36th Parliament, 1st Session

L110 - Thu 17 Oct 1996 / Jeu 17 Oct 1996




























































The House met at 1003.




Mr Crozier moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 83, An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act / Projet de loi 83, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection du consommateur.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I'm pleased today to rise to speak to Bill 83. I do this, asking for the support of my colleagues in the Legislature, because I feel this is a bill that is non-partisan in nature. It is intended to fill a gap that I feel exists in the present consumer protection legislation. The purpose of the bill is to extend the scope of protection provided to consumers under the Consumer Protection Act to include protection from the practice of negative option billing or negative option marketing with respect to provision of services.

As the members may know, the act is a relatively short one. It is intended that to the wording that is there at the present time we add the word "services," which means "personal property or services furnished to a person who did not request them and a request shall not be inferred from inaction or the passing of time alone, but does not include,

"(a) personal property or services that the recipient knows or ought to know are intended for another person, or

"(b) personal property or services supplied under a contract in writing to which the recipient is a party that provides for the periodic supply of personal property or services to the recipient without further solicitation."

Further, the bill includes two clauses, one being, "No action shall be brought by which to charge any person for payment in respect of unsolicited goods or services notwithstanding their use, misuse, loss, damage or theft," and, "Except as provided in this section, the recipient of unsolicited goods or services, or of a credit card that has not been requested or accepted in accordance with subsection (2), has no legal obligation in respect of their use or disposal."

This really is an issue of fairness. It's fairness to the consumer that I'm seeking here. People should opt for services they want and not opt out of services they don't want. It's also an issue of fairness to business. Bill 83 will help level the playing field for those businesses that play fair with their consumers. Businesses that provide consumers with informed choices win with this amendment.

I too, like many, believe that in many instances it is buyer beware, but there are those instances, in the case of negative option marketing, where the methods used may not always be the fairest. Certainly by far the majority of businesses in the province of Ontario act in a fair and level playing field manner. The real reason we have regulations and laws is not only for those who always abide by the rules but to provide some protection in those areas where some do not always abide by the rules.

Bill 83 puts consumers first. After all, the act it's amending is the Consumer Protection Act. We have felt in the past that there needed to be some protection for consumers when it comes to unsolicited credit and the receipt of unsolicited goods. In this business world today in the 1990s the service industry is one of the most rapidly expanding areas in business. Therefore, I felt that the act needed to be brought up to date and that services needed to be included with the receipt of credit and goods. If the service is confusing, then business should explain it and let the consumer decide. That's the free market action. That's people making choices. That's people making informed choices.

Complexity of a product or service is no excuse for failure to give consumers the opportunity for positive action as opposed to negative action. As just happened recently, and this is only an example, our household received a telephone call from a company that's in the business of consumer products and was offered a disability insurance plan for 60 days free. I have to say I didn't receive the call, although the policy is issued in my name. My wife received the call. She knows of my concern in this area, so in the normal course of events as to what might happen in many households she said, "Why sure, send it out." It's a $250,000 group insurance policy. The letter I received with it says:


"You don't pay a cent for the first 60 days. Your first 60 days of protection are provided at no cost to you. For your convenience, after the 60-day bonus period, your monthly premium will automatically be billed to your account."

You might say a prudent person should be able to understand that, but many people might not understand the implications of that, and this is only an example. What happens, I am told, in the industry is that 80% of those who are offered this kind of negative option then go on to pay the premium, or at least it's billed to their account or their bank account. It's only the 20% who then perhaps, after receiving the material, didn't understand it at the outset, don't want the coverage and therefore cancel it. The company then only has to work on that 20%, but I think it's interesting that 80% of the people who are offered options such as this continue to pay it.

We want those companies that take the time to explain, that perhaps take the time to interview the potential consumer, that take the time to get their signature on the dotted line, if you like. We think this bill will level the playing field with those companies that operate in perhaps a more open and understandable way. Clearly it's an issue of fairness to the consumer, but it's also, as I mentioned earlier, an issue of fairness to business by prohibiting what has been popularly called negative option marketing.

I don't want to confuse anybody with the term "negative option billing" as opposed to "negative option marketing." I've introduced that description of it so that you will understand that it covers a much broader area. Marketing is what it's all about. Marketing is what business is about today. We're in a highly competitive environment, and consumers in many cases are deluged with offers of various kinds of services.

I just hope, with the discussion that will ensue on this bill, and hopefully with the passage of the bill, that it will raise the level of awareness and that we can continue to advise the public of its responsibility in the area of purchases, but also the responsibility that business has to be fair, open, honest and do all it can to make sure consumers understand the product they're purchasing.

I'm hopeful that this bill will pass with the support of all sides of the Legislature and that we can act quickly to facilitate the passage of Bill 83. These changes, I suggest, clearly put the consumer first. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Further debate? Normally we go from one party to the third party and then to the Conservatives. If there is unanimous consent obviously, would you -- no? Therefore, the member for Durham Centre.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I'm pleased to have an opportunity this morning to speak to Bill 83. The bill raises once again the issue of consumers and unsolicited goods and services. The Consumer Protection Act now includes goods; it does not include the word "services."

As a matter of principle, this issue has been dealt with recently in a certain context. For example, in the auto insurance context the minister without portfolio with responsibility for privatization has written to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, urging the insurance industry to continue its efforts to explain to consumers the options open to them under the auto insurance legislation, which is Bill 59. His letter also states that the government will not tolerate negative option billing. That's dealing with the specific issue of auto insurance.

In addition, in December 1994 the Honourable Cam Jackson introduced a private member's bill, Bill 206, in the Legislature which did not pass during the majority government of the NDP. It dealt in a more sophisticated and detailed manner with the issue of services and products than does Bill 83, which is before us today.

Having said that, as a matter of principle this bill does address an important issue for consumers in the province. There are serious flaws with the bill that are matters of concern which arise out of the fact that the bill simply seeks to add a word, "services," to the various sections and subsections of the bill which were drafted with goods in mind.

For example, now we have a situation where "services" is not defined in Bill 83, which will lead to doubt and uncertainty. The fact that the same rules that apply to goods have been extended unaltered to services in the bill means that a certain mismatch of concepts occurs which may result in a lack of clarity, which in turn exacerbates the issue of what services are covered or meant to be covered by the sections' provisions.

The definition of "goods" in section 1 of the act is limited to personal property, which tends to be tangible in nature. "Services," however, may be either tangible or intangible, and that's not dealt with in Bill 83. The current legislative language which has successfully prohibited providers of unsolicited goods from suing to recover payment, "notwithstanding their use, misuse, loss, damage or theft," may not provide the same level of protection to a recipient of unsolicited services which may not be capable of loss or damage although arguably capable of use, misuse or theft in certain circumstances.

The point is a lack of clarity and precision and a lack of matching of concepts and definitions in this bill. The result is a rather clumsy effort to accomplish the goal. Having said that, the issue is one that is appropriately addressed in Bill 83. It also doesn't deal with many complaints the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations gets with respect to this type of issue. A great deal of work will have to be done to make Bill 83 into an appropriate, useful piece of legislation for consumers in Ontario.

Having said all that and expressed those quite serious concerns about the flawed nature of this bill before the House today, I certainly don't intend to urge my colleagues in this part of the House to vote against it simply because the NDP majority did not support Mr Jackson's private member's Bill 206 or because the Liberals, on the opposite side, chose to block my private member's Bill 33 and not even let it come to a vote in this Legislative Assembly. I think it's incumbent on us, in dealing with private members' business, to try to support private members' bills that have a kernel of usefulness to consumers in the province. This bill would need a tremendous amount of work to bring it into a condition where it would be a useful and progressive piece of legislation.

For these reasons I intend to vote in principle in support of Bill 83 on second reading.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I'd like first of all to commend my colleague the member for Essex-South on his legislation. We know his great commitment and dedication to consumer protection. I'm sure all members of the House will want to take a very close look at what he's introduced here today.

We see this protection in a good number of provinces. It's protection against what the member has introduced as negative option marketing or negative option billing. I'm suggesting here that the member has done a good amount of research into what is going on in other provinces and I don't think we have to reinvent the wheel when we see that provinces such as Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Quebec have already introduced this type of legislation.


As the member for Essex South has indicated, this is a bill regarding fairness; that, of course, being fairness to the consumer. The people who are consuming the product should be able to opt for the services they want and they should not have to opt out of the services they don't want. In essence, this is what my colleague from Essex South is indicating in bringing forward Bill 83.

As well, we're talking about fairness to business, to businesses that operate throughout all of our communities. Bill 83 will help level that playing field where you have businesses that play fair with the consumer and some that actually don't. I am sure we all, as members, can come up with many examples where we've seen businesses that weren't quite as fair as they should have been with the consumer. I know I have a good number of these cases that come through my door on a fairly regular basis and I think anything to do with the consumer and the protection of the consumer, such as what my friend has introduced here today, is something that everyone in the House should be looking at supporting.

I think what this bill does is to place the consumer first, and that is very important. I've indicated that they've already done this in other provinces and I think it's incumbent upon us as legislators here in the House to place that consumer as other provinces have already done. I think if there's any kind of service that is confusing to the consumer, it should be incumbent upon the business to explain that. Our consumers should be able to make informed choices on information that they should be able to get from businesses before they make their purchases.

There are often very complex rules and regulations or complex negotiations that come with many products. I think it has to be incumbent upon the business to make sure that the consumer is provided with the information that will allow them to make an informed choice when they go to purchase a product or a service. Again, I think that's very important.

The recent auto insurance billing issue is a real example of where the consumers, if they were informed, were able to take advantage of lower rates. Unfortunately, if they were not informed, the bill came in the mail, as it has always, and they weren't informed that there would be premiums that they could actually take advantage of. This where I talk about the uninformed consumer.

I had an example just yesterday where a 20-year-old purchasing insurance for his vehicle found that rates were enormous when he took a look at what he was going to pay here in Ontario. He moved to Manitoba to take a course at school and found out that his rates were one quarter the cost in Manitoba for more coverage on his vehicle. This was a 20-year-old constituent who found a great difference. I don't think the insurance company actually informed him of his choices and what he could have been looking at, so again, I think this is very important that the government help protect that particular consumer.

We take a look at Bill 83 and it recognizes that the Consumer Protection Act has to be updated to reflect the realities of our economy today, our new economy, one that is becoming increasingly based on the transaction of services and one that is changing on a daily basis. I think Bill 83 addresses a long overdue prohibition on the marketing technique that is a severe irritant to consumers.

Some people may argue that negative option marketing can increase efficiency and work to the benefit of consumers. While this could be the case with some businesses, I really don't see where it can actually benefit the consumer. I indicated that an unfair business would come to practise to the business's advantage, so again, I think it's very important that the consumer have the advantage of having informed choices and making those informed choices on information that should be incumbent upon the business to provide.

I would just like to congratulate the member for Essex South on his bill and commend him on all his hard work on behalf of Ontario consumers. I am sure that all members of the House will look at this as a way for us to help the consumer in terms of their purchasing.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I want to stand on behalf of my party, the New Democratic Party of Ontario, in support of this private member's resolution brought forward by Mr Crozier, Bill 83. I'd like, in the time that I have, to try to explain as well as I can what the bill is about and the rationale for supporting it.

Simply put, it's in order to try to deal with the problem we have in this province of negative option billing. Simply put, those are situations where a marketing firm of one type or another says, "I will send you goods through the mail," or, "I will sell you services through the mail," whatever they might be, and in the delivery of the goods or services a piece of paper comes to your door and says, "If you don't respond within a certain number of days, we're going to bill you for this," so you've got to send it back.

I have seen in my constituency, I'm sure as other members of this assembly have seen in the work that they do as constituency people in their own ridings, a number of people in my riding -- in particular, in the town of Iroquois Falls I remember one issue specifically where the person wasn't aware -- basically it was services that were being brought in in regard to lawn care. The person was sort of told that if they allowed that to happen it was a demonstration and they were going to show it to other people and she would be like the model for the neighbourhood. She said, "Yes, sure, go ahead and do it," type of thing, and what she ended up doing was getting into a contract where the person who wanted to do the work did it over a longer period of time than she ever wanted to do it and she had a real problem trying to undo the damage that had been done.

The problem, quite frankly, is that in the Consumer Protection Act now services are not included in that negative option portion. You can, under the law of Ontario, return goods; that's fairly easy to do. As long as you turn the goods back, there's nothing that they can do. They can't force you to keep the goods or pay for them. But when it comes to services, it's a real problem.

I have another situation. Mr Crozier talks about insurance. Another constituent about a month ago contacted my office about a similar thing. This elderly couple received a letter in the mail saying basically they had this free insurance policy, the same thing that happened to Mr Crozier himself. They thought: "Geez, this is free. I don't have to do anything. If somebody's going to give me something for free, I may as well keep it," not knowing what was going to happen. A little bit later they got a bill. Again, we're trying to work through the process of undoing the damage that was done there.

It wasn't a huge amount of money. It was a monthly policy -- if I remember the numbers correctly, around $32 a month -- but none the less it's not something this particular couple wanted. They already had life insurance; they didn't need any other protection for funeral expenses; they didn't need extra protection for passing on any kind of money to their family. They had taken care of those matters quite a long time before they ever got the letter from the insurance company, but none the less, because the constituent had received it and because the constituent hadn't sent it back, they were stuck with a bill that we're now trying to work our way through to make sure that particular constituent doesn't have to pay.

Unlike what the Conservative member for Durham Centre said, which is that the legislation is flawed, I don't think it's flawed. I think it's fairly clear. If you take a look at what the bill is saying, it's trying to deal with the question of services.

I'm just going to read for the members here, because I always think it's important that when we come in and debate bills we should take the time to read the bill. I am always amazed in debate how many times members of this assembly get up and speak on bills and they haven't even taken the time to read them. I just want to read very quickly in section 1 of the bill what he's getting at. It deals with the definition of unsolicited goods, and the definition goes on to say "personal property or services supplied under a contract in writing to which the recipient is a party that provides for periodical supply of personal property or services to the recipient without further solicitation."

All right? I think it's fairly clear what they're trying to do here. We're trying to get to the question of how we deal with services themselves. I think it's a step in the right direction. I think it's something that quite frankly needs to be done. I think the government has the opportunity here to deal with one particular aspect of trying to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices carried on by some of the companies in Ontario -- not all. I believe that most companies try to do business in an honest way; in some cases not. This is what this bill is trying to do.

For the member for Durham Centre from the Conservative side of the bench, who said, "I'm going to support this in principle but I want to tell you how flawed it is," listen, you're the government. You guys are the ones who have the ministers' offices. You control the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations. If you are so concerned about all those other issues that you raised, the honourable member for Durham Centre, where's the action? When is the minister going to come forward with the legislation to deal with all those other issues that you tend to be concerned about this morning in debate?

You control the Cabinet Office, you control the minister's office, you control the legislation in the House; you have a huge majority in this House. So you have an opportunity to come forward and bring legislation to the table of this House, to the floor of this House, that will deal with your concerns.


What the member opposite from the Liberal Party, Mr Crozier, is trying to say is, "Here is but one aspect of a problem." As a concerned member, the member is saying, "I want to be able to try to advocate on behalf of my constituents and other constituents around the province of Ontario around a particular aspect of consumer protection." I urge the members on the Conservative side of the bench to support this legislation, but not only support it by voting for it at second reading and allowing it to get through the House at this particular point, but I urge you then to go back and to work with the member opposite to lobby your members in the cabinet and lobby your House leader to make sure that the bill doesn't die after second reading.

It's not a big deal; it is not a cumbersome bill, as the member opposite would say. I've dealt with legislation in this House for a number of years and I think this is pretty clear-cut. It was drawn up by legislative counsel. They're the people who write bills. That's what we pay these people for. So for the member opposite to say it's cumbersome I think doesn't bode well to your confidence in the people who work at legislative counsel. These are the same people who write bills for the government, I would add. The thing is, it is not a flawed piece of legislation, so I ask the members to support it.

Again I say go to your cabinet colleagues, go to the cabinet members and say: "Listen, this is a good piece of legislation. I can go back home and I can tell constituents I have dealt with in my riding who have problems like this that the government is doing something about this particular issue." Make sure that the bill not only goes through second reading but goes through the entire process of becoming law.

Then take it one step further. The member for Durham Centre makes a point, and I think it's a valid point. There are a number of issues when it comes to consumer protection legislation that need to be dealt with. As I said before, you're the government. You control this House. You have the majority. Please come forward with legislation in order to deal with that. I will tell you, we on the opposition side of the bench will support you, because I believe the job of an opposition member, as a government member, is to speak out on behalf of their constituents. Where there are areas that we can agree on that are mutually beneficial for our constituents, I think it should transcend party politics.

I think it has to go, quite frankly, to the term you use, which is common sense. I will say now publicly here in the House, you come forward with consumer protection legislation that does some of the things the member for Durham Centre talked about in his speech today, and I will be there with you. I will vote for the bill. I will go out on the streets of the riding of Cochrane South and I will make sure the constituents know what it's about, and I will give you credit where credit is due. But until you do so, I ain't going to do that, because quite frankly I think the member is trying to find some reason to tell the members on the Conservative side of the bench not to vote for this legislation. So you need to make sure that is done.

With that, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to debate this part of the bill and again I would urge members in this House to vote in support of the bill from the member for Essex South, because I think it goes a long way to addressing a lot of the issues that we talked about here this morning.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure this morning to rise and participate in the second reading of Bill 83, An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act, and the comments made by the member for Essex South in opening this important debate on the subject of protecting consumers.

I want to draw to the members' attention that the previous speaker, the NDP member for Cochrane South, spent most of his time offering nothing but criticism about the government and its action. At the end of the day, it's this government that's really in the position to make the final decision and vote to support this bill.

I might point out that during his lengthy diatribe, the member did not at any point mention the private member's bill by a member at that time, Cam Jackson's Bill 206. What did the NDP government do at that time? They had the opportunity as government of the day to move forward with significant changes to consumer protection that were involved in Bill 206, a very comprehensive bill that Minister Jackson took the time to develop in 1994, and the government failed to act.

I want to support Mr Flaherty's comments, the member for Durham Centre, being a very distinguished lawyer from the Durham region, who has very significantly pointed out that the weakness in the bill is that it doesn't really in some areas go far enough. I'd like to suggest that this government really -- our effort is to work to help the people on the ground, the people who are working and struggling every day to make a living in their lives. Just think, for example, of the busy working family getting unsolicited mail and businesses offering services that perhaps requires them to read and take some sort of action. Think of the senior citizen who perhaps is victimized by being uninformed in an unsolicited approach for a business or service; or the student. For example, my son just received an unsolicited card in the mail. He had his 18th birthday and, what do you know, he's got a Bell Calling Card and another card in the mail the very next day, unsolicited. Sometimes there's an action required not to pre-empt the service that's being offered.

Working on behalf of people, I think Mr Crozier's bill does add the word "service" to the section of the bill. I think it's a very popular bill. At this time, we are all aware of the federal bill, C-216, which amended the Broadcasting Act, dealing with cable services. This wasn't dealing with consumer protection specifically but more under the regulations of the CRTC.

I'll be supporting this bill, but I am still listening to the full discussion, and I'm looking forward to other members' statements. I really want to leave the one impression, that in today's interactive, Internet world, where you're signing on a system, the buyer has every responsibility to beware of what they're really signing on to buy.

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I want to congratulate my colleague for his bill. I think Bill 83 is about fairness. I think as a government we have a responsibility to protect consumers and I think this bill protects consumers. As pointed out by the previous speaker, we have to protect especially seniors, people who don't have access to all governmental information. I think this bill will do this. The way some business people operate today in this province leaves us unsatisfied with some of the ways that are being used to entice people to sign contracts or to buy products without seeing them and also what we call the "fine print." I don't think every one of us in this House does read the fine print. I think Bill 83 protects the consumers.


The Deputy Speaker: There's too much noise. I can't hear the speaker even though he's right close to me.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Oh, sorry, Ben.

Mr Grandmaître: It's okay, you're welcome, David.

As I pointed out, I think these people are all talking together because they want to support this bill, and I congratulate them. I think it's a great piece of legislation and it's about time the government protects our consumers. Again, let's hope that the government members, as the previous speaker pointed out -- that not only he but the rest of the Tory members or the Conservative members will support this bill.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I want to congratulate the member for Essex South for bringing this bill forward and remind folks out there that this is the time, in the very complicated and sophisticated workings of this place, when members of this House, on their own initiative, separated from their party affiliation or most political considerations, bring forward to all of us for consideration issues that sometimes come from constituents who come to their office and share some concern about some regulation or rule that's in place that isn't working for them. Sometimes it's a group of people that come forward and lay on the table of a member an issue that needs to be addressed, that just cries out for address.

That member spends a lot of time researching, working with counsel down here and putting the pieces together so that a piece of legislation can be brought before this House for the full consideration of all the members, and as I said, separated from their normal role of either protecting government or hammering government, to consider something that's in the interest of all of the people of a particular jurisdiction. I would suggest that this morning we have before us just such a bill.


The member has obviously heard from his constituents, I'm sure has heard from others of his colleagues in this place re this question, has seen in the press over the last number of years actually some concern raised about this issue as various and sundry companies and enterprises across Ontario and Canada look for newer and more creative ways to bilk people out of the money they work so hard to earn for products they see, on first blush, as perhaps quite attractive and something that might be helpful to them, but in the end, when they've had some time to think about it, find it's not exactly what it was presented to be.

So this morning as we consider this bill, first of all, it's important that all of the members of the House realize that this is in the interest of the common good of consumers out there and will lay the groundwork as well re a level playing field for business and industry as it works within a set of guidelines and rules that are hopefully fair to everybody. We know in the world we live in how creative new businesses can be and how sometimes they will stretch the envelope to hook somebody into buying a product or entering into a contract that has all kinds of long-term ramifications a person doesn't consider in the initial accepting of and using of, or even sometimes signing for, a particular service or good. I believe today the member is talking about expanding a set of regulations to consider the purchase of or entering into agreement around services as opposed to goods.

We know there are some very good players out there in the business community who are not trying to pull the wool over the eyes of people, who are not trying to foist something on people that they don't necessarily want, but all of us at one point in time or another have probably been stung or have had the potential to be stung by some corporation or company or fly-by-night outfit that will sometimes send you something in the mail with a whole lot of very attractive language and packaging. If you're not on your toes, if you're not somebody who reads a lot of that stuff, who has the time to read that, you can find yourself stuck in something you didn't intend to be stuck in. If we, as legislators in this jurisdiction, can put in place some framework within which all that happens, it will be helpful to everybody.

I also want to make the point that today in our society we have a lot of people out there who are still not as educated as perhaps they would like to be around how this kind of service offer works. We have, for example, a lot of senior citizens out there who, presented with an opportunity by a good salesman at the door, or a package that comes in the mail that looks particularly attractive, want to be cooperative, want to be seen to be helpful or can be convinced very easily that something would be particularly helpful to them. Then when they have a chance to sit down and have a look at that, or talk it over with their family members, or get the first bill in the mail re something they never expected to get billed for, they find that there is no way out, that they're stuck and that they're now having to pay money they sometimes don't have or can't afford.

The fact that the member for Windsor-Essex is bringing this forward for our consideration this morning is certainly a very positive and good opportunity for all of us to try to collectively get our heads around something that doesn't have any political consideration, doesn't have any consideration re whether we're protecting the government or fighting the government, but is doing something in the interest of the common good.

I'm certainly going to be supporting it. I'm going to be listening intently to comments from others who will stand and speak on this. I want to again say thanks to the member for Windsor-Essex for bringing this forward and suggest that other members of the House give it full and due consideration because it is indeed in the best interests of all of us, our family members and our neighbours to do that.

Mr Tilson: I'd like to enter into the debate on the bill introduced by the member for Essex South. I think all of us in this House support the protection of the consumer. I assume this bill is similar to the private member's bill in the federal House of Commons, which I believe is close to proclamation, that was designed to protect people from the cable television services that were foisted on innocent people. People ended up paying for services they didn't even know they were getting. That was the design of that, and there may be other areas of services that we will need clarification on.

I hope this bill passes and goes to committee. I think it's worthwhile spending some more time on it in committee and listening to some expert authority on the legal implications of what's federal and what's provincial, because the federal bill may be designed to apply to some of the services the member for Essex South is speaking of.

I compliment him for bringing it forward. We all appreciate the 48-hour rule. Not to downplay door-to-door salesmen, but some of them are pretty good, particularly with seniors, in selling services and goods that people may not necessarily want or need. We all have members of our families or friends with whom that has taken place. The 48-hour rule and the current section 36 provide the protection with respect to goods but not services, which is essentially what this section is doing.

As the member for Essex South has pointed out, Bill 83 adds to section 36 the word "services" so that if a supplier provides to any person -- and that's not limited to consumers -- unsolicited services without a contractual agreement permitting such an arrangement, the recipient of the unsolicited services cannot be sued by the supplier, nor does the recipient have any legal obligation to pay for said services. I think all the speakers who have spoken today agree generally with that principle, and I hope the bill carries.

I'm not going to repeat the comments made by the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the member for Durham Centre, Mr Flaherty. He outlined some of the legal pitfalls, and we want to make sure that if this legislation carries on to the future we're not going to be creating more legal problems. I took the time this morning, as a matter of fact, to look up in the Ontario Citator what sort of cases had reported decisions on this section. There aren't very many with respect to the Consumer Protection Act, but listening to the gist of the legal argument put forward by Mr Flaherty, the member for Durham Centre, there are some concerns that this legislation may result in unwanted litigation.

The issue of insurance has been mentioned, by the member for Essex South and others. I don't know whether that's option marketing or not. I do know that one has to be cautious about making this amendment. For example, it is my understanding that if one purchases insurance of any sort and you fail to pay the insurance premiums, the insurance coverage continues for a period of time. I would want to make sure, in listening to the legal counsel who come to the committee, that it's not the intent that the minute the policy expires that's the end of the policy. I hope that's not the intent of the member for Essex South, because it's going to cause problems. Certainly consumers in that particular case benefit from automatic contract renewal by not allowing policies to accidentally lapse. I would want to hear more comments from the legal people whether or not this amendment will cause problems with that situation.


We hear stories where insurance companies add unsolicited coverage, whether it be travel or medical insurance, to a homeowner's policy without discussing it with the client and I believe the member's amendment would cover that situation, because clearly that hasn't been explained, that has not been solicited; it's just unilaterally put in the policy by the insurance company.

We have now got into all the services that are provided by cable television. You'll be able to press a menu and find out you can order goods from the store through television. There is the whole issue of telemarketing via computers. I assume all of that is covered by the federal legislation, but if there are other areas, as I say, we'll need more expert comments to determine that in which case I fully support in principle what Mr Crozier, the member for Essex South, is trying to do.

I too hope this piece of legislation will go to committee, to further protect the consumer. I hope that in the time remaining the member for Essex South will give us some more examples of what he means by services. He gave the one which came to his family, although I think I knew about it, but I'd like to know some more examples about what the intent of his bill is.

The only hesitation I have is that this may overlap with federal jurisdiction and we're going to get into more litigation as to what's constitutional and what isn't constitutional. I hope that in the time remaining he would get into specifically what services the bill is intended to apply to provincially.

I echo the comments of all the members of this House. I believe this bill should go to committee because the intent of the bill clearly is to protect the innocent consumer of this province and I too intend to support the bill.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I don't know, David, whether that applause was for me or for your speech. I'll say it's for the speech by the member for Dufferin-Peel who, I think, makes some good points. I'm pleased to see he's supporting the bill. I think he's right when he says it should go to committee so we can have the appropriate input as it progresses through the system.

This is the issue that probably brings people from all political parties together. I want to pay tribute to Bruce Crozier, the member for Essex South, for taking the initiative to bring it forward as a bill this morning as his private member's public business, because it's something that has arisen as a result of our constituents talking to us. Often people are frustrated. They will say to those who are in government or in opposition, to those of us who are in elected office: "We feel concern because we don't see our views reflected in legislation. We have certain issues that we think are important and parliaments or councils never tend to deal with those." That's not an accurate statement, but that's a feeling or an expression which is put forward.

This is one example. There isn't anybody here who doesn't recall the furore when the cable television industry got into this, where they were sending bills to people and people really hadn't asked for the services that were being provided. There was a groundswell of negative comment about this to such an extent that the president or vice-president of one of the major companies got up and had a press conference. I must say that as an example of a person admitting his company was wrong in what he had done, I thought it was an excellent press conference. I thought the person put forward a rather good argument for what the company had intended, but also indicated that he was going to respond on behalf of his company to the consumer complaints that were out there. I think the public felt somewhat empowered by this, and justifiably so, because they saw it as someone imposing services on them that they didn't want.

Mr Crozier, the Liberal member for Essex South, has also raised the issue of insurance in this House, automobile insurance in this case. There's a debate out there of whether that is negative option billing. He has raised the concern he has heard from constituents and others in the province that people have to indicate they don't want a certain service or a certain component of an insurance policy or they end up getting it.

I think the consumer out there is an educated consumer, is an informed consumer today, with all the material and all the choices available to consumers, and I think the consumer would like to make that choice. If the company trying to put forward a product or service has a good product and service, one that's popular, one that's desired, one that's wanted by the consumer, then I think the consumer will make that purchase of that service or product, but to impose it on the person, to have the person go through the procedure of having to say no rather than say yes is a backwards way of doing things.

We must look at some of the situations that face people. People in their lives have a lot of things going on. They may have a personal crisis, there may be a health crisis, a person may be away for a period of time in another province or another country, and an invoice shows up at the house saying that they are going to get the following services. Those people often aren't able to act upon that. Even the people who are able to act upon it get annoyed because they have to take the step of saying they don't want the product or service, but if they are incapable of doing so because they're ill, because there's a crisis of some kind they're facing, because they happen to be very busy at work or, as I've mentioned, in another location, that can cost the person money and a lot of inconvenience.

What is at issue here, as the member for Essex South has pointed out, is the issue of fairness. I think this transcends partisan considerations, and that's always good on the Thursday morning, because we try to look at members bringing forward their favourite issues in a relatively non-partisan fashion, and I want to commend the member for doing that.

It's also fairness to businesses. I remember I made this argument in the Ministry of the Environment, that when you start cutting back on the requirements for companies, what happens is the good companies that have made the purchase of equipment, that have trained the employees, that are being good corporate citizens, are penalized when you weaken the system for somebody else. I think it's applicable in this case. There are companies that use positive advertising to try to persuade people to buy their product and then they invite people to say yes rather than to cancel a particular service. That's as it should be, and those businesses are placed at a disadvantage when others use the negative option billing system.

Bill 83 puts consumers first. It's up to business to market their product positively and many people do that very well and have people within their organizations who do it well. The complexity of a product or service is no excuse for a failure to give consumers a positive option. I think when that argument is made, it's rather condescending to consumers, whether in our jurisdiction or other jurisdictions.

Bill 83 recognizes that the Consumer Protection Act must be updated to reflect the realities of the new economy -- we accept that -- an economy that is becoming increasingly based on a transaction of services as well as goods. It addresses a long overdue prohibition on a marketing technique that I think it's safe to say is a severe irritant to consumers in this province.

Bill 83 is not going to break new ground. Other provinces have already moved on this: British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are also considering such consumer protection amendments.

In concluding my remarks, one of the issues I received the most on in the way of mail and telephone calls was certainly the issue of negative option billing. We as a Legislature, as legislators, have an opportunity to rectify that situation and I urge people to support the member for Essex South and his legislation.


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

Mr Crozier: I appreciate very much the comments of my colleagues. The debate has enlightened even me on this subject, particularly from the parliamentary assistant, the member for Durham Centre. I say in a lighter vein, the amendments I'm proposing were drawn up by a lawyer and I'm just a bean counter, an accountant, so I appreciate his comments and I would appreciate his input, quite frankly.

Mr Flaherty: In a lighter vein.

Mr Crozier: In a lighter vein; I said that.

To the member for Dufferin-Peel, you asked for some examples. If this bill passes and goes to committee, we could certainly discuss these in more detail as they may be applicable to our act and to amendments that are required, but in the case of alarm companies, for example, some companies had introduced new charges as part of an ongoing contract for alarm services without having first alerted subscribers to the charges or obtained their consent. In some areas, a service is defined to include the delivery or provision of access to even electricity, gas and water and other telecommunications. So that, I agree, has to be clarified as to the extent that it's a federal and/or provincial matter.

In the area of insurance: adding travel insurance coverage to homeowners' policies without express authorization of the consumer and without having first advised the consumer of the details of the coverage. There have been examples in the area of home care, window cleaning, chimney services. The list does go on. I think it needs some discussion.

I certainly appreciate the criticism and I think, as any bill that's put before us, it certainly could use the discussion of the Legislature and I would hope that you support it and that it will go to committee for discussion.


Ms Martel moved private member's notice of motion number 27:

That in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Health should reject the current Sudbury Health Services Restructuring Report as it imposes a solution not reflective of the local solution agreed to by the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Health Council; cuts over 200 acute beds from the Sudbury hospital system; puts Sudbury's ability to act as a regional medical referral centre at risk; will result in significant job losses of front-line health care staff, which will negatively affect hospital services; and does not guarantee 100% reinvestment of savings in the Sudbury community as promised by the previous Minister of Health.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): On your resolution, would you like to lead off debate?

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Yes, I would, Mr Speaker. I am moving this resolution today because I am firmly convinced that we are heading for a health care crisis in my community. We're heading for a crisis for three reasons: firstly and most importantly because this Conservative government has broken a significant promise that it made to the electorate, both in the Common Sense Revolution and then again during the election campaign, and that was that there would be no cuts to health care. But the fact of the matter is, in his effort to try and help finance the tax cut that's going to make those people who have the most in Ontario get even more, this Minister of Health has already announced $1.3-billion worth of cuts to hospitals in this province over the next three years. Those cuts -- the cuts in beds, the cuts in staff and the cuts in services -- are going to have a tremendously negative impact in my community.

The second reason we're heading for a crisis is that the person who should be responsible for this restructuring is so busy trying to hide behind his Conservative-appointed restructuring commission and trying to let them do the dirty work for him that no one in our community is quite sure who at the end of the day is going to make this important decision in our community. When the Minister of Health sat on this side, he always condemned our ministers of health, made sure that they were responsible for everything that went on in the system, blamed them on occasion even for the deaths that occurred in the health care system. Now we have a minister who spends his time trying to say that the commission that he has appointed is arm's length, even though it is completely unaccountable to anyone in this assembly, completely unaccountable to our community, and it should be he and he alone who accepts responsibility for the cuts and the impact those cuts are having, not only in my community but in many others across the province.

The third reason we're heading for a crisis is because the decision that has been made by this non-elected, non-accountable commission in my community is going to result in much poorer health care in my community. Members in this assembly should know that under our government the restructuring committee that was established worked for two and a half years to put together a local solution. That committee was made up of people who live and work in my community, not people who were flown in from Toronto to impose a solution on our community.

The minister rejected that solution, a solution that had been agreed to by the district health council, and instead he sends in his folks from Toronto who meet with 15 pre-selected groups behind closed doors and then scuttle off to Toronto and make a decision that does not reflect the work that was done for two and a half years by people who live and work in our community. That's shameful. That's wrong. Now we're going to have imposed upon us a made-in-Toronto solution, which will not make things better in my community.

What has this Conservative-appointed commission left us? They've decided to close 206 acute care beds in our community. That decision stems directly from the decision made by this minister to cut $1.3 billion out of the hospital system. The former restructuring committee that worked under our minister worked with a bed count that was 200 beds higher than what this commission has come forward with. This commission, when they came to town and met behind closed doors, told the groups that the bed configuration was now much smaller, and it's much smaller because this minister has made a $1.3-billion cut.

We already know that one of the hospitals has taken a good hard look at the numbers and disagrees with the commission fundamentally. One of the hospitals makes it clear that just in order to continue to provide the services that are now provided in our community we need at least 80 more beds. So the commission has it all wrong. We already have people calling us who can't get in or who had their surgery cancelled because there are not enough beds. Someone from the government has to tell me how, by cutting 206 more acute care beds in our community, things are going to improve.

The commission has left us in a vulnerable position. I think it's going to be impossible for Sudbury to continue to operate as a regional medical referral centre. Eighteen percent of the people who use the hospitals in our community come from outside the regional municipality of Sudbury. They come to our community for cancer and cardiac care. If these patients cannot come to our community any longer because there are not enough acute care beds, because there are not enough staff and because we can't provide the same level of service as we do now, the choice for those people is to be referred to somewhere in southern Ontario. This is not acceptable. People in our community from all walks of life have worked long and hard to make sure that Sudbury had the services necessary to help our neighbours elsewhere in northeastern Ontario. We will not accept having northerners flown to southern Ontario to get the care they need because this minister is gutting the system in our community.

The commission has also left us with a significant loss of front-line workers, and that's going to impact on services. I read through the report that the commission put out and it's full of graphs and data and charts and statistics on every conceivable item except probably the most important one, and that is, how many front-line workers are going to lose their jobs. It is inconceivable to me that the commission could put all this kind of information in the report, could close two out of the three hospitals, could cut 206 acute care beds, and could not tell the public in our community how many front-line workers are going to lose their jobs. That is unacceptable, and it shows just how ridiculous the whole process is and how much this process is driven, not to protect health care or make it better, but to cut costs to finance the tax cut of this government.

When you close two of the three hospitals in my community, when you cut 206 acute care beds, you are going to send hundreds and hundreds of front-line health care workers out the door, and that will have an impact on patient care, that will have an impact on the services that we're going to be able to continue to deliver, and that will have a tremendously negative impact on the local economy of Sudbury, because we have tried for many years now to balance public sector employment with our traditional dependence on the mining sector. It is unacceptable that this commission, which works and operates on behalf of this government, cannot tell the people in my community how many front-line hospital workers are going to lose their jobs.


The fourth point: The commission has recommended that only one third of the savings it thinks might be achieved is to be returned to our community. That's about $13.4 million. It's interesting to note that the minister says all the closures that are recommended by the commission are binding on communities, but he will make the decision of how much money will be reinvested in communities. It's interesting when he assumes responsibility under this process.

Compare a recommendation to return one third of the savings to our community with the guarantee that was made by our Minister of Health, Ruth Grier, that 100% of the savings to be achieved through restructuring in Sudbury would be returned to our community, to be invested in the community-based care and supports that we need in our community. There is no commitment by this minister to reinvestment in our community. We have asked in this House what the level of that reinvestment will be. He has not answered. My fear is that this minister will take $42 million out of our community on an annual basis. It will not be returned to this community. It will be used instead to help finance the big tax cut that's going to make those who have the most in our society get even more. That is completely unacceptable to the people in our community.

I said at the beginning of my remarks that I believe my community is heading for a crisis in health care. We are heading there because of the cuts this government has made, contrary to all the promises made during the election campaign and in the Common Sense Revolution that there would be no cuts to health care.

We're heading for a crisis because the Minister of Health tries to hide behind his Conservative-appointed commission and let it do the dirty work of closing hospitals while he throws up his hands and says: "They operate at arm's length. I have nothing to do with it. I'm not going to interfere in this process." At the same time he says that he, however, will have responsibility to determine how much of the saving will return to the community.

We are heading for a crisis in our community because the decision that has come down from this Conservative-appointed commission leaves us with 206 fewer acute care beds, two of our three hospitals closed, hundreds of front-line health care workers going out the door and services that will not be delivered, which will put at risk our ability to act as a regional medical centre.

I call on this government today to urge the Minister of Health not to accept the current proposal that is put out by the restructuring commission, because it will leave health care in Sudbury much worse than it is now.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): It's a pleasure to join in the debate today. It's much the same debate we had yesterday on opposition day, as you're aware. I'd like to talk for a few minutes about some of the comments the member opposite made.

As she is well aware, the health care budget in Ontario has not been cut by this government. I don't know how many times and in what different ways we have to say it, but when we came into power, the budget in health care was $17.4 billion. After our first year the amount of money we had spent on health care was $17.7 billion, an increase of $300 million. I think it's very important for the opposition to at least speak within the facts of the case, which are proven by the financial statements. We have not cut health care spending. We have restructured within the system and reallocated dollars back into the system.

She then went on to speak about cuts to hospitals. I would like to remind the members of the House that the Ontario Hospital Association in the past has been daunted every year by cuts to the system. When we came into power, they asked us to go out three years so they would be able to plan and manage the system better than they had in the past, that they were short of strategic planning that was only one year long. So we went out three years and said, "These will be the cuts over the next three years." We have talked about the first year and we're looking at the second and third years for specific differences based on geographic size. But in effect we have said there will be changes in the budget and we have given them an ability to manage their system within that period.

Yesterday I went through the restructuring commission because both opposition parties talk about the restructuring commission as if these people have no expertise. "They're out to destroy the health care system and they don't give a darn about what's going to happen."

If we look at the restructuring commission, we see that each of those individuals is highly qualified in the area of health care. We have the dean of a medical school at Queen's University; we have the president of the Ontario Nurses' Association; we have people who have worked their entire lives in health care and are concerned about the health care costs. They are not all from Toronto. They are from across Ontario and are all highly qualified individuals who can help us to provide the people and patients in Ontario with the best health care system we can get.

As the member well knows, restructuring is important because in the long run we need to make reinvestments into the health care system. It is truly just not working at this point. We have long waiting lists that affect the quality of health care for people in Ontario. We have people who want to make significant contributions to health care and are unable to as a result of the way the system works now. We have to change the system to make it better for the people in Ontario.

Everybody, all three parties, recognize that. They're all on record as saying that. The Ontario Hospital Association recognizes it. David Martin, in his speech to the Empire Club, which I quoted yesterday, said: "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.

The nurses are on record, in their vision statement, saying there needs to be change to the health care system. We need a far better integrated health care system which takes into effect the community, which deals with all the things from birth to death, within the system. They say that system has to be much more integrated.

David Naylor, who is the head of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences of Ontario and a 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." You can see that a number of people, both inside and outside the House, believe that restructuring has to happen.

I'm the first to admit it's difficult in every area that the restructuring comes about, but Ontario is the last province to enter restructuring. In Saskatchewan the NDP government, I might add, has closed approximately half their hospitals. In Manitoba, studies have shown that there is no evidence that there's been a reduction in services with bed closures. There were more patients being cared for in Winnipeg in 1993 than in 1990, despite considerable reductions in beds. Days that patients spend in the hospital are decreasing. The days per 1,000 residents dropped by 9%. There was no noticeable decrease in access to hospitals for paediatric patients, nor Winnipeg patients, nor patients in the outlying area, which is what the member opposite was talking about. We service such a wider area. In Manitoba there was no decrease in access to hospitals for people outside the urban area. There is no evidence to support what the member said.


She talks very highly of Ruth Grier, the Minister of Health at that time, saying that she would have put all the investments back into the community. I happen to have the quote from her speech delivered in Windsor on June 11, 1993, which says: "Let me address the crucial 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" --

Ms Martel: What did she say in Sudbury? I am not talking about Windsor; I am talking about Sudbury.

Mrs Johns: If you'll just give me a minute, I'd be happy to tell you what she said -- "that is, if your savings compounded to the extent that Windsor has an integrated spectrum of community-based services and still has savings over and above its plan needs, of course the taxpayers of Ontario will then also get a return on their investment in Windsor, to be used" --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): We are talking about Sudbury. Someone give that woman a wakeup call.

The Acting Speaker: There's too much noise in here. Everyone will have their chance to debate. Set it up with your House leader and we'll do it in an organized way, please.

Mrs Johns: As Minister Grier was saying, these reinvestments will go into "other communities who are far behind." So even in your government you were saying that this was going to happen. I am sure that Ruth Grier would not treat one community differently from another community in Ontario. We're elected to rule equally and fairly throughout the province of Ontario.

I would like to end by saying that restructuring is a difficult process; we're aware of that. What is important is that we have quality health care in the province of Ontario. To do that we have to put more money into a number of areas that my colleague the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay is going to speak about.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): It's a privilege to get up and respond to the resolution. I will be supporting the resolution as it is in part very similar to what was presented yesterday in debate, and as I supported it yesterday I will support today.

But let me tell you, I don't want to talk about Manitoba, I don't want to talk about a former Minister of Health, I don't want to talk about anything except Sudbury and the effects of this report on the community of Sudbury. I wish the members across the way would understand that when this restructuring commission visits your community it is talking solely about your community. To base it on the Manitoba model or the Alberta model or the British Columbia model or what happened 10 years ago is all gobbledegook. It is a devastation of the health care services in the region of Sudbury and in northeastern Ontario.

If you simply look at the size of the system we're left with -- and I want the members across the way to understand the seriousness and the significance of the size of our system -- we're left with an acute care bed size that numbers 365, down from 571. If you look at Sudbury as a northeastern referral centre, it is impossible for us to fulfil the mandate that's given to the region of Sudbury as a referral centre. If you look at only 100 chronic care beds, that's not enough to fulfil the mandate as a referral centre for northeastern Ontario. If you look at only 31 mental health beds, you're looking at a system that's not big enough to act as a referral centre for northeastern Ontario. If you're looking at 31 rehab beds, you're looking at a system that isn't big enough to suit the needs of northeastern Ontario. There's no provision for transitional or repatriated beds that will make the system big enough to be the referral centre for northeastern Ontario.

Statistics prove -- and these statistics were given to the Health Services Restructuring Commission -- that last year 35,556 patient days were designated as repatriated bed days, which were designated as referral centre days. That amounts to 100 transitional or repatriated beds. The amount of money they're pouring into the new system is only $3.2 million, which will only allow for between 16 and 20 repatriated beds. Clearly, that statistic alone should tell you that the system isn't big enough.

The model that the community had agreed upon was a two-site acute care system: a hot site and a warm site. That took place after two and a half years of pretty intense negotiation, discussion, give and take on both sides. The entire community was involved in the process. Do you know what? Although it wasn't pleasing to everyone, it was a local solution that everybody bought into. The community was concerned that there be an option that everybody could buy into. We got it. Not everyone was happy, but it was a local solution to our local health care services.

This commission came in, didn't give that report the time of day, didn't listen to what the Minister of Health said when on January 17, in a letter to health care providers, he indicated his support by saying: "My ministry has already accepted the DHC recommendations regarding clinical programs, support services and sitings, as identified in the hospital services review report. Consideration of any other siting model is not acceptable." They didn't even listen to the minister. They didn't listen to the Premier when the Premier made a commitment to the Catholic community that he would protect the denominational religious factors of hospital health care. They didn't listen to that. More importantly, the commission obviously didn't listen to the community because 83% of the community say that there's going to be a deterioration of the system.

It's not only people who are politicians or teachers or lawyers. We're talking about doctors, nurses, lab technicians. We're talking about those providers of the services saying the system is too small. I ask you, in all honesty and in all good conscience, to support the resolution of the member for Sudbury East. It makes perfect sense.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to ask for unanimous consent of the House for my friend the member for Nickel Belt to explain why he closed 8,400 hospital beds in the last government.

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

Mr Laughren: It is certainly true that our government, between 1990 and 1995, for the first time brought health care spending under control. We did it in a rational, humane way, not the way this government is attempting to do it.

I must tell you that when I hear the Tory backbenchers saying that there's nothing wrong with what they're doing in health care, I wonder if they've talked to the member for Bruce. The member for Bruce could tell you a few stories about concern about health care in her riding. How many people were out to a meeting in Wiarton? Was it 3,000 people expressing concern about what you're doing to health care in that part of the province?

I mean, for the member for Huron to get up and say to the member for Sudbury East that our government did not make a commitment to Sudbury to reinvest savings is a complete fabrication, a complete and absolute fabrication, and then to say, "Here's what she said about Windsor," either the member for Huron doesn't know where Windsor and Sudbury are in the province or she's deliberately trying to mislead the House and the rest of the province who are watching into believing that --

The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member to withdraw that remark about misleading the House, please.

Mr Laughren: I'll withdraw it even though it's not out of order the way I put it. I will withdraw in respect for the Chair.


Mr Laughren: It's not out of order. You can rule all you like; it's not out of order. But I withdraw.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry. I did not rule that it was a point of order; I said that it was unparliamentary. I asked you to, and that's my reason. Thank you.

Mr Laughren: You are not going to cut into my time any more, Mr Speaker. I've had it with you.

I must say that for the member for Huron to say or to imply that no such commitment was made to Sudbury is fundamentally wrong. It's a fabrication. We have it in writing. We know. We were there and the Minister of Health assured the people in Sudbury that any savings achieved would be reinvested in the community. That's not what the present Minister of Health is saying.

That's not what the commission has the power to enforce. The commission only has the power to enforce the closures, not any kind of reinvestment in the community, not any kind of labour adjustment for people who will lose their jobs who work in those hospitals now. No such thing was forthcoming from the commission.


For the member for Huron to stand in her place and say that all the members of the commission were experts in the health care field is a joke, an absolute joke. People are laughing at you when you make statements like that. Don't try to kid the troops any more that you're not dismantling the health care system in this province, because you surely are, and your backbenchers are hearing about it from their constituents. Ask the member for Bruce what she's hearing from her constituents in her constituency about what your intentions are. Talk to some of your backbenchers over there; they'll tell you.

And do you know what? For the first time since you were elected in June 1995, your policies are starting to hit the ground and hit people, and it's starting to come back and get at you. For the first time, that's what's happening.

The people in this province did not believe that they voted for a reform agenda in health care. They thought, when they heard Mike Harris say he would not cut a nickel from health care spending, that he was telling the truth. That's what the people of the province thought. They thought Mike Harris was telling the truth when he said there would not be a nickel cut from health care spending. Well, the people of this province are thinking that one through, I can tell you that, because they see what's happening all across this province in health care and they know you are dismantling the health care system as we've known it.

Nobody disagrees that there needs to be restructuring of the hospital system. Everyone agrees to that. I personally support some of the restructuring that's going on, but the way you're doing it really is grossly unfair. It is lacking in courage, because the minister won't stand up and say, "This is what we're doing." He looks at these appointed Tories on his commission and says, "Well, they decided to close the hospital, not me." What kind of joke is that?

Surely as political people in this province, you've got to have the courage of your convictions and stand up and say, "I've decided to close two hospitals in Sudbury," or "I've decided to close so many hospitals in Ottawa or in Toronto." No, no, that's not what you're doing. For heaven's sake, most of you are proud of your ideology. Why don't you stand up and wear it then? Instead of that, you hide behind a commission that you give authority to close hospitals. Why don't you do it yourself? Don't you have the courage of your own convictions? That's one thing I always thought Tories had. I might have some disagreements with you from time to time, but I always thought you had the courage of your convictions to stand up and state what you believed in and carried through on it. In this case, you're hiding behind a Tory-appointed commission.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm pleased today to have the opportunity to speak to the motion presented by the member for Sudbury East. This motion deals directly with the recently released Sudbury Health Services Restructuring Report. As the member will know, there is still a 30-day response period for public feedback on the report.

The Health Services Restructuring Commission is an arm's-length body, and in my opinion it would not be appropriate to discuss the specific recommendations for Sudbury. However, I would like to speak to the larger issue of restructuring within the health services field in the province of Ontario.

The resolution put forward by the member questions the government's commitment to health care services and promised reinvestments. As my colleagues have clearly stated both yesterday and today -- but it bears repeating -- there have been no provincial cuts to health care funding. Our government has committed to a level of health care spending that will not fall below $17.4 billion. With this year's health care budget at $17.7 billion, we've exceeded our commitment by some $300 million.

The resolution would have us believe that restructuring cannot possibly increase the quality of health care in the province, but we've heard over and over again that restructuring is necessary. The Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Nurses' Association and others are in agreement that restructuring is needed to ensure high-quality patient care.

This resolution is a call for maintaining the status quo, but we know the status quo is unacceptable. Under previous governments, approximately 8,400 beds were eliminated. That is the equivalent of 33 midsized hospitals. However, no wings or buildings were ever closed. We're still paying for the heat and hydro for those empty wings and buildings. As a result, high administration costs are not allowing dollars to flow directly to patient care.

With the introduction of the arm's-length Health Services Restructuring Commission, we've taken the politics out of health care. In the past, previous governments have recognized politics as an impediment to any restructuring efforts. In order to address this barrier to change, we appointed the Health Services Restructuring Commission to ensure that all aspects of health care in the regions are taken into account before any recommendations are made. In Sudbury, the consultation process is ongoing. Only after reviewing all relevant material did the commission issue a set of recommendations regarding the restructuring of local services. These recommendations pertain to the closure or creation of facilities, the need for reinvestments and anything else the commission deems will improve the quality of health care. As is currently under way in Sudbury, after the report is released, there's a 30-day period during which any member of the community or any organization, including affected hospitals, can forward their comments to the commission for consideration. Following this 30-day period, the commission considers all the feedback it's received and issues its final directives. At the end of the day, this is clearly a comprehensive, apolitical and productive process.

The resolution expresses concern for the impact restructuring will have on jobs, but ministry reinvestments in long-term care and community mental health are expected to create more than 4,400 new jobs for health professionals, including nurses.

This morning's resolution also criticizes the government for not reinvesting all the dollars saved from restructuring into the community on a dollar-for-dollar basis. If our goal is to create a province-wide health care system that provides seamless levels of care across all communities, then all communities must be able to share in the savings achieved.

The province's larger hospitals frequently serve patients who do not live in the surrounding community. For example, it's not unusual for patients from my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay to travel to Sudbury or other large centres for various sorts of special treatments. As a result, I have a direct interest in ensuring patients in my community will continue to enjoy the services provided by the current health care network.

Through this critical restructuring effort and numerous front-line reinvestments, my constituents are discovering that access to some lifesaving services is being brought closer to home. As an example, two weeks ago I had the pleasure to join with the member for Parry Sound to launch a new dialysis unit in my riding at the Huntsville District Memorial Hospital. The hospital will receive $429,000 annually for operating costs and $244,000 in a one-time fund for startup and training costs. In my community, this reinvestment means patients in the Muskoka-Parry Sound area will no longer have to make long trips to receive this life-giving treatment. Province-wide, the health minister has announced $25 million in expansion of dialysis services.

Earlier this week, the Premier and the Minister of Health also announced another reinvestment in the expansion of breast screening services in the province. In my riding, South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge was chosen as one of 11 new sites which will begin participating in the program for detecting breast cancer. For women in my area, this means improved access. It means doctors will be able to identify and treat breast cancer more quickly.

This $24.3-million reinvestment will mean an estimated 30 new screening programs for Ontario over the next four years. This reinvestment will see 325,000 more Ontario women being screened for breast cancer by the year 2000. That's an increase of 400% over the current capacity.

By restructuring, we're taking funding out of needless administration and costly overhead and reinvesting those resources into direct patient care. The dialysis and breast screening reinvestments are just two examples of expanded programs which are targeting health care funding into front-line, community-based patient care.

When we talk about restructuring, we're really talking about setting priorities. We're talking about providing the health services the people of the province feel they need and set as priorities. At the end of the day, restructuring is what is best for the health care of Ontarians. Restructuring will enhance patients' access to quality health care services and it will save and rejuvenate our system.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'm pleased to participate in this debate today, although I must say that I really wish it wasn't necessary to have this motion before the House.

Health care is probably the most important item on the agenda of at least the people I represent. One of the things that I think all of us are asking in Algoma-Manitoulin, along the North Shore and in the rural north, is, where will we get services? Will the waiting lists be shorter? Will we be able to access quality health care in a timely fashion? As we look at this report, we're being asked to believe that 200 fewer acute care beds in Sudbury will be available for people who need them; 37% fewer. That is just totally unbelievable. No one could believe that a quality system can be maintained with 37% fewer beds.

To put it into perspective, that means we're going from 20 operating rooms presently in the city to 12. It means that the number of beds set aside for people from outside of Sudbury for procedures in Sudbury hospitals is dropping from about 100 to somewhere between 16 and 20, an 80% decrease in available beds for a population that needs to come to Sudbury for specialized services. How stupid does this government believe us to be? This cannot possibly happen.

The most offensive statement that we're hearing is: "This is not political. We're taking the politics out of health care." I want to tell you, I had the privilege of being down in health estimates and Mr Kells, the member from Etobicoke something or other, said to the minister, "but I did bring up the point that when you say you take the politics out of something, it's not enough to say you take it out when, after all, it is there." Mr Kells says it is there.

We all know it's there. We look at the commission, look at what's happening. We know that politics is in health care. We know that the Conservative government has broken every commitment it has made to the people of Ontario with respect to health care and it is partisan. You can't hide behind a commission that comes into Sudbury and other communities and says, "No, no, it's not us; it's somebody else." You just won't be believed. You might as well own up to it and say, "It's our plan; we're going to do it." Don't hide behind the commission.

I also wanted to bring out that I think for the rural north, in fact, for Sault Ste Marie and Timmins and North Bay and other large centres, there's something in this report that I think should cause us all concern. It is a recommendation hidden away on page -- it's recommendation number 14, advice to the Minister of Health. It says the minister will "Establish, in conjunction with the HSRC, by December 31, 1996, a planning committee comprised of representatives of the northeastern region of the province to do the following," listen to this:

"(a) Examine the options for integrated delivery system(s) in northeastern Ontario including a single governance model;

"(b) Evaluate the options and make recommendations by...June 30."

In other words, what this government wants to do is impose a regional health care system with one governance which affects every community in northeastern Ontario. It's found in a Sudbury report, not a Sault report, not a Timmins report, not a North Bay report, not a report about Manitoulin Island. It's found in a Sudbury report, hidden away on a back page. What they are going to do is bring the National Health Service of Great Britain to northern Ontario in the guise of a report from the commission that is only to deal with Sudbury. It is offensive. It is offensive to the people I represent. It will be offensive to everyone in northeastern Ontario that this is being snuck through.

The people I serve do not believe that this restructuring taking 37% out of the system is at all possible in order to achieve quality health care.

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to say these few words.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): In the time that I've got, I just want to go through this quickly and talk about how it relates to the city of Timmins and to the good people of Cochrane South.

I first want to remind people of something. In the last election, the government ran on something that was called the Common Sense Revolution. We remember it well. I want to take a look at specifically what page 7 had to say in 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." They have failed on that promise. What have they done since they've come to office? They have cut funding to doctors, they've cut funding to hospitals, they've cut funding to long-term care, health care as a continuum has been cut day after day by the government, and they stand in this House and say they've got a commitment. They broke their most fundamental promise in the Common Sense Revolution.

Then they go on to say in the same document, "Every dollar we save by cutting overhead or by bringing in the best new management techniques and thinking, will be reinvested in health care." That's not what they're doing in Sudbury; that's not what they're going to be doing in Toronto; that's not what they're doing anywhere. They're taking the money that they cut in health care and they're doing what? They're using it to pay for their phoney tax scheme. That's what they're doing with the money they're taking from health care. It's to pay for the phoney tax scheme.

I want to tell you what it means to the people of Cochrane South. Here in Timmins, in Iroquois Falls and in Matheson, the people in that part of the province depend on Sudbury to refer patients who need assistance medically on to the Sudbury regional hospital system. Without that system, it means to say quite frankly that people are not going to be able to get in. We know that what you want to do in Sudbury is go from the current system of three hospitals, drop it down to one and cut 206 acute-care beds out of the system. What does that mean? It means to say that if you're in Schumacher, if you're in South Porcupine, if you're in Timmins, Matheson or Iroquois Falls and you need to get referred into Sudbury Memorial for a heart bypass, the list will get longer and longer and longer, to the point that you're not going to get in.

I listened to the debate earlier, and the members across the way said nothing happens, don't worry about it, everything's fine. I'm here to tell you not. We already have problems in the system. People up in my part of the province who are trying to get referred into Sudbury as it is are having a difficult time with what your government has done up to now, because of a number of issues concerning what's happening with doctors in this province, because of what's happening to hospitals in regard to their budgets last year with the 6% cut that you did, and in addition to other issues, it is getting more difficult for the people of my community to get referred into Sudbury Memorial for a heart bypass.

I want to tell you about one case alone: Richard Adams, a man who worked in Timmins for many years in the assessment office in the riding in Timiskaming. He started developing problems last spring. As of last spring, his doctor was trying to refer him in for bypass surgery at Sudbury Memorial. Normally, in cases like that, if you're acute and you need to get in, they find you a bed and you get your bypass. Sometimes it's difficult, even when we were government. In this case, June went by, July went by, August went by, he couldn't get in. Do you know where he is now? He's buried in a cemetery, because he died. He couldn't get into Sudbury because a bed wasn't available and now Beverley is a widow, sitting in Cobalt without her husband.

Why? Because this Conservative government is more intent on driving home a phoney tax scheme and funding it through cuts in the health care system, and they have the gall to come into this House and to say that somehow we're trying to play politics with the health care system. It ain't politics. This is real people. I'll tell you, there are more and more cases in my community where people are coming to my constituency office who are saying: "Gilles, I need to get referred into Sudbury. My family doctor or my specialist in Timmins wants to get me down for bypass surgery and I can't get in."

I have another case that I'm dealing with. The man's been waiting for three months and he can't get in. He's now been told it'll take another three months for him to get his bypass. Why? Because you as a government have seen fit to try to fund a phoney tax scheme on the backs of the hardworking men and women in this province so that you're going in and you're cutting the health care system. I say to you, shame, because what you're doing, you are destroying our health care system and quite frankly we've had it with you. You have to get to doing what you're supposed to do, which is to govern for the people of this province to make sure that we have access to universal, accessible health care. If you were to follow the report that Ruth had put through the district health council, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity as well this morning to put some thoughts on the record about this very, very serious and important situation that's evolving in northern Ontario. Anybody who understands the north knows that we up there depend very much on an integrated system of health care, as in everything else. We can't, each community, provide to each other all that is necessary to make sure that the people who live and work in our areas have the best of health care, the health care they need, so we depend on places like Sudbury, Thunder Bay, the Sault and Timmins to have those services available when we need them so we can share with each other in times of crisis.

When budgets are cut there's sometimes a redistribution of resources and previous governments have been involved in that. But this present approach to health care in the north is just absolutely unbelievable and in the long run is going to wind up with some real calamities at the front door of this place, by way of example, and it will be squarely on the shoulders of Mike Harris and the Minister of Health when that happens.

In Sault Ste Marie, we have example after example of people, as the member for Cochrane South said, who are in need of the kind of services we access at the regional centre in Sudbury. The member for Sudbury suggested that 18% of the cases seen, particularly in cancer and cardiac, in the hospitals of Sudbury come from outside Sudbury and that is absolutely right. In Sault Ste Marie we are absolutely dependent on some of the services that are provided in Sudbury.

Health care in the north is one of the fundamentals to any future we are going to have in that part of Ontario that's so important to the whole of the province. If we don't have first-class health care, if we don't have access in a timely and efficient fashion, people are going to die and we're not going to be able to attract people up to our neck of the woods to do business or set up industry or work with us in the so many ways in which we're dependent on people to make sure our communities are viable and alive and well.

We have to look at this decision that's been made by this government in the context of that overall question of how we can maintain and improve the health of northern Ontario, of the people who live there. The decision that was made by this government, to reduce the number of beds in Sudbury from a level that was already difficult for us to access to the number we see today, is absolutely unworkable and will in the long haul result in longer and longer waiting lists and more and more people not getting the services they need, and probably in the long run our having to look at the possibility of having to send patients from northern Ontario to southern Ontario.

We still don't know what the decisions are going to be around what hospitals are going to be left after this restructuring committee comes through with its big swath and scythe in southern Ontario and cuts hospitals down here. We don't know yet what kind of impact that's going to have on the north and I don't know in particular what's going to happen in Sault Ste Marie.

I just want to share with you in closing an example of what in fact will happen. We had a man in Sault Ste Marie just recently, and there's a story in the Sault Star this week. It goes: "Waiting Lists for Heart Patients Grow Longer and Longer," and, "Widow Blames Health Cuts for Her Husband's Death."

"Norman Kuczenski died at the Plummer hospital after waiting almost 10 days for bypass surgery at Sudbury's Memorial Hospital....

"Mr Kuczenski's cardiologist, Dr David Gould, sees him as an example of what happens when a system is inadequately funded....

"Gould predicted that waiting lists will get even worse when Memorial closes and merges with Laurentian Hospital in Sudbury. That merger will see operating room times and beds become even more scarce."

So people are dying and more people are going to die.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this private member's motion today in regard to the Sudbury hospital restructuring. As members know, two weeks ago I brought up a question about a case, which was also referred to here in a previous speech from the member for Cochrane South, to the Minister of Health about a constituent of mine who died because he was not able to access heart surgery in a timely manner.

Quite frankly, I don't want to live in an Ontario where people are dying needlessly because they cannot access services. With the wealth we generate in this province, especially the wealth we generate in northern Ontario, there is no reason why citizens of northern Ontario are going to have to die because they're caught in lineups because they cannot access the medical care they need in a timely fashion. Richard Adams was one of many people who find themselves in this situation. Right now our cardiac heart surgery waiting list in northeastern Ontario at the Sudbury Memorial Hospital is 197 people.

The Minister of Health is saying that we are now going to close hundreds of beds in Sudbury and somehow the service is going to be better. I say to the minister and the parliamentary assistant, why don't you make the service better now? I'm not against restructuring, but show me how the service is going to be better.

It's not a funny matter, I say to some of the members who are laughing here. I'm talking about a constituent of mine who died. This man died at 46 years of age. That's not needed in Ontario, and it shouldn't be needed in Ontario. It's wrong, and this government should be doing something about it.

Get the services in place. We talk about community-based services; we talk about bricks and mortar; we talk about rationalization of service and restructuring. These are all wonderful catchwords that ministers and parliamentary assistants bandy about, but I've had a resident who has died because he could not access surgery in a timely manner.

On April 23 of this year, the doctor made the decision that Richard Adams should be put on the waiting list for heart surgery. He didn't get that until late in September, after a second heart attack, and died a day later. That should not happen in Ontario. I know it doesn't happen in Toronto. We've got to make sure that we have access to medical services in a timely manner.

The member for Sault Ste Marie just mentioned another of his constituents who was caught in the same situation. So we're saying to you, let's fix it, let's get the system fixed so that we don't have these waiting lists. Then we can start talking about how we can rationalize these services. But if we're not getting the people in a timely manner -- and let's face it, when you've had cardiac surgery, you don't kick the person out after 24 hours. You need to have an acute-care bed there so that the person can heal properly before they have to be sent home, remembering that being sent home might involve travel of at least 300 to 400 miles across northern Ontario. That person has to be in very good shape before you discharge them from the hospital.

We've got to take a close look at this. This isn't like rationalizing hospitals on University Avenue, when you've got five within three or four city blocks of each other. We've got 650,000 people right across northeastern Ontario who depend on the Sudbury hospital system for their services. Now to cut those beds allocated to those people outside the Sudbury region from 100 to about 16 or 18, an 82% decrease, is ludicrous.

I predict, unfortunately, that waiting list is going to grow. I predict, unfortunately, that we're going to have more deaths in northeastern Ontario because you're not doing a proper job, you're not restructuring properly and you're denying people timely access to the health care system. It's going to cost lives. I ask you today to re-examine that and make sure this doesn't happen, because the blood of those people is going to be on your head.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Sudbury East has two minutes to respond.

Ms Martel: I want to thank all the members for participating in the debate, but I want to focus my remarks upon the responses that were made by the member for Huron and the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay.

I say to the member for Huron, with all due respect, I was the local member in Sudbury East at the time Minister Grier made a commitment that 100% of the savings that would come from restructuring in Sudbury would return to our community. I know the debate. I know the issue. I was the member and I still am. I really resent that in this House today you tried to portray that as not a commitment, not a promise, by making some kind of obscure reference to Windsor. Windsor is a 10-hour drive from Sudbury. I don't care what happened in Windsor. I care about the commitment that was made in my community by a former health minister, a commitment that your minister now does not want to guarantee.

The second point I want to make, with all due respect, to the people who are on the commission, who have been appointed by the minister, who are Conservatives, is that in my community there was a local process. People who work and live in my community, who understand the needs in my community, after two and a half years put together a compromise solution. It was accepted by the district health council. It went to your minister and it sat on his desk from October on. Now we have a solution that's going to be imposed by the handpicked commission and it does not reflect what came to be the compromise in my community. That's a shameful process.

With all due respect to the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, you didn't promise in the Common Sense Revolution that health care spending would be maintained at $17.4 billion. You promised no cuts to health care. That's what people voted on. In my community, you have already cut $10 million from the hospital system this fiscal year. That comes directly as a result of the announcement made by this minister to cut $1.3 billion. There have been cuts, they're affecting people, the situation in Sudbury is going to get worse because of this solution that's being imposed and I encourage all of you to reject what the commission is going to do.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We will deal first with ballot item number 41, standing in the name of Mr Crozier. If there are any members opposed to balloting on this, they will please rise.

Mr Crozier has moved second reading of Bill 83, An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

We will deal with this after the next ballot item.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We will deal now with ballot item number 42, standing in the name of Ms Martel. If there are any members opposed to balloting on this item now, they will please rise.

All those in favour of the resolution please say "aye."

Those opposed to the resolution please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1203 to 1208.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would the members please take their seats. Ballot item number 41, second reading of Bill 83, An Act to amend the Consumer Protection Act, standing in the name of Mr Crozier. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing.


Agostino, Dominic

Froese, Tom

O'Toole, John

Arnott, Ted

Galt, Doug

Parker, John L.

Baird, John R.

Gerretsen, John

Pettit, Trevor

Barrett, Toby

Gilchrist, Steve

Pouliot, Gilles

Bartolucci, Rick

Grandmaître, Bernard

Pupatello, Sandra

Bassett, Isabel

Gravelle, Michael

Ramsay, David

Beaubien, Marcel

Grimmett, Bill

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Bisson, Gilles

Hardeman, Ernie

Ross, Lillian

Boyd, Marion

Hodgson, Chris

Runciman, Robert W.

Bradley, James J.

Hoy, Pat

Ruprecht, Tony

Brown, Michael A.

Johns, Helen

Saunderson, William

Caplan, Elinor

Johnson, Ron

Sergio, Mario

Carroll, Jack

Kells, Morley

Shea, Derwyn

Christopherson, David

Kennedy, Gerard

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Klees, Frank

Silipo, Tony

Churley, Marilyn

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Skarica, Toni

Clement, Tony

Lankin, Frances

Smith, Bruce

Colle, Mike

Laughren, Floyd

Snobelen, John

Cordiano, Joseph

Leach, Al

Sterling, Norman W.

Crozier, Bruce

Marland, Margaret

Stewart, R. Gary

Danford, Harry

Martel, Shelley

Tascona, Joseph N.

DeFaria, Carl

Martin, Tony

Tilson, David

Doyle, Ed

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Ecker, Janet

Maves, Bart

Wildman, Bud

Elliott, Brenda

McGuinty, Dalton

Wilson, Jim

Eves, Ernie L.

McLeod, Lyn

Witmer, Elizabeth

Fisher, Barbara

Miclash, Frank

Wood, Bob

Flaherty, Jim

Morin, Gilles E.

Young, Terence H.

The Acting Speaker: Those opposed, please rise and remain standing.


Hastings, John


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 84; the nays are 1.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the bill carried.

Pursuant to standing order 94(k), the bill is referred to -- Mr Crozier.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I would respectfully ask that Bill 83 be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice.

The Acting Speaker: Is it agreed? Is there a majority in favour? Those in favour of having this referred to the standing committee on administration of justice, please rise and remain standing.

There is a majority in favour. This bill will be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): We will now deal with ballot item number 42, standing in the name of Ms Martel. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing.


Agostino, Dominic

Crozier, Bruce

McGuinty, Dalton

Bartolucci, Rick

Gerretsen, John

McLeod, Lyn

Bisson, Gilles

Grandmaître, Bernard

Miclash, Frank

Boyd, Marion

Gravelle, Michael

Morin, Gilles E.

Bradley, James J.

Hoy, Pat

Pouliot, Gilles

Brown, Michael A.

Kennedy, Gerard

Pupatello, Sandra

Caplan, Elinor

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Ramsay, David

Christopherson, David

Lankin, Frances

Ruprecht, Tony

Churley, Marilyn

Laughren, Floyd

Sergio, Mario

Colle, Mike

Martel, Shelley

Silipo, Tony

Cordiano, Joseph

Martin, Tony

Wildman, Bud

The Acting Speaker: All those opposed, please rise and remain standing.


Arnott, Ted

Gilchrist, Steve

Runciman, Robert W.

Baird, John R.

Grimmett, Bill

Saunderson, William

Barrett, Toby

Hardeman, Ernie

Shea, Derwyn

Bassett, Isabel

Hastings, John

Sheehan, Frank

Beaubien, Marcel

Hodgson, Chris

Skarica, Toni

Carroll, Jack

Johns, Helen

Smith, Bruce

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, Ron

Snobelen, John

Clement, Tony

Kells, Morley

Sterling, Norman W.

Danford, Harry

Klees, Frank

Stewart, R. Gary

DeFaria, Carl

Leach, Al

Tascona, Joseph N.

Doyle, Ed

Marland, Margaret

Tilson, David

Ecker, Janet

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Elliott, Brenda

Maves, Bart

Wilson, Jim

Eves, Ernie L.

O'Toole, John

Witmer, Elizabeth

Fisher, Barbara

Parker, John L.

Wood, Bob

Flaherty, Jim

Pettit, Trevor

Young, Terence H.

Froese, Tom

Rollins, E.J. Douglas


Galt, Doug

Ross, Lillian


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 33; the nays are 52.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the resolution lost. It being a quarter after 12, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1216 to 1331.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I rise today to recognize the Ontario credit union system. Credit unions are financial service cooperatives owned and controlled in the community by the people they serve. Credit unions are community-based and community-focused. They play an integral role in local development by channelling members' savings back into the communities in which they operate as personal and business loans, mortgages and dividends paid on members' shares.

Ontario's credit unions and caisses populaires have accumulated $13.2 billion in assets and serve some 1.7 million members. Nationally the credit union and caisse populaire systems have $100.4 billion in assets and over 10 million members.

More than 3,000 Ontarians participate as volunteers on credit union boards and committees in communities across the province. Member credit unions of Credit Union Central of Ontario provide employment for about 4,000 people across the province.

Ontario's first credit union was established in 1908 in Ottawa. Most credit unions were established during the 1940s and 1950s in response to the need to provide affordable consumer credit.

To those members and volunteers of Ontario's credit unions, we applaud your effort and service.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I have in my hand a report entitled Healing the Community, the report of the Jobs Ontario Community Action program and the Toronto East Downtown Residents' Association. Some 25,000 JOCA dollars have empowered and organized this community by giving it the tools to change its future, but this government cut the JOCA program, another action taken for ideological rather than logical reasons.

The Jobs Ontario Community Action grant allowed residents to develop a comprehensive database of their community. There's now a record of all community buildings, their uses, the businesses in the community as well as demographics and spending habits of the residents. This database is invaluable and will continue to be as it becomes updated in the future.

With these data in hand the Toronto East Downtown Residents' Association has been able to approach developers and make the case that their neighbourhood in downtown Toronto is worth investing in. The Toronto East Downtown Residents' Association is, in my view, to be complimented for the exceptional quality of the work it has done over the long year or two it has been in the process of working on this. It's unfortunate that I cannot say the same for the present government, which has cut the Jobs Ontario Community Action program.


Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): I rise today to acknowledge the end of another successful tourist season at Sandbanks Provincial Park near Picton. Many of you may have visited Sandbanks, as 415,000 Ontarians did this summer. That represents a 2% increase in visitors over last year and a 9% revenue increase.

Most people come to enjoy the many kilometres of great beaches. Others come to climb North America's largest freshwater sand dunes, which were left behind by a retreat of the glaciers in 12,500 years of subsequent wind and erosion. Still others come to hike along the world's greatest freshwater bay mouth barrier.

I wish to congratulate employees of the park for another successful season of maintenance and preservation of the delicate ecosystem. The Sandbanks Provincial Park is a resource worthy of a visit by all Ontarians.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : Dimanche dernier, j'ai assisté aux célébrations du 100e anniversaire d'arrivée à Rockland des soeurs de la Charité d'Ottawa. Ce fut pour moi et pour plusieurs une excellente opportunité pour revoir des gens que je n'avais pas eu le plaisir de rencontrer depuis un certain temps.

Je veux profiter des quelques minutes à ma disposition pour offrir mes plus sincères félicitations et remerciements aux soeurs de la Charité d'Ottawa qui ont oeuvré au cours des 100 dernières années et qui sont toujours présentes au sein de la communauté de Rockland. Comme tous les autres citoyens de Rockland, j'ai été témoin au fil des ans du travail que les soeurs de la Charité ont accompli.

Au nom des citoyens de Rockland et de Prescott et Russell, je vous dis merci pour les bonnes oeuvres que vous avez réalisées et le bonheur que vous avez propagé au sein de la communauté de Rockland. Votre présence chez nous a marqué notre existence et nos vies spirituelles et j'espère que vous serez encore présentes parmi nous durant de longues années afin de poursuivre votre mission d'amour, de paix et de bienfaisance.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I wish to join my distinguished colleague the member for Essex South in expressing my pleasure indeed in informing the House that today is Credit Union Day in Ontario. Today across Ontario and Canada, credit union members, volunteers and staff are joining together to celebrate the credit union movement and the cooperative philosophy upon which it is based. This year, tying in with National Co-op Week and its team, picture the possibilities.

Credit unions can reflect on their past accomplishments and can look forward to a bright future in the highly competitive financial services industry. You will recall that new legislation introduced last year, 1995, by the previous government, that of the New Democratic Party, allowed the credit unions to level the playing field to give them a competitive equivalent in the marketplace.

Today most credit unions offer their members a full range of financial services, from personal accounts to mortgages and small business loans. We're talking in terms of 1.7 million members across Ontario and no less than $13.5 billion. Therefore I would extend our best wishes and also convey the best wishes of all the members present.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I am pleased to inform the House that Commercial Alcohols Inc has begun construction on a world-class ethanol plant in Chatham. This $153-million plant, which will be fully operational next winter, will produce about 150 million litres of ethanol and industrial alcohol per year. Operating around the clock, 365 days a year, this facility will have an annual economic impact of approximately $100 million.

In addition to the hundreds of jobs generated during the construction phase, about 400 full-time direct and indirect jobs will be created when the plant becomes operational. As well as ethanol, a substantial amount of compressed carbon dioxide will be produced and handled by Praxair at a companion facility. In addition, 127,000 tonnes a year of high-protein animal feed will also be produced.

The completion of this facility in Chatham will provide a much-needed source of a renewable fuel and an expanded market for 15 million bushels of corn grown in Kent county and other parts of Ontario.

This is a great example of community, government and business working together. Construction of the Commercial Alcohols plant is further indication that all of Ontario, and especially Kent county, is open for business.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Premier Harris and his Minister of Northern Development and Mines will be travelling to Timmins tomorrow for what can be termed, at best, a public relations exercise. For more than a year, the members of the Liberal northern caucus have been calling upon the Premier and the minister to stop the dismantling of northern communities. Premier Harris and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines have much to answer for when they take their public relations trip to Timmins tomorrow.


Northern residents want to know why this government has cut education and health care funding in the north, this resulting in the closure of five of our northern hospitals. They want to know why the Harris government has destroyed both the Ministry of Northern Development and the Ministry of Natural Resources. Northern residents want to know why this government continues to download its responsibilities to northern municipalities and why the Harris revolutionaries have closed family support offices throughout the north, and again, why they have reduced our winter road maintenance.

Mr Premier, as you will know, the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce have called upon you and your Minister of Northern Development to establish an office for a Deputy Minister of Northern Development and Mines and Natural Resources in northwestern Ontario. I do hope that these members do not have to pay $150 a plate just to come and see you when you travel to Timmins tomorrow.

I say to you that your record in northern Ontario, to say the least, is dismal. You and your government have much to answer for in the north and this public relations trip tomorrow just won't cut it.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Yet again we see the Tory caucus machine, the Tory Party machine working in full splendour. While people in northern Ontario have been trying to get the ear of the Premier and also the Minister of Northern Development and Mines for months now, we find that mayors such as Steve Butland and Vic Power are having a hard time trying to get access to the Premier. What are they doing? How do they get access to the Premier in northern Ontario? They've got to pay $150 to get to a Tory fund-raiser to get the ear of the Premier.

To the Tories, I say shame. The job of the Premier is supposed to be a job where you are accessible to the mayors across Ontario, to the citizens across Ontario, so people can have their say with the Premier and make sure their views can be heard. While this fund-raiser is going on, there will be literally hundreds of people outside the Senator hotel in Timmins today who will be saying to the Premier: "We don't like what you're doing in northern Ontario. In fact, we oppose what you're doing in northern Ontario because we believe that in the end this agenda will do nothing but harm not only the north but Ontario in general."

I would like to read just one excerpt from an editorial that appeared in the Timmins Daily Press today, the fine newspaper that it is. It says: "Those on the `corporatist' side will pay $150 to dine with the provincial Premier in completely friendly surroundings and those opposed can stand with their peers" and be left feeling --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm pleased to join my colleagues from Essex South and Lake Nipigon in informing the House that Ontario's credit unions are today celebrating Credit Union Day as part of National Co-op Week.

As financial services co-ops, credit unions are owned by the people they serve. Their decisions are made locally. With more than 1.1 million members and $8.5 billion in assets, Ontario's credit unions help local economies by channelling members' savings back into their communities as personal and business loans, mortgages and dividends paid on members' shares.

Credit unions know their communities and play an integral role in supporting small businesses, which create jobs. In some communities, the credit union is the only financial institution. The credit union approach is a model of self-reliance. It's an example of the wonderful things people can accomplish by working together to solve their own problems.

Ontario credit unions sponsor community activities, initiate public education programs on financial matters and promote local economic development.

To raise awareness of credit unions and their benefits, credit union members, volunteers and staff are today holding open houses and other events across the province. I encourage Ontarians to visit their local credit unions to learn more about their unique contribution to the province's communities.



Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): In the Common Sense Revolution we promised to streamline government and get rid of overlap and duplication, and with the help of the Who Does What panel we're delivering today on that promise.

Since they began their work four months ago, they've made recommendations on property tax assessment, emergency services and environmental approvals.

I've also had recommendations on municipal reform from the panel. As with all their recommendations, they point the way to a fundamental change in the way the province and local governments work together, to lower overall costs for the taxpayers, to the elimination and duplication of over-regulation, to a division of responsibilities that makes sense. The goal is smaller, more efficient and affordable governments at all levels.

This afternoon we're introducing legislation to give municipalities more authority and greater flexibility to govern and to deliver services effectively. A major part of the bill is a new Municipal Elections Act. The current system is broken. Recounts can last almost as long as the electoral term. There are still outstanding recount issues related to the 1994 municipal elections. This does not serve taxpayers well. This is not common sense.

We want to make it easier for people to exercise their democratic right to vote, so we're opening the door to new ways of voting. People who can't make it to the polls may be able to vote by mail, for example, and municipalities will be able to open the polls earlier, if they so choose, so people may vote on their way to work in the morning.

One of the Who Does What panel recommendations was that we move the municipal election day to the middle of October. That's an excellent idea, but right at this point in time many municipalities are now working to restructure before the next elections. An earlier election would only give them less time and make that job more difficult. I'll certainly be considering changing the date before the elections in the year 2000.

We're also protecting people's privacy and security. Voters' lists will no longer be publicly posted on streets.

We're putting in place a faster process, shortening the election period and reducing the number of forms required from 40 to five.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): David Crombie is out of control.

Hon Mr Leach: I thank the member for St Catharines for his support.

In all of these areas, we're taking into account the specific need of local communities. We understand that the problems of Toronto are not the same as those in Dysart township. Our goal is to protect the integrity of the municipal elections, ensuring a proper democratic process while making it more efficient, more accessible, less wasteful and less costly.

We're not just changing the election process; we're making other changes as well. We're making it easier for municipalities to reduce council size, for example, so there should be fewer local politicians.

We're enhancing municipal authority to get the most from their cash management while still protecting taxpayers' money.

The rules on municipal investments have changed little since the 1840s, but the financial world has. Municipalities will be held to a standard even more stringent than trustees and they will not be permitted to put the taxpayers' money at risk.

We're also introducing legislation this afternoon to help cut local transportation costs. It begins to implement the Ministry of Transportation's community transportation action program and it represents a first step in helping communities coordinate and restructure local transportation services.

All of these changes will be in place for the 1997 municipal elections. This legislation is only a start. The Who Does What panel has also recommended a fundamental rewrite of the Municipal Act, and we hope to introduce legislation along these lines in the spring.

By the beginning of 1998 we'll be able to point to a new public sector -- one that's smaller, one that's more streamlined, one that's more cost-effective. The division of responsibility for services will be clear. Taxpayers will know who is making spending decisions.

The laws that guide local government activities will be streamlined. Provincial regulations will be cut back. Ultimately, we will save taxpayers' money by reducing overlap without compromising the quality of services they receive.

As I said, in the Common Sense Revolution we promised to streamline government and get rid of overlap and duplication. With the help of the Who Does What panel, we are now delivering on that promise.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): What's of great interest, of course, with respect to the Who Does What panel is that the people of Ontario aren't as interested in who does what but who's paying for what. That's the bottom line. What this bill is really talking about is the continuation of your downloading on municipalities the cost of services you're no longer willing to pay for. You know as well as I do, Mr Minister, that what this is really all about is the fact that in another year or two you're going to be completely out of the grant business to municipalities at all. So when you're talking about making more efficient government and making smaller government etc, that's just a whole bunch of gobbledegook.


It's kind of interesting that you spent almost half a page talking about when the election day will be held next year and how people can vote and where the voters' lists will be maintained, but you only have one line on the notion that the goal is smaller, more efficient and affordable government. Mr Minister, tell that to the municipalities that are currently involved in the restructuring processes, where in some cases you've gone from 25 municipalities to four municipalities on your theory that bigger is better is cheaper. We all know that it ain't necessarily so. We've got examples in the past, and regional governments are probably the best examples, where as a result of these kinds of downsizings, these kinds of restructurings, in effect government at the local level costs a lot more that it ever did before.

Mr Minister, I think the other thing we have to keep in mind is your track record with respect to the kind of legislation you've brought forward before. We will be taking a very close look at this bill because you may recall in Bill 26 you made a number of comments in the House here as to the powers that municipalities had. When some municipalities came forward and said, "Yes, we do have the power to levy gas taxes; yes, we do have the power to levy sales taxes etc," you immediately denied it based on the best legal advice that you can get, and eventually, of course, we all realized and know what happened. What happened was that you had to bring in amendments to make certain that those kind of taxes you had said in the House could be imposed couldn't be imposed. So we're going to take a very close look at this legislation to make sure that what you're saying it can do, it can actually do, and I doubt that very much, taking your past record into account.

I think it's also very interesting that you were the person who stated at an AMO conference recently that some municipalities are already getting into the budgeting process whereby they basically are not going to rely on any government grants, and this piece of legislation is perfectly in line with that.

The changes you're making with respect to the transportation situation, which will allow municipalities to get involved with the private sector, are again only about one thing and that's the fact that sooner or later -- because you've already made the statement with respect to GO Transit, or at least the Minister of Transportation has made it -- municipalities will have to absorb a larger cost of the transportation costs. I'm quite sure that the same thing is going to happen with respect to the municipal transit systems.

It's very interesting that you should state that there haven't been any changes made with respect to the municipal investments that municipalities can invest in since the 1840s. What you don't say, and what I understand to be in the legislation, is that in effect you're going to give municipalities much greater borrowing capacity and borrowing power. Why do they need that borrowing power? Well, it's quite obvious why. If you're going to cut off their grants, municipalities, in order to exist and in order to give the kind of services that their taxpayers have relied on and depended on, will be required to borrow money and that's really what's behind this whole notion.

What's behind it is the fact that they will need those powers because you're cutting off their grants and their subsidies and they will now have to be able to raise that money through other methods. So don't make it sound as if you're doing them a big favour. What they've always said to you, Mr Minister, not only this past year but over the last 20 years, is, give us more power but also give us the resources to go along with it. What you have basically done in just about every piece of legislation that you have brought forward is you've cut off their sources of funding. Yes, you're giving them more powers in certain areas, but you've cut off their funding at the same time and you've made it extremely difficult for municipalities to exist.

Mr Minister, we will be watching this legislation very closely, we will be studying it closely, because we're quite sure that once again you'll have to bring in major amendments to cover up some of the shortcomings you've announced here today.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to try in three or four minutes to be as positive as I can with the suggestions that have come forth from this minister, and there are a number of positive things here. The elimination, for example, of the posting of the voters' list is a useful thing. I think a number of people have talked about privacy matters and eliminating that list. Posting it on various posts was a problem for many voters. Having to do away with that is a very useful thing, so we congratulate the minister on that useful proposal.

On the whole matter of recounts, we've had some problems in the past, as he and you, Mr Speaker, know. I think the way this is being dealt with -- it goes prior to what we had in 1988 -- may address some of those costly matters dealing with recounts. Now it will happen, based on a tie, where council determines it's in the public interest and/or individuals have an opportunity to go to the courts. I think it's a simpler way of dealing with this issue and it deals with problems that people have raised.

On the whole matter of giving people an alternative way of voting, it's interesting. It will bring the ways that people can vote up to the 21st century, where a number of people will be allowed to vote through the Internet, I am told, and through a touch screen, I am told. All of that is interesting and I find it very useful. On the other hand, I'm not sure how we are going to monitor that or whether we're going to get into greater confusion as we modernize in the future. But it's an interesting thing that the minister is getting involved in.

On the whole issue of refundable money that goes to candidates, what they've added here is that all of that will be based on the percentage of vote, and that will be determined by regulation. I'm a bit concerned about why we're leaving that to regulation and why we're not determining that clearly in the beginning so people know and understand the system. I'm a bit concerned about what you've done there, Minister, and I would urge you to review that, because I think everybody should know in advance and we shouldn't be leaving it to either you or some civil servants to determine what that percentage of vote should be.

What you've also allowed here is referendums, where you will allow utilities and boards of education, and municipalities for that matter, to be able to have a referendum now at any time and not just during an election. Interesting. I suppose that will allow for greater democracy to occur, but I, quite frankly, am worried. This will have very costly implications because, as we know, every referendum that we have is very costly. It could have some interesting adverse effects as people decide and determine what kind of referendum they will have on what issues. I'm very fascinated and look forward with interest to the possibilities of this, both in terms of cost and in terms of some regressive things that can happen in communities.

But all of these, again, are harmless, useful suggestions that I think we should be looking at. I'm not sure what benefits they will have one way or the other, but I think some of them needed to have been done. Giving municipalities the latitude --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, please. Could the government members please take their seats. It's very difficult to hear the response. It's very difficult to hear because of the din of the conversation. If you want to have a conversation, go outside. Clearly it's very difficult for a speaker to respond to the minister if a whole bunch of people are standing in front of the benches. The member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: Thank you kindly, Mr Speaker.

The real issue, however, quite connected to this -- and the minister speaks to it very briefly when he says, "The system is broken." The comment I have to this is that the minister has helped to break the system. The system wasn't as bad as once he and his government have made the 40% cuts over two years to municipalities. That's when they finally broke the system, and that's really a diversion. This is a diversion from the real downloading that has happened to municipalities and a real diversion from the cost that municipalities now have had to bear.

That's the real issue. This is where the system is broken and this is where municipalities are now worried about their ability to be able to deliver the child care programs that are within their jurisdiction; to be able to deliver the programs regarding transportation for the disabled, which they have cut; to deliver on the budgets that police services boards had, which have been cut indirectly. These are the real issues that need to be dealt with and this is where the downloading has happened that has hurt and broken the backs of municipalities.

What the minister has proposed in this recommendation that he presents today is all right, it's useful, it fixes some things, but it doesn't fix the fundamental problems that he has caused with the funding cuts over a two-year period of 40%. That's real magnitude of cost cuts, that's the problem.




Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. We over here are starting to ask ourselves if anybody over there is prepared to stand up for the environment and, by so doing, the health of Ontarians.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I don't think they actually heard who the question was to. I don't necessarily believe it's your fault. I would ask the government members to come to order, please. It's very difficult to hear the questions.

Mr McGuinty: My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. Your latest blow to the environment is found in your decision to privatize the Ontario Clean Water Agency. You tell us the sale will yield big dollars for the government, but you ignore the fact that this agency, once privatized, will at times have to choose between ensuring the safety and security of our water supply and the demands of shareholders. In short, this privatization will threaten our health.

Minister, tell me that you were merely musing aloud, and that having fully considered this privatization issue you have decided that it's not in the public interest because it would place the health of Ontarians at risk.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I believe that we should look at the privatization of this agency because already in the province of Ontario many municipalities are choosing private operators to operate their water plants, their sewage plants, and those kinds of things. It's my belief that can be done as long as the municipality is still in full control. The province will be still setting the standards, will be still ensuring that the people of Ontario have a safe, clean, reliable water source. The whole concept of this particular agency, which was split off by the previous government into a corporate entity, was to give it more flexibility in what it might or might not do.

I think, quite frankly that there is a significant benefit at looking at this in a reasonable light in terms of what we are doing, and that in no way is the drinking water or the environmental standards of the province compromised by looking at this particular option.

Mr McGuinty: I'm a little bit confused because yesterday you were quoted as saying this was a sure thing, it was going ahead, and today you tell me that you're merely considering it.

I want to move you along to another health problem that you're creating for Ontarians. You are proposing to change the regulation that limits the amount of sulphur found in the heating oil used by Metro houses and businesses. In fact, you want to double the sulphur content. This means that our heating oil will be twice as dirty and it will obviously create more health problems in Toronto, which holds the dubious distinction of being Canada's smog capital.

Yesterday you said: "We lose 1,800 Ontarians a year prematurely due to poor-quality air in the province, and I am going to fight with every bone in my body to get that number down."

Minister, will you now withdraw this proposed regulation change because you clearly understand it's going to be harmful to our health?

Hon Mr Sterling: This is hardly a supplementary question to the first question but, notwithstanding that, this particular proposal under the regulatory review that we're doing -- the idea here is to pay attention to what is coming out of the smokestack, so to speak, rather than what goes into the particular furnace, boiler, or whatever is involved in producing the smoke or the emission at the end. My particular bent is to try to control what comes out and not be so concerned with what goes in.

Nothwithstanding that, I have said that in no way will I compromise the standards that are produced at this time which affect the outcome with regard to the SO2 emissions. Therefore, in the end we will have stricter standards than are presently on the books.

Mr McGuinty: What I'm trying to make the minister understand is that he has tremendous influence over the health that we in this province enjoy.

I want to speak to him now about another issue, but it's all connected with health and the environment, and that's about your new plans for disposal of garbage in Ontario. In opposition, your Premier made the very sound argument that we ought to consider all options for disposal of waste and that any option must be subject to a full environmental assessment, but your new rules will not require that in every case large dumps, or even incinerators, be made subject to a full environmental assessment. This means that Ontarians will get less than the best waste disposal methods and that consequently we're going to get less than the best protection of our health from the waste we produce. I want to give you this opportunity to change your mind and assure us that Ontario dumps will always be subject to full environmental assessment hearings.

Hon Mr Sterling: Under the present legislation the Minister of Environment has the choice as to whether anything has an environmental assessment. Under the new act we are passing we will be giving waste disposal sites full environmental assessment. I don't see what has changed.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): My second question is for the Minister of Transportation. This morning my staff spoke with a young woman by the name of Linda Concellier. She is 24 years of age. She's a bright university grad and she's looking for work. Linda has cerebral palsy and her condition requires that she walk with crutches because she suffers from very bad balance. Linda has been deemed ineligible for Wheel-Trans services. Her appeal has also been rejected, and this notwithstanding that her doctor sent a letter stating that it is very unsafe for her to use conventional transit. Can you tell Linda how she is supposed to get around now that your cuts have taken away the Wheel-Trans service she needs to live as a contributing member of her community?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I'm very concerned that the mobility and accessibility needs of the people of Ontario are met and I can assure the honourable member that this province, this government, has not cut Wheel-Trans. That is purely the responsibility of the municipalities. We've been saying that all along. We proved it last year. We did not cut the funding. As a matter of fact, we made sure that the funding levels this year were exactly the same as last year, and those were levels that were not cut. These are criteria that the municipalities presently are addressing. It's not the Harris government that's cutting Wheel-Trans. Not one dollar did we take out of Wheel-Trans.

Mr McGuinty: You should know that the line the government has been feeding us, one where the government is washing its hands completely of the impact of its cuts, is wearing pretty thin. The fact of the matter is that the people of Ontario know that it's this government that's behind larger classes, hospital closures, user fees and cuts to Wheel-Trans.

Linda wants to get to work. She's getting social assistance and she wants to get off it, but she can't even get to her job interviews. In your Common Sense Revolution you promise, "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut." The fact is that aid has been cut, and to date you've done nothing to change that fact. What specific action are you going to take to help Linda and thousands of others like her who are suffering from your cuts to Wheel-Trans?

Hon Mr Palladini: In the initial question from the honourable member, I don't believe I heard which municipality he might have been referring to that this young lady is dealing with.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Hamilton East, come to order.

Hon Mr Palladini: However, I want to say that in Metro the Toronto Transit Commission chose to do a study, actually spending somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000 or $600,000, to see what criteria would be sufficient or needed to deliver the services Wheel-Trans delivers. I only have to say to those people that they should be putting their money back into Wheel-Trans.

I want to say one other thing very clearly: Other municipalities around the province of Ontario are very adequately delivering those services with the funds they are being provided. When you talk about delivering of services at $45 a ride versus $22 a ride, I don't believe the Harris government has cut $1 out of Wheel-Trans.


Mr McGuinty: One of the questions we've got to ask ourselves is, what kind of assistance do we ultimately want to provide to our disabled in this province? That responsibility ultimately lies with this government and not with municipalities. This government can't continue, you simply can't continue to try to establish some distance between yourselves and the effects of the cuts on real people. Whether it's special education, larger class sizes or individuals like Linda being trapped in their apartment, the government's standard response is the same: "We're not to blame." Passing the buck doesn't do anything to change the situation. The fact is that your cuts are hurting people like Linda.

The other day we heard of hundreds of kidney dialysis patients and others with hidden disabilities who have also been cut off Wheel-Trans. Without Wheel-Trans, Linda and many others have no way to fulfil some of their most basic needs. Above all, they can't help themselves or their community. Will you show some compassion and honour your promise made in the Common Sense Revolution? Will you restore the funding you've taken from the Wheel-Trans budget?

Hon Mr Palladini: I would just like to say to the honourable member that he is not the only one who has compassion. I believe this government has compassion. I believe this government wants to make sure there is a future for all our children and their children.


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

Hon Mr Palladini: It's a government that does care. It's a government that is looking for better ways to deliver services. That is one of the reasons we are looking at introducing the community transportation system. The community transportation action program, CTAP, is going to be something that will help municipalities take advantage of the resources they have, take advantage of the equipment they presently have. These are the things that we must do as a government: work with municipalities and help them deliver the services to more people in a more cost-efficient way. Yes, we do have compassion.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): My question is to the Minister of Health. Can the minister confirm to the Legislature that the Ontario health insurance plan has reached a deal with Grace and Hutzel hospitals in Detroit to provide obstetrical and prenatal care to Canadian women?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I can't confirm that for you at this moment; I'd have to check with staff. Certainly we're having discussions, as part of contingency planning, with a number of institutions throughout the province and in the border areas, with the United States and other jurisdictions.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): He spoke to them yesterday, as early as two days ago.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Windsor-Sandwich, please.

Mr Cooke: The fact of the matter is that doctors at these hospitals have talked to our constituency offices and we've confirmed this with the Ontario health insurance plan, the individual who negotiated the agreement. How can the minister justify the additional cost of $7,000 to $10,000 per patient --


The Speaker: Order. I ask the Minister of Health to withdraw that comment please.

Hon Mr Wilson: I withdraw it, Mr Speaker.

Mr Cooke: How can the minister justify the additional $7,000 to $10,000 per patient when the time that was spent to negotiate this agreement should have been spent at the bargaining table trying to negotiate an agreement with doctors in Ontario so that the taxpayers didn't get ripped off and so that the dollars needed in our health care system stayed in Ontario?

Hon Mr Wilson: We're doing exactly what the honourable member suggests. There are ongoing discussions, serious negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association. They've been going on for several days, quite frequent meetings between the parties. I am very hopeful that we'll never have to use our contingency plans, but it is prudent for the Minister of Health to prepare to ensure that services are available to the people of Ontario should there be a withdrawal or partial withdrawal of services from our physicians in Ontario. But I repeat, I fully expect we won't ever have to use the contingency plans.

Mr Cooke: The minister said in the spring that he didn't think we'd even need to develop contingency plans, and here we are nearly at the point where we're going to have a province-wide strike. I think the taxpayers are owed an explanation from the minister today. Can the minister confirm that all of the money that will be spent on this agreement is over and above the $3.8-billion envelope for doctors' services in this province? Can the minister also tell us how this is going to provide a long-term solution for women who need prenatal and obstetrical care in this province?

Hon Mr Wilson: It's exactly this type of muckraking that really upsets the doctors in this province. It really, really upsets them when the opposition or others start to concoct these what-if scenarios.


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

Hon Mr Wilson: I'm not going to participate in that. We're having serious negotiations with Ontario's doctors. We're going to come to a conclusion in those negotiations that I am very hopeful will satisfy and deal with the frustrations they've had for a number of years, all the time that you were in office, all the time that the Liberals were in office. We're going to come to satisfactory conclusions to a number of the concerns that are being expressed. That's the confidence I have in the negotiating parties. We should give that process a full chance before you start fearmongering and upsetting the doctors in the province, which is exactly what this type of questioning leads to: upset doctors. They don't deserve it.

The Speaker: New question, the third party. The member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): That's a funny response. Sorry, Minister. If anyone is getting them angry, it is you.

The Speaker: Who's your question to?


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I want to return to the question of Central Eglinton Children's Centre and the three other centres in Toronto which we are on the verge of losing. Minister, I know you know the background, so I don't want to go into the background. What I want to say to you is that these centres have only got a very short period of time to deal with the question of whether or not the schools, as they are being redesigned for a rebuild, will include a child care centre. In fact, in the case of Central Eglinton, we've got about a one-month window.

I've listened very carefully to your responses. I know that you are in fact consulting, as you say, on the $600-million envelope and how you're going to reform child care. I understand that.

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

Ms Lankin: I understand that you're going to be looking at what role capital plays in that. In this case, we can't wait. You have 40 million new dollars which are unallocated this year, of operating dollars. Minister, would you please consider the possibility of converting $1.6 million of that in capital to deal with this immediate crisis of these four centres? I'm just asking you if you today would give us a commitment to consider that.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I appreciate the member's concern for these child care centres, and I know the parents and those who are involved with this centre are very, very concerned. I would be quite happy to go back to the regional office and see if we have any other options that we may be able to assist them with. As you know, capital funding is part of the decision that will be happening under the child care review, so I don't know what could possibly be committed at this time. But I would be quite happy to go back to the regional office and see if there are any other alternatives that we could explore.

Ms Lankin: Thank you very much, Minister. That is a very important first step and very good news for the parents and this centre. If this will be of some help to you, I want to point out a precedent that your office has already established in this area, and that's with respect to Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute and the Red Apple Day Care. You know this has been raised as an example.

In your letter to the Toronto board, you say that while the ministry provided funds to complete interior renovations, costs of land and construction of Red Apple were borne by the school board. That's incorrect. I want to give you this information so that you can check this through with your regional office. In fact, Red Apple is in a school that was being totally renovated and redesigned, and the child care space would have been eliminated. It was $380,000 from Comsoc that allowed that centre to be built into the new, redesigned, renovated school. They needed your money, as do the people at Central Eglinton and the other three centres.

The Speaker: The question, please.

Ms Lankin: It was not, as you had indicated, for health and safety reasons, and the East York board did not pay the costs of construction. Minister, this is a good example. Will you, as you are reconsidering, look at Marc Garneau and Red Apple, see the parallel there and, if you agree with me that this is a precedent, take a look at that model of funding from Comsoc to support these four other schools?

Hon Mrs Ecker: As I said, I'd be quite happy to consider any information that may assist in our looking at if there are other alternatives, but I would also like to remind the honourable member that one of the reasons we as a government implemented requests for business cases before we gave out capital money last year, one of the reasons we believe that capital expenditures under child care need to be reviewed so carefully, is because of things that the Provincial Auditor said earlier this week, where we had circumstances where almost $1 million of taxpayers' money was spent on a child care facility without proper controls, without proper checks and balances to ensure that that money was indeed being spent in the best way. I'm sure the honourable member would agree with me that I think we have to be very cautious in how we use taxpayers' money to make sure that it is indeed being used appropriately.


Ms Lankin: Thank you, Minister. I do agree with --

Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I want to find out from you whether you could instruct the Minister of Community and Social Services to tell us just when she'll go back to her regional offices.

The Speaker: It's not a point of order. Final supplementary.

Ms Lankin: Minister, I do agree with you. I'm very pleased by the constructive approach that you're taking on this. I'm sure the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism and the Minister of Municipal Affairs are equally pleased, as two of the centres are in their ridings.

Lastly, Minister, I want to say to you that a number of people have been here listening to your answer in the gallery: Alisa Humber, who is the assistant director of the Central Eglinton Children's Centre, and Judith Russelstone, Zelia Furtado, Christine Osti and Maryann Nolan, who are parents, are here.

Minister, they, the parents from the three other schools in Toronto and the Toronto School Board have been asking for a meeting with you in order to explore these issues. As I've said, we've only got a window of about one month to deal with this. We need you to commit to meet with the Toronto school board and these parents on this issue. I understand you're going to review this and go back to the regional office. What I would ask from you today is for a commitment that you will agree to meet with the Toronto board officials and the parents of these four centres.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Either I or my officials would be quite happy to meet with them.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'll take the opportunity to mention that in the government gallery is the ex-member for Scarborough Centre, Bill Davis.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): A question to the Minister of Transportation: The Provincial Auditor in his report released the other day asked how your ministry, through the Ontario Transportation Capital Corp, can justify awarding new contracts for the operation and maintenance of the Highway 407 project without competition, without public tender.

Minister, these contracts are worth hundreds of millions of dollars and are going to go to the same consortium that has already been given a $1-billion sweetheart deal to build a toll highway. This is pure and simple highway robbery. Why should this 407 consortium continue to get additional multimillion-dollar contracts? On top of the $1 billion, now you're giving them new contracts for building, maintenance and operation of the highway. Why is it not going to public tender?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): First of all, I recognize the importance of the Provincial Auditor's report. As a matter of fact, a lot of credence has been given it. Even in last year's, as you'll recall, the Provincial Auditor reported that 60% of highway infrastructure was badly in need of repair. This government invested $110 million more than the previous 10 governments. But as far as the Provincial Auditor's report, it was a contract that was signed by the previous government. We have not reissued any new contract. There is absolutely nothing new about the old contract signed by the previous government. I wish the member would recognize that.

Mr Colle: I think I would believe the auditor to be correct when the auditor states categorically on page 241, "...why a company owned by the winning consortium should be awarded the operations, maintenance and management contracts without competition." You know, Minister, that that original contract was torn apart and the public was basically on the line for $1 billion. New rules were written and the contract was unbundled, yet you still continue to offer untendered contracts without competition that could be worth up to $500 million. Produce these contracts, then, Mr Minister, for operations, maintenance and rehabilitation. Let's see the contracts, but make sure they are going out to competition.

Hon Mr Palladini: There is no new contract. The previous government signed a contract with a consortium to design, build and maintain the highway. It was part of the original contract.

Mr Colle: Maintenance wasn't part of that.

Hon Mr Palladini: Yes, it was. Maintenance was part of the original contract. If we were to make any attempts at all to break this contract, we'd be liable for a lawsuit.

Mr Colle: You're signing new ones.

Hon Mr Palladini: We're basically following through on what the previous government put on paper.

One point I want to make very clear is that we are not paying any more money for the highway than was originally contracted. The $927 million is still the price of delivery of the contract. As far as maintenance is concerned, it was part of the original contract.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. You know that today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Ironically this date comes only a few weeks after the first anniversary of your 22% cuts to welfare rates for children, families and people with disabilities across the province.

You know that Ontario, as a signatory together with Canada and the other provinces, is held accountable, through the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, on progress that we are making towards the eradication of poverty in this province. One of the main concerns that the committee has expressed is the fact that the usage of food banks has increased rather than decreased in jurisdictions in Canada, and certainly in Ontario. We see that very clearly set out for us in a report released only some days ago from the Ontario Social Safety Network, which talks about people from London to Toronto to other places across the province having to rely more gravely on food banks.

My question to you, Minister, is simply this: How are you going to account to the United Nations committee on the lack of progress you are making towards eradicating poverty in this province?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): To the honourable member, I think the United Nations does us all proud in terms of highlighting what is a very important goal, the eradication of child poverty. I feel quite comfortable in going to the United Nations and telling them about our investments in child care, community health supports, child nutrition, healthy babies and our investing in workfare to get people off social assistance, because I believe the best kind of social assistance system is a job. I feel quite confident that our job creation and all those other investments will convince the United Nations that we are indeed making progress in Ontario.

Mr Silipo: That kind of answer just isn't going to wash with me and it certainly isn't going to wash with the United Nations committee. I agree with you that the best approach you could provide is to get people into jobs, but you're not doing that. You are cutting child care, you are cutting programs for jobs, you got rid of programs that were putting people back into jobs, and all you've got to tell after a year and a half of squandering around with your famous workfare program is a handful of people, at best, in this program.

Minister, you're not getting people back to work. There's a severe crisis with respect to more people having to rely on food banks. There's a severe crisis with housing in this province. With people on social assistance having to use money they get through social assistance to feed their families and not being able to pay their rents, evictions are going up. The level of poverty is going up, not down.

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

Mr Silipo: What are you going to do about it except for just standing there and giving your continuing platitudes?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I would like to ask the honourable member what other jurisdiction he would like to hold up that has a better record than Ontario. I would also like to remind the honourable member that food bank usage was higher during his administration, when they were increasing welfare rates.


Thirdly, I would like to ask the honourable member what he and his NDP members are doing about the union leadership out there that is beating up on United Way agencies and threatening to withdraw support for them because they might want to get involved in workfare. I think that's despicable. I want to know what you're doing to stop it.


The Speaker: Order. Member for Lake Nipigon, come to order please.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I'm a union member, sir.

The Speaker: I'm quite frankly not surprised, but that's got not a lot to do with it.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): My question is to the Minister of Labour. All members of this House know that accidents and injuries in the workplace have a very damaging effect on the lives of Ontarians. I know that as a result of a very personal commitment to health and safety, and to young people in particular, Mr Paul Kells has been very successful in setting up a partnership with the private sector known as the Safe Communities Foundation. Minister, I wonder if you could update the House on recent developments concerning the expansion of the Safe Communities Foundation.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I would certainly be pleased to update the member on the initiatives of the Safe Communities Foundation. As has been mentioned, it is a private-public partnership that certainly is the result of hard work by Paul Kells. It's financially supported by five banks and two corporations, and the Ministry of Labour lends its technical expertise.

The first community that agreed to participate was Brockville. I'm pleased to say they are enjoying a tremendous amount of success. We now have had interest expressed from Lindsay, Peterborough, North Bay, Fort Frances and St Catharines, and they have steering committees set up.

People are interested in participating, and as a result, we're hoping to expand the culture of safety within the province of Ontario. But the best news is that tomorrow this particular foundation will be announcing its second safe community in Ontario: that will be Waterloo, Ontario.

Mr Gilchrist: Thank you, Minister, for that response. Just as a brief supplementary, what evidence do we have that participating in the safe communities program will have a positive effect on the accident and injury rate at the local level?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I know that's a question I've asked and been asked: Does this work? I can tell you that when communities work together -- employers, employees, city council, the mayor, school boards -- we are seeing a reduction. In High River, Alberta, they were able to reduce injuries and illness by 66%. Brockville has set as a goal for reduction of injury and illness 50% over two years. I am very confident that, as a result of the work that's going to be done in this province, we are going to see the social consequences of injury and illness and the financial costs dramatically reduced.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. We're seeing a continuous attack by your government on disabled Ontarians every day. A few months ago there were massive staff reductions in vocational rehabilitation services in Metro and in Windsor, staff reductions by 50%. This is a program that provides training, educational upgrading and job placement for disabled Ontarians. A month or so ago we saw the leaked document by my leader in the House which outlined your proposal to charge user fees for services that the disabled use in the province of Ontario.

Minister, you are now in the process of redefining "disability," which is going to move tens of thousands of Ontarians off disability benefits on to welfare at a reduction of about 50% in their benefits. Over the weekend you talked in a number of media reports in regard to privatizing social services in Ontario. Can you outline to the House any plans you have to privatize services for disabled individuals in the province of Ontario?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): To the honourable member, I have no plans to privatize social services, and we are not cutting services to the disabled or their income benefits by 50%.

Mr Agostino: I find that denial from the minister interesting. We have a document, a ministerial document, and it outlines a proposal that your ministry requested in the vocational rehabilitation services offices in Peterborough, Bracebridge and Barrie. It's an internal ministry document -- it was written by your own staff -- that outlines a proposal to privatize vocational rehabilitation services. This is a service that deals with over 20,000 disabled Ontarians, this service that you're looking at farming out to the private sector, whose interest will be profits rather than service to disabled Ontarians. Let me read from your own staff document.

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

Mr Agostino: Let me quote from the document, Minister, from the secret document from your own staff. It says: "I feel that it's a very dangerous proposal. It sets up a real potential for abuse."

Minister, again, in view of this, can you tell us unequivocally today that you will not under any circumstances privatize any service for the disabled that your ministry is now providing in the province of Ontario?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I have no doubt that there are many officials in my ministry who are engaged in a lot of work --


Hon Mrs Ecker: Are you willing to listen to the answer? -- who are engaged in a lot of work in terms of presenting all kinds of proposals to ministers. That is their job. They do not make the policy. This minister, this caucus and cabinet make the policy, and that's where the decision lies, not with them.

The second thing I would like to remind the honourable member --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mrs Ecker: The second thing I would like to remind the honourable member is that about 25% of the Ministry of Community and Social Services budget already goes out to over 3,000 different agencies, both profit and non-profit, that give services to the disabled, that give services to other vulnerable groups of people. That is something that has gone on under previous governments, and I suspect that will continue to go on under this government.

Finally, I do not have plans to privatize social services.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy concerning his announced intentions to sell off the Ontario Clean Water Agency, presumably to his friends in the private sector.

So far, you and a couple of your colleagues have been hiding behind the entire process that's going on with privatization, and the main example that we've had so far on privatized water delivery system is in Hamilton where Philip Environmental was given a $190-million contract, and in January of this year Philip spilled 40 million gallons of sewage, as I understand it, into the Hamilton harbour.

In the UK, where they've privatized water services, one large company, British Northwest Water, made a profit of $408 million on sales of only $1.4 billion, and as though that wasn't enough, just prior to privatization in the UK, they raised water rates by 150% in order to get a good price.

So I am asking the minister, why are you tampering with the public water delivery system in this province if it's not simply to reward your friends in the private sector?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): The fact of the matter is that the provincial government does not control the municipalities that make these decisions as to who they will have run their plants. In some cases, municipalities have their own employees that run their plants, in some cases, they have the Ontario Clean Water Agency, and in some cases, as in Hamilton, they have private companies run their particular operation.

It's my view, quite frankly, that the Ontario Clean Water Agency can better compete in the open market which they are facing at this present time if they are under a private structure than if they are under a public structure. Notwithstanding that, the whole goal is to get cleaner, less expensive water to the people of Ontario, and that can be done in a competitive atmosphere better than in a monopolistic atmosphere, which is presently the kind of situation we have across Ontario.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My supplementary to the minister is this, and first I want to make a comment quickly about the minister's response to a question when he said, I believe, that he doesn't care what goes into the pipe but is more concerned about what comes out, which I think is appalling and absolutely astounding, that a Minister of Environment would say that.

Back to the water issue here, when private companies get hold of our water systems -- may I say here as well it's my understanding that Philip utilities, the same one that's running the Hamilton system, is interested in buying this system. You might want to be aware of that. When they get hold of our water system, they will want to sell off as much water as possible.

Our government made water conservation part of OCWA's mandate and that saved money and helped protect the environment.

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

Ms Churley: Minister, what I want to ask you is this: There are some really dangerous precedents being set if you sell this off. What kind of public process are you going to put in place to make sure, because you said you want to move quickly, that the public has their say before you sell off our water in Ontario?

Hon Mr Sterling: I want to make it clear to the member and members of the Legislature that we're not talking about selling off the water plants. We're not talking about selling those off because they're not ours to sell. Those are owned by the municipalities across Ontario and they will have to make their decisions as to what they may or may not do. OCWA is an operating agency that is made up of mechanics, engineers, technicians, who operate these particular plants. Those are people and they are people who are in competition with the private sector and with the public sector at the municipal level.

I believe that by offering the municipalities a competitive process, we can strengthen their hand in getting a better deal for their taxpayers across Ontario. That's what this government is all about: doing better for less. This is a proposal which I think has some merit, and of course the cabinet of Ontario and the Legislature through the cabinet will have to answer for that.

Quite frankly, this is something which I support myself --

The Speaker: The question has been answered. New question.


Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): My question is to the minister responsible for culture in Ontario. Struggling to deal effectively with the inordinately high debt that has been left to this government to deal with, all ministries have been required to commit to a number of extraordinary expenditure reduction measures. Your ministry is no different than the others.

Lately, you've taken a number of hits for the kinds of reductions you've had to take. You have been criticized in some quarters for cuts to the arts and culture community. It is then with some surprise that I read in the Globe and Mail comments by Robert Fulford: "We have just begun to deal with the disquieting fact that we ran ourselves deep into debt because we were possessed by a collective looniness," and finally, "not once in that entire period" -- during the 1970s and 1980s --

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

Mr Shea: -- "did I ask what now seems to me a pressing question: Will this money come from taxes, or will we borrow it from Japan?"

Minister, the arts and culture community is having a hard time making the transition from the --

The Speaker: Put the question. Member for High Park-Swansea, order. The Minister of Culture.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): In response, what I would really like to say is that we as a government do recognize that culture really is the foundation of our identity, not just as a province, but I believe it defines us as a country. With that in mind, given the economic reality of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, I want to assure the honourable member that my ministry has been working very closely with the cultural community to identify ways in which they can become more self-sufficient and also to help it to develop new partnerships with the private sector to locate new sources of revenue.

Mr Shea: Robert Fulford is a distinguished columnist with the Globe and Mail. In light of his comments and in light of your response, can you suggest, for example, ways that the communities may well respond to the shortfalls in dollars from the government? Have you been pursuing issues of joint-venturing? Are you taking a look at other kinds of possibilities for the arts communities to get involved?


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

Hon Ms Mushinski: As a part of the budget, my honourable colleague Mr Eves introduced a refundable tax credit for film and television production. I'd just like to share with you some of the comments I have received as a result of that particular announcement. From Insight Productions, Mr John Branton, the president: "The program will foster employment and economic growth within the television industry." From Owl Communications: "We also appreciate the collaborative way you have worked with the industry to draft solutions that both support the government's cost-cutting program and provide ways to keep the industry vital."

The Speaker: Answer, please.

Hon Ms Mushinski: Finally, I would like to read the following from Hansard: "The programs on film development: Clearly that is a growth industry, one that we all want to encourage. It is a unique industry that I think" --

The Speaker: The question has been answered. Minister, thank you.


The Speaker: Minister, order. Take your seat, please, Minister. Stop the clock. I would remind members that when the Speaker is standing, you take your seat. It's not in order to be standing when the Speaker is in his place.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a question for the Minister of Health. Today the Ontario Nurses' Association filed an injunction to prevent the layoff of 387 registered nurses at the Toronto Hospital. These layoffs represent about 15% of the hospital's nursing complement. They say in their press release, "Nurses want the public to know that the level of care will suffer with the continued slashing of front-line care providers as hospitals seek to cut their budgets."

You know their budget cuts are in response to the $1.3 billion that you are taking from those hospital budgets. The registered nurses working at the Toronto Hospital are saying very clearly that patient care is in jeopardy, that patient care is being harmed. The Ontario Nurses' Association says that in this press release, says that patient care is suffering and will continue suffering unless you do something.

As Minister of Health, I'm asking you to do two things.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I want one question now.

Mrs Caplan: Will you use the authority that you have to investigate this situation and to declare a moratorium to stop the layoffs of those people who, in your own words, provide care?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The member is in error. I have no authority to interfere. Nor would it be prudent, wise or fair for a member of the crown to interfere in an employee-employer relationship, particularly when an injunction has been filed with the court. I have no comment on this matter.

Mrs Caplan: I anticipated the minister's answer. In fact, you have the authority.

(1) You have it from Bill 26.

(2) The Ministry of Health Act specifically requires and obliges you as Minister of Health to investigate when you are given information that patient care is in jeopardy.

(3) A report that was given to you in June 1996 from the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council says, on page 49, as follows, "HPRAC recommends that there be an investigation of the public interest implications of the utilization of health care aides and other generic workers in all health care settings."

This gives you the authority and the responsibility to investigate. You're the one who's cutting $1.3 billion. You're the one who's hurting patient care. You must intervene and declare a moratorium on nurses who deliver that care being laid off.

Hon Mr Wilson: The only authority contained in the Public Hospitals Act -- and Bill 26 is a red herring with respect to the member's question -- is if there's concrete evidence of a question of harm to quality in a hospital. I have received no evidence from that hospital or from these nurses with respect to that, so there is no basis on which to launch an investigation under the Public Hospitals Act.

I would remind the honourable member that this is a very serious matter. There has only been, to my knowledge, about two inquiries or investigations or supervisors appointed in the last 10 to 15 years. For the minister to use that section of the act, you need concrete evidence that patient quality is suffering. We don't see that evidence. We see surgeries increasing and we see administrative dollars being driven to front-line services. We don't have any evidence that the quality is suffering in that institution or any other institution in this province.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It's with regard to the support grants to northern municipalities. Your government is really confusing the mayors and reeves of northern Ontario. In meetings with you and your officials, you're telling them that support grant is toast, it's history, and yet on Thursday night last in Sault Ste Marie the Premier said:

"They're wrong. I'm from the north. We respect the differences in northern Ontario. We're asking all the governments to do with less. Quite frankly, in northern Ontario bureaucracy in school boards and municipalities is already leaner than some. We have some different needs. I don't think they need to fear. We have applied the same rules here in northern Ontario as we might in Toronto."

I guess that says to them that they've got the Premier here in northern Ontario, with or without David Crombie. "I have personally given my commitment." I would think that would be more important. What is it? Is it yes or is it no? Is it toast or is it on? They want to know.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'm sure the Premier has never misled the people of northern Ontario before and he has not now.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): You're saying that the Premier would not mislead the people of northern Ontario. I wonder then, who is? I have a letter here, dated September 27, addressed to His Worship Mayor Vic Power and it's signed by Al Leach. The letter says: "I appreciate hearing your delegates' accounts of the special circumstances northern municipalities face that have a bearing on their ability to manage further transfer reductions. Unfortunately" -- the key word -- "I have to confirm that municipal support grant programs will be again substantially reduced." I ask the same question as my colleague: Is it you or is it the Premier who is confused on this matter? Come clean.

Hon Mr Leach: I think everybody knows there will be further reductions to the municipal block grants. That has nothing to do with whether there will be a special northern support grant or not. If the Premier indicated that there'll be a northern support grant, there will be a northern support grant.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question today is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. As this is the first opportunity I have had to address the minister, I'd like to congratulate him on his new appointment and wish him the best in the future.

It's good to see that more and more businesses these days are taking advantage of the technological advances available to them. Sales and marketing no longer require a personal touch; the same result can be reached over the phone or by fax. Telemarketing is a boom industry, but as always there are some who will take advantage of the system.

It's come to my attention that people in my riding, many of them elderly individuals, have been taken advantage of through telephone fraud. As an example, one individual was offered $200 a month to stuff envelopes at home if they would only purchase the materials. They ordered and didn't receive. I've heard that this practice is fairly widespread across North America and I'd like to know what the government is doing to stop it.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Although there is a very large and legitimate telemarketing and direct marketing industry in Ontario, I am concerned, and I know members of this House are concerned, about the fraudulent scam artists who are preying upon seniors and the people who are vulnerable to this sort of thing.

We will be using every possible effective enforcement method that we have to crack down on these type of unscrupulous scam artists. In fact, there's a program that's in operation now called Project Phonebusters, which is a joint effort among the OPP, the RCMP, certainly our ministry, the federal government, and also the private sector, the Canadian Bankers' Association and the Canadian Courier Association, in order to crack down on these particular types of telemarketing fraud. They have had a good effect already. In fact, over 1996 there has been a 40% reduction in this type of telemarketing fraud in the province of Ontario.

Mr Bert Johnson: It's good to know that the government is ensuring that vulnerable individuals will be looked after. I would also like to commend you on your cooperation with other provinces in this matter.


Mr Bert Johnson: If the people of Lake Nipigon have no problem with this, at least their member should.

Can you tell us what issues of importance to the province of Ontario were discussed at the meetings and what your fellow consumer ministers agreed on?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I did have the opportunity to co-host the first conference for interprovincial ministers of consumer protection in about a decade, along with Martin Cauchon from the federal government. What did come out of this was an opportunity to have a lot of cooperation across the country and also with the federal government in order to do a lot for consumer protection. One of the examples would be the national standards for direct sales. Currently in Ontario it's only a two-day cooling-off period. We have agreed to try to institute a 10-day cooling-off period consistent across the country. This was a major improvement, and we are looking to have a lot of cooperation with the provinces and the federal government to do what we can for consumer protection.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the government House leader. My question involves the issue of video lottery terminals, or electronic slot machines as most people know them.

Minister, you have heard from several members of the opposition and from many people out in the public that this new venture into 20,000 video lottery terminals, electronic slot machines, in every bar and neighbourhood in the province of Ontario, every restaurant, is going to be detrimental. You have heard evidence that indeed there is going to be a lot of criminal activity potentially involved in this particular activity that's being sanctioned by your government in order to get more revenue to make up for your tax cut.

As government House leader, would you give an undertaking today in the House that you will withdraw the bill which would allow for video lottery terminals and rethink this whole issue?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): No, I will not give such an undertaking to the member opposite.

Mr Bradley: I am extremely disappointed, though not entirely surprised, although a bit surprised by the response.

May I ask you this then at this point: You have received considerable evidence. We have a report that we cannot get from you. We've made reference to this report from the police intelligence service which talks about widespread involvement of the criminal element in gaming in Ontario.

Minister, will you at least give an undertaking that you, as government House leader, will ensure that members of the opposition have available to them -- and your own members -- a form of this report in order that you can better make a judgement on whether you should proceed or not? I'm convinced you should not, but I believe you should at least provide this report to members of the opposition, having heard all the concerns that have been expressed.

Hon David Johnson: This report has been the topic of questions from the opposition ranks over the past several days. The Solicitor General has commented on this particular report. I can add no more to what the Solicitor General has commented.

The House leaders are in the process of arranging for the business that will come before the House, and all bills coming before this House will be part of that discussion. The member opposite, being the House leader for the Liberal Party, can make his points during the House leaders' meeting. I don't think there's anything else I can say on that particular issue.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Minister, my question today to you is about your bad-boss bill, a bill that is receiving final debate and a third-reading vote, either today or a deferred vote, but today will be the last opportunity to speak publicly.

This bill takes away rights from working people. It's part of your ongoing effort to drive down working conditions and the standard of living of working families. It allows you to lay off one third of the employment standards enforcement officers as a result of the passage of Bill 49, your bad-boss bill. The only people who are going to benefit from this bill are the bad bosses that exploit workers.


Minister, there was a news conference today in which the employment standards working group released the statistics on their bad-boss hotline. The reality is, vulnerable workers are being made more vulnerable by your changes to the Employment Standards Act. Why didn't you listen to the people who made submissions and told you the reality out there? Why didn't you listen to those workers?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I think it's very, very important that we set the record straight right now. As you know, Mr Speaker, our legislation does not affect any of the minimum standards that are already there. In fact, what our bill does is offer the protection to the vulnerable workers that has not been there in the past. We are going to streamline enforcement. We are going to make sure that people get the money that is owed to them much more quickly, because unfortunately you got rid of the collection agency within the employment standards branch. You forced the present employment standards officers to not only issue orders but also collect money. Then, I would add, also, it was your government that laid off 198 people in the past five years from the employment standards branch and the occupational health and safety branch. So talk about layoffs; you laid off 198 people and you've reduced funding by $42 million.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I wonder if you were aware that this is the 10th anniversary of the Broadcast and Recording Service of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Perhaps members would like to pay tribute to those who provide this service for the people of this province.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 96(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 43 and 44.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Agreed? Agreed.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My office received another 1,200 signatures on the same petition as I've presented all this week to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has recommended the closure of two Sudbury acute care hospitals; 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 25%;

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

I affix my signature to it.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition here from members of my community and it's in three languages, in English, Chinese and Vietnamese, I believe. It says:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

"Do not make government cuts to housing, particularly those to the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority. They place too much burden on seniors and those who can least afford them; and

"Restore access to medical treatment by abolishing the co-payment to the Ontario drug benefit program. Respect our seniors."

I will affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Morley Kells (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): I have a petition for the Legislature. The petition is one of many to end the spring bear hunt. Bear with me as I read the "whereases."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to amend the Game and Fish Act to prohibit the hunting of bears in the spring."

I will affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a further petition from constituents of my riding and it's addressed to the Legislative Assembly. I'd like to read it.

"Whereas the Harris government is planning to remove rent controls; and

"Whereas the removal of rent control legislation breaks a campaign promise made by the Conservatives during the election; and

"Whereas a great number of tenants are seniors and people on fixed incomes, and many have had their incomes cut by 22% due to social assistance cuts and cannot afford increases in their rent; and

"Whereas growing unemployment and the scarcity of affordable housing in Metro makes the removal of rent control an even greater disaster for tenants and for people who cannot afford to buy homes;

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

"That the government of Ontario keep its pre-election promise and not remove rent controls, and continue with the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Rental Housing Protection Act."

I concur with the contents and I will affix my signature to it.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I've got a petition here signed by 200 people from Orde Street Parent Council. They want to be included in any changes that are made to the educational system as part of the decision-making process and they're arguing here against cutbacks to education.

The Orde Street Parent Council is opposed to the $1-billion cutback to Ontario's education system. More is slated to come out and they're very concerned about that.

The education minister's proposed budget sheet, found in his paper Meeting Students' Needs, ignores the needs of special education. It omits programs that are essential to the educational day of all students: A library staff by a teacher-librarian, music and arts instruction, physical education by a qualified teacher and the supervised lunch program.

They're very worried about the reintroduction of streaming and they're very concerned about the secretive discussions of the complete overhaul of education to be finalized by November 30, 1996.

I affix my signature to their concerns.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I'm pleased to present a petition from my riding and from the member for Carleton's riding with respect to the spring bear hunt.

"Petition to the Parliament of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario plans to introduce deregulation by taking jobs away from inspectors whose responsibilities had included protecting health, safety, the environment and consumers; and

"Whereas deregulation will mean the watering down of important standards within the sphere of business, allowing less ethical competitors to take advantage, having a detrimental effect on the consumers of this province; and

"Whereas the gutting of the Ministry of the Environment will mean that the investigations and enforcement branch will no longer be able to carry out its responsibilities preventing polluters from damaging the environment of this province; and

"Whereas the deregulation legislation represents the abdication by the Progressive Conservative Party of the most important responsibilities of a government, to preserve and protect the people of this province and the lands and waterways on which they live;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario abandon its destructive ideological agenda and introduce legislation which will protect the consumers of this province and preserve the natural habitat in which we live and wish to preserve for future generations to come."

I affix my signature as I'm in full agreement with it.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by approximately 25 residents of the township of Laird, whose children used to attend Tarbutt Central school. It reads:

"We, the undersigned, want our children to be bused and attend the Laird school as an alternative to attending Johnson school and being placed in portable classrooms."

I affix my signature to it.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I present a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario concerning drinking and driving, and I note the first two signature are Bruce and Shirley George, who have played a very large role in fighting drinking and driving in Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I fully support this petition and therefore affix my name to it.


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

"Whereas the government of Ontario's list of PST-exempt purchases regarding native Indians presently discriminates against Ontario Indians living off reserves because of educational purposes, medical reasons and unsettled land claims;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to pass amending legislation to allow Indians living off reserves for educational purposes, medical reasons and unsettled land claims to be included in the PST exemption policy."


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have one that reads as follows, signed by a number of people in different municipalities in Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a further petition supplied to my office by residents of my riding. It's a bit long, but I'm going to read it to the Speaker.

"Whereas the government is intent on cutting educational funding so that children are denied their basic right to quality education; and

"Whereas the government cuts to day care facilities restrict parents' access to affordable and decent child care programs within the province; and

"Whereas the Harris government is intent on abolishing rent controls, and the rent-geared-to-income program, which provides decent housing for low- and middle-income tenants, consisting of 40% seniors, 42% families and 18% special needs and disabled tenants; and

"Whereas the government has introduced user fees on basic necessities such as prescription medication for seniors, textbooks for school children and essential services like firefighting and policing; and

"Whereas the cuts to services will impact upon everything from public transit to borrowing library books; and

"Whereas the government has seen fit to abandon job training programs and failed to create a formal job strategy for the province despite continually high unemployment;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly and the Mike Harris government to live up to their promises of protecting rent control, to not introduce any further user fees, and creating over 725,000 jobs in the province."

I have to agree with the contents of the petition, and I'm going to sign my signature to it.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I present a petition to rescind Bill 181.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to this.


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

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

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

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across our province is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the desperate in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest income; and

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

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

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

I affix my signature, as I am in agreement, and hand this to Trevor Nelson, a page from Ferndale school in St Catharines.



Mr Leach moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 86, An Act to provide for better local government by updating and streamlining the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Act and related statutes / Projet de loi 86, Loi prévoyant l'amélioration des administrations locales en modernisant et simplifiant la Loi sur les élections municipales, la Loi sur les municipalités et d'autres lois connexes.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.




Mr Baird, on behalf of Mrs Witmer, moved third reading of the following bill:

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

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I believe there is unanimous agreement to have the member for Hamilton Centre start the debate.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is there unanimous consent to have the member for Hamilton Centre begin the debate? Agreed.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to rise and comment on the last opportunity that the public will have to say anything through their representatives on this piece of legislation that, quite frankly, is a direct attack on the rights that working women and men have in the province of Ontario in the Employment Standards Act, as minimum as they may be, because this government has an agenda. That agenda is to water down the rights and standard of living of working families and it's also to remove the rights and protection that workers have in the workplace. This bill is just a continuation of that process. We've seen it from the outset. Every piece of legislation this government has brought in that pertains to workers, the workplace, rights that working people have, we see a relentless attack on those rights and we see a litany of rights that have been taken away by this government.

We know that we had two in our party. We had to lead the fight to force this government to even take Bill 49 out into the public arena, because when the minister introduced this bill she said: "Nobody needs to worry about it. This is strictly housekeeping, a few minor changes, a little bit of nuts-and-bolts work, nothing that anybody needs to worry about." In fact, she told that to a group of Ontario labour leaders the week before she introduced it when she was meeting with them on another issue, and conveniently they were out of the province when this bill was dropped. When we got a look at it and saw what indeed was in this bad-boss bill -- because that's what it is; it's a bill for bad bosses -- when we saw the things that were being taken away, the rights that workers have, it was very clear that this was not a minor housekeeping bill; this was a major attack on the rights of working people. I'll say this: In particular, people who don't have benefit of a union were the greatest losers, because for them the Employment Standards Act is their bill of rights. That's all they have.

Now your government is taking away rights by virtue of these amendments. So it's not a wonder that you didn't want to take it out into the public domain. You fought us tooth and nail for days, refusing to take Bill 49 out into the public, because you stood behind the charade, the sham that somehow this was just housekeeping. When we finally forced this government to take Bill 49 out on the road over the summer, exactly what we predicted happened: We had dozens and dozens and dozens of representatives of workers, of vulnerable workers themselves coming forward, of labour leaders. The vast majority of people who came out and spoke were against the bill. The government couldn't even muster enough support from their corporate cronies to give a decent defence of Bill 49. You were slaughtered out in the public arena in every community that we went out to.

That is exactly what you were afraid of and that's exactly why you didn't want to take Bill 49 out into the public domain. I suspect that's why you're still refusing to commit to take your WCB legislation out on the road, for the same reason. You have the same fear: You know that under the glaring scrutiny of public review all of your best spin doctors' lines fall apart.

I've made this point on numerous occasions. Again, in this piece of legislation, as you've done with others, we see the charade -- there are stronger words I'd like to use, but they're unparliamentary -- but the charade of naming this An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act is as insulting as you saying that you were improving the environment legislation when you were decimating protection of the environment that had been developed over decades.

You still had the audacity to call that an improvement and now you call this an improvement. The only improvement in this bill is for bad bosses. There's nothing in here that helps people be good bosses, there's nothing in here that helps those who are good bosses. But boy, if you're pretty comfortable exploiting workers, denying them their rights, then this is a field day for you because the message will now go out that there's less and less chance that, first of all, you're even violating a law because they've been watered down and, secondly, if you have, there's less chance that you're going to be caught because this government is laying off a third of the enforcement officers.

I want to focus for one moment, even though it's not in the bill now, on one piece that was in there and it's very important because we know it's going to come back. One of the things that was in that bill, this minor housekeeping, was something they called "flexible standards." What they wanted to do with that piece of the legislation was allow collective agreements to contain less than the minimum standards in hours of work, public holidays, overtime, vacation pay and severance pay.

They did this, or they were going to do it -- and they still say they're going to consider it in their year-long review -- by saying as long as the collective agreement has a greater right at the end of the day, that by juggling these things that somehow -- and we don't know how it's defined because the bill didn't say that, it didn't say how it would be determined -- but as long as there were greater rights overall than there were before, that would be okay.

Well, if we had not forced this government into public hearings, then this government would have already passed that part of the bill into law along with the rest of it because they tried to ram this through last June. It was only because we forced them out into public hearings that they backed off on this one piece and in fact made some other amendments that improved the bill, because they rushed it.

This clause, this "flexible standards," is a dangerous, dangerous road for this government to walk down. Now, because it hurts working people, you don't care. That's obvious. But I'll tell you, for the people who do represent and who do care about working people, they were very upset about that clause because what it would allow at the end of the day is a collective agreement for the first time in the history of Ontario to contain rights that are less than those established in law.

You can't do that right now. You cannot sign a collective agreement and enforce a collective agreement that has rights in there that are less than workers already have in legislation. But the clause that you wanted to introduce would have made that legal.

Now that you've also made it legal to bring in scabs, you've made it that much easier for employers to take on unions, to beat them down, to take away the rights that workers are entitled to. This is what you're doing. In having strikes like that and having a clause that allows rights to be put in place that are less than the law provides, you slowly begin the process of removing a bottom, a floor, a minimum standard that someone could point to and say: "That's the absolute minimum, no matter what. Whether I've got a collective agreement or not, those are my rights." That clause would have allowed, over a period of time, for those rights to be taken away. The minister even talked in a scrum about the possibility of having these flexible standards concepts in workplaces that don't have a union, that have no collective agreement.


That begs some questions. Either the minister didn't know what she was speaking of when she answered the questions in the scrum, and I assume she knows what she's talking about -- she should -- or this government is looking at some other means to allow collective decisions to take place in the workplace without a bona fide union, without the decision by those workers to join a union and bargain collectively. There now is this idea that somehow there can be a collective voice expressed that might have allowed this to come in. I'm not going to go on at great length about that today because that was removed. It was removed as a result of the public outcry that took place after we forced you to take Bill 49 public, so right away workers have won at least one small victory. But the government is still planning to take a year to review the Employment Standards Act further. This isn't the end of it.

I can't believe there's anybody in this province who believes that when the Mike Harris Tories change legislation affecting workers, somehow workers are going to win that, that they're going to come out better, because with every single piece of legislation you've brought in that deals with working people you have taken away rights; you haven't improved anything.

I want to move to some of the worst aspects of this "housekeeping" bill. Bear in mind that's how they framed this, that it was just minor housekeeping. One of the things in this bill is the concept, the idea that you have to have been robbed of a certain level of money. We don't know what that level is because they won't tell us. You have to cross a certain threshold. You have to have been ripped off for $50 or $75 or $100 or $200 to have the Ministry of Labour enforce your rights. Right now there's no minimum. If a bad boss beats you for $100 and you're making minimum wage, that $100 is a lot of money. The law says that if you're owed that money, the employer has to pay it, and if they don't, the ministry will step in and enforce that right, as they should.

Under this bill the cabinet will have the right to regulate an amount under which the government will not enforce your rights. Keep in mind that they won't tell us what it is. One of their answers is, "We're not going to do it right away." Well, that's really comforting. We heard that same argument with the omnibus Bill 26, another bill you didn't want people to look at in the public domain. One of your answers at the time was, "We're not necessarily going to use all the powers we're giving ourselves," and of course we saw even today in question period that that is what is happening. Why else would you put it in there?

You're going to give yourselves the power, as a cabinet, in regulation -- meaning no need to have public debate; it's all done in the cabinet room, and as we know, cabinet meetings take place behind closed doors -- to set a minimum level, and if it's less than that, what's the answer? "Go to court." At a time when the Attorney General tells us that the courts are all clogged and that he has to take action to make the system work better and he's removing some things from the court process, the answer to vulnerable workers who have been ripped off for money they're legally entitled to is, "Go to court."

First let's look at whom we're talking about. In most cases we're talking about workers who don't have a union to fight to get the money that's owed them. In many cases we're talking about people who are making minimum wage, working in the worst conditions, working in some cases -- this is a case example, a profile of the kinds of people, the types of workers who would need this law. They're likely to be women, there's a good chance English will not be their first language, and it's in those conditions that you're now saying to that worker, "Take your boss to court." It costs almost $70 to file the papers to go to court, so if it's $50 you've been ripped off for, you're beat for that money. Who the hell is going to pay $70 to collect $50? Since you won't enforce their right, because you've changed the law, that worker is beat.

It was interesting during the hearings, on the same point, that a group of very courageous workers -- I think they're very courageous, because as much as the government promised there would be no retaliation, people are people -- the workers themselves, who are the employment standards officers, and they're members of OPSEU Local 546, came forward and made a submission. They talk in here about how they see the changes to this law. These are the actual working women and men who enforce the law. It would be expected that they know what they're talking about. What did they say about the new minimum? I'm quoting:

"With regard to employees who handle cash, for example" -- such as waitresses/waiters, gas station attendants, cashiers etc -- "every six months, an employer could automatically deduct $50 from an employee's paycheque for cash shortages -- twice a year. The employer could deduct moneys under the minimum amount every six months. It's a new double standard for the employer -- an outright licence to steal."

That's from the people whose job it is to enforce the employment standards, and that's what they say about the clause that will set a minimum. In effect, those workers are going to be beat for the money that they're owed, and it will continue. Why would it stop? The most unscrupulous of employers could sit down, as they suggest, and create a system where they regularly beat employees for an amount below the minimum and do it every six months, because you're changing that law too. Workers can't go back the two years they now can under the Employment Standards Act; you're going to make it only six months. The worst employers, the real bad bosses out there, are going to have a field day as a result of this change to the Employment Standards Act. That's at the minimum end of money that's owed.

Flip it over. What about a maximum, where there isn't a maximum right now? If you're owed money, whatever it is, you're entitled to get that money from the employer that legally owes it to you. Under this law if it's over $10,000 that's not true, and if it's under the minimum that you won't tell us the level of, you're beat there too. What's the answer to those people who are owed over $10,000? Guess. "Go to court."


The government, I assure you, will stand in their place today and say this is only affecting executive level incomes. I assure you that the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Labour will be making that point, and if he doesn't, he'll have one of his colleagues do it, because that's the argument they're standing behind on that.

It's interesting. What did that same group of employment standards officers have to say? Currently, the Employment Standards Act "does not have a ceiling on claims. Bill 49 proposes to limit the dollar amount of the claim to $10,000. The ministry's reasoning, as noted in report" -- the Expenditure Reduction Strategy Report, 1996-1998 -- "is to lower the caseload, as higher-paid employees would use civil action to collect. The assumption must be that when employees file claims in excess of $10,000 they are higher-paid employees. This is not so."

These weren't the only people to comment on that. We had many submissions proving the point that it's not only the higher-paid who will be affected by this change. And you know, what is particularly galling through all this is that the minister today, even as late as today, stood in her place when I asked her a question and said that this bill doesn't reduce anybody's rights, doesn't take anything away.

I still fail to see how you can deny someone the right to have the ministry go into your workplace and confront an employer and force them to pay you money you're owed. I fail to see how having that right taken away is not a reduction in rights in law. I fail to see how you can argue that today you can make a claim for $12,000, if that's what's owed to you, but after this bill passes you can't, how that is not taking away someone's rights. And all of this was under the guise of minor housekeeping. This isn't even their main event, this isn't the real draw, this isn't the big show; that one's going to come at the end of a year-long review.

Another thing they're doing: Right now, as I mentioned earlier, you can go back two years to make a claim. The government, again I assure you, you will hear say today that if they can move on these cases more quickly -- because they're reducing it to six months and they're saying that will force employees to claim sooner, and that by having the information sooner, just like a detective hot on the trail because that trail is warmer and it's not two years old, it's only six months old, they'll be able to resolve them that much quicker. They'll argue that by doing that they're also preventing this boss from ripping off someone else. I guarantee you, that argument is coming. We heard it in every community and it was smashed to pieces in every community.

What is the truth? The truth is that 90% of all claims are made after an employee leaves that place of employment. Why is that so? The reality is that most of those people are too terrified for their job to make a claim against their employer, bearing in mind that in most cases we're talking about someone who is a bad boss to start with. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to think about what it must be like in that workplace and how you are going to be affected when your boss finds out you just laid a claim against them with the Ministry of Labour.

What happens is that most people wait until they've found another job, which can take some time, particularly if you're not a skilled worker and you're at an entry level job and you're making minimum wage. It may take you a while to secure another job. The unemployment rate just went up in this province, thanks to this government. It's getting tougher to find jobs. So people wait until they have the security of a job and then they lay the claim, because the boss can no longer get at them.

Under the current law, you can go back two years and there's no limit. That makes sense. Now this government is saying, "No, you can't go back the two years; you can only go back the six months." In effect, what you're going to do is allow the bad bosses to outright steal from an employee in a situation like that. You're allowing it.

I submit to you that by passing this law and letting it be known that this is the new law, you will be encouraging more bad bosses to do just that, because they know the law isn't there to go after them and there won't be the enforcement officers there to go after them. With the unemployment rate going up and you dismantling decent-paying jobs in this province so that everybody works at minimum wage, which is what you want because that makes everything nice and competitive, that's going to leave the impression with those bad bosses that it's fair game to go after your employees, if that's the kind of person you already are. We know they're out there. They're not everywhere, but there are enough of them.

The Employment Standards Work Group, later with the Ontario Federation of Labour, opened up a province-wide bad-boss hotline. Today they issued a news release that talked about the findings: 12% of the people who were calling, using the anonymity of this hotline, were being paid less than the minimum wage.

Our minimum wage is already lower than the American minimum wage. The whole idea that we have a better society and that we treat those less well-off better than they do in the States is not true under this government. Even the States just raised their minimum wage. Interestingly, the Republicans, of course, who are the American cousins of the Mike Harris Reform-Tories, opposed it, just like you're opposing it here. Our minimum wage is already below that of the United States, and 21% of the people who phoned said they were being paid less than the minimum wage.

With fewer enforcement officers in the ministry to enforce these rights, and with your new minimum and maximum limits, where does that leave those workers? It leaves them out in the cold.

What else? That was, 12% were being paid less than minimum wage; 21% complained about unpaid wages. God help them if they haven't been stolen from high enough to cross the minimum but low enough under the new maximum, because if they have, they're out of luck. Twenty-one per cent about excess hours of work: That's the law that you wanted to allow lowered in some collective agreements. There would be no concept of maximum hours of work in a workweek. That concept you don't want any more.

Forty-one per cent of the calls were about unpaid vacation pay, money that workers are owed legally and morally. Any way you want to look at it, they're owed that money. You're going to make it more difficult for them to get the money they're legally entitled to. What happened to the party of law and order? Law and order for some; for everybody else, too bad.


Forty-two per cent called about being terminated without just cause or unpaid termination and severance pay. Eighty per cent called about arbitrary reduction of hours or abusive employers. They've issued a book: Bad Boss Stories -- Workers Whose Bosses Break the Law. They give case studies.

This is what's happening out there. That's the reality of what some people live through day to day. You can deny it. You can put your head in the sand. You can help those who exploit those people. But you cannot change the reality just because you say this is an act to improve the Employment Standards Act. This is the reality for far too many Ontarians. What we're talking about is your government taking away the minimum rights that the most vulnerable workers in our province have and you call them minor housekeeping. In fact, your Minister of Labour still stands there and says that black is white when she says that this bill does not take away rights. Of course it takes away rights. That's why you didn't want to take it out on the road. That's why you're taking another year to review the Employment Standards Act in its totality. You are taking away workers' rights, just as you did in your anti-worker Bill 7, where you made it much more difficult for people to democratically choose to join a union -- and didn't campaign on, had no mandate, and didn't hold any public hearings on Bill 7, by the way, not one day. You took away the successorship rights for public sector workers but still left them there for private sector workers, just took them away from public sector workers, because part of your game plan under all this privatization is to eliminate those decent-paying jobs in the public sector where people are performing a service for the rest of the workers in Ontario and you're going to sell it off to your friends in the private sector and they're going to pay minimum wage. For those who are bad bosses you've just made it easier for them to exploit some people. That's what you're doing.

I don't know how many backbenchers have taken the time to read this or have taken the time to read the Hansards in terms of what people in your community were saying about this bill when we went out on the road, but if you did, I suspect there's got to be somewhere in that horde of right-wing ideologues some people with some compassion and understanding about what it must be like to be one of the most vulnerable workers in this province. Quite frankly, most people assume that their rights are in there and if they have a good boss and are making a decent wage the Employment Standards Act is not something they think about very often, unless of course something changes and they're being ripped off. Then they're going to say, "Clearly, the law wouldn't allow the employer to do this to me, so I'll just pick up the phone and call the Ministry of Labour and get this straightened out." That's not going to happen for a lot of people.

At the end of the day, and I speak very directly to the backbenchers, you can hide in this House now but you're going to have to go out there eventually and there's still a whole hell of a lot more working people than there are rich people and you're going to have to answer for your agenda and you're going to have to answer for the attack that you are now encouraging some people to launch against the most vulnerable. That's the reality. I don't care and I don't think you should care whether it's 5,000, 50,000 or 10 workers; if there's any worker who's being exploited by their boss, they have a right to have the government protect their rights and step in and make things right. You're changing that law. You're taking away rights that workers have and you're making it more difficult for people to have their rights -- whatever few rights are left over when you're done -- enforced.

The changes that you've made to WCB: Out the window goes your promise about not hurting disabled people. Somehow workers who are hurt on the job, they don't count. You've already taken away the right of workers to have a 50% say in how the WCB is run through Bill 15; that's already gone. Now, based on the leaked cabinet document that I brought in the House last week and made public, you're going to take away 5% of the income of disabled workers, and you're going to give a 5% gift to your corporate buddies by cutting their premiums.

You said, under the guise of cost cutting, that you're going to open up the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We know that the right to refuse unsafe work is on the line. You are attacking literally every aspect of law that determines what happens to working people, every one of them. In the process, you're gutting the Ministry of Labour. Just the other day the library at the Ministry of Labour was shut down. I know you moved it over to a university or some other place and said it's available to people, but the reality is that everything you're doing takes away one more piece of a worker's right and transfers that power to people who already have the lion's share of money and power in this province.

Again, we're going to hear from the parliamentary assistant about how this is about efficiencies and it's to make things run better, and oh, you're going to hear this great, glorious story of what it's going to do. But the reality is very different. They knew that that reality would be told when we went out across the province. That's why they didn't want to have the public hearings. That's why they won't yet commit to hold public hearings on your WCB legislation.

Let me put you on notice right now. If you think we put up a firestorm over Bill 49 to get public hearings, you ain't seen nothin' yet if you try to put that WCB legislation through without province-wide public hearings. Don't say you weren't told ahead of time, and don't say the issue is cloudy; it's all very clear. At this stage, we're making it very clear to this government that nothing less than province-wide public hearings on your WCB legislation is an absolute bottom line.

You'll fight it, I suspect. You'll lose. We will end up with province-wide public hearings. On Bill 7, I had to go out and do them myself. I went out, as the labour critic for the NDP, and I went across the province. I gave people a chance to have their say on Bill 7. Through the media, we talked about what you did to working people. So, at the very least, that's coming. But that's not good enough.

People have a right to have their say. On Bill 26, you tried to stop them. We've had an ongoing battle over public hearings around the rent control legislation. You tried to ram this piece of legislation through with no public hearings. Every step of the way you take things away from people and then you try to deny them at least their democratic right to have a say. So I want to again tell this government that you will have to ensure that workers get their say when you change the WCB.


For anyone who doesn't understand the issues around the Employment Standards Act but you do know about the WCB and its legislation, then listen to me very clearly when I suggest to you that the same flowery discussion about, "The Jackson report is going to help disabled workers, and what workers really want is more streamlining and efficiency and that's why we're doing this," people who know will tell you that's not the truth. I'm saying that under this piece of legislation -- you can call it An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act from now until doomsday and it's not going to change the fact that you're doing the opposite. That's what you've done with WCB; that's what you're going to do with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the health clinics. Workers' health clinics are on the block. The Workplace Health and Safety Agency is already gone. The Occupational Disease Panel is heading for the door. You're going to bury that, put it back inside the WCB.

All of these things add up. You seem to think, you seem to believe that you can go an entire term dismantling piece by piece workers' rights, rights around the environment, support mechanisms for the most vulnerable, dismantling our health care system. You seem to think that you can do all these things and nobody's going to notice, that they're all going to believe that you did wonderful things because, look at the bill, it's called An Act to improve. You seem to think that that's going to carry the day. Well, it's not. It didn't on Bill 49. In every community that we went to the overwhelming majority of people came out and trashed your bill and provided ample evidence that it is taking away rights, rights that workers now have.

I see a backbencher there shaking his head, going uh-uh. Yes. It's true. The fact of the matter is that there are rights that working people have today and when this law is passed, they won't have those rights. What part of this don't you get?

The fact of the matter is that you're putting a minimum in place that didn't exist before and if you happen to have been stolen from for less than that minimum, tough luck. You won't tell us what that minimum is, by the way. Keep that in mind. We still don't know what that minimum is. You just have the power to give yourselves one. If you're owed more than $10,000, you're out of luck too. If you've been ripped off for longer than six months, too bad. So it doesn't matter how much you want to sit there and shake your head like this and wave your arms in the air; the fact of the matter is that those are rights, identifiable rights, that working people now have in the Employment Standards Act, which is the workers' bill of rights, and you're taking them away. It's that straightforward. It's just as straightforward as listening to the hypocrisy of your social services minister stand up and talk about caring about the most vulnerable when one of your first acts was to take 22% of the income away from the poorest of the poor.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Do you believe what you're saying?

Mr Christopherson: I absolutely believe what I'm saying. The member -- which member is that? Brant-Haldimand? What's your riding?

Mr Rollins: Quinte.

Mr Christopherson: The member for Quinte hollers out, "Do you believe what you're saying?" Absolutely. I absolutely believe every word that I'm saying because I happen to believe that if you look at the record, it speaks for itself. That is my opinion, but I think it can be backed up by a whole lot of people who know more about these things than you and know more about them than I. Go talk to the experts or read the Hansards. The fact of the matter is that you are taking these rights away.

The chambers of commerce came out and supported it; surprise, surprise. Some of them gave very thoughtful submissions, but they all supported it and they were all on the spot when I was asking them: "Do you honestly believe this doesn't take anything away from working people? Do you believe that?" In fact, there were a couple of representatives who were lawyers who were on the record as saying, "No, I cannot say that," and then would give their rationale, but the fact of the matter is that they would admit that rights were being taken away. That is why we get so enraged when the Minister of Labour stands up and says, "We're not taking away any rights."

I want to begin wrapping up my comments because we've only got one day of debate. There should be a lot more debate than this, but in order to get public hearings we had to cut a deal, and part of the deal was we would go out on the road in the province, but that on third reading there would only be one day. So this is it. And I have other colleagues who want to speak to this and add their important opinion to our debate.

Let me close my remarks by saying again -- as I have said from the beginning of the term of this government, and I think I will be continuing to say it until the end of the term of this government -- that every single piece of legislation you've brought forward that deals with working people has hurt working people and their families.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): What's hurting them is no jobs.

Mr Christopherson: That's what you're doing. I hear one of the members, Durham East, talk about jobs.

Mr O'Toole: A little guy. A little man.

Mr Christopherson: Oh yeah, you're the guy who defended all those GM workers. Don't think they won't forget.

You talk about jobs. First of all, take a look what happened in the last month in Canada. The majority of the job losses were right here in Ontario. You talk about jobs. I say to you, what kind of jobs? What kind of jobs when you take away WCB, you take away health and safety rights, you take away rights in employment standards, you keep the minimum wage to a point where it's below the US? What kind of jobs? You're dismantling and privatizing a lot of good-paying jobs, and you seem to think that's fine. You don't realize that it's not just a job, but people are entitled to a decent job, a decent pay with decent wages and decent benefits.

You can nod your head and say yes, you agree, but I don't know why you're standing up and supporting all the legislation that does the opposite. You're making this a meaner place. You're giving to those who already have. There will always be injustices and unfairness, but you're feeding it, you're polarizing the province. Quite frankly, a lot of the changes that you're making may not matter if you're wealthy because you can afford a private health care system, or you can afford a private education system. But for most working families, without those things, they don't have hope for their kids, which next to their health I think is the most important thing for all of us who are parents. You're taking that away.

So when you start saying that all of this is about jobs, we will say to you consistently, number one, you're not creating the number of jobs you said you were going to, first of all. You're way off target, you're never going to reach your promise in the election of 725,000 jobs. And then we're going to say to you: What kind of jobs are these that are being created? Where we are getting new jobs, what are they? What kind of pay are they getting? What kind of benefits? What's the standard of living and the quality of life for those people?

Those are the kinds of questions we're going to be asking about things like changes to the Employment Standards Act, changes to our health care system, changes to our education system, changes to our social services safety net. All the things that are under attack by this government are the things we are going to counter-attack you on, because at the end of the day working people, ordinary working people and their families, are going to be worse off because you gained power in this province.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): They'll come after them too.

Mr Christopherson: Unfortunately. I wish it weren't so. But I have no doubt in my mind or my heart that that's exactly the reality facing people who are ordinary working folks just trying to get through day to day and raise their families. They're the ones who will pay the price, because they sure aren't the ones who are getting the benefit of your tax cut. That, of course, is the other main reason you say you're doing everything. It's jobs and a tax cut. Well, the fact is, unless you're very, very wealthy, you haven't received much of a tax cut at all.

That tax cut is, in large part, what's driving you gutting the Ministry of Labour, gutting the Ministry of Environment and Energy, gutting the Ministry of Health, gutting the Ministry of Community and Social Services. All those things because you've got to find the $5 billion or $6 billion you need to pay for the tax cut that your wealthy friends are going to benefit from, who are also the people who can afford to replace those things in their lives because they have the money, because they're wealthy.


So it all fits, if you're part of that nice little corporate wealthy world that most of you either live in or want to live in, but for the rest of the folks out there, that's not the reality. For those who are the most vulnerable, the absolute hardest-done-by people, first of all you attack them by cutting their meagre income by 22%, just a disgusting, disgraceful thing to do. How the hell you all sleep with yourselves, I'll never know, having done that to the poorest of the poor. Now, for those who have the crappiest jobs and work for the worst kinds of bosses, you've made it now easier for those kinds of people to continue to make their life terrible and now to make their life worse. That's who's affected by the Employment Standards Act. That's why we're so angry and that's why people who care and represent working people are so angry.

Then, on top of it all, you have the audacity to stand there and say this doesn't take away anybody's rights. That's the rub. That's the real insult, that while all this is going on, you still stand there and say, "Oh, no, we're not doing that."

Mr Speaker -- Madam Speaker, sorry; I didn't realize the Chair had changed -- I wish there was more time. We had to, as I said, hold the government's feet to the fire in order to get them to go out on public hearings in the first place. Part of the deal that was struck was there would only be one day of public debate on third reading of this bill, so that is indeed where we are today. The final vote, as I understand it, will happen on Monday, and then you will make this terrible piece of legislation, this attack on the workers' bill of rights, the law, and then you'll move on to your WCB legislation, where you're going to take away rights, to your overall review of the Employment Standards Act, where you're going to take away rights, to your opening of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, where I'm convinced you're going to take away workers' rights.

We may lose this battle, because you have the majority, you can make law whatever you choose, but I assure you that the overall war will be won by working people and those who represent them.

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

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I just wanted to congratulate my colleague on his presentation and indicate that because of his efforts, along with other members of the assembly, on the hearings on this piece of legislation, we now know that it is clear that there isn't one worker organization, not one union, not one member of any organization that works on behalf of working people in this province, that supports this legislation. There isn't one. The hearings demonstrated that there is almost complete unanimity on the part of the people who work in this province that this is a step backward -- more than a step; a leap backwards.

I wonder why the government would persist in arguing that it is in fact moving forward when it's clear that as my colleague indicated, it was completely -- I think the term he used was "massacred" in the hearings. I don't understand why the Conservative government is not concerned about the fact that it did not get any support. I heard someone say there was a little less vitriol expressed about the government's intentions in Ottawa as compared to some of the other places, but --

Mr Pouliot: My chamber of commerce.

Mr Wildman: The chamber of commerce. I'm glad the chamber of commerce came and expressed its views, but what about the fact that this is a bill that the government purports to assist workers and there wasn't one worker or one organization that represents workers or works on behalf of workers that had anything good to say about this bill? I don't understand that. How is it the government is ignoring that unanimity?

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Further questions or comments?

Mr Pouliot: I thank you very kindly, Madame la Présidente. It's only my 12th year. By any stretch of the imagination it's not an extremely long tenure. What I am about to convey to you without bias or prejudice speaks of eloquence, of sincerity from the heart, and words come easily to my distinguished colleague the member for Hamilton Centre. It's easy; he's not faking sincerity. He tells it like it is. Those are the circles he treads. He's not extremely wealthy or consequential. Like members of our caucus, he's a person of moderate means, a person who treads the circles of union halls and respects their roots.

What is about to be done here is government by meat cleaver with an attitude systematically and deliberately taking a shot at the less fortunate, at workers, at your neighbours. My friends, you're fighting on too many fronts and you shall carry the guilt; mark my words. The sooner you can make a difference between Progressive Conservative and Reform, the better off you'll be individually and politically. You have scared the living daylights out of seniors. You're about to close hospitals. You're about to hand over as a tradeoff an additional 5% to make it 30%, in the end for people who need it the least, and the cost will be the human dimension.

Shame. I wish I could wish you well, but my friend has said it better than I can in his presentation and I thank him. Beware. They're coming in hordes to seek social justice.

Mr Christopherson: I want to thank my colleagues from Algoma and Lake Nipigon. I think all members will appreciate it's considered high flattery to have the member for Lake Nipigon say that he thinks you made a good speech. In terms of someone who finds words coming easily and eloquently, I don't think you're surpassed by anyone. I thank you for your comments.

I want to take a minute, since it's interesting that the government members chose to take a pass on this. There is an opportunity for them to take a two-minute shot in response, and usually they are quite eager to do so. It's curious that they all took a pass. Whatever could it mean?

In closing -- this is normally where one would respond to those shots -- let me say I think it's an important indication, as my colleague from Lake Nipigon has pointed out, that the overwhelming number of presentations in each community, sometimes by 80% or 90%, were opposed to this, but it's significant that you couldn't muster up more support for your side of the argument.

We all know that when you have public hearings the intent is, as political parties, to have your point of view confirmed. You do that, hopefully, through the kinds of witnesses who come in. It's important that not only are workers and their representatives, some union, some non-union, unanimous in their opposition to this and in their belief that it takes away rights of workers, it's also important to note that you couldn't muster up people to come out and defend your bill.

You certainly managed to get them when you attacked our Bill 40, when we were giving workers' rights, but now that you need someone to defend your attack on workers' rights you could hardly muster a soul. It's really easy to see why. They felt ashamed to try to defend your record.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): First I'd like to ask permission, as per agreement of the House leaders, that the following people and myself share the 90-minute lead, though it won't be 90 minutes, I assure you. It will be Caplan, the member for Oriole, Sergio, the member for Yorkview and Pupatello, the member for Windsor-Sandwich, sharing the time with me.

The Acting Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Bradley: As I indicated, we don't expect to take the full amount of time, because we're on third reading now. Third reading really consists of why the government should not proceed to third reading and with third reading of the bill, and I would like to suggest why the government would not do so.

First of all I think we have to look a bit at the recent labour history of this province and why I think it is an unhealthy atmosphere. The agenda was set in the first fall session of the present administration when the government brought in Bill 7 and without very much consultation, with minimal consultation, without public hearings of any significant extent, rammed it through the Legislature. I must say that since then and since Bill 26, the omnibus bill, the huge bill that contained changes to about 45, 46, 47 different acts, the government has now I think recognized the importance of doing some additional consulting and having things go out to committee. If you want to know why labour was immediately so offended, it was because the government did not even consult. I'm not suggesting, to be realistic, that labour would have embraced the changes that were contemplated in the first labour bill that came forward from the government. It's very unlikely that would be the case.

However, I do think it's important that you hear from all sides when these issues come forward. What I'm concerned about is that dialogue is not taking place. If you said to virtually anybody in this province, "Does the Employment Standards Act need updating; does it need a public review?" I can't think of anybody who wouldn't say, "Yes, it does from time to time, to reflect the changing circumstances in the province."

Nevertheless what we have seen in terms of labour legislation is a complete rescinding of that which was brought forward by the previous government and replacing it with legislation that removes all those protections for working people in the province and at the same time adds items that are not favourable to labour.

I understand very well that business was not happy with the previous government's legislation. They indicated that during the hearings. The government made some modifications to their legislation, still not to the satisfaction of the people who were opposed to it.

I am somewhat concerned when that happens because I think it brings about a circumstance of continuous confrontation in the province. On the weekend of October 25 and 26 there are going to be major demonstrations taking place in Toronto; in fact on Friday the plans of many groups, labour being in the forefront, are in essence to bring the city of Toronto somewhat to a standstill.

This has not happened in years gone by. When Premier Davis was in power he would consult with labour groups, he would talk on a one-to-one basis with people, he would try to understand the viewpoints of all and then he would bring forward legislation. But that was the Progressive Conservative Party, that was not the Reform Party in power at the time. Now that we have the Reform Party in power at Queen's Park, we don't have that kind of consultation.

When the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Davis sat on that side not everybody on this side, from the Liberals and NDP, agreed with everything they did by any means. We fulfilled our responsibilities as Her Majesty's loyal opposition to point out the deficiencies in government policies, and the government members, as is their responsibility, defended those policies.

What I want to indicate to you is how important it was for Premier Davis to set up a consultation process. In fact, some of the pieces of legislation which people in labour considered to be progressive were a result of the Progressive Conservative government of William Davis. Some members of the opposition will tell you that Premier Davis was prepared to bring forward legislation with which labour sometimes disagreed, but sometimes with which labour found itself in agreement. His government did it only after significant consultation.

What we see now in the province is confrontation on a continual basis and a polarization taking place that I don't think is healthy for the province. If you want to pick a fight, you can pick a fight; there's no doubt about it. Sometimes if you're trying to appeal to a certain segment of the population, then it is very helpful to pick that fight politically, because it entrenches your position with those who believe that labour should be put down on every occasion.

But there are a lot of moderate, middle-of-the-road people out there, some of them in business, who look and say that it's not healthy for the province to have this continual confrontation. "We want some changes," they will say and they will look forward to a government to make the changes, but they won't look for the government to move so far to the other end of the spectrum that it's going to bring about continuous confrontation in the province.

We're always going to have people on either side -- I understand that -- who are the most radical, who will not be satisfied, if they're on the right wing or the left wing, with legislation that's brought forward, or policy changes or regulations. But you will find that many of the rank and file particularly and those who have had to work in the milieu of labour relations can be accommodated -- not always to their full satisfaction, but accommodated. Second, what's important is that people feel they have at least been heard, they've had their chance, their day in court to make their presentation. What happened with Bill 7 previously was that this didn't happen.

There has been some more consultation in this case through the hearing process, a rather extensive hearing process. As has been mentioned already by a previous speaker, that did not bring about unanimity by any means. Most of the people, at least from the labour end of things, I think all of them, expressed dissatisfaction with this legislation.

I know the government members have said that they have this in Saskatchewan and in British Columbia, where you have NDP governments, or other places where you have Liberal governments. They've noted that and said, "Don't you realize this is simply in synchronization with those provinces?" However, you have to look at this bill in the context of the previous legislation that the government brought in to see why labour sees this as yet another kick in the teeth to those who are involved in organized labour.

I guess not every aspect of this bill is contentious. There may be -- there are -- portions of this bill with which you would find some agreement, a good consensus. But there are parts of the bill also that are certainly not supportable by a large segment of the population.

The changes to the act should be aimed at giving greater protection to the most vulnerable workers in the province. These amendments do not do that. Those who are involved with organized labour who have strong unions representing them ordinarily are able, through the collective bargaining process and through the levers of power they have at hand, to bring about a collective agreement that is satisfactory. We see this happening all the time. Sometimes there is a strike that takes place, and that's almost inevitable in certain circumstances, but in the overwhelming number of cases you find that collective agreements are reached with a minimum of fuss and bother in terms of public confrontation.

That has to always be pointed out in this province, how many collective agreements are reached at the bargaining table, are ratified by the workers, are ratified by the employer, and we carry on in the province. Those agreements in recent years have certainly not been as lucrative as they had been in years gone by, because of the economic circumstances we face in the province. That is regrettable for some but certainly understandable in the total context of labour relations in the province.


This bill does not enhance labour relations and it has some aspects that are certainly not going to be supportable by any fair-minded person. Who is going to be in favour of this? I would suspect that Conrad Black will be in favour of this. When I look at some of the things that are happening in the newspapers that are controlled by Conrad Black -- and he now controls over half of the daily newspapers in Canada. I note that on occasion he has said he will not interfere in a newspaper; he's simply there to buy the newspaper. He's not worried about anything else; he's just going to buy the newspaper. There was an article in the Globe and Mail recently, somewhere around October 1 or October 2, in which Conrad Black made rather disparaging remarks about the Southam branch of his empire. You can see that he has the power to carry out the firings that in his own mind he thinks are necessary.

Why you have labour concerned, why you have working people concerned, whether they're organized or unorganized employees in the province, is that they see corporations making unprecedented profits while at the same time shrinking the workforce. They understand very well, though they don't like it -- nobody likes it -- that there are layoffs when a company is losing a lot of money or when there's a general recession. Nobody likes that, but they understand it. What is difficult for most people in this province, including me, to accept is that a company makes unprecedented profits and then casts employees out into the street because somehow it enhances that company's position on the stock market. It causes a blip in the stock market, not sustained ordinarily, but it does cause the stock market to rise. Some of the corporate executives, since they are paid in part on that basis, find that they're better off if the stock rises. If this can be attained, despite the high profits, by throwing workers out into the streets, they seem to proceed with that.

I don't think most people want to see that happen. It's happening in the public sector, it's happening in the private sector, but it's happening extremely drastically. That's where the fear is. Right now we have a fight going on, or let's say a confrontation, in legal terms, between General Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers. You'll notice that the main matter of contention this time is not necessarily benefits and salaries and wages; what employees are concerned about now is security of jobs, and in this case contracting out. They are justifiably concerned about that.

In my own city of St Catharines, General Motors, just a few years ago, employed close to 10,000 people. Today they employ about 5,300 people in St Catharines. As a result of the negotiations by the union and the company, a lot of those people -- probably close to all of the people -- left with some kind of buyout package or bridge to pension, because that's what the CAW worked for, that's what Local 199 worked for in St Catharines. A lot of the people were accommodated that way; not everybody, but a lot of the people were accommodated that way.

If you looked at it, you'd say, "Well, people weren't hurt that badly." They were, in fact, because they were not allowed to carry on at their place of employment. But as important, those people look at the daughters and sons and where they are going to work. We also look, as a community, at the fact that with those people making a good wage and having good benefits at General Motors in St Catharines, they were able to spend money on goods and services in our community, and indeed in our province and our country. That helped buoy the economy, that helped to improve the economy, because these people were making those kinds of investments. When we go down to 5,300, we find it has a very significant impact on the community. There are also many suppliers of General Motors in our community and other communities, and their jobs diminish as we see a reduction in the workforce. If anyone wonders why workers are prepared to walk the picket lines in many instances today, it's because of their worry about the jobs being lost.

In Brantford -- someone will correct me if I'm wrong -- there was a TRW closing that took place, with several hundred workers losing their jobs in that case. I know the member for Brantford and others would be concerned when that happens in the community, not only concerned for those people -- of course, we are and should be -- but also for the impact on other employees and other businesses. In terms of labour relations, that's what the discussions are about today.

In my own community, as a result of the collective bargaining that took place last time, we saved some 800 jobs. That is, the CAW went to General Motors and said: "As part of the collective agreement, the axle plant on Ontario Street in St Catharines, which employs some 800 people, will stay open. That's what we want in the agreement." General Motors wanted to sell that off and then purchase from someone else. There was an accommodation made which was acceptable to General Motors and to the CAW, and as a result those 800 jobs were preserved. Once again those 800 jobs are on the line. That is of great concern to me when I see that happening.

I mentioned the newspaper business and what's happening there. This tends to concern me very much because I see -- I don't know how our labour laws can deal with this but I know that competition laws might deal with it -- that one person is accumulating most of the newspapers in this country. I don't care who that person is or what that person's views happen to be: That is not healthy. In principle that is not healthy, when one person controls those newspapers.

Mr Conrad Black, who has had considerable experience in the newspaper business, is a person who has been successful in being able to gain control, not only of Hollinger corporation but through Hollinger and now the buying of shares in Southam, the Southam chain as well.

What are some of the things that have happened? One of the things that has happened that is quite obvious is that we've lost Canadian Press, or at least a portion of Canadian Press. It has survived but it has survived with considerable downsizing. There may be some people in this world who think that's great and would applaud that. I think of the individuals who lose their jobs as a result. I think of the significant role that Canadian Press has played -- and I see people from various communities here -- in bringing us together because those stories come out of the communities and we share them.

I'm often interested in what's happening, for instance, in New Brunswick or Newfoundland or the riding of Durham East and other places. Canadian Press used to bring that together; it represented an opportunity to do that. Canadian Press has been cut back considerably, and as a result we see a concentration of power.

Conrad Black said that he wasn't going to interfere in the papers, that he simply wants to run the business end of things. Of course, the editorials, we still have those people; we still have our writers and so on. We'll have that kind of freedom. In the university milieu, the educational milieu, they will say that's academic freedom. In this case, it would be freedom to express their views.

But now we have a circumstance where I read the following quote from Mr Black. He says, "We're going to try and recruit the very best people we can and produce the best papers we can, and publish them to the highest standards we can." Nobody would disagree with that. Everybody would like to see that happen. I'm sure people working at the newspaper say, "That's great, because that will help ensure our success."

However -- the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale is waiting for the "however" and the continuation of this quote -- he goes on to say, "And that means separating news from comment, assuring a reasonable variety of comment, and not just the overwhelming avalanche of soft, left, bland, envious pap which has poured like sludge through the centre pages of most of the Southam papers for some time."

If that isn't direct interference by one of the richest men in Canada, who now owns more than half the daily newspapers in this country, I don't know what is, and the other people they have who now order people.

I notice that Joan Fraser, who was the editor of the Montreal Gazette, had to leave the job, was invited to leave or certainly wasn't welcome to stay there, because Conrad Black wasn't satisfied with her views.

I see recently that Jim Travers, who has had a long history in terms of his involvement with newspapers, at the Ottawa Citizen was fired out the door or at least he found himself compelled to resign as a result of the kind of interference that was forthcoming. Today the editorial page editor, I believe, was given his pink slip. That concerns me greatly. Peter Calamai, who was the Ottawa Citizen's editorial page editor, I believe, was heading down the pathway.

This is not healthy. I know some of the members on the government side -- not all -- are in full agreement with Conrad Black's views on how this country should be run.


I must say, my own newspaper now -- everyone will be surprised that the St Catharines Standard now carries Barbara Amiel's column, now that it's a Southam paper. That is certainly going to add immeasurably to the capacity of that newspaper to broaden the point of view that it brings forward. Of course, Andrew Coyne, who could never be considered to be a raving left-winger, has been added as a columnist, as well as Giles Gherson. So what we're seeing is a movement to the right because the owner is moving them all to the right. There is direct interference and it's not healthy.

In Toronto we have three newspapers. We have the Toronto Sun, which has often reflected the viewpoint of the Conservative Party and people know that and I'm sure the government members are quite happy. The Toronto Star has on a number of occasions reflected the viewpoint of the Liberal Party, from time to time. But here we have --


Mr Bradley: Not always, but from time to time. But here we have a situation where one individual, Conrad Black, is now taking over most of the papers in Canada and is imposing his views through his editorial writers and others on those newspapers.

It says in this article by Doug Saunders in the Globe and Mail, October 2, about Mr Black: "Even as he insisted repeatedly that he would take a hands-off approach to the editorial content of the newspapers, Black excoriated the views and opinions that he feels have come to dominate their pages.

"He has no interest in banishing such views outright from his papers' pages, he says; rather, `I do object to them being put in the role of hijacking an entire chain of newspapers and virtually asphyxiating any other source of comment or the other perspective.'"

I would say that we're going to see some considerable interference by Conrad Black in those newspapers and I am extremely concerned about that.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): Why don't you buy it?

Mr Bradley: The member over there says, "Why don't you buy it?" Of course, I don't have the financial resources that Mr Black has.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Bradley: But I know there are many others who -- and I don't object, by the way, to Mr Black owning some newspapers. I just think it's unhealthy that he owns the overwhelming majority of daily newspapers in this country because I don't think that is very well done.

I should include in this what happened, because I know a lot of my friends on the other side of the House say, "Well, you know, you should let the market forces dictate this." This is what you look forward to. Let me tell you how it happened. John Miller of the Toronto Star is writing and he says, "When the dust cleared, one man" -- this is when Conrad Black took over his many newspapers.

"The month of May has turned the Canadian newspaper industry upside down. Owners have dealt 100-year-old papers like playing cards. Publishers and editors have been fired. And cost cutting is threatening the existence of one of our most important national news institutions -- the Canadian Press.

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

So that's how that happened. It didn't happen in open bidding. It happened behind closed doors. You people usually talk about that. And here we are, an individual taking over and now dominating the newspaper business in this country. There are a lot of people who don't think that's healthy. I don't think it is. The member for Brampton South, whose views are right of -- who could I say? -- Genghis Khan on some occasions, at least in my opinion --

Mr Baird: Me, me. Right of me, Jim.

Mr Bradley: Right even of the member for Nepean, whose views are right wing.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I think he's right of Preston Manning.

Mr Bradley: Preston Manning would be a moderate in that caucus these days when I hear him speak.

He may like what has happened in this regard. I do not like what has happened and I think it's unhealthy for this country.

You ask, how does this possibly associate itself with this bill? You were wondering how I could tie it together with this bill. I haven't touched the tax cut. I promised I wouldn't get too far into the tax cut. It has touched the bill because I'm telling you that this is the kind of person who will support this legislation and who will be calling for more legislation of this kind in the future.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this bill. We will be voting against the bill, because we have found provisions in it that aren't in keeping with what we believe to be in the best interests of this province. I don't think this government has been balanced in its viewpoint in terms of labour-management negotiations. This bill will go over big in the Albany Club. I can assure you that they will be toasting it with the special Albany Club product that has been provided, I'm told, to people who frequent the Albany Club.

I want to thank the member across for that gift of Albany Club wine that has been provided. On a special occasion, it will certainly be cracked open, I hope in some case when this government brings forward legislation which is more progressive than others. It is a Canadian wine, I'm assured of that, because I don't imagine that we could have anything else other than a Canadian wine.

Anyway, I do welcome the opportunity to be able to speak ever so briefly on this bill. It is the third reading. I hope that the government backbenchers will ambush the Minister of Labour and the person who really runs the province, the Premier, and suggest that this bill be withdrawn and that the more offensive aspects of it be taken out. I will not be holding my breath until that happens; however, where there is life there is hope, and hope is eternal.

Mrs Caplan: I am pleased to rise and participate in the third reading debate of this bill, the Employment Standards Improvement Act. I have to tell you that my first criticism of this bill and many of the others that have been brought forward by the government is of the titles that it chooses. I think the titles of bills should actually reflect the content of bills. I also think that they are designed for the political spin or the hit, if you will, of the young whiz kids often referred to by my colleague the member for St Catharines, who spoke very eloquently on this bill. I share some of the concerns he has.

I'm not sure that this bill in any way improves employment standards; in fact, the bill does quite the opposite. Under the guise of administrative and procedural changes, rather than doing what this government says, which is to give promptness and effectiveness and more flexibility, this bill reduces the ability of the province to establish and maintain minimum labour standards.

The test of any government, of any government legislation, and the test that people ultimately will hold you accountable to, is, do you remain true to your principles and are you doing what is the right thing for the province from the perspective of creating an environment where jobs will flourish, where business and investment will come? If you were looking very simplistically, you might say, "This is going to be good for business, because by lowering and reducing the ability to maintain minimum standards, that's going to be good for business."


But I say to the members opposite and to the government and to the people who are watching this debate that what creates a good climate for investment and job creation -- and that is a priority for me and for our caucus and should be the priority for this government -- is a climate of labour stability, of good labour-management relations. I don't think this bill promotes that. Certainly, when people look at this legislation, their reaction is going to be, "How does this bill affect me?" My constituents in Oriole, when they call me and hear me speak to an issue, one of the questions they ask me is: "How does this bill affect me? Does it have any impact on me?" My answer to people about Bill 49, which is before us today, is that if you work and have a job, or if you ever want a job, this bill will have an impact on you.

If you are a member of a union, the truth is that your union will fight to protect you via collective bargaining. That's their function and their role. But we know that the overwhelming majority of people who work in this province are not members of unions. They will not have the protections they had prior to the passage of this bill, because this bill ultimately will have a greater effect on unorganized labour than it will on organized labour, simply because they don't have that collective will to sit down and negotiate.

This government has said, when it argues that this is a good bill, that this will give greater simplicity and promptness and effectiveness in the enforcement of labour standards acts and that it will produce more flexibility in the resolution of complaints and greater self-reliance of the workplace parties. If the workplace parties are business and organized labour, labour and management in a large employer, I would argue this might not have a huge impact. Where it will have a huge impact on individual employees is in the unorganized workplace, and even in the organized workplace my concern is that we will over time, because of the theory that unless you've got somebody setting a basic minimum standard and adhering to that, see a dilution of the kind of employment standards that Ontario has been famous for. It's a good place to work. We have good employment standards.

We've seen this government turn back the clock on labour legislation. Frankly and honestly, I stood in this House and objected to the labour legislation that was brought forward by the NDP government because I felt that it tilted too far in favour of labour. I would argue, and I have stood in this House and argued, that the labour legislation that the Conservative government brought in did not improve the climate for investment and opportunity because it tilted too far in favour of management and business. What creates the best environment for workers, for people who want to create jobs and see jobs created, is to have balance in your labour legislation so that business and labour can come to the table as equals to solve those problems.

As a member of a Liberal government, I was very proud of the fact that Ontario was seen as a community and a province where we had labour stability, where everyone recognized that no one had an edge, that you didn't have a government that favoured one side or the other. The view was that when the NDP government came in it gave away the shop to organized labour, and the Conservative government has given away the shop to big business. I guess that's because you have those two different ideologies and those two extremes.

I don't think this legislation does anything to improve employment standards. It doesn't do anything to help the average worker in the province. I don't think it is supportable and I wonder why it is even before us when the ministry has announced that it's doing a comprehensive overhaul of the Employment Standards Act that is expected to be completed in early 1997 with new legislation introduced.

The answer to that question of why this is before us is a simple one, and that is because this bill is about cuts. The bill that is brought forward is expected to achieve savings in the neighbourhood of 26.6% in the employment practices operations expenditure line in the provincial budget. Is that a good thing? My own view is that there may be opportunities for legitimate savings but I worry when you get cuts of this magnitude happening that quickly and legislation that is driven by a fiscal agenda of cuts to pay for the big tax cut of this government.

What they seem to be doing is cutting and hacking and slashing and thinking about the implications afterwards. I think that's the case with this legislation. I think taken together with all of the other things that this government is doing, and taken with the fiscal agenda of this government, it closes the door on what is really needed. What is really needed is an open public review of the Employment Standards Act.

We in the Liberal caucus would welcome that. We think that is appropriate, it is reasonable, that you need real consultation on matters that are going to affect individuals in the workplace. Because the goal of our society is to create jobs, to give people the opportunity to have the dignity of work. Let me tell you that employment standards are all about dignity in the workplace, because without employment standards you get exploitation. I don't think there is anybody in this province who wants to see us revert to the employment standards of the Third World. And I'm not suggesting this bill would do that, but what I am saying is that this bill does nothing to maintain the present employment standards environment which we have in place which is fair and balanced and reasonable and requires enforcement, because when you see cuts of this magnitude, you'd better believe that what they're cutting is the enforcement mechanisms that are in place to ensure that employment standards are maintained in unorganized workplaces.

That's what this is about. I have real concerns about that, because I think that creates an environment where business takes a second look, where jobs may not be created that would otherwise be created, and where employees are then open to exploitation by unscrupulous and bad employers. Are all employers unscrupulous and bad? No, of course not. In fact, we have always prided ourselves on the fact that we have good employment practices generally in Ontario. Why? Did it just happen? We hear horror stories of the sweatshops that are being uncovered in jurisdictions of the United States. Why do they flourish? Because there is nobody out there enforcing employment standards to a limit, I guess is the word, that we would have always expected and contemplated in Ontario. We haven't heard those horror stories and I hope we never do. But I fear that as we go down that American road and bring our standards in line with our neighbours to the south, which means not raising them, it means lowering them, we in fact place our workers in jeopardy and we open Ontario, not to good business and new jobs and a flourishing economic environment. I worry that we open Ontario to those folks who would come here and realize that they have a new ability to exploit our workers.

I worry about that, because part of our quality of life here in Ontario is because of the foundation that has been built over the years of the balance in labour relations and labour-management practices and employment standards, occupational health and safety -- all of those things where governments in the past have realized that we in fact have a role.


My worry, and the last word I'm going to say on this, is one of the reasons that I so fundamentally disagree with the Harris government, with this ultra-conservative government, that their view of what government's role is fundamentally differs from mine. If I were to explain it simplistically, I would say that my friends in the NDP, and I don't think they would disagree with this analogy, believe that government has a role in just about every aspect of life in Ontario. I don't believe that, but I do believe that government has a role in facilitating and ensuring that our quality of life is maintained and enhanced. And I'm not prepared to say government has a role in everything, but what you hear from the Conservatives is they truly believe that government has a limited role, and if they could eliminate government's role they would.

So we are seeing the government being warned by the Provincial Auditor and by the Environmental Commissioner that they're going too far when it comes to the environment. And they are. We had a Minister of Environment fired, and I think she was fired because she told the truth. She believed that this government's out-of-your-face attitude is something people should say out loud and talk about, and because she did that, she was fired. Instead of the platitudes and the rhetoric of, "Don't worry, everything will be fine and everything will be well," former minister Brenda Elliott, I think, told the truth about this government's agenda, which is to get government out of everything that they can possibly get out of.

My worry about changes to the Employment Standards Act is that while there may be some parts of this act that are worthy or meritorious, it is a reflection of a government that wants out. And we'll be watching very carefully to see what is the next thing that they bring forward.

I will not be supporting this bill because this, along with the other things that this government is doing, takes us down a very slippery road of diminishing the important protections that workers and business need in order to have a stable climate for investment and job creation.

I am not questioning this government's motives; I am questioning their competence and I am also questioning their approach to doing business. A piecemeal approach to changes in employment standards is unacceptable to me as the member for a working-class riding, people who work and who need the protection of good employment standards in the province of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): In the time that I have been allotted I want to add my voice and my contribution to this particular bill, Bill 49, as it concerns a very important sector in our industry, and that is the workers of Ontario.

The intent of the law is quite clear. It is not to offer more protection to the workplace, the work environment or the workers in Ontario; it is to bring the already very low standards to the bare minimum and give whatever power is left that would create a fair balance, totally tilting it to the side of the employer.

I think we have a major problem when unionized workers find it so difficult to maintain some of their rights, some of their protections that they now enjoy within the workplace. I think it's another story when it comes to the unorganized workers. I wonder who's going to speak for them. That's, I think, where the government should really look into the situation here. If organized workers find it very difficult to protect their rights, their working conditions, their future, their jobs, I wonder what's going to happen to the unorganized labour.

I don't want to sensitize the issue and I don't want to raise the ire of my colleagues on the other side, but when we see headlines like this saying, "Province Braces for Chaos," I think if it does -- I don't think it will; I think the Chair of Management Board is quite wrong when he says that the day of the 25th is going to be chaos and confrontation.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Liberal leadership.

Mr Sergio: Well, it's not leadership, or it's not the Liberal leadership; I think it's you people who are causing the situation that we see in the workplace over there. If there is a crisis, if there is a confrontation, it's because of your actions, it's what you're doing. Yes, sir. Because my community, it's highly a very hardworking working-class people and they resent how you are introducing, how you are approving the laws, continuing to erode whatever protection they have left in the workplace.

We have seen this, not with this particular piece of legislation, but just for the information of my colleagues on the other side, because I think they have a very short memory, we have already seen it with the devastation of Bill 7, the so-called Labour Relations and Employment Statute Law Amendment Act; with Bill 8, the Job Quotas Repeal Act; with Bill 15, the Workers' Compensation and Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act. We have seen it already so no wonder the workers out there are in a total panic; no wonder the Chairman of Management Board says we're going to see panic and chaos.

The workers out there are in a panic because they continually have a government that continues to pick on whatever is left of their protection, continues to pick on the workers. It doesn't pick on the big people. It doesn't pick on the big corporations. It picks on the small people, on those who are defenceless, on those who are not capable of defending themselves. Unfortunately, the government is supposed to be defending those particular people, and the government is not.

I have read some of the presentations the bill received while travelling in Ontario in the very brief time the government allowed for some input from the various individuals and organized groups. Let me say what is the concern with most of the workers out there, with our working force, with our people: If there is one thing they are mostly concerned about it is the working conditions they are afraid will be imposed upon them by employers.

I think my colleague from Oriole said it before: Not all employers are bad. We have a lot of good people, a lot of good employers up there. But what protection does an employee have when he or she is forced to work on evenings or on weekends for the same pay? It's either you do it or you're out. This piece of legislation gives the power, the authority to the employer to do exactly that.

On the surface, it may not say very much. On the surface, it may not mean very much. But I wonder what it does to the morale of those workers, those individuals, those single parents, mothers or fathers. There are no more after-hours programs. There aren't any because of cuts. The fear that we are instilling in those workers says: "Hey, look, if we say you have to work until 8 o'clock tonight or work on the weekends, it's up to you, but if you don't, you're gone, and you do it under the same conditions and at the same pay."

What happens to a single mother or a single father? The kids are waiting and there is nobody to look after them. Where are they going to go? Ah yes, the government is thinking of putting in slot machines so they can kill their time. Isn't that a nice idea? That's where we are going to send our kids after hours when employers force employees to work overtime, extra hours and on weekends, under the same conditions.

I have met quite a few employees who are working in terrible conditions in factories, doing very heavy work, dirty work, work that is not suited for a woman, but they are enduring it because there is nothing else out there. They are working more hours, enduring whatever the conditions are within the workplace because there is nothing else out there.

That's what it's all about. But more than that, the bill is supposed to offer better conditions, more protection. I think the intent of this particular bill is quite clear. The intent of this particular bill is to chop down another 26.6% or something like $12 million or $14 million from the employment practice operation expenditure. It doesn't care about providing more protection for the workers of Ontario.


This piece of legislation as it now exists -- unfortunately, we are at third reading and I think we are at the end of the road with it. The government side seems to intend to ram it through, as they did with many other bills. It's set, because they don't see the negative impact this is going to have on the workers of Ontario. I would have hoped, because they keep on saying, "We want to listen to the people and do what the people say," that by now, at third reading, they would have said, "We'd like to change some things and make it really better, make it really good for the people." But what the bill is proposing is, I'm afraid, what is going to be approved.

It is the rights, it is the benefits that are being curtailed, and it's something the government eventually is going to be held responsible for.

They have cut the employment standards officers from some 150 to about 100. They have cut the time an employee now has to make a claim and stuff like that. The benefits have been cut. I'm asking the government, what are the benefits of this particular bill? How is this going to improve the working conditions of our employees?

My time is coming to a close. I'd like to leave my presentation on third reading, and the members on the other side of the House, with this particular touch, and hopefully on Monday when we decide to vote on this matter they may have some second thoughts and hopefully bring some changes -- I'm always hopeful -- but I want to leave them with this: The scale is tilting totally in favour of the employer and not the employees. Unfortunately, the employees will pay for the contents of this bill. There is no balance and there is no fairness. As such, I have to say, as my colleague said before, we can't support it. I hope the government side, when it comes on Monday for final approval, will have second thoughts and will have in mind the workers of Ontario.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I am pleased to stand today to speak to this bill. I had the opportunity to travel while this bill was being heard, and in particular I was interested in the kinds of representations that were made in the city of Windsor. The PA to the minister will well remember that day. We had an enormous number of people who came, who listened, who presented. We had a couple of people who were supportive of the bill -- government plants, we like to call them. It's difficult to find some of them in our town, though, you must admit. Nevertheless, we did have some, and we were certainly anxious to hear all sides when the bill on employment standards was being discussed. As our colleague from Ottawa says, always enthusiastically, "In Windsor, everything they do is ever with enthusiasm."

I really was interested to see what they were going to say, because clearly we all heard from the outset -- in fact we spoke in this House on this bill during second reading and I was talking about what the real priorities of the government should be.

When we talked about employment standards, I wanted to talk about the portables in LaSalle and the employment standards that are expected of more and more teachers across the province teaching in portables like never before. The number of portables in schools is on the rise. I brought pictures into the House and I showed pictures of the schools in LaSalle, the portables, holes in the floor. They couldn't believe we had portables of this nature, and we certainly do. Why did we have that? Because the Minister of Education imposed a capital moratorium on spending which was forcing boards to double-spend their money. Instead of going forward with already authorized expenditures for schools where we desperately needed them in high-growth areas, what they did instead was say, "No, you can't build that," which forced school boards to spend, in this case, in my county, an additional $200,000 for additional portables, because it was in areas of high growth, and is today. What will eventually happen is a school will have to be built, so what will our board have to do? They'll have to spend that money again. I see that as completely wasteful and it just points to the kind of priorities set by government that really don't make any sense, let alone any common sense. So we did talk about that, then. Teachers shouldn't have to teach in portables, period, but they're ever on the rise because of this government's policies.

Then we talked about other areas that really should be the priority of government, and health care clearly is one of those things. Members on the other side of the House have heard oftentimes about the issues with doctors in my community, that we have pregnant women who are in urgent need of care, and that we have women at risk who are pregnant who simply are not getting prenatal care. The minister comes running out to the press like a young boy bursting out of the doors just before the bell rings all excited, to announce a clinic, because we're going to have a clinic as a solution for pregnant women in Windsor. The reality is it had yet to be drawn up, we still didn't have details and yes, he let the cat out of the bag too early and in fact only showed a display to the negotiators at the table with the Ministry of Health and the OMA that indeed the minister was not bargaining in good faith, he has no intentions of moving forward in good faith in negotiation with doctors to settle it once and for all and is only looking for more Band-Aid solutions to very critical issues that must be addressed today. So instead, we're sitting here in the middle of October discussing third reading of the Employment Standards Act.

Should the act be updated? Absolutely. The act is old and it needs to be revised. In fact, most acts ought to be a dynamic thing, where they're constantly reviewed and updated, and that certainly is the same with this bill. It does do that in some instances, but the government went far beyond that in the changes it made and certainly showed its true colours when it looks at the effects it will have on workers and in particular, as has been mentioned by my Liberal colleagues and our friends next door, the standards of change that will impact negatively on non-unionized workers, of which there are many. Even in a community like mine, which is perceived as a heavily unionized town, only 38% of our workforce in fact is unionized. That leaves a great number of people in my area without a union.

In many union contracts, standards are certainly written into them, which brings me to my next point. So clearly does this eliminate and lower standards in the workplace that just recently, with the contract that was settled between Chrysler Canada and the CAW, both sides were very -- in fact did a terrific job at negotiating the very standards that are being removed by this government. They wrote them into the contract and Chrysler Canada agreed and showed great leadership. Chrysler Canada is doing very well; they're a very profitable firm and they have very good management, very sound management.

Why would Chrysler Canada agree in negotiation with the CAW to write in employment standards that are being removed by this government? Clearly, they know that's because it makes good business sense. Certainly, our hats go off to the negotiators on the CAW side, who recognize that they need to protect their workers, that they want to be sure that what this Harris government intends to do to workers of Ontario is simply not on with the CAW. Our hats go off to Buzz Hargrove for his hard work during that, and our hats go off to the team of negotiators on behalf of Chrysler Canada, who keep thousands of people working in my community and in many communities across Ontario. I think that's a very clear indicator that the business community and the labour community recognize that what this current government is doing to employment standards is, simply put, bad for business. We're happy to see that kind of negotiation happen in a very successful way.


Let me tell you one particular aspect of the bill that does have some great concerns for me; that is the privatization of collections for employees who are owed wages by companies. I think it's pretty serious. Of course, it goes in line with the rest of the government mantra about privatizing and everything is better when it's done privately, but sometimes that just simply is not the case. In this case, collecting workers' wages by a private agency I just don't think is appropriate. For one, the employee, as it's written in this current bill, has to consent to do so. Well, when you are a worker and you're owed wages, I would say you're under considerably more duress than the employer might be to have to consent, to what? To accepting less in wages simply to get something at all, because they realize that they certainly aren't going to be in a position to wait out the period to collect the fees, so the worker will be under considerable duress to sign and agree to get any percentage of wages at all. For us as a government in Ontario to agree and indeed pass a bill like this that includes the privatization of collections which allows only 75% of wages owing to eventually be paid to a worker, again, is simply not on. I can't see that any members would agree with that.


Mrs Pupatello: Our member from Ottawa is telling me to hurry along. When I'm making a significant valued point on behalf of employees, I think it's imperative that we get specifically to the point. In fact, let's look at what that area is: "A collector may agree to a compromise or settlement with the person who owes the money...if the person to whom the money is owed agrees in writing to the compromise." How could a worker not compromise when he's faced with no money at all or just a portion of the money? Now, what do you think he's going to do? Of course he's going to have to agree to take less than he's owed.

Let's move on: "The collector shall not agree to a compromise or settlement of an amount owed under the act if" he'd receive less than 75%. What happens to the other 25%? Did the worker not genuinely work for the other 25% and is he not really entitled to that money?

I put that very question to the chamber of commerce in my community, who was represented there on the day we did the hearings. Our friend Mr Baird will remember this well. I put the situation on the other foot for this representative and I said, "Now, if one of your member agencies subcontracts work to another firm who then does work" -- let's take the construction industry -- "and subcontracts to a painting company who comes in and does a contract of painting for a firm, after the work is done is there any situation that seems reasonable at all that the subtracted firm could ever be paid only 75% of what work it already did?" "Absolutely not." If the principle holds true that for firms who are subcontracted to other firms under any circumstances it wouldn't be allowable or reasonable that a subcontracted firm would be allowed only 75% of the work that's already been done, how can this government put forward a bill that actually entitles an employer to pay only 75% of the wages owed to an employee?

I mean, the principle must hold true, and I would really ask members of the House to consider what really is fair. Every time I look at what bills come forward from this government I really do look at what is fair, and what's fair for everyone involved. It's just not fair that workers should work and be in a position not to be able to argue -- may have to sign on the dotted line to receive some of the moneys owed, because they are the ones who are going to be under stress and under financial constraint and the company walks away only paying 75% of what it truly owes their employee.

That's only one example of the area of the bill that came up, certainly during the hearings in my community, but one with which the chamber representative could not answer the question, because they in fact represent companies who have been in that very position. Companies often are not paid for all the work they've been quoted to do and have billed appropriately, and they recognize it's not fair. Likewise, it certainly isn't for the employees either.

During the hearings we also talked about the significant cuts of staffing within the Ministry of Labour and the representatives from government agreed as well that there were significant cuts happening. I would like to know too how the government expects to enforce near the level that it used to enforce when they are cutting the number of inspectors within the ministry. It's very similar and again it's very parallel to what's happening with the Attorney General's office in the family support program. The Attorney General stands up and with glee and with great fanfare he announces hard measures to get those deadbeat dads to pay, and at the same time he shuts down all the regional offices across Ontario, the very people who have the connections to those who pay and those who need to be paid. So on the one hand the government gets all of the kudos for having teeth to go after them, remove their driver's licence etc -- all very well and good; also hardly effective if you don't have the level of staff required to go after the people. All I can tell you is that the same is true in this case, that even if you are trying to establish and enforce guidelines currently and lower, as this bill would certainly make them, we are also under attack in terms of level of service and will have that many fewer inspectors through the ministry who will actually do the work.

If we look at the Provincial Auditor's report that was released earlier this week, they look at the Ministry of Labour. Why didn't the government members look to see what kind of priorities the Provincial Auditor sets out for the Ministry of Labour? In fact they talk about their "Overall Audit Observations" in the area of workplace health and safety:

"To ensure that the health and safety of workers are better protected, the ministry needs to set priorities and monitor the time spent on developing and amending regulations" -- I think they're talking about prioritization there -- "establish a system of risk assessment to identify and target high-risk workplaces for inspection and develop a system for rating the seriousness of violations of the act and regulations and for ensuring that significant problems identified by inspectors are promptly followed up."

How will you ever, come next year and the auditor's report of next year, say you've done better when you have fewer people working there and fewer inspectors to follow up on the kind of violations that do exist, because there are bad employers out there? How are you going to mete this out? The simple answer is, that is not a priority with this government and it certainly should be.

Once again, it's simply a case of a government focusing on that small group of Ontario that is in sync with their very reformist-type thinking, and that is just not the majority in Ontario. Most people in Ontario work for other people, and the government, who must govern for all Ontarians, have an equal responsibility to workers as they do to their employers. This bill is certainly not an example of that, and I join my colleagues in the Liberal Party in voting vehemently against this bill.


Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I have the weekly business statement.

Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of October 21, 1996.

On Monday, October 21, the House will complete second reading of Bill 81.

The business of the House on Tuesday, October 22, is to be determined.

Wednesday, October 23, will be an opposition day standing in the name of the leader of the NDP.

On Thursday, October 24, we will move a motion for interim supply.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Baird: I'm pleased to rise today to speak in favour of Bill 49, An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act. The Employment Standards Act sets out minimum conditions that employers are compelled to provide and that workers have every right to expect.

I think it's worth pointing out that most employers in the province of Ontario not only meet the minimum standards but exceed them. We do set minimums because we as a society decided there should be a certain baseline which no fellow citizen should fall below. We don't want people, too often among the most vulnerable in our society, to be placed in a position where they have to make a decision on whether to accept a job at $2 an hour or to decide as a condition of employment whether they should be working 80 hours a week.

At the outset of this debate, I think it's imperative to be clear on one issue. Not one employment standard is affected by this bill. The minimum wage is untouched, the hours of work are untouched, overtime pay is untouched, public holidays are untouched, vacation provisions are untouched; in fact we have even improved and strengthened the pregnancy and parental leave provisions of the act. Again, not a single standard is changed by this bill. Not one.

Our goal and motivation in proposing this legislation is simple and straightforward. We want to institute legislative changes that will see more workers realize more of their rights under law. The act is not a set of proposed guidelines. All the rights and benefits for vulnerable workers contained in the Employment Standards Act are meaningless if at the end of the day they only serve as a set of high principles.

Workers in Ontario expect more than a lofty set of ideals, and I believe the measures contained in this piece of legislation will allow more workers in Ontario to do more than simply read about their rights; they will allow more workers to actually realize those rights.


As I said earlier, it is important to note that the vast majority of employers follow the Employment Standards Act. However, there are those who would take advantage of their employees, and we can't protect them without the proper tools.

Let's take a look at Bill 49. Bill 49 is primarily about improving the administration and enforcement of the Employment Standards Act. It will also help us focus our resources where they are most needed: to those most vulnerable workers.

One of the key elements of Bill 49 is our proposal to replace the current two-year limitation period for filing a claim with a six-month limitation. This new period is in line with other provinces, such as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. These five provinces, governed by Liberal governments, Progressive Conservative governments and even NDP governments, all ask workers to come forward with a complaint within six months or 180 days. Almost 90% of the claims we receive in the province of Ontario are already filed within six months. We're asking people to come forward within six months because it is often difficult to investigate claims that are brought to our attention years after they occurred.

Those employers who violate the Employment Standards Act are often running a shoestring, fly-by-night operation and could very well be out of business in a few years' time, let alone much less than that. By then, the money is long gone and the workers are out of luck. What we're saying to workers is, "Come forward sooner and we can be of more help."

Bill 49 will also place a $10,000 ceiling on the value of orders that can be issued by employment standards officers on behalf of an individual claimant. Employees who wish to make a claim for more than $10,000 will now be required to use the courts.

I would remind all members that until 1991 there was a $4,000 cap on claims, excluding severance pay. The percentage of individual claims that exceed $10,000 is about 4%. Often, but not in all cases, they involve individuals in management positions.

Unfortunately, removal of the limit on claims in 1991 encouraged employees with large claims to file a complaint with the ministry and pursue separate civil action. This is an unnecessary duplication of effort and a waste of taxpayer money.

Moreover, the 4% of individual cases above the $10,000 limit often take up a disproportionate amount of the ministry's resources because they're generally more complex. We believe our resources must be most focused on helping those most vulnerable workers.

Another key feature of this bill is that employees will have to decide at the outset whether they wish to file an employment standards claim or take the matter to court, because taxpayers have given this government a simple message: Stop the duplication. It seems absolutely crazy to have employment standards officers working on one side of University Avenue on an employment standards claim and then to have both parties right across the street in court on the same issue.

We're leaving a two-week grace period for applicants, after they submit a claim, to obtain legal advice on whether they would like to pursue their options through the courts. This provision is consistent with other provinces, where employees must choose one route or the other.

This legislation enables us to set a minimum claim amount, something that, I would like to point out, we have no plans of instituting at this time. But one presenter pointed out during the public hearings on this bill that it would be somewhat ironic to spend $500 working on a claim for $25.

Other key changes will help employment standards officers work with both employers and employees to resolve complaints before they resort to a time-consuming full-scale investigation. Right now, if an employment standards officer could come to an agreement quickly that both parties would accept, they're not allowed to do it under the legislation. We've got to encourage such processes so workers can get more money sooner.

Bill 49 is also going to lengthen the period in which claimants or employers can appeal decisions on employment standards orders. Right now they have to appeal within 15 days. What we find is that too often we're seeing too many precautionary appeals that waste government resources. The taxpayers don't want that waste.

Bill 49 also clarifies employer rights under the pregnancy and parental leave provisions. The intent of these provisions was to ensure that any entitlement based upon length of service, such as vacation, termination and severance, would continue to accrue during pregnancy and parental leave. However, there were some misinterpretations of this provision by some in the province and we felt it was very important to clarify it. This provision, I should report to the House, received almost unanimous approval around the province of Ontario.

This bill will also require the parties to a collective agreement to be expected to manage the resolution of disputes themselves. Most employment standards complaints in unionized environments are almost always dealt with in-house today.

One presenter from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters told our committee that the ESA does not in any substantial way affect his union because his collective agreement covers virtually everything at a far greater level.

Another presenter in Thunder Bay, from CUPE Local 87, said that his union knows the workplace best, because they're there every day, and reported to the standing committee on resources development that his local was able to collect on 100% of all orders. Impressive indeed.

Mark Klyn, a former steelworker in Algoma, told the committee in Sault Ste Marie, "Large unions are capable of taking care of their own members."

This change will allow the ministry staff to focus their resources on those most in need.

However, the most exciting part of this bill, in my judgement, is the proposal to bring in private collection agencies to recover money owed to workers. Regrettably, we're not doing as good a job as we can do. Right now in the province of Ontario we're only collecting 25 cents on the dollar for workers. That is to say that once a worker is apprised of their rights, after they file a complaint, after that complaint is investigated, after an order is issued, after the appeal period has expired, workers are only receiving 25 cents on the dollar. That's $16 million that the ministry is collecting on orders of some $64 million. We've got to do better than that, and we can.

The previous government attempted to deal with this issue, with no success. In 1993 the previous government disbanded the collections branch within the Ministry of Labour and discharged 10 employees. Employment standards officers were then asked to assume this extra responsibility. In my judgement, an employment standards officer should not be doing anything else but enforcing employment standards, not chasing down dollars from deadbeats.

In all fairness to my colleagues opposite, though, in taking this action I believe the previous government did prove one very important point: The amount of money that you throw at a problem doesn't necessarily guarantee better results. Back in 1993 the collections branch within the ministry was collecting 25 cents on the dollar. Today, three years later, after the collections branch was disbanded, after the previous government cut 351 jobs within the ministry, which is more than $62 million, more than a third of the Ministry of Labour's budget, after all that we're still only collecting 25 cents on the dollar. If throwing money at this problem was the way of getting better results, we would be collecting 150%.

We can and we must do better. I'm confident that the use of professionally trained private sector collection agencies will improve results considerably. As one presenter from OPSEU told the committee, what is lacking right now is a pecuniary interest, a personal interest at the ministry. I am confident that we'll be able to do better for workers in this province.

The bottom line is that workers will get more money in their hands and they will get that money quicker. They will also get it at significantly less cost to the taxpayer, because the important thing to note is that the deadbeat employers are the ones who have to pay the fee for the collection agency. The ironic thing now is that those employers who accept their obligations under the Employment Standards Act and those workers who pay their income tax and who are owed money from a deadbeat employer are the ones who have to pay, and that is an absolutely abysmal circumstance.

In the public hearings we heard that if more orders were actually enforced more people would be likely to pay. We heard that when we travelled to my home community in Ottawa-Carleton where Willy Bagnell, the president of Ottawa-Carleton Board of Trade, told the committee that we'd likely get better compliance if it was taken seriously and believed to be taken seriously.

Let me clearly acknowledge that the current Employment Standards Act, even with the beneficial changes contained in Bill 49, does need a comprehensive overhaul. That's why we're very pleased to see that the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer, the Minister of Labour, has recognized this fact and has acknowledged that a full-scale review of the act will be undertaken this fall. I'm pleased to report that she has already invited consultations with both labour and business representatives on the development of a draft discussion paper that will be released this fall.

I'm pleased to report to this Legislature that the ministry has made great progress by vigorously dealing with the backlog of cases. Last year we had a backlog of 4,000 cases; this year I'm pleased to report that we've got it down to 2,600.


In undertaking further reforms of the ESA, it's imperative to remember two things. We must be clear. We heard one presenter from the Niagara region come to the committee when we were in Hamilton and say: "Listen, I don't care what standards you want me to undertake. Just be clear and simple about it. Tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it." So new legislation must be straightforward.

Unfortunately the Employment Standards Act has stood still while the workforce has changed dramatically. The second thing I believe we must keep in mind is how any new law will translate into results for people. A law written with the highest principles that doesn't translate into results for people, simply put, has little utility. Our challenge as a government is to translate those rights into results for workers across the province because it's just not there today for far too many.

Our legislation is enforceable. It gives us the tools to ensure that a small percentage of employers who refuse to accept their responsibilities under the act pay up for workers whose rights they have violated. It also allows us to focus our resources on those most vulnerable workers. I suspect that some members opposite might complain that we haven't legislated Utopia. They might complain that Bill 49 doesn't create a perfect world. You know, they'd be right, because Bill 49 is realistic. It's enforceable, it has teeth and it's backed up with provisions to allow us to get better results for workers.

I believe Bill 49 is realistic and, as such, represents the first step towards addressing concerns that by all accounts previous changes to the act have not accomplished. We need to address the dramatic changes undertaken in our labour market. We must ensure that our act is relevant to the changing workplace and meets the needs of employers and employees.

Bill 49 is an act that responds to the changing labour market, workplace and employee-employer relationship. Ultimately it's going to contribute to economic growth in our province, which will mean more jobs for our people. More workers will obtain more of their rights after this bill is passed.

We look forward to a comprehensive review of the Employment Standards Act to modernize it, to bring it into the next millennium so that we can do a better job for workers.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I'm going to try to wrap this up so I can leave a few minutes for my colleague from the Conservative Party. I want to get on the record because I think this legislation is a good indication of where the government is going in regard to workers' rights. I can't pass up the opportunity to speak on behalf of the constituents of Cochrane South and those workers affected by this law.

The member for Nepean opened up his comments by saying that this bill gave workers more rights, that he didn't see this bill taking away rights from anybody. I would simply say this to the member, and the point was made eloquently by our House leader a little earlier: If that's the case, why is it that of every workers' organization that came and spoke on this bill, of those who came in and spoke to our critic at the hearings he did, none agreed with that? Not one workers' organization came forward and said, "We see this as giving us more rights"; they all came forward and said, "This takes rights away from workers." Conversely, on the other side, employers who came and presented on this bill, as employers in my riding did -- representatives of the chamber of commerce and others -- are deliriously happy with this bill. That should tell you something.

You have the employer community represented by the independent business federation of Ontario; you have the chamber of commerce, those people speaking on the interests of employers who are standing up and saying: "This is great stuff. This levels the playing field. This gives us an opportunity to do the things we want to do in business," and take the labour relations stuff out of their face. On the other hand you've got workers' organizations and unions saying: "Not at all. You're taking rights away." I think that's fairly clear. You're tipping the scale to employers. That's what this legislation is doing. I would say to people in the Legislature and others watching at home that this is only the beginning.

This is a small step on the part of the Minister of Labour and this government to move forward on taking away workers' rights when it comes to Employment Standards. This is just the beginning. The major review announced by the minister when this legislation came forward said you were going to come forward with sweeping changes to the Employment Standards Act with which you're going to, among other things, take away minimum standards from the Employment Standards Act, everything from hours of work to how overtime is paid, and possibly take away minimum standards in regard to statutory holidays. All that is going to go out the door so that if you are an employer, especially in a non-unionized workplace, you have a fairly big stick to try to get your workers to submit to the regime you want to introduce when it comes to what's now termed under the Employment Standards Act.

The scenario can be, especially in a non-unionized workplace, that the employer would go to the four or five employees and say, "Listen, guys and gals, to keep my doors open I'm going to pay you X when it comes to overtime and I'm going to treat statutories this way," which would be a taking away from what they already have, and there's absolutely nothing employees would be able to do under this new regime that the Minister of Labour wants to bring in after Bill 49. When the member for Nepean says this doesn't take away workers' rights I have to say, give your head a shake and take a look at what this does. That was good. Just to paraphrase, the member for Nepean did give his head a shake.

Specifically, the things the government is doing not to take from workers' rights are spelled out in the bill. The limitation period: Under the current act, proceedings and prosecutions must be commenced within two years. That means that if you were to bring an employer to the employment standards board for a violation of your rights under the current Employment Standards Act, you would have two years to do so. What are we saying in the bill? "You're only going to have 45 days." I see that as a take-away.

I know in my constituency office, and the member for Dovercourt I'm sure can attest to this as well -- how many people come into your office and say, "I was not aware that I had rights," when it came to a particular issue, when it comes to employment standards as they relate to your workplace? "My Lord, for a year now I've been working overtime and I haven't been paid for it," or "For a year now I've been working on statutory holidays and my employer has only paid me straight time," or whatever the issue might be, especially with new Canadians.

Even others who have been in this nation and were born and raised here don't know their rights many times. They find out from other workers, they find out from conversations with their friends, they find out from going to community clinics, and all of a sudden they say, "Listen, if I'm entitled, I want what I'm entitled to be paid under the law." They go to the employment standards office, they file a complaint with the officer and they have up to two years to do that. Often they do it late in year 1 or early in year 2. You say they'll have 45 days. The point is that the employer can abuse this. It's a take-away from employees. It's as clear as that.

The other thing is that it gives restrictions on the amount of money you can recover from your employer for his or her not having followed the Employment Standards Act. The bill provides that money cannot be recovered if it is owing to an employee for more than six months. Here's another scenario. A worker was working for a particular employer, and the employer said: "Listen, I'm going to split up your shifts. This week you're going to work 60 hours and next week you're going to work 30 hours so I don't have to give you any overtime, because I'm within the limits of the act." The worker says: "That sounds about right. Okay, I'll do it," and finds out a year later: "Hey, that's not the case. For the week I worked 60 hours I should have been paid my overtime, according to the Employment Standards Act, above the 48," if that particular section applied, "and I'm entitled to it."

Under what you're proposing in the act they're only going to be able to go back six months. In other words, the employer would have gotten the worker to work all that time, and the worker would not be paid for it. That's what you you're doing in this. Prior to this legislation becoming law, which it's going to become very shortly because we're in the last day of third reading debate, employees were able to go back and get whatever money was owed to them. I say listen, what's good for the good is good for the gander.

In the private sector, if a contractor does work for a company they have to pay the entire bill, and if some shenanigans have been around and either the supplier or the purchaser of the service finds out there's been something done wrong, they have access to the courts to get back their money; there's no statute of limitation that says you can only do so within six months. Why should the private sector be treated one way when it comes to money owed to them but the worker does not have the same entitlement?

I see that as a take-away and I say you will see this in your constituency offices. You will see people come in and say, "I was entitled to money, I didn't know I had these rights," and all of sudden they're not going to be able to do anything about it. They'll only go back for six months. Who benefits? In this case the employer; certainly not the worker. I see that as a take-away.

Another thing you're doing is around the method of enforcement. This is dangerous stuff. This is the part of the bill I really have difficulty with, among other things. You're doing a couple of things here. First of all you say an employee who files a complaint under this act is not entitled to bring a civil action in the same matter to the courts. You can argue that from the government side as saying: "You don't want to tie up the courts. You're under one process of the law, so you shouldn't go under the other." But sometimes there are cases, and I've seen them in my constituency office, where the employee does not have a lot of other choice because of circumstance. You're blocking them out of that process. I would say in 99.9% of cases there was not a civil suit at the same time that they went to the Employment Standards Act, but in those cases where there was, I've often found there was good reason.


The other thing you're doing, which I think is even more interesting, and, quite frankly, I have a real problem with this one, is you're saying an employee to whom a collective agreement applies is not entitled to file a complaint under the act. In other words, if I'm a member of a union and you work next door and you're working in a workplace that's not a union, the act applies to the non-unionized member but doesn't apply to the unionized member.

I don't see that as being fair. How does that work? What you can end up with over a period of time, and I don't think it will happen immediately the day after the act is proclaimed, but over a period of time the employer will say, "Listen, at the unionized workplace we're going through tough times and we want some kind of concessions from the employees." So they go to the bargaining table or they sign a letter of understanding prior to a collective agreement, in the life of the collective agreement, and they negotiate out particular provisions within the collective agreement that could in fact bring you under the bare minimum that we have in the Employment Standards Act. That's a very tempting thing, especially in shift operations when it comes to things like statutory holidays and overtime.

I've worked in workplaces that have been under a lot of stress by the employer because they're not making any money and I was on bargaining committees where employers came to us and asked for concessions. Being a member of a bargaining unit that wants to be responsible to their members, you try to negotiate the best deal that you can for your members, and that sometimes means a concession if it means everybody is going to keep their job. But what you're going to end up with is that an employer can really take advantage, especially in shift operations.

There'll be a temptation on the part, I think -- I hope this will not be the case, but I know, for example, in 1992-93, as Abitibi-Price in Iroquois Falls was going through the downturn in the economy and paper sales were going down, there would have been an awful large want on the part of the company to go to the union and try to take away some of the stat holidays to save money, because not only would they not have to pay the stat holidays, they wouldn't have to pay the double time and a half during those stat holidays to keep the plant running. If they had had the ability to go to the union and to try to negotiate that out, never mind out of the collective agreement but basically take away workers' rights out of the Employment Standards Act in effect is what you'd be doing there, I think the company might have tried.

I don't think Ed Godfrey, the then president of the local, or I think Jim French was the president of Local 109 at the time, or Dave Sawchuk from the IPW, would have said, "Hey, we agree to this." I'm sure they would have fought for their members and they would have fought this back. But in some workplaces around the province I think it could happen.

You could end up having a situation over a period of time where workers working in a unionized environment, in order to try to work with their employers to make the plant efficient -- not efficient, but less costly because, you know, there may not be a market for that particular product -- could end up working for conditions that are less than what is in the Employment Standards Act. If that's not a takeback, if that's not less, I don't know. This is not a case of doing more for less. This a question of doing less for less, is what you're doing.

The other thing you're doing is the question around the power of debt collectors, and this is something that most people miss when they look at this legislation, the last point I want to make. It says in the act, "A collector may enter into a settlement agreement on behalf of the person owed money under this act with the person's consent."

Quite frankly, that means if Joe Blow is hired to go out to try to make an arrangement between the worker who is owed money by an employer for work done that he or she hasn't been paid for, he can try to work out a deal between the employer and the employee which might be less than what the employee is actually worth. In 90% of cases that I've seen around the Employment Standards Act, there has been a real reluctance on the part of employees to go after what's rightfully theirs because they don't want to be in a fight with their employers. All they want is to be paid for the work they've done. What ends up happening is they already feel pretty bad going through it.

I remember one particular case with a local employer, where the employer was way out in left field. The employee reluctantly came to me and to the employment standards board in order to get what was justly hers only because she had done a lot of soul- searching. Her husband and others said, "Listen, you're entitled to this, you need to go after what you're entitled to, if not for you, for other people who are working in your workplace." But if you give this kind of right to a debt collector, what could end up happening is that debt collector can put pressure on that particular individual to saw off for far less than what they're worth.

Now the member for Nepean says, "We're not taking rights away." I'd say that's right, the point being this woman was owed somewhere around $12,000. She ended up getting it in the end because of the work I had done with her through the employment standards branch. Quite frankly, I don't think she would have got the $12,000. I think if it had been left between the three parties, she probably would have walked out of there with $3,000 or $4,000, if not nothing, because she was very fearful of going after what was rightfully hers because, like most people, you don't like to rock the boat. Quite frankly, what you're doing is you're taking away.

There are only about six minutes left on third reading and I want to leave some time for the member from the Conservative Party, so I'll give the floor, but I'll only say, don't try to fool people by saying this is not taking rights away; it is.

There's more coming. The Employment Standards Act changes that are coming this spring are going to go far beyond what's in this bill. This is nothing compared to what's coming, not to mention what you're doing around the Workers' Compensation Board, everything from getting rid of the IDSP, the Industrial Disease Standards Panel, the health and safety agency, which prevents accidents, and possibly eliminating WCAT, which is the appeals tribunal workers have to be able to get justice through the Workers' Compensation Board.

I thank you for this time in the debate and I urge members in this House not to vote for this legislation because it is simply a take-back and a reduction of benefits to workers in this province and that is not what you were elected to do.

Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): It's my pleasure to rise today to support Bill 49. I'd like to make a couple of points. We're dealing here with stage 1 of the employment standards reform. What we have done is we have not changed any of the standards; in fact we have improved the standards. I refer to the pregnancy leave and parental leave provisions, which is good news for the province. We're making sure the service is intact for anyone who takes that type of leave. Also, with vacation pay and vacation time, we're making sure that the service is intact for a 12-month period and the percentage is based on that 12-month period. These are necessary changes and they're also an improvement to the standards.

The second point I'd like to make is that we're not only changing the collection process, but we're improving it. Currently, we're collecting about 25 cents on the dollar for unpaid accounts. What we're going to do is use private collection services to collect moneys owed to employees, and employees will receive moneys owed to them in a more efficient and timely manner.

The collection process will change because we'll be focusing on non-union employees. Union employees will be able to rely on the grievance procedure to collect in any disputes that are involved with their own procedure under the collective agreement. I think that's a positive use of the resources. Currently, unions enforce the Employment Standards Act, the health and safety act and also the Human Rights Code where they have it in the collective agreement. So we're not changing anything by this particular provision; we're basically allowing the unions to represent their members better and I think that's a positive step.

Also, with respect to collections, we're looking at having the employment standards officers just enforce the act and not do the collections, because the process was changed in 1993 by the NDP, which resulted in the disbanding of the collection unit. One of the major things I found during the hearings I attended was that there was a consensus that of the insolvencies and the non-payment, about 50% of the claims were in that category.

What we found was that there is a cry for the federal Bankruptcy Act to be changed. Nothing has been done by the federal Liberals to change that act and it has to be changed to protect the workers who are faced with situations where they won't get any money. We're urging changes and there were changes suggested by all parties with respect to the federal Bankruptcy Act which have to emerge.

Other process changes are important. As I mentioned, we're dealing with where collective agreements are in place. Employees and employers will use their own grievance procedure. The consensus was that this was a faster procedure, that you could have the grievance procedure exhausted within 30 days and go to arbitration and enforce it. We believe that process of allowing unions to represent their workers is a positive step.

In the last few moments of the debate, I'd just like to say that the process that was conducted was a full process dealing with workers, unions and employers throughout the province. I'd like to say that the workers, in dealing with the employers who are out there, and the associations, we're not dealing with bad bosses; we're dealing with good bosses who educate their employees and employers on the Employment Standards Act.

I think the measures that have been taken are very positive and what I'm looking forward to is stage 2 of the reform of the Employment Standards Act so we can do more changes that will benefit the province, the workers, the unions and also the employers in this province, so I look forward to phase 2 of the reform, and I thank you, Speaker, in my support of this bill.

The Speaker: Mr Baird moves third reading of Bill 49.

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 ayes have it.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent that this vote will be deferred till immediately after question period on Monday.

The Speaker: Do we have agreement for deferral until after question period on Monday? Agreed.

It now being 6 of the clock, I adjourn this House till Monday at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1801.