subsidy child care spaces.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question, please.

Ms Lankin: Minister, I would like you to explain to us, how exactly did you arrive at this calculation of 12,000 new subsidized spaces?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd like to thank the honourable member for the question. The first thing I would like to point out about the report is that they are proposals, general directions, and that what we are now doing is getting input and consulting with those groups that are most involved in this before we make any final decisions. I think there are a number of questions and a lot of other detailed information that we would certainly need before we decide how we want to spend and finalize the proposals for the $600 million we have allocated for child care.

Ms Lankin: Minister, if you're consulting with people, you've got to give them information so they can respond to your proposals. Don't you get it? We don't understand how you can say that this proposal is going to create 12,000 new subsidized places in Ontario. Municipalities are cutting spaces every day as we speak because they no longer have the money to support their portion of the child care subsidies, their share. So if they can't take up new subsidies, if they don't have the money, we're not going to see 12,000 new spaces. In fact, we're going to see a continuation of a decrease in the number of spaces that are available to working families.

Minister, you've got a responsibility to provide some detail to people and to truly consult. We are still unable to get a list from your office of those groups that you're going to consult with. This is not a public consultation.

Tonight, Minister, I'm watching a series of hearings across this province. The first one's here in Toronto at Queen's Park at 6 o'clock. Why don't you come? I'm inviting you. Why don't you come? Why don't you listen to the presentations that are made? Why don't you talk with us in the child care community? We'd like to have you there. Minister, will you attend our hearings tonight?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I guess if the member wants to know the groups of individuals that I will be consulting, as I pointed out to her some days ago here in the House, I would urge her to look at the report, where I spent many, many months consulting with many, many groups, some of whom had never been let in the door under the previous administration. Those are the same groups that I'm going to be back consulting with.

I don't think there's any secret. I hadn't been aware that the member was bugging my office for a list that's already public, but if she'd like another copy of it, I'd be more than pleased to give it to her.

I remain committed to consulting on the child care report. I had thought that since the report came out late last summer it might not be a bad idea for the organizations to have some time to review it before I ask them for their comments. So we are now asking them for their comments and we will be listening to their input as we move through before we make final decisions on what is a very important issue.



Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. As you know, Minister, we have relied for many years on the Ontario building code to set minimum standards for health, safety and accessibility for construction in Ontario. I've heard recently that you are undertaking a review of the Ontario building code and I wonder if you could tell the House a bit more about the consultative process and what the government hopes to achieve by reviewing the code.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'd like to thank the honourable member for Kitchener for his question. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is proposing more than 650 changes to the Ontario building code so that we can encourage growth and more jobs in Ontario. What we're looking for is to create a more cost-effective building code that has the back-to-basics focus of health, safety and accessibility for persons with disabilities.

We've sent copies of our proposal to more than 1,500 stakeholders and we're looking forward to hearing from them. We ask for their comments by December 20.

Mr Wettlaufer: In my riding over the past couple of years I've been in apartment buildings and commercial buildings with inadequate access for the disabled. Yet I understand concerns have been raised that the government intends to reduce or eliminate sections of the Ontario building code that ensure access for the disabled. Would you please tell the House, Minister, whether the anticipated changes will reduce standards ensuring access?

Hon Mr Leach: Again I thank the member for the question. Nothing could be further from the truth. This government is not going to do anything that would eliminate provisions which ensure access for persons with disabilities. In fact this government is committed to improving access for persons with disabilities. The government remains fully committed to an Ontario building code that provides for full accessibility, and we have absolutely no plans to reduce the current standards.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Health. Minister, as you are aware, the Hamilton Civic Hospitals and the Chedoke-McMaster merged into the Hamilton Health Sciences Corp. This merger means that there are 8,000 employees now under the jurisdiction of this corporation.

It was reported last week that approximately 2,000, or 25%, of the total workforce in these hospitals, front-line health care workers, could be laid off as a result of your funding cuts. Can you explain to the House how you can justify the layoff of 2,000 front-line health care workers and believe that keeps your commitment of no cuts to hospitals and how it does not jeopardize the health of citizens in my community?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): That comment was made by Mr Scott Rowand, who is the new CEO of the health services corporation. Mr Rowand was former CEO of Wellesley Hospital, so I make no comment on his speculation. I don't know on what basis that comment was founded and I bet today he regrets making that comment.

Mr Agostino: I can maybe enlighten the minister on the basis that Mr Rowand made the comment. In yesterday's interview, he said the 25% loss in jobs matches the 18% cuts in provincial funding announced by the government in its economic statement: "These are the funding directions we have to work with. This is the making of the Hamilton Health Sciences Corp. It's provincial policy."

Minister, it is very clear that Mr Rowand made those comments on the basis of the funding cuts which your government has announced and his assessment of the situation where he believes that, as a result of the 18% cut that you have given to those hospitals in Hamilton, 2,000 employees, front-line workers, nurses, nurses' aides, people who work directly in the hospital will have to be laid off. It's very clear why Mr Rowand made those comments. He made those comments because of what you have told the hospital to do.

Minister, again, how can you sit there and justify these cuts and can you again explain how you believe that the loss of 2,000 jobs in the health care sector in Hamilton-Wentworth is not going to jeopardize the health care of citizens in my community?

Hon Mr Wilson: I don't know on what basis Mr Rowand justifies those comments. It's certainly not been the case to that extent in terms of displaced workers throughout the province.

We also remind members that the first major investment by this government -- in fact the largest investment in the history of modern-day health care in Ontario -- was $170 million that we made this year into community-based services to create 4,400 jobs for nurses, homemakers and other people in community-based services.

Health care is a growing field in this province as the population gets older and grows, and there will be additional jobs in community-based services. Some 3,000 nurses have already gone through or are in training through the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Panel. They're preparing for those new jobs in community-based services.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I want to introduce a former member for Hamilton West in the members' gallery, Mr Richard Allen. Welcome.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): My question is to the minister responsible for privatization. Of course, I would wish to add my congratulations to the many he has received and is still receiving on his important appointment.

We hear rumours and comments from people in the executive council in the government vis-à-vis the prospects at Ontario Hydro. I read in not one, nor two, but three papers this morning that Ontario Hydro's privatization has been put on the back burner for as long as two or three years. What Ontarians need to know, and need to know now, is, will you privatize all or some of the $42 billion in assets of Ontario Hydro? What is your timetable? When will you do it? How will you do it? Tell me.

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): I want to thank the honourable member very much for the kind words. I suspect that might be the last time I hear kind words from him in the House.

The important issue to deal with here is that before we proceed with any particular privatization candidate we need to clearly understand what the process is we're going to go through. It's important, from what we've been able to determine, that the process should be as open, honest and clear as possible so that Ontarians can understand completely how we come to our decision as it relates to any privatization candidate. Clearly we're not going to move ahead on any privatization option until we have that process set.

Mr Pouliot: It's obvious that the minister has as much difficulty giving us a straight answer as he has receiving a compliment. Farmers, small business people, people who pay for the juice, all they wish to know is, will you or will you not privatize Ontario Hydro? Stop dancing; it does not become you. Tell us the straight answer. Tell us the truth. If you don't have any plans, we will understand. If you have some plans, we want to know. Will you, yes or no, privatize Ontario Hydro?

Hon Mr Sampson: I thank the honourable member. From reading Hansard in the past, I won't take dancing lessons from him, that's for sure.

Clearly, as I said earlier, what we want to do is make sure we have a process that's fair and open. The member wants us to address candidates well in advance of the potential process being established. That's putting the cart before the horse. We will be prepared to deal with candidates once we have a process established that Ontarians can understand and that is open and fair and deals with the opportunities available to us in privatization as clearly as possible.



Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. You are aware of how important the grape and wine industry is to the province of Ontario. You also know how important the industry is to the Niagara region and to my riding in particular.

The Ontario grape growers and grape and wine industry have always brought their concerns forward in a positive and constructive manner, something I'm sure the opposition could learn from. I have a document here which the Ontario grape growers presented to the Niagara Conservative caucus with very grave concern. I might add that the member for St Catharines was in attendance at the Niagara Conservative caucus, and as a result of that meeting I know he's going to cross the floor at any time because he really believes in what our government is doing.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Put the question, please.

Mr Froese: That document states that the federal Liberal government is changing its pest management regulatory agency's approach to doing business. After reducing the agency's budget by over $14 million --

The Speaker: Order. The question has been put.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I got from that question that the honourable member for St Catharines is considering crossing the floor; I'm not sure whether that was part of the question. I believe it has to do with the harmonization of pesticides and herbicides that are of important --


Hon Mr Villeneuve: Harmonization of the pesticide industry at the federal and provincial level is being worked on as we speak. It's very important because the federal government has brought in legislation that will charge the farmers some $10 million to further analyse the residues and what have you. We believe that to treat farmers well we must harmonize, and whenever we approve at the federal level, it should be very well approved here in Ontario.

Mr Froese: I wonder if the minister could tell me and the House if he believes that there's a better way of remaining competitive while at the same time reducing costs -- doing better for less.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Of course, we all have to do better for less. The private sector has done that for a long time; governments are now starting to do it. It's important that this House recognize that indeed the federal government must recognize the research and development done in other jurisdictions such as the United States and Europe. Once they recognize that, there would be a lot less duplication and the costs to the farmer would be considerably reduced. We are supportive of this. I certainly hope that the federal government is listening and is indeed supportive of that type of action as well.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I have a question for the Minister of Labour concerning this government's latest agreement in principle with the Quebec government on construction mobility between the two provinces. You deserve congratulations for the effort you have put into this. But the grade is not as high for the final result. Late Thursday in Ottawa, during your speech at the Ottawa Construction Association, you said that Ontario's goal through these long and difficult negotiations was to achieve a more level playing field for Ontario contractors and workers. I must say that a level playing field has not been reached. Even though Quebec says it will recognize the Ontario construction workers' certification, only 10% of the Ontario workers in the residential area are unionized.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question, please.

Mr Lalonde: Very few Ontarians have an Ontario competency card. According to this agreement in principle, to work in Quebec Ontarians will still have to join a union in Quebec. Will Quebec construction workers working in Ontario have to obtain their Ontario card to work in Ontario?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): To the member for Prescott-Russell: As I indicated in my comments at the lunch in Ottawa on Thursday, I appreciated very much the efforts of all members of the eastern Ontario caucus. I think the fact that we were able to obtain a much more level playing field really was the result of many people working together.

I would indicate to you that we realize there is more that needs to be done. That's why, as soon as we had agreed in principle to the agreement -- our officials, I can assure you, are continuing to work by phone and they will be meeting to make sure that the deal is implemented. Also, we have been given assurance by the Quebec Minister of Labour that this will go through the Legislature of Quebec this fall. We are confident that there will be more equal access and that our people will be able to get jobs in Quebec.

Mr Lalonde: Minister, last Friday, the day after your speech, some contractors were furious about this agreement. They contacted the Quebec union office and were told that they still have to meet two conditions and some requirements. This was said on TV Thursday night. Minister, can you tell this House what the two conditions and the Commission de la construction du Québec requirements are that Ontario contractors have to meet?

Hon Mrs Witmer: As you well know, there was a reduction as far as the elimination of the competency exam. Our contractors no longer have to write the competency exam, and that was quite an insult to our very well qualified contractors. However, they will continue to need to demonstrate that they are indeed qualified construction contractors, so that information will need to be provided to the CCQ.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training following from comments made by his leader, the Premier, in Sault Ste Marie last week.

The Premier is quoted as saying that he was sympathetic to the holding of an inquiry into the Deluca scandal. He said, "We'd like to see if we can't get at it faster than what some are telling us is possible." What does "faster" mean? Is the ministry prepared to move forward with an inquiry into the Deluca affair immediately, or what is the time frame?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the honourable member for the question. I think all those who are familiar with the Deluca affair are saddened by it. I know that all my colleagues are and I'm sure the member opposite is as well.

I believe, as do my colleagues, that it's important that children in this province are safe in their schools. Obviously we as a government, and I'm sure every person in this chamber, would like to do anything we can to ensure that safety can be done. As the member alluded to, there is conflicting legal advice on this file.

There is currently a civil case going on. We're monitoring that civil case, and I can assure the member opposite that as soon as it is practical, we will make a decision and an announcement on a possible inquiry.

Mr Wildman: I'm afraid the minister has not answered the question. This is a very serious matter, as the minister knows. All of us are concerned about the safety of our children, both in school and outside of school. All of us recognize that an inquiry might shed light on how it was possible that a teacher could remain teaching in a system for 20 years, and subsequently we find that teacher pleading guilty to 14 counts of sexual assault. We need to know how this happened so we can ensure it does not ever happen again in any board, public or separate, across this province. What does the minister mean? When is "as soon as practicable"?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I think the member opposite has put the question well. This surely is a circumstance that's repugnant to us all. We too wonder how this could have happened. However, I'm sure that the member opposite will know from his time in government that when a matter is before the courts, ministers are limited in what can be said.

We are monitoring the situation now. We are inquiring into what time frame the civil action might take and what the appropriate actions of this government should be. I can assure the member opposite that this has my attention, certainly my concern and my deep empathy.



Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines. Minister, as you're well aware, the tourism industry in Ontario is very dependent upon the continued health of the provincial parks system. I understand that you have a new management model for the provincial parks system. Could you let us know how that model is coming along?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I'd like to thank the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay for that question. As he and the members of the Legislature know, we have over 265 parks in Ontario, some of the finest parks throughout the whole world, and we operate over 100 of those parks.

Earlier this year, on May 1, we announced Ontario Parks. It's a new way to fund our parks. What it essentially entails is that when you pay money to go in to see one of our parks, that money stays within a special account and goes towards all of Ontario's parks. The incentive now is to attract more people to use our parks, and I would encourage members of this Legislature and also the public watching to take advantage of Ontario's parks. They're the best in the world, and we want to make them better for today and for future generations.

Mr Grimmett: The supplementary question has to do with the methods of marketing that the province is now using for its provincial parks. Has the ministry considered taking out a Web site for the provincial parks marketing plan?

Hon Mr Hodgson: The member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay will be pleased to know that the answer is yes. Back in July, MNR, in our parks division, took advantage of the latest technology to promote our parks system, which we're very proud of and all the people of Ontario should be proud of. The Internet site is www.mnr.gov.on.ca. Since it was announced in July and put on the Net, 13,858 people have visited the site. This is just the tip of the iceberg of ways that we're trying to improve Ontario's parks system.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): My question today is for the Premier. Any day now you are going to be asking us in this House to approve the introduction of 20,000 video slot machines into every bar and restaurant across this province. For the last two weeks, we have been asking your government for the contents of the criminal intelligence report that warns the people of Ontario of the dangers of this introduction of video slot machines across this province. The report says that "legalized gambling has never replaced illegal gambling in this province."

Premier, when the police are giving us such a warning, don't you think the people of Ontario and their representatives, we in this House, should have that information before we give that approval?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'll refer that to the Solicitor General.

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I indicated in the House last week and when this issue was raised originally that this is a report by an arm's-length, self-regulating body, the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario. I suggest respectfully that the member opposite consider directing a question to that organization. This is not a government report, we have no responsibility for this report, and we do not have the ability to release it.

Mr Ramsay: The minister now is hanging his hat on this report, but he has seen -- as he only now admits, 30 minutes after the last question period here, finally -- a sanitized version in this briefing note of this report, and yet this minister is denying the standing committee on administration of justice of this Legislature access to this information so that we can make the proper decisions and recommendations for the people of Ontario.

Minister, you should at least be able to allow us in the justice committee, in an in camera session, to have the appropriate officials come forward and bring these concerns, or else I think it would be clear that you are suppressing this information because you have a greedy government here and you're looking for dollars to pay for your tax cut. Now give us that opportunity and let us look at that in the justice committee.

Hon Mr Runciman: We have had numerous incidents through the past history of governments of various political stripes with respect to solicitors general or ministers of the crown approaching the police or officials within the justice system and ultimately resigning because of those approaches, and governments of all political stripes have supported that there should continue to be that sort of separation between the political arm and the justice system itself.

The press comments with respect to the Criminal Intelligence Service report, as the Premier indicated earlier, were out in the media in March of this year. The committee met and, to my knowledge, did not call on Chief Fantino or any representative of CISO to make an appearance, or any member of the policing community, as I understand it. So the opportunity was there, if indeed they had this interest. I think they're looking for some political gain by raising this issue today. This is not a government report. We have no authority to release a non-government report.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Last week your ministry held meetings with people from the disabled community to discuss the income support reform project, and in particular to discuss the guaranteed support plan for people with disabilities. We've been talking to people who were at that meeting. To say they are upset is an understatement. They feel betrayed. In the proposals you put forward there is a proposal for a new definition of "disability," much stricter, much tougher. What it means is that if you proceed with this, you'll be throwing tens of thousands of people off the rolls of disability support, even under your new program, and leaving them uncovered under the system.

People raised this concern with your ministry bureaucrats who were there. They were told that the definition is being drafted in a climate of fiscal restraint --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question, please.

Ms Lankin: -- and that there are political realities to consider. Well, there are people realities to consider, those disabled people who will be cut off support.

Why don't you just be very honest with us? What is your proposal about? Is it not about finding a way to pay for the tax cut your government is giving to the wealthy, and in fact is punishing those people who are disabled in order to accomplish that goal?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): The definition of "disabled" under the proposals we have -- there is no final definition. That's why we are consulting to get the input that I think is very important before we make any decisions. The other point I'd like to make is that the definition is being looked at to be redefined in the interests of finding a definition that works better for the disabled, not in the interests of saving money.

Ms Lankin: Those people from the disabled community who were at that meeting made it very clear to your ministry that the proposal doesn't work in the interest of persons with disabilities. In fact there are many people who are currently under the category of permanently unemployable who would be thrown off the rolls of support, who would no longer have access to government support even though they couldn't go out and work, even though they couldn't qualify under other programs of the government. You're not making things better; you're just casting people off to the side. Again, it comes back to dollars and cents.

When they asked the ministry why you would be moving down this road with restrictive words like "severely" and others where you know that people will be disqualified as a result, they were told that the bottom line was a fiscal imperative and a political reality. What about the reality of those people's lives? Minister, on everything I ask you about in this House, your answer is, "It's a proposal, it's a proposal."

The Speaker: Question, please.

Ms Lankin: The people in the bureaucracy say this proposal's coming down the track like a train. It's got to be stopped. Will you commit today that you will not change the definition of "disability" in a way that will disqualify people who are currently in receipt of those supports, who need those supports, who need your government to care about them?

Hon Mrs Ecker: With all due respect to the officials who may or may not have said what the member says they are supposed to have said, they're not the ones who are making the decision on this. It's the minister, it's cabinet, it's caucus who make the decision on any changes that may or may not occur with services for the disabled. We made a commitment to the disabled that we would be designing a new income-support program to better meet their needs and we stand by that commitment.

There has been concern expressed about the label "permanently unemployable," because many members of the disabled community objected to that. They felt they were able to contribute and did not want to be labelled permanently unemployable. That also means there are some in the system who cannot be employed and have disabilities that mean they need support, and this government is committed to supporting them. We are not going to be throwing people off the system.



Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. The auditor released his report at 1:30 this afternoon and in it there are three recommendations that affect your ministry:

"Eliminate areas of...duplication of programs, services and administration between the province and the federal government; complete arrangements to ensure that timely, reliable labour market information is available and used to make effective program and resource allocation decisions; and revise funding arrangements with delivery agents to make use of more results-based approaches and to achieve savings of as much as $17 million annually."

I wonder if you could respond to these recommendations and comment on how they jibe with your current plans within your ministry.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Scarborough East for the question. We have taken note of the auditor's comments, particularly with regard to those things we have already done to improve the training system in Ontario. We've eliminated the bloated governance structure which has paralysed training in Ontario over the last few years, we've eliminated the blatantly wasteful duplication in programs, we are spending $310 million on training in Ontario and we're working very hard with our federal counterparts to make sure the two systems of training mesh for the benefit of people who require entry into the workworld. I'm very proud of our record on training.

Mr Gilchrist: In light of the fact that this report has just come out, I wonder if you can give an indication to the House of the timing for any further moves you'll make to bring into play within your ministry as many of these recommendations as possible.

Hon Mr Snobelen: We have a lot of work to do to make the kind of improvements that are necessary in our post-secondary system and in our training system in Ontario. I'm proud of the steps we've taken already. As the member probably knows, we have a discussion paper out working on what public policy should be on the future of colleges and universities. That report will come in to us in mid-December; December 15 is the timing for that report. We look to make some further progressive steps post that report being filed.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Perhaps you can help me with this; I don't know. The executive director of the Gaming Control Commission of Ontario, Duncan Brown, has been able to get a copy of the report to which we made reference in this House. We've asked the Premier about it, we've asked the Solicitor General, we've asked the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Could you explain to us how someone outside of this House --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's a good question, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: It is a good question, but the fact of the matter is that it's not anywhere within my realm to try to get that information or explain to you how to go about getting it. Maybe in a previous life I could have helped you, but as of today I can't.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I am pleased to announce in the gallery a Leaside High School grade 10 history class, including my own daughter, Leslie Ann.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): That's way out of order too, but we welcome Leaside High School.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that the following substitution be made to the membership:

On the standing committee on the Ombudsman, Mrs Ross be substituted for Mr Stockwell.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is the motion carried? Carried.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Petitions. The member for Sudbury.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Thank you, Mr Speaker --

Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I had kindly agreed to sit down, simply because you had made an error in judgement.

The Speaker: The member for Parkdale, go ahead. Petitions, the member for Parkdale.

Mr Ruprecht: I had said I was agreeable --

The Speaker: The member for Parkdale, go ahead with your petition.

Mr Ruprecht: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that new decision. I very much appreciate that.

The Speaker: Read your petition.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition that speaks to the erosion of child care services in Ontario. This petition is addressed to the assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, are firmly opposed to the erosion of the child care system. We are most particularly concerned about the unregulated child care sector, which represents the choice of most Ontario families, many living in rural areas.

"We urge this government to make its budget reduction in areas where children and families will not once again be the target of cuts.

"Family resource programs support the informal sector of child care, which includes parents caring for their own children and the care provided by grandparents, home child care providers and nannies."

I have affixed my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I continue to receive petitions from workers all across Ontario opposed to the Mike Harris government's continuing attack on workers and their rights in health and safety and workers' compensation. This petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that the 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."

On behalf of our caucus, I add my signature to theirs.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, signed by 465 students who are seriously concerned with the impact of the smoking ban, which has created numerous problems for adjacent property owners and the students themselves. The petition reads as follows:

"We, the students at the Arnprior District High School, request a designated smoking area on school property. We feel the present situation is intolerable and will eventually result in the serious injury or death of a student.

"We recognize that littering and loitering is unacceptable and would like something to be done, like having a designated spot on the school property."

I affix my signature.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My office continues to be flooded with this petition, which is of significant importance to the people of northeastern Ontario.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has recommended the closure of two acute care hospitals in Sudbury; and

"Whereas the overall number of available beds will be reduced by approximately 35%; and

"Whereas the reduction in beds will affect Sudbury's ability to remain the referral centre for health care in northeastern Ontario; and

"Whereas there will be a large number of layoffs in the health profession impacting on the quality of local health care and our Sudbury economy; and

"Whereas the global annual budget for Sudbury health care will be reduced by 25%;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to rescind the Health Services Restructuring Commission's recommendation to close two acute care Sudbury hospitals."

I affix my signature to the petition.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 2113, the Don Mills Lodge, District Lodge 78 and Airline Central Lodge 2323. The petition reads as follows:

"To Premier Harris:

"We, the undersigned, oppose any attempts 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 signature in support of this petition.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I present a petition signed by people concerned about ammunition regulations.

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

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

"Whereas the records produced as a result of the provisions of Bill 181 cannot be reasonably used to track criminals and are on many occasions across Ontario where such records are kept insecurely stored and thus available for criminal use as a shopping list of homes with firearms; and

"Whereas Bill 181 was passed without any discussion with law-abiding gun owners such as farmers, hunters, collectors and recreational shooters, those who are most affected by the legislation; and

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

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to repeal the ammunition control act, protect the rights of responsible firearms owners and work for tougher penalties against those who criminally misuse firearms and ammunition."

I support this petition and therefore affix my signature to it.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que le taux de sans-emploi au sein de l'industrie de la construction est très élevé dans toute la vallée de l'Outaouais, notamment dans la région d'Ottawa-Carleton où, selon l'International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local union 586, 43 % des travailleurs syndiqués de différents métiers reliés à la construction sont au chômage ;

«Attendu que plusieurs emplois sur les chantiers de construction de l'Ontario sont comblés par des travailleurs du Québec ;

«Attendu que les travailleurs et les entrepreneurs en construction de l'Ontario font face à de nombreuses règles lorsqu'ils veulent travailler au Québec ou encore obtenir des contrats au Québec ;

«Attendu que les négociations entre l'Ontario et le Québec au cours des 20 dernières années afin d'abolir les barrières interprovinciales n'ont pas permis d'établir une parité au sein des deux provinces ;

«Nous, les soussignés, adressons à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario la pétition suivante :

«Que le projet de loi privé, Loi de 1996 sur la main-d'oeuvre de la construction du Québec, déposé à l'Assemblée législative le 4 juin 1996 par le député de Prescott et Russell, Jean-Marc Lalonde, qui contribuera à créer de l'emploi et à protéger l'industrie de la construction en Ontario, soit adopté par l'Assemblée.»


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm very happy to sign this petition.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the Ontario government has cut back spending on all social services such as education, health care, day care and other essential programs;

"Whereas the Ontario government has singled out the most vulnerable members of our society: the poor, unemployed, women, elderly, children, sick and disabled;

"Whereas these cutbacks also attack the very social fabric of Ontario;

"Whereas the Ontario government has violated the democratic process;

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

"To demand an end to cutbacks to our social programs; to demand the Ontario Legislature invest in the future of Ontario by increasing investments to improve the wellbeing of Ontario now."

I affix my signature to that.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have further petitions from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

"We, the undersigned, oppose your government's plan to dismantle the workers' compensation system, including reducing benefits; excluding claims for repetitive stain injuries, muscle injuries, strains, sprains, stress, harassment and most occupational disease; eliminating pension supplements; handing over control of our claims to our employers for the first four to six weeks after injury; privatizing WCB to large insurance companies; integrating sick benefits into WCB; eliminating or restricting the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, WCAT, including eliminating worker representation on the board and eliminating the bipartite WCB board of directors.

"We demand a safe workplace, compensation if we are injured, no reduction in benefits, improved re-employment and vocational rehabilitation, an independent appeals structure with worker representation; that the WCAT be left intact; and that the WCB bipartite board of directors be reinstated."

I add my name to theirs.


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

"Whereas the Rent Control Act protects Ontario's 3.3 million tenants and allows for security and stability in their homes and communities; and

"Whereas lifting rent control in Ontario would leave tenants with uncontrollable rent increases and financial instability; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is considering changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act favouring easier and faster evictions by landlords;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to save rent control."

I have signed the petition.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I have a petition regarding the spring bear hunt containing over 230 signatures. It is addressed to the Parliament of Ontario and reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have a petition here that keeps coming in by the hundreds, a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Rent Control Act protects Ontario's 3.3 million tenants and allows for security and stability in their homes and communities; and

"Whereas lifting rent control in Ontario would leave tenants with uncontrollable rent increases and financial instability; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is considering changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act favouring easier and faster evictions by landlords;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to save rent control."

I affix my signature to this in agreement.



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

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario promised not to cut one penny from health care; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has proceeded to cut over $1 billion in much-needed dollars from community hospitals; and

"Whereas the people of St Catharines have come to rely upon the caring, professional service provided by health care givers at the General Hospital, the Shaver Hospital and the Hotel Dieu Hospital and who view this betrayal by the Mike Harris government as an attack on quality health care services in the Niagara region; and

"Whereas the residents of St Catharines do not accept the notion that any of its hospitals should be closed, because they are essential in order to maintain a caring and humane society;

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

"That the Ontario government keep their election promise and restore health care spending to the level at which they promised during the last election campaign so that all three St Catharines hospitals are able to continue to provide their much-needed and valuable services."

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



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of 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.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to be able to resume debate on this bill and finish the time that's left on the clock. Last Thursday, when we ended debate on this, I was talking about how to me this particular piece of legislation really addresses the wrong problem. I want to go back to some of the basic points that I think need to continue to be repeated as we look at what this bill does. For the purposes of those who are following this discussion, this is the bill that in four and a half lines essentially changes the representation to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario by making not just the boundaries but the numbers and names of those boundaries identical to the federal, ie, moving from 130 seats to 103 seats.

I have to say, as I look at this bill and continue to think about what this will do, that I see this as a pretty straightforward attack on democracy in this province. I see this as a significant erosion of the level of democracy we have in this province which, in my view, as I mentioned last week and want to reiterate today, is already in pretty significant trouble.

I know that one of the reasons the Tory members are using in their defence of this legislation is that this is showing once again, as they put it, that they are keeping the promises they made in the Common Sense Revolution. I have to say, as I said the other day, that on this one they are doing, through this piece of legislation, what they said they would do.

The question can be asked, however, why this one particular promise is being kept while other much more significant promises they made are not being kept. Therefore, why is it so important that they maintain their word to the people of the province on this bill, which reduces not just the number of MPPs but which, as I want to continue arguing, reduces the influence and level of democracy in this province?

Why are they not keeping the promise they made to the people of the province around health care, that they would not touch funding for health care, when they are taking out, over the next couple of years, $1.3 billion of health care? Why are they not keeping the promise they made to the people of the province on not reducing funding to classroom education, when we have seen the Minister of Education not once but on two significant occasions now break that promise, first in the cuts he's already put into the system of almost $1 billion, in just the elementary and secondary school panel, and then in his musings that another $600 million is going to come out of the system, and continuing to pretend that isn't hurting classroom education? Why are they not keeping their promise of maintaining funding for law and order in this province? Those are to cite but three major areas where they went out of their way to say: "We are going to keep our promises. We are making these solemn promises." Yet they are breaking them.

On this one, they want to keep their promise. So it seems to me that this whole discussion, rather than being about whether or not they're keeping their promises, really ought to be about what does this bill do. And what this bill does and why in fact they're keeping their promise on this particular piece of legislation is because what this legislation does is it shifts power. It shifts power more and more into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

That of course is quite consistent with the overall direction of this government, which, despite the promises they made on health care, on classroom education and on law and order in this province, really has everything to do with shifting wealth and power from the many across this province into the hands of a few. That's what this government is all about and that's what this particular piece of legislation does in terms of the power. It shifts that power more and more into the hands of the Premier and into the hands of the few people around the Premier.

It will make, I have no doubt about it, this Parliament even more irrelevant than it is today, because at least today there is some ability for people from across this province -- from the north, from rural Ontario, from Metropolitan Toronto and the other urban centres of the province -- to send representatives who at least, if nothing else, have the ability now and then to stand up and speak for their constituents. And I'm not talking just about the members in the opposition; I'm talking also about many of the members in the government caucus who are beginning to realize that the policies they are putting into place are not having the positive consequences they thought or were led to believe they would have. Yet we haven't seen things quite develop to the point where enough of them are prepared to speak their mind either in this assembly or outside of this assembly. They may be speaking their minds in the caucus meetings. Who knows? We certainly hear from time to time indications that this is happening.

But what this piece of legislation does is it reduces the ability of people to speak up for their constituents, and it does that not just because there are going to be fewer people from northern Ontario, fewer people from rural Ontario and, I might say, fewer people from Metropolitan Toronto; it will do that even more significantly because what this is is a clear sign that the number of people in this Legislature, people who are elected by the people of the province, don't matter, because all that matters is to make sure that you get the ear of the Premier and the two or three people around the Premier and that's how decisions are going to be made.

I want to say to the members opposite that in this I do not just leave my criticism at them. I criticize them severely for what they are doing in this bill because they are just playing into that notion of executive power. They are playing into that notion of saying, "The only person who matters in this assembly and across this province in the provincial scene is the Premier of the province and the few advisers he has around him and nobody else matters." In doing that, whether they realize it or not, they are destroying the last vestiges of power that those of us who are not the Premier have.

I speak to this as someone who has been around the area of power. I say this, therefore, as someone who has seen to some extent how it feels to be close to the centre of power and then to realize that you don't have quite as much power as you thought you did. I have to say that I am coming more and more to the realization that if we do not do something significant to change the way in which we in this Legislature operate and we in this Legislature come to this place to begin with, what we are going to be seeing is simply another major step towards the significant erosion of the legislative process and the democratic process in this province. Because it doesn't matter at the end of the day, if the process continues as it does, whether you have 103 or whether you have 130, except, as I said, for the even reduced voice of the limited voice that we now have.


It doesn't matter because if the only one who matters is the Premier and the few people around the Premier, then people could argue: "Why bother having the 130 members? We could in fact just do away with most of them." That I think is what is significantly wrong about this piece of legislation. It picks up on that thread, it continues that line and it goes very dangerously close to enshrining even more strongly than exists today that power in the hands of a few.

I have been saying and will continue to say and will continue to speak out on this and urge people to think seriously about what this is doing, hoping that we'll have a chance in committee to deal with this in a significant manner. Not that, quite frankly, I have any great hopes that the people of the Conservative caucus are going to change their minds, but hoping that people out there across the province still care enough about the democratic process to realize what is going on here and to realize that the problems that we have aren't being fixed by Bill 81 and quite frankly wouldn't even have been fixed if we didn't have Bill 81 in front of us; it just wouldn't get any worse.

What we need in this province is a real debate, a real, serious discussion about how we elect people to this Legislative Assembly in a way that that process of election reflects the wishes of the people. I have talked before about my great interest in proportional representation as providing some of the answers. I don't see it as the only solution. I think that we also need to look at ensuring that there are in fact greater abilities for members of this assembly, whether they're on the opposition benches or indeed on the government side, to be able to speak their minds more freely without running into the danger of being punished for that.

I think there are significant reforms that could be made, that would bring more democracy to this place and that would ensure that cynicism which this bill purports to deal with, that cynicism that's out there, which comes I believe much more as a result of people feeling more and more helpless, more and more unable to continue to have any influence over what their politicians do, than it does around the number of politicians we have in this place. I think that cynicism could only begin to be dealt with, we can only begin to provide some answers, if we ever have the courage to look at the whole process of electoral reform in this province. Until and unless we do that, we're just at best tinkering and at worst, as I continue to emphasize with this bill, making things even worse.

It's interesting that at the same time as we are having this discussion, we've been having another discussion in the Legislative Assembly committee around the question of referenda, where again the government of the day purports to be giving people more rights, to be giving people greater say on how to influence decision-making. I say to them, if they're really serious about that, maybe one of the first things that they want to put out for referendum is the notion of changing the electoral system. Other jurisdictions, like New Zealand, have done it. They've gone to a proportional representation system, one that ensures that the people who come to this place come here reflecting proportionately the wishes of the people other there. When people say, "That just means more and more minority governments," I say, "Show me how that isn't in the best interests of the people of this province." I am interested in pursuing this discussion, but on the broader issue of electoral reform.

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

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): In response to my colleague from Dovercourt, I listened with great interest to his speech both today and on Thursday, in addition to my colleague from Renfrew North. I appreciate there are disagreements on this bill, but I think it's important to put the motive very much on the table. I think it's very important to lead by example, that when we ask school boards to reduce their expenditures by 1.8%, that when we ask hospitals to do more with less, that we look internally at the operations of government at ministry after ministry, to say: "Listen, we need you to do more with less. We need you to make priorities." It's important that we lead by example.

What does that mean? That means that when you're looking at expenditure reductions, you as a decision-maker, as a member of the Ontario Legislature, must be part of the solution.

I think it's very important that you lead by example. How do you do that? We do that by bringing in a realistic pension scheme and getting rid of the MPPs' pension plan. We do that by cutting expenditures in this place by 20%. I think we do that, in all fairness, by looking at ourselves. In our federal Parliament, have the members provided good representation to the people of Ontario, as a rule, over the last 25 years with 99 or 103 members? I think the very clear answer is that they have. This is all about leadership by example, something that is very important, something that we haven't seen in too long.

What we're seeing is that at the federal level, for example, they're cutting billions of dollars in transfers to the provinces but aren't cutting significant amounts of money out of government administration. I think that for too long people have seen decision-makers in government exempt themselves from any reductions and haven't seen real leadership by example to say, "The buck is going to stop here, we're going to provide leadership by example and we're going to be the ones to bite the bullet." I think it's a very important message to send to the taxpayers of Ontario that we can do more with less.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I congratulate my colleague from Dovercourt for raising a number of important points, one of which is on proportional representation, which for me has always been an interest. He has expressed that many countries have that system, and I think that guarantees to many a voice they otherwise wouldn't have in their parliaments or legislatures, wherever they are. That's a theme we should explore and give more thought to, and my colleague from Dovercourt has been one of the few who has raised it consistently. I'm not sure that there's an interest by many in the Legislature to do that in this province, but at least my colleague has had the courage to raise it as a matter of interest. I hope that if there's interest on the other side, in general with the population, we'll be able to explore it.

The other matter he raised that I think is an important one, which the opposition doesn't seem to want to touch, is how this shifts power away from the members into the hands of the Premier, because this is what it really does. The member for Nepean speaks so happily about leadership and having to cut members, as if that were a great thing, but he doesn't really explain how that is going to be helpful to the various constituencies all over the province. From everything that previous speakers have said, it's not going to help the constituencies whatsoever -- I will be expounding about this -- but it will take power away from members and shift it to the Premier and to his staff and to some of the cabinet ministers.

If the member for Nepean thinks that's democracy, I think he's dead wrong and I think he knows that and the other members of his caucus know that. I'm not quite sure how much democracy there is in their own caucus to begin with. It would be of interest for me to hear some of their members comment on the particular democracy they have in their own caucus.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'm delighted to participate in this historic and significant initiative, the Fewer Politicians Act. First and foremost I would like to commend the Premier of Ontario for once again listening to the concerns of Ontario voters and honouring another campaign commitment. This law will reduce the cost and size of government.

This legislation is, as well, a bold new step. We are creating new frontiers of representation where direct democracy is enhanced with the principle of one person, one vote. We are reaffirming that principle.

The city of Etobicoke, the leading edge of Metro, will be directly affected by this legislation. Today there are four Progressive Conservative MPPs representing Etobicoke. Because of this legislation, after the next election there will be three MPPs.

I tell you that we made a promise to the people of Ontario. Although it would be easy to break a promise, as we happened to see so often with the members opposite, we won't do that. We promised taxpayers that we would save them money. Time and again we have delivered on these promises. We have delivered in many ways -- tax cuts first, the elimination of MPPs' gold-plated pension plans, and above all, we promise that we are going to deliver once again with this piece of legislation, the Fewer Politicians Act.

For the past 10 years, Ontarians have said that they are overgoverned, overrepresented, overtaxed, and they feel that every level of government has become too gargantuan, too costly and --

The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired, sir. The member for Renfrew North.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to congratulate the member for Dovercourt for his remarks. Again, I think there is a confusion in this debate as between the Legislature and the government. Bill 81 seeks to reduce by 20% the size of the Legislature. I have observed before, and let me do so again, that people who have looked at the Canadian and the Ontario political scene and political cultures have observed that one of the very serious problems is the imperial Prime Minister and the imperial Premier, with altogether too much power. There is nothing in Bill 81, as the member for Dovercourt points out, to deal with that. If you are concerned about too much government, it seems to me you've got to be concerned about the kind of concentrated power that rests with the first minister and his or her unelected advisers, whether that person be Davis, Peterson, Miller or Harris. That's executive government. That is where real decision-making takes place in our system.

I pointed out the other day -- let me do so again -- that in 1990 it only took 37.5% of those who went to the polls to elect Premier Rae. There is absolutely nothing in the Harris electoral manifesto, including Bill 81, to deal with that problem.

The member for Dovercourt asks us to think about electoral reform. I think we ought to concern ourselves with electoral reform if we are concerned about too much power where it really counts. Getting rid of 20% of the Legislature doesn't in any way, shape or form affect the Cabinet Office and the Premier's office. I say to my friend from Dovercourt that last week's results in New Zealand and the traditional electoral results in Israel ought to give one pause about how far we ought to go with proportional representation, but there is a problem that Bill 81 does not deal with.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Dovercourt, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Silipo: I appreciate very much the comments and I wish there were more time because I think it's when we get into these exchanges that we begin to see to what extent we either are clear in explaining ourselves or are heard in what we say.

This is not, I say to the member for Nepean with all due respect, to me a question of leading by example. I appreciate that in a government that's cutting everything, every kind of service around, you need to show that you're also cutting the number of MPPs. Fine. If you have to do that because you want to show at least some consistency there, do it, but that doesn't resolve the fundamental problem that we have in terms of the lack of power that this assembly has over the government. I say that in this instance, but I could have said that -- and in fact I think I did say it the other day -- in talking about all other governments, so I'm not making a comment aimed just at Mike Harris, although Mike Harris is giving us lots of examples that I could use.

Therefore, I appreciate very much the comments of the member for Renfrew North as he reminds us about the difference, and that's exactly the point I've been making, which is that in order to have greater democracy, in order to really have the wishes of the people respected and reflected in an ongoing fashion, not in a symbolic way once every four or four and a half years, you need to have a system which keeps the Legislative Assembly uppermost, which keeps the Premier and the government of the day truly accountable to this institution. This is all we have, and that's why I continue to believe that a system of proportional representation at least gives us that sense because it gives people a greater ability to influence. Yes, it maybe makes things a little messier, but it's more democratic. It really is much closer to the one person/one vote that the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale says he wants to get, so I'll continue to talk about that.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Hastings: The members of the opposition keep talking about the need for fundamental electoral reform. I would simply reiterate and like to continue that this is one of the major ways of achieving fundamental electoral reform, despite what they claim opposite.

If you look at the numbers, at the actual situation, when we came to government there were 130 members in this Legislature. Once the Fewer Politicians Act has been implemented we'll be reduced to 103. We made this a commitment. It means that 27 fewer MPPs will be billing: less salary, less overhead, fewer staff and other related costs. If those aren't important items, the taxpayers of Ontario will remind you that the contrary reality is true. This move will save taxpayers an estimated $11 million annually. That money stays with the taxpayers of this province. Indeed, Ontario's chief elections officer estimates that we will save an additional $2 million by matching the federal riding boundaries.

We know from experience that the Liberal Party's solution to these problems is to simply add more politicians, more bureaucracy and spend more money. That spend, spend, spend policy has only increased our debt load and our deficit to the point that our children and grandchildren are going to be paying for the opposition party's mismanagement for decades to come.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon, please, only one is entitled to deliver a speech. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Hastings: When I go door-knocking each weekend, people tell me that government has become too expensive, too cumbersome and way too unresponsive to the needs of our citizenry. In response, we have achieved four significant, specific changes: appointed the smallest cabinet in Ontario's history in the last 30 years; reduced the internal administrative costs by $200 million; scrapped the MPPs' gold-plated pension plans and tax-free allowances, further reducing their pay and saving even more money for taxpayers; reduced by $80 million to date the costs of running agencies, boards and commissions. Furthermore, we've imposed strict limits on government advertising.

To me, Bill 81, along with the measures we've just mentioned, proves once again that this government is not afraid to make the challenging decisions that have to be made. We have never chosen the path of least resistance, like the two previous regimes, and we are not going to start now.

Naturally the opposition are very upset, because they do not like the idea of the Harris government saving taxpayers' money. Liberal leader McLeod is a good example, and has publicly stated that to solve this problem she'd probably introduce a More Politicians Act, more representation. How exactly are we going to pay for more politicians? If the Liberals were in power, they would just raise taxes once again.

Ask the member for York South, in the leadership campaign they're undergoing, what he would do if he was elected the leader of their party. A Kennedy quotation is rather insightful and refreshing. Mr Kennedy, asked the question what he would do about this situation: "I would just raise taxes if necessary." It sounds like the same old Grit song except it's sung by a newer Grit from over the way.

Other members from the opposition benches claim the new ridings to the north will be so large that they could not adequately service all their constituents' needs. I just can't buy into that argument. Both the Liberals and the NDP support more government spending, higher taxes, more debt and deficit. You can see it in their answers every day to every situation. It's rather refreshing to see that their federal brethren in Ottawa at least, federal MPs, seem to manage very well in serving their constituents.

My response to them would be that if any opposition MPP feels he or she can't do the task, can't live up to the commitment of the task, then we'll get the Premier to have more Tories running in northern Ontario and they will undertake the task.


I want to reiterate one final point, other than just the enormous savings to the Ontario taxpayer, and that is that the Fewer Politicians Act also recognizes the principle that northern Ontario is unique. Under this plan, northern Ontario has been allotted two more ridings than it would have under a pure representation by population arrangement. An overwhelming majority of my constituents support our government's plan to reduce the size and cost of government. In fact, one of the local media, the Etobicoke Guardian, supports our government's initiative, saying that it sets the stage and an example for other governments and bureaucracies to follow the same course of action. It is a leading periodical in the city of Etobicoke and sets public opinion and knows what trends are coming up.

Finally, I think this legislation is not only the right thing to be doing but is the best thing we could be doing in terms of advancing the cause of smaller and affordable government in the province of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm glad to have the opportunity to respond to the remarks by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. Clearly, we're seeing a perfect example of how somebody from this part of the province in southern Ontario does not understand northern Ontario, and obviously is reading words written by somebody else as well, I might say. It's interesting too, because if you go back and you find some quotes by his colleague Ernie Eves -- there was a debate on this issue back in 1987 -- Mr Eves is stated as saying: "In fact, a round trip from the town of Parry Sound to the town of Deep River is an eight-hour undertaking. It goes without saying that this travel time alone would render effective representation by one MPP very difficult, if not virtually impossible." That's Mr Eves speaking almost 10 years ago.

Let me make it very clear to the member: Those of us in the north are very capable of handling our ridings and dealing with them in a very effective way, and we're very proud of what we can do. The problem may be in terms of constituents being able to get to us. When you have a riding such as Thunder Bay, such as Port Arthur which will become Port Arthur-Nipigon, we understand, we're talking about adding eight other communities -- Nipigon, Red Rock, Geraldton, Longlac -- a whole number of communities that we will make every attempt to meet and greet and go and see, but it's a question of them being able to get to us and the member obviously does not understand that and obviously has no idea about the reality of distances, the reality of even literally trying to reach us by a 1-800 number.

We are more than capable of handling our ridings. We will continue to handle our ridings in a very effective fashion. But it's very clear that by reducing the number of ridings in northern Ontario from 15 to 10 they are simply trying to reduce the voice we can put across to northerners, the voice we want to send along down here to Queen's Park.

Clearly the member here has no understanding what the reality of distance and geography does to our constituents, but please be assured our voices will be just as loud and clear. We will fight just as vigorously, but by no means will this be as fair a setup for the people we represent.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I want to emphasize in response to the member that the comments that are being made on this side of the House are not being made on behalf of members of the Legislature; they're being made on behalf of the members of our constituencies, our constituents, the people who live in Ontario.

The member makes the argument that by doing this we are cutting government. We are not. We are cutting the Legislature. He says we will be saving money. He points out $11 million and perhaps another $2 million. But I think it's important, as has been said previously in this debate, to recognize that this is a companion piece. The other piece of legislation that is coming later is on referenda. The argument is being made that because of advances in technology the electors out there should be able to make decisions directly, by direct democracy, by voting on the issues of the day that are of utmost importance. The point is that this does not save money. The point is that a referendum at minimum would cost between $23 million and $40 million, according to Mr Bailie, the chief election officer. In one referendum you spend at least twice as much as you save in this whole process of lowering the number of seats. So it isn't about saving money.

What we're talking about is how we properly represent the people of Ontario and how the people of Ontario properly have a say in the decisions of government. It can be argued that direct democracy is the way to go, but if that is the agenda, then it is not an agenda about saving money. Government, legislatures, democracy cost money. The question is, how do we get the best representation for that money?

Mr Conway: It has been much said in this debate that what the Ontario Conservative government of Mr Harris has done is precisely what the federal parliament did in its most recent Representation Act. That is not true in one very important respect. In its most recent federal redistribution the Parliament of Canada, in my view quite properly, made specific allowance for large areas like the territories and rural communities like Prince Edward Island. It was that calculation that was clear.

Prince Edward Island, for example, was guaranteed four seats with the so-called senatorial clause. Prince Edward Island has 132,000 people. The Yukon and Northwest Territories are guaranteed three seats in the federal proposal, though they've only got 95,000 people in the two territories. My point is that the federal plan made at least some considerable allowance for one of the fundamental realities of Ontario and Canadian life, namely, geography.

I accept entirely that geography alone is not to determine the electoral map -- there must be a very real regard for representation by population -- but I say again that the federal redistribution made some reasonable effort to come to terms with the very real problems and pressures of Canadian geography. We make no provisions for our own Prince Edward Island and for our own Yukon Territory. That is my major complaint with Bill 81, and let me say that we as a Legislature, and you as a government, play with fire if we fail to understand the regional imperative in the Canadian political culture.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Our colleague the member for Renfrew North, as is the Liberal wont, has come down on both sides of the issue, and that can be very painful, I'm sure. The bottom line is that the only reason the non-partisan federal electoral commission recognizes such dramatic inequities as the number of seats in Prince Edward Island is because they are entrenched in the Constitution and in its predecessor. The bottom line is that there are no similar constraints anywhere else across Canada outside of the Maritimes, and so it is a totally flawed argument to suggest that because things are messed up in Prince Edward Island we should continue to have complete foulups here in Ontario.

The bottom line is that there is a consideration. They did make allowances for the geography in northern Ontario. A strict representation by population would have had nine seats; there are instead 11. That is an 18% allowance. If your suggestion is that the people in southern Ontario should have their vote depreciated by even more than 18%, then please come out and articulate that clearly. To couch this in terms of noble rhetoric about the Northwest Territories and Prince Edward Island has absolutely nothing to do with the distribution of population throughout Ontario.

The fact of the matter is that the greatest variance under the new boundaries will be a ratio of from 1 to 1.4. As it stands right now, the ratio is from 1 to 5. There are ridings in northern Ontario where members have five times the voting power per person that somebody in, say, Markham or Woodbridge has. I don't think the people in the towns of Markham and Woodbridge should have their vote depreciated just to make allowances of the extent that are being proposed by the other two parties. An 18% differential obviously recognizes the different costs and the different time considerations for members in the north, and that's allowance enough.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, you have two minutes.

Mr Hastings: It's interesting to note that members opposite can't seem to get their arguments straight. For example, they claim that we represent constituents or voters. Fine, that's a good starting principle. But we do not represent geography. We do not represent the Canadian Shield. I've never had a letter, and I don't think any of the members opposite ever had a letter, written by somebody that is the Canadian Shield or rock itself. Really, really nonsense.

Mr Wildman: Did you ever have to travel across it, you moron?

The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Algoma, please.

Mr Wildman: I withdraw the remark, Mr Speaker.

Mr Hastings: For somebody who comes from southern Ontario it might be rather revealing if the members opposite listened a little more. For example, in terms of distance, I have been in northern Ontario countless times and therefore I would suggest we're a little more intellectually connected than perhaps even the member for Algoma. It takes 21 hours to drive, almost without getting out of your car to get gas, from Thunder Bay to Toronto, if you had to do it and do it within the speed limit, and I've done it at least twice. In terms of distance and representation, we're intimately understanding of the geography of northern Ontario.

It seems passing bizarre that the members opposite, especially the member for Algoma, speak about the Legislature as if it were some separate, independent and isolated component of the whole governmental process when it is part of government. It makes decisions. He's been here for at least 22 years. He was a minister so he was part of the executive council. Is he arguing that the executive council isn't even part of government, part of the bureaucracy? They're all interconnected.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Peter North (Elgin): This is an ideal time to jump into this particular debate. I want to speak to this debate because I think it's important to understand that withdrawing the services of 27 rural and northern ridings in this Legislature has substantial drawbacks. The government argues that this is a major cost saving, that this was a promise and that if it's good enough for the feds, it's good enough for us. Why should we be different?

I believe there are substantial differences between the federal and provincial governments. Federal issues, by their very nature, have become very limited. As provinces continue to wrest control of various programs and responsibilities, federal jurisdiction will become even more limited. With that limited responsibility comes a federal riding redistribution to deal with those issues and constituents appropriately.

Provincial politicians are dealing with more issues than ever before. They are dealing with municipal government more than ever before. Members are inclined to deal with all these issues on a much more constrained member's budget. I find it difficult to believe that adding 20,000 to 25,000 constituents to a member's caseload in these circumstances will go any measure towards grass-roots representation.

Having spoken with one particular constituent in the past few days on this particular issue, I want to reiterate his concerns with regard to the issues:

"Everywhere I call I get voice mail. As the government consolidates more systems into less, I continue to find myself more distance from government. Yet I pay more. Does this mean I'll get voice mail at your office too? Well, I guess it makes sense when you withdraw as many services as they are from rural and northern Ontario. What would you need a voice in rural or northern Ontario for in their minds? A voice that no longer exists."

Many of the members I have spoken to on the government side tell me, "Pete, this was a promise we made in the Common Sense Revolution and we intend to keep our promises." I understand what you're saying completely, because like you I have made promises myself to my constituents -- not to the party, not to the leadership, not to the government, but to my constituents. I believe that beyond anything else the people who put us here matter most. For this government many of the people who put them here were from rural Ontario. Although you can say that you told them you were going to decrease the number of MPPs by 24% in your rural economic development document, reading this document filled with many more promises of rural Ontario's greater voice certainly doesn't leave them with the impression you would eliminate the very voice you were asking them to elect.

I want to read something to you. It says here, "The feeling of frustration and alienation is intense in rural Ontario." Probably some of the fellows on the other side will recognize this particular document.

"Residents feel their concerns are being ignored, and policymakers in distant urban areas have no understanding of the real issues. Decisions are frequently being made for the benefit of the greater Toronto area and do not adequately reflect the realities of smaller Ontario municipalities.

"In response to the growing discontent in rural Ontario, the Mike Harris Task Force on Rural Economic Development was launched in August 1993. This report is the result of townhall forums across the province and expresses the grass-roots concerns of all interests in rural Ontario -- farmers, small business people, educators and municipal politicians.

"Rural Ontario is affected by decisions at every ministry and at every level of the provincial government. Policy developed by the ministries of Education, Municipal Affairs, Health and the Solicitor General has far-ranging and significant impact. Residents told the task force of an increasing tendency of government to formulate `Toronto-based' solutions to the problems of rural areas. We have attempted to highlight these issues and to outline our commitments to deal with these problems effectively."

It's quite ironic when you read these words in this particular document and then you see what we've come to today. Which promise do you think matters more to the people of rural Ontario and northern Ontario: the Fewer Politicians Act or a greater voice in this Legislature? Incidentally, maybe they can answer that themselves in this very document:

"The message from rural Ontario has been quite simple -- a succession of Liberal and NDP governments has failed to address their concerns. Agriculture and other vital components of the rural economy have been ignored. The present system of government is not functioning and needs to be fixed.

"We have heard your message and are prepared to do something about it."

This is the commonsense way of fixing government that doesn't function. This is the message that you've heard: "Elect me, and I'll do away with your riding"? I don't think so. I think what you heard is closer to what was quoted in the sidebar in this document, and it says here: "Many people told the commission that rural Ontario is angry and disappointed. They said they thought rural Ontario was left out of decision-making and was estranged from provincial government processes in Toronto." That's a quote from New Planning for Ontario: The Final Report of the Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario.

If you truly want to hear what it is rural and northern Ontario think of this issue, give them the chance to speak; to speak to more than just half a line in your campaign document. Let them speak to you, the government, now, and give all members of this assembly the same chance to speak to the legislation. Take the legislation to public hearings. After you've heard what the people have to say, give all members the necessary opportunity for a free vote in this Legislature. That, I think, is listening, and that is certainly grass roots.

The government also suggests that there will be major cost savings here. I'd be quite interested in knowing exactly what those amounts will be. I don't think there's actually any way of predicting what those amounts will be or the savings or the costs. I am certain the costs will be felt and understood soon enough in rural and northern Ontario. The feeling of frustration and alienation will be even greater as constituents travel even farther to see their MPP. Some communities will simply lose the member's office that may have been there for many, many years, drawing people to that particular community for the member's services and other spinoff economic activity that was associated with that visit to town.

I find it interesting that the government would suggest that we lead -- and we heard it here again today -- by example, that we start at the top. Certainly, in this particular place, starting at the top, if you are on the government side, you should be starting with government.

So I say to you, Mr Speaker, they say all of this -- "We'll start from the top down" -- and then they go on to talk about dropping MPPs and, more importantly, their ridings. Yet, in the same instance, they leave parliamentary assistants in place and they leave caucus services in place. I would gamble to say that if you were able to explain those particular services, those particular areas, to the people of this province and measure them against the ability to have members in their ridings, I am sure they would pick members first.

I also want to say I think it's important that people understand some of the other expenditures of this place. One of them, which will probably not make me very popular in this place today, is the rebate you get during an election campaign. All members and all candidates will know that there's a certain rebate that is disseminated from the government and from the provincial coffers if you reach 15% of the electoral vote. I'll tell you, if you were to take that amount of money and put that against this cut we're making here as far as members go, there would be a substantial saving. I think the people of this province would prefer to have MPPs rather than to have their hard-earned tax dollars going back to the parties of this province.


It's important that people understand in this place and out there in the province of Ontario how important it is to have representation. Representation is very hard to come by. In this place, it is very difficult for members of the opposition to be involved in government the way they would like to be and to be involved in the decision-making process the way they would like to be. I can tell you, having been in a number of different seats in this Legislature, that it is even much more difficult as an independent member of this Legislature to participate in any fundamental way.

I say to you in closing that I hope this government will keep in mind that in the view of most people in this province this should be public policy, not government policy. As the members before me have said, this is and should be about electoral reform, and that in itself should be considered public policy, not government policy.

I hope everyone has the opportunity to participate in this particular debate, and I hope everyone across this province has the opportunity to understand what the ramifications of this decision are, and that they will participate in any opportunity for public hearings and encourage their members in their particular ridings to push for a free vote on this legislation. It's vitally important that this House be perceived as a House for all Ontario. During the go-round with this particular document, the Mike Harris Task Force on Rural Economic Development, you identified a perception that this was not a House for all of Ontario and you campaigned on it. You talked of grass roots; you talked of common sense. Taking someone's voice and their vote from them is neither of those.

I thank you for the time, Mr Speaker.

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): The member has talked about his concern for rural Ontario. I share that, in the diminished voice that will come forward because of Bill 81, and I also have those same concerns for northern Ontario.

He spoke extensively from the Mike Harris Task Force on Rural Economic Development. "Many people told the commission that rural Ontario is angry and disappointed. they said they thought rural Ontario was left out of decision-making and was estranged from provincial government processes in Toronto." Bill 81 is not going to enhance the rural voice. Most clearly, it will not.

It's interesting to note that the people who were involved in this task force were Noble Villeneuve, Bill Murdoch, Al McLean, Leo Jordan, Chris Hodgson, Ernie Eves and Dianne Cunningham, and the Premier himself signed it. At the time, they had a concern for rural Ontario, no doubt, as they went door to door, kitchen to kitchen and hall to hall in all those communities. By introducing Bill 81, I believe the rural Ontario voice will be diminished, most clearly. I hope to speak on that further, but I concur with the member for Elgin in his opinion that rural Ontario is going to suffer because of the democratic withdrawal of its voice in the Parliament of Ontario.

Mr Wildman: I want to congratulate my friend from Elgin on his remarks. I want to emphasize to members of the House that obviously we're elected to represent our constituents, but we are also elected to represent the best interests of the whole province. That means we have to weigh a bill like this very carefully in making a decision on how we should vote. For that reason, I think it's rather intriguing that the member, as an independent member, would suggest there should be a free vote on a bill like this. I must say, I have some sympathy with that point of view. I would hope that such a vote would free up members opposite who represent rural constituencies, such as my friend the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, who in the past has been quite vociferous in this House in saying that not only should we not cut back on the number of rural ridings, we should actually either maintain the status quo or increase the number of rural ridings.

I'm not sure that would be fair in terms of rep by pop. Rep by pop is a very important issue we have to deal with, but we also have to take into account geography. To argue that somehow, by taking into account geography, we are diminishing the value of a vote in urban Ontario I think is to indicate that a member from urban Ontario who voices that opinion is not properly taking into account his responsibility to make decisions on the basis of what is good for the whole of the province, not just for his urban constituents. I also argue, though, that it is the responsibility of members representing rural constituencies to consider rep by pop, but there has to be a balance. It cannot be just one or the other.

Mr Gilchrist: I'd just like to make a brief comment in response to the address by the member for Elgin. Unfortunately the math does not hold true when we're talking about the change in the percentage of seats in this House. While there is no doubt, obviously, that when you reduce from 130 to 103 members there will be a reduction in the absolute number of seats in every part of the province, the fact of that matter is that the biggest loser is Metro Toronto. We have 1.7% fewer seats, as a percentage of the seats in this Legislature, after the redistribution than before.

Across the rest of Ontario no other region comes close to that. In most regions of Ontario, depending on exactly how finely you want to define a region, the change is so close that the addition of one seat either way makes it a plus or minus. In some areas it's up 0.2% of the seats here, in others it's down 0.4%, and I'm sure that no member is going to indulge time of this House debating on one seat one way or the other.

But the bottom line is that the biggest reduction, as a percentage of the seats that are in this chamber, is Metro Toronto. If anyone could be making a case of greater workload, of greater ability to get around and represent their constituents and meet their constituents, it would be the members from Metro Toronto. The area with the greatest growth is the GTA.

Mr Wildman: Would they go up?

Mr Gilchrist: They should go up. Right now there are ridings with 150,000 people, and yet in the north we have ridings with only 19,000 voters and about 26,000 people. Clearly, with inequities like that, there has to be a restoration of some semblance of balance. There will be a period of adjustment, no doubt, but as we said in response to the last comments, there still is an 18% allowance, a differential that's built in there for the member from northern Ontario.

Mr Conway: The member for Scarborough East makes a very compelling argument for the government case, and I want to congratulate him for that. But he also reminds me -- you know, the senior Senator from Georgia, Sam Nunn, is retiring -- he was saying the other day about the Gingrich crowd that came to Congress a couple of years ago, "You know, them young Turks, while they're often wrong, they're never in doubt." I think there's a little bit of wisdom in that.

I think, to be fair to the member from Scarborough, he and the member for Elgin used a very important word: "balance." The member from Scarborough is absolutely right when he points out that in recent years it's taken, I think, something like seven times the number of people in Markham to elect a member to this Legislature as it does in the electoral district of Rainy River. That is out of balance and unfair and it ought to be dealt with, and I hope there is an agreement on all sides that we want to deal with that.

But this proposal, Bill 81, gives us an electoral district, for example -- I don't know what it's called but it's a revised Algoma-Manitoulin -- that will reach, in the south from Killarney to the north at Manitouwadge, 450 miles. There is simply no way to imagine effective representation in a region like that. I say to my friend from Scarborough and anybody else that there must be a balance between population and geography. There isn't a federation in the developed world that doesn't take this into account.

Need I state the obvious? In the great American republic, yes, there is a rep by pop lower House, but Idaho and California each have two senators in the enormously powerful decision-making upper House of that federation, or of that structure -- I shouldn't call it exactly a federation. It's a clear recognition. That's the US Senate. So balance between rep by pop and geography, please.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Elgin, you have two minutes.

Mr North: First of all I want to thank all the members who spoke just a few minutes ago: the member for Essex-Kent who spoke again, as he always does eloquently, of rural Ontario and puts forward a strong voice for the Liberal caucus for rural Ontario; the member for Algoma who, in this new setup, probably will go into his riding never to be seen again, with a riding that size; the member from Scarborough East, who talked about Metro, the Toronto area, as the biggest loser.

I think people from rural Ontario and northern Ontario and probably a few members of your own caucus, like the fine gentleman who sits in front there, the Minister of Agriculture, would have a difficult time ever believing that Toronto has been the biggest loser in any circumstance. I think they've done fairly well over the years, and the representation has always been fairly good in this particular Legislature for those people.

The member for Renfrew North brought up a number of very important points starting this debate a few days ago and continues to bring up and reconcur with his points with regard to how the electoral process in this particular province works and perhaps does not work.

I feel very strongly about this. I think this is very much a public policy and I feel very strongly that it's the people of the province who should decide this. In some ways it's intriguing, or perhaps ironic, that on one side of this discussion we're talking about diminishing the numbers of members, but more important, diminishing the number of constituencies, and on the other side we're talking about referenda. As was said earlier, it would be interesting to see this come to a referendum, because in their hearts I think the people of this province feel very strongly that when they want to speak to their MPPs, they want them to be there to represent them.

Mr Gravelle: I'm pleased to be able to rise to speak on Bill 81, which, as you know, has quite a formal title but is commonly being called, by the Premier and the government side, the Fewer Politicians Act. The truth is that it should really be called the Make the Northern and Rural Ridings Disappear Act, because that's exactly what it's all about. The 27 fewer seats that will result at the end of this are ridings that represent rural and northern areas almost completely.

The example I want to use, and there are so many, is the one of Lake Nipigon. It's an example of a riding that has communities such as Nipigon, Red Rock, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Marathon, Geraldton, Longlac and Beardmore. They're now being told they no longer deserve their own riding. They will now be melded into the Port Arthur riding, which I represent.

Certainly whoever represents this large new riding will have his or her hands very full, but the Premier should understand one thing: He can reduce our ridings but he will never reduce our fury at a government that has systematically gone about the process of abandoning the north. This bit of legislation is but another attack on those of us who represent the north. By reducing the number of seats in northern Ontario from 15 to 10 the Premier may think he will quiet the opposition to the thoughtless decisions he's making that are hurting us so grievously in the north, but he is sadly mistaken. We know what is best for us in the north and we know what will work for us. Despite his attempts through this bill to quiet us, he will not be successful.

Of course, it would help if we had a Minister of Northern Development who actually represented the interests of the north.

Mr Wildman: Who's he?

Mr Gravelle: Mr Phantom. We have learned that his job is not to protect the interests of northerners but simply to help implement the crushing decisions of his boss. There are so many examples I can give in terms of what this minister himself has not done for the north. I want to give a few examples, if I may, Mr Speaker.

Let's begin with health restructuring. The restructuring commission has bulldozed across the north, hit Thunder Bay and Sudbury. The Minister of Northern Development and Mines has not spoken one word about it. He has in no way represented the interests of the north. We have had hundreds of people writing him about this, asking for his response. In fact, a former northern development officer in Thunder Bay, Mr Bev Young, has written him with a very well-thought-out letter and asked for responses and this has not happened. So certainly we have not been very pleased by that.

But the list goes on and on. If you look at the Ministry of Natural Resources, a layoff of 2,100 people in northern Ontario; a 45% cut to the ministry staffing coming from northern Ontario. The Minister of Northern Development has not spoken up, has not done anything to defend the north. Closure of provincial parks, 11 provincial parks in northern Ontario; closure of the environmental lab in Thunder Bay -- and we've learned since this lab was closed that it's now going to cost two, three, four or five times as much for the private labs to do the business. It's going to cost more.

The minister has not spoken up on this. The minister will not protect the north. He's just got a job to do and he's a yes man for it. Closure of fire bases in northern Ontario: We saw very recently this past spring when the fires broke out in northern Ontario, that indeed there was no effort made to hire the thousands of northerners, especially in northwestern Ontario, who simply could have done the job. Instead, millions of dollars were spent to bring in firefighters from other provinces and from the United States when indeed northerners could be used. The minister is simply not there representing us. So much for the document A Voice for the North.

What is quite ironic too is the position taken by this government on the issue of redistribution when they were in opposition. We have some quotes here that have a very peculiar and familiar ring, and it's really quite fascinating. I really do want to read some of them. I won't read them in great detail, but I did in my earlier response and I think it's significant who the members were who were speaking.

Number one quote: "Rural and northern Ontario must have more, not less, representation" -- our present Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Those were the comments from him in 1987.

"There is the question of travel...I don't think the workload is being properly recognized by this process" -- the member for Leeds-Grenville in 1987 in Hansard.

"Other interests, like community commonality, have been ignored" -- the Premier of the province, the member for Nipissing, extraordinary, back in 1987.

And this quote, which I think is really quite extraordinary -- and I don't think I would feel this way, but certainly I look forward to representing my riding as vigorously as ever, regardless of the size. This quote is: "It goes without saying that travel time in large rural ridings would render effective representation by one MPP very difficult, if not virtually impossible" -- the member for Parry Sound in 1987; extraordinary comments, to say the least.

Mr Wildman: He was speaking the truth then.

Mr Gravelle: Well, if you think he was speaking the truth, that's very interesting as well. We know we can handle the job. This government continues to want to just simply quiet our voices and it certainly isn't going to happen.

On the issue itself of the decision to meld the provincial ridings with the federal boundaries, I think it's important to point out that there certainly is a difference in terms of the workload. I must say while I preface this, I formerly have worked for a federal member of Parliament and I began my career in fact many years ago in doing that and have very recently done so and I have great respect for the amount of work they do, and I in fact know the level of work they do.

But there is very little question, in terms of the day-to-day activities of what goes on in terms of the constituency offices, that the load on the provincial level is pretty extreme and pretty extraordinary, especially when we have to respond to what this government is doing.

But I would like to take this opportunity to at least read a paragraph from an editorial from the October 3 edition of my home-town paper, the Chronicle Journal-Times, because I think it raises some important points. It also speaks to some of the other quotes that have come from various editorials that the government side has read.

The heading in the Chronicle says, "Nine MPPs Not Enough," and that is exactly the number that will end up in northern Ontario. The quote says: "But how many contacts do Ontarians have with their federal government in comparison with the province? Ontario governs our health and education, our working conditions, our justice and security, our resources, our municipalities, environment and human rights. These and many other functions bring us into regular communication with provincial offices, whereas citizen calls to federal departments are exceptional. Without their MPPS, many citizens would be at a loss to deal with provincial bureaucracy."

These considerations have obviously been ignored by the Premier. In his zeal to cater to what he thinks is a popular thing, he's denying northerners a genuine vehicle for being heard and, more importantly, for being helped. We do not have the same access to service that people do in southern Ontario, and we will continue to fight to have those services improved in northern Ontario.


This government is quick to point to their A Voice for the North policy paper as their commitment to the north. I've certainly read this paper. I know this document fairly well. This document promises a greater say to northerners. This document promised no more made-in-Toronto solutions to northern Ontario challenges. Clearly, these promises have been broken time and time again. This bill is only one more example of this government's abandonment of the north. What's become clear to everybody in the north is that this government is no friend to the north. We in the opposition will continue to fight and fight hard for the interests of all northerners because this government will not do it for them.

Despite the vast distances between communities in our ridings, we serve our constituents to the best of our abilities and we serve them honourably and we serve them effectively, and with the greatest integrity all the time. With this bill and with even greater distances between our communities and constituents, we're going to be impeded in our efforts to serve the best interests of our constituents, but we will do it, we will continue to fight on behalf of our constituents. Nothing less than that will be good enough for those of us who truly care and those of us in the north who will not stop the fight.

Let me conclude, if I may, with one paragraph, the final paragraph from the editorial in the Chronicle-Journal that I read from earlier: "Maybe someone should strap the Premier to one of those 27 chairs and have the truck drive from one end of the monstrous new Kenora-Rainy River riding to the other to allow him to understand the enormity of his proposal. Northern Ontario needs at least the 15 seats that it has now; nine isn't enough by any means."

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I'm about to pay a compliment to my friend and distinguished colleague the member for Port Arthur. I know him quite well in attending to the very needs, in listening well to the needs and aspirations and hopes of the citizens he represents. I know he isn't too eager when he looks at the land mass, when he contemplates what is ahead in terms of Lake Nipigon. He mentioned at the very beginning that if he were to leave just west of Manitouwadge and embark on a journey to serve the people of the new riding, he would drive 600, not kilometres but miles, to reach Pickle Lake, and then the road system in the province of Ontario comes to an end. To serve the remainder of the riding to Hudson Bay, add to it an additional 400 miles. That is a total of 1,000 miles, and the government is saying that it's not enough; when you have New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia put together and multiplied by two, they wish to make it larger.

The member for Renfrew has so rightly pointed out on several occasions that you have to strike a balance, that equilibrium, compromise, rep by pop -- population -- should be important factors. Also, you have to guarantee that people will get representation by virtue of a larger than ordinary territory.

An irony: the member for Elgin, who spoke previously, won the last election, obviously. The people who came second and third, the candidates, each got, by virtue of getting more than 15% of the vote, a kickback from the government. The member opposite is the only member who did not get a rebate from the provincial government even though he won the election. It doesn't make much sense.

Mr Conway: It's good to have some of the northern members speak to this. I was saying to the member for Algoma that there are two kinds of northern constituencies, as well. You've got the riding like the city of Sault Ste Marie. That's not a bad circumstance. That's, I think, an entirely urban riding that happens to be located in northern Ontario. Then of course you get a geographic wonder like Algoma-Manitoulin under the expanded plan and, let me tell you, you've got something else.

I find it interesting, by the way, that the sponsor of this bill is the member for East York. I don't live in Metropolitan Toronto, but I look at the map and I think, what is this thing called East York? Surely, if a rep by pop imperative were applied to Metropolitan Toronto, we wouldn't be troubled with a Leaside or East York. Come on. My friend Judge Guzzo's here from Ottawa. You look at the map of Ottawa-Carleton and you see this little municipality called the village of Rockcliffe Park. Now, where did that come from?

Mr Baird: Get rid of it.

Mr Conway: The member for Nepean says, with a west-end flick of the wrist, "Get rid of it." Aha. Well, my point is that we've got areas like East York and Rockcliffe Park because we have organized ourselves in this democratic community that we call Ontario over the decades, recognizing -- the village of Point Edward; another one that perhaps comes to mind. There is not always and everywhere a slavish, singleminded devotion to rep by pop. There must be a regard for rep by pop, obviously. But let me tell you that the geographical reality of Ontario and Canada must be observed, and this policy does not do it, in my view, to a reasonable extent.

The Deputy Speaker: Further questions or comments? If not, the member for Port Arthur, two minutes.

Mr Gravelle: I certainly would like to thank my colleagues from Lake Nipigon and Renfrew North for responding so sensitively to the issue. I know the description certainly of the riding is more than impressive when you think of the distance one must travel. It should not be thought of as being a sense that we are not in any sense capable or prepared to deal with the riding. It's more a sense of the fact that this government obviously is just simply trying to ignore the reality of what it's doing to the constituents we represent.

I said earlier as well that we will make every effort, as we always have, to communicate with our constituents, but when you're asking a constituent, and many times, to go hundreds of kilometres -- you can meet in the middle of your riding, each of you travelling hundreds of kilometres to meet in the middle of your riding. That simply isn't fair. I know the member for Lake Nipigon has had a large riding for many years now and certainly has done his best. This new riding will obviously be much more expansive.

In terms of the member for Renfrew North, it's always a pleasure for me to listen to him speak in the Legislature, and with him leading off the debate on behalf of our caucus, it was really a remarkable lesson for all of us in terms of the issue in a broader sense. I know that all members of the House could not help but listen to him, and I certainly appreciate the comments that he made now.

I only hope that the members on the other side of the House, those who are being forced to support this bill and those who do not want to support this bill, will also feel free to get up and speak their minds, because their constituents deserve that and their constituents really are expecting those of you who are also in that position to represent their interests. I only hope that you can get rid of the shackles of this government and speak on behalf of your constituents, as we will always do on this side of the House.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Marchese: I too am very pleased to be here today to speak against Bill 81 and I will be making a number of arguments against it, as some other previous --

Mr Conway: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I get concerned when I see honourable members of the Legislature having to leave the chamber to go and get coats, perhaps even winter coats, to come back here and do business. So in response to perhaps a chill in the air, you might --

The Deputy Speaker: Perhaps you could have some heated debate.

Mr Marchese: Wanting to get into the debate and speaking very much against Bill 81, I want to begin by making reference to some of the comments the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale has made, because he, like so many others, speaks with such galloping glee as they make reductions in a number of areas, and in particular as they make reductions in the number of members of the House. They seem to take pleasure in the fact that they're leading in this particular debate, and as they do this they don't examine the kind of implications reductions will have, but rather seem to be very happy that by and large they will be saving a great deal of money, and isn't that leadership by the government.


They always speak, when they speak about these things, in the abstract. As they've done on so many other occasions, I notice when they talk about the kinds of reductions they have made to seniors' benefits, now that they have to pay the dispensing fee, a number of parliamentarians on the other side talk about how "It's only a 2% reduction we're making; it's really not all that serious." They speak about percentages in the abstract, rather than how that affects concretely those poor individuals who are affected by that change of system where they're now forced to pay some money, which in my view is a great deal of money for those who have very little in the first place -- for the many who have very little in the first place. As usual, they abstract the issues and they never concretize them in terms of the effects that these kinds of policies have on people, in this particular case on the members and quite directly on the constituencies we serve.

The member for Hastings speaks with such great ignorance about how this will affect the north in particular. The northern members have pointed out the kind of reality they face up there versus the reality we face down here, and I have a great deal of sympathy with what they describe. When a number of them say that their ridings are bigger and will be bigger than some other countries in the world, I am breathless when they talk about that, because I wouldn't want to have to travel such distances to represent my constituency.

In listening to them, as we should, I am able to understand that I'm not quite sure how adequately I would be able to represent those northern constituencies, but for the Tories it seems quite simple: You just do it. "If you don't want to do it," the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale says, "we'll find a few nice Tories to run up there." I'm sure he would. I'm sure they would find a few Tories to run up there --

Mr Wildman: Oh, yes, but they have to get elected.

Mr Marchese: Of course -- but does that do justice to the constituencies that these members have to serve up there? Obviously not.

If you're a reasonable-minded constituent out there listening to this debate, you will understand, based on the kind of discussion we've had and the kind of comments people have made already, that it will be very, very difficult to be able to adequately represent those constituencies up there. Indeed, we have to listen to each other and we have to listen to what the members have to say.

Part of the problem, and I will touch on this later, is how we get to make the decisions that we have made, because what this government has done is to change the process around how we redistribute seats and, in this particular case, eliminate seats. As I said, I will get back to that later.

Again, they're happy to talk about the fact that they've scrapped these gold-plated pensions and that they're about to reduce 27 more seats, and "Aren't we wonderful members of the House? You've elected, finally, a government that's been listening to you."

What they are not understanding, in my view and in the view of a few others who have already spoken, is that they're diminishing their own role. They diminish themselves and all of us in this House when they speak that way, because it gives everyone the appearance that we don't even value what we do, that we don't value the work we do, when they can simply say, "We're leading by example by eliminating 27 seats." When they can simply say that without understanding the implications it has to people up there, I'm not sure they're leading. I'm not sure they quite understand the effects of the policies that they're introducing.

I am quite concerned about the way they make decisions, under the guise of being democratic and responding to what people are saying out there. My view, and the view of many, of course, is that they're pandering to what a few people think about politicians, and that's how we diminish our role once again, because if it is true that people believe that we are not worth very much as politicians, then getting rid of 27 politicians is not a big deal.

But why would you, as politicians, knowing the work that you do, pander to such a view, pander to such a feeling that's out there? Because if you believe that is true and that you're responding to the people who believe that, then you have no value and no worth of yourself as a politician, and I'm worried about your role and our role in terms of what we were elected to do.

I want to get to some of the issues in terms of what the Chair of Management Board has said, because I went over his remarks and I hear it echoed in a number of speeches that are made by the Conservative members. By and large, they are read, which gives me the impression that someone prepared them and they are parroting the words of whoever has prepared them. I find that troublesome. It's not unusual. Every government has done it. We've been there. We've been there enough to know that the speeches, by and large, sound the same, because once cabinet or the Premier's office has made a decision, then it just trickles down. It is certainly true that the trickle-down theory works there very effectively and the members reflect the hierarchy of that decision-making very clearly, because as you hear members -- I'm listening to them very carefully -- they say the same things. It's marvellous.

What are the things they're saying? "Commitment" is the first word uttered by many of the members opposite, and it was the first word that Mr Johnson, the Chair of Management Board, raised. He said: "We made that commitment a long time ago, before the election, and we're keeping it. Aren't we great politicians that we can keep a promise that we made?"

Maybe that's a good thing. Having said what you said, that you would do it -- and it has been done through this bill -- maybe it's good that you're doing it. I don't happen to believe that it is a good process you've engaged in. I don't happen to believe that because you included that in your revolution everybody knew about that particular bill you would now be introducing. I don't happen to believe that by including it in the document everybody has agreed with what you are now proposing. I will speak to that later, but it isn't a process that is correct, that has given people the voice to then tell you, "Please introduce Bill 81." On the basis of commitment, yes, you kept your promise.

Mr Johnson then goes on to say that it's more understandable. I'm prepared to say that if the boundaries are similar, both provincial and federal, it makes it understandable. It is easier for those who follow boundaries to know, "Oh, these are the boundaries and they're both the same, provincial and federal." Yes, in that particular regard it makes it more understandable. Okay. What have we achieved once we have done that? Once we have made the boundaries the same and some people have a better understanding of the boundaries, then what? What have you done, and what democracy or empowerment have you given the people of Ontario through that process? I don't think very much. Is that a good justification for it? I don't believe so.

He then goes on to talk about a higher level of accountability in government. I'm not quite certain how we achieve that through this measure. How do we achieve a higher level of accountability by reducing this House by 27 seats? I haven't heard any logic that would sustain that argument. No other member seems to speak about how this makes the process or politicians or this Legislature or the cabinet more accountable. It leads me to believe that you're only saying this and the words are empty, because there is no substance to the argument. If there is and if some of you can make the argument, I would like to hear it. But it certainly does not make this whole process any more accountable than it has ever been.

People use these words, and perhaps there is resonance with some people in the public when you say them, but unless you explain them and define them with some intelligence, people won't believe it eventually, because they'll see through it.

The Chair of Management Board continues and talks about leadership, and I've already touched that. They're leading, they're asking the civil service to do more with less, he says, and there are generally greater cost reductions they talk about. They're very proud of these cost-reduction measures they have taken, they're proud of the health cuts they have made, over $1.3 billion, they're proud of the education cuts they have made and they're very proud to be able to give more income tax money back to the very wealthy. They're quite proud -- in fact, they drool at the thought -- of privatizing more and more services so that those who own a great concentration of wealth will continue to own a greater concentration of wealth.


All of these policies were supposed to, of course, create a better and healthier economy. As we noted, and as our leader noted today, the unemployment rate is higher. But all of the policies of this government -- cutting workers in great numbers, giving people an income tax cut, cutting health care benefits, social services and education -- were supposed to create a better and healthier economy, and yet it's failing them, it's failing us. This system they speak about, which was supposed to serve the people of Ontario, is failing us because clearly the unemployment numbers are higher than they were before. Yet their policies were supposed to make it better. The cuts they speak about, doing more with less, are quite clearly a social, cultural and economic disaster. We're witnessing it. The people who are affected most by it are feeling it more than those of us who still have a job.

Let me go on to what Mr Johnson was saying about how the cutting of members is going to make this whole process better. He talks about making it more efficient and more effective. He didn't explain how it does that, nor have I heard any other member across talk about how it makes us more efficient. They say, generally, in an abstract way: "We've done it before; we could do it again. We could run this place like a more efficient business, and that's how government should run. We could do it, surely, with less." If you just say it in the abstract in this way, it appears to make sense. But if you study it thoroughly and unpackage the whole thing, you have to ask them, how is it making it more efficient? I can tell you, it does not. Taking 27 members out of this Legislature and having the rest of us represent a greater constituency does not make it more effective and certainly does not make it more efficient.

A number of members have talked about the fact that our constituents and our constituency workers are, on a regular basis, quite busy dealing with a lot of things that this Legislature is responsible for in education, workers' compensation, employment-standards-related issues, environment-related issues and social-assistance-related issues. These matters, and so many others, keep our offices very busy. Does adding to that load make us more efficient? I'm not sure it does; in fact, I'm quite certain it does not. But these are the words the Chair of Management Board uses in making his argument and justification for the elimination of those 27 people. I think they are wrong. I think they are inaccurate. I think that it does not tell people the truth about what really is going to happen when they cut these people from this Legislature.

Yes, to a great extent, as he says, it does respond to some of the grass-roots people -- that's the word he uses. Yes, it responds to some of what those people have said. But I don't think it tells the whole story. There's more to this than what they pretend to talk about.

Mr Johnson then adds, "Will adding more politicians address this problem that I'm speaking of?" No one in this House spoke about having more politicians. I know that the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale earlier on talked about the fact that some members here have advocated that, but I haven't heard anybody on the Liberal benches talk about having greater numbers of politicians. It's an unfair question to be asking, because nobody has been saying that we should be adding more politicians through the issue of redistribution. So why does he talk about it, except to let people believe that's what some of the people in opposition are saying? But certainly no one in the NDP has said that. I'm not quite certain about the Liberals, but I haven't heard any one of them talk about that either.

How does this elimination of politicians make the political process more democratic and accountable? It doesn't. It doesn't do it whatsoever. The reduction doesn't do it, and I can tell you that the constituents will not benefit from it.

I can also tell you that the referendum matter that will come before us in terms of further debate down the line is not going to solve that particular issue either. I'm not sure that our history around referenda is a particularly useful one. We don't have much of a history. Other countries probably have created a long history in referendums, where people may have acquired a better sense of how people get involved in the democratic process, but our experience by and large is very limited and it does not probe the issues in depth very well. So what you have is an instinctive reaction to issues, which is not a reflective one. I'm not quite sure that's what we want. I am not at all sure this leads to a more democratic process in the House; in fact I'm quite certain it doesn't.

What it does is to shift power away from this Legislature -- from you, members of the Conservative back benches -- and transfer greater power to the Office of the Premier. The Office of the Premier, as you all know, already has that power. He will continue to have that power; all I'm arguing is that you will have less with fewer members, not necessarily more.

I'm be interested to have a few members talk about how democratic your process is in your caucus. I would be interested to know the kind of voice you members of the back bench have. I'd be interested to know whether your voices are heard, whether cabinet listens to you or whether decisions from the cabinet and from the Premier's office come right down and you simply mimic them. You have to be out of power to realize that you should have grabbed some of the power that you as members have. The problem is that while you are in power, you don't realize you have it and you don't want to exercise it because you're afraid. I understand that; we've been there. I know you won't speak to this because we all have shared it and we all have to come to the opposition benches here to realize how we exercise a little of the power we've got. What you're doing is giving it away. You members are giving some of that power away by parroting what the Premier has told you you should do, and that is, the Premier says, "This is good," and the rest of you say, "This is great. We're leading by example."

Le pauvre M. Villeneuve, who in opposition had a great deal to say about this, now of course is silenced by this.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): That was then.

Mr Marchese: Exactly: that was then. He was in opposition then and he had a great deal to say about this. Mr Conway mentioned this. This is what he said: "As many of the previous speakers addressing this" redistribution question "have mentioned, we do not want to see the rural part of Ontario further underrepresented. I," M. Villeneuve, "personally feel, because of the location of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the structure and makeup of rural areas, we must retain the status quo intact. It is a situation that was addressed by a number of my colleagues and I certainly agree with them," says M. Villeneuve.

How dreadful the poor man must feel to have said this in opposition with sincerity and conviction of beliefs, and now of course he's silenced completely, not because he's in cabinet but because the Premier decided that he was going to take the decision, and those members -- Mr Runciman, Ernie Eves -- who are quite close to the Premier all had a great deal to say about this; all ministers, including Ms Marland. A number of you have commented about this in the past, but of course I don't hear any of the people I mentioned respond to the effects this bill has on those convictions and beliefs that you held when you were in opposition.


Mr Christopherson: They're muzzled.

Mr Marchese: I can only conclude that they have been muzzled. Why else would they not speak in defence of those beliefs they once held? Certainly if those beliefs were held then, they would be convictions that they hold now.

So what happens in that transition? How do we transfer away our convictions to the Premier's office? How do we do that so easily? Something happens, and it's a loss of power. You give it away. All of you in the back benches are giving that power away, because I believe that many of you don't believe in what is being done here. I really believe that. But I know there's caucus solidarity out there. We certainly had it; you have it as well. To deny that is to tell a lie. You're holding on to the solidarity of this bill. The Premier said, "We're doing it, boys and women," and you're all doing it and you fall into line. But you're hurting yourselves, you're hurting us and you're hurting the entire political process as you do that.

I would be quite interested in hearing from the democracy of the back benches as it relates to your own processes within caucus to explain to me that it's quite different over there, that you have your own views, of course, and that you're not attached to any particular bill that comes from the autocracy of the Premier's office. I very much want to hear from you, particularly from the members I mentioned who had a lot to say in opposition.

Will you have more power? Will constituencies have more power when you eliminate more politicians? They will not. Or are the considerations purely the elimination of politicians just to save a few dollars as you pander to those who relish the thought of the reductions? Is that what this is all about? If we reduce it to simply a matter of saving a few dollars, that is for me the most stupid politics I have ever seen. If the argument is that we save a few bucks and we're leading by doing so, I find that reductionism of argument the most simple and crude and stupid that I have ever seen in the House.

You've got to come up, in my view, with better arguments to make it more sensible to those who you want to believe in what you're doing. The arguments I've heard so far from some of the members, and particularly the Chair of Management Board, haven't convinced me whatsoever. They didn't sound intelligent to me, and I'm quite convinced they don't sound very intelligent to the people out there.

I tell you this: Northerners will be very unhappy, rural members will be angry, not just unhappy, and a lot of other people in other areas, including Metro, which loses eight seats, will be very, very unhappy, not to mention other areas, once people understand where seats are being eliminated. They will raise the question, "Will I be properly represented?" That's the question that needs to be asked, not the question of, "We're making it clear because we've combined federal and provincial ridings." That doesn't make it clear; that doesn't solve it. That doesn't give people, the electorate, any more power or empowerment whatsoever. It doesn't do that. It takes power away from us all when we do this.

That's why I'm asking the members in the back benches -- and I don't use that disparagingly, because we were there -- to reflect on what they're doing. You see, they will be here. It's a question of time. If it's not the next election, it'll happen, as it happens to us all. When it comes around, we will all learn from it. It's incredible, the magic that overtakes you once you're in opposition, because you realize how different it can be. The arrogance of power and the arrogance of having a seat on the other side isn't something you should dismiss. You should reflect on it, because we tend to reflect on that arrogance only once we're out of power, not while we are in power. So I urge the members to think of that.

Mr Wildman: I was never arrogant.

Mr Marchese: I heard a friend of mine here, my colleague, who said he was never arrogant. He's right. There are a few who are not. The member for Algoma was one of them. But there are many who are affected by power, and we are affected, or infected, as a government by power, and we tend to do, sometimes, very strange things in the name of keeping our commitment.

This process is a very undemocratic process. Since the mid-1950s we've used a procedure for the provinces to look at and establish a procedure for redistribution of riding boundaries. I thought it was a very useful procedure to have engaged in. In 1962, 1973 and 1983 this was done by the appointment of an independent commission through an order in council. Prior to the commission appointments the terms of reference and guidelines and procedures to be followed by the boundaries commission were established by resolution of the Legislature. I believe that was a very good process because it distanced, to the extent possible, the cabinet and the Premier from this decision. It permitted a group of people, dispassionate, hopefully, and distant from the political arm, to make decisions about how we should redistribute offices. It was an important way to have dealt with this issue.

What the Premier has done in this case was to say: "Let us dispense with that democratic process. We don't need it. I will make the decisions because I got elected. It was in the Common Sense Revolution, and they, the people, have agreed with me. Therefore I am enacting and introducing a bill that says exactly that." So the Premier says, "Dispense with the traditional process," which we have established since 1962, to re-establish a new political process set up by the all-powerful Premier who says, "This is what we're going to do: We're going to lead by example." So he dispenses with a democratic process of consultation and introduces a bill here in the House that, by decree, says, "This is how it's going to be."

Is this the way the people of Ontario wanted to be governed? Is that the way their voices are being heard? I don't believe so whatsoever. I believe the people of Ontario want to be heard on this particular issue. I really believe this government, if it believes what it says about consulting, as it often says it does -- what we need are hearings, and we need hearings across Ontario; not just in little isolated Toronto so the rest of the folks can come down here and comment about how this affects the north and rural or eastern or western Ontario, not little Toronto, but they should go everywhere. If you really believe in what you're doing, you should have nothing to be afraid of by taking this bill out to the rest of the province. My view is that they not only want to be heard but need to be heard. If the Premier fails in doing that, the members should question why, because there's genuine fear about what he's doing, and that he really, truly doesn't believe in what he's doing if he doesn't have hearings across Ontario.

Mr Baird: I hope the member opposite would recognize that there could be an honest disagreement of opinion with respect to this bill. One of the members earlier spoke about breaking free of the shackles, and I just can't think of something that would be more insulting. To suggest that our constituents on this side of the House would not support this bill, that we would only get up and vote for this bill because we were told to, is absolutely insulting. I can assure you that when I get up and vote in favour of Bill 81, the Fewer Politicians Act, I'll be doing so representing the people I was sent here to represent.

I was at a tenants' meeting in my riding the other day, in the community of Bayshore, and one of the questions was: "When are politicians going to finally make their share of the contribution? They've cut everyone else. When are you going to see some reductions?" I was pleased to be able to report that we're indeed going to lead by example and are going to take a commensurate reduction, as has the public service, as have a whole host of others in the public sector.


The members opposite in both parties -- the official opposition and the third party -- promised to balance the budget, yet every single time this government brings forward a proposal to reduce spending they oppose it. This proposal will save $11 million. In my riding $11 million is a lot of money, and the people of Ontario want to see reductions.

When we stopped subsidizing the parliamentary restaurant they were against it. When we stopped subsidizing, last week, baton twirling -- baton twirling -- they were against it. Now we're proposing to reduce the number of politicians, go down to the federal level of 103, something that was not written by this government, was not written by this cabinet, something that was done by an independent body at the federal level, a completely different level, something that was done before we were even elected. To say somehow that's politically motivated is ridiculous.

It's about leadership by example. I'll be able to go back to my riding and say: "We did what we said we would do. We led by example, and the leadership started right at the executive level, at the legislative level of government."

Mr Wildman: I want to commend my friend from Fort York for his comments and his position on this legislation. In response to him, the member for Nepean got up and said he is proud to support this legislation because his constituents support it. I respect him for saying that.

My only comment is, though, that if that is his position, perhaps the member for S-D-G & East Grenville will be able to get up in this House and explain his position on this piece of legislation in relation to what he said in 1992 and what he said in 1986; or the member for Parry Sound will get up in this House and defend this legislation in relation to what he said in 1992 and 1986; or the member for Leeds-Grenville and all the other members over there who defended rural Ontario when there was a possibility that representation would be cut in rural Ontario, and now, because they're on the other side of the aisle, are ready to abandon their constituents, ready to abandon support for rural Ontario. Talk about situation ethics.

It's about time we heard the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs explain why, in 1992, he had a resolution before this House which said not only should we not cut rural ridings, we should maintain the status quo, or, he said, increase the number of rural ridings. Why is it, now that he is on the treasury bench, when he has some opportunity to affect what happens in this province, he's changed his position? Just explain why that is. Why shouldn't the people of rural Ontario have the same kind of support from the members of the Conservative Party in 1996 that they had in 1992 and 1986?

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise and respond to my good friend from Fort York. In response to his question, specifically, "How does it make sense if our effort is to be more efficient?" I wouldn't expect a third-party backbencher, a member of a government that overspent all its revenue in every exaggerated term you could imagine, to understand that this government means to meet the bottom line on behalf of the people of Ontario.

In response to Mr Wildman's comment, I am a member from a mainly rural riding and I'm pleased to stand in support of the bill we're discussing today, Bill 81.

If you've been following the press recently, even the Toronto Star of October 7 is quoted very much in support, I might reiterate, that this government is not only doing what it promised; it's doing what had to be done.

I also think the people should respond to the member for Renfrew North. I listened with great interest to his remarks last week and thought he made a number of good comments, but he also clearly recognized -- I'm looking at the copy of Hansard -- that this government committed during the election, as everyone on the opposite side of the House knows full well, to reduce the size of government. Just as we promised to reduce the gold-plated pension, we are planning to deliver on our promises. If you want to know what we're about to do, you should read the Common Sense Revolution, because that's the plan the people of Ontario voted for, for us to carry out.

I'm going to look at the Hansard and learn from this. We are restructuring the way people of Ontario are sick and tired of being overgoverned. I can speak for my riding, that we're in support of Bill 81.

Mr Christopherson: I want to rise and compliment my colleague the member for Fort York on his excellent speech. He holds the government, particularly the backbenchers, to task for the position they're taking. They do not seem to have thought this through. They do not seem to be speaking in the best interests of their own members. They're following along blindly, as they've done on every single issue so far, the interests of what the Premier wants, and the Premier's assistants. That's the only thing they care about.

One of the things the member for Fort York talked about was an open process. This government said, "We will be an open government. We'll be a transparent government. We will give people an opportunity to be heard," and on every issue that matters they have shut down the public process. This is no different. To somehow suggest that public hearings held at the federal level regarding the number of federal seats automatically equates to having provincial public hearings about provincial seats is to then say that we can also apply the formula of provincial MPPs to the number of aldermen or local councillors we ought to have. There is a difference in the community of interest.

That's why the federal government is entitled to deal with its own government formation, the formation of the House of Commons, and the province with its own. There's a different community of interest. The fact of the matter is that you cannot break the province down into the same community of interest that you can the federal government. Our own leader has said that it may indeed be time, as it is over a cyclical basis, for a change in the boundaries and to look at things. Fair enough. But to deny the people of Ontario an opportunity to have a say on their direct representation is to deny them a democracy. I agree with the member for Fort York that this is what you're doing.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Fort York has two minutes to respond.

Mr Marchese: I thank the members from Nepean, Algoma, Durham East and Hamilton Centre for their comments. With respect to the member for Nepean and the comments he makes about honest disagreement, yes, there often is honest disagreement, and I agree with that. It's quite often clear and ideological, and I understand that. My point on this one is that I'm not sure some of you or many of you have thought this through. The comment all of you keep on raising is that it's about reducing the budget, it's about cutting back on the budget, it's about balancing the budget. It's all you seem to be saying. When you reduce it to that extent then I wonder whether you're reflecting on what you are doing, because is it just about cutting at all costs, whatever its implications?

I say to you that whenever you cut something, you need to reflect on the implications. You save $11 million, you say. Whether it's true or not, we don't know, but you say you save that. But a referendum, as many of my colleagues have said, will cost up to $21 million. Is that a good thing? You'll be blowing it with one referendum, and I'm not sure you'll get greater democracy out of that. I'm not sure the public will be more greatly or more clearly politicized or have political consciousness raised as a result of a referendum, but it will cost money. You talk about a balanced budget, you've cut $8.3 billion, you've broken your promise on health and education and social services, and you're going to cost us a hell of a lot of money when your income tax comes in.

But what I want to hear are from members, from mon ami M. Villeneuve and his beliefs and convictions before his election as a government member and what he had to say then, from him and Ernie Eves and all the others. Did those beliefs mean something then? What does the honest difference of opinion mean when you're in government versus when you were in opposition? What does it mean? You need to be accountable to that and you need to speak to that.

We need, M. Villeneuve, hearings so as to hear from the people you heard from. That's what I urge the Premier to do. Have hearings across Ontario, M. Villeneuve.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): I have the pleasure today to speak on Bill 81. I was under some misapprehension when I started this because I thought we were talking in caucus about smaller politicians, and I thought that we vertically disadvantaged were finally going to have some recognition in this House, but we're not dealing with that; we're dealing with fewer politicians.

The position of our party has always been that smaller government is what we need in this province. That does mean fewer politicians -- 27 to be exact. Fewer politicians mean $11 million in savings. Some may say this isn't a lot of money when you look at the scheme of things, with $55 billion as a budget. I think it's a lot of money, and it is an annual saving. That, together with a smaller cabinet, scrapping gold-plated MPP pensions and tax-free allowances, strict limits on government advertising and other savings, has reduced government administration costs by $2 million. We're asking all Ontarians to tighten their belts and work harder, and we as MPPs must do the same.


But there's an even more important issue than cost. That's democracy, the one person, one vote rule. Little did I know when I was studying political science at U of T some decades ago that there were still advocates of the rotten or pocket boroughs still left in any democracy. I remember reading about the growing cities of Manchester and Leeds in the 19th century that had no representation -- can you imagine? -- whereas there were certain areas in Britain at that time -- Old Sarum had not one inhabitant, not one inhabitant, a real rotten borough. New Romney had eight voters. They were the worst. These injustices were not corrected in Britain until approximately 1867.

One thing the history books did not give me at that time was what arguments were used to justify the rotten boroughs. Why weren't they changed in medieval times? The history books are silent. It would seem there are no valid arguments. But that's not true. Here last week I saw rotten boroughs being defended. They weren't the extreme views of England days; however, there were great variances among ridings.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: If the member opposite is going to refer to some of the constituencies represented in this assembly as rotten boroughs, he should at least name the ones to which he's referring.

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

Mr Martiniuk: In any event, during the week I saw one of the most able orators among our professional politicians, the member for Renfrew North, defend -- in fact, he stated that we were against the one vote, one person rule. He spoke at length to, I think, defend the indefensible. As in George Orwell's Animal Farm, basically he felt that all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.

How does one justify unequal ridings? That's really the important matter we're discussing today. You can say, "The status quo; don't change," but that's not very attractive. One has to approach it from a historical standpoint, and the word to use is "tradition." It is tradition to have inequity. For instance, a number of federal inequities have arisen over the last 100 years as this country has grown. Populations have shifted and those inequities are there. They are encompassed in a Constitution and we cannot change them, but they're not something we should be emulating. They're something to be discouraged. As a matter of fact, I think they show that our federal system is not operating as flexibly as it should to reflect the modern times.

My particular riding, according to the 1986 census, has 80,670 voters in Cambridge. In Renfrew North, as an example, there are 65,760 voters. We seem therefore in Ontario to have two different kinds of voters, the ones in Cambridge and the ones in other areas where fewer or more electors may elect their particular representative.

There's a second argument that was given: It's just too much work; the riding is difficult to represent because of distance and topography. No matter that the riding may have been established over 50 years ago when we didn't have many of the modern means of communication and transportation we have today. Basically the argument is, "We don't want to work any harder in representing our riding," and I think it's as simple as this: We all have to work harder in this modern day. We're asking the constituents to work harder, we're asking them to work better, we're asking them to work smarter, and we have to too, as MPPs. Welcome to the real world.

In Cambridge, this bill means equality at last. To my riding of Cambridge this bill also means an end to the confusion of having two ridings, one federal and one provincial. The township of North Dumfries has in recent years been excluded from the provincial riding of Cambridge, where they have traditionally voted and where their natural geographic ties are. Welcome back to Cambridge riding, North Dumfries. I'm pleased to see many of my friends in North Dumfries back in the provincial fold. I also welcome the many friends in the Doon part of Kitchener, an area which is the most beautiful part of the region of Waterloo. Welcome again to our new friends in Doon. Welcome to a new Ontario, a leaner Ontario and a more democratic Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Hoy: The previous speaker waded into some remarks that were also echoed by the government House leader in the opening of this debate where he said he wanted clear and understandable government in the context of people being able to understand a federal riding as opposed to the provincial riding and thinking that by matching them there would be a clearer understanding of who represented which level of government.

The people in my area know full well which member represents the federal jurisdiction and which one represents the provincial jurisdiction. I think the proof of that is that they all knew who Brian Mulroney was, and in the last election they turfed him out resoundingly in Ontario, knowing full well that he was the government leader of the day. So I don't think there's any mass confusion among the constituents in the area I represent or indeed all the counties involved and counties bordering mine. I think people can clearly understand which government is in power. I don't think this bill need be introduced to educate the people as to who is representing them by matching riding for riding, federal and provincial.

Mr Wildman: I want to comment on the remarks of the member for Cambridge. Obviously, in the areas of southern Ontario that are growing in population there's no question there needs to be a redistribution, and no one in this House disputes that. Lest the member's remarks give the impression to those who are reading this debate after or who are watching on TV that somehow some members of this House have said they're opposed to redistribution, I'm sure he didn't intend to give that impression. The fact is that redistribution usually takes place approximately every 10 years in this province.

What's different about this is that in every other instance since the 1960s an independent commission has been appointed which has looked at the boundaries, held hearings, listened to people's views and concerns from across the province, and then come up with lines that have tried to deal with rep by pop and geography. Then that has been debated in the House, and the final result is something that is understood by everybody.

What's different in this case is that this government has decided to abdicate its responsibility in dealing with provincial redistribution and to simply say it is going to mirror what the federal Liberal government has done. It is true they had an independent commission that held hearings, but it is quite an assumption to say that just because they had those hearings, what they decided for the federal, based on all the rules they have to deal with right across the country, was good for Ontario. This government doesn't often just assume that what the federal Liberal government does is good for Ontario. I don't understand why it's doing it in this instance.


Mr O'Toole: It's a pleasure to respond and compliment my good friend the member for Cambridge. He makes a very good argument, and the argument he's making is that the review is a normal process. As we all know, the member for Algoma has reminded us that there was an independent federal review. We promised that we'd align the provincial and federal boundaries. My constituents and many of the constituencies, as Mr Martiniuk has pointed out, are confused. The constituents today call my constituency office whether it's a federal issue or a provincial issue, and our job is to help them. I think every member in this House would recognize that we should be working more cooperatively and have smaller, more efficient and more focused members' duties and responsibilities. This is a first, important step to recognizing that. I, for one, think right now that it will provide much clearer roles between the federal and provincial responsibilities. Many of the times we can act on behalf in the case of federal issues, and I know today we do that.

I would like to point out also that the member for Algoma is quite right in saying that in Ontario, if you talk to the population, the person on the street, every one of them agrees with the sentiment here. We are in the lead position in the province of Ontario as far as elected representation is concerned, but as you well know we're looking at restructuring municipal levels of government, whether it's regional or local, and all sorts of board jurisdictions. We have to look at a new responsibility in government: Working more closely, not so politically, at a common agenda to do things more effectively and efficiently on behalf of the constituents. If they call my constituency office in Durham East, whether it's on an educational issue or a municipal issue, it's my job to act as the information broker and to act as a representative.

Wouldn't you agree that when you look at 109 trustees with nine school boards in Toronto, there's a case where there's overgovernment? How can we set an example without actions of our own?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I think the member for Cambridge made a very interesting speech. I have some difficulties with it. His assertion that this bill is representation by population is clearly wrong. It is not. If it was, every riding in this province would have the same number of people in it. That is not the case. There is still some variation between constituencies across the province. Why is that? It's because they're mirroring the federal redistribution exactly.

The federal government, when it redistributes, has an entire country to be concerned about. It has geography to be concerned about. It has to look at the quirks of Confederation. Prince Edward Island, with a population of about 125,000 people, has four members of the House of Commons. The Yukon has one. The Northwest Territories have two. It has to deal with the rural context in the entire country, not just Ontario. What we're saying over here is that the rules for Ontario should be rules for Ontario. We should have a look at our own geographic situation. Some members are going to have constituencies that reach from the equivalent of Windsor to Quebec City in terms of driving. I know because if I choose to run in a constituency like that, it would be the one I'm in.

I don't know any member of this Legislature who doesn't work 60, 70 or 80 hours a week. We're not going to work any more, because you can't. It won't be the members who are in big difficulty here; it will be the constituents.

I ask the member to reflect upon the fact that this is not representation by population. It has nothing to do with that.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Sudbury.

Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): What about me?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Toni will get a chance to respond as soon as I'm finished.

I'm very happy to be speaking on this bill, Bill 81, although obviously I have some very serious reservations about it and about what it does to representation. I think I would like to share just a few insights that the people in northern Ontario -- the people of Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, Timmins and North Bay -- are telling me.

I had the opportunity over the course of the last couple of weeks to go around to those cities and talk to different people about your plan, this plan to reduce representation in northern Ontario in particular. Certainly the people of the north feel betrayed by the government. Their feeling of betrayal is based on their belief that A Voice for the North was a direction in which this government wanted to go. They didn't realize, ever, when they were reading A Voice for the North that the government was talking about reducing that voice by 33%, by one third. They feel betrayed that this government would suggest that, when in A Voice for the North there is absolutely no indication that this was going to happen in the north. A Voice for the North was exactly what was promoted by the Progressive Conservatives during the election. They didn't know that 33% of the representation in northern Ontario would vanish, would go.

They feel betrayed because this government doesn't want to listen to them. This government won't commit to public hearings. This government doesn't want to go to Sudbury, to North Bay, to Sault Ste Marie, to Timmins, to Thunder Bay, to Kenora, to Manitoulin Island and listen to what the people are saying. They're not interested in that.

Some of us who are sitting on both sides of the House will remember that at one time we had a very significant group of the population of northern Ontario who wanted to set up an entity unto themselves, a distinct province. We haven't heard that talk in 20-some years, yet wherever we go in the north now we're hearing that. People want to reassume the fight that Ed Deibel from North Bay initiated 20-some years ago. They want to talk seriously about leaving the province of Ontario. That's sad. That's sad that a government can make people so angry, that a government can make people so frustrated that a government doesn't want to listen to the people of an area that they want to talk about separating, about moving out, about setting up their own province. Whose fault is that? Certainly it's not the fault of the people who represent them. It's the fault of a government that will not and doesn't want to listen to them. That's one of the concerns the people have.

Another concern the people have is when they refer to the document and they see the Premier saying, "We want to restore the north to the forefront...treating northerners like a second-class fiefdom for southern bureaucrats and politicians...we are committing and committed to building a strong and vibrant northern Ontario." Well, how do they propose to do that? They proposed to do it by eliminating five seats in northern Ontario, by getting rid of representation so that the voice they want to hear, the voice they want to concentrate on will hopefully have a diminished stature in northern Ontario. That's not the case, because although we will be reducing by 33%, the voice -- and it will be voices in opposition during this term and hopefully in government after the next election -- will be loud and will be strong.

Let's clearly understand that this is politics at its worst, as far as I am concerned, because what we're seeing being done here is not redistribution for any really practical terms. We are seeing redistribution take place because Mike Harris and the government realize that they've turned off the north so badly they will not ever elect a Progressive Conservative member in northern Ontario, that they're willing to throw it away -- with the exception of the Premier.


As I go back and talk about people wanting to separate, that again is starting in North Bay, of all places. That talk is starting in North Bay, and that's pretty sad. It's actually a very good example because it shows that this government is not at all committed to listening to the people of northern Ontario.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): You've got that one wrong.

Mr Bartolucci: The parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines says I have it wrong. Let's go then over to the summary part of page 3 of A Voice for the North: "Giving northerners a greater say on policies which affect them is our goal."

Yet if we look at what's happened to northern Ontario we see that there was the elimination of projects which would guarantee approximately 1,376 direct jobs and a total of 3,461 jobs which are gone, a total loss of investment of $152 million -- we had no say in that; the threat to amalgamate communities in northern Ontario without their input -- we had no say in that; a cut of $5.2 million to municipal road projects, 1996 and 1997 -- we had no say in that; a reduced level of winter road maintenance which resulted in many accidents and in many cases court actions that haven't been resolved yet -- no say in that.

So really the suggestion that northerners have a greater say in policies which affect them is another commitment or promise that's been broken by this government, and it's a sad commentary when a government who believes that input and getting public reaction before it makes decisions is the way to go has turned off and shut out northern Ontario.

Let me tell you that if that input is so great, I wonder: What's the stature of the northern support grant? Every mayor and reeve in northern Ontario wants to know. Most mayors and reeves have met with either the municipal affairs minister or the northern affairs minister or the parliamentary assistant and have demanded that that be enshrined in provincial legislation. What's happened? Nothing. They still have to yell and scream and beg and I'm afraid that the north is tired of having to do that with this government.

Clearly that's exactly what's happening at this -- and you know, it's very interesting because this isn't shared by people who have been long supporters of the Tory government. If we look at a former cabinet minister in the Miller cabinet, Jim Gordon, he's leading the charge to save the northern support grant. He's leading the charge because he's disillusioned. This Tory government doesn't want to protect northern interests. Their Voice for the North was certainly a document that was filled with fancy language but had very little substance and very little commitment to it.

But, you know, they want to establish in the document a renewed mandate for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. Well, they did that by deregulating the bus industry, winding down the government's service to many rural communities in northern Ontario, a $5-million cut to the ONTC which resulted in the cancellation of norOntair, leaving many communities in northern Ontario without any possibility of air service. That's their commitment to transportation in northern Ontario, quite a sad commentary on a government that wants people to believe that it represents the views of the average person.

I think if we only spend a second talking about health care, you could understand why the frustration level to want to go out on our own is there. The Big Blue Tory bulldozer has ransacked the communities of Thunder Bay and Sudbury when it comes to health care provisions, closing hospitals without any semblance of community input, without any belief that the communities' decided opinion should be one that's at least listened to. Clearly that wasn't the case with this government and with the restructuring commission, its arm's-length body that's making the decision for the minister. That's another reason why the people think Bill 81 is simply another example of why this government for whatever reason doesn't want to give the north what is rightly its due.

The people in northern Ontario are exactly like the people in southern Ontario. We pay taxes; we want representation. Clearly we want the ability to have access to an MPP as readily and as easily as those in Nepean or Etobicoke-Rexdale or Scarborough East or Durham East would be able to get, and that's not going to be the same, simply because of the vast differences in areas of population in northern Ontario. I guess that's most concerning to me. The people across the way don't seem to understand that it's not the same in Sudbury East, in Algoma-Manitoulin, in Algoma, in Rainy River or Kenora or Thunder Bay as it is in Nepean or Scarborough East or Etobicoke-Rexdale.

People wanting to see an MPP in those areas have to ensure that they plan their day around that, because of the diverse distance that people have to travel. Yet this government for whatever reason, and it can only be that this government doesn't care about the people in northern Ontario, thinks that's not important, thinks there should be a fairer distribution of representation and number of constituents when it clearly doesn't make any sense at all to move in that direction.

What's most disturbing is that the people in northern Ontario are beginning to believe that the Harris government has pitted community against community, has pitted members of the community against itself. The reason for that is that past governments have formed their decision-making based on the needs of people, but decisions are not really being made by people in this government, and that's pretty sad. They're being made by the numbers themselves in the simple arithmetic of balanced equations.

The government, then, is not cutting anything, the numbers are, and that is the reason for this redistribution. It has everything to do with that balanced equation; it has nothing to do with people and representation. Trust me when I say the people of Ontario, whether it's northern Ontario, southern Ontario, eastern Ontario or western Ontario, want representation and they want the ability to get in touch with their MPP with relative ease, and that's not going to be the case in rural ridings or certainly in northern Ontario.

We can go on and quote what Noble Villeneuve said or Bob Runciman said or Margaret Marland said, or Ernie Eves or Mike Harris, but I don't want to do that. What I'd like to do is finish this little talk with a quote of a member who worked on this document and tried to sell this document and has been rather vocal this afternoon as I've been speaking, and that's MPP Bill Murdoch, when he said, "Northerners are sick and tired of people in Queen's Park telling them what to do." That's in the document. It's the only thing in the document that the people of northern Ontario now believe. You're right. They are tired of this government telling them what to do. They are tired of having southern Ontario decisions imposed upon them without public input. They are tired of a government that doesn't care about them, that won't listen to them. Most of all, they are tired of a government that fails to understand that northern Ontario's contribution to this province far outweighs what they get back in return.


To cut that representation by one third is wrong. It's callous. You're not only eliminating the voice for the north in government; what you are doing is not allowing the northern person to have his or her input into that government. For that, the people of northern Ontario have long memories.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments? The member for Wentworth North.

Mr Skarica: Mr Speaker, I'm quite happy to see you in the chair, because the other Speakers have refused to recognize me.

I'd like to address my remarks to the comments made by the members for Sault Ste Marie and Fort York. They made reference to the fact that this legislation diminishes the reputation of politicians. I hate to let this cat out of the bag, but by 1995, that had already happened.

I was a criminal lawyer for 15 years before that election, and when I announced to my friends that I was entering politics, they all uniformly told me the same thing: "You are crazy." That's what they all said. I have friends who went into the military and they were saluted when they announced that. I can tell you, no one saluted me. No one said to me, "God bless you, Toni, you're a politician now." I've had friends who became rock stars, and one even who went into the movies. They tell me stories about women banging at their doors and fainting in their presence. I can tell you, I banged on 10,000 doors and not one heart was stolen. Anyone looking at me today can feel the truth of that statement.

During the campaign, pretty typical was the response of this one woman. The first week I was campaigning, I knocked on a door and an elderly lady allowed me in and asked me what I was doing. I said I was a politician and so on, and she said, "I hate politicians." To be fair about it, she told me, as I was trying to say I wasn't a politician, "The only thing I hate more than politicians is lawyers." So that's a vote I didn't get.

How did it all happen? Perhaps one more little anecdotal story. I went into a coffee shop and there was a gentleman there who told me he was going to vote for me for the simple fact that he knew my two opponents were career politicians. He'd never heard of me, and that was good enough for his vote.

The reason it happened is that politicians are known for not keeping their word. Look at the conduct in the House. Numbers aren't important; competency is. If politicians had dignity and competency and kept their word, their reputations would be enhanced.

Mr Hoy: I want to congratulate the member for Sudbury on his remarks as they pertain mainly in the north where his comments were placed. Of course, rural Ontario and northern Ontario will be affected by this bill, not to mention that northern Ontario has a great expanse of what is commonly called rural Ontario.

I want to read from a Hansard debate of October 17, 1985: "As many of the previous speakers addressing this have mentioned, we do not want to see the rural part of Ontario further underrepresented. I personally feel, because of the location of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the structure and makeup of rural areas, we must retain the status quo intact. It is a situation that was addressed by a number of my colleagues and I certainly agree with them. Rural Ontario must have more, not less, representation."

Those remarks come from page 855 of the Hansard debates and they were made by Noble Villeneuve, now Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Clearly the rural voice is being diminished, because I have not heard the minister get up and make this same comment here today, although there are future hours of debate and I look forward to his participation, as well as that of the parliamentary assistant for rural affairs who is part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and that of the parliamentary assistant for rural affairs as it pertains under the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. I wait for both of them to get up and speak about the diminished voice, the lessening of democracy in rural Ontario. I wait for their comments.

Mr Wildman: I hadn't intended to comment, but I was provoked by my friend from Wentworth North. I must say that I guess he was recognized by you, Mr Speaker, because a nomination must be worth something.

If, as the member indicates, the image of what he calls career politicians or politicians in general is as besmirched as he indicates, then should we in this House, who I honestly believe have members from all sides who work very hard for their constituents, be pandering to that view, or should we be attempting to inform ourselves and the members of the electorate about the role of politicians in our democratic society? What is the important role that elected members and others who do not gain election but who run for office play in the democratic system?

It's ironic that in eastern Europe and many parts of Latin America and Asia and Africa, people are struggling to establish the very kind of system that we have and take for granted in western Europe and North America. Surely we should be singing the praises. That's not to say there isn't room for improvement -- all of us recognize that -- but surely we shouldn't be pandering to the view that politicians are somehow just a bunch of people who are interested in ripping off the public, because I know that's not what any of us -- I believe any of us -- in this assembly are about.

Mr Murdoch: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I didn't know whether you were going to get me on or not. The first thing I'd like to do is thank the member for Sudbury for reading A Voice for the North and trying to understand it. As he said, he missed some parts in it. I can understand that maybe he forgot to read the Common Sense Revolution, but in there it did mention riding changes. I have to agree with him on some things that he said over there; some of the ridings may be fairly big.

I wonder if you'd speak, when you get your chance for your two minutes, about your MPs and see what they think about this, because you know these are the same ridings they are going to use at the federal level. You've been saying quite a bit about how people want to talk to their MPPs. I'm sure they want to talk to their MPs at the same time. You're telling us they're having problems in the north, and I believe they are all Liberals in the north. These are some of your own colleagues you deal with all the time, so I hope you can suggest how they're going to work out.

As I said, I have some problems with this bill. We listened last week to the member for Renfrew North. He had a lot of good ideas and said that this is something that should be done but maybe not in this way. He doesn't quite agree with what's happening now, the same as myself. I have some problems with the bill and the way it's happening.

It's unfortunate that our friends in Ottawa, whoever they may be -- and I like the word you used, the "wirepullers" or whatever we want to call them, but as I say, we could have better names for them -- who set this up missed some things, I think, in the north. There's a lot of area to travel up there and it's going to be hard for some people, and we do lose out in rural Ontario on this bill. There are some problems with it and hopefully in the future we can fix this bill up. I think after it is passed, we're going to have to sit down with the federal government and try to work out some better things for rural Ontario and northern Ontario.

Mr Bartolucci: First of all, a few comments to the member for Wentworth North. You're right when you say you're not a rock star, for sure, and you're no movie star, but what the member doesn't say is that a member of his own family said he hated politicians and wouldn't allow a sign to be put on his grass. But we won't mention that one.

The member for Essex-Kent understands the dilemmas that we in northern Ontario face because he comes from a rural riding. Clearly he understands and articulates quite well the problems we're going to have in northern Ontario. They're very, very important concerns, they're very, very real concerns, they're very, very pronounced concerns that have to be dealt with and aren't dealt with in the legislation, clearly, except in a negative way.


The member for Algoma always asks very, very important rhetorical questions at the very beginning of a rebuttal or of a presentation, and I think they're the type of rhetorical questions that we, individually and collectively, should spend some time thinking about and reflecting upon.

Finally, I appreciate the member for Grey-Owen Sound's comments. I think they're fair. You'll notice, though, that the federal boundaries are increasing as opposed to the provincial boundaries decreasing, and northern Ontario reflects that as well. So I would suggest that what he says is right: There are major problems with the legislation that have to be dealt with. I agree with him. I didn't read all of A Voice for the North, he's right, because the Common Sense Revolution isn't in A Voice for the North. A Voice for the North was a very, very significant individual document because the north was so critically important to the then third party.

The Speaker: Time. Further debate?

Mr Wildman: I'll just open my remarks briefly by stating very clearly that in participating in this debate, I'm attempting to represent the concerns of my constituents as well as look at the overall needs of the province.

All of us recognize, as has been said a number of times in this debate, that there must and should be redistribution. In my experience in representing the people of Algoma for 21 years, I've seen three redistributions, and I recognize that there should be and there usually is one about every 10 years.

I also want to say I agree very much with the comments that were made by the member for Mississauga South in October 1985 when she spoke about redistribution in this Legislature. She said that we must be talking about equal and effective representation. The question is, what does that word "effective" mean? How do we define it? How do we deal with it in terms of the issues of rep by pop and geography and community of interest? Because those are all factors that have been taken into account before.

I came here, as my friend from Renfrew North did, the very month that the Camp commission made a historic report about electoral representation in this province, and I'll be referring to a number of things that Mr Camp, along with his colleagues, said in that report which I think have stood us in good stead since then.

But since time is running short, I will just read into the record a letter I received this morning, just coincidentally the day I was going to be intervening in this debate. This letter is addressed to the Honourable Al Leach, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, from the Algoma District Municipal Association.

Mr Michael Brown: I was there.

Mr Wildman: My friend from Algoma-Manitoulin was at the meeting -- it was in his riding -- and they passed a resolution. I'll just read this letter:

"Dear Mr Leach:

"The following resolution was passed at the last meeting of the Algoma District Municipal Association."

I want to make clear, as my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin will attest, that there are municipal politicians of every political stripe represented in this organization and there are independents. So this is not a partisan resolution that was passed. It says:

"Whereas under proposed redistribution, the total number of ridings in northern Ontario would be reduced from 15 to 10; and

"Whereas the size of most northern ridings would be significantly increased, and this would result in less representation for the north at Queen's Park; and

"Whereas the present Algoma riding would be expanded to also include fully what is now the riding of Algoma-Manitoulin, part of the current Nickel Belt riding and part of the Lake Nipigon riding," the association "is concerned that the needs of northern Ontario residents have not been considered in this proposal...The proposed alignment would at least double travel time, thereby not only creating hardship for the MPP, but reducing the time available for dealing with the concerns of his constituents." The association "is of the opinion that this alignment would significantly hamper the accessibility of northern Ontario residents to their MPP, as well as reduce the voice of northern Ontario in the provincial Legislature. There is also a question as to whether the interests of such a vast riding would be compatible.

"Therefore be it resolved that the Algoma District Municipal Association endorse the resolution...and vehemently oppose any alteration of the electoral boundaries in the Algoma district, and further that this resolution be circulated," and it says to whom it's going to be circulated.

I must say that as the MPP representing most of that area now I don't agree with the final "be it resolved." I don't agree that there should not be any changes, but I certainly agree that those changes should take into account the concerns raised in the "whereases" that precede the resolution. That is what is wrong with what we're doing here in this assembly. That is what is wrong with what is being proposed by the government. It doesn't properly take into account those concerns.

These are concerns which were not prompted by me or my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin. This was a matter raised by municipal politicians who recognize that it is difficult for the people of their area, northern Ontario, now to be properly represented in debates about regulations and laws that affect all of us across the province.

They recognize that we in northern Ontario have only 9% of the population of this province. I would remind you that the 9% is larger than a number of other provinces' total populations, but we do only have 9% of the total population. We also have, despite some comments that have been made in this debate about pocket boroughs and rotten boroughs and about the Canadian Shield not writing letters, 80% of the land mass of this province. I know that is hard for members in southern Ontario to comprehend.

Part of the problem relates to the Ministry of Transportation's insistence on having a roadmap that divides the province and has southern Ontario on one side and northern Ontario on the other side at different scales, so nobody in southern Ontario who looks at that roadmap really understands what the expanse of the area is and the distances involved.

I want to say, when I participate in this debate when it reconvenes, that I'm not only going to be talking about these very serious concerns about Bill 81 in northern Ontario. I want to talk about it in terms of what it means for all of Ontario, not just rural and northern Ontario, in terms of democracy, I believe, in this province.

I don't think the government has thought very clearly about what the ramifications of this bill are. If they have, as my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin suggests, it worries me seriously about their commitment to the people of this province. I hope I'm right in saying that they haven't taken into account the real ramifications.

With that, Mr Speaker, I move adjournment of the debate.

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

The House adjourned at 1800.