36th Parliament, 1st Session

L113 - Wed 23 Oct 1996 / Mer 23 Oct 1996


















































The House met at 1331.




Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I'd like to read a letter from one of my constituents.

"Dear Mr Cleary:

"My mother relies on a dialysis machine three days a week to keep her alive."

To get treatment, she has to travel to Ottawa. That's three hours' travelling both ways. The woman continues by expressing the stress, the cost and the inconvenience of travelling in the winter months. Many of my dialysis patients have to travel either to Ottawa or to Kingston.

In recognizing that the minister promised this past spring that a provider had been chosen for Cornwall but then reneged because the provider his ministry had selected was subject to a court battle, my constituent adds that dialysis "patients go through enough as it is," and adds that she is willing to do anything humanly possible to make sure that the dialysis machine is in Cornwall.

The Minister of Health made a promise last April 24. The people are anxiously waiting in the Cornwall area -- the 32 patients who rely on dialysis weekly -- so I'm asking today that the minister please deliver on his promise that dialysis will be available in Cornwall as soon as possible.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): My statement today is on health care cuts in Cochrane North and the Tory broken promises of the election campaign. I want to direct my statement to the Minister of Health, Jim Wilson.

According to a health care reform blueprint, 30 beds will be closed at Sensenbrenner Hospital located in Kapuskasing and 18 beds at Notre-Dame Hospital in Hearst. These cutbacks will be a devastating blow to the health care of the people of Cochrane North, and so far we have no indication that the savings will go back to the hospitals or to the community.

These recommendations are based on the average stay for a patient in the hospital. The indicator for Ontario establishes 646 patient-days per 1,000 residents. However, I would like to remind the minister that this average does not in any way reflect the conditions prevailing in the riding of Cochrane North, served by these hospitals, and the resources available.

Three weeks ago I was hospitalized at Sensenbrenner. I would like to take this opportunity to thank particularly the doctors there, Dr Ng, Dr Ayeni, Dr Fryer, Dr Seward, Dr Boucher, Dr Beatty, and all the nurses, laboratory technicians and staff, who are doing a tremendous job in providing excellent care and treatment to their patients despite the major funding cutbacks being made by this government in the health care system.

I urge the minister to guarantee that all savings from hospital restructuring within Cochrane North be reinvested in the riding and not used for the 30% tax break to wealthy friends of the Conservative government.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I recently had the honour of being present when Niagara-on-the-Lake artist Trisha Romance was presented with the Order of Ontario by Lieutenant Governor Henry N.R. Jackman.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Trisha for her contribution to Ontario's heritage. As everyone in this House no doubt knows, Trisha Romance has become known throughout Canada, the United States and the world for her gentle watercolours of family life and family traditions. She is represented in over 600 galleries in Canada and the US alone. All 10,000 copies of one of her most recent works, Evening Skaters, were sold out within weeks. Without a doubt Trisha's work has become a tribute to the love of family and the joys and innocence of childhood experiences we can relive when we look at her paintings.

People may not know that Trisha Romance has suffered severe headache pain over the past several years which produces seizures and blackouts. Doctors have yet to find a way to alleviate the problem. Yet she continues to paint and celebrate family and life.

On behalf of the government of Ontario I would like to acknowledge Trisha Romance's contribution to the heritage of Ontario, and I personally wish her well.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Over the past year I've been rising in this House to ask the Minister of Northern Development simply to do his job: to support policies and programs that will enable us in the north to maintain services taken for granted in the south and to help foster the economic development we so badly need.

This so-called advocate for the north has proceeded in the opposite direction: slashing funding and programs, eliminating staff at a much higher proportion than our population warrants and closing down regional offices at breakneck speed.

Now we learn of another blow, one he hopes to quietly slip by us. His ministry is planning to remove its funding for the annual northern health recruitment tour in southern Ontario, which means that the future of this important venture will be in peril.

Surely the minister does not need to be reminded of the success of this program. Dr Christopher Giles of the Atikokan General hospital was recruited on one such tour. He has told me that four out of five physicians on staff in Atikokan were recruited through this program, and not only were they recruited to the north but they stayed -- in Dr Giles's case for nine years now. Many of the 40 northern communities that participate regularly in this yearly tour will tell the same story.

Minister, this is a success story you should be proud to support because it works. You're closing our hospitals, laying off our nurses and cutting our funding to long-term care. Don't add to this crisis by taking away our ability to recruit doctors. Reverse your decision today.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Yesterday I shared the pride of Metro Toronto residents in being chosen as the best city in the world by Fortune magazine. Many of us already knew that. Recognition is long overdue.

But it was appalling to see the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism all puffed up, vainly trying to take credit on behalf of his government. That would be like the Vandals trying to take credit for the glory of Rome.

John Barber points out in the Globe and Mail today that it is those very qualities of life here in Metro, so valued by those "special interests" at Fortune magazine, that are imperilled by this government's shortsighted social and economic policies. He lists "good schools, effective transit, a commitment to social justice and environmental protection."

I would add to that list an excellent accessible health care system, good child care facilities, sports and recreation programming, a rich cultural life and much else endangered by this government's hell-bent drive to finance a big tax cut for the rich.

That's why this Saturday I'll be proudly joining my constituents -- moms, dads, kids, teachers, students, nurses, child care workers, the unemployed and many others -- who have formed a grass-roots coalition called Riverdale Against the Cuts. We will be joining the thousands and thousands of other Metro residents who will be marching to Queen's Park this weekend to say, "Enough is enough and stop the tax cuts for the rich in Ontario."



Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph): It's my pleasure today to be able to rise in the House and recognize the achievements of a teacher from Guelph who has recently been rewarded with an award for excellence in teaching Canadian history.

Joe Tersigni is a teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Secondary School in Guelph and was one of 12 winners in the first annual awards presentation. This award, organized by Canada's national history society, was presented to Mr Tersigni in recognition of his innovative, exciting and relevant methods for teaching Canadian history.

He has organized what is called the Forum, an annual event that brings together young people to listen and share views on key topics affecting Canadians. Joe himself chairs the event, but students manage it and gain hands-on experience in coordinating, budgeting, design and the promotion of the materials for advertising. Keynote speakers have ranged from prime ministers to journalists to native leaders.

As well, he has organized the Canadian Political Speaker Series, also organized and managed by students, with keynote speakers invited from the federal, provincial and municipal arenas.

Joe Tersigni exemplifies the kind of dedicated teacher whose creativity and enthusiasm provides a positive influence to all his students, teaching them to become involved and knowledgeable citizens in our democracy.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Northwood Neighbourhood Services is a community organization located in my riding of Yorkview.

Northwood Neighbourhood Services has excelled in providing a variety of programs of adult education services, ranging from Red Cross seminars to small business startup sessions. This important community organization also provides vital life skills programs such as stress management courses.

On October 24, the city of North York will join with Northwood Neighbourhood Services in celebrating their Adult Education Day. Mayor Mel Lastman has officially proclaimed October 24 as Adult Education Day throughout the city.

I am sure all members of the House recognize the importance of adult education services, particularly to newcomers and senior citizens. Education is a lifelong commitment and provides endless opportunities to grow and share with all members of the community.

On October 24, Northwood Neighbourhood Services and all members of the community will share together by way of a classroom open house, entertainment and a sharing of experiences. I ask that all members of the House join me in wishing Northwood Neighbourhood Services every success on this special day, as well as expressing our ongoing commitment to the importance of adult education in my community and throughout Ontario.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to set the record straight with regard to the issue of the Metro Days of Action. First of all, the reality is that if there was nothing happening out there across the province, the media would be reporting that no one cares and therefore suggesting that the people of Ontario accept this hard-line Harris agenda, and they don't.

The second thing is that it would send a message to the government that not only should it continue but it should go even harsher and further than it's already doing.

It's also not just labour. Although labour is an important and crucial partner in this, it's not just labour; it's also environmentalists, seniors, youth, injured workers, child care workers, housing activists, community sports volunteers, teachers, the disabled. We call that the community; you call that special interests.

We'd like to know, when did your corporate friends and your banker friends stop being special interests? They stopped being special interests when you formed the government in this province. I can remember the Bay Street protesters came out against the policies of the NDP, and they came out just like everybody else. They cheered and they chanted and they carried placards and they sang. The only difference is they were all wearing striped suits and they arrived in taxicabs.

The fact of the matter is the Metro days of protest, just like those in Hamilton and in Kitchener and in London, are the exercising of the democratic rights of a free people to have free speech and free assembly, and that's why we support those Days of Action.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm pleased to inform the House of several projects in my riding that demonstrate the ability of community organizations to make an investment in their own futures without financial support from the Ontario government.

First, there's a new waterfront project in Midland. That includes the launching of a new Rotary trail and pavilion. It's all part of a revitalization of the downtown Midland area. This is a first step in what will become a $100,000 investment to develop the shoreline, every dollar being invested by the Midland Rotary Club from funds raised in the community.

Another community-based project in my riding is the Gravenhurst Rotary Club's contribution of $50,000 in cooperation with Easter Seals to fund the installation of an elevator which will assist the disabled at the Gravenhurst Opera House. This will enable a number of individuals to attend performances there for the first time.

A third initiative is in the town of Bracebridge. That municipality has turned to local businesses and asked that they sponsor the annual maintenance costs for local parks. So far the response has been very promising, with Scandura Canada taking up the maintenance of Bracebridge Bay Park.

All of these projects are an example of local solutions and initiatives which press ahead without the need for provincial government funding.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): In our May budget, I said we would eliminate overlap and duplication in regulating the loan and trust industry. With the actions we are announcing today, we are delivering on that commitment and making government work better for Ontarians.

This government will keep our promise to put an end to an unnecessary layer of rules on trust companies. Under Ontario's current requirements, known as the "equals approach," all trust companies in the province must comply with Ontario's rules even when they are also regulated by the federal government, and in some cases by other provinces. Having two sets of government regulate an industry like this just doesn't make any sense. It is costly to taxpayers and it hampers the industry's ability to respond to the changing needs of individual and business customers.

We believe that regulation should be undertaken by the level of government best positioned to do it. Through our actions, we will ensure that consumers continue to be protected and small businesses have greater access to capital while enabling trust companies to compete without the unnecessary constraints and costs of complying with multiple sets of rules.

Today I am releasing a discussion paper on the future of trust company regulation in Ontario. Through this we are seeking input on important issues, including more efficient ways of protecting consumers and whether Ontario should continue the provincial incorporation of trust companies. We would like to hear from all interested parties. I have asked my parliamentary assistant, Isabel Bassett, to consult with the industry, business, consumers and other stakeholders on how best to improve the efficiency of the loan and trust regulatory system.

This government is committed to eliminating red tape, overlap and duplication. We are committed to improving the climate for business and job creation in Ontario. The announcement I am making today delivers on those commitments. It is good for consumers, it is good for business and it is good for jobs.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm pleased to respond to the announcement by the minister and say that we are anxiously awaiting the details of the proposal.

We'll be guided by two principles, Minister. One is clearly that in regard to things that we can do in Ontario to assist our -- I don't like to use the jargon -- world-class financial community to grow and be competitive globally you will find support from our caucus. We are fortunate in Ontario to have financial institutions that can compete globally, and it is a unique benefit. We'll also be guided by a second principle, and that is making sure the consumer has adequate, reasonable protection. Those two things will be the two principles we'll be guided by.

We were expecting that the announcement today might have dealt with the Ontario Securities Commission, which also is of significant interest to Ontario and in particular to our financial community, in that I know in the budget you indicated your plan to proceed to some form of national commission, and for whatever reason that seems to be stalled. The problem we have is that the securities commission appears to be lacking --

Hon Mr Eves: Then ask the question.

Mr Phillips: The minister is saying, "Ask a question." I suggest to you, Minister, that it's your responsibility to come forward with solutions. We certainly, on a daily basis, hear of a lack of resources at the Ontario Securities Commission. You talk about protection of consumers. It is being jeopardized, we gather from reports, by a lack of resources, that the provincial government is taking, I gather, $30 million or $40 million more from the commission than it is allocating in terms of resources for that commission to make certain we protect the consumer.

As we look at these proposals, we expected today to see the minister acting on what we think is a serious problem at the securities commission, according to press reports. If it is not his intention to move forward with some form of a national securities commission, then get on with providing the resources at the securities commission to provide comfort to the investors in Ontario.

Hon Mr Eves: Then ask a question in question period. I'd love you to ask that question. Your federal counterparts seem to be dragging their feet.

Mr Phillips: I would just say to the financial community out there, the Minister of Finance is barracking across the hall at us, when we would like some answers from him on this. For us, it is a serious problem in our financial community right now that needs addressing.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I want to add my comments. On December 8, 1985, I was the minister responsible for bringing in the new loan and trust legislation that's currently in place. I should tell the minister that at that time there was great discussion across the country. New Brunswick adopted our particular legislation verbatim, including our typos. Alberta told us they had no interest in having and no need to have any further and additional regulation of their trust companies. I remember the minister of the day, Ms Elaine McCoy, telling me that it was an unnecessary intrusion into the financial community. You should know that several months after that, Alberta had the largest trust company failure in the history of this country and immediately started to scramble to get their legislation on a par with Ontario's.

I have no problem whatsoever with having one set of regulations for the trust industry. I think it would be a great move. My only caution is, make sure you don't go to the lowest common denominator instead of the highest common denominator. If we can get legislation that Ontario is happy with, that provides the necessary protection, great. The danger is that to get accord with all the other provinces they will want to in some way diminish consumer protection because they may feel that will inhibit their particular institutions from functioning and being competitive. I think the number one goal of this legislation has to be consumer protection.

If we can get unanimity across this country so we have regulations that are fair, that are stringent, that are accountable, that's a wonderful thing and I commend the minister, if he can do it. I wish him well. But having gone that route, I can tell you it is fraught with problems.

As I say, I don't think we should in any way give up the kind of consumer protection in the current legislation. If we can improve it, all well and good; if we can't, we should resist it.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm happy to respond initially on behalf of our caucus to the minister's announcement, to say that I think he will understand if we come at this with just a little bit of scepticism. We certainly would support any genuine attempts by the government to eliminate overlap and duplication in any area, certainly in this one in terms of regulating the loan and trust industry.

But we have seen too many times those code words used for just simply getting out of the business of regulating, so we will look at this with some attention. Our finance critic will obviously follow this with some interest, as will our critic for economic development and trade.

We believe it is important to create a climate in this province where businesses are working efficiently and where consumers are indeed protected. If the scope and the intent of this move by the government is to simplify those procedures in a way that maintains the protection for consumers and at the same time streamlines the reporting mechanisms or the regulations as they apply to businesses and to loans and trusts, in principle that's certainly something we would welcome and support. It is very much in keeping with the efforts we took when we were the government to simplify processes for business in terms of moving towards a unified filing system for small businesses, and the next steps that now we're happy to see the government taking in terms of the reporting mechanisms, although I don't remember them giving us credit for that.

But it is happening, and we all of us want to see a climate in which business is being held accountable, in this case loan and trust companies. Also, where overlap can be eliminated between the provincial government and the federal government, that's something we would support in principle.

We would also ask that when this issue is looked at the ministry and the government do not forget that there are a number of outstanding issues in the whole banking industry and in the whole trust industry that businesses, small businesses in particular, have been raising, such as the access to capital. The member for Fort York has been doing some work in this area. We will be interested in making sure that as the government looks at trying to streamline these processes it is also making it more possible for small businesses, as the minister says, to have greater access to capital, because we know that at the heart of any recovery of our economy in this province lie small businesses.

It's important that the barriers that have continuously been put in the way of small businesses, particularly by banks and to a lesser extent by trust companies, also be addressed. We would look forward to seeing that issue addressed in this discussion as much as simply the streamlining of rules as they apply to loans and trust companies.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Like my colleague the member for Dovercourt, I generally support what the government is doing. As the member for Dovercourt and others have said, if we're able to simplify the process between the federal and provincial governments, it makes a lot of sense. It puts some certainty in the industry and is something we need to encourage.

With regard to the comment where you talk about putting "an end to an unnecessary layer of rules on trust companies," what's unnecessary and will consumers in the end be protected? In your comments you alluded to that, that consumers would be protected, but I can tell you that our party, the New Democratic Party, will be watching that closely because we believe that banks, quite frankly, have had a pretty free hand on some of these issues, and we would not want to see the trust companies ending up in the same position as banks. They've had far more power than they should have had.

The other issue you talk about is that your parliamentary assistant, Isabel Bassett, is going to go into consultation with industry, business and consumers. Although I have confidence in your parliamentary assistant -- she's a member with some integrity in this House -- I wonder how seriously the process is going to be taken by the government, because up to now you have not been very good about listening, to be blunt. On all of the issues the government has dealt with, it's been an attempt to look as if you're consulting, but in the end the government does what it wants and really doesn't listen to the public. I hope that you take the recommendations of Isabel Bassett seriously and that you give her the power she needs to go out and do meaningful consultation so that the needs and concerns of consumers and industry and business are brought back to the table, and that you act on those. We'll be watching for that.

The last point you make is in regard to the government generally "improving the climate for business and job creation in Ontario." Read the notes. Retail sales are down dramatically in Ontario over the last couple of months, even with your big tax break that you gave last June, and unemployment is up. All stats are proving that the revolution in Ontario is dragging the economy down, not pushing the economy up. I remind the minister that things are not well in Ontario under the Common Sense Revolution.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to remind all members that signs are out of order in this place. We will remember that.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I would like the Speaker to recognize that a former member, Mr Ross McClellan, is in the chamber today.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Welcome.




Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): My question is for the Minister of Health. Mr Speaker, I'm wearing a button which states, "Patients Matter," something the Minister of Health seems to have forgotten.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I'm not going to say that, but you're not supposed to wear buttons or put up signs. That's the deal. No, you go right ahead.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Does that button say, "Patients Matter"?

Ms Castrilli: It says, "Patients Matter." Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for that clarification.

Yesterday in the House this minister stated that it is "obvious to all members of the public, and certainly to members of this House, that patients come first." Thus the button. "That's been the theme and the thrust of everything we've done as a government." Is that still your position?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Yes.

Ms Castrilli: The minister, however, by his actions proves otherwise. He speaks one thing but does another. We have, as a result of the minister's cuts yesterday, both the Peterborough Civic Hospital and St Joseph's Health Centre announcing that they will be closing 32 acute care beds and reducing operating time. On top of that, 97 staff will lose their jobs, 46 of whom are nurses, the people who care for patients. The local hospital boards issued a media release in which they state that this government's cuts will, and I'll quote, "ultimately lead to fewer admissions, shorter lengths of stay and noticeable differences" -- noticeable differences -- "in the care which is available at the two hospitals." Does the minister not agree and recognize that his cuts in Peterborough will harm patient care?

Hon Mr Wilson: I was in Peterborough last week and had a chance to speak with a group of about 11 physicians who fully explained to me the restructuring initiatives that the community is undertaking to improve its hospital system. I can absolutely guarantee you that the press release you have says neither that quality will suffer nor that services are going to diminish and patient care will suffer. The confidence that these physicians and hospital administrators who were present had inspired me to conclude that Peterborough was well on its way to doing the type of restructuring that's required in the hospital system throughout the province.

Ms Castrilli: I find that unbelievable. The hospital says clearly that there will be noticeable differences in the care patients will receive. Those are the words of the hospital boards. It's obvious that patients don't matter to this minister. The only thing he cares about is finding the dollars and cutting them from our hospitals. Peterborough is not alone, it would not surprise you to hear. There are stories now of up to 50 beds that will be closed at the hospital in Belleville.

Clearly the minister was not thinking of patients when he promised a 30% tax cut; he was not thinking of patients when he slashed $1.3 billion from hospitals, a move that will result in 15,000 nurses being laid off across Ontario; and he certainly was not thinking of patients when he cut a deal with the doctors that will force patients to pay out of pocket for medical services now covered by OHIP. I ask the minister again, is it more important to fund a tax cut than it is to ensure that patients can get the care they need and deserve? Will he not admit that money matters more than patients matter?

Hon Mr Wilson: The tax cut is a very important part of the government's policy and it's an important part of health policy. As you know, one of the greatest of the five determinants of health is employment. The tax cut is our way of creating jobs in this province. Employed people tend to be healthier people. Therefore, I fully endorse the approach the government has taken to the whole comprehensive package of patient care, which includes an increased health budget, contrary to what your federal cousins are doing in Ottawa, where they've cut health care in this country, and particularly to Ontario, to shameful levels. We've increased the budget against all odds.

Secondly, the employment of more people, which will happen as a result of the tax cut, is definitely good for health care, for the system and for the individuals, and it for the most part prevents people from becoming patients in the first place, because employed people are healthier people.

Ms Castrilli: I wonder if people from Peterborough and Belleville will actually believe that.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): My next question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Tell her to wake up.

Ms Castrilli: If I might have her attention, while my first question tried to point out to the government that patients do not matter to it, my next question will show that there is at least one political party in Ontario that believes that people matter.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Nepean, come to order, please.

Ms Castrilli: I'll be more specific: People matter to this party. This week Ontarians are celebrating Library Week. The minister plans to celebrate by bringing in legislation to curtail access to public libraries and by charging user fees. Yesterday your parliamentary assistant said that libraries play --


The Speaker: Put the question.

Ms Castrilli: I'm trying, but it's very difficult.

The Speaker: Put the question.


The Speaker: Order. If the member for Sudbury would go to his seat and heckle, it would make him more in order. To the member for Downsview, you have 15 seconds. Put the question.

Ms Castrilli: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, the minister's parliamentary assistant said that libraries play a vital role in helping people learn and grow. I'd like to ask the minister whether she believes that the move to bring in user fees and the statement made by the parliamentary assistant are not in contradiction to one another.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): No, I don't believe they are. This government is committed to a very strong province-wide public library system. We have been consulting with the library community in the last nine months to look at the whole issue of governance and user fees, and we'll be coming up with some recommendations in due course.

Ms Castrilli: The only reason libraries are being forced to consider bringing in user fees is because of this government's 40% cut to library transfers last year. Let me list some of the other cuts. Cuts to libraries are also forcing them to lay off staff, close branches and reduce opening hours. They are now locking the door to people's access to information, information they will need if we are ever to achieve our goal of lifelong learning. Every government since Confederation has believed that providing full and accessible libraries is in the public interest and is a basic good. Does the minister agree that libraries are the great equalizer, that whether rich or poor, people should be given that right to read and to learn without being charged to rent a book?

Hon Ms Mushinski: I want to reiterate that this government is committed to a very strong province-wide library system. That's what we're working towards. My ministry is committed to working with the library community to identify ways by which it can become more effective and more efficient to ensure that we continue to have a province-wide system for all of the communities in Ontario, including those remote communities in the north.


Ms Castrilli: Books are the keys to knowledge and this government is closing the doors.

But there's something even more disturbing. That is, in addition to considering charging for borrowing books, the cuts to libraries are forcing them to sell their buildings off as corporate advertising space. We may very well soon see outside the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library something that says "Export `A' Library," or "Pizza Pizza Library."

This Library Week the minister has been making announcements and speeches on the great importance that libraries play in our society. If the minister really believes what she reads, if she really believes what she says, won't she return the 40% cut to libraries, and won't she open the doors of libraries to people of all economic background, and won't she please accept the fact that people matter more than money?

Hon Ms Mushinski: I can certainly assure you that the last time I was at the public library the doors were open, and the doors will continue to be open.

As I have said, when municipalities are funding in excess of 90% of the operating budgets of public libraries in this province, they have asked us to provide them with the tools by which they can become more self-sufficient. Certainly the Metro reference library announcement to seek private-public partnerships is an excellent example of what they're doing: doing just that to keep their doors open to the public.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I wanted to ask this question of the Premier, but once again the Premier is not here, so I'll have to go to the Minister of Labour.

Exactly one year ago, your government rammed through your "progressive" view, you say, of labour law. Everybody else in the province said they are the most regressive changes and the most regressive attack on working people we've seen in 30 years.

We warned you at the time that it was going to provoke people out there in the public, and it has. It's provoked days of protest in London, in Hamilton, in Kitchener, in Peterborough and here in Toronto now. It's also provoked all sorts of situations on the picket line. Today, here in gallery, there are 90 members of the Steelworkers who have been on strike at S.A. Armstrong in Scarborough. They've been on strike because the employer has followed your encouragement and has brought in scabs to take their work away. This matter could have been settled months ago, but because your government encourages scabs, it hasn't been settled.

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

Mr Hampton: I want you to tell these workers here today, Minister, why did you pass a law which encourages scabs to come in and take their work away? Why do you encourage scabs in the workplace?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I want to tell the leader of the third party that as a result of the passage of Bill 7 last year, we have a very positive economic climate in this province. In fact we have 99,000 more people employed today than we had one year ago. That is 70% of the new jobs that have been created in Canada. That is a very positive number.

We are continuing to see optimism among the employer community. I would just indicate to you that 92% of the business people who have been interviewed believe that the business climate is going to get better or stay the same in 1998. Those are the individuals who are creating the jobs, the jobs that you say are important for people in the province. I would just indicate to you that Bill 7 has had a very positive economic impact on the lives of people in this province.

Mr Hampton: I am not surprised by the answer. There was not one mention of workers who are seeing scabs cross picket lines. There was not one mention of the kinds of confrontations you have created, not one mention of the kinds of hardship you are creating out there.

The fact of the matter is that as a result of your legislation, the amount of time lost to strikes and lockouts in this province has gone up four times. It's gone up from 354,000 lost days to over 1.38 million lost days. That doesn't even take into account the CAW strike at GM and it doesn't take into account the CUPE strike in the Niagara Peninsula, which is a strike against your cuts.

Minister, I'm going to ask you again: 1.38 million lost days due to the kind of confrontation you have provoked. What do you have to say to these people? Many of them have worked 10 or 20 years for S.A. Armstrong --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Look at the people in the gallery you are beating up.

The Speaker: Order. Minister of Labour.

Hon Mrs Witmer: To the leader of the third party, what I have to say to you is that despite the fact that there had been predictions that there would be chaos in the province because of the huge number of collective agreements that were going to expire this year, almost 4,000 --


The Speaker: The member for Cochrane North, you're out of order. You're out of your seat. You're going to have to come to order, please.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would indicate to the leader of the third party that despite the fact that there were these predictions, we continue to enjoy a climate in this province where the majority of collective agreements are peacefully resolved. In fact, in the first eight months of this year we only had 79 strikes. When you were in office during the same period you had 110.

Mr Hampton: Once again, only a Conservative Minister of Labour would brag about 1.38 million person-days lost to strikes and lockout. Only a Conservative Minister of Labour would brag about that kind of statistic.

I still haven't received an answer from the Minister of Labour. This is about real people. This is about real people who are simply trying to defend the wages they have worked hard for. This is about real people trying to defend their pensions. This is about real people trying to defend some control over their working conditions. That's why they're on strike. They only want what every average, ordinary person in Ontario would want: the chance to work at their job, the chance to enjoy a decent wage, the chance to have some control over their working conditions, yet your government is denying them that. Your government is more and more encouraging the use of scabs to drive down the wages of working people and to drive down the working conditions of people.

The Speaker: Put the question.

Mr Hampton: Would you tell these people, many of whom have 10 or 20 years' seniority, why you're doing that to them?

Hon Mrs Witmer: To the leader of the third party, first of all, I want to make it abundantly clear to you that one strike is one strike too many. The very reason we introduced Bill 7 was to restore the balance in labour relations. We introduced democracy into the workplace, we introduced the secret ballot vote, and I would indicate to you now that employees have the opportunity to cast a secret ballot for --


The Speaker: Minister?

Hon Mrs Witmer: As I indicated, one strike is one strike too many. I would simply continue and indicate to you that we are seeing, as a result of the legislation we have introduced, real growth in the province. However, I would also indicate to you that the reason we're seeing more days lost in strikes this year, let's be perfectly honest, is the OPSEU strike. That's what has created the additional number of days lost.


Getting back to the economic outlook, there is an indication that this year we are seeing more business plant construction in this province. We've had six quarters where we've seen nothing but success. That's going to translate into more jobs, and it won't be 10,000 lost like you lost; it will be hundreds and thousands more jobs because of the policies we have introduced.

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

Mr Hampton: This is all about what business wants, not about what is good for workers and what workers want. That's very clear from your answers. It's very clear whose side you're on.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My second question is for the Minister of Labour as well. It concerns the issue of workplace health and safety. On September 24, less than a month ago, the minister said in a speech that as part of the government's plans to make prevention part of the Workers' Compensation Board mandate, the functions and staff of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency have been integrated into the WCB.

But these staff members, with more than 200 years of health and safety experience and expertise, were shocked on October 10, when they were told they would all receive layoff notices either this month or in December.

Minister, I'm not sure I understand. You say prevention is important. You say these people are going to be integrated into the Workers' Compensation Board. Can you tell us what's happening? Why would you be laying these people off if prevention is important? Why would you lay off 200 years of health and safety experience and expertise if prevention is important?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I would indicate to the leader of the third party, getting back to where he was coming from, that we're creating jobs. If we take a look at the issue you've just mentioned, you know we are talking about an operational WCB issue. We're talking about two unions which are involved in discussions. Much of the issue you were just talking about needs to be resolved internally by the people who work at the WCB.

Mr Hampton: You can try to put this off and say that this is something the union has to sort out. The fact of the matter is that CUPE and the OPEIU have held meetings, and CUPE Local 1750 agreed at a meeting on Monday to welcome the agency's staff into their union if they become Workers' Compensation Board employees.

It's now up to you, Minister. Are you going to lay off 200 years of health and safety expertise and experience or are you going to do what you said on September 24? Are you going to take those people into the Workers' Compensation Board so that real occupational health and safety work can continue? It's up to you now.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would indicate one more time to the leader of the third party that this is an internal operational matter that involves two unions. As far as I know, the issue is going to be resolved internally.

Mr Hampton: It's a very simple question. These people worked at the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. You shut that agency down. You said back in September that you would take them into the Workers' Compensation Board so that good occupational health and safety work could continue, so that work in terms of preventing accidents and deaths in the workplace could continue. The unions have sorted out their issues. When are you going to announce that all of these people are going to continue to have jobs and will continue to make an important contribution to workers' health and safety in Ontario? The ball is in your court. When are you going to make the announcement?

Hon Mrs Witmer: Let me just mention one more time that this is an internal WC matter. It is an issue that needs to be resolved between the two unions, I understand it is being resolved and no one at all is being laid off at the present time. For you to indicate that anybody is being laid off at the present time, you know that's not true.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Yesterday in this House the member for Eglinton stood up and praised the city of Toronto, in fact took credit for the city of Toronto being named the best city in the world. Also, a colleague on your side stood up and praised the city of Etobicoke for being a great city.

I find it astonishing that there's a report in the paper that says your ministry official -- I'm not quite sure; it could be Crombie, whatever he's doing, who may be the real Minister of Municipal Affairs or the phantom minister -- is planning to abolish the six local governments and establish a mega-Metro. Minister, is Mr Crombie doing this with your approval? Are you going to abolish local government in Metro?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): We're planning to eliminate duplication and waste that occurs at all levels of government: this government, municipal governments and regional governments. We're looking at a number of options as to what direction the GTA and Metro should go in. There haven't been any decisions made as yet. The option the member mentioned is obviously one of them, but it's only one.

Mr Colle: When will we be able to question Mr Crombie? When will the real Minister of Municipal Affairs come before a committee? Even your own caucus is wondering who is running your ministry. Here we go with your own colleagues saying, "It's a great city and we have great local government." How could you be planning -- your officials are even drawing up the maps -- to abolish local government? In fact they're saying you've made a deal with Mel Lastman, or maybe Crombie has, to make him the supermayor of mega-Metro. Who's in charge, you or Mr Crombie? How do we get at Mr Crombie?

Hon Mr Leach: Mr Crombie has been appointed as chair of the Who Does What panel to provide this government with advice. The panel is made up of community experts from across Ontario. Mr Crombie's panel does not make any decisions; it makes recommendations. All decisions that happened in the past were made by this government and they will continue to be made by this government.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. I have in my hand a news release from the WCB announcing that there will be a 5% cut in the employer assessment, the premiums that employers pay to WCB, dropping them to the lowest rate since 1986.

Interestingly the news release doesn't talk about how much this $6-billion gift to your employer friends will add to the unfunded liability. As you know, the unfunded liability, which has no taxpayer money in it -- it's entirely funded by employers -- has been dropping steadily for the last two years, since the NDP legislation was brought in, which was opposed by your party and the Liberals. But despite this decrease in the unfunded liability, you continue to use this as an excuse to go after disabled workers and take away $15 billion of benefits to those injured workers.

The Cam Jackson report estimated that the $6-billion giveaway to your employer friends would increase the unfunded liability to $18 billion. Minister, will you confirm that the gift to your friends is going to increase the unfunded liability to $18 billion?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): We are preparing to reform the WCB and at the end of the day we're going to have a system that does indeed deal with the needs of both the employer and the employee community. We will continue to be able to provide the needed benefits to the injured workers, and at the end of the day as well we are going to reduce the assessment rates that are paid by the employer community, because as you know, our assessment rates are presently the second-highest in Canada. It's going to make us more competitive.


Mr Christopherson: The reality is that to pay for this $6-billion gift to your corporate friends, you're going to take away $15 billion from injured workers. The cabinet document that I leaked a couple of weeks ago shows very clearly that's what your intent is. At the end of the day, what you're going to do is have your employer friends have more money, not just from the tax cut but from this premium cut, and disabled workers in this province will have less than they deserve.

Minister, you are also not committing to holding province-wide public hearings yet on that WCB legislation. You just today, I understand, through a news release before the House, announced that the occupational health clinics will be staying open. We're going to take a lot of credit for that because it was the labour movement and our party and injured workers that fought that issue and said to you, "You will not close those clinics." I say to you now that you're afraid to hold province-wide public hearings on the WCB changes because you're afraid that you'll have to bow again to public pressure.

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

Mr Christopherson: Minister, I'm asking you two things: (1) Will you commit to province-wide public hearings before you ram through that legislation, and (2) until that is done, will you reverse this $6-billion gift to your friends?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I'm very pleased to indicate to the member opposite that yes, there has been a news release issued today and we will continue to support the occupational health clinics, after a very thorough investigation of the clinics, which actually you people had supported when you set up the royal commission yourself. We have now done our evaluation and we have determined that they will continue to operate.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): While I'm standing, if you'd please stop the clock, we have the ex-member for Willowdale, Mr Gino Matrundola, in the public galleries today. Welcome.


Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. My constituents high atop Hamilton Mountain have been following with great interest the ongoing discussions between the region of Hamilton-Wentworth and the local municipalities regarding the restructuring initiatives, and as you know, resolutions have been passed by the region and the city of Hamilton detailing their proposed ideas. Would you provide us with an update on the Hamilton governance issue?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for his question. It is true that this ministry is actively monitoring the discussions in Hamilton-Wentworth. I met yesterday with the mayor of Hamilton and with the chair of the region. The mayor and the regional chair have requested that the province provide some assistance to resolve their impasse, and I have agreed to do so.

As I have said in the past many times, I would prefer a solution that is supported by local citizens and not one imposed by the province, and I still do, but we will send in some help for them.

Mr Pettit: I too have been pushing for a local solution, because it seems to me the last thing we wanted was a solution imposed by the province. But we've obviously reached an impasse locally. Therefore, if the province is prepared to get involved, would you please tell the people of Hamilton Mountain and all the citizens of Hamilton-Wentworth exactly in what manner?

Hon Mr Leach: I'd like to thank all the members from Hamilton-Wentworth, as a matter of fact, for their interest in this issue. The government intends to appoint a mediator to help in this issue. The terms of reference are now being developed. I hope the mediator will be in place as early as next week. Again, I would like to stress that the province would like to see a local solution worked out between the political leaders of Hamilton-Wentworth, and hopefully the mediator will assist them in doing that.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): My question is to the Minister of Labour, l'honorable Elizabeth Witmer. On October 10 you told Ontarians that the Ontario-Quebec construction labour issue was resolved, and on the same day, at the Ottawa Construction Association gathering, you said an agreement in principle was reached with the Quebec government.

Last week, I asked you a question but I did not get an answer, so I will put the question as simply as possible, and this time I hope I will get a straight answer. Minister, Ontario workers and contractors are still waiting and, honestly, we all have doubts about Quebec respecting any agreement. They have sidestepped agreements in the past. We all know what happened in the 1994 agreement, and once again Quebec has managed to gain some time and seemingly calm the unrest that was brewing up in Ontario. Can you tell us how you will assure Ontarians that Quebec will respect this agreement without having this government introduce any new legislation?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): To the member opposite, I am aware of the fact that you have met with our staff today and I appreciate the concerns that you are bringing forward on behalf of your constituents. Certainly we are all concerned, because of what has happened in the past, that we continue to work forward as aggressively as we can to make sure that the terms of the agreement are implemented. My officials, as I have said to you before, are working with the officials in Quebec to ensure that come January 1, 1996, the terms that we have put in place will be operational and we will have a more level playing field which will enable our workers and our contractors to gain access into the province of Quebec.

Mr Lalonde: I would like to ask the minister how her government intends to recognize such trades as labourer, plasterer and painter. In a recent statement, the minister said that Quebec will recognize these trades. To my knowledge, there is no way to recognize these three specific trades, other than taking the worker's word. What will be the Quebec criteria for issuing a competency card to labourers, plasters and painters, and what will be the criteria that the Ontario government will use to recognize these three trades?

Hon Mrs Witmer: Those are exactly the types of issues that are now being resolved. The criteria are being established and that is the work that is now ongoing between the officials in Quebec and the officials in Ontario. As I indicated to you, it is certainly our hope, and we know it will happen, that come January 1, all of those issues will have been resolved, the criteria determined, and we will be able to move into Quebec and compete there for jobs on a level playing field.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Chair of Management Board. Your government's attack on workers continues; it seems to know no bounds. You have just recently sent out layoff notices to about 2,100 GO Temp workers, mostly women and people from visible minorities, because you have decided to privatize the GO Temp service in the government of Ontario. What you're doing with this is that you are taking money that is being used now to pay a decent wage to these 2,100 people and you are saying that in privatizing, 42% of that money is going to go to the private temp agencies, most of which are American companies. The workers are being told that if they want to have any hope of keeping their jobs, they should just register with one of these companies. At best, they can hope to get a salary that's about half of what they're making today.

Minister, what I want to ask you is, why are you so intent on putting 2,100 people out of work, mainly women and people from visible minorities, so that private American companies, temporary agencies, can get the benefit of those profits?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): As the member opposite knows, this government has undertaken on behalf of the taxpayers and the people of Ontario to look at all of the services that are delivered internally. One of those services is the GO Temp agency.


The Go Temp agency within the provincial government delivers clerical and secretarial services and many other kinds of services on a temporary basis to all the various ministries. The charge last year to the various ministries was over $42 million. That's the kind of cost that's associated to the taxpayers of Ontario for this service.

This government believes that through other, alternative means of delivering this service, we can reduce that considerably. The objective in particular, I might say, is we believe at least $5 million a year can be saved to the taxpayers of Ontario, and yet the service will be a good service, an even better service, to the various ministries. That basically is what this is all about: saving the taxpayers considerable expense.

Mr Silipo: Minister, you know better than I this is not about saving money; this is not about providing better service. If it was about providing better service, you would listen to the people in the Premier's own office who, we understand, are singing the praises of the GO Temp agency that you are now in the process of shutting down. This is from your own Premier's office.

If you're so interested in saving money and in continuing to provide the high quality of services that these GO Temp employees provide, why have you set up the request for proposals in such a way that you have not considered, and you will not make possible the consideration of, the employees themselves to bid for this contract?

What I want to ask you is, if you are serious about continuing to provide the high quality of service and not simply transferring money from the wages of workers into the profits of corporations, will you reconsider at least that element of allowing employees to bid for this contract, reopen the contract process and let the present employees who are interested in bidding and showing you that they can save money and keep the process in place and keep the jobs there bid for that contact?

Hon David Johnson: The member opposite may not consider a $5-million-a-year saving to the taxpayer to be significant, but I can tell you that this government is looking at all alternatives.

In terms of the specific question, the members from GO Temp are certainly permitted to be involved in the tender process. The tender process closed on September 30. The employees would be welcome to be involved. Indeed many of the employees registered in GO Temp are also registered with other agencies, and in the final analysis my suspicion is that many of them will be achieving employment with the province of Ontario through those agencies.

It was an open process, a fair tender process with considerable interest, and it will involve a $5-million saving, at least, to the taxpayers of Ontario. I think that's the proper way to go.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I have a question for the Minister of Health. Minister, I was very pleased to learn last week that Barrie's Royal Victoria Hospital has been selected as a site for the expansion of the Ontario breast screening program. My constituents are very excited about these enhanced services for women in my community. Could you provide us with details as to what these new services will include?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'm very pleased to respond to the question from the honourable member for Simcoe Centre, my neighbouring riding. Indeed, Royal Victoria Hospital will be selected as one of the new sites for breast screening as part of the $24.3-million announcement that the Premier and I, on behalf of the government and all members here, made just recently.

We want to encourage women aged 50 years and older to enter the program, to register with the program and to have regular breast screening. The program specifically offers a mammogram to women, special instruction with respect to breast self-examination and a complete breast physical examination by a specially trained nurse.

In addition to the honourable member's indication of Barrie being one of the sites that we've identified so far, there also will be new sites in Chatham, Sarnia --

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

Hon Mr Wilson: -- Listowel, Niagara Falls, St Catharines, Belleville, Trenton, Ottawa, Timmins and Bracebridge, and honourable members will note that this creates new jobs for highly trained nurses in this province.

Mr Tascona: Thank you, Minister. This is unquestionably great news for the residents of Simcoe Centre and for the other new sites across the province which you've outlined.

As I understand from your recent announcement, the government has committed to the establishment of additional sites for the future. What guidelines can you provide us with in respect to the time frame for these next steps?

Hon Mr Wilson: The 11 sites, including the city of Barrie, have already been notified that they're the preferred sites with respect to the tender that went out, the request for proposals, and the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, which coordinates the Ontario breast screening program, will be putting out another request for proposals. The announcement the Premier made of $23.4 million is to ensure that we have some 30 new sites established over the next four years. The details of the next round of site selection will be available, I hope, very shortly from the research foundation, and we'll get on with the job of increasing what has become an extremely valuable program to the women of this province.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I would like to quote from a document called the Mike Harris Task Force on Rural Development. It was produced in November 1994, well before the government members held the seats they now have, so just as an excerpt to refresh their memories, beneath the subtitle "Ministry Funding," the report says: "Under a Mike Harris government, agriculture will regain its fair share of government support. That is why there are no cuts to agriculture programs in our policy plan, the Common Sense Revolution."

Minister, is it your opinion that a clear promise was made by yourself and your Premier Mike Harris, prior to coming into power, that you would make no cuts to agriculture? Simply a yes or no would suffice.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to thank my colleague from Cornwall for that question because he well knows there have been no cuts to agricultural programs. As a matter of fact, there's about $35 million of new money: $15 million in Grow Ontario and a rebate of the provincial sales tax of over $20 million. So there have been no cuts to programs; in fact there are new programs.

Mr Cleary: I would just like to reminisce a little with the minister about the last 16 months. He cancelled the dairy audit program; cut the investment strategy program; reduced the tile drainage program; closed or amalgamated nine field offices; closed the Brighton veterinary lab; cancelled the Niagara tender fruit program and the agricultural museum funding; he has offloaded on commodity groups; he has wiped out lab and research programs; he has reduced international marketing programs; he has cut the municipal drainage program; and cut the funding for Foodland Ontario promotion -- $85 million in cuts. I know he reannounced two ethanol plans and the farm tax rebate, but Minister, the estimates really show that there was $480 million in agriculture and now approximately $421 million, a reduction of 12%.

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

Mr Cleary: When you were in opposition, you were so critical that agriculture did not get its fair share. How can you possibly say that you have not violated your election promise when the balance sheet shows you have?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: As a matter of fact, as we speak, we have some Japanese investors buying Ontario soybeans -- not just signing and hedging; they're buying Ontario soybeans.


Hon Mr Villeneuve: I'm sure the honourable members in opposition would like to know this. For the first six months, we have had a 14% increase in agrifood exports from Ontario. I'm very pleased that the honourable member for Cornwall recognizes $3 million to an ethanol facility in his riding, another $5 million to an ethanol facility in Chatham. Mr Speaker, I recently --

The Speaker: The question has been answered. Order.



M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Ma question est au ministre des Affaires municipales et du Logement. Monsieur le Ministre, votre agent, M. Crombie, président de la commission Qui fait quoi, traite présentement la question, qui va livrer quels services entre la province et les municipalités ? On entend des rumeurs que les services en français vont être affectés par ce changement. Pourquoi ? Parce que la Loi 8 sur les services en français ne s'applique pas aux municipalités. Si la prestation des services est transférée aux municipalités, l'accès aux services en français ne sera pas garanti.

Ma question est simplement celle-ce : quelle assurance pouvez-vous donner à la population francophone de la province qu'elle pourra continuer à être desservie dans sa propre langue suite à un tel transfert de responsabilités ?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I believe the duly elected representatives who are elected to municipal office are responsible people, and I think if they have a responsibility for delivering those services, they would continue to deliver them.

M. Bisson : Vous manquez complètement la question. La question, c'est que présentement dans la province de l'Ontario, on a un «act» sous le ministre responsable des affaires francophones qui dit qu'on doit servir les francophones d'une région desservie sous la Loi 8. Si on transfère les services directement aux municipalités, la loi ne s'applique pas à eux. On vous demande, en tant que ministre responsable pour les services qui vont être transférés aux municipalités, allez-vous donner une assurance que lorsque les services qui sont faits directement pour les francophones, en français, retombent sur les municipalités, ils seront livrés tels qu'ils sont avec les services provinciaux ?

Hon Mr Leach: I can assure the honourable member across that we have no intention of affecting the delivery of French services anywhere in the province. If services are presently delivered to any municipality in the province, then I can assure the member that they will continue to be delivered.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I understand that agriculture and food products from this province are being exported all around the world and that one of our goals is to significantly increase our agrifood exports in Ontario. Could the minister update us on where we stand with our agrifood shipments for 1996?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I wish to thank the honourable member for Oxford for his question, and it's a very timely question. Yes, our exports of agrifood products from Ontario are well over $2.6 billion in the first half and will be some 15% improved over last year. Indeed we are very proud.

When I was in the Pacific Rim in April, I invited a number of groups, and they have come over here and are purchasing Ontario pork, Ontario beans, Ontario tobacco, Ontario ice wine and many other products. So we are very proud of what we've been doing in agriculture.

Mr Hardeman: Thank you for the update. Could you please tell us what regions account for the biggest increase in agrifood exports?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: The agrifood exports primarily are going to be in grains. The United States is still our major purchaser. However, the Pacific Rim is now a very important player, as is eastern Europe and as is all of Europe in both the red meats and the grains, and we are very pleased to see double-digit increases in our exports.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. One of your predecessor's slash-and-burn decisions was to shut down all of the regional testing labs of the Ministry of Environment. As you know, water testing was one of the services they provided. The assurance was given, when concern was raised about that: "Don't worry. The private sector will step in. Private labs will provide the service."

I wasn't so sure of that, so I wrote and asked your ministry if they would provide me with information as to what private labs would step in in Thunder Bay and what they would charge. I now have that information, Minister, and I think you should be aware that of the 27 tests that were formerly done by the regional lab in Thunder Bay, only two could be done at a comparable cost by the more competitive bid. Some 16 of those tests will cost more than double what the cost was in the ministry lab, and one of them will be five times as much.

I wonder if you were aware of this, and I wonder if you're looking at these facts. Do you know how much this rush to privatization is going to cost?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Yes, I'm aware of that.

Mrs McLeod: My supplementary question relates back to the issue of increased costs, and the burden they would be for small business people like trailer court owners, raised with the minister about two weeks ago by my colleague from Kenora. That may be why the minister is now aware of it. I believe the minister said, in response to my colleague at the time, "We're going to look at some ways of helping them with those costs."

I have another letter addressed to me, also from your ministry, which makes it quite clear that one way you are going to help people with those additional costs incurred because of your privatization move is to reduce the level of water sampling that is required.

The auditor has already said that we have a real problem with water testing and water quality. We have already had a serious outbreak related to water quality. I don't know how you can possibly consider reducing the water testing that is done in this province. Will you give us an assurance that you are not going to reduce the level of water testing and further damage water quality to pay for your privatization moves?

Hon Mr Sterling: I'm quite willing to look into that.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Yesterday we passed Bill 49, the bill to change the Employment Standards Act. You have steadfastly maintained that you have not taken away any rights in that bill. I want to ask you a very straightforward question.

Given the fact that workers now can only claim back for six months, not two years, that there will be a minimum threshold -- you haven't told us what it is -- and that there will be a cap on how much workers can claim when they've had money taken from them by employers, I want to know how you can stand in your place, in the face of that evidence, and still maintain that you haven't taken away workers' rights in the Employment Standards Act.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): It was not yesterday but on Monday of this week that we had an opportunity to pass Bill 49. We are now embarking on the task of totally reviewing the Employment Standards Act. That has not been done since 1974. Certainly our intention is to ensure that vulnerable workers are protected.

We are going to establish basic standards. We are going to take a look at what sectors need to be covered by the Employment Standards Act. As you know, there are emerging sectors, such as in the field of telemarketing, and I would indicate to you that if you take a look at Bill 49, the legislation that has just been passed, we have done exactly what we said we would do: We have made sure that as a result of the changes we've made there has been no change to any minimum standards. However, we have made it easier and quicker for employees to obtain money owed to them.

Mr Christopherson: That is the difficulty we have with this government. No matter what we point out as the truth, you're prepared to stand up and say exactly the opposite.

I'd like you to answer my question, Minister. It's a very straightforward one. Please address yourself to my question. I am calling you on whether or not you've taken away rights. In that bill, workers cannot claim for two years any more, only six months. I say that's a takeaway. Your bill now will have a minimum threshold where one doesn't exist now. I say that's taking away rights. Your bill will put a cap on how much workers can claim. I claim that's a takeaway of workers' rights. I want you to either stand in your place and say that I am wrong factually or finally admit that you have taken away workers' rights in the Employment Standards Act.

Hon Mrs Witmer: As a result of the changes we have made, we are now ensuring that workers have access and will be able to get the money owed to them much more quickly. That's what we've done.


Mr Christopherson: You can't answer the question, can you? You sit there and take away workers' rights and say you're not. It's disgusting, absolutely disgusting. She's laughing; she thinks this is a big joke.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. The member for Hamilton Centre, please come to order. The question will be answered by the Minister of Labour and then we're finished with question period.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I realize there is an audience today.

I would certainly indicate again to the member opposite that what we have done is something that enhances the rights of the most vulnerable workers in this province. We have ensured that the collection of the money owed to them is actually going to take place after you did away with the collection agency. We are going to privatize the function. I would indicate to you that at the end of the day, as a result of the changes we have made, workers are going to get their money, more of it, much more quickly than under the legislation you people had.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have the following petition signed by a number of residents of Ontario.

"Whereas the government of Ontario appears to be moving towards the privatization of retail liquor and spirit sales in the province; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a safe, secure and controlled way of retailing alcoholic beverages; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides the best method of restricting the sale of liquor to minors in Ontario; and

"Whereas the LCBO has an excellent program of quality control of the products sold in its stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a wide selection of product to its customers in modern, convenient stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO has moved forward with the times, sensitive to the needs of its customers and its clients; and

"Whereas the LCBO is an important instrument for the promotion and sale of Ontario wines and thereby contributes immensely to grape growing and the wine-producing industry;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario abandon its plan to turn the sale of liquor and spirits over to private liquor stores and retain the LCBO for this purpose."

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

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I wonder if Andy Brandt signed that petition.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have a petition here from literally hundreds of people from the city of Timmins who protested the other day when Premier Harris came to Timmins. The petition reads as follows:

"We, the following undersigned citizens, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has broken its election promises by slashing millions of dollars from the education budget;

"Whereas by slashing the education budget these cuts are resulting in larger classes, less help for special needs students, loss of junior kindergarten, fewer resources for the classroom and teachers to help students;

"Whereas by amalgamating school boards into superboards community voice and needs will not be heard or addressed, resulting in a less dynamic and productive education system less reflective of individual community needs;

"Whereas should the future cuts continue, these will encourage the downward spiral of the present quality of education."

I've signed my name to this petition. It's signed by approximately 500 people.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I present a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario concerning drinking and driving.

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


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a further petition from residents of my community who are concerned with the possible removal of rent control, and I wish to read it to the assembly.

"Whereas the government of Ontario has announced its intention to remove rent control from apartments that become vacant so that landlords can charge whatever rent they want; and

"Whereas the government's proposal will eliminate rent control on new buildings, and allow landlords to pass on repair bills and other costs to tenants; and

"Whereas the government's proposal will make it easier for landlords to demolish buildings and easier to convert apartments to condominiums; and

"Whereas due to the zero vacancy rate in Metro Toronto the removal of rent control will cause extreme hardship for seniors and tenants on fixed incomes and others who cannot afford homes;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario to keep the existing system of rent control."

I concur with the intentions of the petitioners and I will affix my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I continue to receive petitions from thousands of workers all across Ontario, outraged at this government's ongoing attack on their health and safety and WCB rights.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

On behalf of my caucus, I add my name to theirs.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I rise today with another petition from the good people of Port Colborne concerning the seniors' driver exam.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and to the Minister of Transportation:

"Whereas the driver examination centre in the city of Welland is slated to close later in October; and

"Whereas these changes represent an undue hardship in that they will require Port Colborne and Wainfleet senior citizens to drive up to an hour away to take their annual road test on the unfamiliar and busy roads of St Catharines; and

"Whereas the fact that a very high proportion of seniors eventually pass their road test has led the Minister of Transportation to state that he will re-examine the requirements for issuing drivers' licences to seniors,

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the Minister of Transportation to develop a system of licensing that is less onerous on the senior citizens of Port Colborne and Wainfleet and that recognizes that when tests are required, familiar local roads are the fairest place to assess driver ability."

Beneath the names of Kay Kelba and Morley Hindle of Port Colborne, I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I continue to get petitions from construction workers and miners, which say:

"To the Honourable Solicitor General and Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

I affix my signature, as I agree with the petition.



Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here another petition, again from the same group of people, various people who were at the gathering to protest Mr Harris when he was in Timmins at a $150-a-plate dinner last week, and it reads as follows:

"Whereas 1996 is the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty;

"Whereas Mike Harris's Conservative government has created a climate of poor-bashing by stereotyping poor people as lazy and blaming them for our social and economic problems;

"Whereas the message is reinforced through government policies, big business and the corporate media;

"Whereas Mike Harris's Tories have cut welfare, social programs, employment standards, job training and child care and created workfare;

"Whereas although big business profits are up, 57,000 have lost their jobs in the economy;

"Whereas social program spending actually accounts for very little of the deficit and debt problem;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, call upon Premier Mike Harris, his government and the members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop blaming the poor and bring an end to the legislated poverty in this province."

I affix my name to that petition.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have another set of petitions from legal owners and users of firearms who are concerned about ammunition restrictions.

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

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

"Whereas the records for which these provisions have been produced as a result of the provisions of Bill 181 cannot reasonably be used to track criminals; and

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Minister of Labour, Premier of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, are opposed to your government's proposed changes to Ontario's workers' compensation system, including elimination of the bipartite board of directors, reduced temporary benefits, introduction of the three-day period from the time of injury with no pay, legislated limits on entitlement, thereby excluding repetitive strain, chronic pain and stress claims from eligibility for compensation and reduced permanent pensions and pension supplements.

"Workers' compensation is not a handout, it is an insurance plan for which premiums are paid. It is a legal obligation that employers have to employees, who 80 years ago traded their right to sue employers in return for this insurance plan.

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, demand no reduction in existing benefits, improved re-employment and vocational rehabilitation, tightened enforcement of health and safety to prevent injuries, no reduction in current Workers' Compensation Board staff levels and that the bipartite board structure be left intact."

I add my signature to theirs.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to present yet another petition from the senior citizens, of this time, Fort Erie, Ontario, concerning the drivers' exams for seniors.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and to the Minister of Transportation:

"Whereas the driver examination centre in the town of Fort Erie has been closed as of September 24 and the centre in Niagara Falls will close later in October; and

"Whereas these changes represent an undue hardship in that they will require Fort Erie senior citizens to drive up to an hour away to take their annual road tests on the unfamiliar roads of St Catharines; and

"Whereas the fact that a very high proportion of seniors eventually pass their road test has led the Minister of Transportation to state that he will re-examine the requirements for issuing drivers' licences for seniors;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the Minister of Transportation to develop a system of licensing that is less onerous on the senior citizens of Fort Erie and that recognizes that when tests are required, familiar local roads are the fairest places to assess driver ability."

Beneath the names of Mr Mantle and Mr Putney, I affix my signature.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have been receiving thousands and thousands of petitions of this sort. This is to Premier Harris and to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Al Leach, and members of the Ontario Legislature.

"We, the undersigned, protest this government's actions against tenants described below.

"The Rent Control Act protects Ontario's 3.3 million tenants. Rent control allows for security and stability in their homes and communities. Uncontrolled rent increases leave tenants, their families and other communities open to eviction, personal distress, and contribute directly to social instability. We want this government to stop any actions that would allow uncontrolled rents.

"Further, this government is considering changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act favourable to landlords for easier and faster evictions. This is unacceptable to Ontario tenants and damaging to Ontario's communities.

"This government also plans to get rid of public housing and has halted the creation of basement apartments and a new supply of affordable non-profit housing. These types of housing are necessary for low- and moderate-income tenants to obtain accommodation they can afford. The government must cease all actions that reduce the affordability and availability of these kinds of housing.

"This government has eliminated funding for United Tenants of Ontario, five municipal tenant federations and other important tenant services at a time when they're attacking all tenant rights. Funding for those groups must be reinstated so that Ontario's tenants and not just their landlords are able to bring their views to bear in government deliberations on tenants' rights and protection. A consultation process with tenants' organizations should be initiated immediately to develop a plan for sustainable funding for services to tenants."

I will affix my signature in agreement with these tenants.



Mr Martiniuk from the standing committee on administration of justice presented the following report and moved its adoption:

Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:

Bill 79, An Act to improve Ontario's court system, to respond to concerns raised by charities and their volunteers and to improve various statutes relating to the administration of justice / Projet de loi 79, Loi visant à améliorer le système judiciaire de l'Ontario, à répondre aux préoccupations exprimées par les oeuvres de bienfaisance et leurs bénévoles, et à améliorer diverses lois relatives à l'administration de la justice.

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

Shall Bill 79 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.


Mr Silipo from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's 22nd report and moved its adoption.

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

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): These are recommending concurrence with the review of two appointees recommended which the committee reviewed this morning.

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




Mr Hampton moved opposition day motion number 3:

Whereas the struggles of working families in Ontario for the past 50 years have led to safer workplaces, improvements to working conditions and standards, greater economic justice for pensioners and injured workers, pay equity for women and a more prosperous Ontario; and

Whereas this year marks the 50th anniversary of such milestones as the historic strike by steelworkers at Stelco in Hamilton and the landmark strike by auto workers at Ford in Windsor; and

Whereas the Ontario Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, opening this year in Hamilton, is focusing much-needed attention on the history of working people; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government has launched a sustained attack on workers' rights; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government has stripped rights from workers in the Labour Relations Act while encouraging employers to force strikes, incite violence and hire scabs, causing more days lost to strikes already this year in Ontario than at any time since the passage of Bill 40; and

Whereas striking workers -- at S.A. Armstrong, General Motors, Niagara region and elsewhere -- are under attack from their employers as a direct result of the Mike Harris government's actions; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government is preparing to take $15 billion from injured workers and give $6 billion to Ontario employers, undermining the long-standing compromise that guarantees full and fair workers' compensation in return for protecting employers from lawsuits; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government is threatening to close the Occupational Disease Panel and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers, while setting the stage for attacking the right to refuse unsafe work; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government has pushed through amendments to the Employment Standards Act, under the guise of "housekeeping," that make it more difficult for vulnerable workers to defend their rights; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government has begun the gutting of pay equity protection for women, while making plans for further attacks on pay equity in the current session; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government has laid off hundreds of workers at the Ministry of Labour, including key staff in enforcement of employment standards and health and safety laws; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government has frozen Ontario's minimum wage, forcing down the standard of living of Ontario's most vulnerable workers while the US Congress has passed legislation raising the US minimum wage to a level higher than Ontario's; and

Whereas the Mike Harris government is driving down the standard of living of working families, while putting more money in the pockets of wealthy corporations and individuals, sharpening the divide between the haves and the have-nots; and

Whereas the Minister of Labour is, under the guise of creating "balance," taking power from unorganized and organized workers and putting more power in the hands of employers; and

Whereas the Minister of Labour rewrote the Ontario Labour Relations Act without a single day of public hearings, tried to roll back rights under the Employment Standards Act without public hearings and refuses to commit to full, province-wide public hearings on the drastic changes proposed to the Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act;

Therefore this House calls on the government to withdraw its proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act, scrap its proposed amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act, commit to full funding of the Occupational Disease Panel and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers, increase the Ontario minimum wage immediately and reinstate the ban on replacement workers in strikes and lockouts.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): This is indeed an important occasion in the Legislature. It's an important occasion because for 50 years working people across this province have struggled in Ontario to make this province a better place to live.

These include better working conditions, safer workplaces, greater economic justice for pensioners and injured workers, fairer pay for women. The result of all these gains has been a more prosperous Ontario for all. Workers have made Ontario a better place to live because of all the gains that working families have made.

But it is sad, as I just recounted for members of this House, to see that Ontario now has a government which is bent upon rolling back the clock, rolling back the clock to a time when working people did not have good workers' compensation coverage, when working people did not have the right to refuse unsafe work, rolling back the clock to a time when the minimum wage was below the poverty line, rolling back the clock to a time when workers are considered less than full partners in society, less than full partners in the economy. That is, sadly, what is happening at the behest and with the approval and with the active instigation of this government.

But we want to celebrate today what workers have achieved and then we want to point out just how wrong this government is. This year is the 50th anniversary of some of the most significant events in Ontario labour history, Canadian labour history and, I would argue, in world labour history: 1946 was the hot year of post-war labour solidarity which led to important advances for working families all across this province and all across Canada. Returning Second World War veterans refused to be told that there were no jobs for them, that there was no housing for them, that there was no training for them, that there was no work for them. Instead, they played a key role in fighting for better wages and better working conditions for everyone in this province.

In Hamilton, the strike by steelworkers at Stelco led to important gains and also inspired an enduring sense of community. In Windsor, the 1946 strike at Ford established a tradition of solidarity for the auto workers in Canada and was a first step towards much-improved wages and working conditions in the auto industry.

The Ontario Workers Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton offers a salute to the achievements of working families in this province. The centre opens this fall in the historic Custom House in the north end of Hamilton. The centre features displays that portray the history of working people. It also serves as a clearinghouse and collecting point of information, recording workers' history before it is forgotten.

A conference hosted by the Ontario Workers Arts and Heritage Centre earlier this year attracted about 100 women and men to review critical moments in the history of Ontario workers, especially the landmark strikes of 50 years ago which established the compromise in Ontario society, the compromise that recognized things like a decent minimum wage, that recognized things like the right to strike, the right to organize, the right of trade unions to have a say in how our society is governed and the direction our society takes. It's an important event. It's an important event this year, this day, and the opening of the Ontario Workers Arts and Heritage Centre is an important event for Ontario.

But, as I said earlier, it is very sad that the progress that has been made over the last 50 years is now under direct attack by this right-wing government. Working families in Ontario now face a new challenge: a government that is actively rolling back the gains that working families have struggled for throughout the post-war era.

Since taking office last year, the Harris Conservative government has launched a sustained attack on workers' rights. The Conservative government has stripped rights from workers in the Labour Relations Act, encouraging employers to force strikes, to hire scabs and to provoke confrontation on the picket line. In fact, through August, there were already 1.38 million person-days lost to lockouts and strikes in Ontario, up from just 354,000 in the same period last year. There were more days lost to lockouts and strikes in the first eight months of 1996 than in all three years that Bill 40 was in effect, from 1993 until 1995. The figures for 1996 don't even include the massive strike by the Canadian Auto Workers at General Motors or other current work stoppages such as the strike by CUPE workers in the Niagara region as a result of the Harris government's policies.

These figures also don't include the full impact of the strike by the United Steelworkers at S.A. Armstrong in Scarborough, where workers have been on the picket line since April, on the picket line trying to defend the wages they have struggled so long and so hard to earn; on the picket line trying to defend some control over their workplace; on the picket line trying to defend pensions; on the picket line trying to defend benefits. The employer, S.A. Armstrong, has followed the encouragement of the Harris Conservative government and has demanded major concessions from the workers and has brought in scabs to try to break the union. That is, sadly, what this Conservative government has encouraged and that is the kind of situation, the kind of labour relations this government is trying to encourage.


Some of the S.A. Armstrong workers are in the gallery today. I'd like to see any member of the government try to explain to these steelworkers how the Harris Conservative government's labour laws have made Ontario better for them.

It's important to note that almost every one of the steelworkers who has worked at S.A. Armstrong has worked there for over 10 or 15 years; some have 20 years' seniority. They have been dedicated workers; they have helped to make S.A. Armstrong a productive company and a profitable company. Yet this government believes that it must conduct an attack on these workers and other workers in Ontario.

This will not work. This will not lead to a more productive Ontario. This will not lead to an Ontario that people are proud to live in and proud to be a part of. This is a march back into the past; it is a march back to the kind of labour relations that existed in this province before the Second World War; it is a march back into the kind of economy that people, sadly, experienced during the Great Depression. Unfortunately, this government will force a lot of suffering on to a lot of people in this province before it discovers how wrong it is.

But there is much more to this Conservative government's anti-worker agenda. There is much more that they intend to do to drive down the standard of living of working people; for example, the workers' compensation and workplace health and safety. A major battleground this fall will be this government's plans to attack workplace health and safety and the Workers' Compensation Board.

Any doubts we had about where this government is heading disappeared when we started reading the 58-page leaked cabinet submission that we received via a brown envelope. The big picture is clear: The Harris Conservative government has a plan to take $15 billion from injured workers and their families and give $6 billion to some of the wealthiest employers in this province. In the process, the Conservatives are going to abolish the Occupational Disease Panel, complete the destruction of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency and try to set the stage for its next step: an all-out assault on the right to refuse unsafe work.

The Conservative government says it will try to ram the WCB health and safety bill through the House in a matter of weeks. We want to serve notice now that ramming this kind of attack on workers through the House in a matter of a couple of weeks is totally unacceptable, totally unacceptable to people all over Ontario. We know that people all over Ontario will be demanding full, province-wide public hearings on these important changes, on these attacks on workers. I want to put the government on notice that if it thinks it's had a fight in the past over some of these things, nothing will compare to the fight it will have over workers' compensation and occupational health and safety. Nothing will compare to that fight.

Other highlights of the leaked cabinet document, though, tell a very sad story. The government plans would require that a worker consent to the release of his or her confidential medical information when applying for workers' compensation. Health care professionals, physicians, nurses and other health care workers advise strongly against making injured workers sign this blank cheque, because at the time the workers provided such consent, workers would have no reasonable understanding of the nature of the information that would be released following an assessment by the health professional.

I wonder how many members of the Conservative government would sign a consent for the release of their full medical file. I really wonder how many members of the Conservative government would sign today a release of all the information contained in their medical files. I don't think there would be many of them, because our medical files are part of our private being, part of what we expect to be treated with privacy, part of what we expect to be treated with confidentiality. Yet this government shows so little respect for workers that it's going to propose a law which says that workers have to shred all their privacy, have to give away all their confidentiality if they even so much as file a workers' compensation claim. This is nothing less than disgusting. This is nothing less than pathetic -- nothing less.

You can count on the fact that when this comes up for debate, we'll be asking every Conservative member of this Legislature to sign a disclosure making his or her own private medical file available. If workers are going to be forced to submit to this kind of indignity, then I would suggest Conservative members of the government ought to submit to this kind of indignity.

Then there is the disclosure of the ultimate fallacy. The government says it wants to do this to save money, but you know what? The government intends to change the name of the Workers' Compensation Board, and do you know how much just the change of name will cost? The leaked cabinet document discloses that the change of name itself will blow $1 million, will waste $1 million on a name change. The government's whole line of reasoning here is totally fraudulent, and the fact that it's willing to spend $1 million on a name change shows how absurd it is.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order. Just a word of advice. Be careful with the type of words you choose. Just be careful, be extremely careful, and don't play with fire, please.

Mr Hampton: I have not accused the government of lying, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: Just be careful.

Mr Hampton: The government's anti-worker agenda goes on when one examines employment standards. We've just seen the bad-boss bill. In fact, earlier this week, the Conservative government forced through this House the bad-boss bill on employment standards. Last spring the labour minister tried to pass the bad-boss bill off as housekeeping, merely saying, "These are housekeeping changes." But that didn't work. Once people saw what was included in the bill, people recognized that this legislation took away important rights from the most vulnerable workers in this province. When people saw what was in the bad-boss bill, they demanded public hearings, and the government was forced to give in. Then we heard from hundreds of individuals and groups in community after community across this province who said without hesitation that the bad-boss bill would be bad for workers and was a gift for some of the worst bosses in this province.

But that's not the end of it either. The minister has announced plans for a full-scale review of the entire Employment Standards Act. The government has a discussion paper that it's kept under wraps, that it's working on secretly. But we know what's in that discussion paper. Ontario workers will be watching to see what other rights are under attack.

A particular concern is the issue of overtime. We understand that the government wants to give employers the right to require up to 56 hours of overtime in a week; in other words, give employers the right to demand that workers work all those hours of overtime, regardless of whether workers have a family to look after, regardless of whether workers have children to look after, regardless of whether the worker's family is going to suffer. Whatever the bad bosses want, this government is prepared to give them, no matter what the detriment to workers, no matter what the detriment to workers' families, no matter what the detriment to the community. So workers are going to watch for this and workers are going to fight this.


This is wrong for Ontario. When the unemployment rate is 9% and going higher, when Ontario lost 35,000 jobs in the month of September, when retail sales are down despite the fact we have the lowest interest rates in many, many years in this country, when all of these things are happening, to force workers to work more and more hours of overtime is profoundly wrong. To force workers to neglect their families, to neglect their children, to neglect their home life in order that they can be forced to work more overtime, is not only economically wrong; it is morally wrong. But as I say, the government will bring this forward and it will face the fight of its life on these issues.

It doesn't end here, however. Equal pay is a guarantee of fair wages for women; it's a guarantee that employers will not pay women less for the same work or similar work men may be doing. Equal pay is equality. It is the principle that all workers should be paid equally and treated equally in the workplace, and now the government is even abandoning that.

Pay equity legislation was originally passed in 1987 with support from all three parties. Then the New Democratic government built upon the success of 1987 and in 1993 expanded equal pay coverage to about 420,000 more women by adding new equal pay tools like proportional value and proxy comparison.

The Harris Conservative government repealed the proxy method in its omnibus bill last year and eliminated the possibility of achieving equal pay for about 100,000 women in some of the lowest-paid jobs. In addition, thousands of women in the broader public sector who had won equal pay adjustments had these payments reduced by the Harris government. The Conservatives also eliminated funding for the Pay Equity Advocacy and Legal Services clinic, which helped women who are not in unions get what they deserve under the law: equal pay.

Since 1988, when the original Pay Equity Act took effect, there had been real progress. The wage gap between women and men earning yearly full-time salaries had decreased from 36% in 1988 to 24% last year. Sadly, that is now ending. There is still more progress to be made in equal pay, still much that needs to be done to ensure that workers, no matter their gender, are paid on an equal basis. But under the Harris Conservative government it's not going to happen. Instead, the Harris Conservative government is laying plans to gut the Pay Equity Act and abolish the Pay Equity Commission, which would halt all proactive enforcement. From now on, pay equity would only be enforced if a low-paid woman has the financial resources to file and pursue a complaint herself. In other words, the government is going to make it virtually impossible for women to achieve equal pay. The government is going to make it financially almost impossible for the lowest-paid women to achieve what they are entitled to by law and what they are entitled to by the principles of the United Nations.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): So it's equal pay for rich women only.

Mr Hampton: Equal pay for rich Conservative women only.

The government pays lip-service to the principles of pay equity, but it's doing everything it can to make sure no more women benefit from the law. They're doing everything they can to ensure the lowest-paid women in the province continue to be the lowest-paid.

Then there are things like cutbacks at the labour ministry, but I know that other members of our caucus want to talk about that, and there are things like the absolute failure of this government to consult and talk with workers across the province. Other members of my caucus want to talk about that.

I want to spend the last few minutes addressing the insult that is happening with respect to minimum wages. There are literally hundreds of thousands of workers in this province. The only way they get a pay raise is if the minimum wage is raised. That stands with the government. The Harris Conservative government is driving down the wages and living standards of those people: workers who receive the minimum wage.

Over the term of the NDP government we gradually raised the minimum wage to $6.85 an hour. It's important to note that about 60% of all minimum wage earners are women. This includes mothers supporting their families at or below the poverty line. This summer even the Republican-dominated US Congress felt it had to show some decency by raising the minimum wage in the United States. They passed a bill that will raise the minimum wage to US$5.15 an hour, and if you use a 35% exchange rate, it works out to C$7 an hour. When you consider the exchange rate, it actually puts the minimum wage higher all across the United States than it is now in Ontario.

What a disgrace that this government aims to have the lowest minimum wage on the continent. What a disgrace to say that this government intends to go out there and say: "Ontario has the lowest minimum wage. We're proud of it."

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Not true.

Mr Hampton: Some of the Conservative members say, "Untrue." The facts speak for themselves. Even a right-wing Congress dominated by the likes of Newt Gingrich passed a minimum wage increase that puts the minimum wage in the United States higher than in Ontario. The facts speak for themselves.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): You wouldn't know a fact if you fell over it, Howie. That's why you were bumped when you were in cabinet.


Mr Hampton: Speaker, obviously I've touched a nerve with the Conservative members, who clapped and cheered in here when the Minister of Labour tried to defend the use of scabs in the workplace.

It's useful just to reflect for a moment on the kind of economy we're going into in the 21st century. We're going into an economy where investments in training, in workers and in education for workers that will help make workers more productive are going to be more important than ever. What is this government doing? This government is sending a message to workers to workers: "We're not interested in investing in training. We're not interested in investing in you as workers. We're not interested in investing in safe and healthy workplaces. We're not interested in investing in a Workers' Compensation Board that helps and benefits workers. We're not interested in raising the standard of living of workers. We're interested in having the lowest minimum wage in North America." It's a government that's interested in gutting the Workers' Compensation Board and destroying the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. That's the record of this government.

I have something very clear to say to the members of the government. Your agenda may enjoy some short-term popularity out there with those people who are looking for someone to blame, but in the longer term this government will go the same way that in the United States Ronald Reagan went, that George Bush went, that Robert Dole is going to go in about a month: down to the basement where they belong. People want to support a positive agenda which builds, not an agenda which cuts, not an agenda which attacks people, not an agenda which hurts people.

Mr Baird: What about Bob Rae?

Mr Turnbull: We're going to get a new history book.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): Tell us about Bob Rae in the basement.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. You'll have your turn. Just be patient.


Mr Hampton: I know the government doesn't want to hear any of this, but throughout the day they will hear just how much they have attacked and hurt working people in this province and how wrong it is for all people in Ontario.

We celebrate workers, the contribution workers have made and the kind of vision workers want to build in this province.


The Deputy Speaker: I'd just like to advise the member in the gallery, you're most welcome here except that you have to follow and obey the procedures of the House, which indicate that you should not applaud or make any signs whatsoever.

Further debate? The member for Cochrane South, please. Otherwise you'll have to take your chair.

Mr Bisson: I'll take your chair.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Cochrane South, I ask you to apologize to the Chair.

Mr Bisson: I apologize.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Nepean.

Mr Baird: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to rise and join this debate on the NDP resolution.

The goals of the Mike Harris government have always been very clear and straightforward. Our goal is to create jobs, encourage more investment in Ontario and bring hope and opportunity back to the province. For many years Ontario was the economic engine of Canada, a magnet for jobs, investment and opportunity, and for too long over the last 10 years and the two previous governments we've become a mismanaged debtor. We've become overgoverned, overregulated and overtaxed. We've lost our competitiveness, our ability to compete in the global market.

Competitiveness is very important. I read with great interest Bob Rae's book the other day, from which I'll read a quote on page 224 the members opposite might be interested in:

"Ontario was not seen as hungry enough for new business and new investment. Bureaucracy was too big and inefficient. We were lousy marketers. American states were much better at being aggressive and attracting new jobs. We were overtaxed and overregulated.... These are not things that New Democrats like to admit to ourselves, though they were increasingly obvious to most people."

Obviously Mr Rae learned a tremendous amount in government and he took it all with him when he left the House.

Mr Bisson: He's the guy that did the anti-scab legislation, so what's your point? You're the guys who are taking it away.

Mr Baird: The member opposite mentioned Bill 40. We believe that Bill 40 killed jobs. We were very clear the day Bill 40 passed that if we were given the privilege of forming a government in Ontario -- the then leader of the third party, Mr Harris, stood in his place the day after it passed and said very clearly, "We will repeal Bill 40." He wanted to be so clear that a vote for him and a vote for one of his candidates in the next election would be a vote against Bill 40 that on the day after Bill 40 passed he put an ad in the Globe and Mail which said simply, "We will repeal Bill 40." It could not have been clearer.

From the day it was passed, it was going. To prove that this government is keeping its word, we introduced Bill 7 to restore balance and stability to labour relations in the province of Ontario. It is important to note --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): You turned back the laws 50 years. Bill 40 was good legislation. It helped Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Cochrane North, you're disturbing the House and you know what procedures can be followed. I just advise you.

Mr Baird: Bill 7 did one more important thing in repealing Bill 40: It introduced workplace democracy measures in the province. For the first time working men and women in this province were entitled to a secret ballot vote, normally within five working days, on whether they wanted or did not want to join a trade union. They had a secret ballot vote under Bill 7 on whether they chose or didn't choose to ratify a contract, which is absolutely extraordinary.

In discussions with representatives of a wide variety of groups across the province I found absolutely overwhelming support for secret ballot votes. One public opinion survey suggested that 92% of residents of Ontario supported the government in that position.

It's interesting to note, as the Minister of Labour did in question period today, that the number of strikes has actually declined in the province over the last 12 months. Unions continue to be certified and settlements continue to be made. Ninety-seven per cent of all collective agreements are settled without a strike or a lockout. There is an unprecedented number of collective agreements expiring this year: 3,400 agreements affecting 600,000 workers in the public sector and 200,000 private sector workers. When these numbers are put in their proper perspective, we can see that the proportion of settlements ending without strikes is projected to be even better this year than last year under Bill 40.

But the one big difference is that we don't have a social contract. What was the social contract? I read with great interest some debates in Hansard. I remember the member for Nickel Belt, then the Treasurer, who said: "I want to say categorically that our government finds any prospect of overriding collective agreements painful and difficult, but our pain and our difficulty are nothing compared to what the alternatives would mean for the province. Sometimes it is necessary to give up something for the common good." That's what the member said.

When the members opposite talk about their relations with labour, we know what they did: They just overrode collective agreements. I look at the results from the vote on the social contract and I notice that every, single member of the NDP caucus who is in his place today voted in favour of overriding collective agreements. That's the way they saw labour relations. They would override Bill 40, and they're unapologetic. That's a fact. That's the truth. They believe in overriding collective agreements. When they were in government, that was their way of dealing with the fiscal mess we found ourselves in.

It's important to note that in the resolution the members opposite talk about health and safety. I'd like to remind the House that health and safety inspectors have not been cut under this government. The members opposite know about cutting health and safety inspectors, because they cut health and safety inspectors by 7% when they were in government. I looked through Hansard, through the committees, and there weren't public hearings on these health and safety inspectors. Not one single government member got up in this House, not once, and criticized his government for cutting health and safety inspectors. While this Minister of Labour maintains the current level of health and safety inspectors, the members opposite all voted for budgets, each and every single year they were in government, to cut health and safety inspectors. That's their view about health and safety.

I think it's important to note with respect to Bill 49, An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act, which received final approval on Monday, that it is not cutting minimum standards. The minimum wage is not affected; the minimum wage remains exactly the same. The hours of work remain exactly the same after Bill 49 has been passed. Severance packages are not going to change --

Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Does the member have to be truthful when giving a speech?

The Deputy Speaker: Order. I ask you to withdraw that remark.

Mr Bisson: I withdraw. I just asked the question.

The Deputy Speaker: I just advise you, member for Cochrane South, be careful.

Mr Baird: As I was saying, the severance arrangements under the Employment Standards Act remain unchanged. Vacation pay remains unchanged. The one standard that did change, with respect to pregnancy leave, was supported by virtually every witness the committee heard, where this government clarified provisions for working women in the province.

I believe there's no justice in $10-billion deficits. There is no social justice in $10-billion, $11-billion, $11.3-billion deficits. There's no social justice in $11-billion unfunded liabilities either. These are the legacies of both parties opposite from their time in government, which is most interesting.

With respect to pay equity, we're committed to the principles of pay equity, and our response will be forthcoming very shortly. The Pay Equity Act, passed by a previous Parliament, states that every seven years after its enactment, the government of the day would be required to review the legislation by statute. We cancelled the $1-million process authorized by the previous government and replaced it with a much more cost-effective and efficient review, totalling some $52,000.

Jean Read, the reviewer of the act, is a widely respected authority on employment and labour law and a 27-year veteran of the Ontario public service. Read consulted with over 150 stakeholders, including organized labour, business, women's groups, pay equity advocates, human resource professionals and many others.


The priorities for the government on the issue of pay equity include finding ways to continue pay equity in an efficient, affordable and sustainable manner -- "sustainable" is an important word there -- developing a forward-looking and cost-effective administrative framework, and finding ways to make the act more flexible and responsive to the needs of the modern workplace, because the government remains committed to the principles of pay equity. Our response to the Jean Read report will be balanced and will reflect that commitment, which is very important to know.

The members opposite, in their resolution, spoke about full and fair workers' compensation. We believe there's a need for full and fair funding of workers' compensation, but we believe an $11-billion-plus unfunded liability is absolutely --


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: We have now had six interjections in less than two minutes from the New Democratic Party members, and interjections are out of order.

The Deputy Speaker: As you know, one of the main qualities of a Speaker is patience, and I think I've advised the members often enough. The member for Nepean.

Mr Baird: That, I believe, is the best guarantee that Ontario's injured workers and their families will continue to have full and fair compensation that they'll be able to depend on and count on.

The members opposite also during question period today --

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): You're going to take $15 million away from injured workers.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre, you're a mature politician. I think you will understand what the procedures are. I would ask you just to refrain from heckling and to wait for the opportunity to voice your opinion. Please do so.

Mr Christopherson: He's being provocative.

The Deputy Speaker: Please.

Mr Baird: I'm telling the truth, Mr Speaker.

Mr Christopherson: You're not.

The Deputy Speaker: I won't play any games. I don't play games, honestly. Please, withdraw this. Please withdraw.

Mr Christopherson: I withdraw that, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Nepean.

Mr Baird: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The leader of the third party mentioned in his remarks the future of the occupational health clinics for the working people in the province of Ontario. Just today the Minister of Labour put out a press release, "Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers To Continue." We're seeking a system that's more efficient, more effective and more accountable.

I'll give a quote from that document. "Workplace health and safety will improve when the ministry and its partners share a common vision and a coordinated strategy -- to help employers and employees assume greater responsibility for preventing and eliminating hazards in the workplace." Those type of outrageous scare tactics from some members should be put in their proper context with the facts. The clinics will stay open. Health and safety is a top priority for this government and there's no hidden agenda or reason to fear one. We're doing what we promised to do.

Regarding the comments in the motion with respect to pushing legislation through, on Bill 15, the first phase of WCB reform, I believe the standing committee on resources development heard every individual who requested to appear. We completed three weeks of hearings on Bill 49 over the summer months. With respect to Bill 7, I think there was a very clear offer made for public hearings, and regrettably we were not able to get unanimous consent to even form the committees so we could have public hearings, which was unfortunate, because we in the government caucus were preparing on a daily basis for those public hearings and were all prepared to undertake them. But regrettably the third party denied us that important opportunity. That's important to get on the record.

With respect to the content of the resolution, which I find most outrageous, "Whereas the Mike Harris government has laid off hundreds of workers at the Ministry of Labour" -- hundreds of workers -- I look at the record of the members opposite between 1991 and 1995, when the member for Nickel Belt, who is now with us, presented budgets where the Ministry of Labour's budget was cut by some $63 million.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Be gentle.

Mr Baird: My friend says, "Be gentle." I know it was a tough time to be in government and he survived it quite well. They laid off 351 employees and then they have the audacity to criticize members on this side of the House for making some very difficult decisions when they themselves did it. Was there one single question in question period when these people were laid off? Was there one single question in this House? Was there one hour of public hearings? The answer was no, no, no and no.

The members opposite voted to cut health and safety inspectors in the province of Ontario by 7%. Again, no public hearings, no opposition by any government member in the House. That is, in my mind, given the content of this motion, absolutely shameful.

With respect to minimum wage, which was brought up by the leader of the third party, in 1996 our minimum wage in the province of Ontario is among the highest in Canada, indeed one of the highest in all of North America. I indicate to the members opposite, why don't they stand up and tell us what they think the minimum wage should be?

There was a woman who came before our committee in the city of London. I think her name was Susan Smith. She suggested that the minimum wage should be $19.50, a $20-an-hour minimum wage -- an absolute silence from both opposition parties. They did not, and could not in public hearings, suggest that they believe that would be too excessive. Well, those of us on the government side reject a $20-an-hour minimum wage. It would kill jobs, and it would kill our competitiveness.

With respect to the standard of living of working families, another component of the member opposite's resolution, working people in this province are going to get a 30% tax cut, and that's important to note. I read with great interest the debate on Bill 48, the social contract, in 1993, where the then Treasurer said: "To raise taxes even more than we did -- I think we pushed the envelope as far as we could on tax increases."

Those of us on this side of the aisle totally agree with the member for Nickel Belt when he made that comment. That's why he moved over here. Even more than agreeing with our friend the member for Nickel Belt, we believed that the people of Ontario were overtaxed and we wanted to roll back those tax increases, and we did, which will create jobs, as we've already seen.

I look at the employment numbers in my own community. The community of Ottawa-Carleton was really hurting with unemployment, and we still have a long way to go. But unemployment in Ottawa-Carleton, my home community, has fallen from over 10% to some 7.4%. Last month in Ottawa-Carleton we saw the creation of 6,000 net new jobs. That's after the federal government announced it was going to be cutting an additional 10,000 public servants, up to 55,000 now. We've created, in the Ottawa-Carleton economy, some 36,000 net new jobs, and we're seeing some good signs on the horizon that the job creation numbers are picking up and that this government is going in the right direction.

What we're seeing with this government is a balanced approach, the approach that worked well in this province for many, many years when we were the economic engine of Canada, when we led the country in job creation, led the nation in economic growth. The approach we've laid out in the last 18 months in government was exactly the approach we put forward more than a year before the election campaign. No government, no political party, to my knowledge, has ever been more clear on its direction for the economy. We're doing what we said we would do: restoring some integrity to promises made by politicians. The approach of this government is to create jobs and to encourage hope and opportunity for a brighter future for all people in the province of Ontario.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I appreciate the opportunity to rise today and speak to the resolution of the third party. One of the nice things about having opposition days is that it gives each of us a chance to put forward our opinions, not necessarily restricted to a certain piece of legislation and whether we agree with that piece of legislation or not. It sometimes gives us an opportunity to speak to an issue in the way we feel about the issue, in that parties don't always have to take specific positions when it comes to motions that are presented before the House. That's why today I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion and to some of the things that may have prompted the motion to be put forward by the third party.

I want to say at the outset that each of us, no matter which side of the House we sit on, has, as friends and relatives, workers. They may be unionized or they may be non-unionized. This province is made up of workers, for the most part. For example, my father spent many years, until he died at unfortunately too young an age -- but then I've often said that if I live to be 100, that will still be too young. But my father, all his working life, worked with his hands. He was a mechanic. He worked at Greyhound. I understood as I grew up and sat around the table what it meant to go out and make a living.


We didn't have a lot of money, but my parents did their best so that we could enjoy life. My mother worked in the tobacco factory in Leamington when I was younger and then, for a number of years, was able to work in the home. Some days I'm sure I made that more difficult than it would have been to work in the tobacco factory. But then, after my father died, she later worked at the hospital in the cafeteria.

I have a brother-in-law who works for the board of education in Essex county, who is in the custodial part of that. We all have friends who are in the workforce or some who may be in managerial positions.

As well, for 10 years, a little less, when I was with a small business that had branches in Leamington and Wheatley and Chatham, the Chatham yard of our lumber company had a local of the Teamsters union. I can say to you that some of the most interesting, some of the most educational, some of the most informative and, yes, some of the most fun I had, having been secretary-treasurer of the company, was to negotiate with the Teamsters union at our Chatham yard.

I might say that in the years that I bargained with them -- in fact, all the years of the company until it was sold -- we didn't have a workplace disruption. When all was said and done, we sat down at a table and we worked out our differences. If there was any misunderstanding as to what the contract might mean, as time went on -- I guess there may have been grievances from time to time; there were so few I really can't recall -- the objective was to work together, to have a workplace where management and labour could get along.

I don't think progress in the province stopped because of labour laws. The member for Nepean made reference to how bad it was over the last 10 years. Although I certainly was paying more attention to local conditions at the time, I recall that the period leading up to 1990 was pretty good in the province. It happened to be that it was for a long time under a Conservative government, for a short time under a minority government that had to learn to get along with each other, and then for a short period of time under a Liberal government.

Came the 1990s, we hit tough, tough economic times. I will not make any excuses for the third party, because I'm sure they can speak about what happened for themselves. But I will say that the early 1990s were damned tough times in this province, they were damned tough times in North America and in fact worldwide. I use that term, knowing full well that I wanted to add emphasis to how difficult it was to do business anywhere in North America and in fact in the world.

I don't think it was the introduction of labour laws that stopped progress in Ontario -- quite the contrary. Ontario grew to be the economic engine of this country over a period of years, and a number of things contributed to that: the economy itself, the ability of labour and management to work together, the fact that workers had safer workplaces to work in, the fact that there was less lost time, which is a burden on the economy.

To simply say that labour law stopped the engine -- I don't think that's the case. Labour harmony, I think, is an essential component in a healthy and prosperous economy. One complements the other. For 50 years, as was mentioned by the leader of the third party, governments of all stripes have been adopting laws that improve the lives of people and encourage a labour climate that enhances investment opportunities. That's been the key to the development of the province of Ontario over the years. I hope that in these instances, in some legislation that was just passed this week and in other legislation that's to come, the government isn't being pound foolish and penny wise, because you have to make an investment in the people in this province if we're going to continue to be progressive and continue to grow.

I don't think the government pictures labour unrest as being beneficial. No matter what happens this weekend with the expressions that are going to be shown in the city of Toronto, whether you're for it or whether you're against it, whether you're inconvenienced by it or whether you don't care, it's not going to do the province any good. At the end of the day, if people are not happy with the expression of dislike of the government, the government may say, "We won because a lot of people were upset that they were inconvenienced."

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It would appear that we don't have a quorum.

The Deputy Speaker: Would you please check if we have a quorum.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: Mr Speaker, a quorum is now present.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Essex South.

Mr Crozier: Thank you, Speaker. I should be a bit like the member for Welland-Thorold when he's speaking at length at committee and say, "Gee, you interrupted my thought. Now I'm going to have to go back 15 minutes," but I won't do that.

There may be those who show their concern this weekend in demonstrations. They may also say they've won their point. But the problem is that because we have to do this, because we have to show our concern to the government, because it is using a bulldozer in many of the areas in which they are pushing their legislation and their mantra through, we don't look good to the rest of the country and we won't look good to the rest of North America.

I say again that what we really need is good harmony between labour and management. What does that lead to? I suspect that many of the laws that have been put in place over the years for worker protection have been put there not because perhaps the majority of employers are the bad guys but because some are. We don't have speed limits in place and we don't ticket people on the highway because everybody speeds, although when I drive from Leamington to Toronto these days I think everybody does, but we put them there so that the laws won't be abused, so that people won't be hurt. That's the way labour laws as they are have been developed over the years. I dislike seeing that kind of legislation that takes away from that kind of labour-management harmony, that makes our workforce more apprehensive and concerned, that doesn't protect our workforce if they happen to work for an employer who has unsafe working conditions. That's the kind of thing I don't think we should go backward on.


I said at the outset that the nice thing about debating these resolutions is that we each hear what others are thinking and it gets our thoughts going. The member for Nepean, I think it was, mentioned tax cuts. That certainly has its effect, whether you agree that it will be the effect the government wants or not, on the economy -- a beneficial economy or whether it's going to hurt some other people. When we mention the tax cut, something that won't help this government is the fact that, by its own numbers, at the end of a four- or five-year period our debt will have risen from $100 billion a year to $120 billion a year.

Interjection: A year?

Mr Crozier: Excuse me, from $100 billion to $120 billion in total. Thank you very much.

We should remind ourselves that each of the parties in this place has had some part in building that debt. I don't think that debt in itself is going to help this province because the cost of carrying the debt is going to be higher. I reminded myself when he brought that up that yes, in the long period of time that the Conservative government was in power, it accumulated a debt of some $35 billion; in the next five years, from 1985 to 1990, the government of the party that I am a part of now increased the debt by $5 billion; and, we're told, over the next four or five years this government will increase it by another $20 billion. Of the $120-billion total debt that we will have, this government will be responsible for about $55 billion. The point is that the last $20 billion they will have added on to it will all be borrowed money. That won't help the economy.

The government says in this legislation that it wants to improve the prospect for jobs. In the House today it was mentioned in several of the questions what the job picture is in the Ontario. Everything we do is to make Ontario a better place to live, to improve the workplace, to improve the probability, the possibility, the outlook for jobs in this province.

This government has promised us 180,000 jobs. Our finance critic, as late as yesterday, pointed out to all of us that after 15 months in office we only have 100,000 jobs. I would have hoped, as everyone would have hoped, that there would have been this other 80,000 jobs that we're missing. Over the last 15 months 150,000 people have entered the workforce, but we've only provided somewhere in the neighbourhood of, I think it was said, 99,000 or 100,000 jobs. So where are those people, those other 56,000 or 57,000 people, going to find work? Will they want to work in a work environment that doesn't treat workers fairly? No, I don't think they'll want to work in that kind of environment.

All of this is tied into the economy, it's all tied into the need for jobs, but in doing so, we have to have a workforce and management or business that work in harmony.

That brings me to comment on one point -- I'll limit it to one point because I know there are others in my caucus who want to speak -- and that's pay equity. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone in this province should not receive equal pay for equal work. It doesn't matter your gender; it should only matter what you do, what's a fair wage to be paid for it and, are you paid fairly compared to those people who work with you? I'm sad about the fact that it's going to be more difficult for people to be paid fairly, for pay equity. I'm sad about that. I think we were partway to it; we don't have everybody there yet. But now, to simply say, "Well, if you're not paid fairly it's okay unless you complain" -- a person shouldn't have to complain about it, because they're concerned about their job to begin with.

So I'm saddened that pay equity has suffered under this legislation that's recently passed and some that's proposed. I only hope that if it's found to be hurtful, which we think it will be, we can rethink it and we can help maintain it in those places where we have it and bring back harmony, protection, equal pay, have a workforce that we all enjoy and that we want to work in, because in the end it will benefit the province of Ontario.

Mr Christopherson: I want to begin my remarks by -- and I know the camera can't point to it -- but I want to ensure the record shows that I'm very proud to say that the first ever NDP labour minister is here with us today, Bob Mackenzie. I know all those who really care about workers will want to pay a certain amount of honour to what he's done.

I think it's interesting to note that, while the parliamentary assistant had great fun being on his feet trying to compare their agenda that affects workers and our agenda, the former NDP labour minister is up there with the workers, up there with the strikers, up there with the injured workers. That's for a good reason: because he brought in legislation that helped workers. Where's your minister?


Mr Christopherson: Listen to the heckles from the back benches. There's their minister.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. Please show the same respect to them as they showed to you. Please.

Mr Christopherson: I think it's interesting to note that the current Minister of Labour is sitting down here, nice and safe in her legislative seat. I would ask her, You take a walk up there and greet those workers, Minister. I'd like to see how they welcome you, because I see how they welcome the former NDP minister, Bob Mackenzie. What about you? Hell, I can remember when your parliamentary assistant went down to Windsor to speak to a building trades council because you were too chicken to go. He had to come in with armed guards. They booed him.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. I find this aggressive. I find this very aggressive, and it's not conducive to a good debate.

Mr Christopherson: Well, Speaker, then I'm going to have to run the risk of incurring the wrath of the Speaker, because I feel very aggressive in terms of what this government is doing to working people, and that's why we brought this resolution here today. We're trying to focus on the fact that this government is dismantling all the things that workers have built up over decades of struggle and fight, sometimes getting hurt and sometimes dying, to give us the labour rights that we've been so very proud of. That's why we take special mention of the fact the Ontario Workers Arts and Heritage Centre is opening up in Hamilton, so that there's a formal place to recognize the role of labour and the contribution they've made and the struggle they've gone through. I feel very passionate and very aggressive in defending those rights and I'll continue to do that as long as I'm privileged enough to sit in this chamber.

It was in 1946 that in my home town of Hamilton the United Steelworkers, Local 1005, took on the historic struggle against Stelco that had such major implications for establishing a free and democratic labour movement in this province and in this country. And then the auto workers in Windsor, striking against the Ford workers -- my home union, the auto workers, proudly took on that fight and they established another important foundation that built this labour movement. That's another reason why we brought in this resolution, because as much as you're going to dismantle what workers have fought for, we're not going to let you forget that there's a proud heritage of workers and the labour movement being an important partner in building this society, in building this economy the Tories like to brag about so much. The average working person in this province and in generations to come need to know that contribution. We can never, ever let any generation forget the contribution they've made, because if we do, it allows governments like this to get away with what they're doing. Unless and until they manage to get re-elected on this agenda, they haven't gotten away with it.


That's another reason we've brought this out. We want to expose this government for what it is: an anti-worker government that has a hard right-wing agenda that serves the rich and wealthy in this province and says to everyone else who is not in that category, "Tough luck." That's why there are Metro Days of Action; that's why on Friday and Saturday, there will be hundreds of thousands of working people. There will be teachers and there will be environmentalists and there will be activists for housing and the rights for women and minorities and a whole lot of people who make up our community who have all been attacked by this government.

That's why that day is happening and, quite frankly, that is why there will continue to be different kinds of action across the term of this government, because you are not going to get away with what you're doing. The minister wants to stand up and say, "Oh, no, we didn't take away any rights in the bad-boss Bill 49" -- I showed today that she has -- and the parliamentary assistant stands up and says the NDP was not a good labour government that cared about workers. You can try and hand that BS off to the general public, but the fact of the matter is that there's nobody out there who truly believes that this is a government that cares a whit about working people.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. I do not accept that language. Please withdraw.

Mr Christopherson: Which, Speaker?

The Deputy Speaker: I don't have to repeat it. You know too well what you've said.

Mr Christopherson: If it allows me to continue, I withdraw my remarks that you found unparliamentary, that were unparliamentary -- whatever. Please.

The reason there are people here from the picket line at S.A. Armstrong is because this government's bill made scabs legal again in the province of Ontario when it was Bob Mackenzie and the NDP government that finally eradicated that blight from our society. The fact that somebody could go in -- and what is such a shame is that quite often they're not anti-worker or anti-union-type workers; they're usually very desperate people who don't have an awful lot of alternatives. When I was there and I saw some of the people who were crossing that line, I felt sorry for them as well as the strikers, because in large part they didn't really even know. Many of them were new Canadians who didn't even understand the principles that were being violated when they crossed that line. That didn't happen a year ago. Just a year ago, that kind of insult to the rights of workers did not happen. Thanks to this government, we now see that again.

I visited another picket line at Lofthouse Brass. They're on, I believe, their second or third day of a strike. The company was intending to bring scabs across the line. They talk about the balance of power. Well, allowing scabs to cross picket lines tips the balance of power in such an unfair way that it's not surprising they can point to a lower number of strikes, although we would argue the number of hours involved is much higher: It's tipped the balance to the point where it truly has to be a desperate situation before workers are prepared to go out on strike, recognizing that they've never done it lightly. That's what you did.

The parliamentary assistant talks about the fact that this government told everybody they were going to repeal Bill 40, they were going to take it away. What they did not tell anybody was that they were going to take away the right of public sector workers to have their collective agreement intact when that work is privatized. It's nowhere in the campaign literature, they didn't talk about it in the campaign and they didn't have any public hearings. They just took away that right, and those 12,000 workers who are going to lose decent-paying jobs, those professional people providing a service to the people of Ontario, are going to see their jobs privatized, are going to lose the rights they have under a collective agreement -- all their seniority rights gone, all their vacation entitlement gone, all their pension entitlement gone, all of that gone because this government rammed through a piece of legislation in less than one month. Yet they have the audacity to stand there and talk about how they consulted with all kinds of people and have talked to all kinds of people. They did not do that.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): What about Bill 48?

Mr Christopherson: One of the members hollers out, "What about Bill 49?" Let's talk about Bill 49.

Mr Tilson: I said Bill 48.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel, take your seat.

Mr Christopherson: Bill 49 is a bill that we had to force the government to hold public hearings on because they didn't care enough about democracy or workers to give them a say. We had to lead that fight here in this Legislature, backed up by the labour movement, and that's why we had hearings on Bill 49.

That bad-boss bill, by the way, is going to make it that much worse for vulnerable workers in this province because they've taken away rights that workers have, they're going to slash the number of enforcement officers who are out there, and that sends a message to those bad bosses: "Not only continue, folks, but go for broke. Really go after those workers, you can really exploit them now." We not only have no laws protecting people, what few laws are left can't be enforced because there are no enforcement officers. That's what that bill was all about.

WCB: Is there anything more disgraceful than a government that runs on a platform and says, "Nothing we will do will hurt disabled people," and yet somehow disabled workers don't count? They're fair game, you can go after them, and you're going after them to the tune of $15 billion that you're going to take away from the benefits injured workers are entitled to. At the same time, you're giving back $6 billion to the employers that have a responsibility to fund it. This is not taxpayer money. There's not one cent of taxpayer money that goes into WCB. It is funded by employers because workers don't have the right to sue their boss if they're hurt on the job. That was the exchange.

While this government talks about the unfunded liability being in a huge crisis, the reality is that they're using that as an excuse to give $6 billion back to employers, which is going to drive up the unfunded liability to $18 billion. But because that's not politically tenable, you need to bring that back down, and how are you going to do it? You're going to reach right into the pockets of disabled workers and take out $15 billion. That's how you're going to do it. That is shameful, that is disgusting.

The Occupational Disease Panel has played a critical role in this province in ensuring that the scientific and medical evidence needed to link workplace diseases and illness is supported. They provide that arm's length, objective, scientific medical analysis to prove those things. If they aren't provable, it also very clearly makes that case, but more importantly for workers, where it is the case, it proves the point. This government's killing that panel. I've read into the Hansard record here outrage and shock and surprise from around the world from occupational health and safety experts who know the contribution that panel has made to helping injured workers.

But it fits. It's all part of the scenario. That's why the resolution is here. We're trying to point out that this is not just opposition rhetoric. As much as the government backbench members may like to say that's the case, it isn't. There's a track record. You've only been here 16 months and there's a track record of your ongoing attack on workers' rights.

The Workplace Health and Safety Agency, where workers had a 50% say in the training of ensuring that workers weren't injured and didn't acquire illnesses and disease on the job, is dead. Gone already. This government has already eliminated that agency.

The Workers' Health and Safety Centre is an important element in ensuring that workers are trained by workers, because that's who they trust, that's who they'll listen to. That budget has been severely slashed. Workers there have been laid off and the centre's very existence is now on the line.

The occupational health clinics for Ontario workers: The government released a media release today that talks about the fact that they're staying in place and that the four clinics are going to survive, for the time being at least. That never should have been on the line. If you really cared about health and safety, the minister's been in office long enough she should have answered the first time we asked her in the House: "Of course I won't kill those clinics. Of course not, I have no intention. That would be a ridiculous idea. I would never do that."

But that's not what happened. This minister left those clinics dangling for months and the labour movement mounted what proved to be obviously a very effective campaign to preserve those clinics, and the government backed down in the face of those lobbying efforts. But the labour movement shouldn't have to fight to preserve what they've already fought for and gained. The labour movement should be working to make things better for workers, to prevent workers from being injured. That's not possible with this government. There's a major campaign going on -- I see one of the backbenchers shaking his head. I know he's shaking his head; I can hear it.


The Ontario Federation of Labour has mounted a campaign to respond to the WCB attacks and they're calling it "It's Your Life: Don't Leave Work Without It." I believe we'll be seeing a lot of these tags and buttons and posters all across this province as the labour movement gears up to try to protect the rights that workers already have; never mind gains, just protect what's already in place.

That's the shame and the disgusting aspect of this agenda. It puts workers on the defensive. It puts workers out there fighting just to preserve what's already in place. And your corporate friends? Oh, they're having a wonderful time. They're just so pleased. They're getting cuts in their WCB premiums and some of them are getting all the tax cuts.

I've said every time I get a chance up here to anybody watching this at home: How much money are you getting back in the tax cut? Is it worth the rights you've lost in the workplace and the attack on WCB? Is it worth the loss in our health care system and the closure of hospitals? Is it worth the elimination of a highly respected education system? Is it really worth the few bucks that you're getting? I think you're going to see -- and that's why the Metro Days of Action are going to be so effective -- that people are beginning to realize no. "As much as I liked the clarion call of tax cuts, when I look at what it means to me and my family and my neighbours and my community, I say no, it's not worth it."

That is happening in every community that those protests have been in, and we're only 16 months into this government's term, unfortunately. Wait until the full impact of all these cuts, with $3 billion more to be announced next month: $3 billion more, and we haven't even felt the effect of the first $5 billion, recognizing that $5 billion to $6 billion of this money is going to the very wealthy through the tax cut. That's who is winning in this game. You're creating a province of haves and have-nots, and the most vulnerable members of our society, in particular the working women and men, are the real losers. They are the ones who are losing in this government's agenda.

My leader just finished speaking about the minimum wage, and I heard one of the Tory backbenchers over here in the rump section heckling, "Yeah, but we cut their taxes."

"You're cutting my taxes, you're not giving me a decent wage to live on, you're cutting my health care system, you're cutting the education system I need for my kids, but I'm supposed to feel happy because somebody who makes $250,000 a year is going to receive thousands and thousands of dollars back in taxes while I get a couple of bucks a week." Somehow they're supposed to be satisfied.

When we talk about minimum wage, the parliamentary assistant talked about the fact that he was upset about it, that our minimum wage used to be among the highest in Canada, and oh my dear God, it was among the highest in the world. Well, from where we sit, you ought to be proud of that. That's the idea, to share the wealth and make sure everybody gains, not to hold everybody down in this massive race to the bottom and compete with Third World entities, which is this government's agenda.

That's the game with you. That's the idea. Drive wages down; drive the standard of living down; have people so scared and desperate and recognizing that scabs can take their jobs if they go on strike that they'll take whatever is thrown at them; water down the Employment Standards Act; cut the number of enforcement officers that are in place; open up the Occupational Health and Safety Act; water down WCB; give a gift back of $6 billion to the employers who fund workers' comp. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to add all that up and see there is clearly a defined agenda that says, "Workers in this province are the target and this government is going to go after them relentlessly."

I'm here to say to you that as long as the NDP is here, we'll fight you tooth and nail and do everything we can to stop this awful attack on working people, and we'll do what we can to put progressive labour legislation back on the agenda in the province of Ontario.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to participate in the debate today on the issues surrounding labour. I've listened with great interest to the member for Hamilton Centre and his usual loud, rather rhetorical and, as you said, Mr Speaker, aggressive tone. I'm not sure if he's truly representative of the leadership in the labour movement today, but I think we can have a debate. That means both people have to listen and be fair and reasonable. That's the balance you're missing, I must comment.

I think the best solution to a social program is a job. This government was elected on the basis of creating a climate for investment and a climate for jobs. I really think the last five years proved in themselves that indeed the central problem was their particular approach to the labour relations arena. I want to make sure they realize the full impact of Bill 48. You were very quick to respond and recognize then minister Mackenzie, who, I might point out for you, supported the social contract; in fact, he was one of the chief heralds of it. If you want to know his leader's true opinion, Mr Bob Rae's book indicates his reflections. He talks of the union leadership, if I may quote:

"I felt then, and I feel today, that the women and men in the public service in Ontario were poorly served by their leaders, who were caught in a time warp and rhetorical swamp that they were unable to leave. They were aided and abetted by the usual gang of would-be proletarians and anarchists."

I suspect a very profound man -- I have a lot of respect for Mr Rae and his comments. I think he had time to reflect on that dismal error, and now you're still championing it and believe that your approach was right. What was wrong was that there was no balance; you had gone too far. What we're restoring today, and in this whole agenda, is a fairness and a balance. Mr Johnson, our minister, when he was in the debates with the Ontario public service employees, tried to reach a fair and reasonable agreement, and I think that typifies the balance of most of the debates.

I just want to comment briefly on Mr Bob White's comments in Mr Rae's book when he suggested that one of the province's solutions at that time to bail out of its $100-billion debt and the $50 billion was to declare bankruptcy. That's a statement by the leadership of the day, and that person is still in the leadership position, usurping the real commitment to the people of Ontario and indeed Canada by just declaring bankruptcy. That's totally unacceptable. I think the reality today is something quite different and I believe the union leadership has a serious challenge. They should look around them.

I'm going to comment on an article in the Toronto Star which isn't particularly favourable to our position, but in fact it makes a very good point. The point was most thoroughly expounded by labour economist John O'Grady, and he explained in that article in the Star of September 20, 1996, that the world of work is changing and that the union leadership has to get out of the quagmire of the past. The industrialized workplace is shrinking. The workplace of the future is not the workplace of the past. The strategies and techniques to support the most vulnerable workers are indeed the fundamental mission, I might add, of our minister, Minister Witmer.

I'm going to read to you from the first time a ministry has actually put together a business plan, an approach by a ministry to outline both its vision and purpose and core business. I'm just going to read it directly because it's so thoroughly developed and says it more succinctly than I could put in my own words.

"At the Ministry of Labour, we are rededicating ourselves to our traditional mission of advancing safe, fair and harmonious workplaces, but we are approaching this mission in a way that is refreshing. Our role will be to set and communicate and enforce workplace standards while encouraging greater self-reliance among the workplace parties, both the employee and the employer."


Mr O'Toole: If you can't get through that, Mrs Boyd from London, I recommend that you try to rethink the rhetoric of the past. It doesn't work.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): That is the rhetoric of Reform.

Mr O'Toole: This isn't Reform; this is thoughtful, responsive partnership.

Mrs Boyd: It's Reform.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for London Centre.

Mr O'Toole: "The ministry should concentrate more of its resources on workplaces that need the most help, moving forward and focusing our resources of self-reliance and also helping the most vulnerable. The changes set out in our business plan will have a positive result in each of the three core areas of the ministry."


Occupational health and safety: That's a primary focus, putting it together with workers' comp to be proactive in prevention, as opposed to just delivering cheques to those injured employees.

Supporting employer rights and responsibilities in labour relations: Again, the theme there is balance. I think if you're looking through --


Mr O'Toole: I participated in the Bill 49 hearings. Much of what Mr Christopherson is saying about Bill 49 is completely misleading. For those people watching, what we're doing --

The Deputy Speaker: Order. You know this is not a term or the type of language which is acceptable to the House. I ask you to withdraw it.

Mr O'Toole: Yes, I withdraw.

I would like the people viewing today to understand that the Employment Standards Act is really an act that is the floor of protection for working people, of which I'm one. In my riding of Durham East, many of the people I represent are indeed working people, of which I am one. Employment standards deals with termination notices, termination pay, public holidays, hours of work, overtime pay, parental leave -- all of those I've mentioned have been untouched, but parental leave was improved -- Sunday work, unpaid wages, severance pay, vacation pay, minimum wage, pregnancy leave -- pregnancy leave was improved and enhanced as well -- domestic workers and home workers. None of this has been touched. What the changes are -- I can go over them very briefly for those watching.

Bill 49 was, again, trying to work in a reasonable balance. What it really did was examine some of the actual vulnerabilities or those people who were the most vulnerable, to focus our limited resources -- everyone knows that the province was overspent, and now we're trying to do the best we can with what we have. Most claims are under $4,000; that's two thirds of all the claims. In fact, only about 4% were over $10,000, so we're limiting the claims to $10,000 maximum, focusing our resources where they're most needed.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): It's not your money. They have a right to it --

The Deputy Speaker: Order. Order, the member for Sudbury East, take your seat. Show the same respect as they showed to you, that's all. It's as simple as that.

Mr Len Wood: But Speaker, He's being too aggressive in his comments.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Cochrane North, would you like to be absent from the House?

Mr O'Toole: I'll try to be fair and reasonable.

Mr Baird: You always are.

Mr O'Toole: I always thought so.

Major administrative changes include shortening the time in which an employee may file a claim to six months. It's six months to allow the claim. That's to put us in harmony with the rest of Canada. In other provinces, this is not new. This is a standard that's pretty much the norm throughout the rest of Canada.

It also disallows parallel court procedures, where a person could take it both through the legal aspect and through the Ministry of Labour. We're allowing them to choose, and there's a 45-day appeal period for them to choose one or the other, saving the administrative cost within the ministry and for the employer, who may indeed be willing to settle the case. I think many of the cases are settled right in the workplace.

This government really wants to deal with the bad bosses, as the previous speaker said. We're not supportive of bad bosses. The person who has worked is entitled to their pay, and we support that. The ministry is trying to support that by focusing our resources on the most vulnerable. Those places where there's union representation, most of the people I speak to are quite willing to address the workplace issues themselves --


Mr O'Toole: No, the union workshop is very much in favour of supporting their own workplace autonomy.

The bill will allow the contracting out of collections. Today, you might understand that two thirds of those judgements or orders are not collected, so two thirds of the people who are entitled or have earned these wages are not getting them. Zero. They're not getting anything. What we're saying is that we're going to put collections in, and there will be a performance aspect to it. The collection agency will not get paid unless the person gets paid.

Mrs Boyd: Where do they get paid from?

Mr O'Toole: They will get paid from the employer, the dead-beat employers. That, to me, is a step forward.


Mr O'Toole: Again I have to stress I'm afraid you're not listening for a new approach. This government is committed to creating the opportunity and hope for the people and jobs. Jobs is what the economy's all about. This whole argument, in my view, Bill 49 -- there were a number of supporters, but from my riding. I would have to suggest that the chamber of commerce from Clarington and Oshawa area made a comment: "The government of the day is to be applauded for its businesslike approach to legislation reform in the entire area of labour. We are in the business of creating work and investing in the future in our communities."

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Who said that?

Mr O'Toole: This was the chamber of commerce for Oshawa-Clarington. I would like you to respect this. They represent small business and it's surprising to me that people today in Small Business Week don't recognize the important contribution of the chambers of commerce, those people investing their own money in small business. They're not asking for some handout. It really embarrasses me to think that there would be people on the other side who would not stand up and champion the small business of our communities.

Certainly the chamber of commerce -- they're criticizing them all the time. Let me just give you a few facts here. If you were to understand the makeup of the workforce, the total private sector employment in Ontario is about 4,200,000; 43% of them are small business. These are people employing fewer than 100 people. Seventy-eight percent of all Ontario's employers are small business. They are employing fewer than five people. In fact, these people have their homes invested to create jobs and opportunity for other people in Ontario.

What the previous Bill 40 was all about -- we were elected on that. That was one of the things that defeated you. You just don't get it; you really don't get it. Why they defeated you is most of the new jobs of the future aren't the large corporate entities who -- by the way, this is your problem, and I could quote to you, you can't organize the small workplaces because the individual employees who have the motivation, work ethics and incentive are well rewarded by those employers for the most part, 95% to 98%. They're quite complete to work as a full part of the workforce. It's not a division of labour and management; it's the working team. That's the approach today, teamwork.

Every good employer will tell you their strength is people. Look at Dofasco. I always remark at how they compete head on with Stelco with no union. What they really say is, "Our product is steel, our strength is people." But small business take and internalize that today. They spend more on training and developing and making sure that people are focused on quality and productivity so they can be competitive and maintain their jobs.

Small business is the real issue that I want to complete my comments on if I could today. This government was elected to deal with debt and deficit; we're doing it. We were elected to reduce income tax; we're doing it. We were elected to reduce the employer health tax; we're doing it. We were elected to repeal Bill 40; we've done it. Labour reform -- workers' compensation was seen to be a barrier to growth; we're dealing with that. We're working with that group to make it more proactive, workplace health and safety being the front end of that piece.

I can only say that in my view, looking to the future and looking to the jobs that we've committed in our government, 725,000 new jobs, we've created on the first year of government over 100,000 net new jobs. Ontario's leading the way, putting confidence in the economy, and we are about creating jobs. I want to conclude with one remark: The best social program for a person that I'm aware of is a job.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I'm always so pleased to participate in a debate, in particular when we get to hear from members opposite and their opinions regarding workers in Ontario. I can tell you, coming from my riding of Windsor-Sandwich, we certainly have a significant number of workers who are not at all pleased with the Harris government to date and their record so far in terms of restoring some sort of balance. What they've done in fact is completely tip the scales in the other direction. As a Liberal Party, we're certainly not pleased to see that.


I am happy to stand in support of the motion that's being forwarded by the NDP caucus today. For the 15 months that the government has been in operation, if not a little longer, there really has been a significant impact of this government's policy on workers in Ontario. Whether we're speaking about the kinds of bills being presented by the Ministry of Labour and passed through the House -- there have been several of those and they've been done, not with an eye to improve the workplace, but simply with an eye to take rights away from workers, rights that have been honed over the years through Conservative, Liberal and NDP governments. Now you choose to roll back the hands of time into the Dark Ages.

There are many people who view the government as creating a huge divide. There is no justice here. You are eliminating the middle class. When you say you're creating work and more jobs, you know you're actually way off the mark. You've got 725,000 jobs in your term and you will not hit your mark. You are currently 80,000 jobs behind where you said you would be during your campaign.

If we look at the kinds of jobs that have been created, as the Minister of Labour said in the House the other day, the greatest percentage of those have been for women. That may well be. I will guess, because we will certainly see soon the kinds of jobs that are being created by the Harris government, that those jobs are not the same kinds of jobs that the Ontario economy produced in our past. They are lower-wage jobs, they are jobs with less benefits and they are huge numbers of jobs in the service industry. We will get the facts, because the outcome will be exactly that.

I'll give you a perfect example. Your Attorney General chose to close eight regional offices of the family support plan in Ontario. You caused the job loss in my community of Windsor of very skilled and experienced workers. What you are doing today is rehiring workers, clerk positions, in the Toronto market. Firstly, you have a net loss of jobs within the ministry, but you are counting those few jobs you are hiring. They are jobs with less pay and fewer benefits, less experienced people dealing with huge backlogs of crisis created by this government in the area of family support.

Currently in my office I have a list of 38 cases that have been faxed to the Attorney General three times to be rectified by his ministry. To date they have not done it. We expect to be hearing many, many more cases of people before the changes that the Attorney General supposedly brought in to help the situation. It became a complete disaster and he still has not sorted it out. Much has been done this way by the government in every ministry. They have created the havoc to gain public support, to say, "See, the system is broken."

The Ministry of Health is not immune to this. When we look at the kinds of jobs that are lost in Ontario, a significant number of those are in the health care field. In my community last week alone we had yet another announcement: hundreds of nurses losing their jobs at our long-term-care facility. Across Ontario we have thousands of nurses on the street today.

When the minister stands in this House, he says: "There's going to be a little bit of an adjustment there in the system. The private sector will be able to pick those people up and retrain them and work them back in." At what cost and at what wage and at what benefit for those workers? You'll count those new jobs as part of your 725,000, which you won't reach, but those will be jobs with less pay, with fewer benefits, and they certainly won't have the stability that the jobs in the past in Ontario had.

Years ago, when the Ford Motor Co was building its company, it always said, "If we don't have our workers buying our cars, we won't be able to sell cars." The difference there: A huge employer currently today in my riding, they have an attitude about their workforce. They believe that their workers really are partners with them and they care what level of wage they earn and they care what kind of income and status they have in their communities, what level of benefits, because when their workers are happy and their workers are buying their cars, they know the company will be successful.

Let's look at what companies said when the Employment Standards Act came up for review. You made changes in that act. You said you were going to improve the act; what you did was lower standards for the average worker across Ontario. When Chrysler Canada was in the middle of negotiations with the CAW, the CAW managed to include the previous standards for employment in the contract. Why would Chrysler Canada agree to write into its contract the employment standards this Harris government has selected to remove? Chrysler Canada knows that is simply good business practice. Chrysler Canada also believes that it needs to be open and fair and very up front with its workforce because the workers at Chrysler Canada are an integral part of Chrysler Canada's success story.

If we look at Buzz Hargrove and his history with the previous Liberal government, our Liberal Premier had an open-door policy with him. They had regular meetings in his office right here in this --

Mr Bisson: As it was our policy.

Mrs Pupatello: Absolutely. They had an open-door policy with Buzz Hargrove and all the union leaders. They had regular meetings in the Premier's office. The same simply cannot be said by Premier Mike Harris. He does not have an open-door policy. There are many, many organizations, groups of people, that simply cannot get their point across to the Premier. It's one thing to have a difference of opinion; it's quite another not to have the opportunity to express opinion.

Therein lies the difference with the Harris government. They are about mantra and they are about theory only, because when they put their theories into practice they simply don't work. You are looking for massive cuts to fund a tax break that many economists say is very ill advised, and that is certainly not timely, given a look at your budget and your statements. Even previous Conservative governments had significant debt problems. Even when your last Conservative Premier left office, you had $35 billion of debt; 1982 had the highest debt ratio in Ontario's history. That, my friends, was under a Conservative government. You have no shining record in controlling your budgets and you certainly don't today.

Much of your cuts have been so ill advised and misplaced that you are still running deficits that are embarrassing for your government. You're not going to get out of it anyway. You're behind on your job creation. You're not providing tax cuts at the time and the pace you said you would, so you've had to back off on that promise as well. You cut health care when you promised you wouldn't touch health care. Really, you walked through a campaign saying you would do anything the people wanted to hear, but at the end of the day you took office and you're doing only what your reformist theory is telling you to do, which simply doesn't work. We have massive cuts to health care, cuts that are negatively impacting on patients in Ontario. Eventually this will come down to every man and woman on the street in Ontario. They will know that the Harris government simply does not work.

I fully support the motion.


Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Mr Mackenzie should know better.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. Please remove them from the gallery.

Mr Bradley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: A reference was made by the member for Ottawa-Rideau that Mr Mackenzie was in the gallery, and the implication was that he was shouting from the gallery. Mr Mackenzie, the former member for Hamilton East, had in fact departed from the gallery some time previous to that.

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

Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I'd like to join my caucus colleagues in speaking to the opposition day motion put forward by the leader of the third party. The honourable member has put forth several accusations against the Ontario government concerning the needs of workers in Ontario. The member will know that this government takes the needs of Ontario workers very seriously. As the member for Simcoe Centre, I take the needs of my constituents seriously because I know that I represent hardworking people. My government's record of legislation, initiatives and policy direction proves this.


We know that Ontario needs more real, lasting jobs and that the private sector, not the government, is best able to create these jobs. The Mike Harris government recognizes this and that small and medium-sized businesses are the engine that drives our economy. Statistics show that 87% of all new employment comes from small business. We also know there has to be a balance between encouraging business to operate in our province, in our local communities, while providing workers with the rights and protections they deserve.

If we know this, why did the NDP create unprecedented regulations and red tape for small business during their short term in office? Why did the NDP introduce job-killing legislation that removed years of balance of power between employers and their employees, shifted the balance in favour of unions and ignored fiscal realities, that sent a message to business that they should consider investing elsewhere? If the NDP was so concerned about the rights of workers, why did the NDP vote against Bill 7, which now gives workers the right to vote in confidence and democratically on whether to join a union?

An issue of great importance to workers is the concern that they must be protected from a workplace injury and compensated and rehabilitated in the event an accident occurs on the job. If the NDP is as aware of this as they claim to be, why did they do nothing to make the workers' compensation system more efficient and effective? Why did the NDP do nothing to make sure the WCB could financially support itself well into the next century?

The Mike Harris government is committed to making workers' compensation more effective and efficient. We are committed to making sure there is a system in place that workers will be able to count on for years to come. But the NDP will tell the public that these government initiatives are about giving more power to big business, that we should leave the current system alone. If we leave the current system alone we will drive business away from Ontario. We will let the WCB spiral into greater debt until it can no longer function.

Workers need to have confidence in their workers' compensation system. Employers deserve to know that the assessment rates they pay will go towards looking after their employees in the event of an injury. Because workers' compensation is so important to Ontario workers, the government has begun the process of restoring the workers' compensation system. Yet the opposition still chooses to speak against a government policy direction that will make WCB more financially accountable, increase workplace health and safety and make it easier for workers and their employers to understand the process.

Ontario's workers' compensation system is broke. It has an unfunded liability of $10.9 billion that prevents the board from sustaining it. The NDP allowed workers' compensation assessment rates to escalate to the second-highest level in the country, to a point where business has told us they can no longer afford to keep their doors open. While the NDP let assessment rates increase, they also allowed the board's unfunded liability to escalate to a point where we now face the challenge of sustaining the WCB.

There are some facts about the WCB that the leader of the third party does not seem to want to mention: (1) Ontario's average assessment rate of $3 is the second-highest in the country; and (2) Ontario's rates are 32% higher than the national average. Since the member for Rainy River is interested in comparing Ontario's minimum wage with that of our neighbouring American states, he may wish to know that Ontario's WCB rates are, on average, 40% higher than those of our neighbouring American states. Perhaps our employers could afford to pay their employees more money if their WCB assessment rates were less. The WCB has an unfunded liability of $10.9 billion, which threatens its viability in the future. This unfunded liability exceeds that of all other provinces combined, which is certainly not fair to Ontario's workers.

Let's talk about sustainability. What the member for Rainy River does not mention is that his party, while in government, turned the WCB's investment portfolio to cover benefit commitments in the past. They drew $1.65 billion from its $7-billion investment portfolio from 1991 to 1995. Instead of re-evaluating the mandate of the WCB, the NDP chose to de-index benefits with its Bill 165, affecting 125,000 injured workers. This NDP change is projected to reduce the unfunded liability by the year 2014, but it would still leave an unfunded liability of $12 billion.

The WCB's unfunded liability is just one of the many problems my government will have to address if it is to maintain a viable system for Ontario workers in the years to come. There are many problems with the current WCB system, problems that work against the needs of employees. For example, the system is rife with bureaucracy. Workers can't understand it. Employees say it takes too long to settle a claim. Employers find the current system too confusing and difficult to understand. The current system doesn't encourage employees and employers to work together to prevent accidents. It pits employees and employers against each other, which benefits no one. The current system spends hundreds of millions of dollars on programs which attempt to return injured workers to the workforce, yet there is little to show for it.

I'd next like to speak about the need for accident prevention. The Minister of Labour has recognized the need for accident prevention, which is also good news for workers. This is important because the current system fails to recognize the vital link between compensation and prevention. The WCB's original mandate was to compensate workers for workplace accidents and help them to return to work as soon as possible. My government will see that the functions of prevention and compensation are coordinated under one roof, just as in British Columbia, Quebec, the Yukon, and New Brunswick.

We are not reducing the health and safety inspectors and we are improving health and safety certification training. We are reviewing health and safety delivery organizations to ensure they are as effective and efficient as possible.

The Ministry of Labour is working with a Safe Communities initiative, a partnership between the private and public sectors which is proven to dramatically reduce workplace injuries. We are providing $450,000 to the young workers' awareness program, which educates teenagers about their rights, responsibilities and dangers in the workplace.

Addressing the needs of workers means we also have a duty to address the negative impact that rising assessment rates are having on job creation and investment in this province. We need to address the WCB's unfunded liability and the unnecessary risk this is causing for Ontario's workers. We need to develop a workers' compensation system that will help workers get back to work in a timely fashion. We need to make sure workers receive compensation in a timely manner without an endless sea of bureaucracy, paperwork and red tape for them and for their employers.

We are moving in that direction because the government of Ontario is committed to improving the lives of workers in this province. Like so many Ontarians, my constituents take great pride in their work, but there need to be more jobs out there. We need to encourage more investment in this province. Small business and the private sector have demonstrated they can best create the jobs.

The NDP sent a message to business to invest their dollars outside of Ontario. They sent a message to employees and employers that they don't need to work together to settle disputes and claims. Their policies have pitted employees and employers against each other, which benefits no one.

The policies which my government has introduced over the last year don't take rights away from workers and they certainly don't balance power in favour of large companies. We have an obligation to our small businesses and to the people of Ontario to create a climate where entrepreneurs can be rewarded, where workers' rights are respected, where economic prosperity can thrive and where people can find jobs. We also have an obligation to ensure our workers have a workers' compensation system that will be there when they need it well into the next century. The direction my government is taking will make that a reality, and I thank the member for Rainy River for giving me an opportunity to set the record straight.


Mr Bradley: I'm pleased to be able to address the House on the motion which is brought forward by the New Democratic Party this afternoon and to indicate that many of the items contained in this motion are items deserving of public debate.

I want to say, first of all, that I'm pleased we have in this House the broadcast service of the Legislative Assembly, which celebrated its 10th anniversary on October 13 of this year. Previous to that, the people of the province did not have the opportunity to view the debates in the Legislative Assembly on an ongoing basis. They had to rely on interpretation by those who run newspapers or radio stations or television stations or newsmagazines, or read Hansard.

What happened was that many members of the assembly could be what you'd call good constituency people, could know everybody in the city, who were very good at that aspect of the job but didn't necessarily make a contribution in this House. There are many aspects to a member of Parliament's job, and this is one of them.

I think there's an advantage to what I call gavel-to-gavel coverage, whether it's a local council, the federal Parliament or the provincial Parliament, because the public would want to see the debate as it unfolded and the points that were made. That is why I was pleased that back in 1986 the Liberal government of David Peterson implemented a resolution I had as a private member's bill a number of years ago, and that was that we have this broadcast service.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): How much did it cost?

Mr Bradley: There will be those who will raise the cost of it. Of course, in a democracy there is always a cost to whatever we do. We want to ensure that the member for Burlington South, or any other member, when he answers a question, can be seen by his own constituents.

What I want to point out is how important it is that debates of this kind be available to the public through this broadcast service, and I'm pleased that it continues unhindered and uncensored.

The resolution this afternoon is one which deals with the polarization that's taking place in this province. It dwells extensively on labour legislation and issues related to labour and management.

I listened to one of the Conservative speakers earlier accuse the NDP of swinging the pendulum far too far to the left in the matter of labour legislation, and contend to this House that in fact what the Conservatives were doing was simply bringing it back to the middle where there's some balance. I cannot agree with that contention. What has happened under the Conservative regime is that the pendulum has swung completely to the right. The balance has moved in a different direction, and I think that has provoked much of the opposition we have seen, some of it very vociferous and some of it in large numbers as a result of that polarization.

We see the same thing happening in the United States. The Republican Party in the United States -- and I know many of the ideas for this particular government, particularly the people in the Premier's office and advisers to the Premier, come from the Republicans south of the border. All you need do is watch what happens in the various states of the United States, what is being proposed at the latest Republican convention, and it's reflected in what's happening in this assembly with this government. I'm surprised, because I know many Canadian nationalists who used to be in the Progressive Conservative Party who would find it appalling that the Conservative Party would be adopting, holus-bolus, ideas from south of the border as befitting our country.

I think there is a Canadian solution. I think we are a different country. I think we're a different province from the state of Mississippi or Tennessee or Alabama or some of the more regressive states in the United States in terms of social programs and labour legislation.

I want to look at a couple of the items contained in this resolution. I want to comment, because the resolution makes reference to it, on the recent dispute between General Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers. One of the paramount issues, if not the most important issue, was what is referred to as outsourcing, and I guess a corollary of that would be downsizing. What people are seeing in the trade union movement, people who are the rank-and-file members of many of these unions and others who are not unionized, is a situation which is arising where companies are making unprecedented profits while at the same time they are reducing the workforces. In days gone by, when companies were not making a lot of money or losing money or were in difficult economic circumstances and laid people off, nobody liked to see that happen, but at least it was understood that that is why it was happening.

Today we have a different circumstance. We have many companies making unprecedented profits while at the same time casting the bodies out in the streets, the bodies of workers who will no longer have jobs. Many of us have to ask the question, where will the jobs come from? What are we to do with these people? I know that in the dogma and the theory and the ideology of many of the people who sit across from us in the Conservative caucus, this is considered to be sensible. They use the term "rightsizing" rather than downsizing. But I really think you must ask what is going to happen to your neighbours, what is going to happen to your relatives and friends and other residents of this province when we see this continuous downsizing.

If we in this assembly do not call to account the corporate executives, who often rise in terms of their position within the company and in terms of the amount of money they make based on their ability to downsize the company and make it, as they would say, more efficient so it is rising in the stock market -- in some companies, the executives in fact make bonuses based on their position within the stock market, so they have a vested interest in this so-called downsizing that takes place.

That is what many of the people in the trade union movement are worrying about. They're worrying about that happening. In my own city of St Catharines -- I mentioned in this House the other day, and the Canadian Auto Workers are very concerned about this -- we had close to 10,000 workers at General Motors just a few years ago. Today the workforce stands at 5,300 people. There has been significant downsizing, and one plant, the axle plant on Ontario Street in St Catharines, was due to close again; that was announced three years ago. Under the collective agreement signed with General Motors and the CAW, the plant was allowed to continue to exist for three more years. I am pleased that the negotiators for the Canadian Auto Workers have been able to obtain an agreement that this plant will continue for the duration of this contract -- in other words, yet another three years -- through the collective bargaining process.

Something else unique came out of this agreement, and that was that the Canadian Auto Workers were able to have in the contract a provision which overrode the new labour laws of the province of Ontario as passed by this government. I can recall that General Motors was supportive of some of those changes this government made, yet they signed a collective agreement that said, "Notwithstanding the new laws of the province, here is the regime under which we will exist." Again, that was because of the negotiating taking place at the table. I'm sure all of us who represent communities that have auto workers are pleased that there has been a collective agreement signed, and perhaps I'm being presumptuous in anticipating that it will be ratified, but certainly if it is I'll be mighty pleased.

A second one is mentioned here. I've talked about the old children's game of pin the tail on the donkey. Unfortunately, this government -- I must compliment you as a politician -- has been quite successful in dividing and conquering. For instance, we've had a strike at the regional municipality of Niagara. Now, the regional councillors and the management of the regional municipality of Niagara weren't looking for a strike. They were faced with circumstances where this government is downloading so much and at the same time withdrawing so much in terms of financial support that the regional government was in a position of cutting back, of wanting to contract out, to privatize, and to make several changes to the collective agreement which were not in keeping with what the workers wanted to see.

A lot of people will point the finger at the regional government when in fact they should point it northward towards Toronto. Just as I watch you divide teachers against teachers, elementary against secondary, secondary against adult education, board members against somebody else -- everyone is pointing a finger at someone else when, if you've played the game of pin the tail on the donkey, the donkey exists here at Queen's Park. I don't use that as a disparaging term; I use it as a game which children used to play, figuratively.

I see what's happening out there. I see people who are very apprehensive about their positions. They are everyday working people, whether they're working with their hands or working with their minds or a combination of both, which most people do. They are people who are vitally concerned about what's happening in this province. I think what this government is doing is dividing this province more and more, polarizing this province, just as we see a polarization taking place in the USA.


The member for Scarborough North, Alvin Curling, raised an issue in the House the other day about the Occupational Disease Panel and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers. We have been concerned that this government would be abandoning these. I had the privilege of being Minister of the Environment in this province for a little over five years and I recognize the implications for pollution in the province and the effect it could have on people. But in a direct sense, people are much more impacted by workplace occupational health and safety. I am apprehensive, as they are, when they see that this government could be moving in the direction of closing down the disease panel and the health clinics for Ontario workers, because they have been important in trying to identify and deal with important diseases and afflictions related to the workplace.

What we have created is an unbalanced situation in Ontario, a movement drastically to the right, of course a movement which pleases Preston Manning and many in the right wing of the Reform Party but, I suspect, not many in the more moderate end of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Another thing that has happened in many ministries -- I know it happened in the Ministry of the Environment and it's now happening in the Ministry of Labour and reference is made to it in this resolution. It says: "Whereas the Mike Harris government has laid off hundreds of workers at the Ministry of Labour, including key staff in enforcement of employment standards and health and safety laws." That's one of the whereases. The problem with that is that people who wish to seek redress through the intervention of their government are prevented from doing so by the fact that there aren't sufficient staff to deal with the matters that they draw to their attention.

Good employers and good employees don't worry about this. Good employers don't run into these circumstances, because they're treating their employees fairly and are living up to the laws of the province. This staff is needed because of the employers who are not prepared to live up to the laws that exist in this province. You give an unfair advantage to those employers once again by abandoning this particular aspect of government intervention, which I think is positive intervention in that case.

This resolution says: "Whereas the Mike Harris government is driving down the standard of living of working families, while putting more money in the pockets of wealthy corporations and individuals, sharpening the divide between the haves and the have-nots." Obviously, people who are at the lower end of the economic spectrum are people who are in more need of government intervention or government assistance than those who are at the top, yet the tax break you're giving, in terms of actual dollars will benefit the richest people in our society the most. I don't want to pick on bank presidents, but that's what comes to mind just now, bank presidents. They will receive a huge amount of money back as a result of your tax cut, whereas the people at the lowest level, while on a percentage basis they may receive more, are in actual dollars going to receive very little.


Mr Bradley: Did I hear Conrad Black's name mentioned?

Hon Mr Jackson: No. I said Liberal backbenchers.

Mr Bradley: I see. I thought it was Conrad Black you had said.

I can understand, because when the Premier goes to the fund-raisers, they're shaking his hand, they're patting him on the back. He heads into northern Ontario and takes the money out of northern Ontario --

Mr Bartolucci: And doesn't return anything.

Mr Bradley: And doesn't return anything, as the member for Sudbury says. Yes, I understand who is going to the fund-raisers. Once you deregulate all the people who are regulated -- in other words, regulated to protect the consumers, to protect the environment or protect workers in the workplace -- those people are going to be delighted, so they'll show up at the fund-raiser with their cheque made out to you. I understand that is happening. I don't know why you'd be proud of that, but I certainly understand that's happening. Certainly, a lot of the legislation you're passing is going to fill the coffers of the Progressive Conservative Party.

You are probably wondering how I could work Conrad Black into this. I've worked the tax break into it. Conrad Black fits this.


Mr Bradley: Well, the Minister of Health is here and I see something mentioned about health in this resolution; it says "occupational health." The people of St Catharines are asking, "Will they be closing hospitals in St Catharines?" We have the Shaver Hospital, the Hotel Dieu Hospital and the General in St Catharines. People have supported those three hospitals over the years; I have been one of those supporters as well.

Now they're fearing that the Minister of Health will send -- I was going to say "his henchmen"; I don't know if that's acceptable in this House -- whoever it is, this commission he claims he's at arm's length from, into St Catharines to close hospitals that are needed, just as he's done in Sudbury and Thunder Bay and Wiarton and who knows where next -- St Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener-Waterloo.

I am worried about that because there appears to be a mantra out there, an ideological bent against health care services. We seem to be moving towards the American system where there's one set of rules for the rich and one for the rest. There's a lot to say about the United States that's good, but why you'd want to ever accept their health care system, one wouldn't know. Because in the US, if you've got money, you get better health care than if you haven't.

One thing people have been proud of -- the Davis Conservatives, the Peterson Liberals and the Rae New Democrats were proud of this -- is that in Ontario in years gone by, and I hope in years ahead, regardless of how much money you had in your wallet, you got the same degree of health care, the same quality of health care as others. That is something that speaks well of all parties who have ruled over the years. I fear that is leaving now. I fear that with the latest agreement they've signed with the doctors, somehow the patients are going to pay. Meanwhile, we'll continue with the tax cut, which this government seems overly committed to.

How are these matters gong to be dealt with in the news media? In the past there has been a variety of comment out there, a variety of newspaper opinion in the editorial boards and in terms of columnists. But now Conrad Black and Hollinger have taken over so many of the newspapers they will now control 58 of Canada's 104 daily newspapers. That is unhealthy. It's unhealthy no matter who controls all of those newspapers, whether it's a person with a liberal, socialist, conservative or any kind of political philosophy. It's simply unhealthy for one person to enjoy that kind of ownership.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): To the member for St Catharines, I'm doing my best to trace this back to the opposition day, and I know you will, so if you can explain to me how that relates back, I will be happy to listen.

Mr Bradley: I know this Speaker, of all people, would not want to defend the rich and privileged and powerful in this country, because he's been, I say in a compliment to him, one who has been prepared to tilt at windmills and other things over the years. He has been one who has not been afraid to challenge even the Premier of this province within the confines of the caucus and in other areas. But now he is totally impartial.

The point I'm making is, when we look at a resolution of this kind, how can we possibly ensure that it can be reported appropriately? I don't think it can be as long as Conrad Black has taken over the many of the newspapers of this country. You will know that Jim Travers, an outstanding person at the Ottawa Citizen -- I am told by the member for Nepean that this is the case -- had to leave the job because there was interference coming from one of Conrad Black's people, probably Mr Radler or somebody. As a result, he's had to step aside.

At the Montreal Gazette a person who had a moderate point of view, Joan Fraser, the top editor there, was shunted aside because she obviously felt the interference that was taking place. She was probably wondering how a resolution like this would be covered in a paper that was owned by Conrad Black and the Black empire.

You will recall that the Jerusalem Post at one time had a moderate, fairly middle-of-the-road opinion in terms of its editorial content. Mr Black took that over and moved it drastically to the right. He has done that with many newspapers.


I see that Christopher Young had said on the CBC, surely a sound source of information if I ever saw one -- the CBC National the last two nights has had Conrad Black as its subject. We saw how Mr Black was moving aside people with whom he disagrees. So what he's doing is imposing censorship, censorship which I'm afraid will not allow for the kind of reporting that should take place on this resolution. If anybody disagrees with him in the newsroom, if anybody disagrees with him in the editorial room, they're out the door. The pressure is there.

An unprecedented personal attack was launched on Christopher Young by Mr Black, the message being, "You'd better hit the road because your views don't fit my newspapers." I look at it and say "shall this country's major newspapers be controlled by one individual, especially an individual with an ideological agenda such as Mr Black has?

It's not just that I disagree with his viewpoint, which I do 95% of the time, but it's that one individual is in this situation. I asked the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism about this, and he simply said: "Well, that's not my worry. It's the free enterprise system." Yet you will recall, I'm sure, something that I read into the record previously that talked about all of this transfer of ownership taking place behind closed doors in an uncompetitive situation, not out there in the free market that everybody talks about, but behind closed doors. I know that fairminded moderate Conservatives of the ilk of Premier Davis, must be concerned when they see Conrad Black taking over and putting forth only those views which are of the pretty far right.

Now in the St Catharines Standard we have Barbara Amiel, the wife of Conrad Black, who could never be accused of being a raving socialist. We have Andrew Coyne, certainly no ultra Liberal, and Giles Gherson, who is a little bit different from those two. Now they will be imposed on Southam newspapers across the country, newspapers that previously had people who probably would agree with the contents of this particular resolution this afternoon.

I know what Mr Black had to say on this, and this fits in again, I must say. Mr Black went on to say this in one article: "And that means separating news from comment," which is fair enough, "assuring a reasonable variety of comment, and not just the overwhelming avalanche of soft, left, bland, envious, mediocre pap which has poured like sludge through the centre pages of most of the Southam papers for some time."

I don't agree with Mr Black in that regard, but what's frightening is that he views what has been in the newspapers that were owned by Southam previously in that particular way. That tells me we're not going to see fair comment coming from those newspapers on the resolution which has been proposed this afternoon from the New Democratic Party. It may not be a perfect resolution, it may not be one that engenders full support from everybody in this House, but it serves to put before us some significant issues that are preoccupying the people of this province, issues which are going to bring about a major protest in the city of Toronto, a protest that I hope will be peaceful, that I hope will send a message to the government and allow for people to express their views in a non-violent and a peaceful fashion and in a fashion which is most effective.

I know you, Mr Speaker, as others, hope that this will be the case. We always welcome people who want to express their views in that particular manner. No doubt there will be thousands upon thousands of people converging on Toronto to express that point of view this weekend. While the government may wish to dismiss some of the people in that protest, I think the government should understand that many of those people represent others out there who may not be coming to Toronto, who may not want to participate in a demonstration, but who have genuine concerns that this government is moving too drastically and too quickly to change this province to a right-wing regime.

The Speaker: I thank the member for St Catharines for that timely and topical intervention. Further debate. The member for Dufferin-Peel.


Mr Tilson: Quiet. You're using up my time.

I'd like to make a few comments with respect to the resolution brought forward by Mr Hampton, the leader of the New Democratic Party. Reading this resolution and listening to some of the comments, particularly from the New Democratic Party, it would appear that they didn't realize what happened in the last election. Certainly I've had an opportunity, representing my riding of Dufferin-Peel since 1990 -- many of the members of the New Democratic Party, most of them at least, have represented their ridings for that same period of time, and during that time there was a debate with respect to deficits, with respect to tax increases, with respect to recessions, with respect to all kinds of things, anti-business laws.

When our turn came to be elected in this province, we made a number of commitments, and when I say "we," members of the Progressive Conservative Party. We made a number of promises. We made a number of commitments to change the process, to change the way things have been done in this province, certainly to change the way, in particular, things had been done in this province since 1990. All of what I've heard today and all of what is in this resolution is to return to those days.

During that time, we discovered that we were spending more money than was coming in in this province. The debt was increasing. The debt when the NDP came to power was $44 billion; it's now about $100 billion. That's a lot of money. We haven't even made a commitment in our promises to eliminate that debt. We have made a commitment to eliminate the deficit, we've made a commitment to cut back on taxes, and we're honouring all of our commitments.

With respect to the Workers' Compensation Board, there have been some comments made, particularly by the members of the New Democratic Party, as to the status of that institution. The unfunded liability is at $10.9 billion. You must remember this: There was a building put up right near SkyDome. It cost $200 million to construct that building on land that the province of Ontario didn't even own, for some unknown reason. All of that money, quite frankly, should be put towards the workers of this province, the workers who have had problems with their health and with respect to benefits.

I listened to their comments and I listened to what they have tried to do during their reign and how they boasted about what they have done for workers of this province. That was one of the things that they did: They put up a building that was no longer needed. My goodness, at that particular time there were all kinds of rental vacancies throughout the city of Toronto, and yet they chose to put up a building, $200 million, on land they didn't even own. We still shake our heads as to how the workers of this province are suffering from that policy.

The members for Nepean and for Durham East have quoted a book put out by the former Premier of this province, Bob Rae. Someone gave me the book as a gift. I don't know whether anybody's going to buy it or not, but there were some interesting quotes that have been put forward, many of which I think are applicable to today. This is the former leader of the New Democratic Party, the party that's put forward this resolution today.

Some time has been spent on the social contract, Bill 48. Bill 48, you may remember, was the bill that did away with collective bargaining in this province by that party over there. They did away with collective bargaining, and they are the ones who are standing up for workers in this province. It's called collective bargaining. Remember that? Remember how you did away with it?

Mr Rae, in his book, commented on that topic. There was certainly some time spent, because I'm sure it was very controversial in his caucus, and it appears that it was. He made some interesting comments. He said:

"I felt then and I feel today that the men and women in the public sector in Ontario were poorly served by their leaders, who were caught in a time warp and a rhetorical swamp that they were unable to leave. They were aided and abetted by the usual gang of would-be proletarian anarchists, who were only too happy to attack a social democratic government no matter what it did, and by some on the left who could never adjust to the necessary discipline of political responsibility."

That came from the former Premier of this province, the leader of the party that is now bringing forward this resolution today.

It's as if money is no object. "Spend it." The quote was given by the member for Nepean, I think, talking about what Bob White said. I'd like to make a few comments about, "Don't worry, just spend it, and don't worry about the debt and the deficit of this province." There were some comments made in the book about that.


They referred to -- page 205 of the book -- senior cabinet ministers and he met with the leadership of the labour movement. They had dinner in a private room at Le Rendez Vous Restaurant. I'm not sure where that is, but I'm sure it's a delightful place. The key union leaders were Gord Wilson and Julie Davis of the OFL, Leo Gerard of the Steelworkers, Fred Upshaw from OPSEU, Judy Darcy and Sid Ryan from CUPE, and Buzz Hargrove of the Canadian Auto Workers -- the usual gang.

"It was a difficult meeting," according to Mr Rae. "Hargrove couldn't understand why we couldn't just keep pushing ahead on our current fiscal path. Others had great difficulty with the notion that a social democratic party should bother about debts or deficit at all since Keynes, and certainly since the beginning of the widespread deficit financing of Canada in the 1970s it was simply accepted on the left that to worry about these things was a monopoly of the right and not something that anyone in the labour movement or the NDP should worry about."

That's the philosophy of this New Democratic Party that's trying to protect the workers of this province. Money is no object. Spend it. Who cares whether the debt's $100 billion? Who cares whether the debt is $150 billion? Spend it. Well, we in the Progressive Conservative Party do care and I can tell you that most of us on this side won by substantial margins. We're not boasting about that. Certainly there was a large percentage of people that voted for me, and I don't pretend that they were members of the Progressive Conservative Party. I'm sure there are members of the New Democratic Party who voted for us. Why? Because they didn't like your wild-spending philosophy. They knew that you had to get rid of red tape, that you had to get rid of too many bureaucrats that were hanging around this place, that you had to get rid of too many politicians, that you had to stop raising taxes. That's what you were doing in this province, and indeed we ended social contract; we brought back collective bargaining to this province.

We promised changes in this province and we're completing those changes. We're effecting those changes. Obviously the whole tenor of this resolution is that they don't like what we're doing. Well, that's what we were elected to do. The members of the New Democratic Party in particular are telling us: "Don't do what you were elected to do. Forget about it." That's what you did when you were elected. Of course there's a wonderful quote from Bob Rae on that one as well. Bob Rae made a quote with respect to that in the same book. He made a quote on promises. You know what he said about that, about advice on political promises? This was made at page 221. He said: "So make fewer promises. I wish I had." That's the whole attitude of the New Democratic Party. They don't care. They blather on about things that they have no idea what they're talking about.

I can tell you that we're in for a very difficult time in the city of Toronto on Friday. Fortune magazine, one of the articles in the clippings today, commented that Toronto was the best city in the world in which to work and live. An article by Mr MacDonald, I think, said, "...a bunch of leftist union bosses goes all out to bring Metro to its knees." I hope that they don't do that. I think we have been elected to complete our mandate and we intend to do that. We intend to honour our commitments. The very first proviso in the resolution talks about how they want a more prosperous Ontario. Well, we watched what you've done in the last five years and you have destroyed Ontario and we're going to bring Ontario back to the prosperous stage that it deserves.

Mr Bisson: It has been interesting to listen to the comments from the Conservative side of the House, where they go on at length about how they are defending workers' rights, and in fact try to tell the people of this province that they are not taking away any rights. The record should speak for itself. I think any fairminded individual watching this debate and knowing full well what's happened in their community, asks themselves a couple of questions. They say: "Who was it? What government repealed Bill 40? Was it the Mike Harris government? Yes, it was."

What did they take away? They took away the rights of certification when it comes to workers, to make certification more difficult. They took away access to the employer's property that was put in under the Bob Rae government to put in a level playing field when it came to organizing. They took away the anti-scab legislation.

By the way, the workers from S.A. Armstrong who were here today are reeling in the wrath of what this government has left them, because now their employer has got them out on a picket line and is going to keep them there as long as it can. Why? Because Mike Harris says it's a good thing to hire scabs in the workplaces of Ontario and to try to push the workers out. He's really happy. That's what the Tories want. They want scabs to take the places of the workers at S.A. Armstrong. Is that a takeback? I think it is. The government members are trying to say they haven't affected workers' rights. It seems to me, just on that score, they've affected workers quite badly.

We look at Bill 26. Do we remember Bill 26, the "ominous bill" as it was called by our former Speaker? In that bill they took away all successor rights for public employees in this province. Is that a takeaway? It sounds like one to me. It certainly sounds like the government said, "We want to move to privatize every workplace in the province that we can that is now under the control of the public sector, and we're going to take away successor rights so employees don't have any rights to a collective agreement when the work is transferred over to the private sector." Sounds like a takeaway to me.

They go on to say, "We haven't done anything under the Employment Standards Act." They limited how much you can go after if you're after your employer because he or she hasn't paid wages. Sounds like a takeback to me. They've also put time limits on when you can make a claim. Presently there's no limit to it; they're moving to 45 days. Many times workers don't find out about their rights for a period of time, and if you find out after the 45 days, under this legislation you're not going to have any rights whatsoever. Sounds like a takeback to me.

They're excluding unionized employees from getting access to fair justice under the Employment Standards Act. It sounds like a takeback to me. They've frozen the minimum wage of workers in this province, something that not even the Newt Gingriches of the Republican Party of the United States have wanted to do; actually, they've increased the rates of workers in the United States to a level of about $7 in comparison to Ontario. What does Mike Harris do? Mike Harris says, "Freeze the wages because we don't want workers having a fair return for the work they give to their employers; we want workers to freeze," because that's what they're going to do when you freeze their wages.

They've eliminated, under the wage protection act, the guarantee the NDP government had put in place that workers had the right to get the dollars they were owed by their employers. What does this government do? They limit it to a $4,000 ceiling. Sounds like a takeback to me.

Under pay equity, hundreds of thousands of women in Ontario are not going to get access to pay equity. Why? Because the Mike Harris government, because Dianne Cunningham, the minister for women's issues, has turned her back along with the rest of the cabinet and walked away from the women of this province and they are leaving them high and dry. Why? Because they want to level the playing field to allow the employers to exploit women. That's what you're doing.

You have a lot of nerve to stand in this House and say you're not taking away the rights of the working people of this province. The list goes on and on. What it comes down to is a litany of misery for the workers of this province. Why? Because the Mike Harris government says, "I shall take away from workers, I shall give to employers, because I believe employers have more rights than workers, so that in the end the workers be damned." That's not the Ontario we stand for.

The Speaker: Mr Hampton has moved opposition day motion number 3. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1800 to 1805.

The Speaker: Members, take your seats, please.

Mr Hampton has moved opposition day motion number 3. All those in favour, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.



Bartolucci, Rick

Grandmaître, Bernard

Martin, Tony


Bisson, Gilles

Hampton, Howard

McLeod, Lyn

Boyd, Marion

Kennedy, Gerard

Ramsay, David

Bradley, James J.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Silipo, Tony


Christopherson, David

Laughren, Floyd

Wood, Len

Churley, Marilyn

Marchese, Rosario


Crozier, Bruce

Martel, Shelley


The Speaker: All those opposed, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.



Arnott, Ted

Gilchrist, Steve

Parker, John L.


Baird, John R.

Grimmett, Bill

Pettit, Trevor


Barrett, Toby

Guzzo, Garry J.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas


Bassett, Isabel

Hardeman, Ernie

Saunderson, William

Beaubien, Marcel

Hodgson, Chris

Shea, Derwyn

Carr, Gary

Hudak, Tim

Sheehan, Frank

Carroll, Jack

Jackson, Cameron

Smith, Bruce

Chudleigh, Ted

Johns, Helen

Stewart, R. Gary

Clement, Tony

Johnson, Bert

Tascona, Joseph N.

Danford, Harry

Johnson, David

Tilson, David

DeFaria, Carl

Jordan, W. Leo

Tsubouchi, David H.

Doyle, Ed

Kells, Morley

Turnbull, David

Ecker, Janet

Leach, Al

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Elliott, Brenda

Marland, Margaret

Wilson, Jim

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Witmer, Elizabeth

Ford, Douglas B.

Maves, Bart

Wood, Bob

Fox, Gary

Mushinski, Marilyn

Young, Terence H.

Froese, Tom

Newman, Dan


Galt, Doug

O'Toole, John


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 19, the nays are 55.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

It now being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 of the clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1808.