36th Parliament, 1st Session

L109 - Wed 16 Oct 1996 / Mer 16 Oct 1996






















































The House met at 1334.




Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Yesterday I rose in this House to bring to members' attention the particulars of a meeting taking place with 11 organizations representing the disabled, the sick and the elderly. The focus of this meeting with the Toronto Transit Commission was to plead with this government to reinstate funding for the Wheel-Trans system.

Over 20 groups attended yesterday to reprimand the government on its actions, which are obviously driven more by the bottom line than by the needs of the disabled community. I want to once again draw to members' attention that many of these vulnerable constituents are doubly affected because they lack the strength and confidence to go through the screening and appeal processes.

I wish to address every member of this House in saying that the constituents from your riding are among those being affected by these cuts. People from your own community are pleading for this government assistance and cooperation.

The Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Community and Social Services will be asked to restore funding for Wheel-Trans. I urge each member to speak up now on behalf of these potential shut-ins: the elderly, sick and disabled. I urge the government to reinstate funding for vital needs and the Wheel-Trans service.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My statement today is directed to the Minister of Health and the minister responsible for women's issues, who I hope will want to meet their obligation as advocates for women's reproductive choice. I urge them to speak up in cabinet in favour of securing a comprehensive policy on women's reproductive health, including support for RU-486, commonly known as the abortion pill, which has already cleared clinical trials and is in use in several countries in Europe.

RU-486 works by cutting off hormones needed to sustain pregnancy in the very early stages, literally in the hours and days following conception. This avoids the necessity of using more costly surgical procedures at a later date. The Minister of Finance will want to take note here as well.

It's apparent from media reports that the company that manufactures RU-486 will only seek trials if there is demonstrable government and societal support. I urge our government to begin today to create that climate of support so that this may join the range of options for women in the situation of an unwanted pregnancy.

Finally, Canadians continue to support a woman's right to reproductive choice. It's time for our provincial and federal governments to do the same by working together. It's time for a comprehensive policy on women's reproductive health that includes not only access to abortion services, but also sex education, contraception and disease prevention.


Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): In recognition of World Food Day and with the memory of Thanksgiving fresh in our minds, I would ask the honourable members to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in this nation, with its bounty of safe and nutritious food.

It is an unfortunate truth that even as we approach the 21st century the spectre of world hunger is still with us. Population growth, climatic change and shrinking arable land are pressuring our food supply and increasing our need for intensified agricultural production. But I am also pleased to say that Ontario's agriculture industry is contributing greatly to the fight against hunger.

Our farmers, through genetic selection, better management strategies and nutrition knowledge, are producing more food using less land, animals and feed than ever before. The efficiency of Ontario farmers is unparalleled. They are responsible for feeding 11 million Ontarians and millions more across the world.

Our agricultural food sector is contributing as well. Ontario food companies and grocery retailers are doing their part to ensure that children here at home receive proper nutrition at school. This government supports this initiative and this sector. Last May, our government provided up to $5 million in startup funding for child nutrition programs.

We should both respect and applaud the efforts of the men and women of our agriculture and food system.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Now that the government of Ontario has had time to reflect upon its announced decision to close the Niagara Detention Centre, many in Niagara hope that the minister will reconsider this ill-advised move which has been questioned by knowledgeable people in the field of correctional services. Not only will the closing of the centre be unhelpful in the efficient operation of our local courts, but it will also reduce the opportunity for local organizations to counsel those who are detained in an effort to reduce the chances of prisoners recommitting crimes.


With a capacity of 256 inmates and the fact that the building is only 22 years old, it appears to be foolish to close the facility and remove yet another 130 employment positions from the Niagara region.

Jim Wells, executive director of the John Howard Society in Niagara, predicts that within a few years the problem will force the province to change course and set up more community-based programs.

Anyone who is aware of the most effective way to rehabilitate offenders will realize that family contact and local services nearby reduce the chances of inmates remaining on the offending path. Along with the closing of the community resource centre or halfway house, we have taken a major step backward in correctional services in the Niagara region. I call upon the minister to change course and keep it open.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): In 1993, through the efforts of Alexander Henry High School staff, the child care barrier for young mothers, in their desire to return to school, was recognized as a need in my community. The Sault YMCA generously moved into action and put together a plan.

Research indicates that there were only a few programs in Canada with the uniqueness of this program of the YMCA Northern Child Care Centre: The parents had to maintain participation as full-time students in secondary school; the parents had to be receiving social assistance; the child care service was available to parents attending any high school within either board of education in Sault Ste Marie.

The YMCA Northern Child Care Centre has been open since January 31, 1994, and during those five semesters, ending June 1996, very positive results have been created. Some 62 different parents, with 73 children, have participated; 20 have graduated from high school, five continued in secondary school using the child care in September 1996 and nine parents had children graduate to elementary school. Child and parent are both gone.

In 1995 the provincial government's social assistance reform directly impacted this program in two ways: The parent, besides receiving a reduced amount of social assistance, was now required to pay a daily fee; more significantly, the program, which had been funded 100% by the province, would now revert back to the traditional funding split with the municipality at an 80%-20% divide. The YMCA and the Kiwanis Club in Sault Ste Marie have come to the aid of this centre and have saved it.


Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Three months ago a new retail store called the Green Home Centre opened in the Quinte area. As an alternative to paying to take good-quality used building materials to a landfill, or to dropping them at your curb, this store accepts materials at no cost. If you drop these items at the store, you receive a discount coupon for future purchases, or you can take advantage of their free pickup service.

Thanks to the wide acceptance and participation of businesses and individuals in the Quinte area, the Green Home Centre has so far diverted over 110 tonnes of building, construction and gardening material back into use. With an annual projection of over 400 tonnes, the store is already surpassing many other more established reuse centres across Ontario.

As an active member of the business community, the Green Home Centre provides customers with a wide variety of inexpensive building and gardening materials, saves municipalities infrastructure costs and provides a valuable alternative to the high cost of disposal.

I would like to commend the Green Home Centre on their efforts so far and wish them continued success in the future.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I am pleased to announce the recipient of our first inaugural Dinosaur Award. I'd like to share with the House the criteria for the selection. The criteria for the minister who would receive the reward are: the one most likely to turn back the hands of time and bring Ontario back to the Stone Age; the ability to make shortsighted decisions, destroying everything in its path; the minister most likely to introduce legislation that shows a complete lack of regard for the public at large.

That recipient is none other than our Minister of Education and Training, Mr Snobelen, following a very long and arduous process, I must say, where there was a legion of ministers up for the award, including environment, women's affairs, but none other than --

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member has a prop in front of her, and I think it's not proper to have this in the Legislature.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I was listening very carefully. I thought there could be some opportunity for her to be out of order. I've not heard it yet. You may continue.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Mr Speaker. May I tell you that again, following a long --

The Speaker: I apologize to the member for Lambton. I didn't see the sign. If you could remove the sign, I'd appreciate it. I apologize.

Mrs Pupatello: Mr Speaker, if I may continue.

The Minister of Education and Training has shown, time and time again, his complete lack of regard for, in this case, students across Ontario. A cut of $1 billion from education is seriously hampering the right of every student in Ontario for --

The Speaker: Your time is up.


The Speaker: I understand that you had some time taken. I will say that the point of order raised by the member for Lambton was in order. You did have a sign up; it was your time. I think that if you had not had that up, you would have had an opportunity to finish your statement. Let's move on.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to rise today and urge the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to move off his wishy-washy position regarding becoming involved in the impasse in the regional government of Hamilton-Wentworth. His position is, when called to step in and provide leadership, "I want them to sort it out but it sounds as if they may need some help in doing that." This is a long-standing problem recently brought to a head by a vote at regional council to abolish the council, which is juxtaposed against a position taken by the city of Hamilton to eliminate the region and go to a supercity where Hamilton would amalgamate all the outlying areas.

Both positions are untenable, and the minister knows that. I think he's hiding behind the fact that he's got a political problem locally. He's got two Tories who like the idea of the regional position, he's got one Tory who supports the idea of one tier and the minister stepping in and he's got a member on Hamilton Mountain who's got a foot in both camps.

I clearly have said that the minister ought to step in and use the constituent assembly report as the basis. There's a year-long public input process there. There's expert research material backing up their findings. Rather than hiding behind your partisan political problems, step in and show some leadership.

While you're so supportive of local options, remind the Minister of Health that we've already got a local option on health care that the government can stand behind and stay out of.


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): Please join me in welcoming to the Legislature the Canadian Co-operative Association and representatives of Ontario's co-ops and in congratulating them as they celebrate National Co-op Week.

Cooperatives have had a long and successful tradition here in Ontario and around the world. They show how much people can achieve when they work together, pool resources and share skills for the benefit of their members and communities. Co-ops help people obtain goods and services they may not otherwise be able to afford by pooling members' purchasing power.

Today more than two million people belong to Ontario's 1,400 co-ops and 500 credit unions and caisses populaires. With their combined assets of over $15 billion, co-ops play a significant role in Ontario's economy.

This evening the Canadian Co-operative Association is hosting its annual MPP reception in the legislative dining room from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the House to attend and learn more about how co-ops benefit their communities.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to take this opportunity to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today members of Parliament from New South Wales, Mr Bryce Gaudry and Mr Andrew Fraser.

Could you also welcome Dr Abdul Salam Al Abbadi, Minister of Aqwaf, Islamic Affairs and Holy Places in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.




Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I rise today during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to announce a very important investment to improve the health and lives of women in Ontario. This morning I had the privilege of joining the Premier at Princess Margaret Hospital to announce an Ontario government investment of $24.3 million to expand the Ontario breast screening program.

There is no doubt that breast cancer exacts an all-too-devastating toll on women, their families and their friends. It's estimated that in this year alone about 7,100 Ontario women will develop breast cancer and that about 2,000 women will die from the disease.

This new funding will expand the capacity of the Ontario breast screening program by some 400%, meaning that by the year 2000 we will be able to screen 325,000 women each year at over 40 sites across the province. In the near term, new sites are expected to open in Chatham, Sarnia, Listowel, Niagara Falls, St Catharines, Belleville, Trenton, Ottawa, Timmins and Barrie, with others to follow over the next three years.

I commend the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation and the Ontario breast screening program for their excellent work. In particular, I thank Dr Charles Hollenberg, the CEO of the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, and Dr Susan Aitken, the director of the Ontario breast screening program. Their dedication to the better health of Ontarians is a model for all of us to follow.

I know too that there are many other volunteers and community groups around the province that also make a tremendous contribution to the ongoing success of this program. Your work is vitally important and I offer, on behalf of the government, my sincere appreciation to all of you.

To its credit, the previous Liberal government began a breast screening program in 1989 and the NDP modestly expanded it during its term in office. We are building today upon those beginnings.

The members of this House will know that this government is committed to ensuring that health care spending is maintained at $17.4 billion. It's a daunting task in face of the $2.1-billion cut or reduction in transfer payments from the federal Liberal government. To do this and to maintain quality in health care, we must restructure the health care system and we must reinvest the savings we achieve into community care, new drugs, technology and medical procedures that save lives, such as breast screening.

Unfortunately, breast cancer is one of the two leading causes of cancer deaths among Ontario women -- lung cancer is the other -- but we also know that most breast problems can be treated if they are discovered early. Studies have shown that screening women aged 50 and over in an organized program like the Ontario breast screening program can substantially reduce deaths from this disease.

What makes the Ontario breast screening program so important to women aged 50 and over is that the program provides much more than just a mammogram; it includes an examination by a specially trained nurse. All the sites that are part of the program have consistent and high-quality standards.

We are making this announcement today so thousands more Ontario women can have access to this organized screening program. The Ontario breast screening program wants to reach as many women over age 50 as possible, and to do that it provides information in French and five other languages: German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese. A mobile van supports the program in northwestern Ontario. It's stationed in Thunder Bay and travels to communities in that region of the province.

I firmly believe that our health care system is among the best in the world, one envied by many other countries. As minister, I intend to make sure we sustain and strengthen that excellence. This reinvestment in the Ontario breast screening program is just one more way we are committed to achieving that goal.


Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I'm pleased to announce to the House that later today we will be introducing the Fire Protection and Prevention Act. This piece of legislation is the strongest of its kind in Canada. For the first time in nearly 50 years, the issues surrounding fire services are finally being dealt with.

This legislation will provide a new framework for fire protection in Ontario. It will improve public safety, streamline services and reduce costs. It will allow municipalities in all parts of the province to provide the highest possible level of fire safety in the most efficient way.

The legislation we are introducing is the product of a long process of consultation with municipalities, firefighters and fire chiefs. Some of the individuals involved in that process of consultation are in the gallery today: Harold Tulk, the president of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs; Tom Powell, the chief in Scarborough; Alan Speed, the chief in the city of North York; Peter Ferguson, the acting chief in the city of Toronto; Terry Allen, the chief of the city of Cambridge; Dave Carruthers, who's the president of the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario, representing Ontario's volunteers; and Bernie Moyle, the fire marshal of Ontario. Gentlemen, thank you for your hard work and dedication.

Change is long overdue and we are determined to complete the reform of this essential service. The result will be safer communities. This reform is a demonstration of the government's continuing commitment to public safety.

The Fire Protection and Prevention Act is part of the government's municipal restructuring program. It will give municipalities the flexibility to find the best ways of providing local services that meet local circumstances. It will ensure the effective delivery of fire protection services by municipalities, with the assistance of the province, but it will also encourage municipalities to match appropriate and affordable fire suppression facilities with effective fire prevention and public education programs. Such fire prevention and public education programs will be mandatory.

In addition, the Public Fire Safety Council will be strengthened to play a greater role in fire prevention and public education and to encourage greater participation in this field by the private sector.

We know that fire losses could have been avoided and many tragedies averted with more effective public education and with better fire prevention. Data gathered over the years by the office of the fire marshal indicates that 80% of fires are accidental and could have been avoided with greater fire prevention and public education. Meanwhile, more than 30 coroners' juries have called for a more coordinated approach to fire safety and fire protection. We support that approach and this legislation reflects those goals.

The Fire Protection and Prevention Act will streamline the legislation affecting fire protection in Ontario by consolidating no fewer than nine separate statutes. It will cut the red tape that has hampered the fire services and impeded the development of effective fire protection and fire prevention measures. To cite just one example, it will eliminate the duplication and redundancy that makes it necessary under the current system to have both an Accidental Fires Act and a Fire Accidents Act.

The new legislation will consolidate the rules affecting the fire services in a single, straightforward legislative framework. It will ensure that effective education and prevention programs are provided in every municipality in Ontario. It will give Ontario the strongest legislation of its kind in Canada and it will save lives.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was reading through the statement that was provided to the opposition, and the cheap shot at previous governments is not included --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. The member for St Catharines, I have no idea what you're reading from. I'm not supplied a copy of the statement. I listened to the statement. I heard the statement. I heard nothing out of order.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On the point of order, Mr Speaker: If the minister intended the cheap shot to be included, there's obviously been a typing problem.

The Speaker: Responses. The member for Timiskaming.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I can clarify this for you, Mr Speaker. I have the complete statement of the minister. He neglected to read his fourth paragraph, which is a cheap shot at previous governments. I guess he decided not to do that.

Minister, in the compendium of this statement there are 12 different areas of the numerous acts that are going to be brought together here and it's going to take us a while to get through them and to give you the comments and the critical look they deserve, but that will come at a later time in this House, in debate, and in committee.


There are two concerns today, though, that I would certainly like to discuss with you, and those are the concern of offloading a lot of these responsibilities to municipalities and also the concern about the labour relations provisions. I think the minister must realize it's been an unwritten moral code among firefighters that they never go on strike, and for you today to put in this act that it is now illegal for them to go on strike smacks at the very heart of the firefighting code they're always there to protect and to save lives in this province.

We have never had a problem. There has never been an injury or a death caused in this province because firefighters refused the call of duty to protect the citizens. They don't need that, Minister, and I hope you will withdraw that some day, because that is a slap in the face of firefighters right across this province that should never happen.

The other change I'm a little concerned about is the private sector involvement that you want to see increased in the fire safety programs. We've already heard about user fees for fire inspections and car fires and perhaps we're going to see more of that. My colleague here tells me of a Scarborough nursing home that has its alarm so finely tuned up to code that they have had false alarms and now they face, in three months, $3,000 worth of fines because they are bringing it up to the code they need to. I think we need a bit of latitude here and I hope you will rethink some of this before you bring forward the legislation.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I'd like to respond to the statement by the Minister of Health and say to him that I remember very well the day in 1989 when I stood in this Legislature as Minister of Health and announced the breast screening program. At that time I never imagined it would be beyond the year 2000 before all women in this province would have access to lifesaving breast screening. So while this announcement is welcome to the women of this province, it is yet four more years away from being fully available to the people of this province who need it, and that is women over the age of 50.

Similarly, along that line, I point out to the minister that I too congratulate the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, Dr Charles Hollenberg, and Dr Susan Aitken, the director of the Ontario breast screening program. I also congratulate all those who are working on the front line of cancer care, particularly those who are dealing with unprecedented cuts to cancer care in the form of hospital base budgets unprecedented in this province. They are struggling and doing an incredible job against all odds. When Premier Harris said he would not touch one penny in health care, people thought that meant he would not cut base budgets of cancer hospitals, but we know the truth.

There is one issue I would like to commend to the minister, and that is that when the breast screening program was initially announced, it was always intended those programs would have direct contact with the women who would benefit; that is, the women over the age of 50. The ministry could provide and it was always intended would provide them with the ability to contact those people directly. I believe it was misguided to not permit that to happen and I hope the minister will reinstate the direct contact program. The breast screening programs want it, they need it, and unless women have real access by knowing it is available to them in their communities, then they will not be able to benefit from the lifesaving provisions of the breast screening program. I say to the minister, please look into the whole ability of those clinics to directly contact the women in those communities to allow that to occur. That is something I think he will agree is extremely important if he looks into it.

The last thing I want to say about this is that a lot of people have worked long and hard to make sure the breast screening program is of consistent quality across the province. I was pleased the minister acknowledged that because one of the advantages of a screening program is that you can have the kind of quality assurance this program has.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I want to respond briefly to the Minister of Health. I would like to congratulate him and the CEO of the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation and the others who have worked very hard over the years with our government and the Liberal government to make sure we advance in the screening programs. It's a good thing we're moving forward today. More needs to be done and that's very important.

I would like to say that I wonder how many of these hospitals will still be left open and how many of these skilled nurses will still be there at the end of your cutting and slashing of the health care system in Ontario. I hope they all will be.

I also briefly want to comment that while I applaud this effort, I want to point out to the minister that it is now recognized that a majority of cancers are caused by external factors, including organochlorines and many other thousands of carcinogens out there that we now know contribute to cancer. As the minister knows, there was a resolution passed in this House that we form an all-party committee, and those with the expertise, to work on phasing out carcinogens and other cancer-causing substances in our environment. To date, Minister, you have done nothing. We know these chemicals cause the vast majority of cancers. So while I applaud this effort, we must continue to create even more screening for women. We absolutely now have to start on the front end and start preventing cancer. I urge the minister today to come forward and form this committee that is very badly needed.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm pleased to respond to the statement by the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services and to point out to him that he neglected to introduce some people who are in the west gallery who are probably very important to all of us: the professional firefighters of this province. Bruce Carpenter, who is the president of the Provincial Federation of Ontario Firefighters, and Jim Lee, who is the president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, are here but they weren't included by you, Minister, in any consultations. They have asked you again and again for meaningful consultations --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I ask those in the members' gallery, please, you're not allowed to shout out.

Mrs Boyd: Minister, you have refused again and again to have meaningful consultation with the men and women in this province who deliver front-line fire services. You have consultation with management, you have consultation with municipalities, but you have consistently refused to have meaningful consultation with the professional firefighters in this province. There's a good reason for that, because although there are many good things in the bill you propose to introduce today, one of the things you plan to do here is to change the labour relations regime for professional firefighters in this province. You don't mention that in your statement, but in the compendium it is very clear that there will be a change in that relationship.

For example, you are going to be imposing a 12-month probationary period regardless of what's in the collective agreements that are there. You are going to impose an aid provision that pays no attention to the contracting-out provisions in those collective agreements. What is more, Minister, it is not clear, because there has been no consultation, exactly what the role of the Ontario Labour Relations Board is going to be with respect to professional firefighters.

You owe it to the professional firefighters of this province to have real consultation with them. They wrote to you on October 7, right after the Crombie commission recommendations came out, and begged you to meet with them to talk about those recommendations, to talk about the problems, and you did not. You meet with these people on a hail-fellow-well-met basis, but you will not have meaningful consultation; you will not use their expertise and their commitment.

It is indeed, as my friend from Timiskaming said, a slap in the face for the professional firefighters of this province to have you include a no-strike provision. There has never been a work stoppage from professional firefighters in this province. That is not something they would condone. They have never condoned it. They find it insulting that your act is a thinly veiled attempt to destroy their ability to collectively bargain on behalf of their members.

One of the other issues is that you've made fire prevention programs mandatory. You still have not made fire suppression services mandatory for municipalities in this province, according to your own compendium. It is very real that we need prevention services, but suppression is also important.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My first question is to the Solicitor General and it concerns your ongoing coverup of the involvement of organized crime in the manufacturing and distribution of video slot machines in this province. I use the term "coverup" deliberately, because the more we know about what your government knew and when they knew it, the more it becomes clear how sordid this video gambling affair is.


Minister, I have here in my hands a letter from the Metropolitan Toronto Police and in it the police are very, very clear and they say, and I quote: "I believe those who predict the legalization of VLTs will lessen or eliminate illegal VLTs are incorrect." It also says that they would like to draw your attention to the position of the Criminal Intelligence Service chair that the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario is not in favour of video lottery terminals.

My question is this: Does it not occur to you, Mr Solicitor General, as the top cop in this province, to tell the people of this province that there are major concerns about the involvement of organized crime in the introduction of slot machines and is that not your responsibility to prepare a special report?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I resent the use of the term "coverup." I think if there is a coverup here perhaps it's the fact that we barely recognize this member. Perhaps there's a coverup under way in terms of his membership in this assembly, I'm not sure. But with respect to a coverup about --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Solicitor General.

Hon Mr Runciman: I've indicated on a number of occasions now that this is not a government report, it was commissioned by the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario. Those reports are developed on a number of occasions throughout the year by CISO and government is not privy to the existence of those reports, let alone gaining access to them.

I've indicated that it would be unprecedented for a member of government, especially a Solicitor General, to request access to that kind of a report. The fact that this report was developed was public knowledge back in March and I indicated earlier the standing committee reviewing Bill 75 opted not to call any witnesses from CISO.

Mr Kennedy: It's becoming very clear to everyone in this House and to the public of Ontario how desperate the government is, if that's the nature of the answer, the best answer the Solicitor General can muster.

We've heard that you maybe were out of the loop so badly that you didn't know the report existed; then you remember reading the report in your absentmindedness. But there's a third explanation: Your government is so desperate for the money coming from slot machines it's prepared to go to any lengths to cover up this information which we raised in committee. This letter from the Metropolitan police was raised in committee in August and your government has deliberately ignored it.

Minister, I have in my hand a second public document, this time a study of video slot machines by the coordinated law enforcement units in British Columbia, released to the public and in it you can read about how in New Brunswick the government intended to own slot machines when they were legalized. Organized criminals became some of the legal owners. You'll find out about warehouse bombings by some of the companies that they name in Quebec.

My question, Mr Solicitor General, is, if the Attorney General's office in British Columbia can prepare and publicly release a study, not just in BC but across Canada, can't you produce that study here and live up to your responsibility as Solicitor General to tell us how organized crime is affecting video slot machines in this province?

Hon Mr Runciman: The member indicated in his question, I think, that this was prepared by the Ministry of the Attorney General for the Attorney General in British Columbia. There's a significant difference here. We're talking about an agency which is not connected in any way, shape or form with government. This is an independent body that developed this report, so I think there's a very clear distinction.


The Speaker: Order please, the member for Sudbury.

Hon Mr Runciman: In terms of policing reports or other reports, the Canadian chiefs' association has made public a report dealing with this question and takes quite the opposite view with respect to legalization of VLTs. In fact, legalization, the chiefs' report indicates, will have an impact on the proliferation of illegal machines in any jurisdiction.

There are a variety of reports on this, but in terms of getting feedback from the policing community, I do meet with Chief Fantino, I've indicated that, and other members of the chiefs on a number of occasions. They've conveyed their concerns, but with respect to details on this particular report, that remains a document for the intelligence community in policing.

Mr Kennedy: Minister, let me just summarize what the police have told you. The RCMP have told us that organized crime is moving in on gambling in Canada just when police are losing their manpower, an area where you do have some responsibility, if small in this House. You don't need a briefing note to see that, it's been in the newspaper. The Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario has told us that organized crime is involved. The head of that service has said they do not want video gambling machines. In New Brunswick we found that organized crime does get involved when government tries to legalize and the police here in Metro Toronto have told you that legalized slot machines will not drive out illegal ones.

Minister, are you so reckless and irresponsible that you would ignore the advice of the police? Are you so consumed, with your colleagues, by the need for the money that you will not live up to your responsibility and tell the Premier and your colleagues that this bill has to be withdrawn, that Bill 75 cannot proceed until we fully understand the effects of organized crime on video slot machines?

Hon Mr Runciman: It's somewhat ironic that if anyone promoted the growth of organized gambling in this province it was the Liberals in a very deregulated way.


The Speaker: The member for Essex South, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: We have recognized legitimate concerns with respect to organized crime and we are addressing them in a very effective way. The Treasurer has made comments with respect to ensuring that adequate resources are put into this. We've made that commitment time and time again. If there are policing concerns, we are not hearing them. We've indicated to the policing community that we're going to address these concerns that they've had in earlier times related to initiatives undertaken by the Liberals and the NDP, that we are going to deal with this concern in a much more effective way than has been the case in the past. We're committed to that.

Mr Kennedy: My second question is also to the Solicitor General on the same subject. This morning my office spoke to the acting deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Force, Paul Gottschalk. Minister, the deputy chief, available by telephone, was very clear: Video gambling machines will be a nightmare for police in this city.

Who are we supposed to believe? Are we supposed to believe that you know more about policing and the impact of these machines or the deputy police chief who says your plan will lead to more crime and will be a nightmare for police?

Hon Mr Runciman: I've indicated to you earlier that in terms of the policing community feedback we've had, it's been on the basis that if you're moving ahead with the legalization of VLTs, you ensure that adequate resources are committed to effective policing, and we've made that commitment from day one.

Mr Kennedy: We see nothing of that commitment reflected anywhere. We have reports from the OPP, from the RCMP, from Chief Fantino, who heads up the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, and all of them are saying the same thing. They fear that your plan to bring video slot machines out of controlled environments and into every bar and restaurant across Ontario will create great new costs. So for example, in Metropolitan Toronto, there are four officers currently dealing with gambling. They would need 100 even to begin to have an impact.

Mr Solicitor General, we're asking you today, are you prepared to make that commitment, to make that 25-fold increase in policing to be able to deal with this and is that where you want to see the criminal resources -- the resources to deal with crime -- in this province directed, to this new criminal activity that you'll be developing just because your government is so desperate to have the money from these video gambling machines? Will you make that commitment today, Mr Solicitor General?

Hon Mr Runciman: One of the things we've heard is the widespread proliferation of illegal machines in this province, not just machines but with betting, gaming houses as well. That kind of a concern and issue has not been dealt with in an effective way by either the Liberal government or the NDP government. We've made a commitment that we are going to deal with those kinds of issues in a very effective way, unlike what happened in the past. I can indicate to the member that we will have some announcements in that regard in the not-too-distant future.

Mr Kennedy: It's very hard to believe that this is the government that ran on a law-and-order platform in the last election. People all across the province are watching and wondering what is happening to that idea. Your scheme to bring video gambling machines into every bar and restaurant will lead to more crime. You know it, the police know it and everyone in this province is starting to know it. It's not just a question of the number of machines; it's a question of being able to open them up and tell whether they're legal or illegal, it's a question of whether they're controlled and it's a question of having the manpower far beyond anything that's been talked about to enforce it.


Minister, why don't you admit that this government does not care about the new crime that you're bringing on, that the money matters more, that you don't care what impact they'll have on vulnerable people and creating new addictions and that the responsibilities of ensuring that the police forces aren't overwhelmed by this new source of crime do not matter to this government, because there is nothing at all in the legislation, not one line --

The Speaker: Question?

Mr Kennedy: Tell us, Mr Solicitor General, once more whether you will hold up the legislation and allow us to introduce safety measures so that organized crime doesn't become proliferated simply because of the decisions of your government.

Hon Mr Runciman: I've indicated quite clearly the kinds of initiatives we're going to undertake to ensure that the concerns the member is expressing do not develop --


The Speaker: The member for Oakwood, come to order.

Hon Mr Runciman: -- unlike what his government did while it was in power in 1985 to 1990 --


The Speaker: The member for St Catharines.

Hon Mr Runciman: -- and unlike what the NDP did during its tenure in power. For this member to indicate that we are somehow not fulfilling our commitment with respect to justice issues, I can say that the justice community, the law enforcement community, feels much more confident --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): We said no to VLTs. They were proposed to us and we said no to VLTs.

The Speaker: The member for Algoma, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: -- with this party in power than it ever did during the days of those two parties in power. You can look at a whole range of issues in the justice field, ranging from strict discipline and dealing with young offenders in a much more effective way, dealing with victims of crime --

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: -- in a much more effective way, being accessible to the police community on virtually every issue.

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: We have a record that we're very proud of with respect to justice issues. We have nothing to apologize for. Those two parties across the floor have a great deal to apologize for.

The Speaker: New question, leader of the third party.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Speaker, you might want to get an aspirin for the Solicitor General.

The Speaker: Order; I can't hear you. Order.

Mr Hampton: I have an urgent question for the Premier; it concerns the situation at General Motors. But the Premier's not here today, so I'll save that question for tomorrow. Hopefully, he'll be here.

The Speaker: Who's your question to?


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance. Last spring, you and the Premier said very clearly, "We are through cutting." You said that no more cuts would be necessary, that your scheme to give $6 billion to the wealthiest people in the province would finance itself. In fact, the Premier very clearly said: "We're done cutting. We're through cutting." Now we're hearing from Conservative officials who say that another $3 billion will have to be cut.

I want to ask the Minister of Finance, are you going to cut another $3 billion, and where is it going to come from? From health care, from education, from seniors, from kids, from communities? Where are you going to make the cuts, Minister?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): To the leader of the third party: As he fully knows, in the Common Sense document our government committed to reducing expenditures by some $6 billion. He should know better than anybody else and his party should know better than any other party in the Legislature that there is absolutely no way one was going to achieve the deficit target that the previous government had set and that in fact if prompt action wasn't taken, the deficit for the 1995-96 fiscal year, the deficit for the year we went into government --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, third party.

Hon Mr Eves: -- would have been $11.2 billion. So we have said all along that we would have to reduce the $6 billion that we committed to doing plus the $2 billion that they padded the books by before they left office in June 1995.


Mr Hampton: The Conservative members can raise as much noise as they want. The real problem you've got, Deputy Premier, is you gave away $6 billion in revenue. The budget would be within the possibility of balancing had you not given away $6 billion, and $6 billion more next year and more the year after that, to your wealthy friends. That's your problem, and that's why you're going to have to cut more.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): What are you talking about? You're so out to lunch you don't know what you're talking about.

The Speaker: Order. I ask the government whip to come to order and the Attorney General. Order. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: You see, the Attorney General is more worried about how much money he is going to get by this phoney tax break than he is worried about the law enforcement system in the province.

Deputy Premier, we see how your phoney tax scheme is working. The president of the Bank of Commerce is going to get about a $50,000 tax break, the president of the Royal Bank is going to get about a $50,000 tax break, but we're not seeing any jobs for working people. Thirty-five thousand jobs disappeared in September, and there are 57,000 more people unemployed now than last year at this time.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Hampton: I want to ask you again, how much are you going to cut? How much will you have to cut to finance your phoney tax scheme, and where are you going to cut? Are you going to take it from kids? Are you going to take it from seniors?

The Speaker: Put the question.

Mr Hampton: Are you going to take it from law enforcement? Are you going to take it from health care? Where is it going to come from?

Hon Mr Eves: First of all, the member might be interested to know that there were 99,000 more people working in the province of Ontario in September 1996 than were working in September 1995. There are 99,000 more people who have jobs. Coming from a party that in its entire tenure in government lost 10,000 jobs in the province in five years, why are you standing here criticizing a government that was in place while 99,000 jobs were being created?

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): It's what you said you were going to do. The unemployment rate is up.

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

Hon Mr Eves: What is wrong with you?

Mr Hampton: Only a Conservative government that doesn't give a whit, doesn't give a care about the unemployed would brag when the unemployment rate goes from 8.5% to 9.2% and 35,000 jobs are lost in one month.

I've asked the question twice and I'm going to ask it again. We know you're prepared to climb in bed with organized crime to get money to finance your tax break. We know that; we've seen that over the last couple of weeks. You're quite prepared to climb in bed with organized crime in order to get money out of video slot machines.


The Speaker: Order. I would ask the leader of the third party to withdraw that comment. That is totally unparliamentary and unacceptable.

Mr Hampton: I withdraw the comment. The government is prepared to dance with organized crime in terms of video slot machines to get the money.

The Speaker: Order. Finally, no dancing or climbing into bed. I would ask you to withdraw the comment.

Mr Hampton: I withdraw that. The government is prepared to have a cosy relationship with organized crime in terms of video slot machines.


The Speaker: Order. I say to the leader of the third party, this is the final warning. Either withdraw the comment --


The Speaker: With all due respect to the third party and the member for Windsor-Riverside, I think associating the government with organized crime is out of order. I ask the leader --


The Speaker: Finally, I say to the leader of the third party, either withdraw the comment --

Mr Hampton: The government is prepared to ignore the involvement of organized crime with video slot machines because it is so desperate for revenue to finance its tax break. But we know that in addition to taking the money from video slot machines, you're going to have to make some cuts.


I ask you again: Where are you going to cut? Is it going to be kids this time? Is it going to be seniors? Is it going to be schools? Is it going to be health care? Where are you going to cut now in order to finance your phoney tax scheme for the wealthy?

Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member knows full well that we have indicated all along that we would have to make $8 billion worth of cuts on an annualized basis to achieve our targets.

Mr Marchese: Try answering the question, Ernie. Don't be ignoring it.

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

Hon Mr Eves: Unlike the previous government that missed its deficit target by $2 billion in one year, our target for last year was $9.3 billion; we achieved $8.7 billion. We will continue to achieve our deficit targets. We will balance the books in the province of Ontario by the year 2000 despite the efforts of your party and your party to build up a $100-billion debt.

We're doing all this while leaving more money in the hands of hardworking, taxpaying Ontarians. I know you don't want to hear that.

Mr Hampton: The president of the Bank of Commerce, Frank Stronach, the president of the Royal Bank, the president of the chamber of commerce, they all thank you, Ernie.

The Speaker: Leader of the third party, come to order.

Hon Mr Eves: The fact is that there are 99,000 more people working today in the province of Ontario --


The Speaker: Order. I ask the leader of the third party to come to order. It's question period. You get to put the questions; they get to answer them.

A new question, the leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: I would say to the government, even their own right-wing think tank, the Fraser Institute, says they're going to have to cut $2 billion. So come clean and say where you're going to cut it.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have another question on cuts. It's to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. You are racing ahead with your plans to privatize some of the most valuable public assets in this province. You're going to sell off important capital assets, again because you need the money to finance your tax break. In your case, it's TVOntario that's going to be the victim: TVOntario, which is watched by literally hundreds of thousands of children across this province, which provides non-violent, educational television.

I want to ask the minister, as you sell TVOntario in order to meet your bottom line reduction targets, what do you have to say to those kids who enjoy high-quality, educational, violence-free and commercial-free television on TVOntario? What do you have to say to them?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): To the leader of the third party, first of all, it should come as no surprise to anyone in this House that we have been saying -- indeed we identified TVO as a potential candidate for privatization as early as May 1995 when we announced it in the Common Sense Revolution. So clearly it should come as no surprise that TVO is indeed a candidate for privatization.

Having said that, as I have consistently said for the last 15 or 16 months, until that privatization framework has been completed, no decisions will be made with respect to TVO.

Mr Hampton: As I suspected, the minister has nothing to say to the children of Ontario about violence-free television, about educational television. That's really not what she's concerned about.

Une autre question : qu'est-ce qui se passe avec TFO ? Si vous privatisez TVOntario, avez-vous des plans pour assurer la survie de la chaîne française, TFO ?

Je demande à la ministre, dans votre acte pour liquider tous les biens de la province, avez-vous oublié l'importance de TFO pour les francophones de la province --

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

M. Hampton : -- comme source d'information et enrichissement culturel ? Pouvez-vous assurer l'avenir de La Chaîne pour les Franco-Ontariens et les Franco-Ontariennes ?

Hon Ms Mushinski: Again to the leader of the third party: I don't know how many ways I can say it. The fact is that the privatization framework has not been completed yet, and until such time as it is, no decisions will be made with respect to TVO, TFO or the privatization of any public assets.

Mr Hampton: It's obvious that the minister has nothing to say to the francophone population of Ontario either in terms of the importance of TFO, so let me try again.

We recognize that you want to work out the framework with your corporate friends before you sell off TVOntario and TFO. We understand that. We understand that the minister of privatization has to meet with the brokers on Bay Street and make sure they get their commissions and their fees when you sell it off. We understand all that stuff.

What I'm asking you is, as the minister responsible, do you not see a place in Ontario for commercial-free, violence-free educational television for children? Do you not see a place in Ontario for one of the best public television networks in North America?

Hon Ms Mushinski: I have some difficulty with the leader of the third party understanding what we're saying with respect to this issue. We clearly stated in the Common Sense Revolution and during the election last year that TVO is a potential candidate for privatization. That was something, by the way, we did take to the taxpayers of this province.

We are taking a very careful approach to the whole issue of privatization. TVO clearly has been identified as a potential candidate, but until such time as any decisions have been made with respect to privatization, TVO will remain as it is.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is for the Minister of Health. Are you aware that Mrs Ella Galligan, a 102-year-old widow living in Pembroke, Ontario, has just been told by your officials that effective November 30, 1996, she will not only lose her OHIP coverage but her OHIP card because, in the view of the Ontario Ministry of Health, she is a refugee claimant?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'm not aware of that case. I will take the question on notice and be happy to get back to the member with the appropriate answer.

Mr Conway: Minister, let me tell you a little bit about Mrs Ella Galligan of Pembroke, Ontario, who your department now thinks is a refugee claimant. She's a 102-year-old citizen of our community. She is the daughter of a former member of Parliament. She is the wife of our long-term county court judge. She is the mother of Mr Justice Patrick Galligan, recently retired from the Ontario Supreme Court. She is a lifetime resident of the Ottawa Valley, a distinguished citizen. Her family wants to know not only that you're going to fix this, but how it is possible that someone so distinguished ends up in the government computers of Mike Harris's Ontario as a refugee claimant.

Hon Mr Wilson: I would remind the honourable member that when the Liberal government sent out blank forms for people to get their health cards in 1986, parrots and dogs and cats and other family pets were issued health cards by that government. In fact, 12 million people were issued health cards for a population of 10 million. I have devoted most of my career to straightening out the health card system, and I'm doing that as we speak.

I will take the question on notice and get back to the honourable member with the specific case and correct any errors that may have occurred, but I certainly don't need any lectures about inappropriate databases from the Liberals.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question. The member for Nickel Belt.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I'm trying, Mr Speaker; I'm trying.


The Speaker: The member for Oriole, come to order, please. The member for Nickel Belt has the floor.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): My question is for the Minister of Finance in his role as chairman of the cabinet committee for privatization. We know that the two ministers who have been involved with the whole issue of Ontario Hydro have been making somewhat contradictory statements in the last few days.

On Monday, the Minister of Environment and Energy said that a decision on privatization was two to four years away and that indeed the decision was being put on the back burner. Yesterday, your minister for privatization, in response to a question from my colleague from Lake Nipigon, danced around the issue and wouldn't make any kind of commitment and simply wouldn't deny or confirm what the Minister of Energy and Environment had said.

This is not a trivial matter. There is a lot of anxiety and concern out there about the future of Ontario Hydro. I wonder if you could confirm now that indeed the Minister of Energy and Environment was correct that the whole issue of privatization of Hydro is not on.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): There are many issues around the privatization process which certainly are far from being resolved, and I can assure him that absolutely no decisions have been made with respect to privatization of any entity in the province of Ontario, let alone an entity with the importance of Ontario Hydro.

I will say to him that the government is reviewing the MacDonald report and that we have not responded to the same, as I'm sure he is aware. When the government has prepared a response to react to the MacDonald report, that will be forthcoming.

Mr Laughren: I think that's simply not fair. There's a number of people who are concerned and anxious about the future of Ontario Hydro out there. Our caucus has been holding a series of public forums across the province; we haven't completed them yet. Environics has done a poll which showed that 66% of the population of this province are opposed to privatization of Hydro and only 24% are in favour of it.

The MacDonald report we know has recommended that the most lucrative parts of Ontario Hydro be sold off, presumably to your friends in the private sector, while the public would be stuck with the more expensive ways of generating power in the province. I believe that the people in this province deserve a more definitive answer in terms of a time frame for what your intentions are re the privatization of Ontario Hydro. It's simply not fair to leave it hanging out there and people not knowing what the future of this very important asset is.

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

Mr Laughren: So could you, at the very least, give us a time frame, tell us that this is not on in the next three to four years?

Hon Mr Eves: We have made absolutely no decisions about any privatization candidate, let alone Ontario Hydro. I can say to --

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): When are you going to?

Hon Mr Eves: "When am I going to?" the honourable member for Windsor-Riverside puts it. We are currently trying to establish a process for privatization in the province of Ontario. We will look at various candidates as they come forward. Ontario Hydro has certainly not even been thought of or mentioned in any deliberations to this point in time, and I cannot see any such deliberations taking place in the near future.

I think the most important thing for the government to do at this particular moment in time with respect to Ontario Hydro is to review the MacDonald report and get back with a response to the people of Ontario. I quite agree with the member for Nickel Belt, Ontario Hydro is --

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Mr Eves: -- indeed a very important institution in this province and the generation of electricity in the province and power in the province is a matter that is of utmost importance to the government and we will certainly proceed in due course.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Next week is Small Business Week throughout Ontario. It's an important week that recognizes the value of hardworking, risk-taking small business people.

As a former small business person for the past 20 years, I realize the importance of the little guy in the big corporate world. Studies have shown small business creates 85% of all new jobs. Will the minister inform the House what the government is doing to encourage this valuable Ontario resource, small business people, to start, expand and grow their businesses?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): Yes, I am very happy to respond to the member for Scarborough West. He is the Brown on the right side of the House.

I would like to start off by reading a quote, if I may, from Catherine Swift, who is the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Ms Swift says: "The current Ontario government is clearly more small-business-oriented than any of its predecessors. It has already begun to translate into more jobs for Ontarians as small firms remain the dominant job creators in the economy."

We have done much, as Ms Swift has said, but I'd like to just give a few points to back that up. First of all, we are providing government incentives to the banking industry to lend to small businesses. Secondly, we are cutting the employer health tax on small businesses, as we all know. We're committed to removing barriers that limit lending by loan and trust companies, we are reforming the Labour Relations Act and we have reduced the personal income tax rates.

Mr Jim Brown: From my experience, Minister, small business is a job generator. Small business growth is essential for Ontario's prosperity. What is the economic impact of these hardworking, dedicated small entrepreneurs? What percentage of the private sector does small business comprise?

Hon Mr Saunderson: Small businesses make up 43% of the private sector; 297,000 small businesses exist in Ontario and we have talked with almost 400 small businesses lately.

I'd like to give you some statistics from those calls: Twenty-three per cent of those calls were with companies founded by women. Fifty-five per cent are companies in the 30-to-44 age group. Those people have a lot of faith in what we are doing. Sixty-seven per cent of those people used their own savings and did not ask for any government grants. Forty-six per cent say they will bill $75,000 in their first year of operations. I'd like to conclude my answer by saying that there will be more detail provided next week by my parliamentary assistant, Mr Joe Spina, for Small Business Week.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is about small business in northwestern Ontario and it's to the Minister of Environment and Energy.

Minister, because of your government's decision to close the Thunder Bay Ministry of Environment laboratory, trailer park owners in northwestern Ontario have been told that they must now pay for the cost of water testing. This will result in a cost of $10,000 annually to the trailer park owners, who are already finding it hard to make ends meet.

Minister, what assistance will you provide these trailer park owners, who tell me that if they are required to pay the $10,000 water testing costs, many of them will have no alternative but to go bankrupt?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): We are committed to a user pay program in the ministry with regard to water testing by people who are using the service. I will work, of course, with any individual case where this would be an undue financial burden. We would be glad to deal with those on an individual basis.

Mr Miclash: Minister, that's not what your ministry has told these trailer park owners in northwestern Ontario. You stated yesterday in question period that you were satisfied that you were dealing with the water testing situation in this province. Hundreds of people living in trailer parks throughout northwestern Ontario are not as satisfied as you seem to be.

I am talking about trailer park owners who just cannot make ends meet because of the extra $10,000, the fee for water testing services. These owners want to stay in business, but feel the policies that you and your government are putting forward are having a devastating effect on them.

Minister, one park owner has already gone bankrupt and many more are hurting and going in that direction. What concrete action will you take today to ensure that these trailer park owners will not have to go out of business because of your decision to close the Thunder Bay lab? More importantly, what comfort can you provide the hundreds of residents who are worried about the effect your decision to close the lab will have on them and, more importantly, on their drinking water?

Hon Mr Sterling: Through the Ministry of Housing we will be providing trailer park owners with a better opportunity to recapture some costs which are necessary to deal with their particular situation. I hope that would be some partial solution for these owners. However, we believe this is a cost of operation. We believe that people who are on municipal water pay for their municipal water and the testing associated with that. We believe that these businesses, along with some help through the Ministry of Housing in recapturing these costs, through the people who are benefiting from this particular service, should in fact bear that cost.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): In the absence of the Premier, my question is for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. He will know that last Thursday the Premier and a number of his cabinet colleagues came to Sault Ste Marie for a Progressive Conservative fund-raising dinner. Six weeks before that, the mayors and reeves of Algoma got very excited about this because they saw in it an opportunity for them to have a meeting with the Premier when he came. The man was coming; they were going to have their meeting. They have a lot of issues they need to discuss with this person and with some of his cabinet.

It turns out, though, at the end of the day they were told he was coming late and leaving early; it turns out he actually came early and left late. Nevertheless, the bottom line was that any mayor or councillor or reeve of Algoma who wanted to have time with the Premier when he came to Sault Ste Marie last Thursday --

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

Mr Martin: -- had to fork out, either personally or out of municipal dollars, $150 to go to a Progressive Conservative fund-raising dinner --

The Speaker: Question.

Mr Martin: -- to talk to the Premier of this province. Is this to become the norm in Ontario that duly elected mayors and reeves and councillors have to --

The Speaker: The question's been put.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): To the member of the third party, I'd just like to remind him that members of this government and members of the cabinet, including the Premier, meet with municipal leaders right across the whole province and especially in northern Ontario. I've talked to Mayor Butland, I've met with most of the mayors right across northern Ontario and their input is welcome and accepted by this government. We're treating northern Ontario fairly.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): To the same minister, the fact is that the mayors around Sault Ste Marie, to meet with the Premier, had to pay $150 a plate to the Tory fund-raisers in Sault Ste Marie. That's how they got in. It was the only way. Now we know the Premier's coming to Timmins tomorrow, on Thursday. Is this what you plan on doing as well? Will the mayor of Timmins and other mayors around have to fork out 150 bucks to be able to meet with the Premier of the province? Will they?

Hon Mr Hodgson: The answer is no.


Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): I'd like to put a question to the Minister of Transportation. There's been a great deal of concern in my riding over Highway 6, running through Hamilton-Wentworth down into the Caledonia area. Over the years there have been some fatalities there. There have been a number of serious accidents. It's caused some frustration and made some area residents quite upset. I would like to know if the minister could inform my constituents what plans are set for the area so that he can address their concerns.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to thank the member for Wentworth East for his question. Certainly I would like to assure my colleague that the ministry is working with the public and local agencies to address areas of concern in order to reduce accidents and improve operation of Highway 6. In fact, some time later this year ministry staff will be holding a public consultation session to work directly with everyone concerned about safety on this highway.

Our project management staff will bring --

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

Hon Mr Palladini: -- their design drawings and they will talk about what we are going to do with Highway 6. This will be an information-sharing session. Concerned citizens will also be able to express their views, so we have every intention of following through on that.

Mr Doyle: I would like to thank the minister for that, and I'm sure the Safe on 6 committee will be happy to hear that as well. The Safe on 6 committee of course was put together after citizens were fed up with the fatalities on that roadway. In conjunction with local and provincial police, schools and residents, they've been instrumental in bringing awareness to the drivers of the area. Minister, what specifically will your ministry be doing to alleviate the concerns of the residents and members of this committee?

Hon Mr Palladini: The Safe on 6 committee is an excellent example of how communities and government can work. This committee has been active at every political level and suggested cost-effective improvements on Highway 6. In fact pavement markings and speed-fine warning signs and enforcement signs have already been installed and upgraded. Public reaction to my ministry's efforts has been very, very positive. A detailed design assignment is under way for construction of additional improvements, and these will be discussed further at the next meeting we're going to be holding.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance, and it requests some clarification of comments he made several days ago in the House. We were talking here about some expenditure cuts and the minister said -- I think I'm quoting him here accurately -- "There is absolutely no correlation between the tax cut and the expenditure cuts."

The Common Sense Revolution, though, said something quite different, as the minister will remember. The Common Sense Revolution is the Conservative campaign document, and it was very, very clear in that document that the tax cut was linked clearly to the expenditure cuts. The document says, "Balancing the budget is tied directly to every other measure in our plan," the other measures, the tax cut and the spending cuts.

Minister, what I think the people of Ontario would appreciate is confirmation from you that the document you ran on is the document the government believes in and that the tax cuts are very much tied directly to the expenditure cuts, as you said in your campaign document.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): Perhaps the difference of opinion between our party and the member's party is that we actually believe on this side of the House that by reducing taxation levels in Ontario, be they payroll taxes or personal income taxes, we will actually create jobs in Ontario, which has been shown to be the case over the last year, some 99,000 more people working in the province this September than last September. I can say to the member, quite frankly we believe more people will be hired in the private sector, more jobs will be created by reducing the ever-growing burden of taxation upon hardworking, honest taxpayers and the people in the province.

Mr Phillips: I take that as a confirmation that there is a direct correlation between your tax cuts and your expenditure cuts. I will just say to the people of Ontario that you say the deficit is a big problem that must be tackled. We agree. But how you're tackling it we have a fundamental disagreement with.

You are cutting 20% of spending from hospitals in this province and closing dozens of hospitals. Virtually every classroom in this province has more students in it this year than it had a year ago. You have cut grants to municipalities by 50%, and where you are on your expenditure cuts is halfway through the cuts you say you're going to implement. This year you've announced half of your cuts and you've told us there are still as many cuts to come as you've already announced. I want you to explain to the people of Ontario --

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

Mr Phillips: -- if the deficit is that important and if we have to have these massive cuts that you insist on, how can the province afford a $5-billion tax cut using all borrowed money --

The Speaker: Put the question.

Mr Phillips: -- that means that a person earning $150,000 a year gets a $5,000 tax break? How can we afford that if you've got to cut hospitals, school boards, municipalities?

Hon Mr Eves: The tax cut is not costing Ontario taxpayers $5 billion. That's point number one. Point number two, health care --


The Speaker: Order. The member for Lake Nipigon, come to order, please. Minister of Finance.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): He's out of control.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I'm not out of control.

The Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon, come to order. I'm warning you to come to order.

Mr Pouliot: He's wrong or he's lying.


The Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon, you've crossed the line. I ask you to withdraw.

Mr Pouliot: Out of respect for you and the minister, I will withdraw, Mr Speaker.

Hon Mr Eves: With respect to health care, the Minister of Health and the government have repeatedly said that we are reinvesting the money in health care, that we have protected the health care envelope. As a matter of fact, he knows that we are spending well in excess, $200 million to $300 million more, this year in health care than the envelope of $17.4 billion promised. Coming from the party whose leader promised $17 billion would be the health care envelope, that's pretty difficult to take.

Classroom sizes have not increased in the province of Ontario.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): They have so, Ernie.

Hon Mr Eves: We actually are going to devote more money to the classroom, I say to the member for Windsor-Riverside, as opposed to spending 47% of it outside the classroom. We don't think that's entirely appropriate. The reduction to municipalities -- I have just as many if not more than any other member of this Legislature in my constituency -- equals 2% of their total spending last year.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. We still haven't been able to get a straight answer from you with regard to the future of the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers. In addition, the leaked cabinet document which I made public last week confirms that it's your intent to disband the Occupational Disease Panel and fold it back into the WCB. You should be aware, of course, that this is now raising international outrage, given the respect that panel has had worldwide. In fact, the British magazine Hazards carried an article that called the Ontario Occupational Disease Panel "an organization whose pronouncements on the recognition of work-related health problems are listened to and respected across the industrialized world." They go on to say, "The decision has baffled and dismayed occupational health specialists internationally who view the ODP as a model of excellence."

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

Mr Christopherson: For years the issue of disease discovery was left inside the WCB and it did nothing for uranium workers and miners across this province. Will you avoid the international disgrace you're bringing to this province and --

The Speaker: Order. Minister of Labour.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I would just like to indicate to the member opposite that we are doing everything possible to ensure that we do strengthen the commitment to health and safety in this province. Yes, there will be changes taking place, but I can give you my assurance that at the end of the day, with the changes that we make to WCB, along with the changes that we've made in the way of health and safety prevention, there will be a much greater reduction in illness and injury than was ever seen under your government for five years.

Mr Christopherson: Quite the contrary, because if you're going to remove the expert panel that's received international acclaim for the work it's done, how can you possibly be taking positive steps to eliminate occupational disease when you're in the process of killing the panel that's out in the forefront of doing this? It's not just here in Ontario and it's not just in Britain, as I've just mentioned. There's also a Dr Jeanne Beauchamp of the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee who said that she was "greatly disappointed to hear from my colleagues in Canada that the province of Ontario plans to eliminate the Occupational Disease Panel in the very near future." She also says, "It serves as a model for the international community on the way policy-making should be done." That's the opposite of what you're telling us.

The Speaker: Question, please.

Mr Christopherson: Stand in your place today and tell Ontario workers that you're not going to do this to them and that you're going to keep this panel in place doing the job for workers that it has been doing for decades.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would just indicate to the member opposite that I think all of your hallucinations, or whatever it is you're doing today, are quite premature. I would suggest that you wait until we introduce the amendments to the WCB reform.


Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I would like to take the opportunity to further respond to the question that was asked by the honourable member for Renfrew North with respect to the 102-year-old woman. I just want to assure the member --


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): He doesn't want the answer.

Hon Mr Wilson: Well, he'll hear the answer. I'm sure he's just in the back. I have a right to do this, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): It's all perfectly in order. I understand the member for Renfrew North isn't here. You may have a supplementary and anyone may respond.

Hon Mr Wilson: I'm trying to do a public service here, to provide the answer in a timely manner.

The woman is 102 years old. She comes from a prestigious family, a historic family, and there's obviously been a mistake here. The mistake apparently is that the application was filled out in 1990, it wasn't signed and there were a number of boxes not checked off, so the ministry put the thing in limbo. I apologize on behalf of the ministry, because customer service should be higher. Someone should have called over the last six years and said, "By the way, this application's not complete." I assure all honourable members that we'll be getting a new application out, customer service will be made paramount in this situation and the woman in question will be reinstated into OHIP immediately.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I wrote to you in September requesting an answer to the planned destruction of child care centres and child care spaces in Toronto. You already know that Toronto is in the process of building four new schools because of increased enrolment: Eglinton, the Island Public School, Lord Dufferin Public School and Queen Victoria Public School. These schools all have present child care centres, but you refuse to fund them in these new schools. Surely you know that by refusing to fund these centres, you are destroying 218 child care spaces, yet you keep on talking, quite hypocritically, about $600 million for child care spaces.

I'm not surprised that the people of Toronto are telling this minister she is speaking with a forked tongue. I would ask her to justify her remarks and to --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Parkdale, come to order. That is so profoundly out of order. I say to the member for Parkdale to withdraw.

Mr Ruprecht: I will withdraw that comment, but let me ask this minister a very specific question.

The Speaker: No, you have asked the question. Order. Member for Parkdale, take your seat.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Thank you very much for the question. We have many decisions to make in terms of how we are going to allocate the $600 million we have put aside for child care. What is happening on capital funding is certainly very much part of that discussion. There have been proposals put forward, and I look forward to continuing to provide the input before we make final decisions.

Mr Ruprecht: I've got a note right here. I'm looking at this note. In this note -- and you signed it -- you wrote, "My ministry will no longer provide funding for child care centres." You said: "You know where you can go? You can go to philanthropic associations, rich corporations, and get your money there." You said, "Why don't you ask the city of Toronto school board to get you the money?" She knows that the city of Toronto school board cannot provide the funding because it is not authorized by provincial legislation.

You've been less than fair. On the one hand you're talking about $600 million for child care spaces; on the other hand you're saying, "Go somewhere else." Which is it going to be? We want to know today, and thousands of parents in Toronto want to know today, where you stand. Are you going to use the $600 million you're talking about today for child care spaces and centres or are you going to sit on it and do nothing about it? When are you going to act?

Hon Mrs Ecker: Thank you very much for the question, sir. If I were to act in terms of making final decisions before the consultation process was complete, the honourable member would quite rightly be the first to stand up and criticize me. We are following through with putting out proposals, hearing input from groups that are interested and concerned about this, and will be making final decisions. I appreciate the concern the honourable member has. There are always many more capital needs for child care or many other things that this government has funded in the past. We are trying very much to protect funding for services to people, to protect funding for subsidies for low-income families so they can have access to supports.




Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 59(c), the standing committee on estimates be authorized to postpone consideration of the estimates of the Ministry of Health and proceed with consideration of the estimates of the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.

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



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Again I have received in a Purolator pack another pile of petitions signed with regard to the Health Services Restructuring Commission's report. The petition says:

"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 the quality of local health care and our Sudbury economy; and

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

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

I affix my signature to it as I am in full agreement.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Can I ask the members, if you're going to meet -- I appreciate there are two lobbies on either side -- please go out there and meet. It's very difficult to hear the petitions. Thank you.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with the petitioners and have affixed my signature to the petition.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I rise this afternoon to present a petition to install traffic lights at the corner of Myrtle Road and Highway 12 in my riding of Durham East.

"To the government of Ontario:

"Please be informed that we, the neighbours and travellers of the abovementioned area, are in full agreement that traffic lights should be installed, and we petition the Ontario government that this be done immediately, before further traffic accidents occur. Traffic is very heavy, and truck and auto speeds greatly exceed the speed limit at the best of times, but especially the early morning hours and commuting hours of 5 am to 7:30 am. Many workers commuting to the Toronto area use Myrtle Road, known as Concession 9. It is very hazardous attempting to cross Highway 12.

"If lights were installed, the traffic on Highway 12 would have to stop periodically, giving westbound traffic in the morning and eastbound traffic in the late afternoon a much better chance to cross this section of road, hence creating a much safer condition.

"We therefore the petition the Ministry of Transportation to resolve this issue as soon as possible."

Thank you for your indulgence. I affix my name.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by 2,269 signatories.

"Whereas Bill 26 has empowered the health minister to make sure the hospitals preserve their high standard in patient care;

"Whereas most of the hospitals are replacing experienced registered nurses with registered practical nurses and unregulated health care workers, not only on the wards, but also in acute care areas such as operating rooms, intensive care and haemodialysis units. It is those aforementioned areas where the seriously ill patient will benefit the most from the registered nurses' skills in observation, assessment and the initiation of necessary care intervention;

"Whereas most hospitals claim the necessity to cut costs are due to cuts in funding. Yet Mount Sinai Hospital has shown on record that staffing entirely with registered nurses not only provides exemplary patient care, but also proves to be cost-effective. This is because patients recover faster with less complications, therefore a better utilization of bed spaces. Apart from that, Mount Sinai saves on the cost of training and supervision of less qualified staff;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, beseech you, the Minister of Health, to stop hospitals from replacing registered nurses with registered practical nurses and unregulated health care workers. Stop the erosion of our health care before it is too late."

I commend this worthwhile petition to the Legislative Assembly.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I have a petition from people from the Sault Ste Marie and Algoma area, about 133 names all told, to do with the spring bear hunt.

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

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

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

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

I sign my name to this as well.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I present a petition to rescind Bill 181, the Ammunition Regulation Act:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with this petition and therefore affix my signature to it.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition that's been forwarded to me by Susan Lundgren, who's been leading the charge in Thunder Bay for the welfare and protection of animals, and certainly we have a great deal of support, with over 500 signatures. I will read it for you.

"We, the undersigned, acknowledge the need and demand for amendments and repeals of the municipal, provincial and federal laws in relation to animal welfare and the OSPCA act. New legislation must be comprehensive, specific, all-inclusive and unerringly enforced according to standards that are conducive to appropriate animal welfare and proactive rights regulations."

I'm proud to sign my name to this.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions from the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers' district office in Oakville, the Labourers' International Union of North America, OPSEU Local 353 and Local 354 out of Oshawa and PSAC out of Toronto. They regard this government's ongoing attack on health and safety and WCB in this province. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature in support of this petition.



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep getting petitions against the new jail that has been established in our community. It's addressed to the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas the PC government has opened a 20-bed forensic facility for the criminally insane at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre; and

"Whereas the nearby community is already home to the highest number of ex-psychiatric patients and social service organizations and hundreds of licensed and unlicensed rooming-houses, group homes and crisis care facilities in all of Canada; and

"Whereas there are existing facilities that could be expanded to assess and treat the criminally insane; and

"Whereas no one was consulted, not the local residents, not the business community, not the leaders of community organizations, not education and child care providers and not even the local member of provincial Parliament;

"We, the undersigned residents and business owners of our community, urge the PC government of Ontario and the Minister of Health to immediately stop accommodating the criminally insane in an expanded Queen Street Mental Health Centre until a full public consultation process has been completed."

I have affixed my signature to this petition.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I present a petition from some of my constituents and they say this:

"We, the undersigned, want you to know how we feel about your proposed health care cuts.

"Please do not misunderstand us, Mr Harris. We do not envy you your nice high income. If we had it we would be overwhelmed.

"Before you go ahead and make all your health care cuts, we would like to invite you to live as we do, below the national poverty line, for a period of five years. After five years, we would be interested to hear whether you still feel these cuts are of prime importance.

"Some of our concerns are:

"The chronic care units in our hospitals are deplorable. The nurses and staff are doing their best under difficult conditions. Mr Harris, a lot of these people, mostly seniors, helped build this country in their productive years. Now that they are sick and frail, they should be treated with respect and dignity. They should not be pushed aside and left to fend for themselves or to die.

"Specialized treatment: It is not always convenient or economical for a person to travel to another city for some treatments, when these treatments are or could be available here. We have to consider our financial positions as well.

"The renal dialysis unit is essential and should not be closed or cut back. To the patients depending on this unit, it is their lifeline. Transplants can take years to acquire. In the interim, dialysis is their only means to survival.

"Neonatal intensive care: We were shocked to hear that this unit was on the chopping block too. This service is vital to newborn babies who require 24-hour critical care treatment. Having had a grandchild that would possibly not have survived without this unit, I am appalled. When a baby is born that requires critical care, time is essential. There may not be time to transport this infant to another centre. With our northern winters, weather conditions come into the picture as well. We would hate to see an infant die because of poor weather.

"A few years ago, this community fought long and hard to upgrade this unit. Now, Mr Harris, you want to close it. Where is your head and your heart?

"Instead of all the cutbacks of essential services, have a look around. There are many other non-essential areas of concern that could be chopped. Please look. We hope you will consider some of your cuts. We would also like to thank you for taking the time to listen to this."

I sign my signature to this as well.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It is a pleasure to rise today to present a petition to the Parliament of Ontario.

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness;

"Whereas abortion is not therapeutic;

"Whereas abortion is never medically necessary;

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require `elective procedures' to be funded;

"Whereas there is no right to publicly funded abortion;

"Whereas it is the responsibility and the authority of the provinces exclusively to determine what services will be insured;

"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is indeed hazardous to women's health;

"Whereas the availability of abortion at public expense leads to the use of abortion as a means of birth control;

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded 45,000 abortions in 1993, at an estimated cost of $25 million;

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

"That the Ontario provincial government remove abortion as a service or procedure covered under the provincial health insurance plan."

It's a pleasure to affix my name to this petition.


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

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

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

"Whereas Premier Mike Harris and former consumer and commercial relations minister Norm Sterling, while in opposition, expressed grave concern for gas price gouging and asked the government of the day to take action,

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to eliminate gas price fixing and prevent the oil companies from gouging the public on an essential and vital product."

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



Mr Gravelle from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's 21st report.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Do you wish to make a statement?

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): No thank you, Mr Speaker.

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


Mr Barrett from the standing committee on regulations and private bills presented the following report and moved its adoption:

Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:

Bill Pr66, An Act respecting the City of Toronto

Bill Pr72, An Act respecting the University of St Jerome's College.

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

Bill Pr67, An Act respecting the Ontario Plumbing Inspectors Association Inc.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed? Agreed.



Mr Runciman moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 84, An Act to promote Fire Prevention and Public Safety in Ontario and to amend and repeal certain other Acts relating to Fire Services / Projet de loi 84, Loi visant à promouvoir la prévention des incendies et la sécurité publique en Ontario et modifiant ou abrogeant certaines autres lois relatives aux services de lutte contre les incendies.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Do you wish to make a brief statement, Minister?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The Fire Prevention and Protection Act, 1996, will allow municipalities to improve safety and reduce costs in the way they deliver fire protection and fire prevention. This bill consolidates a number of older statutes and will result in better fire protection and public fire safety education. Through this legislation, the government will ensure greater fire safety for Ontario communities.



Mrs Marland moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 85, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to Impaired Driving Offences / Projet de loi 85, Loi modifiant le Code de la route en ce qui concerne les infractions pour conduite avec facultés affaiblies.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried. Do you wish to make a brief statement?

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): This bill contains measures to reduce the incidence of repeat offences of impaired driving. The latest statistics from Ontario's drinking-driving countermeasures office show that of all drivers' licence suspensions issued for impaired driving, 65% were for a second or subsequent offence.

My bill requires persons convicted of impaired driving to take a prescribed education program and, if sentencing evidence deems it to be necessary, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program before their drivers' licence can be reinstated following a suspension. The convicted persons will be required to pay the cost of these education and rehabilitation programs themselves.

For many drivers such programs, combined with the existing one-year licence suspension for a first offence, will stop them from drinking and driving again. However, there are drivers for whom these are insufficient deterrents. This bill also contains measures aimed at those more resistant offenders.

The bill increases the length of the drivers' licence suspensions for repeat offences. On a second conviction of impaired driving the licence suspension will increase from two to three years; on a third conviction the suspension will increase from three to five years. Finally, for drunk drivers who are hard-core repeat offenders their drivers' licence will be permanently revoked following a fourth conviction of impaired driving. Based on legal advice, I have included a mechanism for appealing the revocation after at least five years have passed and the licence is revoked.

I look forward to debating this bill during private members' business on Thursday, October 24.

My final comment is to say that I appreciate very much the support of Mr John Bates, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who is in the members' gallery this afternoon.

The Deputy Speaker: In the future, I'd just like to advise the members that when you introduce a bill, you don't debate the bill. You just give a brief statement.



Mrs McLeod moved opposition day motion number 2:

Whereas Mike Harris promised Ontarians in the last election that there would be "no cuts to health care funding"; and

Whereas hospital funding has been slashed by $1.3 billion; and

Whereas the Big Blue Bulldozer, the so-called arm's-length Health Services Restructuring Commission, has begun to plough through communities across the province; and

Whereas this non-elected and unaccountable body wields dictatorial power over the fate of Ontarians' health care; and

Whereas all the work of the commission has been conducted in secret; and

Whereas this government's hospital restructuring has nothing to do with improving the quality of patient care in Ontario and everything to do with funding the Tories' 30% tax cut promise; and

Whereas decisions of the Health Services Restructuring Commission to date will result in Thunder Bay and Sudbury losing 50% and 37% of their acute care hospital beds respectively; and

Whereas the Common Sense Revolution promised that "local health care communities will share in any savings identified locally for reinvestment in community priorities"; and

Whereas of the $41 million cut from the operating budgets of Thunder Bay hospitals only $10 million has been committed to reinvestment, and of the $41 million cut from the operating budgets of Sudbury hospitals only $13 million has been committed for reinvestment; and

Whereas the Minister of Health has reduced the amount the government is required to fund for capital projects from two thirds of the capital required to one half; and

Whereas thousands of Ontarians in communities across the province, such as Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Kitchener, Wiarton and Kincardine, have pleaded with the minister to stop the destruction of health care in the province of Ontario and save their local hospitals; and

Whereas there is no regard for community input in the restructuring process; and

Whereas Jim Wilson has stated repeatedly that "bricks and mortar do not cure people, people cure people"; and

Whereas the $1.3-billion cut to hospital funding over three years will result in 15,000 nurses losing their jobs; and

Whereas this loss of health care providers translates into patients losing 13 million hours of nursing care; and

Whereas the actions of the Harris government will result in the erosion of quality and accessible health care in the province of Ontario; and

Whereas Ontarians are frightened and angry that because of the actions of the Harris Conservatives they will be unable to access quality health care in their own communities; and

Whereas the Minister of Health is clearly in control of this process despite his attempts to deny it;

Therefore, this House calls on the Mike Harris government to admit that the so-called arm's-length restructuring commission is a sham; to dismantle the unaccountable and dictatorial Health Services Restructuring Commission; to restore the $1.3 billion it has stripped from Ontario's hospitals; and to live up to the promise it made to voters in the last election that access to quality health care will be protected.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): You will appreciate the fact that it is going to be difficult to restrict the debate on this motion to the two hours we have remaining to us this afternoon. There are a number of my caucus colleagues who are anxious to participate, so I'm going to attempt in leading off this debate to speak fairly briefly, although I am personally feeling so much frustration, so much concern and so much very real anger after the stripping of the hospital budgets and after what the hospital restructuring commission has done in my home community of Thunder Bay and in my colleague's community of Sudbury, and what the commission will do in communities across this province, that it is going to be difficult to curtail what I want to say this afternoon.

I know my colleagues are anxious to speak. I know they are anxious to speak because they are already seeing in their communities the impact of the cuts to the hospital budgets. They're seeing the layoff of nurses. My colleague from Hamilton mentioned the fact in the House the other day that 2,000 nurses were going to face layoffs in the Hamilton area. I know they're concerned about the loss of health care in their communities and I know they realize that the same restructuring commission which has already come to Thunder Bay and Sudbury is on its way to their communities. They've seen what's happened in Thunder Bay and they've seen what's happened in Sudbury, and they are worried that the same thing is going to happen in their communities. They have reason to be worried, so they are anxious to speak to this issue today.

There is so much that has been happening in health care in this province in recent weeks and months that it's difficult to even touch on it in a single resolution, as lengthy as that resolution may have appeared to be. The resolution we've presented today doesn't begin to touch on what is happening in the whole area of mental health, where there are changes in governance that have been proposed by the restructuring commission, directions that violate the ministry's own directions, that set aside any principle of independent governance for mental health, directions put in place by the commission that, in my view, threaten to put mental health so far on the back burner that all the needs in the area of mental health are just going to keep boiling over on to the streets of our communities with no one left clearly responsible for addressing them. That's a concern, but it's a debate that will have to wait for another day.

The resolution we've presented today doesn't get into the issue of long-term care, care for our seniors, where the flat-line budget that the minister likes to brag about is proving totally, completely inadequate to meet the needs of a population that is aging in every way -- aging in the sense that our seniors are a growing percentage of our population, aging in the sense that our seniors are living longer and certainly aging in the sense that our seniors are encountering care needs that require more and not less care. They need institutional care as an option, not instead of community-based care but as accessible, alternative, optional care for those for whom supportive care at home is just no longer an option. We are a long way from the days when half the people who were in our nursing homes did not need to be there. But that, again, is a debate for another day.

Today in our resolution we focus on two very much related issues. The first is the work of a commission that has been given the power to tell a community what health care it can have and what health care it cannot have. The second concern is the responsibility of a government that is taking millions of dollars out of health care in our communities to pay for a tax cut, a government that takes $1.3 billion out of the budgets of hospitals across this province and then tries to say, as the Minister of Health says repeatedly in this place: "We are not responsible for shutting down hospitals. It is an independent commission, an arm's-length commission that is making these kinds of decisions."


We begin this debate by making two things absolutely clear. The first is that it is the Conservative government of Mike Harris and Jim Wilson that set up the commission in law. It is the government that appoints the commissioners, it is the government that provides staff to the commission, it is the government that receives advice from the commission and indeed, as we have seen, it is the government that provides advice to the commission -- advice, as we have seen in Thunder Bay, that supports the closure of our hospital beds and the closure of our hospitals; advice in Toronto that says we should close four more hospitals than the 11 the district health council had already recommended closing. Make no doubt that this commission is not at arm's length from the government that sets it up, staffs it and advises it.

The second point is that it is this government, and this government alone, that sets the budgets for hospitals and for health care. It is this government that gives hospitals money. It is this government that takes the money away. The commission which has supposedly been given independent powers has only been given power to advise the minister when it comes to the funding. It is the government that is directly and solely responsible for hospital budgets, it is the government that has set up this so-called independent commission to give it advice and it is the government that is ultimately responsible for the provision of health care in our communities. It cannot walk away from that responsibility, as much as Jim Wilson, the Minister of Health, would like to do just that.

I am actually not sure whether Jim Wilson, our Minister of Health, really thought he could avoid responsibility by setting up a commission and giving it powers that have never been given to a so-called independent, non-elected body before. I'm not sure if Jim Wilson realized how dictatorial the exercise of absolute power in the hands of a non-accountable body could be and would be. I'm not sure if he realized how quickly his commission, having been asked not only to do his dirty work but to do it as quickly as possible, would become a monster. I'm not sure if he recognized that a commission with the power to dictate terms but no power at all to pay the costs of his restructuring could only be a rigid and unresponsive demolition squad for the Harris government, and that's what it has proven to be.

I think the Minister of Health was simply desperate. He was desperate to find the ways to cut the $1.3 billion from the hospital budget in time to meet the Minister of Finance's budget targets and in time for the Premier to deliver his tax cut. He was desperate, his government was desperate and his government is still desperate, so the commission has quickly become an out-of-control body marching into our communities, marching out again and leaving only destruction in its wake.

I can tell you, having been part of a community that has been visited by the commission, that the commission's work has absolutely nothing to do with a thoughtful and planned restructuring of health care, as much as the minister likes to talk about that. It is certainly not contributing to the creation of what many people like to describe as the ultimate goal of health care restructuring, and that is a seamless, integrated system. Even the head of the commission talks about that as a vision, the commissioners talk about that, but with the commissioners, and indeed with the Minister of Health, that is nothing but jargon. It is convenient jargon to attempt to camouflage what they are actually doing in our communities today as we speak.

The commission can talk about vision, but it's some sort of dreamlike ideal, an ideal that somewhere down the road you would like to see happen, something that will be talked about in the future. It is not something the commission can deal with today, because the commission has been given only one mandate. The commission has not been given the mandate to create a seamless, integrated system or to put money back into communities. The commission has been given the mandate to destroy, to level the hospitals we have in place now, to strip away their budgets to meet the minister's $1.3-billion goal. They have not been given the mandate to put money back into our communities. The commission has absolutely no power to do that. It's clear that the government is not prepared to do it and it has given the commission those marching orders. All you have to do is look at the evidence of the two communities the commission has visited to date.

In Thunder Bay, $41 million a year being taken out of health care in our community and $10 million being reinvested; the net loss to health care to the citizens in Thunder Bay is $31 million a year that Thunder Bay residents are expected to contribute to the government's coffers to pay for the tax break being given to our wealthiest citizens.

In Sudbury, $41 million a year being stripped away from hospital budgets, $13 million being reinvested; the net loss there, $28 million from the health care access needed by the residents of Sudbury.

I can tell the members who are present, I can tell people in communities across this province that this commission is not coming into your community to work with the health care providers and hospital board members and concerned citizens in your communities to design a health care system that works for your community. That is not their mandate; it is not their goal; it is not their approach. This commission is just to go out there and get the job of levelling done and get the dollars out.

We refer to it as a bulldozer, but I think actually that is not the most appropriate term. If I could rewrite the resolution now, I would change the term because the commission is really more like an armoured tank, and the reason it's more like an armoured tank is because the gunners of this commission are locked inside so that no flak can get them, so the tank can just roll over our hospitals and our hospital boards and our community planning and the people in our communities who care about health care in their communities.

Two thousand people worried in Wiarton? That's not the commission's concern. Three thousand people in Kincardine who are saying, "We want to keep our hospital open"? The commission sees this as an emotional reaction of people who are not prepared to be reasonable, people who are just resistant to change. This commission meets only behind closed doors. The commissioners meet only with those they invite to meet with them. They never bring people together in one place to discuss different perceptions of what is needed, let alone to do any real community planning. No one knows what anybody else has said to the commission and no one knows who the commission actually listens to. That's the way they work, folks, and that's the way they'll work when they hit your town.

At least we in the opposition managed to get a 30-day appeal period because of our fight over Bill 26, the bill that established this commission. It was never the intention to have any appeal period for a community at all. The commission was to come in, do its work, get out and no appeal whatsoever. We managed to get a 30-day appeal period. But let me tell you, you should not be under any illusions that the commission wants this and they certainly don't consider it to be a public appeal period. They will receive only what they describe as logical arguments, but they don't pay any attention to arguments that don't actually fit the predetermined logic of the commissioners themselves. They certainly do not want to hear community concerns. They don't want to hear people concerns because those are emotional, they're just not logical.

I can tell you that the commission's logic is all about dollars and bottom lines and statistical formulas, and it's all supposed to be so objective, so logical, that no reasonable person should complain when their hospital gets closed and their community loses half its hospital beds. So don't tell the commission that in Thunder Bay, in my home community, you can't even see an orthopaedic surgeon until May 1998, let alone get surgery for your hip replacement; don't tell the commission that your mother waited on the stretcher in the hallway of the emergency room for hours because there was no hospital bed; don't tell the commission that your spouse would have died when he had his heart attack if the hospital had been any further away, as in fact was the testimony of the Conservative member for Kitchener, because all of that's emotional, none of that is logical.

The commission's formula says you need half the beds you have now. The statistical formulas are the only logic this commission listens to -- patient-days per 1,000 -- and if you don't fit, well then somebody just better learn to be more efficient. And closing your hospital and shutting down your hospital beds is the way to force you to do that.

Don't try and tell Jim Wilson and Mike Harris that hospital budget cuts are forcing bed closures and the layoff of nurses, as many as 15,000 and maybe twice that number, over the next three years, because their answer to that is to say, "We'll let the commission come in and we'll close down whole hospitals." You've heard the Minister of Health say that, "We won't just shut down hospital beds, we'll close the hospital, and then you won't notice the hospital beds have been shut down."

Jim Wilson assures us, "Don't worry about the layoff of 15,000 nurses because bricks and mortar don't cure people; people do." The fact that 15,000 nurses will lose their jobs as our hospitals are closed down shouldn't bother us, because somehow still there are going to be people, quite apart from the bricks and mortar, who will cure others. If those people happen to be cafeteria workers with a two-week crash course behind them instead of those trained nurses, well, that's the hospital's decision, it's not a decision the government is responsible for.


They would not interfere with hospital boards unless in fact they come in, take them over and shut them down. No one wants the government to interfere. What we want them to do is to stop stripping hospital budgets and stop starving our hospitals, literally, to death.

I know there are some -- I understand at least one or two on the commission -- who live in such an abstract, theoretical world that they believe some day we won't need hospitals at all, that community care will meet all the needs. I am a strong supporter of community-based care, but I don't believe we're ever going to be doing hip replacements or liver transplants at home. I am a very strong believer in community planning and in putting in place a health care delivery system that meets the unique needs of a community. For me, that's what community-based care is really all about.

In my community we want to know that we can provide hospital-based health care in northwestern Ontario without having to put people on a plane and ship them to Toronto. I have to ask you whether or not people know what it means to be sick and alone in a hospital in Toronto, 1,000 miles away from the home with which you're familiar, and in most cases 1,000 miles away from your family. I wonder if people know how it bankrupts families in my home community of Thunder Bay who try to pay the living expenses so that a family member can come down and be near. I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that's something we want to avoid as much as possible. That's what we need in our community: hospital-based care at home.

I know that different communities are going to have different needs and they're going to have different priorities. Up in Pickle Lake, they want to make sure they can get emergency care, they want to make sure they can get basic care, and they also want to make sure that if they do have to come down to a regional hospital in Thunder Bay to get their hospital care, to get kidney dialysis treatment or to get surgery, they're going to be given enough days in hospital to fully recuperate from the kind of surgery they need or to fully complete their kidney dialysis treatments. They don't want to be sent home a day later, because home for them is not a few blocks away where they can get back quickly if there's a problem; home for them is hundreds of miles away. But distance from home for patients referred into a centre like Thunder Bay was not considered, and I quote, "a statistically significant factor" when the commission applied its formula to determine how many beds Thunder Bay's regional hospital would need.

The formula this commission is using is described as aggressive. They say it represents a level of efficiency that 25% of hospitals are achieving. We're trying to find out exactly which hospitals are achieving the target and why. I know for one that Lake Nipigon hospital near us in Thunder Bay is in the top 25%, and more power to them, but they will admit that it's a whole lot easier to have less than 580 patient-days per 1,000 when you refer all your really sick patients to Thunder Bay, because that's the way hospital care is supposed to work in northwestern Ontario.

The bottom line for people in every community from Toronto to Hamilton to Ottawa to Toronto to Kitchener to Chatham is that the commission is coming and they are going to shut down hospital beds in your community, because you're not going to meet their target otherwise. That's going to mean more layoffs of nurses and it is going to mean less care. It may mean you have to go a lot farther to get emergency care, but you shouldn't worry about that because in the commission's view that won't be a statistically significant further distance. You'll undoubtedly have to wait longer for your hip replacement, but that shouldn't matter because if your situation becomes really critical, you can bump someone who's been waiting longer but who's not quite on the crisis list yet.

I don't believe this is the kind of health care we've come to expect in this province, and I don't believe it's the kind of health care we have a right to expect still.

Are there challenges in meeting new needs in health care with limited budget dollars? Of course there are. Do we have to change to find new ways of meeting the needs? Yes, we do. But it should not start with a $1.3-billion cut to hospital budgets. It is inexcusable to add to the difficulties of providing hospital care by taking more than $1 billion out for a tax cut. If the government wasn't so desperate to find its $5 billion for its tax cut, there would be money for reinvestment in emerging areas of health care from other areas of saving. Everyone agrees that money should be reinvested in health care and education, but the money for that reinvestment should not be found by stripping it away from our hospitals, and communities should not be expected to pay for the cost of the government's stripping decisions.

It is amazing that a government can force a community to shut down its hospitals, lose half its hospital beds, contribute $31 million a year to the government's coffers to pay for the government's tax cut and then be told to go out and raise $45 million to pay for these decisions imposed on them. Yet that is exactly what Thunder Bay has been told. It is not only bizarre, it is absolutely unfair. It is like a tax imposed on our community and it is a tax that is completely unrelated to our community's ability to pay. It is certainly not a tax we have chosen to pay, because any choice our community might have had has been stripped away along with the $31 million that's being taken out of our community.

The commission that has been set up to do the dirty work for this government must be shut down. It is unaccountable, it is unresponsive and its conclusions are creating chaos and divisiveness and destruction in every community it visits. The Harris government must stop trying to avoid responsibility for what's happening. They hold the purse strings that are driving this whole thing. They are the elected government responsible for ensuring that we get the health care we need in our communities. They cannot avoid that responsibility, and they are totally responsible for the devastation that their commission is bringing to our communities.

The Harris government must stop the cuts. It must shut down the Sherman tank that is devastating our hospitals and it must start working with communities to put realistic, logical, locally responsive plans in place to protect the health care that we all value so much.

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

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I wish to pay tribute to the leader of the official opposition for bringing forth this resolution this afternoon. It is an important one and there is --


Mr Laughren: -- an assembly that's not concerned about what's going on in health care in this province.

I must say that there are a lot of people who I believe voted Tory in the last election, voted Conservative, because they felt a number of things: One, they felt that a tax break would be nice for a change since taxes have been going up; they felt that the Tories were going to cut expenditures in an appropriate way in the province, and the reason I say "appropriate" is because they promised that's exactly what they would do; and the centrepiece of what they were going to protect in the social fabric of this province was health care. They made no mistake about it: They were going to protect the health care system in this province. Not a nickel would be cut from health care, said the Premier. Well, the Premier has made a lot of promises, including such things as no user fees.

Well, I'll be very careful, Mr Speaker, in the language I use because I don't want you to have to make a difficult decision and throw me out of this place. But I want to tell you that there's a --

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Don't play with the truth.

Mr Laughren: "Don't play with the truth," says the member from Ottawa. Well, isn't that a nice thing for a Tory backbencher to imply, that I shouldn't play with the truth when I'm talking about the Premier's promises that have since been broken. That's a very nice turn of phrase that the member has, and the member is from Ottawa. Which riding?

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Ottawa-Rideau.

Mr Laughren: The member for Ottawa-Rideau is implying that perhaps I shouldn't play with the truth.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The judge.

Mr Laughren: Who said "judge"?

Mr Bradley: He's a judge.

Mr Laughren: He is a judge or was a judge?

Mr Bradley: Was a judge.

Mr Laughren: Well, we'll debate that some day too.

Mr Cooke: So the Tory election did the justice system some good.


Mr Laughren: Mr Speaker, I know you'll protect me as a member from a small third party in this assembly from the horrible hordes on the other side. But I mean it quite seriously when I say that I believe those were the reasons why the Tories got elected as a government in the majority they did in June 1995.

If the Tories had said, "We're going to do the following things but, by the way, we're going to close the hospitals in Thunder Bay, close the hospitals in Sudbury, close the hospitals in Ottawa," do you think for a minute you would have got elected on June 8, 1995? Not a chance. If you had told the people the truth on June 8, 1995, you'd still be sitting over here. That's what you'd be doing.



Mr Laughren: No, no, never mind. You know better than that. Mr Speaker, you're not protecting me.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Ed Doyle): Order.

Mr Laughren: Thank you. I would simply ask the Tory members to do -- they're big fans of polling. Do the polling out there and ask the people what they think about the way you're treating the health care system. Go and ask them. You don't mind polling on other things. Why don't you poll on the way you're treating the health care system in this province?

You have broken your fundamental promise to the people of this province and you would not have got elected if you'd told the truth in the election campaign in 1995. You would not have been elected as a government, I can tell you that. I'm absolutely certain of that and you know it in your heart of hearts; you know it. That's why there's a mini-rebellion in the Tory back bench against the cabinet. That's why. It may only be one of the reasons, but it's one of the reasons why you're unhappy with your Premier and with the cabinet.

It's plainly evident that's what's happening. We know why Mr Stockwell got elected as Speaker; we know why Richard Johnston wasn't appointed to that education committee: because the Tory back bench said, "We've had enough of you telling us what we're going to do and we don't care if we're 44% in the polls. We're taking charge on these following decisions," and that's what you've done. I think it's because you're starting to get heat back at home. You're starting to feel the heat back home. Anyway, I don't want to digress.

I can tell you that one of the reasons, and I don't want to repeat what the leader of the official opposition said about the Health Care Restructuring Commission, but I don't think I've ever seen a government lacking in such courage that they'd appoint an independent commission to make political decisions in this province. That's what you've done. If you think that you can hide behind that commission and not wear its recommendations and what is implemented, you're sadly mistaken. The people in this province will not be conned by that smokescreen of the commission. They know who's pulling the strings; they know who's making the decisions on health care in the province. It's you people, it's the Tory caucus and cabinet that's making those decisions.

Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): You did that.

Mr Laughren: The member says that we appointed a commission to look into hospital restructuring. That's absolutely correct. I'll give you an example.


Mr Laughren: Mr Speaker, the Tories are a little sensitive about this whole issue of health care.

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Laughren: Mr Speaker, you protect me for a minute and then you forget about protecting me. I would ask for your support here, as I try and conduct this debate.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Let the gentleman speak.

Mr Laughren: Thank you.

I can recall when we were talking about health care restructuring in Sudbury. The Tory candidates in the Sudbury area said, "We insist on keeping all the hospitals open and reinvesting any savings in our community." Now guess what's happened?

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): They still do.

Mr Laughren: What do they think about you now? What do you think they feel about their government now? What do you think the Tories in Sudbury, the Tories in Thunder Bay and the Tories in Ottawa and in Toronto will think when you implement the recommendations of this commission? Your name's going to be mud.

I can recall they held our feet to the fire when it came to reinvesting any savings in the local community. They held our feet to the fire, those folks over there. We made a commitment that if there were any savings on the hospital restructuring, we would reinvest those savings in the community, in community-based care. Guess what? Do you think this government's doing that? The commission is recommending that, but guess what? Talk about having your cake and eating it too. The government says what the commission recommends on the closing of hospitals is final and binding, and that's it; that's a final decision. However, "Any recommendations they might make on reinvesting in the community, that's up to us as a government." So what have you got? You've got the commission making the hard, tough decisions and the government saying, "That's binding," and then when it comes to reinvesting the savings realized to the community, the government, the Minister of Health is keeping that decision to himself.

Now you talk about a government lacking in courage. That's what the story is here. You don't have the courage to make the tough decisions. All you did was set up the commission and say, "Go out and make the tough decisions and we'll pretend that's not us, that's the commission, that's an independent commission." It just happens to be stacked with Tories, but it's an independent commission.

The world's not buying that line, I can tell you. Go to any of the communities that have been affected. Go to Sudbury and natter up there the way you're nattering in here. Go to Thunder Bay and say what you're saying down here. In the future, go to Ottawa and come to Toronto and say it as well, because you know that people are going to hold you to your promise and you've broken that promise. You've broken faith with the people of this province because of your promise that you will not touch a nickel of health care spending. In Thunder Bay the recommendations of the commission will be a 38% reduction over current hospital expenditures and in Sudbury about a 25% reduction and the minister will not promise to retain those savings in the community.

Also, the capital costs: In Sudbury, for example, to move from three acute care hospitals to one means that there'll be about $80 million required in transition and capital costs -- $80 million. The current formula for capital is, I believe, 50-50: 50 in the community and 50 to the province. It used to be two thirds to the province and one third to community. This government has changed that, but they'd say, of course, that's not cutting health care. They are, once again.

The minister's not made a commitment to putting that kind of money to make the transition happen seamlessly. He has not made that commitment. I personally have no problem with hospital restructuring and with one hospital in Sudbury. I don't care, as the minister says, if the bricks and mortar are not what delivers the services. I don't disagree with that in principle.

If there is one hospital governance, I support that. I have no problem with one hospital governance. However, once again, the Minister of Health had promised the Catholic community in this province that he would honour Catholic governance in the hospitals of this province. That's what he promised. He promised them that. And now, because the commission has said that's not --

Mr Cooke: He specifically wrote that in Sudbury.

Mr Laughren: He wrote a letter -- ask him -- and said he would honour Catholic governance at hospitals in the province. He's broken that promise as well because the commission has said there will be one hospital board in Sudbury --

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): People knew who broke their promise when they elected us.

Mr Laughren: Well, they sure know who broke the promise when they elected the Tories and especially when you're dealing with health care.

So the Minister of Health has broken yet another promise. Ask him; he said they would honour the Catholic governance of hospitals. He hasn't done that. That's a binding recommendation of the Health Services Restructuring Commission, a binding one, so he can't alter that now. He set it up himself and said, "It'll be a binding decision," and that's what it is. So guess what? That's another promise that's been broken.

When you talk about the public sector in northern Ontario, you talk about a commitment that's been made by a number of governments over a number of years to the north. The public sector is what has kept economic activity at the level it's been at in northern Ontario. If you take away the major role the public sector plays in northern Ontario, you are dealing a severe body blow to the economy of the north.

I know that Tories like to think the private sector does everything. But I invite you to check what's happened to Sudbury in the last 20 years, which includes Tory governments. Ask them what has happened to economic activity in Sudbury in the last 20 years and who has created the jobs through a building up of the health care sector, the educational sector, Science North -- it goes on and on. Major commitments by the public sector have kept the economy of Sudbury alive when the private sector was cutting back very dramatically.

Of course, when I look at the years gone by and the way this government treats the doctors of this province -- and I guess I should wind up my remarks.


Mr Cooke: You've still got at least five minutes.

Mr Laughren: The last three parliaments have had three different majority governments. There was the Liberals, there was us and then now there's you. I believe that the only government that didn't have the doctors withdrawing services was the New Democratic government, the only one, and guess what? When we were dealing with the doctors, guess who was hammering us in the Legislature day after day. Nobody other than slick Jim Wilson. Jim Wilson was hammering us about our treatment of the doctors. Well, well, isn't that strange? Now you get in charge, and guess what? Guess who's withdrawing services. The doctors of this province are withdrawing services. Let's face it. I sat at a meeting with OMA officials --

Mr Preston: Your Premier --

The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Laughren: That's nonsense. Let me tell you something. I sat at a meeting with some Ontario Medical Association officials, and they said to me, "Well, you know doctors did vote Conservative in the last election." I said, "No, don't tell me that the doctors voted Tory in the last election." You want to talk about a profession that feels betrayed. You talk about the doctors in this province.

We worked out a deal. We're not the ones who wrestled the doctors to the ceiling when it came to their level of benefits; it was the Tories and Larry Grossman that wrestled the doctors to the ceiling. Not us, not us. It was the Tories. We put a cap of $3.8 billion on billings for doctors, and we said it would be a utilization component that would allow it to go up to, I believe, $4.1 billion this year. Now you said --


Mr Laughren: No, no, $3.8 billion. That's it. And you wonder why the doctors are angry at you. You have bungled. You have bungled the entire health care system, but in particular, dealings with the doctors. Because you know what? The doctors started out being very friendly to you. I can remember them coming out of a meeting with the Minister of Health and saying, "This is a government that we can work with." Go and ask them now what they think of the Tory government and their treatment of doctors, professionals in this province.

I listen to the comments from the Minister of Health about drawing lines in the sand, threatening the College of Physicians and Surgeons. You have not treated the professions in this province very well. They understand that, and I think it's time people started holding you people accountable for what you're doing to the health care system, and I think you will find an increasing feeling around the province, back in your own area, that, "Wait a minute, this isn't what we were promised after all." You really have let people down on what you said you would do in the handling of the health care system.

I can tell you, as someone who comes from the Sudbury area, who started out feeling very supportive of health care restructuring, very supportive, because I had said right from the beginning, "We need sole governance of the hospital system in Sudbury, and if we can sort out the need for beds and if we can sort out the delivery of community-based services in the province, then I will continue to support hospital restructuring in the province," I said that from the beginning. But when I saw the way the Health Services Restructuring Commission worked -- they came into town, they held hearings, by invitation only, and then they brought down their report, which is binding, and they said, "Now you've got 30 days to respond, but you can only respond in the following way," certain criteria. That's not the way you run a health care system and reform a health care system in this province. That is arbitrary beyond belief. People have 30 days to respond and then they'll come down with their final report just as they did in Thunder Bay.

All I can tell you folks is that you have taken on a fight with people who care more about health care than any other aspect of the social fabric in this province, and you've taken on a fight with the medical profession of this province that was completely unnecessary. You provoked it and you're going to live with the fallout from that. I would venture to guess that the people in this province will say to you increasingly back in your ridings, back in your constituencies, that you misled them and that you did not keep your faith with them because of the promise you made in the election campaign in 1995 and the way in which you're delivering now, because you have broken faith with the people of this province when it comes to the delivery of health care.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion today. I must admit I'm somewhat surprised that the Liberals have put this motion forward. In the first line it states, "Whereas Mike Harris promised Ontarians in the last election that there would be `no cuts to health care funding,'" and we have lived up to that promise. What the Liberals fail to say --

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Please, Helen.

Mrs Johns: We're not going to start again, are we, where you talk over me the whole time? I'm not prepared to have it happen today.

The Acting Speaker: Please, let's have some order.

Mrs Johns: What the Liberals fail to say is that if they had been elected, the health care budget would have been cut to $17 billion, less than the $17.4 billion that we have committed to spending each year. With this year's health care budget at $17.7 billion, once again a promise kept by this government, we have exceeded our commitment by some $300 million and exceeded the Liberal commitment by $700 million.

It would be a much different debate if they had been elected. We wouldn't be talking about restructuring; we would be talking about a lack of service, a lack of vision. We have heard many criticisms from the Liberals, yet we have heard no solutions.

The NDP, the Liberals and Conservatives all know that health care decisions are difficult decisions, very difficult problems. The Liberals would have us believe that restructuring will not increase the quality of care. We have heard over and over again that restructuring is necessary. Both the OHA and the ONA are in agreement that restructuring is necessary to ensure a high-quality patient care is available at the end of the day.

David Martin of the Ontario Hospital Association, in a speech to the Empire Club of Canada earlier this year, stated: "Some look at our system and see how much has been accomplished in terms of restructuring in the past few years. I look at it, and I see how much more" needs to be accomplished.

Listen to this quote: "Nurses want to create a seamless system of health and health-related social services that provides high-quality, appropriate, consumer-oriented, outcomes-based and cost-effective services within flexible, locally created system structures designed to meet each community's unique needs and improve the health status of the population served."

Those words were spoken by the Ontario Nurses' Association in their vision document that was recently released, but they could easily have been spoken by Health Minister Jim Wilson. In his speech to the Empire Club earlier this year he said, "Our new direction for health care will result in seamless and accountable care for Ontarians, integrating assessment, treatment, care, illness prevention and health promotion."

The Liberals would have you look at this situation and say that the status quo is acceptable. Under previous governments, including the Liberals, approximately 8,400 hospital beds were closed. That's the equivalent of 33 midsized hospitals. We're still paying the heat and hydro for these empty wings in buildings. High administrative costs are not allowing dollars to flow directly to patient care.

This government has taken the politics out of health care. This is widely recognized as an impediment to restructuring. We appointed the Health Services Restructuring Commission to ensure that all aspects of health care in the region are taken into account before they make their recommendations. Closing hospitals is very difficult and very emotional. As the past has shown, if the decision to close hospitals had to come from politicians, they would never close.


The Liberals have stated that this commission is dictatorial and unacceptable and that the commission will do nothing to improve the quality of care in Ontario. We have chosen some of the most respected people in the health care field to make these difficult decisions. The Leader of the Opposition says that she doesn't value their opinion. She thinks she's as capable of making this decision.

I'd like to tell you something about the people who have been appointed to the commission: Duncan Sinclair, the former dean of medicine at Queen's University, I would say a highly qualified individual; Shelly Jamieson, executive director of the Ontario Nursing Home Association; Mark Rochon, former president and CEO of the Humber Memorial Hospital in Etobicoke. The list of qualifications goes on and on. These people are incredibly qualified. They have a wide range of experience and they have the best interests of Ontario at heart.

As David Naylor, the head of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario and special adviser to the restructuring commission, has said: "The winners must be our fellow citizens, both as patients and taxpayers. If action isn't quick, the losers will be the next generation."

The NDP spent $26 million in getting the restructuring report project started but they had no plan to implement the studies once they were completed. When we came to office, these studies started landing on the minister's desk. Were they just supposed to be shelved, as a lot of other reports had been in the past? Should we have ignored the advice of local volunteers who worked very hard over the course of a number of months to prepare these studies based on what they believe are their local needs? I don't think so. I think it's imperative that we act on these reports. I think it's important to look at the process now, because we've been talking about the process today, to see if the process that's involved with the restructuring commission is working well.

The restructuring commission is mandated by the law to have regard to these reports that are completed by district health councils. As you know, DHC reports are only prepared after many months of public consultation. The government often receives dissenting reports. The commission, after reviewing the reports and after talking to people in the community, listening to the issues, issues a set of recommendations regarding the restructuring of local services that it feels are necessary. These recommendations pertain to the closure or creation of facilities, the need for reinvestments and anything else related to the local delivery of health care services the commission deems necessary to make comment on which will improve the quality of health care.

There is a 30-day period during which any members of the community or any organization, including the affected hospitals, can forward their comments and their recommendations to the commission for consideration. After this 30-day period the commission considers all the feedback it received on its initial recommendations and issues its final directives.

The opposition parties are asking that all dollars saved from restructuring be reinvested in the community on a dollar-for-dollar basis. I'd like to read to you the following quote:

"Let me address the critical matter of what happens to the savings achieved in hospital reconfiguration.... If the savings from your system reconfiguration exceed the needs identified in your community-based plan, that is, if your savings compound to the extent that Windsor has an integrated spectrum of community-based services and still has savings over and above its planned needs, of course the taxpayers of Ontario will then also get a return on their investment in Windsor, to be used to reinvest in other communities who are far behind."

This is a quote from the Minister of Health, not Jim Wilson but rather Ruth Grier, the former NDP Minister of Health. They had every intention, as NDPs, of reinvesting the dollars where they were needed most in Ontario and they stand here sanctimoniously today and tell us they would put them someplace else.

If our goal is to create a truly province-wide system with a seamless continuum of care across the communities, then all communities must be able to share in the savings found in our communities. As Mr Martin said: "We cannot just shrink the system. It must change substantially. Fortunately, that change is under way."

I believe it is important to note that the Big Blue Bulldozer the Liberals are speaking about is about to clear a path to excellent quality health care in Ontario, something that everyone in this House hopes for and that we as the government will be implementing.

I would like to use the last few minutes of my time to address the issue of why restructuring is necessary. We will hear arguments from the opposite side of the House about why the status quo is acceptable. Well, it just isn't. The process is necessary in order to ensure high-quality patient care is available to the people of Ontario at the end of the day.

Ontario is one of the last provinces to undergo hospital restructuring. In Saskatchewan, the NDP government has closed approximately half of the hospitals. In Manitoba, there has been no evidence of reduction in services with bed closures. In fact, Winnipeg residents had relatively the same or better access to hospitals in 1993 as they did in the years preceding. In fact, there were more patients cared for in the Winnipeg hospitals in 1993 than there were in 1990 or 1989, despite considerable reductions to bed numbers and expenditures.

In fact, the number of days patients spent in the hospital decreased. The days per 1,000 residents dropped by 9%. There was also no noticeable decrease in access to hospitals for paediatric patients, non-Winnipeg patients or patients from the poorest neighbourhoods. Comparing 1993 back through to 1990, surgical procedures were actually up from where they were before the restructuring. Mortality rates among those admitted for heart attack, cancer surgery or hip fractures remained low. Even among the elderly, the most vulnerable group of patients, no increases in mortality occurred.

To date, we have made a number of reinvestments to ensure the community services are in place before hospitals are closed, and we are doing this before seeing the money from hospital restructuring. The member opposite wanted to talk about long-term care in our reinvestments. We have reinvested our largest investments in long-term care and it yet to be taken up by all the areas in Ontario. My colleagues are going to outline many of the reinvestments we have done so far, so I'm not going to get into that discussion right now.

This morning I was proud to be at the announcement made by the Premier and the Minister of Health that $24.3 million will be used to establish 30 Ontario breast screening programs over the next four years. This is a substantial reinvestment that will protect the lives of many women throughout Ontario. This reinvestment would not have been possible without restructuring.

As important, we need these reinvestments not only for the patient but also for the families of the patients. I know when my mother needed heart surgery I didn't understand why she had to wait. She needed it; she should get it within a reasonable amount of time. It created anxiety for my family. The ultimate goal needs to be to reduce waiting lists so that patients and loved ones don't have to add to their stress in these very unfortunate circumstances.

I also have a situation in my riding where a community group would like to purchase dialysis equipment to service constituents so they won't need to travel the long distances to London three times per week for dialysis. They are currently prevented from making this capital purchase because the hospitals do not have the funds in their budgets for the leasehold improvements to install and operate the machines and to provide trained staff.

If the equipment was installed, it would be beneficial to many groups. It would be beneficial, for example, to the patients who wouldn't have to travel and would have good-quality health care. It would be beneficial to the taxpayers for they wouldn't have to make this capital investment. It would be beneficial to the hospitals because they wouldn't have to schedule the dialysis treatments for their constituents, and therefore it would free up resources for other patients.

For the opposition to argue that restructuring is not necessary, I say, tell it to the people of Huron who are waiting for restructuring, who need to have restructuring to obtain the services they need in their community. I would argue that the time has come for the opposition in Ontario to stop fearmongering and work with us to create an even better system than we have right now for health care.


Mrs Pupatello: I'm indeed pleased to be able to speak now, and especially after we've heard from the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health. If there's one thing I've learned since I've been in the House in these few short months, it is that if there's one group you can't trust with health care, it's the Conservatives and the Conservative government. You can't trust the Tories on health care.

The parliamentary assistant can stand in the House today and talk about fearmongering. Let me tell you about some real-life examples that the PA is well aware of, and that is pregnant women in my community who do not have prenatal care, who do not have access to doctors. Let me tell you about 40,000 people in the county of Essex who do not have a family doctor. Is that fearmongering? Certainly not on the part of opposition members, but certainly on the part of families who are in need of care.

Let me tell you too, for anybody who might be watching, what's really behind the massive cuts to the health care system in Ontario, and that is, very simply, looking for billions of dollars to fund a tax cut.

The most surprised I've been is to find that the health minister was the health critic for five years before he became the minister. He knew what the issues were, yet he took on the mantle as Minister of Health knowing full well what the issues were in underserviced areas like mine. He knew that making the kinds of changes that may well fit into the Metro scenario simply doesn't work outside of teaching centres. All of the members in this House who do not happen to live in the Kingston area, the Toronto area or the London area have doctor shortages. They all have services that are not adequate to support the medical people who are in those communities. When you apply a cookie-cutter solution to my community, we feel it even more.

We've been plying the minister with requests to resolve the issue, in particular for women who are at risk in their pregnancies. We have OHIP wrangling with American hospitals as some kind of alternative solution for the delivery of their children. They haven't pre-approved the costs and payments to hospitals, so what they are doing now is negotiating. For what? For a discount by volume. In the middle of this, the health ministry is in negotiations with the doctors across Ontario. In what kind of negotiation and in what good faith would you dare suggest that you're going to have payments at a discount by volume when you're supposed to be working on some kind of a solution with our own medical professionals right here in our province? It is not acceptable. It's not acceptable for people of Essex county to think that they'd go through the tunnel or pop across the river, as was told to me by your very own minister, to have babies. Those are Canadians. Let's not talk about all of the problems that ensue with immigration, immigration laws, customs, crossing the border. It's simply ludicrous to think that is the only solution our health minister has been able to finagle, and it has not yet even cleared all the hurdles.

Let me tell you that our hospitals have already gone through restructuring. The problem with the plan by this minister is that he has also selected to cut hospital funding at the same time as hospitals are trying to restructure. The restructuring would find the savings, but you're taking the savings out before they're allowed to be found. The result of that is massive layoffs across the board in Ontario before the hospitals or the rest of the health service sectors are in a position to continue to provide the care. It is simply a plan that doesn't make any sense. Why? Because the minister never had a plan. After spending as much time in the health field as he did as critic, I resent, as do many people who are suffering by his policy decisions, that he could not come up with some kind of workable solution. What they ask me for are solutions. I ask him to come to my riding and sit down with me and the pregnant women of my community, and we'll have lots of solutions for the minister.

Mr Cooke: I'll be relatively brief as well. I want to indicate of course that we'll be supporting the motion. I just want to make a couple of points. First of all, I get rather angry, and I think every member of the opposition does when they hear from the minister or the parliamentary assistant or other members of the Conservative caucus who say that we support the status quo. There is nobody in this place who advocates maintaining the hospital system and our health care system in the current way. We have all supported changes in our communities. We have all supported hospital restructuring across the province.

The difficulty we have with this is that the government is not being honest with the people in our communities or the province. They're taking two approaches to hospital funding in particular. They've cut $1.3 billion out of hospital budgets over three years. That has nothing to do with restructuring. The Toronto Hospital has laid off over 300 nurses and said very clearly that it has nothing to do with the restructuring that will take place in Toronto with regard to hospitals; it has to do with the budget cut, the $1.3 billion that was cut, the $1.3 billion which is the big broken promise of the Conservative government.

In addition to the $1.3 billion in cuts, they have announced that there's going to be community-by-community hospital restructuring. Again, I don't have any difficulty with the concept of communities having their hospitals and health care system restructured; I have huge problems with the way it's being done by this government. Everybody supports it. There's consensus in this province that there has to be restructuring, but what does this government do? They know that there are big political challenges to getting it done and that it takes time to do it properly. If you're going to take the time, it can't be done in three months, it can't be done in six months. Quite frankly, you have to take a look at the model, the way it was done in my community. It took a lot of time. You bring the workers together, you bring the doctors together, you bring the nurses together, you bring the community together and you sit down and do a lot of work at looking at what the options are and making decisions together.

Those decisions were made in Windsor, not by a health care restructuring commission which is simply put in place to give the government political cover; it was done by the community. I suspect, because a lot of the work was already done in Sudbury, that the same thing would have happened in that community, that the same thing would have happened in Thunder Bay. But what does this government do? They pass Bill 26 and they set up a health care restructuring commission. I'll tell you, there were some very pointed questions asked by two former ministers of health in that committee -- my colleague the member for Beaches-Woodbine and the Liberal member for Oriole -- who questioned the minister time and time again about this committee being set up to simply give the government political cover.

During the Bill 26 hearings, the minister said: "The buck will stop with me. There always will be political accountability in the Legislature." What does he say now when questions are asked in the House? "Oh, it has nothing to do with me. It's an independent commission. Those decisions are being made by the independent commission." That's the purpose of this commission: not to do it right, but to do it in a way that is politically advantageous to the government. That is wrong. That will not result in a consensus being developed in community after community. It will instead develop into a war in every community in this province.

I hear the Tory backbenchers here today saying --

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe a quorum is present.

The Acting Speaker: Could you check that for me?

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): A quorum is not present, Speaker.


The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

Mr Cooke: Speaker, I assure you that break won't help my throat at all.

What I was saying is that the process for developing a restructured health care system is as important as the objective of how we're going to get there and what we want to achieve. This government has gone all wrong in terms of process and that's why it's going to fall apart.

I hear Tory backbenchers during the debate today, when members of the opposition are speaking, saying that they know what they're doing, that they're proud to endorse this policy. The fact of the matter is some of us who have been around here for a little while remember when there was an attempt to close hospitals in the 1970s, and it wasn't done properly. The same thing is going to happen here. This is going to blow up in your face in every community.

You can, on one hand, put down your foot and say, "We're going to say who the Speaker of the House is," and think that you've really accomplished something. The fact of the matter is, on something as important as health care that's when you've got to insist to your Minister of Health and to your Premier. This is the time for the Tory backbenchers to put down their foot and to say in caucus, "It doesn't matter whether we won the battle on the Speakership; where we have to be heard is where it matters, and that's when it comes to hospital restructuring in our own communities." You cannot allow this arm's-length commission to unilaterally impose its decisions and then believe that the minister is going to have any political cover. He's not going to have cover. You're not going to have cover in your own communities.


Mr Cooke: I would think if you read the resolution, and that might be too much to ask, you would see that there's actually a section in the resolution that I think gets to the guts of what's happening in this province and that is a request to shut down the commission and to restore the $1.3 billion. That is the most important part of this resolution.

I think you've got to take a look at the process and look at what is going wrong in the communities and why you are destroying our health care system, because it's partly the process -- it's as much the process as anything else -- and it's also, of course, the broken promise that your government is putting in place, all directed at the tax break.

The public is catching on. There's no doubt about that at all. You're down eight points in the polls now. I believe that is very much related to the health care cuts that you've been making, the war that has been declared against the doctors of the province and the risk that you're putting patients at across the province as you continue to demoralize doctors, nurses and everyone else involved.

The one other case I want to raise for the Tory backbenchers -- and my colleagues from Windsor-Essex will remember this one. In the 1970s when Frank Miller tried to close hospitals all across the province, there was a hospital in our community that he tried to close. It was Riverview chronic care hospital. The bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health thought they knew all. They said, "That hospital needs to be closed, and we can save X millions of dollars by closing it." Our community said, "No, you won't save that kind of money by restructuring those services into the other communities, and we'll prove it to you." For about five years we had a fight, and at the end of the day, with an independent review, we proved to the Ministry of Health that the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health were all absolutely wrong. That hospital remained open because it was less expensive and more efficient to leave it open.

The point is that if you think you're getting all of the information and all the goods and your political neck's on the line -- not anyone else's in the Ministry of Health, your political neck's on the line -- if you're going to let them make the decisions for you, look at the history of the decisions that have been made before and look at how they were turned around because the information was dead wrong. What comes out of some of the economists and others in the health ministry doesn't always make sense. You know what's best for your community. The leadership in your community, the health councils know best, and they can put together plans that reflect community needs and can save money and redirect those funds to the community.

There's one other point I want to make. When I take a look at what has happened even in my community since your party has come to power, we came to an agreement on how we would restructure our health care system in Windsor-Essex. There was a community agreement. Our government committed capital dollars to Windsor, and then when you came to power, you changed not only the amount of the dollars but also the cost-sharing arrangements for the capital.

We are now going to have to raise in Windsor-Essex, the city and the county, which have a total population of about 350,000, $30 million just on hospital restructuring for capital, because you've changed it to 50-50, which upped the amount we had to raise significantly. In addition to that, we've got to raise $2 million for an MRI and we've got to raise $2 million for additional equipment for the cancer treatment centre. Luckily, the minister reversed the policy that he tried to put in place of $6 million for our cancer centre.

But you take a look at it and we're at about $35 million in the health care system that the minister is saying to raise locally. It works out to nearly $500 per family in Windsor and Essex. So they're going to get $172 in a tax cut and they're going to be expected to contribute about $500 each for hospital capital. It won't work. The capital portion of it, if restructuring is going to take place and if it's going to work, is just as important. The minister can say that bricks and mortar don't matter, but if you don't have a hospital system, an actual building with all of the equipment that is up to date and can accommodate the requests and the needs, it won't work.

If you put those kinds of capital needs on our community and you take a look at the numbers in Thunder Bay -- I believe the number is about $600 per family in Thunder Bay and about $500 per family in Sudbury as well -- you start putting on those kinds of capital demands and the whole thing will collapse, because you won't be able to raise that kind of money in the communities of this province. At the same time, we're asking United Ways to raise more money, we're asking agencies to raise more money, all because of government cuts. It can't be done. All our community infrastructure is going to come tumbling down because you just haven't thought it through.

The best thing to do is follow the advice in this resolution, scrap the commission, allow the communities to function, put the $1.3 billion back into the system and allow the restructuring to save money that can be then reinvested. But don't try to fool the people by saying that all of the cuts are a result of restructuring. You've made across-the-board cuts, you've made restructuring cuts, you're doing significant damage to the health care system and you're going to pay the political price.

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): People have told me in my community, "If you're going to spend my tax dollars, spend them on health." We also know Ontario spends more per person on health care than anywhere else in the world except the United States. Taxpayers expect the best health care available in return for their money.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): The big lie.

The Acting Speaker: Order. Excuse me, I believe I heard an unparliamentary comment from the member for Lake Nipigon. I wonder if you would withdraw that please. I don't believe he's in his seat either.

Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, with the highest of respect to your proud office, I was merely trying to correct, with your indulgence, something which is incorrect. I could have overstated and used some synonyms that were not proper. Therefore, I withdraw.

The Acting Speaker: I accept.

Mr Barrett: Further to that, our expenditure is $17.7 billion on health care this year, $300 million more than our election commitment to an ongoing health budget of no less than $17.4 billion. By way of comparison, the provincial Liberal red book promised to spend only $17 billion on health care, a full $700 million less than we will spend this year on health.

The federal Liberal government is slashing its health and social transfer, as we all know, to Ontario by $2.1 billion. Liberals are cutting health care in Ontario; Conservatives aren't. In part because of the public debt in both Canada and Ontario, we have entered a new phase in health care. After years of expansion, overall expenditures have to be stabilized. The challenge now is the reallocation of existing resources and the better management of health care dollars. There's a lot of room to manoeuvre within a budget of $17.7 billion.

Following a recent meeting with the Ontario Medical Association, the Minister of Health reaffirmed the government's resolve to reinvest health care dollars into front-line patient and community-based services. Before reinvesting into physician, nurse and other front-line health care provider services, we must first identify the necessary savings.

In recent weeks I've been contacted by constituents concerned about the future of health care in rural areas such as my riding of Norfolk. I've spent time discussing these concerns with both the minister and his parliamentary assistant, Helen Johns. I can assure members across the way that Minister Wilson is striving to provide rural Ontario communities with the best quality of health care possible. Recent government initiatives will directly benefit Norfolk and other rural communities. For example, the township of Norfolk in my riding has recently been designated underserviced.

In 1994, when leader of the third party, Mike Harris pledged that, if elected, the budget for health care would not be cut; it would remain at $17.4 billion. However, as we've heard today, this is not a commitment to maintain the status quo. There is room to improve the way our health care dollars are spent. Premier Harris is meeting the commitment with a focus on improving medical, hospital and other health services.

While many would like to think that the budgetary problems of hospitals are over, they are not. Given the decline in federal transfers by the Liberal government in Ottawa, namely, the slashing of $2.1 billion, Ontario must spend taxpayers' dollars even more wisely: less on administration and infrastructure, more on front-line services that provide the greatest benefit for patients.

It has been estimated, and we heard this today, that 8,400 hospital beds have been closed since 1990, the equivalent of 33 midsize hospitals. But the infrastructure that houses these beds has been left untouched. Obviously, it makes more sense to consolidate quality services among hospitals, when identified and where feasible and appropriate, and to spend health care dollars on patient services rather than on unnecessary administration, heating, air-conditioning, bricks and mortar.

What I suppose is revolutionary about this approach to improving patient services is that government is identifying savings before it spends on new health care services to patients. We are ensuring we have the money before we spend it -- not really very revolutionary when you think about it.

Recently our government announced savings that have been identified in the health care budget and are being reinvested. Given these savings are to be reinvested in health care and not, as was suggested today, to pay for a tax cut, the announcement is good news. We've freed up over $1 billion for new, improved health care programs.

As far back as December of last year, we announced some of these reinvestments: boosting front-line paramedic emergency services, out-of-country OHIP and kidney dialysis. We will be adding 140,000 low-income Ontarians to the free drug benefit program in Ontario. Rural hospital emergency services in some areas can now access the new $70-an-hour supplement. There are immunization programs and cardiac care. More recently, there has been the announcement of 43 community care access centres, one of which will help service people of Haldimand-Norfolk in my riding with one-stop-shopping for long-term care, institutional care, as people get older. There are the expansion of diabetes programs and long-term-care reinvestment in front-line patient focus services for tens of thousands of Ontarians.

A rural training program for medical residents in southern Ontario, based through the University of Western Ontario, has been established to train specialists in rural medicine. We are almost tripling the number of magnetic resonance imaging machines from 12 to 35, including two new choices for people in my riding, namely, services out of St Catharines and Burlington. The list of reinvestments continues to grow.

In the coming months, government will continue to reinvest. When reforms are completed and targets met, at the end of the day our health care budget will still be at $17.4 billion a year, as pledged in our Common Sense Revolution. There have been no provincial-level cuts to health care funding.

Clearly, while hospital transfer reductions are a difficult pill to swallow, the need for new and increased front-line services is growing. The role of rural hospitals, albeit changing to accommodate new methods of patient care, remains vital to the communities that surround them. However, as patient hospital stays are reduced and more people are cared for in their own homes, it is necessary to shift funding from institutions such as hospitals to other methods of front-line care.

The need to reduce wasteful spending is not in question. Between 1990 and 1995 various studies and countless health care professionals stressed the need to restructure, but although hospital beds were closed by the thousands, the infrastructure housing these beds remains untouched, at great cost to Ontarians. It makes more sense to consolidate when feasible and appropriate. We must restructure, eliminate duplication and reduce waste in the health care system. To maintain access to essential services and to manage expenditures into the future, we need long-term solutions. This is too important to be left to partisan politics. We must continue to take the politics out of health care, just as we have through the creation of the Health Services Restructuring Commission.

In June 1996 a report titled Patterns of Health Care in Ontario was released by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. The report calls for a truly integrated and coordinated health care system that provides affordable health care for patients today. The findings confirm the pressing priorities of not only primary care reform but also hospital restructuring.

The provincial government is making changes to the health system so that patients and taxpayers get the best services for their money. Taxpayers expect the best health care available in return for their own money -- their tax dollars -- and we must strive towards this goal. Reforming the primary care system and restructuring hospitals will not happen overnight, and negotiating the best prices on behalf of consumers will not be easy. It will take planning, hard work and fundamental change to make our universal health care system both client-oriented and sustainable into the future.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): In the very short time I have to address the House, I would like to start off by saying I support the resolution and then I want to tell the House what we had before the Health Services Restructuring Commission visited Sudbury and what we have after its visit. Before the commission came, we had two and a half years of public input, several -- countless in fact -- town hall meetings with all the health care providers attending. We had much discussion, much rationalization. We had developed a very practical local option. The DHC came with a local solution to our local health care, an option that the Ministry of Health and the minister himself endorsed, committed to.

What do we have after the commission came to Sudbury? We have a system that's far too small. The doctors say it's too small, the nurses say it's too small, the technicians say it's too small, the surgeons say it's too small, the maintenance staff says it's too small; even the cafeteria staff says it's too small. What do we have? We have too few acute care beds; we have too few chronic care beds; we have too few mental health beds; we have too few rehabilitation beds; we have no plan for transitional beds; we have no plans for beds for repatriation.

In fact, what's happened is that Sudbury's lost its designation as the referral centre for northeastern Ontario because the commission came to town. It didn't listen to the people of Sudbury; it didn't listen to the people of the region of Sudbury; it didn't listen to the people of northeastern Ontario. It had its agenda, this arm's-length commission appointed by the Minister of Health to come to Sudbury, to come to Thunder Bay and to come to the other regions of Ontario and close hospitals. At what expense?

Well, a commitment to Bishop Tonnos from the Premier of Ontario -- broken, didn't make any difference. The commission was told, "Close hospitals." Mike Harris said he would honour commitments to the Catholic community -- broken. The January 17 letter from the Minister of Health to the Sudbury health care providers where he endorsed the two-site model, the hot and the warm site model. He suggested at that time: "Let's get on with it. Let's do it. Let's get down to business. Let's make it work." Broken.

Then it provides in the Health Services Restructuring Commission a 30-day appeal period. It's a meaningless appeal period according to one of the members of the commission, Dr Maureen Law. "It doesn't really make any difference what the community decides. Don't expect us to suddenly support two hospital sites," she says in the interview. "The direction is quite clear. The commission has made its decision." So the appeals process is really a sham.

The executive director of the Health Services Restructuring Commission has decided he can set fiscal policy for this province when he says in an interview on MCTV he'll buy the assets of the denominational hospitals. The executive director of the Health Services Restructuring Commission is setting fiscal policy for this province.

It doesn't make any difference to this Minister of Health or to this government. There's only one mandate that commission has and that's to close hospitals, forget about health services, forget about health care provisions, forget about what the community needs. Their mandate is to close hospitals. It's wrong, it's ill-advised, it's ill-conceived, and the Minister of Health should honour what the people of Thunder Bay and Sudbury and whatever other region this group of people goes to. Disband it because they're not fulfilling what's very, very important, what the people who are passing out these badges are saying: "Let's protect health care. Let's keep it healthy."

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, I understand there's unanimous consent that we would forgo our turn but maintain our time.

The Acting Speaker: That is correct. Yes, agreed.

The Chair recognizes the member for Dufferin-Peel.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I wanted to make a few comments with respect to this resolution which has been introduced by the leader of the official opposition. I've looked at it very carefully and obviously the Liberals at least, and obviously supported by the New Democratic caucus, do not support the policies of restructuring of the Conservative government. It's interesting when you listen to what they're saying, the opposition, the members of the third party. They offer no suggestions.

Mr Cooke, the member for Windsor-Riverside, said that everyone believes in restructuring. Well, I haven't heard what he's saying. I haven't heard any suggestions as to what the NDP caucus would do, what the Liberal caucus would do with respect to improving the system. I assume from that, since they have no suggestions, that they don't want to eliminate waste, that they do indeed believe in the status quo.

When we have a debt of over $100 billion, we have no choice but to restructure every organization in this province, whether it be health, education, police, whatever one can think of as far as the services the government of Ontario provides are concerned. We intend to do that. We intend to operate in a more efficient manner.

As many members from our caucus have said, as the Minister of Health has said on numerous occasions, we are not cutting health. I challenge any member of the opposition to tell us where the health budget is being cut in this province. The health budget in this province remains at $17.4 billion. In fact there's been a commitment made by the Minister of Finance to increase that budget to $17.7 billion. Where is that cutting health?

I'd like to tell you a little bit about what is going on in my riding. As of May 1997, we are opening a new hospital. There will be a 108-bed, 155,000-square-foot facility that is under construction as we speak, replacing an existing, out-of-date facility, and it will service the people of Dufferin, Caledon and the surrounding areas. This will be known as the Headwaters Health Care Centre. The cost of this facility is $42.5 million to build, equip and furnish, even though much of the equipment will come from the existing hospital.

This process started in a process of restructuring that actually started back in Mr Davis's reign and moved on through Ms Caplan, the member for Oriole, along through Ms Lankin, the member for Beaches-Woodbine, Ms Grier of one of the Etobicoke ridings, and finally to us.

We're not going to claim the credit for this hospital. This is a hospital that has been planned for a great number of years and resulted in much restructuring. We had two hospitals in our riding. We had a hospital in Shelburne and now that has become a chronic facility; in fact the merger of what is currently called the Dufferin Area Hospital, which is a 113-bed acute care facility, and the Shelburne District Hospital, which is 33 chronic care beds. Both of these hospitals, I might add, continue to operate. All of this restructuring was done in a reasonably amicable fashion.

No one likes to see hospitals closed, but I can tell you that the attitude of the opposition of slamming the current Conservative government with respect to how we are doing things -- anyone who doesn't appreciate that one must have restructuring, that we must eliminate waste, hasn't a clue what they're talking about as far as running this province is concerned.

Mr Bartolucci: We're not saying that, David.

Mr Tilson: I'm sorry, but you are saying that because you're not offering any suggestion as to how the health services in this province need to operate.

The Minister of Health is taking savings that he's taking in the health care system and reinvesting them around this province. One of the areas -- fortunately, I must say, my area has benefited -- has to do with the dialysis machine which was just recently reopened in the town of Orangeville. That means patients who require that treatment, who normally require three trips to downtown Toronto, now can receive that service in Orangeville. That is occurring all around this province, these dialysis machines, and it's called reinvesting; it's called making savings in the health care system and reinvesting them around the province.

At the opening there were three or four patients and their families who were there, who were amazingly thankful, who no longer have to drive to the city of Toronto to receive this treatment. They can receive this treatment in this area. The people of Caledon, the people from areas such as Wellington and other areas around our county of Dufferin and our town of Caledon, can receive these services.

This is the type of reinvestment that is so much needed in this province and that really hasn't gone on in the past. We have a great need to reinvest. There is a need to seek out other investments.

I read one of the 90-second statements last week in this House with respect to a company by the name of Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd of Bolton. They reinvested. They've made a donation to our health care centre of $1 million. They did that for an innovative X-ray system. What this system is doing, it's a digital imaging system. It's not a luxury. It will keep up with the increase in volume. It will make diagnosis easier with respect to cases. It will make them more accurate, because we can see more. The Headwaters system will acquire, display and store 100% of its X-ray, ultrasound and fluoroscopic images using digital technology, completely eliminating the use of conventional film processes. I think this system is the first in the world and I believe this hospital in Orangeville and Caledon will be one of the finest health facilities in the world. I challenge anyone to question that.


I can do nothing with respect to representing the people of Caledon and the people of Dufferin but boast about the work that the Minister of Health is doing. I know we're having a lot of problems with respect to people in the north who are talking about hospitals closing. I understand that. But I challenge you, and I notice there are a number of members in the north, particularly in the Liberal caucus, who challenge us and say, "Why are you doing this?" The question I throw out to you is, "Is there an alternative?" You must know --


Mr Tilson: I seem to have got something going here, Mr Speaker, but I will --


The Acting Speaker: Order, guys. Order, please.

Mr Tilson: Mr Speaker, I didn't mean to get the Liberal caucus all excited.


Mr Tilson: No, I did not wish to make you excited. I'm simply saying I haven't heard any alternatives from that group of three right there. I've heard no alternatives as to how you're going to restructure, how you're going to save the waste that's going on in this province. All you're saying is: "Don't do this. Don't do this. Don't do this." You have absolutely no alternatives that you've put forward.

Our hospital, which is called the Headwaters Health Care Centre, will be a world-class centre demonstrating to hospitals the benefits of digital imaging, a system that is better for the patient, environment and financial efficiency. The pricetag for this system is $3.23 million. Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd of Bolton is providing $1 million of that, and the rest has already been budgeted in the $5.2-million capital campaign of the hospital in our area for a traditional department that would be digital-ready in the future. Plus, there will be revenue from the sale of the current equipment and the hospital will be paid by the vendor for demonstrations provided at the site for clients around the world.

So that is a plan to do things differently. That is a plan which is going on in our Ministry of Health as to doing things differently, to improving the quality of health care in this province. If we kept going with the way the previous Liberal government and the former NDP government had gone, we would no longer be spending one third of our budget on health care. That would be creeping up to one half of our budget in the years ahead, and that is totally unacceptable. So we have no choice. Because of the policies of the previous governments, the previous Liberal and NDP governments, we have absolutely no choice but to undertake and we believe that this will create a better health care system in the province of Ontario.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Let me begin by congratulating my leader for bringing this motion forward to the House. We all know of her concern for the destruction which is taking place today in terms of Ontario's health care system. But just to reply to the previous speaker, he's talking about a 30% income tax reduction on one hand, $20 billion that this government is going to borrow to give the rich in Ontario an income tax decrease. He asked me how we can fix some of the problems here in Ontario. I tell him to forget about the income tax reduction. That money could go into the hospitals in the Kenora riding, into the region.

I go on to the Harris government as it slashes $1.3 billion, or 18%, of the funding for hospitals without any regard for the hardships that both remote and northern hospitals experience. They have no regard for that. They send in their commission to tell the people of northwestern Ontario what will happen.

Let's go back to what the government got elected on, what it called the Common Sense Revolution. What did they say about health care in terms of the Common Sense Revolution? "We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important. And frankly, as we get older, we are going to need it more and more." This was the commitment made by Mike Harris in the Common Sense Revolution. It goes on to say, "Northerners are sick and tired of people in Queen's Park telling them what to do." Yet what do we have develop with Bill 26? We have a Health Services Restructuring Commission, a non-elected body, to go up and tell people in the north what health care they can have and what health care they cannot have. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to take a look at what the Premier said in his Common Sense Revolution when he was approaching the people of Ontario and what he's doing today and to see the difference in what he's doing to health care in the north today.

I'd like to go back to the Minister of Health and let him know what some of the people in northern Ontario are actually saying. I have here a letter from the Kenora Adult Community Mental Health Services and Challenge Club Committee. They're talking about the psychiatric hospital in Thunder Bay:

"We have learned recently that it is the intent to reduce inpatient psychiatric beds to 51. The number seems unduly low when considering the size of the region being serviced....

"The concept of reducing money spent in institutional care to increase money allocated to community resources may have some merit. This, however, does not seem to be occurring as community program budgets continue to be decreased at the same time institution budgets are cut."

As well, I have a letter from a minister, the Reverend Robin Wardlaw, in Sioux Lookout. He goes on to write:

"The government has insisted that its cuts will not affect users of the various services being reduced....

"On behalf of the ministerial association of Sioux Lookout, I suggest that your government could either stop the persistent erosion of our health care system or have the courtesy, honesty and courage to say that patient services are being affected and apologize for the added suffering that is ensuing from your changes."

Those are just a couple of people in communities throughout northwestern Ontario who are feeling these cuts, which this government don't seem to realize. What the minister has to do is begin to listen to the people in the front line, the people who see the patients on a daily basis, and get his act straightened out and fulfil his commitment not to cut health care services to the people of northern Ontario.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to comment. One of the things I found interesting from listening to government backbenchers speak was that they seem to put forward the idea that there are no alternatives except the one they're offering and that this commission is the only way to go. Quite frankly, the reality is that in the communities where this commission has landed like a tornado and decimated the health care system there have been local plans, local options that apparently have been overlooked. Listening to what's happened in Thunder Bay and what's happened in Sudbury and worrying about what's about to happen in Ottawa and London, that's why I've been on my feet talking about the fact that in Hamilton, because they're scheduled to come fairly soon into Hamilton, we also have a local plan that has buy-in by all the major players in the health care system that does let us identify a restructuring process that will work in Hamilton-Wentworth.

The emphasis I'm making on restructuring is crucial, because we don't believe that's what this government is interested in. What they are interested in is cutting. They can stand on their feet and make all the speeches they want that cutting is not happening, but the reality is that they've taken out $1.3 billion and have not yet recommitted those dollars back into the community health care system. One of the things I'm most concerned about is that in Hamilton-Wentworth, without the reinvestment of the money that's saved from restructuring, the plan won't work. If your goal is just to extract money out of Hamilton-Wentworth, to take money out of our health care system, then you're on the right track. Your commission is indeed the way to go. Without looking at the local plan, adapting the local plan and reinvesting the money that's saved, you are ripping millions of dollars out of the Hamilton-Wentworth health care system, which is in direct violation of the promise you made not to take away from health care. I think you said, "Not one cent from health care." I'm going to revisit that issue before I'm finished.


The other thing I want to mention at this point is that we also know there's a bit of a shell game going on here. The leader of my party, Howard Hampton, in question period has raised the question of responsibilities, such as those for the disabled, that are now with different ministries and different funding envelopes, being shifted over to the health care budget. It's insulting to the people of Ontario that this government would think the people are so ignorant that they can't see this scam. If you do not increase the health care budget by the amount of money needed to fund the programs and services you've moved from another ministry, you have de facto made a cut.

You can still stand up here and out on the hustings and in your various ridings say, "The budget is still at $17.4 billion," you can still say there hasn't been one cent taken away from that, but if you have moved services and programs from other ministries into that ministry without bringing the money over, you have in effect cut that budget. If you think you're going to pull that off, you indeed have another think coming. We must never lose sight, as the resolution points out, that all this is not in aid of a better health care system. What is driving this is your need to find money to pay for your tax cut, which benefits your wealthy friends.

I see my honourable friend from Hamilton Mountain mimicking me on my feet when I say this. I say to him, where are you going to be when that commission comes rolling into Hamilton and attempts to shut down hospitals? Where are you going to be then, member for Hamilton Mountain? I know where I'll be. I'll be fighting for the hospitals and the health care system in Hamilton. Where the hell are you going to be? You just watch yourself before you start mimicking people. You've got a responsibility here.

They sit up there, those Tory backbenchers, and every time there's a major issue in Hamilton they're nowhere to be found. But the member wants to sit in the House and make fun of those of us who are trying to fight for the people in Hamilton-Wentworth. I say shame on you. You've got your nerve.

When we talk about the health care system and the cuts this government is making, I want to add to the list of scams and shams that I've already outlined. When I've talked about the fact that moving of the responsibilities is a de facto cut and about the fact that they've cut money from that budget and have not committed a reinvestment in communities, there's a third area I want to raise while I'm speaking on this particular resolution.

There is in the province of Ontario something called the Occupational Disease Panel. It may not be that well known by an awful lot of government members or perhaps by people in the public, but that panel right now is in place to identify occupational health disease and illnesses that are caused by the workplace. If the members opposite would pay a little more attention to the health and safety of workers than they are to their heckling techniques, they would appreciate that this is an important part of the health care system overall.

What's interesting about this panel is that it was created because the WCB was not doing the job. WCB was not linking the diseases and illnesses that workers were experiencing with exposure to chemicals and work practices in the workplace. They weren't doing it. For over 70 years it was known that asbestos causes cancer, but the WCB was not about to recognize that in a timely enough fashion. We know that the Occupational Disease Panel has identified more occupational diseases in the last five years than the WCB did in the previous 25.

My reason for raising this in the context of the resolution is that if this government moves ahead, as the leaked document I made public last week points out they're going to do, disbands it and puts it back in the WCB, in effect that job won't be done. There's no way that, particularly under this government, the WCB is going to do what they weren't doing before. Hell, it was a Tory government that introduced the concept of the Occupational Disease Panel. It was Bill Davis, because he realized and accepted that WCB was not doing the job. It was a scandalous situation, and he did take steps; not quickly enough, but he did take steps. One of them was the creation of this panel. This government plans to kill that and put it back inside the WCB.

What are the implications for workers? The implication for workers is that causes of illness and disease in the workplace are not going to be identified the way they would be when this panel existed. That means that workers are going to become sick, and they're going to die in cases when they shouldn't and needn't have if this panel were left in place.

The other thing is that a lot of these costs are going to spill over into the publicly funded health care system, because who else is going to pick up the work? If we don't identify the legitimate workplace causes of disease and illness and therefore allow people to legitimately and rightly receive WCB, it means ultimately they're going to see themselves possibly as people on social assistance rolls.

WCB is not paid for by taxpayers. WCB is paid for by employers who have a responsibility to provide the funding because they have the legal protection that workers cannot sue them in the case of injury and disease and accident in the workplace. Anything that legitimately prevents workers from receiving money they're entitled to from the WCB means that the general public is going to pay for it, but we know that this government is more interested in taking away the rights of workers in WCB and giving those employers a 5% cut in their premiums than they ever will be in workers' protection and health and safety in the province.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): Who started the de-indexation? You did.

Mr Christopherson: I hear the Minister of Labour chirping from the other side. Let me just say to the minister that I would think, given the track record that you personally have to answer for in terms of workers' rights, particularly as they relate to health and safety, you ought to be sitting there in shame, not attempting to heckle in this House.

Let me return to the issue of the restructuring in this commission. You, sir, as a member of the Tory caucus, as well as the member for Hamilton West -- I see the members for Hamilton West and Hamilton Mountain are here -- all of us are going to have to decide, as representatives of citizens in Hamilton-Wentworth, where we're going to be if that commission rolls into Hamilton and overrides a local proposal that, interestingly enough, was supported by the backbench Tory members as an alternative to the first plan that shut down the hospital in my riding in downtown Hamilton, St Joseph's Hospital.

What is going to be interesting and crucial for all of you, I say with respect, is that if the commission rolls in and overrules the local plan that you and I supported that was built at the local level, overrides it, or if there is a failure of your minister to guarantee -- we still don't have that commitment in Hamilton-Wentworth even with the new plan -- if we don't receive a commitment from your Minister of Health that the money saved will be reinvested in Hamilton-Wentworth, I think you've got an obligation to speak out not for the Premier and the government and their hatchet commission; you've got a responsibility to speak out for the people of Hamilton-Wentworth.

That means supporting the local plan and it means making sure every dollar that's been restructured is reinvested in our community, because to do otherwise is to turn your back on the people of Hamilton-Wentworth, to turn your back on our health care system and to make sure you're toeing the party line.

I can only hope that when the day comes, we'll see six united MPPs in Hamilton-Wentworth, all six of us representing all three parties, stand united behind our local restructuring plan and the part of it that has that money reinvested back in our community. Both those things are crucial to the health care system in Hamilton-Wentworth. There is a local plan.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): You'll be running for mayor then. You'll be running for mayor of Hamilton.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Durham East, come to order.

Mr Christopherson: It will work. It needs to be respected; it deserves to be respected. It would be an absolute miscarriage of justice for this government to allow your phoney arm's-length commission to roll in and cast that agreement and that plan aside. Secondly, it's equally important that all six of us stand behind the concept that every dollar saved in restructuring on the institutional side, meaning hospitals, is reinvested back in our community so that we can have the total type of health care system that we deserve and that quite frankly the citizens of Hamilton-Wentworth have a right to believe they were getting a guarantee of when they elected four out of six Tories.

I think people in Hamilton-Wentworth have a right to expect that from the Tory members as well as the two opposition members and I challenge the four of you to be there on both those issues. Support our local option and be there to fight for that money to be reinvested back in Hamilton-Wentworth. If you don't, then you've broken a local promise that simply ties to the larger promise your Minister of Health has already broken.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I hope I can use the remaining time that's available this afternoon to place on the record some very serious numbers.

First of all, I had it brought to my attention that the member for Windsor-Riverside claimed that hospital restructuring in his community was funded at the new 50% formula for capital projects. However, the facts are that restructuring in the Windsor area was funded under the old system of two thirds by the province and one third by the community. I think the member for Riverside would want to have that fact correctly recorded in Hansard. In fact, the province spent $48 million of the $72 million for their capital projects. Just in the past year, the province gave his community $48 million. So it's kind of interesting that he would not have those numbers accurate.

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Canada and today there was a luncheon in Toronto. This luncheon was organized by the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. The reason I want to say something about it and the reason I'm wearing this pink ribbon is because this government has today announced $24.5 million to introduce extended screening against breast cancer. When we look at what restructuring in the health care system means, it means just that: It means restructure, it means taking existing unnecessary expenditures and spending that money where it's needed. I would suggest, Mr Speaker, to you and to my colleagues on all sides of this House that the second-greatest killer of women in this province being cancer and of that cancer, it's breast cancer and lung cancer, I'm sure that every member in this House who represents their constituency would want treatment of breast cancer and research into the cause of breast cancer to be a paramount priority.

Today at this luncheon in Toronto, the private sector raised over $300,000. There is a commitment in this province by the private sector to fund research into breast cancer. There is a commitment in this province today by our government to fund breast cancer screening.

At the luncheon today -- and I would like to mention that Premier Harris spent three hours at this luncheon -- he came to that luncheon and he was the only elected official who was still there at the end, which in my opinion demonstrated a very clear commitment to the women in that audience who have been victims of breast cancer. In that audience there were women who had been victims not only once but twice.

In the announcement that our government made today to committing $24.5 million to our campaign against breast cancer, they told us that by the year 2000 about 325,000 Ontario women will be screened for breast cancer each year and in this expansion program we will be establishing 11 new sites for the breast screening cancer program.

The Premier said -- and this is the point that's important in this debate this afternoon, "This is an important reinvestment that will help us identify and treat breast cancer more quickly." He said, "This government has said it will put patients first, and we promised in the Ontario budget that we would improve early detection of breast cancer. This expansion will do that." That commitment today by the Premier, in my humble opinion, speaks volumes about what restructuring is about. With Premier Harris and his wife, Janet, at that luncheon today, we feel that the sincerity of the government in terms of priorities has been very clearly demonstrated.

I can't imagine anyone in this House wanting to defend keeping half-filled buildings or two-thirds-filled buildings open when we can save money by amalgamating the hospital services. For those of us who do a lot of hospital visitation, when we walk down corridor after corridor with inactive beds, whole wards closed off, what sense does it make to heat and cool and clean parts of hospitals that are no longer being used?

Nine thousand hospital beds have been closed in this province, and that equates to about 33 midsized hospitals. It just doesn't make any sense to keep those buildings open when that kind of accommodation can be achieved, where necessary, by amalgamating existing buildings, and how important it is that, by closing some of those hospitals, we can fund a program like the breast cancer screening program.


While I'm speaking about this Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, which today celebrated its 10th anniversary, I want to commend to you, Mr Speaker, and to the members of this Legislature the people who have worked very hard to make that foundation a success. Our gratitude cannot be adequately expressed to the people who have been involved. Today's awareness day in Toronto, for example, was co-chaired by Carol Loberg and Beth Miller. These two women, along with their committee of very dedicated people, have worked for a whole year to bring about this awareness day.

We were told today that a year ago people didn't even want to talk about breast cancer, a particular kind of cancer that affects women. Obviously, it was at that time a subject that was a no-no. You just didn't talk about it, even though I personally know of a constituent in my riding who has now survived a double mastectomy for 20 years.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, in terms of the Ontario chapter, has been able to raise the kind of moneys they have over the past 10 years with the support of CIBC, Shoppers Drug Mart, Hallmark Canada, Crabtree and Evelyn, and Revlon. It's very interesting to hear the person from Revlon say that they worry about women's looks but they care about women's lives.

I think that's the thought I would like to leave with my colleagues this afternoon, that by restructuring, not by reducing, the health care budget -- because it has not been reduced; there has been no provincial government cut to health care funding -- and by spending money in the places where the priorities are, we are able to help provide the kind of services that are needed in this province every day. Without restructuring, we simply don't have the money.

If we look in my own riding of Mississauga, we now have an MRI unit at the Mississauga Hospital. Interestingly enough, I saw a list of places in the north. Sudbury, Timmins and the Sault all have MRI -- magnetic resonance imaging machines -- because of an allocation of funding for that purpose.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm pleased to have a chance to give my account of the effect of the Big Blue Bulldozer. I've seen it roll through my community, unaffected by whom it hurts and leaving a path of northwestern Ontario residents frightened about the future of their health care services.

When the commission first released its initial recommendations on June 27, Thunder Bay was shaken to its core. This report recommended a reduction of half of our acute care beds, a better than one third reduction of our chronic care beds and the closure of our psychiatric facility. I'm proud to say that my community rallied around this issue with a desperate need to make the commission understand that what it proposed was simply wrong for a community that serves as a regional centre for northwestern Ontario. Thousands of people wrote, phoned, faxed and attended public rallies in an attempt to make the commission listen to reason.

I want to give you a small sample of what some of the people said when they wrote to the commission and the minister. Prue Morton of the Patient Rights Association in Thunder Bay wrote: "It is obvious that health care cuts are necessary, but the draconian and almost immediate cuts dictated by your report would put the quality of that care in grave jeopardy for many people in northwestern Ontario. Indeed, even substandard health care may often become unobtainable."

From Lakehead University, Sandi Covino wrote: "I am devastated at the havoc you are wreaking on our city. Please rethink your decisions before you leave us with no physicians, no decent medical care and a community in medical crisis."

Parents wrote about sons and daughters who rely on the current level of health services for their needs. Sons and daughters wrote about parents who rely on those same services.

As we know, the commission delivered its final recommendations on October 4. There were some concessions, such as a delay in the closure of the psychiatric hospital, but the figures say pretty well the same. Our chronic, acute and psychiatric services have been bulldozed by the Big Blue Machine and we are yet still being compelled to raise $45 million for services that simply can't fill the need in Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario.

While restructuring may be necessary, this government and the Minister of Health refuse to draw on our community for solutions. They altered the capital funding arrangements and they interfered where they said they wouldn't, all to raise money to support their tax cut at the expense of the health of northwestern Ontario. We will fight this till the end.

Mr Bradley: I want to, and very briefly, unfortunately, participate in this debate I think in a very constructive way with some good suggestions for the government on how they should proceed.

First of all, I agree with and will be voting for the resolution. I think we have to look at why we're in the circumstances we're facing at the present time. In my view, the depth of the cuts and the rapidity of the cuts are both related to the fact that this government has insisted upon moving with a 30% income tax cut which will benefit the richest people in our society the most.

Therefore, I think very conservative economists said to the government, and they're telling governments all over the world: "Until you balance the budget you shouldn't be relinquishing this revenue. Once you balance it, you can look at it, but don't relinquish this revenue because you'll have to make deep cuts in such things as health care." And that's happening.

In the last election campaign, I know of no Progressive Conservative candidate, no Mike Harris candidate, who went around saying, "We're going to close hospitals." I couldn't find any in the Niagara Peninsula, and indeed my PC opponent was Dr Archie Heide, who worked very hard in St Catharines for the services at St Catharines General hospital. I think he must have been shocked when he saw all of the hospital closings that are being announced and the fights with the doctors in this province.

When I talk to the people I represent, they consider health care to be a very high priority, if not the highest priority, and they're prepared to put forward the funds necessary to have a good health care system. They know that thousands of nurses and support and operational staff have been or are about to be cast out the doors of hospitals across Ontario. You can't have fewer staff and fewer resources and still provide the excellent kind of service that's been available in our hospitals in the years gone by, as our health care critic has said on many occasions.

You've alienated members of the medical profession. You've alienated health care workers. Canadians have been proud of their health care system in the past and have told that to their elected representatives. They see this, however, now weakening considerably. Many municipalities, such as my own, have already worked hard to avoid duplication of services. They've already rationalized; they've already restructured in many ways. People have volunteered their time, have given their money to the hospitals, and they now see these hospitals under assault.

What you've done successfully is you've intimidated district health councils around the province simply by not providing the funding for them to carry out their responsibilities in hospitals, and now many of them are afraid to speak out against you for fear that their hospital or their services will be cut back. So if you want to be proud of that, you have been successful politically in intimidating them. I don't think it's something you should be proud of, however. You slash funding and then you instruct the local commissions to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

Under Bill 26, the massive omnibus budget bill, you've set up a provincial commission which will second-guess any local commission if they don't cut deep and cut quickly. Mental health services in our area have deteriorated considerably and need a lot of work.

Anyway, I indicated I would be relatively brief. I wish there was more time. But I simply want to put on record now that I, as a representative of the Niagara Peninsula, will not stand by in this House while the Minister of Health closes the St Catharines General or the Hotel Dieu Hospital or the Shaver Hospital in St Catharines, or the Niagara-on-the-Lake General Hospital in Niagara-on-the-Lake, or the Greater Niagara General Hospital in Niagara Falls, or the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital at Grimsby, or the Port Colborne General Hospital or the Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie. I call upon the minister to maintain those hospitals and those hospital services for the people of our part of the province and to keep a promise I think everybody in this Legislature made to maintain a strong health care and hospital system.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): It is my pleasure to wrap up the debate for our caucus. As our health critic, I would say this is a very important motion that we have before us and it's a very important opposition day, because this is a day when every member on the Conservative government caucus should be listening to the impassioned pleas and speeches that are being made by members on this side of the House. During the election campaign, your Premier and your candidates were very clear that they would protect health care, very clear that there would be no cuts. I heard Premier Harris say in the debates, "I have no plan to close hospitals." I say to you that if you consider what you are doing, then you will realize you must stop what you are doing. It is a reckless path of destruction. You are demoralizing those people on the front lines who deliver care, and health care is about caring for people.

I don't think there are very many people who would disagree that changes are necessary. In the past, we've talked about rationalization, but I'll tell you something, you have given the word "restructuring" a very bad name, because restructuring now says to communities, "They're going to come in and close your hospitals." They're not coming in to develop a seamless continuum of care that starts with primary care and secondary care and tertiary care and long-term care and rehab care and community care and make sure that it's people who are cared for through this kind of a system, because clearly we have no system today. I remember standing on the other side of this House advocating for the development of a system where patients' needs and patients' interests were of primary focus.

My fear is that your minister, your Premier and members of the Conservative caucus are actually saying many of the things that should give communities comfort, but the actions of their restructuring commission, their dictatorial secret hearings, their approach in communities where they don't have to listen, they're going to come in and they're going to do it to you and they're going to do it quick because they want that money to pay for their tax cut and they don't care who gets hurt in the meantime, that all of the restructuring from the restructuring commission is predicated on a US-style managed care model which we do not have today, and I would argue that unless we look very carefully at the kind of responsibility that providers and administrators and community representatives have as part of the development of a true system of true network, we are in serious jeopardy of destroying that which so many of us have laboured so long and so hard to build.

We have heard your Minister of Health say that care is not about bricks and mortar, and in fact he's right, but when you hear estimates of 15,000 nurses who provide care on the front line of our hospitals being laid off, not being shifted to other jobs in the community -- the minister stands and says, "There are going to be jobs in the community." They're not there. There are huge gaps. People are going to be hurt.

I urge this government today, I urge the government backbenchers to call a halt to the restructuring commission, which has nothing whatever to do in its mandate about developing a system. They have no mandate to look at integrated care models or comprehensive health organizations. They are only looking at closing the hospitals in your communities too, and today is your opportunity to stand up and be counted, to tell Harris and Wilson that their agenda is not on, that it's not going to work in York region just as it's not going to work in Thunder Bay, and that communities will refuse to do what you are going to try and force them to do. It is bad, bad, bad for everyone when we have that kind of system imposed on people. I support this motion and ask for your support.

The Speaker: Mrs McLeod has moved opposition day motion number 2. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

There will be a five-minute bell; call in the members.

The division bells rang from 1757 to 1802.

The Speaker: Will all those in favour of the motion please rise one by one.


Agostino, Dominic

Cordiano, Joseph

McLeod, Lyn

Bartolucci, Rick

Crozier, Bruce

Miclash, Frank

Bisson, Gilles

Duncan, Dwight

Phillips, Gerry

Boyd, Marion

Grandmaître, Bernard

Pouliot, Gilles

Bradley, James J.

Gravelle, Michael

Pupatello, Sandra

Brown, Michael A.

Hoy, Pat

Ramsay, David

Caplan, Elinor

Kennedy, Gerard

Ruprecht, Tony

Christopherson, David

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Sergio, Mario

Churley, Marilyn

Laughren, Floyd

Wildman, Bud

Cleary, John C.

Martel, Shelley


Cooke, David S.

Martin, Tony


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


Arnott, Ted

Guzzo, Garry J.

Parker, John L.

Baird, John R.

Hardeman, Ernie

Pettit, Trevor

Barrett, Toby

Harnick, Charles

Preston, Peter

Bassett, Isabel

Hastings, John

Ross, Lillian

Beaubien, Marcel

Hodgson, Chris

Runciman, Robert W.

Brown, Jim

Hudak, Tim

Saunderson, William

Carr, Gary

Jackson, Cameron

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Johns, Helen

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, Bert

Sterling, Norman W.

Cunningham, Dianne

Johnson, David

Tascona, Joseph N.

Danford, Harry

Jordan, W. Leo

Tilson, David

DeFaria, Carl

Kells, Morley

Turnbull, David

Doyle, Ed

Klees, Frank

Vankoughnet, Bill

Ecker, Janet

Leach, Al

Villeneuve, Noble

Fisher, Barbara

Marland, Margaret

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Fox, Gary

Martiniuk, Gerry

Wilson, Jim

Froese, Tom

Maves, Bart

Witmer, Elizabeth

Galt, Doug

Mushinski, Marilyn

Young, Terence H.

Gilchrist, Steve

O'Toole, John


Grimmett, Bill

Ouellette, Jerry J.


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): : The ayes are 31, the nays are 58.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost. It now being past 6 of the clock, I move this House be adjourned until tomorrow at 10 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1805.