36th Parliament, 1st Session

L124 - Tue 19 Nov 1996 / Mar 19 Nov 1996























































The House met at 1330.




Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I stand up today with a sense of frustration and anger that is quite literally difficult to express in words. The absolute mess and chaos in the family support office and how that has affected the lives of thousands of women and children across the province is a disgrace and a terrible example of a mean-spirited government policy gone wrong.

Since the start of this year we were aware of the Harris plan to close the regional offices, to lay off 300 dedicated staff and to save money by centralizing the operations in a cold 1-800 world. In their horrid haste to downsize and help fund their tax scheme, nobody would listen to the alternatives suggested, not by those of us in opposition or by their very own staff in the regional offices.

When the government stubbornly went ahead with its plans to close the offices, including the one in Thunder Bay, absolute chaos resulted. Almost every day we have to listen to the Attorney General telling us that his plan is working when he knows full well that is not the case.

Minister, people's lives are being destroyed, and your stubbornness in not admitting your mistake and doing what needs to be done to fix the problem is infuriating. Hire the staff that is needed so that when people call the plan, somebody answers. Stand up today and apologize to the women and children of this province who can't pay their rent, buy food for their children or heat their homes because of your incompetence.

Christmas is fast approaching. Fix this plan before further tragedies result. The hundreds of constituents in my riding who are desperate for help deserve nothing less.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I want to speak for a moment about Bill 84. I speak on behalf of the folks in Welland-Thorold and, I am confident, people across this province. You know Bill 84, the so-called act to promote Fire Prevention and Public Safety. Well, I tell you, it neither promotes fire prevention nor does it promote public safety.

The first betrayal here is the title of the bill, and the fact is that the hundreds of people who have written to my constituency office and constituency offices across this province know it. The fact is that this is an attack on the collective bargaining rights of professional firefighters across this province and it's an attack on the high standards that professional firefighters in Welland-Thorold and everywhere in Ontario have established in their eagerness to safeguard their communities and families within their communities. It's also a betrayal of the firefighters, to whom a commitment was made by Mike Harris and this government to consult with them before changes like this were even contemplated.

I tell you that in this caucus we will be debating Bill 84 in its entirety during the course of second reading. We will be calling, on behalf of our constituents, for full public hearings so that people in this province, especially professional firefighters, have an opportunity to express their disdain for this penultimate betrayal. This government should be ashamed of its attack on hardworking and highly skilled professional firefighters. This government isn't going to stand up for them; New Democrats will.


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I rise today on behalf of the Attorney General to pay respect to the most distinguished barrister this province has ever known. We are saddened by the passing of J.J. Robinette, the dean of Canada's lawyers, at the age of 90.

Mr Robinette's career spanned over 60 years, during which time he dealt with everything from criminal murder trials to constitutional issues. His eloquence was well known by his colleagues, but it was the criminal cases that made him well known to the Canadian public. He saved 16 clients from the gallows and was a fierce advocate for the abolition of capital punishment.

Mr Robinette was called to the bar in 1929. Among his most famous clients was Evelyn Dick, whom he saved from hanging in 1947, when he won a new trial and gained her acquittal on the charge of murdering her husband. He was prosecutor in the espionage trials that followed the defection to Canada of Russian clerk Igor Gouzenko in the late 1940s. Mr Robinette served as lead counsel for the federal government and was successful in obtaining the right, before the Supreme Court of Canada, for the unilateral patriation of the Constitution.

Among honours bestowed upon Mr Robinette were the Companion of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, as well as numerous honorary degrees from Canadian universities.

When Mr Robinette spoke to the Law Society of Upper Canada, life stopped so all could hear his words. He created his own style and eloquence.

Our thoughts today are with his wife, Lois, daughters Joan, Dale and Wendy, his six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Every day there are drivers in Ontario who break the law and put children's safety in jeopardy. Drivers who pass a school bus with its warning lights flashing have little fear of prosecution because the driver must be positively identified in addition to the vehicle. It is difficult for a bus driver who is trying to watch the children to identify both vehicle and driver.

The police in one municipality I have approached said this occurs 40 to 60 times a month. A bus company reported that this happens to their bus drivers at least twice a day. Despite the fact that vehicles are often identified, the police have their hands tied by a system that allows the drivers to go free.

To address this problem I have introduced Bill 78, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act. This private member's bill attempts to address the problem by providing deterrents to make motorists stop passing a school bus with its lights flashing. This bill would double existing fines and would also create a vehicle owner liability of between $1,000 and $2,000. This would come into effect if the driver could not be identified.

The aim of this bill is not to attack vehicle owners but to close a loophole which allows drivers to endanger the lives of children without fear of repercussion. I'm counting on all members of this Legislature to support Bill 78 when it is presented for second reading on November 28.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I'd like to direct my statement today to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. In the last month I've received many letters from natives, francophones and anglophones from Cochrane North who are extremely worried about the future of TVO and TFO, the only free TV stations for people who live in remote communities and rely on this vital network as their link to the rest of the province.

The government is pushing for the privatization of this great asset that belongs to all of us. For 26 years TVO has been providing high-quality education and violence-free television programming not only to the population of Ontario but in 107 countries worldwide. Furthermore, the Wawatay radio network and Wahsa distance education use TVOntario to distribute their signal to first nations in the northernmost reaches of our province, including, I might point out, a lot of the towns in my riding. These vital services would be jeopardized with the sale of TVO. And in your rush to sell off TVO, have you thought about the future of TFO, the only public or private voice for Ontario francophones?

I am urging this government to consult with the public and fully analyse the negative impact this privatization plan would have on all Ontarians, including people from the native and francophone communities, of whom I have a large number in my riding, in Hearst and all the way up the Hudson Bay and James Bay coast, who depend on TVO and TFO.



Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): Since June 1995 Ontario has experienced solid private sector growth. Companies are expanding, new businesses are up and running, and about 127,000 new jobs have been created. Ontario is open for business, and today I would like to add another company to the rapidly expanding list of growing enterprises. The House of Cedar Group has acquired the former Areoquip building in Perth, Lanark county, to create Cedar 1 Inc.

This expansion will bring in a $2-million investment and produce 80 new jobs, most of which will be available to people who reside in the area. Workers will be part of a dynamic production system that is mass marketing creative, do-it-yourself cedar products for the home. The Perth plant will produce gazebos you can set up in less than three hours and a sauna you can put together in 30 minutes.

This company will sell products worldwide from a county that has been progressive in its approach to global communications. In the same way we are selling Ontario to the world through Market Ontario, Lanark county has been using a World Wide Web site for some time now to attract investment from every possible country and region. I commend the county warden, the mayor, council --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Your time has expired.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On the very same day that the Mike Harris government chose to use closure to push through legislation that will allow video slot machines in every bar, every restaurant and every neighbourhood in Ontario, another damning story about the deadly impact of video gambling appeared on television screens across Ontario. Karen Pinker of TVOntario reported that the Governor of Louisiana has advice for Mike Harris: Don't do it.

The state of Louisiana has now turned against video gaming because of the misery it has perpetrated upon the desperate, the poor and the vulnerable. Citing incidents involving suicides, political corruption and increased criminal activity, the people of Louisiana have said no to video gaming and give the same advice to the people of Ontario. C.B. Forgotson, a respected observer of video gaming in the United States, noted that the Harris government's claim that the legalization of video slot machines will help decrease illegal gaming in Ontario was ludicrous. Instead, he stated that the people of Ontario should expect to see a proliferation of illegal gambling and increased criminal activity.

I call upon Mike Harris to listen to the experience of Louisiana, to listen to the people of Ontario who worry that video slot machines will cause an increase in crime and to listen to the multitude of local governments across Ontario, including his very own in North Bay, who are saying no to video slot machines.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Like most of the members here, I spent constituency week, not only in my riding but in a number of communities across the province, talking about areas of interest. Being the labour critic for our party, certainly the biggest issue at this moment on the minds of working people and injured workers and those who represent those groups is the changes this government is planning to bring in with WCB.

We still haven't seen the legislation. We know from the leaked cabinet document that it's your intent to ram this through by December 31. People know that you're not just making small minor amendments. You're not even following only the amendments made by Cam Jackson. You're going beyond all of that. In fact, you're rewriting the entire Workers' Compensation Act, and your current plan is to ram that through this House by December 31.

I'm here to say to the members of the government that the people of Ontario and those who represent workers and injured workers are not going to accept this. We know it is possible that a government could think it's okay to ram legislation through. You've already done it with Bill 7. We saw what you tried to do with Bill 49. We had to hijack the Legislature to slow you down on Bill 26.

I want to tell you that pressure, fear and anger are building across this province and that you owe it not just for a few days but to hold full, province-wide public hearings with enough time to consider the depth and complexity of the draconian changes you're making.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): It is with pride that I rise in the House to honour and congratulate the Kiwanis Club of Peterborough for celebrating its 75th anniversary this last weekend.

The Kiwanis Club of Peterborough summarizes its activities and community involvement in one word: service -- to the community, to the world, to itself.

The club began serving the local community shortly after its formation in November 1921 by building a dining hall for a summer day camp at Jackson Park which served needy children until 1939.

In the decades to follow, the club built a wading pool in both King Edward and Hamilton parks, assisted earthquake victims in Japan and sponsored the Sea Cadets corps and a special school for the mentally challenged. They participated in drug awareness programs and junior citizens' awards. They participated in Big Brothers and Big Sisters and, more recently, created breakfast clubs.

I wish to thank the Kiwanis Club of Peterborough for making our community a better place to live. Their hard work and dedication to improve the quality of life for many have not gone unnoticed. Congratulations on the 75th. We look forward to their continued success in building a better community for all.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today His Worship Ugo Nori, mayor of Montorio al Vomano in the Abruzzi region of Italy. Welcome.



Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): My priority as the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services in this government is to promote the safety and security of Ontarians by taking strong and decisive actions to combat crime and reform the criminal justice system. One area where such action was urgently required was the system of granting parole to offenders serving time in our provincial jails. People told us repeatedly that parole requirements must be strengthened.

As a government we have moved quickly to reform parole in Ontario. To restore public confidence in parole decisions we have appointed people from local communities across the province who share our government's strong commitment to public safety. Some members have extensive experience in the criminal justice system, while others are heavily involved in their communities. Ontario parole board members are better trained, use a new risk-assessment tool and have more information available to them for making appropriate release decisions. As a result, fewer inmates were released on parole last year and the rate of serious reoffending by parolees was also significantly reduced.

During 1995-96 the new parole procedures resulted in a drop in the granting rate to 42.4% from 49.1% and 59% respectively in each of the two previous fiscal years. The grant rate is at its lowest level in the last 10 years. At the same time, the number of parolees charged with serious offences dropped from 61 in 1994-95 to 27 in 1995-96.

I'm pleased to report that Ontario's parole system has been tightened and strengthened over the past year, resulting in fewer parolee crimes and safer Ontario communities.

We have made all of these important changes to improve the parole system while reducing the cost of running the provincial parole board by 27%. That's a saving of $1 million to Ontario taxpayers.

Ontarians can be reassured that parole release under this government is being granted with public safety as the highest priority. We promised this and we have taken effective action.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): At the end of the Solicitor General's remarks, he spoke about $1 million in saving coming from the parole system because of the way it's being managed right now. I would make the point to the minister that it would be very important that his ministry retain that money, especially with the bill we passed last night where we're going to have a proliferation of video slot machines right across this province, in every bar and every restaurant. He knows it's going to be more difficult, as we saw last night on the TVOntario program Studio 2, to enforce the illegal grey machines that he knows are out there with the introduction of the legal machines right across this province. You'd better fight, Solicitor General, and I'll support you in that fight, to retain that money in your department, because we need that policing and that protection.

What we've seen in this province basically is a wrecking-crew approach, a demolition derby approach to everything that governments have built up in the past here, and it doesn't stop at your department either. VLT introduction is just one area that we have a big concern with.

Another concern I hope you'd be listening to with the OPP is the Highway 407 construction. They have indicated they have some severe problems with the safety standards that were slackened when the previous government brought that contract forward. There are big concerns about that, and you'd better make sure you listen to the OPP, because as soon as we have some accidents there, and hopefully not some deaths, it's going to be right here, because you are not enforcing this and are not helping the OPP and listening to their advice, and that's very important.

I'm kind of surprised today that you didn't mention Ipperwash and your agreement, I hope, to have a public inquiry, because that issue is not lost yet. Ipperwash is not over with yet. In opposition we are going to pursue this with you and we again call for a public inquiry on that.

We still haven't seen the results of the investigations from the alleged beatings at Elgin-Middlesex that happened after the Bluewater riot. We ask you to push for those. We need to see those, and again we need to see what's happening with the handling of young offenders in the Ontario correctional system. Tomorrow, on the steps outside of here, there's a demonstration in memory of James Lonnee, a young offender who allegedly was murdered while he was in your custody. People are angry about that. We want to see that inquiry. We want to see that investigation. In fact, I think once all these investigations are in, it is time to have a total public inquiry on the young offenders system in Ontario. Minister, you are not doing the job that parents expect of you when their children are charged and sentenced to the system. They don't expect them back in a casket; they expect them back in the community. You've got to do that and that's your responsibility.

Thirty minutes ago I was talking to firefighters who are gathering here for a couple of days, and they're going to be talking to all of the opposition MPPs tomorrow. They're going to be coming at your door, and I know what you're going to have in front of you. You're going to have a list from the Solicitor General saying, "Oh, I met with the firefighter organizations; I consulted with them." Yes, there was an initial meet-and-greet and there were a couple of meetings with ADMs. In fact, in one of the meetings with the assistant deputy minister, he didn't even take a pen or paper in there to listen to their concerns.

The Premier broke a promise to firefighters and, Minister, boy, are they angry. They are angry and they're never going to forget. They're never going to forget you or this government for breaking that promise. Premier Harris said he would never bring through any changes to the firefighters legislation without consultation, and that consultation has not happened.

You have slipped a poison pill into Bill 84, a poison pill that changes how labour relations are going to work in this province in regard to firefighters, and they're angry. You know the pride of the men and women who risk their lives every day for the people of Ontario. They've never gone on strike; they've never threatened to go on strike; they never would go on strike. Why you slapped them in the face with that part of the legislation, saying, "You should not be going on strike ever" -- why don't you just go by their loyalty, by their dedication to the people of Ontario and the safety of the people of Ontario, and trust them, as we've always trusted in the past? They've never threatened any labour disruption.

Minister, you have a lot to account for in this ministry. We're going to be asking, once these investigations conclude, to have some major inquiries so we can get to the bottom of how you handle young offenders, how you manage the jail system and how the police got instructions to do certain things over the last year. We think you're in trouble over there and we'll be calling for accounts.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The minister is going to need an enhanced parole system, because when they get through with putting lottery video terminals in every bar, every restaurant, every neighbourhood in Ontario, you're going to find real crime problems in this province.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): The Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services has been trying for some time to polish up his tarnished image as the protector of law and order in Ontario. He's been scrambling particularly since the opposition parties made such an issue out of the VLT issue. So he comes to us today with this announcement which takes very little analysis to show it as it is.

This announcement is particularly offensive because it assumes that a better and stronger parole system consists of a parole system where it is harder and harder for those in provincial prisons to get parole. That is the whole mistake of this particular government, because this government is dealing with people who have been incarcerated for two years or less under the jurisdiction of the province, and for the most part those are people whose crimes are considered to be relatively less serious than those for which people are incarcerated in federal penitentiaries.

This minister has always maintained, while he was in opposition and since, that what we need to look at is releasing fewer people on parole into the community and that will make us safer. But the problem is that the people who are in penitentiaries, particularly who are in provincial institutions, will be released and they will be released into our community when they cannot get parole without the transitional phase that was set up to help them to reassimilate into the community, to test whether or not those people have learned their lesson from their incarceration.

This minister says he thinks it's a good thing that more and more people are staying in prison to the end of their sentence. He tells us that the fact that there are fewer charges for people on parole is something from which we should take comfort. The reality is that what happens while people are on parole and true recidivism are not related.

This minster does not tell us how many people leave directly from jail and reoffend within the first six months. He doesn't tell us that in our Ontario penitentiaries there is a program at the Ontario Correctional Institute that has a very high level of success in terms of recidivism that is based on community actions to try to help people reassimilate into the community. He feeds into all the right-wing rhetoric about what is real about law and order.

He is trying to convince people that by taking this action he's making a difference to their safety. It's offensive because our greatest safety is making sure that those who have committed criminal acts have been caught, have been prosecuted, have been convicted and have been jailed, and learn from that experience and learn to reassimilate into the community without reoffending. That is true safety. For this minister to stand up and say that because of these changed figures and the extended incarceration of prisoners, this makes us safer is simply nonsense.

What is more is that it's very offensive that he talks about $1 million saved in the running of the parole board, because the reality is that each of those people who stays in jail for the rest of their sentence costs us millions of dollars. It is absolutely ridiculous for him to take pride in a situation which is increasing our costs at the front end in the correctional services and gives us less and less hope that those people, once incarcerated, when they leave prison are going to be able to reassimilate as non-offenders into our society.


This minister is presiding over a situation where police budgets are getting lower, where court delays are getting longer, where he is seeing women and children forced back into their homes because the services aren't there to protect them from violent people within those homes, from domestic abuse, and he tries to come here and tell us this is what is making us safer.

Finally, I'm absolutely amazed that this minister dares to talk about a more highly qualified parole board. The only qualification for at least one member of that parole board is having been the campaign manager for this minister. That's hardly a qualification.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I understand that earlier today the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation made an announcement revealing what I gather is supposed to be a new, major equal opportunity plank which I gather is a Web site. I wonder if I could move unanimous consent for the minister to make a statement in the House on that.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Is there unanimous consent for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation to make a statement in the House? No.


Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Mr Speaker, I rise to seek unanimous consent of this House to offer a few words of condolence on the passing of a former member of this House.

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

Mr Shea: It is with considerable regret that I rise to inform the House of the passing of Mr Alfred Cowling, who died yesterday morning at St Joseph's Health Centre in his 86th year. Mr Cowling was a former alderman and controller of the city of Toronto, and a member of this Parliament for 16 years representing the riding of High Park. He was the husband of Betty, 54 years married, and leaves a son, Alf Jr, and his wife, Beverley, and a granddaughter, Natalie. He was born and educated in Toronto and his life was committed to community.

Those are very barebones records of a man's life, but in fact there was considerably more in terms of his service to community and his dedication to his community. His life indeed was one of commitment and his life enriched each and every one of us.

His life spanned service to the community in the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving in the Second World War. He was a director of the Canadian National Exhibition. He was president of and very active in the Runnymede Lions Club, a director of the High Park YMCA and a member of the Empire Club and the Albany Club.

Indeed, as a sportsman, there may be some in this chamber old of history or long in tooth who may well remember his activity with the Balmy Beach football team when it won the Grey Cup, and a number of other championship teams he served on in hockey, baseball and lacrosse.

He was a very active member in his parish of St Paul's Anglican Church Runnymede. In fact, that's where he was married to his wife Betty 54 years ago.

There is a sidebar to that that is interesting too because he was very active in music, very active in barbershop quartets. There may be some here who will remember the name Rudy Vallee, there may be some who will remember the name Percy Faith, but as part of a barbershop team, he often acted as backup to those names as well as many others. So his life was quite eclectic.

In terms of his political career, as I mentioned, he was an alderman and a controller for the city of Toronto for the years 1949, 1950 and 1951. Then, in 1951 he was elected to this House, and he served until 1967 through a period of tremendous change. One of the areas of change that he is best remembered for, of course, serving under Premiers Frost and Robarts, was the development of Metropolitan Toronto. Indeed, at the time Metro Toronto was formed it consisted of 13 municipalities, and he saw that evolve and change as it went through a number of metamorphoses. He continued as chairman of the municipal advisory committee that oversaw the development and the continuing unfolding of Metro Toronto.

He was a member of the committee involved with air pollution and smoke control that in fact became the forerunner of the Ministry of the Environment. There are a number of accomplishments that he can claim in that capacity.

But above all else in his political life he was a constituency person, and that is something each and every one of us in this chamber today can reflect upon and compliment him for and hope that each and every one of us remembers his roots as we try to remember ours in what we are sent here to do, that is, to represent the people of our ridings.

It was Dr Morton Shulman who eased Alf Cowling back into public life. That happened in 1967. His wife, Betty, was remarking to me today that she worried about him, about how he would make the adjustment back to non-political activity. In fact, showing the kind of optimism he was famous for, he said, "Look, tomorrow will be just fine and we'll get on to living life the way we should." Indeed, he continued as a member of the Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and as a member of the Pension Commission of Ontario. He got even more active with the Lions Club and very active in his parish church of St Paul's, Runnymede.

Above all else, he was seen more and more walking the streets, as he had always wanted to do, with his wife, Betty, spending time on the main street we know as Bloor West Village. That leads me to my final point: Always in the company of his bride, his wife of 54 years, they were has seen on the streets of Bloor West Village, caring and sharing their life and their experiences with those around them.

Those facts are clear about where he been and what he has done, but I hope he will be remembered by those who were touched by him most particularly as being a person of honour and duty and dedication, one who lived for and in the community, a person who was loving and who was kind and who was thoughtful and warm and who was genuine, politically wise, thoughtful, sometimes a little mischievous, certainly very honourable and always very unselfish.

My first meeting with Alf Cowling goes back over 40 years ago as I sat in the assembly hall at Humberside Collegiate. There was a dapper, rather short gentleman who stood on the stage as a member of the provincial Parliament, wearing a bow tie, trying to help us understand what politics was all about, and it wasn't easy to do. But I recall he impressed me with his honesty, with his integrity that came forth from that stage, and I've always remembered that. Indeed, as I spoke to his wife again this morning, she told me they are receiving a number of phone calls from young people and old people alike who are calling her to remind her of the impact Alf has had upon their life. The way he impressed them and encouraged them or supported them throughout circumstances in their lives has been remarkable. I think that's a tribute we would all hope might be paid to each and every one of us when our time comes to leave this life.

He died yesterday morning a very tough death -- he died of lung cancer -- but through it all he was courageous and he was very optimistic. Even at the end he would remove his oxygen mask to thank his nurses for some gentle ministry they exercised for him. He was a gentleman, he was courteous, he was caring for others, and he was appreciative of life to the very end. When the end came at St Joseph's, it came peacefully. God visited Alf softly and, with great love, took him home. The one happy part of his death was that Betty and Alf Jr had time to say their goodbyes and to reaffirm their love for one another and to reaffirm their faith.

To Betty and Alf Jr and Beverley and Natalie we extend our condolences. It is with considerable sadness that this House marks his passing and it is with considerable appreciation that it marks his contribution to the people of Ontario. He will be missed, but he will also be lovingly remembered and honoured.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): On behalf of our caucus, I'd also like to pay tribute to the memory of Alfred Cowling. It seems that Mr Cowling very clearly was a Renaissance man. He not only loved music, but he was also very involved in athletics. In fact, as the member for High Park-Swansea mentioned, he was even a member of the Toronto Balmy Beach Grey Cup championship team.

As you know, he dedicated his life to the community and served as an elected official in the city of Toronto and here in this Legislature. One of the things I would like to mark is that he seemed to be a pioneer, that he took a very early interest in the environmental concerns of his constituents and really helped to establish the Department of the Environment, so I think Mr Cowling was a man ahead of his time in many ways. Also he was always willing to give. He served in the RCAF during the Second World War and he continued to be involved in his local hospital in his local community, all the way through, beyond politics.

Certainly on behalf of my caucus I would like to pay tribute to a true Renaissance man, Mr Alfred Cowling.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus to also extend to the Cowling family our condolences on the passing of Alfred Cowling and to join in the acknowledgement of his great contribution to the province of Ontario. I won't reiterate the points that have been made, particularly by the member for High Park-Swansea, in outlining the distinguished career Mr Cowling followed, not just as a member of this Legislature for 16 years but prior to that as a city councillor and indeed following his leaving this place in a number of activities. The fact that this gentleman was, above all, considered to be someone who was also active in his own community is noteworthy above and beyond any other particular activities and involvement he had.

I can pass on a note that comes to me from a former colleague of mine who unlike me knew Mr Cowling, the words of Elaine Ziemba, who remembers Mr Cowling as a decent human being who worked hard for his constituency, someone who was very friendly, well known in his community, made himself available to his constituents. The member for High Park-Swansea has already mentioned that. If you will allow, Mr Speaker, on a slightly more partisan line, he was someone, it seems to me, who also understood truly the need to serve his community in the fullest of ways and even on occasion in a non-partisan way, because I understand that on at least one occasion he had the temerity to support Ed Ziemba in one of the elections and I think this probably seems fitting of a man who certainly strikes me as having been very active in his own community and very much having taken the interest of his community at heart.

I join my colleagues in expressing on behalf of the New Democrats our condolences to the family and our thanks for his contribution.

The Speaker: I will be certain to pass on the comments from the members for High Park-Swansea, Oakwood and Dovercourt to the family.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question today is for the Minister of Finance. I would like to ask about the considerations going into the fiscal economic statement being released next week. Minister, particularly we want to know about the tradeoff you're prepared to make between tax cuts and cuts to kids. Here in the gallery is Linda Sinclair who would like to talk to you about the cuts to education at the Nottawa public school where half of the students are in portables, thanks to the cuts you've made in capital budgets. What we want to know is, one year later after your last economic statement, are you prepared to put in specific provisions to make sure that children aren't harmed? Are you prepared to recognize that in your upcoming economic statement?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): There is no correlation between tax cuts and children other than at the end of the day the children of this province will have a future, they will have employment and they will have opportunity, thanks to more jobs being created in the province.

Mr Kennedy: That's an appalling answer. It's an appalling answer from the minister in charge of seeing that there's some balance in this province. Perhaps it would have been a better answer if this minister had been at the presentation of Campaign 2000, which now crowns Ontario as the heartland of poverty in this province, with more poor children than any other part of the country.

Minister, how do you explain that report that comes out today that says the depth of poverty is worse for children in this province since you've enacted your cuts to finance a tax cut? It is up to you to show to the people of this province where you're making your decisions from. What are you putting ahead of poor children who don't have enough to eat, who are finding it more difficult? Will you, in this upcoming economic statement, find some room for them?

Hon Mr Eves: This government has done all kinds of things that assist children. If he cares to look at the May 7 budget of last year he will see all kinds of things we have done for young people in Ontario, for the education system in the province, and the post-secondary education system in the province, despite the fact --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Minister of Finance?

Hon Mr Eves: I think we would all agree that in terms of education more money should be spent in the classroom educating our young people and less on administration. Mr Sweeney, a previous Liberal cabinet minister, indicates that. The previous government obviously thought that; they commissioned Mr Sweeney to do his report. Quite frankly, that is correct: There should be more money being spent in the classroom helping young people, helping prepare them for the future, putting the money into their education, not into administration.

Mr Kennedy: What the people of Ontario want from the Minister of Finance, whose decisions are affecting thousands of people in this province, is more time spent looking into the eyes of parents like Mrs Sinclair, like the people in Guelph who have had to sit on the floors of their classrooms, like the people in food bank lineups who are there only because of this government. You can't blame it on former Liberal governments, you can't blame it on other people.

Minister, I want to ask you to make sure that you spend more time in the next week before your financial statement talking to people who are affected, who have children, than the bank presidents who are getting a $150,000 tax cut realized from your economic statement.

We don't believe it's your intention to have more kids go hungry. What we want you to do, though, is to prove that once you know that's happened, you are prepared to do something about it. It's your chance to do that kind of thing, to show this province where you're coming from. Next week in your economic statement will you undertake to do so, to protect children in this province from the cutbacks that you've provided them so far?

Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member will have to wait, as everybody will, of course, for when the statement comes out to see what it says. I can assure you that this government's intention has always been and will always be to provide a future and opportunity for the young people in this province.

As the honourable member goes around the province having various debates with his colleagues about the Liberal leadership, I can assure you that a lot of your Liberal colleagues agree with the direction this government's taking. "We must invest more of our education dollars in classroom instruction and fewer on administration" -- Dwight Duncan. "It means putting more moneys into classrooms, more teachers into classrooms and improving our ratio for our kids. We can't back away from the prospects of amalgamation. As Liberals, we're fiscally responsible. We've got to look at that" -- Dalton McGuinty.

You might want to take some advice from some of your own colleagues over there who are running for the Liberal leadership, who agree that the money should be spent in the classroom, less money --


The Speaker: Order. Minister of Finance? New question.



Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): A new question, this time for the Minister of Transportation, although we must acknowledge that it's never been clear why we're on this side of the House, when the Minister of Finance declares war on the poor instead of war on poverty.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Members, come to order, please.

Mr Kennedy: I'll continue with my question. In the same vein, we're hoping now for a different quality of answer from the Minister of Transportation. Much of this province is starting to wake up to this Comic Book Revolution and they want to know, Minister, whether you're prepared to compromise their future for the sake of this tax cut.

My question today is with particular reference to Highway 407, to the advice your ministry received in July 1995. In July 1995 the police told you about the absence of guardrails, about no guardrails being put in, about not having proper barriers around the abutments around bridges and lights. You belittled that advice, you put down what the police, the front-line people responsible for enforcing safety on our highways, said. Will you now listen to the police? Will you take measures to take into account their advice on Highway 407?

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Al, say one word. Save me.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to say to the honourable member that highway safety is and always has been a priority with MTO. There aren't too many things about policy that I agree on with the NDP, but one thing I do want to say is that Bob Rae and Gilles Pouliot would not compromise safety for the sake of saving $1 million.


Hon Mr Palladini: I further want to say it's a shame about the pessimism and the fearmongering of certain members of the opposition in the Liberal Party who are taking an attitude and an approach that is totally irresponsible. The most important --

The Speaker: I say to the minister, you'll get another chance.

Mr Kennedy: Thank you, Mr Speaker. A very appropriate intervention, if I may say so.

Minister, we are not heartened to know that this government is depending on the NDP for their engineering. We look at what was the first item of business for this minister: advice from the police, which he continues to make fun of, the OPP, who told him there were serious safety concerns. In the face of that, from July 1995 till now it seems this minister has ignored that advice and has charged ahead as a big cheerleader for Highway 407.

Minister, this is not funny. You'll be cutting a ribbon in a few weeks at that highway, and they're going to be coming to you the first time there's an accident there, the first time there's some serious loss of limb or life. We need from you recognition that the concerns of the OPP and of the Auditor General -- Mr Minister, could you please comment on why the Auditor General is able to tell us that standards have been compromised? Will you respond to the concerns of the Auditor General and of the OPP and enact some safety provisions on that highway?

Hon Mr Palladini: I have read the auditor's report. In no way does the auditor say that safety was compromised. One of the issues we're talking about here, for instance: As far as the median is concerned, the medians in most highways throughout the province are less than 50 feet. The median on Highway 407 is 13 metres wider than any other highway in the province, so there are no compromises to safety.

As far as Highway 407 or any particular highway anywhere in the world is concerned, there are no safeguards to protect against drunk or aggressive drivers. But Highway 407 is a safe and very viable highway which will help the future of this province.

Mr Kennedy: There ought to be safeguards against a minister who won't do his job and a government that puts a tax cut ahead of highway safety.

This government and this minister have no choice: They must enact an independent safety audit of this highway. You cannot allow that highway, and millions of people to traverse it, without putting in place some confidence for the people there. Everyone knows now when they're travelling down that highway without a median down the middle, without the confidence of the police who are supposed to be protecting them that that's a safe highway, it's not possible for it to be viable.

Minister, please tell us clearly that you will go ahead and make sure there is a special safety audit done, a reasonable thing required by you, independent of the government, so that people can have the assurance that you're fulfilling your responsibilities.

Hon Mr Palladini: We will not compromise safety. If there are any safety issues that have to be addressed, we will not open Highway 407. I know there are no substandard safety features on the highway, but I'm even willing to have an independent report developed just to make sure this highway is safe, which I know it is. I am convinced it is safe.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is once again for the Attorney General. Last Thursday, November 7, the Attorney General said the Metro Toronto police were called in to investigate an incident that took place at the family support office in Downsview. But the Attorney General didn't stop there. He went on to make some very inappropriate remarks that have been recorded in Hansard. Yesterday he didn't seem to know anything about those comments. I hope he remembers them today, because he said, and this is a quote of the Attorney General, "I said there was a break-in" and "I said it was because there was a break-in."

It was you, not a judge, not the police, who declared that there had been a break-in, knowing that the alleged break-in was the subject of a police investigation. Why did the Attorney General make these very inappropriate statements?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Quite simply, there was an incident at the family support plan office in Downsview. As a result of that incident, the assistant deputy minister responsible for the family support plan called the police to investigate.

Mr Hampton: The question isn't about the fact that the police might be investigating; the question is about the totally inappropriate comments of this Attorney General. He has to learn that if he wants to be called the Attorney General of the province, he has to take responsibility for his inappropriate, reckless, careless comments that cost the justice system in this province its credibility.

You declared, not a judge, not the police, "...there was a break-in," you, the Attorney General, who is supposed to be neutral at all times, who is supposed to avoid those kinds of comments at all times. Can you tell us, on what legal basis, on what evidence of the police did you conclude there was a break-in?

Hon Mr Harnick: I've explained my comments and that explanation stands.


Mr Hampton: It's clear what this Attorney General did. He pre-empted a police investigation. He believes he has the authority, as the Attorney General, to pre-empt a police investigation.

I want to read from John Edwards, author of The Law Officers of the Crown, perhaps the definitive statement on the role of attorneys general. He says on page 231, note 21, "Matters awaiting or under adjudication in all courts exercising a criminal jurisdiction and in courts martial should not be referred to in any motion or debate...including a supplementary question." Yet we have an Attorney General who comes in here and totally pre-empts a police investigation and forms a legal conclusion before the police have had an attempt to investigate, before a judge has even considered the matter.

Attorney General, in order to restore your own credibility and to restore the credibility of the legal system in this province, are you prepared to resign, as you should do?

Hon Mr Harnick: Again, I've explained my comments and that explanation stands.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question, leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: This is unfortunate because I think it indicates how much the standards of this government have fallen.

The Speaker: I need a question to --


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question is to the Minister of Health. We'll try to see if the Minister of Health will respond. Today hundreds of nurses from across Ontario protested in front of the Legislature. They are deeply concerned about your cuts to the health care system in this province. You have cut $1.3 billion from hospital budgets across the province. Hospitals have been forced to cut health services. This year because of your budget cuts, patients are suffering, nurses are being laid off. You have created a crisis in patient care. If it is not to finance your phoney tax scheme, why did you take that money from hospitals this year? Why are you putting health care in a crisis in this province?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'm very much aware that one of the unions representing nurses was out front today, the Ontario Nurses' Association. They're the same group --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): They're a very responsible group.

Hon Mr Wilson: Someone from across the way says they're a very responsible group. I think they have been too. I think what the nurses' association has been saying in terms of integrated delivery systems, in terms of the waste and duplication and the money that's wasted in the system -- I guess where I'm confused is that we've had this question many times in the House, where I've read out ONA's vision of health care and the government's vision of health care and I've compared sentence to sentence. We have the same vision.

We're working as hard as possible. Nurses are represented on almost everything that's done at the Ministry of Health. All the reinvestments we've done to date are for jobs for nurses and new front-line providers. We're trying to cut the administration, the duplication and the waste, and we're very sincerely trying to do that building on what's been done by previous governments, trying to reform the system the way nurses want the system reformed. I'm going to pledge to redouble my efforts to communicate to nurses better, because we all are pulling --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, Minister.

Mr Hampton: The nurses tell quite a different story from the Minister of Health. They want health care change. They see this minister as being all about health care cuts. For example, they recognize that the health care system is suffering in this province as a result of your cuts. You don't recognize that.

They've even suggested some concrete solutions for you. They say to you that you cannot go about shortening hospital stays, cutting back on hospital services, without first making a commitment to an integrated system of health care, including adequate community supports. You're not doing that. Even Mr Duncan Sinclair, who met with them, acknowledges that you are not providing the community-based services that are necessary if hospitals are going to be forced to be closed. You know what? He even said that before the estimates committee. So Mr Duncan Sinclair agrees with the nurses. He agrees you can't make these cuts without putting the alternative services in place.

When are you going to meet with these nurses and when are you going to listen to the --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister?

Hon Mr Wilson: I'll meet with ONA at any time. I've made that clear. I apologized. The last meeting, members should know, was booked just about three weeks ago. It was unfortunately booked at 2 o'clock. The JPNC, which is the joint ministry and nursing committee that I was supposed to go to, was booked during question period. We were already receiving criticism that week from your party about not attending question period, so I had to be here and not with the nurses, and I fully explained that.

What did the nurses say about waste and money in the system?


The Speaker: Order. Minister?

Hon Mr Wilson: We phoned ONA on October 31 and were told that the next available time they had to meet would be in January 1997.

Let's quote from what the nurses have to actually say about funding in the system in their recent letter to the Premier. "While the evidence suggests that there is more than enough money in the system, indeed up to 30% of expenditures is on waste, duplication, inappropriate care, unnecessary bureaucracy." It goes on to make suggestions, as you've said, in how we improve the system. We are working on all of those suggestions and more. Nurses are part of the system. They sit on the primary care steering committee. In all the new reforms in health care, nurses are represented, and I think we're trying to go in the same direction. I want to work --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister.

Mr Hampton: Once again the nurses tell quite a different story from the minister, and I know that most people in Ontario believe the nurses. The nurses' association has done the research. They've got the information for you and they want to know why they've been trying to meet with you since the summer to talk with you about the research they've done and you've refused to meet.

For example, they want to point out to you that if you continue the cuts you've got in place, 15,000 registered nurses' jobs will disappear in this province; 13 million hours of nursing care will be lost through your cuts. They also want to tell you that losing 13 million hours of nursing care will mean that morbidity rates will go up by between 200% and 400%, as happened in the United States when nursing budgets were cut by that amount.

Minister, the nurses have a wealth of information that they want to share with you about how damaging your cuts are, about how losing all of these nurses is going to hurt the health care system. Will you give a commitment today that you are going to meet forthwith with the nurses? They were available to meet with us. They asked --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister of Health.

Hon Mr Wilson: I reiterate that commitment. The honourable member didn't think it up. We've phoned ONA many times over the last few months. I've got stacks of letters here of all the correspondence between Jane Cornelius, the president of the union, and myself, and we're trying to meet. I fully read all of their papers, personally, on their integrated delivery system. I've responded to that. Their language is part of the language of this government's Ministry of Health business plan.

They put out a poster today, and I couldn't provide a better checklist of what the government is doing in health care than the one provided by ONA. It talks about, "Create integrated delivery systems." We're doing that. It says, "Increase focus on illness prevention and health promotion." We're doing that with pneumococcal vaccine, getting rid of hepatitis B and measles for the first time in the history of the province, getting rid of red measles, putting millions of dollars into prevention. "Cut waste and duplication." That's what we're doing with the Health Services Restructuring Commission. "Expand the role of registered nurse." We're soon going to introduce the registered nurse practitioner legislation. We're moving on everything the nurses are asking us to move on.



Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. You know that today we have several parents in the galleries who are here to listen to the debate this afternoon and to hear some of your responses to concerns they have, because they have some dire concerns related to what's happening to their youngsters and the students in their schools.

The Minister of Finance made the comment that some of our leadership candidates were supporting the idea of finding administrative money in the school system. The one difference was that the Liberal Party said that that money would not disappear and go out to fund a tax break, that that money would stay and be redistributed to fund early childhood education and help the teacher in the classroom. That's the big difference.

Minister, what do you have to say to these parents who are saying that their children, the students in the schools from which they come, are suffering quality-wise because of your cuts?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Ottawa Centre for the question. I know that several of the parents who are here today -- and I've had a chance to meet with some of those parents in the past -- are very concerned about the building of capital projects, the building of schools across the province. I can assure the member that I have been informed of some of these projects. My colleague from Simcoe West, who sits in front of me, has told me about the situation around the Nottawa public school and the concern of parents in that area.

We've had a look at the long litany of promises made by previous governments to make capital investments, to build schools in the province. I'm sure the member opposite knows that, over the 10 years of the last two governments, the number of portables in our school system in the province grew by some 8,000 portables. Let me be clear again today, as I have been in the past, that we believe the system of making promises you can't keep has got to end and that we have to have a better capital program for our schools in the province.

Mr Patten: Minister, if you acknowledge the difficulties in education, what is the solution? Is it to cut or is it to freeze capital, which is what you've done, both of which affect directly the classroom?

I know you know that there is a problem with capital because I know that in your riding you're getting tremendous pressure, and so is the Minister of Health in his riding, because parents are very upset. Will you at least acknowledge that there is a problem, that there will be no further cuts and that you will slow down the reform? It's not just capital. We have lost art teachers, music teachers, phys-ed teachers, counsellors, librarians -- throughout. Are you not aware of that?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Again I thank the member for Ottawa Centre. I want to reassure him of this: This government will make sure that schools are built in this province. What we won't do is what the Liberal Party did in 1989, which was to make I think $1.1 billion in promises for capital projects and to make no reserves for cash to fulfil those promises. We will not do that.

What's the problem? What's the challenge? We must end duplication. We must make clear the accountabilities in our system. We must lower the cost of administration. We must make sure that the benefit of the dollars we spend on education in this province is received by our students and our young people. That's the commitment of this government, that's the track we're on, and that is what we will fulfil on.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Yesterday the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses released a chilling account of what is happening to women and their children as a direct result of your cuts. Some have no choice but to return to their abusive partners.

In response to a question from the member for Oriole you said: "We take the issue of violence against women quite seriously, and that is one reason we have the supports and the funding and the programs in place so that these women are not put in that position to have to make that choice."

Women do have to make that choice, and they were here yesterday to tell you. Did you even bother to look at their research or do you think that the women who came down here yesterday were lying?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I reject the honourable member's attempt to somehow call into question this government's credibility on this issue. We do believe that women who are in abusive situations --


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): We just want information, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): That's what I'm trying to get for you here. Minister?

Hon Mrs Ecker: Our commitment to trying to make sure that there are supports for these women is evidenced by the $60 million we continue to spend for the 97 shelters, for the 100 counselling services, the Victims' Bill of Rights, the victim/witness assistance program, the $11 million we're spending on capital. I could go on, and I'm sure I'll get an opportunity as she asks the supplementary, but this is a very important issue and I take it very seriously, as does the rest of my government.

Ms Churley: Minister, for the sake of a tax cut that's mainly going to benefit the rich, you are literally putting women's lives at risk. Why don't you take some responsibility? Nobody else over there will. Your government has already cut all the counselling and support programs for second-stage housing, cut the male batterers' program and crisis line funding. But it's not just these cuts to shelters. It's the cuts to social assistance, to legal aid, to children's aid societies, housing subsidies, child care, education and training and on and on. These are the supports these women need to get their lives back.

Nobody from your government is standing up for these women and children. Minister, will you? Will you today stand in your place and speak up for these women and children, guarantee that in the next budget at least the $9 million you have taken out will be reinstated? Will you make at least that commitment today?

Hon Mrs Ecker: The biggest threat to the women in this province and the men in this province and the children in this province is the debt this government inherited from those across. That is the biggest threat. It is --


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): There are women whose lives are in danger and you stand up and -- I dare you to stand up in front of those women and say that.

The Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine, come to order, please.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): How could you say such a thing?

The Speaker: The member for Oriole, order. New question.



Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. I understand that a new and innovative joint venture which provides one-window access to environmental information via the Internet has just been opened. Could you explain the future details and workings of this wonderful innovation?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Last week the Honourable John Manley, the Minister of Industry, and I announced the creation of the virtual office as a joint venture. This service provides around-the-clock access to a diverse range of information to more than 4,500 environmental companies in our province.

The virtual office allows environmental industry companies to quickly locate information and obtain advice on such topics as research, development, domestic and international markets, investment, financing and human resources. The virtual office also features direct e-mail access to 32 professionals from public and private agencies who are ready to provide assistance. It is a tool which will help the environmental business in our province to thrive and move forward in the next century.

Mr O'Toole: Will the virtual office be available to assist small business startup ventures which are currently trying to establish in the environmental field?

Hon Mr Sterling: This is particularly of interest to small companies because small companies don't have the kind of resources that large companies do. I hope members opposite would be sensitive to small companies that need timely information in order to compete in the market. This virtual office will provide those companies with the kind of access that their large competitors might have.

I would encourage all members of the Legislature to let the environmental companies in their particular constituencies know about the virtual office and the advantages it can have for their companies.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. Recently I visited two schools. One has a student population which has 58 identified exceptional students in it and the other has 89 identified students within the student population. In one grade 4 and 5 classroom there are 38 students, with eight students being identified, ranging from severe behavioural to physical to communication exceptionalities. In another grade 7 and 8 class there are 38 students, and that class has 10 identified exceptionalities in it. These identified exceptionalities are severe, ranging from physical to behavioural to intellectual exceptionalities. Both situations are unbelievably and fundamentally wrong for education.

My question to you is, as the Minister of Education, would you visit these two classrooms with me within the next three weeks?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I know the member opposite will understand that it's difficult to make a promise in this chamber as to time allocation in the next three weeks, but I can assure the member of this: I have visited a number of schools and talked with the parents of a number of exceptional students and I understand the needs of our very special needs young people in Ontario. I know it's important that those needs be addressed, and I know the parents and the educators who work daily with these exceptional needs people, these young people, know we need to make some fundamental changes in our funding system in Ontario and in the way education is delivered to those young people. I want to assure the member opposite that this government will make those changes for those young people.

Mr Bartolucci: The principal, the teachers, the students and the parents at those two schools are going to be disappointed that the Minister of Education will not visit those schools.

Minister, a local high school in Sudbury has been circulating a letter. In part, it says:

"Ladies and gentlemen:

"Current fiscal restraints force us to reach out into our community for support. Funds are needed to add to computer equipment, to purchase supplies, as well as for busing of co-op education students and extracurricular programs. Your financial support is needed to support our programs. In lieu of money, a donation of supplies or equipment would be appreciated."

My question to the minister is simple. Is that your vision of funding for the classroom and what would you say to the people of that particular high school who are circulating that letter?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me say that I'm disappointed in the tone and the quality of the question from the member opposite.


Hon Mr Snobelen: I did not --


Interjection: I want to hear him.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Well, I do too. It's a lot easier to hear if you're not yelling at him.

Hon Mr Snobelen: Again, I am disappointed at the tone of that question. First of all, I did not say that I would not visit those institutions. I told you I could not make that promise standing here in the chamber today, and I would expect you would understand that as a function of understanding how our mutual jobs work and our scheduling problems.

But I can tell him, and I told the member opposite, that I have visited with special needs kids across the province. I happen to think the future of our young people in this province, and particularly meeting the needs of those special needs young people, is too important for partisan politics and I'm disappointed that the member opposite would engage in those on this very important question.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a question for the Minister of Citizenship --

Mr Bartolucci: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The last thing you or I will tolerate is being disciplined by this --

The Speaker: That's not a point of order. The member for Dovercourt.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. When your government killed the Employment Equity Commission, you promised to put some of that money, the $9.3 million you cut from that commission, into the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Instead, not only did you not put any of those funds into the commission, but you in fact cut a further $700,000 from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Then today we see your big announcement of what is the main plank of your equal opportunity plan, namely, the Web site and brochure, that will do nothing to address the proven systemic discrimination and underrepresentation of women, racial minorities, people with disabilities and aboriginal peoples in most areas of employment.

Minister, my question to you is simply this: How are this spiffy Web site and brochure going to do anything to restore the 6% cuts your government has made to the Human Rights Commission and particularly how will they make your government keep your promise to increase funding to that important agency?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I thank the member opposite for the question because it gives me an opportunity to explain the Web site announcement and launching that was done today.

I want to assure the member opposite that this Web site has been developed in conjunction with the private sector. It's been based on partnership. It's been based on cooperation. It's not been based on coercion. It brings together those who have experience with equal opportunity and it reaffirms this government's commitment to equal opportunity as an economic benefit for all employers in this province.

Mr Silipo: We continue to see the complete arrogance --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): It's becoming very difficult with you sitting there screaming. I can't hear the questions or the answers.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): She doesn't have an answer.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, I don't want to engage in debate. I'm just asking you to come to order.

Mr Silipo: We continue to see the complete arrogance that this minister and unfortunately other ministers are showing. I asked earlier for her to make a statement on this issue and she refused. Now I ask her a question about the cuts in funding to the Human Rights Commission and she makes her announcement on the Web site.


Let me ask you about another aspect of your policy that people are waiting to see some action on, because your list of broken promises doesn't end with your cuts to funding for the Human Rights Commission. Yesterday, you may know, there were present here people from the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. They were here and had some questions for you; unfortunately, you weren't here to deal with those questions, and they certainly were not going to appear at your fake announcement, Minister. But had they come, one of the questions they would have asked you was this: When will the government take meaningful action to keep your election promise to enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

Hon Ms Mushinski: In response to the honourable member's question, first of all I want to assure him that the Canadian Abilities Foundation was actively involved in compiling the disabilities section of the Web site. Indeed, that involved over 700 questionnaires with disability groups in Ontario.


The Speaker: I say to the members of the third party, I can't hear the response.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): It wasn't worth it anyway.

The Speaker: Member from Cochrane, I think we'll all have to determine ourselves whether it was a worthy response. If you'd allow me to hear it, we could all make that decision.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): We want your opinion, okay?

Mr Bisson: When are you going to give your ruling?

The Speaker: You can't heckle the Speaker either.

Hon Ms Mushinski: With respect to an act for Ontarians with disabilities, I can assure the honourable member that this government has committed to passing such an act within the first term of this government and within the financial goalposts of this government. I am working and consulting with the disabled community to ensure that we develop the appropriate framework that is meaningful for the disabled.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. As you know, this week the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is holding its convention in Mississauga. You also are aware, because you were involved, that yesterday the Premier introduced Market Ontario, a program to tell the world that Ontario is a great place to live, work, visit, invest and do business.

You know that our agrifood industry will want to capitalize on the opportunities created. But to do so, they must continue to be world-class and competitive. Will you tell the Legislature what your ministry is doing to help Ontario's farmers increase their competitiveness?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to thank the honourable member for Chatham-Kent for that question. It is very important, because our food producers of Ontario are some of the main links in making this great province greater, as we are exporting some $5 million-plus annually.

I met with the federation of agriculture yesterday and met a large number of the food producers from across the province. I also participated in the Market Ontario kickoff from Ottawa. That is bringing forth to the world the fact that Ontario does produce a quantity of products that the world needs and is demanding. And yes, our extension people in the ministry, our University of Guelph and our three agricultural colleges, are working hard towards keeping us on the leading edge. Agriculture is very much in the forefront and will remain the main engine of the economy in Ontario.

Mr Carroll: Can you tell us a little bit more about your program, how it will help the overall industry and how farmers who wish to participate can get involved and get more information?


Hon Mr Villeneuve: The Grow Ontario program is $15 million of new money, to the member for Chatham-Kent and to the people on the other side, who don't like the good news. There is a $20-million sales tax rebate on capital improvements, also new money -- $35 million of new money. Indeed our ag offices, our ag reps and our extension people are available to provide information. The ministry head office is available to provide information to those farmers who require it. I am proud of our food producers in Ontario.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. As you know, front-line OPP officers have had the courage to stand up to your bullying. They've said that Highway 407 has been built with virtually no guardrails separating eastbound and westbound traffic. They've said the length of entry and exit ramps has been shortened to save on pavement costs. They've said light standards and bridge abutments have been installed, in most cases, without protection. Minister, why do you dismiss their concerns? Why do you try to bully them and belittle them? Why don't you sit down and listen to their concerns about safety on 407?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): The concerns expressed by individual OPP officers do not reflect the opinion of the OPP. The OPP's role is to enforce the speed limits and the rules of the road, not design highways.

Mr Colle: This is the problem. These front-line officers go to the accident scene and reconstruct the accident. They make recommendations to coroners' juries, as they did on Highway 403. They don't just go there after the fact. All they're asking is that the minister listen to them. They have some very important advice about safety. Why do you keep bullying them and refuse to listen to them? They're saying, "Minister, give us a voice." Why are you ignoring the front-line officers who also have a stake and expertise in safety?

Hon Mr Palladini: If there are any legitimate safety concerns, they will be addressed. We will not compromise safety prior to opening the highway.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a question for the Attorney General regarding the crisis at the family support plan. In August of this year you laid off 290 staff and you closed the regional offices --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. The members for Oakwood, Scarborough-Agincourt and Kingston and The Islands, please come to order. It's a new question, from the third party.

Ms Martel: To the Attorney General regarding the crisis at the family support plan: In August you laid off 290 staff and you closed the regional offices of the family support plan, and since then women and children who used to receive support payments on a regular basis are now not. Thousands of families across this province are not able to pay their rent; they are having their heat, their hydro, their phone service cut off; they are going to food banks for food because they cannot afford to buy their own.

Minister, I want to raise the case with you today of Diane, who used to receive $1,000 a month on a regular basis --


The Speaker: Member for Oakwood, I asked you to come to order.


The Speaker: Member for Oakwood, I've asked you to come to order. One more time and I'll have to name the member. Please come to order.

Ms Martel: Diane used to receive $1,000 a month on a regular basis. Her last payment was received on September 13. She confirmed with the employer that a cheque was remitted to the family support plan from the payor on October 3. She has not received that payment. She has not received her payment for November. She has had to cancel her auto insurance because she can't afford to pay for it, she has had to borrow money for rent, her phone is going to be disconnected at the end of this week, and her mother is now buying food for her. Minister, where is Diane's money?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): As I've indicated to this House before, three out of four families have never received the family support to which they were entitled under the family support plan. We are now --

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): That's disgraceful.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Harnick: As I've indicated, under the old family support plan three out of four families never received the support to which they were legally entitled.


Mr Christopherson: Answer the bloody question, Charlie.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre, that's the end of the rope. It's a warning. The next time I'm going to have to name you.

Hon Mr Harnick: As we reorganize the plan and create the family responsibility office, as I've indicated to this House, in the first two weeks of November we paid out $20 million. Some 50% of all callers to the plan are now being answered, versus 6% before.


The Speaker: Order. Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: We now have approximately 200 staff working in the plan. We've doubled the number of front-line service staff. Some 90% of the funds that are now being received are being paid out to women and children the following business day, and as I've indicated before, we're now processing 5,000 transactions per day, a 25% increase in productivity.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): For a plan that is now supposed to be fixed, it seems awfully strange to me that my constituency office, on Friday alone, got 31 calls from 31 separate cases. One such case is Cindy Cazabon. Cindy was receiving her money from the plan -- I emphasize, so that it sinks into your head -- up until September 30. She is no longer receiving her $95 a week. Her husband's employer has confirmed that the money has been remitted. She is going to have her hydro cut off. She has made inquiries to the hotline. Actually, she has not been able to get her plan fixed. She needs her money. Her kids cannot live without hydro. What are you prepared to do for Cindy? How can she believe that your plan is fixed, when she's getting no money?

Hon Mr Harnick: As I've indicated before, I won't and can't respond to an individual situation. What I will say is that under the reorganization that we are now engaged in, we have reached the stage where close to 80% of all recipients now use direct deposit, something that was sorely lacking in the plan before. We no longer --


The Speaker: Order. The member for Welland-Thorold, come to order, please. The member for Sudbury East, come to order as well.

Hon Mr Harnick: As I've indicated, we have now reached the stage where close to 80% of all recipients use direct deposit. One of the very significant difficulties with the plan --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Harnick: One of the problems we've had is that in the past cheques were being processed by hand, cheques were being sent by mail. We've now gone to 80% of all recipients using direct deposit. Of great significance, in the bill that will be debated very shortly we will allow families who don't need the family support plan to be involved in their transactions to opt out of the plan.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Under standing order 97(d) there is a requirement that order paper questions are to be answered by the ministry within two weeks of submission. I submitted order paper questions number 598 to 639 to the ministry and to the Clerk on October 17. We received a response October 30 telling us the information would be available November 15. It is now November 19, more than four weeks since we've issued the order paper questions, and we have not received a response from the ministry, in contravention of the standing order. I would ask you to look into that.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I will.



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

On the standing committee on estimates, Mrs Elliott be substituted for Mr Clement and Mr Vankoughnet be substituted for Mrs Ross; on the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, Ms Bassett be substituted for Mr Sampson; on the standing committee on the Ombudsman, Mr Vankoughnet be substituted for Mrs Ross; on the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, Mr Clement be substituted for Mr Froese; on the standing committee on public accounts, Mrs Elliott be substituted for Ms Bassett; on the standing committee on social development, Mrs Ross be substituted for Mrs Ecker and Mr Froese be substituted for Mr Newman.

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


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that Mr Cordiano and Mr Chiarelli exchange places in order of precedence for private members' public business and that, notwithstanding standing order 96(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 49, 52 and 53.

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


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that the standing committee on general government be authorized to meet on November 21, 22 and 23, 1996, at times other than those specified in the order of the House dated November 2, 1995, and beyond its normal adjournment time for the purpose of consideration of Bill 81, An Act to reduce the number of members of the Legislative Assembly by making the number and boundaries of provincial electoral districts identical to those of their federal counterparts, and to make consequential amendments to statutes concerning electoral representation.

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

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Could I have the assurance --

The Speaker: Yes, it's debatable. The member for Oriole.

Mrs Caplan: Could I have the assurance of the government House leader that members of this Legislature will be welcome and able to address the committee on those dates? We were not permitted to do that the last time the committee met, and I would like the assurance of the government House leader that he has cleared that with the committee Chair and we will be able to address the committee.

The Speaker: Further debate?


The Speaker: I don't care what you do actually. I'll go in rotation. The member for Algoma.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I thought the House understood the importance of this piece of legislation to all members of the House and to the public. It would be most appropriate, I think, for the government House leader to make it clear that the committee will be directed and that the majority on the committee will assure that all members of the public who have input on the numbers of ridings, the boundaries of those ridings, will have a chance to make their views known and that there will not be any arbitrary deadlines put on when we can get the names in and so on and that it will be open to all members of the public, all groups that are interested. I hope the government House leader will make that assurance to all members of this assembly and to the public.

Hon David Johnson: I will certainly have a discussion with the Chair of the committee on this item, but I must say that the ultimate decision in this matter rests with the committee and with the Chair of the committee.

Certainly the purpose of the committee hearings is to hear the public at large. I have not been made to believe that anybody from the general public has had any difficulty making representation. I know the member opposite has indicated some concern with regard to members of this House not having input into the committee. Members of this House of course have many opportunities to speak at second and third reading of the particular bill and indeed will, I'm sure, voice their concerns at those opportunities. The main purpose of the committee is to have input from the general public.

All I can say in acknowledgement of this matter is that I will speak to the member, the Chair, but as we know, and both parties have been in government over the last 10 years, the committees are independent in the sense that they decide these matters unto themselves.

The Speaker: Further debate? Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.




Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the 800,000 children who ride the school buses of Ontario are at risk and their safety is in jeopardy from unsafe drivers who are not stopping for school buses; and

"Whereas the current school bus law is difficult to enforce since not only is a licence plate number required but positive identification of the driver and vehicle as well, which makes it extremely difficult to obtain a conviction;

"Therefore, be it resolved, that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"That private member's Bill 78 be passed.

"The bill doubles the existing range of fines for identified drivers and establishes vehicle owner liability.

"We ask for the support of all members of the Legislature."

The petition is signed by a number of residents from Duart, Thamesville, Merlin and Chatham, and I have affixed my name to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I continue to receive thousands of petitions from injured workers and those involved in occupational health and safety who are absolutely outraged at this government's continuing attack on their 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;

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

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

On behalf of our caucus, I add my name to theirs as we do support them.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition here signed by 661 persons, most of whom are from my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay. In accordance with rule 36 in the standing orders, I'll just summarize it by saying that it is in regard to public libraries and public library boards, and I'll file it today.


Mr Peter North (Elgin): I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the provincial government is planning to make significant changes to the delivery and governance of education in this province; and

"Whereas we as parents believe that school councils should play an important role in education, with clearly defined responsibilities limited to their particular school communities; and

"Whereas we as ratepayers are extremely disturbed that consideration is being given to abolish school boards and eliminate decision-making by locally elected representatives,

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that the present structure of school boards within the province of Ontario continue to have a major role in governance of schools to deal with broad policies as advocates for the students in their community, to provide cost-efficient educational services and to be directly accountable to the parents and local ratepayers."


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai une pétition reçue de Gerry Leroux de St-Isidore.

«À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que le jeu de Bingo provincial quotidien télédiffusé enlèvera la source principale de revenu des organismes à but non lucratif de diverses localités provinciales ;

«Attendu que le gouvernement actuel a procédé à de nombreuses coupures envers les assistés sociaux et les municipalités, et que la demande d'aide auprès des organismes augmente considérablement ;

«Attendu que les coupures de bénévoles, tels que les Chevaliers de Colomb, les Filles d'Isabelle, le club Lion, Rotary, Kiwanis, Boy Scouts, Optimist et combien d'autres ne seront plus en mesure de répondre aux besoins de personnes nécessiteuses ;

«Nous, soussignés, exigeons que le gouvernement actuel abandonne le projet d'organiser à son profit les Bingos quotidiens télédiffusés à l'échelle provinciale.»

J'y ajoute ma signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the Hamilton District Injured Workers Group and it reads as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario plans to cut injured workers' benefits; and

"Whereas the Hamilton District Injured Workers Group has called a public meeting to discuss this important issue; and

"Whereas no government member was willing to attend said meeting, including the Minister of Labour, the former Minister without Portfolio responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board or any other local government member;

"Therefore we, the injured workers of the Hamilton area, take leave to petition the government of Ontario for full public hearings in Hamilton pertaining to changes to the Workers' Compensation Act."

I add my name to theirs in support.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This petition was signed by many people from all over my riding in Meaford, Croton Station, Markdale and Dundalk.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads:

"The constituents of Mississauga North (the home riding of the Minister of Education and Training) as well as other residents of Ontario are concerned about the educational and constitutional implications of the moratorium on new school construction.

"We, the undersigned, believe that the moratorium discriminates against children in high-growth areas. Moreover, we believe that the lack of suitable school accommodation violates basic rights, including the right to a quality education and the right to be treated in a fair and equitable manner. We maintain that the failure to build new schools when they are needed is a cut to the classroom. Parents, teachers and students at crowded schools know that resources do not rise proportionally as the number of students increases in a school. Students in crowded schools must share books, computers etc, and these students have less individual time with their teacher.

"We, the undersigned, also believe that the moratorium is unfair to local taxpayers who must assume the costs incurred during the moratorium.... We also believe that the freeze on new school construction is unfair to the building and construction industry. The moratorium translates into thousands of lost jobs and substantially higher levels of unemployment throughout the province of Ontario.

"Accordingly, we demand:

"(1) That the moratorium on school construction be lifted immediately;

"(2) That the full amount of $167 million be restored immediately to the capital expenditures fund administered by the Ministry of Education and Training."

I affix my signature to this petition.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government has begun a process to open the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario; and

"Whereas this act is the single most important piece of legislation for working people since it is designed to protect our lives, safety and health while at work and allow us to return home to our families in the same condition in which we left; and

"Whereas the government has made it clear that they intend to water down the act and weaken the rights of workers under the law, including the right to know, the right to participate and especially the right to refuse; and

"Whereas this government has already watered down proper training of certified committee members;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario not to alter the Occupational Health and Safety Act or erode the rights of workers any further and ensure strict enforcement of the legislation."

I add my name in support with theirs.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition signed by a number of Ontarians.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the federal Liberal government has slashed $2.1 billion in transfer payments to Ontario;

Whereas the federal Liberal government has slashed between $800 million and $1 billion in labour market training funding;

"Whereas the federal Liberal government will cut transfers to the provinces by 42.2% while only reducing its own program expenditures by 1.3%;

"Whereas the federal Liberal government shortchanges Ontario by providing only 27% of its training dollars to Ontario despite the fact that Ontario has 35% of Canada's unemployed;

"Whereas the taxpayers of Ontario understand the need for the Mike Harris government to control spending in the province;

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

"(1) To demand in the strongest terms, on behalf of the taxpayers in Ontario, that the federal Liberal government and Paul Martin stop immediately the unfair cuts in Ontario transfer payments;

"(2) To call on the federal Liberal government to follow Mike Harris's lead in reducing tax levels and reducing spending without unfairly offloading those reductions to its transfer partners;

"(3) To demand that the federal Liberal government stop playing political games in reducing transfer payments to Ontario at the same time that it demands dollar matching programs with its transfer partners."

I've affixed my name to this petition.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, in particular the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer.

"Whereas the Occupational Disease Panel is an important entity, we, the undersigned, petition your government to ensure the ongoing survival of the Occupational Disease Panel. We believe that this institution performs an invaluable service for the employers and employees of Ontario in an unbiased and professional manner."

I affix my name to the petition as I support it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition forwarded by an education conference of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 175 and Local 633, regarding workers' compensation.

"To Premier Harris:

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

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition submitted to me by Ann Soucy of Nepean with respect to Bill 85, the anti-drunk driving bill sponsored by the member for Mississauga South, which reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

"Whereas lengthy licence suspensions for impaired driving have been shown to greatly reduce repeat 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 add my name to the more than 1,000 signatures on this petition.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Ministry of Health is decreasing the role of registered nurses in Ontario; and

"Whereas decreasing the use of registered nurses is not a cost-effective measure. This data is well documented through comprehensive research in the United States, England and Canada; and

"Whereas a decline or elimination of registered nurses has demonstrated the following undesirable outcomes: a substantial increase in mortality-morbidity rates; an increase in length of hospitalization stays; an increase in the number of complications; an increase in readmission rates to hospitals from long-term-care facilities and the community; an increase in the number of patient/resident/family complaints and dissatisfaction; an increase in overall health care costs; and

"Whereas registered nurses, with their in-depth knowledge and assessment skills, actively demonstrate leadership and professional expertise that result in positive clinical outcomes in the hospital setting, long-term care facilities as well as the community; and

"Whereas registered nurses are one of the very few health care and regulated professionals who have in-depth assessment skills that evaluate the status of the whole person 24 hours a day;

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

"The Ministry of Health stop the chaos they are creating in health care and recognize and support the important role of the registered nurse in the delivery of health care in Ontario."

I add my signature to this important petition.



Mr Eves moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 93, An Act to amend certain statutes administered by the Minister of Finance to promote good management of the Province's finances, to implement certain provisions of the 1996 Budget and to implement other aspects of the Government's agenda and to amend the MPPs Pension Act, 1996 / Projet de loi 93, Loi visant à modifier des lois dont l'application relève du ministre des Finances, à favoriser la bonne gestion des finances de la province, à mettre en oeuvre des dispositions du budget de 1996 et d'autres éléments du programme du gouvernement et à modifier la Loi de 1996 sur le régime de retraite des députés.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I have some very brief introductory comments. I'm introducing the Good Financial Management Act, an act that will help streamline government and make taxpayers' access to government easier by implementing various technical amendments and additional items announced in the May 7 budget.

A number of technical amendments are also being made to various tax statutes in order to reduce the administrative burden currently placed on taxpayers, to remove tax loopholes and redundant provisions and to make tax legislation easier to understand. Examples of those would be the Financial Administration Act, the Employer Health Tax Act, the Income Tax Act, the Labour Sponsored Venture Capital Corporations Act, the Land Transfer Tax Act, the Retail Sales Tax Act, the Tobacco Tax Act, the Mining Tax Act, the Corporations Tax Act, the Corporations Tax Amendment Act and the MPPs Pension Act, 1996.

Changes to the Financial Administration Act will consolidate borrowing, investing and other financial activities within the Ontario financing authority. The bill also makes important amendments to the Employer Health Tax Act and MPPs Pension Act, 1996.


Mr Gerretsen moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 94, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act / Projet de loi 94, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les services à l'enfance et à la famille.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Very briefly, the bill puts into practice the resolution that was passed a couple of weeks ago in that it will amend the Child and Family Services Act to require that all service providers who provide a service to children in a year under that act report to the Minister of Community and Social Services on the status of those children by March 31 of the following year. Basically, it's intended to implement the resolution that was passed by a majority vote two weeks ago.




Mrs McLeod moved opposition day number 4:

Whereas the Common Sense Revolution promises not to cut education spending in the classroom; and

Whereas the millions of dollars in cuts to education brought in by Mike Harris and his Minister of Education and Training, John Snobelen, have in fact hurt children and affected the classroom; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his Minister of Education and Training, John Snobelen, have cut nearly $1 billion out of our elementary and secondary education through reductions in legislative grants, social contract reductions and expenditure control plan reductions; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his Minister of Education and Training, John Snobelen, have forced thousands of Ontario children to sit in overcrowded classrooms; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his Minister of Education and Training, John Snobelen, have forced many children with special needs to lose their resource teachers; and

Whereas thousands of Ontarians will no longer have the opportunity to attend junior kindergarten and adult education programs due to poor policy decisions by the Minister of Education and Training; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his Minister of Education and Training, John Snobelen, have forced thousands of Ontario teachers to lose their jobs; and

Whereas parents no longer have confidence in Mike Harris and his Minister of Education and Training, John Snobelen, to make decisions with the best interests of children in mind; and

Whereas parents and other taxpayers have clearly said that the government is cutting too much too quickly, especially where education is concerned; and

Whereas parents feel that the Minister of Education and Training has not heard their concerns to date; and

Whereas the only thing guiding the Harris government is the tax cut;

Therefore this House calls on the Mike Harris government to stop any further reductions in the funding of our elementary and secondary education; start listening to parents, students and teachers on issues of education reform; and bring forward policies and initiatives that are guided by the best interest of children.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I believe the message of this motion is a crucial one for this government to hear since we are likely days away from the Minister of Finance's next round of cuts.

We know that the Minister of Finance needs to find $3 billion more to pay for Mike Harris's tax scheme. We know that last year's $400-million cut to education was said to be just the first round of cuts to education. The Minister of Education, who is not exactly the most supportive minister education has ever had, has bragged that he can take $1.2 billion from education to do his part to pay for Mike Harris's tax cut. He has also said that if we thought last year's cuts were tough, wait until we see this year's cuts, and that has all of us who are truly concerned about education truly worried. We are worried because we're already seeing the effect of last year's cuts, following several years of reduced funding. We are seeing the effects of cuts on students in the classroom despite all the promises of the Conservatives that classroom education would be protected.

The minister of course blames irresponsible school boards for the fact that cuts are affecting classroom education. He ignores the fact that administration has been cut by 25% to 50% since 1991. That was the school boards' first response to the cuts that came before this government took office. School trustees simply do not cut classroom education first; they do everything they can to avoid that, so obviously it would be administration that was the first thing to be cut. Administration now counts for less than 5% of the dollars spent on education in this province.

When that particular line of defence for the cuts wears a little bit thin, the minister goes after school boards themselves. We've never felt there was much to be saved there, if anything. It appears that the Minister of Education now agrees with us. He says, "There's not really any money to be saved by cutting school boards." He talks about efficiencies. Well, if there's no money to be saved in efficiencies, what are the efficiencies all about?

Who knows which of the latest notions of school board amalgamation the minister is pursuing these days? But whatever it is, it's not going to stop future cuts from hurting students and limiting their educational opportunities.

Of course, when all else fails as a target for this minister's scapegoating, he can point to what he calls overpaid and underworked teachers. I am not going to get into the details of the irresponsible and biased study of teachers' salaries that this minister had done in his effort to distort the picture of teachers' salaries in Ontario, and I'm not going to take the time to go over the equally irresponsible and biased study of collective bargaining that he had his friend Mr Paroian carry out. The minister can keep looking for scapegoats as a convenient excuse for the impact of the cuts that he has already made, but the fact is that these cuts are hurting kids and these cuts have to stop.

What we want to do today is to help tell the stories that are being told by parents and students and teachers in our constituency offices, in our communities, and in my home town of Thunder Bay at a public forum on education that we held last week. We had over 100 people come out that night to tell their stories of what's happening in education and our phones have been constantly ringing since with callers who want to add their concerns.

We're hearing from students like the secondary school student who told us of classes with 40 students. Some of her classmates are sitting on buckets because there are no desks for them. She said it was a good news, bad news story from her perspective. The good news was that she would soon be out of high school; the bad news was her worry about what would happen at university with the cuts that are already hitting there.

Another high school student had just been part of a student council discussion of proposed changes to the secondary school curriculum. He said that students were really concerned about fellow students who were going to be shut out, particularly if academic opportunities are denied to general level students who would have to spend 20% to 40% of their time in an unsupervised workplace.

The students' concerns were echoed by those of the secondary school teachers. The teachers spoke of groups of students having to share chemistry lab stations. A history department head said there had not been new textbooks in his department for the last five years. I suspect the textbooks that particular history teacher uses are like some of the ones I brought into the Legislature two weeks ago: textbooks held together by elastics because there's no money to buy new ones. One student said her class was using the same textbook her mother had used. I don't think you're ever going to convince that particular young woman that she's getting an up-to-date education.

One of the English teachers questioned the inconsistencies in the secondary school reform proposals. He wondered why you would cut English credits in half but require a literacy test. I guess the thinking is that you don't have to teach the skill, you just test for it, and if the student doesn't get it by some sort of osmosis, well then, too bad.

Of course we heard from the elementary side of education -- different issues, different stories, but the same kinds of concerns. One elementary principal spoke of the loss of music programs and family studies and industrial arts; the loss of field trips; the 20% reduction in the budget for textbooks; the loss of special education testing and expert consultation for teachers who have special needs students in their classrooms; the loss of school librarians.

One teacher said the budget for textbooks in her classroom was $400 for the year. If a text costs $40, that means 10 new books for a class of 33 students -- three to four students to a textbook.

Another teacher said the budget for photocopying had been limited to such a point that you could only provide a page and a half per student per day, so you can't make up for the lack of textbooks with teacher-prepared materials.

Class sizes here too are a major concern. The classes in grades 3 to 8 in our school board area range from 33 to 44 students. They're somewhat larger than the classes in grades 1 and 2 because every effort is being made, in spite of the cuts, to keep the class sizes in those two first grades a little bit smaller. There was a previous government that recognized the importance of those early grades, 1 and 2, and provided special funding to keep the class sizes there low. That was a campaign promise made and kept, and that was a campaign promise that made some sense. But this government has wiped all of that out with its cuts.

The numbers are even up on school buses, where kids are sitting three to a seat and the law even allows some to stand. Parents expressed their concerns for the safety of their children.

Other parents had concerns about the safety of their special needs children. Mrs Curistan took her epileptic child out of school because his epilepsy had not been stabilized and he needed one-to-one attention on the school ground. The school couldn't provide it; they didn't have the resources. She's now even more worried about what will happen to her second child when that child goes to school next year. Her second child is autistic and will need the one-to-one attention constantly.


Mrs Curistan's fears are well founded, given what we heard from the parents of other special needs children. One parent of an autistic child told us that her child no longer received special education support even though he's in a regular classroom. We heard of classes of 34 students with 10 identified special needs children in the class. In this kind of situation, it is impossible for the teacher to teach the children without special needs, let alone give the special needs child the attention that's needed if that child is to learn.

Over and over again we heard from worried, upset parents, from demoralized, discouraged teachers, from teachers who know what the students need and know that they can't meet those needs. One parent of a special needs child described what is happening as "integration by abandonment." Another said, "It's getting pretty sad when you have to put a pricetag on your child's life." It was difficult for these parents to tell their stories, but they are determined to stand up and fight for their children. None of them has ever had to be politically active before. They're prepared to be now if that's what it takes to make this government hear them.

Parent councils are proving to be wonderfully effective advocates for the education of their children, but they are worried. They're worried that the government is going to expect them to run their schools and to do it voluntarily. They're not prepared to do that and they don't want to lose their school boards. They like to be able to take their concerns directly to their local trustees and they know how impossible it is to get big, distant government in Queen's Park to even return their phone calls.

One mother came to tell me about her two grown-up children who are both doing very well in graduate programs and now in professional work. She didn't come to brag about her kids. She came to say what a wonderful education they had had in our school system and she wondered why we have a Minister of Education who keeps saying, "The system is broken." It appears as though the minister's own parliamentary assistant is now asking exactly the same question.

These are just some of the stories we're hearing, and the stories are being repeated in every community, in every school, in every classroom. We are truly concerned about what the stories will be like if there is another round of cuts next week. There will be no junior kindergarten left. Twenty-five boards have already cancelled junior kindergarten. Class sizes will be even larger, although it's hard to imagine that. There will be less and less support for the special needs child, and since there will be no programs available, no efforts will even be made to identify the special needs. Music teachers, librarians, outdoor education, those will all be things of the past. Those who wanted to take education back to the basics will certainly rejoice because there will be nothing else left.

Boards will try to reduce teacher preparation time if the minister doesn't do that for them. This will mean that teachers who are already being asked to teach larger classes will be asked to teach more classes. The hours that are now spent coaching and directing the school play and advising the history club will have to be spent in course preparation and marking. Extracurricular activities will simply disappear.

That is what we are told will be the result of future cuts. If there is, as promised, another round of cuts, if education gets hit again in this next statement from Mike Harris and the Minister of Finance, the impact will be enormous. It doesn't matter what changes the minister introduces outside the classroom; there will be no preventing the destruction that more cuts will bring to classroom education.

This is not a question of organizational efficiency; this is a question of adequate resources. The minister shouldn't try to argue that we're spending 10% more than the national average on education. Ontario's spending per capita is sixth in the country. BC, Manitoba and Quebec all spend more than we do, as do the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and that's before the cuts began. I wonder if the tax cut that Mike Harris considers so important is so important that Ontario can't provide for its children what BC and Manitoba and Quebec clearly see as a priority.

We risk losing everything that publicly funded education has achieved in the last 30 years, including the giant strides that were made under earlier Conservative governments and under former Tory ministers of education. I am not sure this minister has any appreciation of the goals of public education or any understanding of what has been achieved.

The goal of education in this province has been to provide equality of educational opportunity to every person, with sensitivity to individual needs. It is an ambitious goal, but we have come farther in achieving it than anyone might have believed possible. Now those achievements and all the progress that has been made in meeting individual needs and providing a real equality of opportunity are being lost because of a promise to reduce taxes for those who need it least.

It may be that the response of this government to the pressures that their funding cuts have placed on education will be to let the private sector in more and let those who can pay for the best buy something better for their kids. Maybe that's what this government's vision for education comes down to, developing a two-tiered education system. When that happens a fundamental belief of this province that every individual should have access to the best quality education we can provide, regardless of ability to pay, will be lost.

I don't believe the Ontario public will accept the abandonment of our values. I don't believe they will accept the attack on the quality of education our children receive. Parents and students are organizing to oppose what they see happening. They are deeply concerned. They're not going to sit by quietly and let our school systems be ravaged. This government needs to hear their stories so that government understands what's happening. They need to hear the concerns of parents and students and teachers, and indeed trustees. They need to listen to people who are involved and knowledgeable and care about the kind of education our schools provide, and then they need to stop the cuts.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I want to congratulate the leader of the official opposition for bringing this matter before the House and to say that we as a caucus are in complete support of the sentiments behind this resolution.

All of us in this assembly, everyone in Ontario, recognizes that the most important person in the education system is the student. Too often in our debates around funding for education and the direction of education we forget that students should be and must be the centre of our concern.

The Conservative Party, when it ran for election before June 1995, said it was going to make cuts to education. We must be fair to them. They did say they were going to make cuts to funding for education. But they also said that in making those cuts there would be no harm to classroom education for students.

The Conservatives argued that there was so much fat in the system, that so much was expended by school boards outside of the classroom, that large cuts could be made without adversely affecting classroom education. I submit that position misunderstood how education is funded, misunderstood the kinds of efficiencies that had been achieved by boards of education and by teachers over the last number of years, some at the behest of our government and some through their own initiatives.

It also misunderstood what is meant by classroom education. The minister, Mr Snobelen, has continually argued that 47% of what is done in education is done outside the classroom. He points to Mr Sweeney, who was a former Liberal cabinet minister who was appointed by our government to do a study of school boards in the province. He was given an additional mandate by this government and he came back and he said 47%.

I think it's very important for us to analyse what Mr Sweeney said was included in the 47%: not only administrative costs, not only busing, not only custodial and maintenance services, but he also included special education, remedial courses, library, guidance, counselling, teachers' preparation time as if teachers were not preparing for the classroom, the kind of work that teachers do in terms of helping students who need extra assistance, the discussions teachers have with parents and with colleagues to assist students, and extra help they give the students. That's all included in so-called outside-the-classroom activities.

In arguing about what's in the classroom and what's outside, I think we are forgetting about the centre of classroom education, what classroom education is for: It's for the students. It's designed to serve the students. But Mr Snobelen seems to take the position that as long as it's outside the four walls of the classroom, it doesn't have to do with the students' education, which is a basic misunderstanding of what education is about.


As a result of his comments, there is tremendous demoralization in the education system. I will give you a couple of examples.

I have here a letter that is dated October 23 from the Board of Education for the City of London, W. H. Brock, the chairperson. Among other things, Mr Brock says:

"The community, including trustees, have been inundated from the time of the Minister of Education's original statement, `create a crisis,' with almost daily negative volleys about public education. To date the crisis-centred announcements have been inflammatory and without sound reasoning, which would lead one to believe that decisions may already have been made on the governance and finance of education."

That's significant, that a chair of a board of education would say that the minister, who is responsible for advocating for education of students in the province, has been inundating boards, trustees, teachers and the public with "daily negative volleys about public education."

The minister has always said there haven't been cuts to classroom education, in line with the promise the Conservatives made in the election campaign. I have here a release by the Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario. I know the minister would cast aspersions at a release from a teachers' federation, because he would say that a teachers' federation isn't interested in students, I guess, and is only interested in teachers. But I think that really is a misunderstanding of what teachers are about and why people enter that profession.

Anyway, this federation, the women teachers, says: "This government has already cut $400 million from the education budget and is threatening a further $1 billion in cuts. As a result, 26 school boards have eliminated junior kindergarten programs" -- which, as we know, this government made an option -- "53 school boards have made cuts to their special education programs, 21 boards have made cuts to their music programs and 32 school boards have made cuts to the library program."

That's important to note, because we have a minister who has stood before us on a number of occasions in this place and has said, flat out, that there have been no cuts to special education programs, and yet we have a federation that has the information saying that 53 boards across Ontario have made cuts to their special education programs.

I wonder, has the minister really looked at what's happening or is he protected in some cocoon in that office at the top of the Ministry of Education where he may talk about numbers and budgets, but he never really ever talks about students and what's happening to them, and to students with special needs in particular?

Also I have -- this is not from a teachers' federation; this is from a parents group, the Kew Beach School and Community Association, which is interested in Kew Beach Public School here in Toronto.

"We are writing to voice our concerns about how cutbacks and changes have already directly affected the classrooms" -- again, this is related to a government promise not to affect classrooms -- "larger class sizes, fewer supplies, less teacher support." They point out that the minister has been "saying classrooms will not be hit." Then they say: "We are very worried about how further proposed massive cutbacks and changes will affect the education of our children.

"We want to know that there will be serious consultation with the people who have the most at stake, the parents and teachers of our children, before any of these cutbacks and changes are initiated.

"We want a guarantee that...children" will be put first, that if education doesn't put children first, we are not meeting our obligations to the kids in this province.

The minister goes around saying that special education hasn't been hit, yet I have a letter here dated September 19, this time from the Sudbury Board of Education, which says:

"The reduced funding to boards of education in this province has resulted in significant cuts to programs and services to exceptional students. Boards of education have found themselves in the unfortunate position of having very few options in which to reduce costs, with the result that special education programs and services, mandated under the Education Act, are being dramatically reduced."

This board points out that even though it is the law that boards of education must provide services to students with special needs, they have very few options and, like many other boards, have had to cut programs and services in special education.

Kids with special needs in this province have been profoundly affected by many cuts, not just cuts in education but also in health care. I have a memo here which points out that "Peel Memorial Hospital announced that effective immediately there would be no children's outpatient service available. This affects speech and language service, which had been provided on an outpatient basis to preschool children with communication disorders, including articulation, stuttering, speech and language delays."

This means those cuts will make it even more difficult for kids with special needs in Peel region when they reach kindergarten and primary education, because then the education system will be responsible for dealing with the speech problems and helping these kids overcome them. Yet as we've seen, despite what the minister says, those kinds of programs and services are being cut by boards of education directly as a result of the cuts the minister has made in transfer payments to school boards.

The minister goes around and says, "We've cut less than 2%, 1.8% of the total amount spent on education in Ontario. Any board should be able to find less than 2% without adversely affecting kids' education."

That really is a shell game. In the estimates debate of the Ministry of Education and Training before the committee in this Legislature a senior official of the ministry admitted that the cut is not 1.8% by this government; rather, it is at least 5.3% of the general legislative grants that this government gives to boards across the province -- 5.3%. So we have a senior civil servant in the ministry saying it is 5.3% -- I thought it was higher than that at about 8% -- but the senior official said it was 5.3%, and the very next day the minister got up in this House and repeated that it's 1.8%.

Somebody a little earlier said, "Well, who's telling the truth?" That is a very good question because the minister says he's cut less than 2% when a member of his own ministry staff admits that it's over 5%.

He also says that special education programs haven't been hit when teachers' federations, boards of education and parents' groups all say they've been adversely affected. He says programs shouldn't have been hit when we have teachers' federations and boards saying programs like library, music and others have been cut.

Who is working for the students of this province? Certainly not the Minister of Education and Training. His whole approach seems to be simply the bottom line: "Let's get as much money out of the system as possible and let's not consult with people who might disagree. Let's not talk to students; let's not talk to parents; let's not talk to teachers; let's not talk to trustees, because they might disagree with us." They might put the student first. They might say that students' education is too important to simply be looked at as a way of getting more money to help finance a tax scheme that will give tax breaks to the top 10% of the population of this province.


I have another, from the Vance Chapman Elementary School Advisory Council from Thunder Bay. They wrote to the minister and in the letter they say:

"The investment of removing barriers and providing supports was resulting in a positive impact on the children's future. Cuts to the support system for these children are detrimental to all. Children with special needs are once again being placed at risk -- a situation that would not have been tolerated as recently as one year ago. The shortsightedness of this government in this circumstance cannot be excused."

"The shortsightedness of this government in this circumstance cannot be excused." These are not people who have a vested interest other than the future of their children. There has been no consultation with people like the Vance Chapman Elementary School Advisory Council.

This government has simply taken $400 million out of the education system, the elementary and secondary systems, last year, which on an annualized basis is over $800 million, and now the minister is talking about taking a further $600 million out of the system -- over $1 billion in two years, and he claims this hasn't affected classroom education, that there has been no effect on special education, that it hasn't affected programs that are important to kids' futures, despite all the evidence, despite the parents, the boards and the teachers.

For that reason, I call upon all members of this House to consider very carefully this resolution that is before the assembly and, by voting for it, to express the opinion to the minister that he had better find out what is actually happening to our students, what is happening to the kids in Ontario, and that it's about time he started putting children first rather than the dollar signs that are before his eyes at all times.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education and Training, I welcome the opportunity to debate the opposition motion. It gives me a chance to clarify the position of the Minister of Education and Training and to set the record straight.

I want to start by clearly articulating that the Ministry of Education and Training's bottom line is and always has been the students. The changes we're making are for their sake. Let me remind you that that's what education is all about: the students and their future.

Currently we have a system that has an enormous amount of duplication. It's a system that is quite costly and a system that, frankly, often stifles good teaching. None of that benefits students. For instance, we know there are opportunities for school boards to do more in the area of cost-sharing arrangements with other levels of government. There are examples of school boards joining together with municipalities and hospitals in joint purchasing programs to cut costs and bureaucracy. Between school boards there are opportunities for joint busing and multipurpose facilities.

Let me state categorically that it's this government's intention to create an education system of the highest quality. We will provide Ontario students with a safe, orderly and supportive learning environment and a first-class education system.

Here are some examples of what we've done.

We've launched a major reform of the high school program. We're seeking public input on proposals for the new high school curriculum. This past month my colleague, parliamentary assistant Tony Skarica, has been chairing public meetings on high school reform across the province. Starting in 1998 we will be moving to a four-year high school program. Ontario is the only province in Canada that still has a grade 13. Furthermore, two royal commissions on education and countless experts have advised us there is no benefit to the added grade. Our colleges and universities have told us there is no noticeable difference in achievement between students who come from other provinces where grade 12 is the final grade and students from Ontario. We believe it's time we listened to that repeated advice and caught up with the rest of Canada.

Our new high school curricula will have a stronger focus on career education, creating new partnerships between high schools, colleges, universities, parents and the community, and we will expand our co-op program.

It may interest the House to know that in the current system, a child in grade 11 attending classes in Thunder Bay, for example, is not learning the same thing that a child in grade 11 in Toronto is learning. So some students may study Shakespeare, perhaps the greatest master of the English language ever, and others may miss out. We will be narrowing that gap, ensuring that all courses in the new high school curriculum will have high standards consistent throughout the province.

Many parents and educators have read in detail these proposals in our discussion paper Excellence in Education: High School Reform. It was sent to all schools for parents and teachers to review.

Some of these proposals are already in place in many high schools throughout Ontario. For example, many schools have teacher advisers. That means each student has one teacher they can turn to regularly for advice or to help plan their future. In my own riding of Halton Centre, Iroquois Ridge high school has a dedicated team of teacher advisers who can help plan courses of study, advise students and keep an eye on the students' progress. It's an awesome program. Parents can also meet with the adviser to discuss questions or concerns of their children. These student-teacher partnerships are proving to be so successful, we want to help all students to reap the benefit of having a teacher adviser.

Our initiatives to improve quality will continue throughout the system. We will conduct regular province-wide testing. This will be done through the arm's-length Education Quality and Accountability Office, which reports to this House, not the minister of the day, on how our children compare to other jurisdictions in reading, writing and arithmetic. The EQAO has designed and manages a range of assessment programs that will analyse test results and make recommendations to the government for the improvement of the education system and student performance.

Last month, we began field-testing three standard report cards to help produce one which will eventually be introduced in all schools in the province. This standard report card will give all parents clear, consistent information and personalized comments on their children's strengths and weaknesses.

To support high-quality teaching, we formally launched the Ontario College of Teachers in September. The college will develop and enforce standards for teacher training, certification and practice. It would be a mistake to underestimate the potential this college has to improve education. By giving teachers the power to regulate their own profession, we are putting the responsibility for excellent teaching in the hands of those who are best qualified to know what a teacher should and must be, today and in the future. Parents will be better assured that students are getting the best teaching possible and teachers will be assured that they are getting the best training possible.

What about cost? We continue to examine education financing too. We want to end waste and duplication. A little more than a year ago, we were elected with a plan. We listened to the people. We heard them say they wanted lasting change in the way Ontario is governed, an end to government waste, and to have more value for their tax dollars.

Yes, there have been some cuts that affected schools, but these cuts are hurting classrooms because school boards are not cutting where they should be. The Sweeney report found that 47% of school board expenditures are outside the classroom. That's where school boards should be cutting. Instead, some school boards have raised taxes and cut programs.

The Minister of Education and Training reduced grants to school boards in 1996 by a total of $400 million. This amounts to 1.8% of school boards' operating expenditures. That's operating expenditures -- their total budget. There isn't a family or business I know of which hasn't saved more than that.

I will point out to the members for Fort William and Algoma that special education funding has not been cut. It has been increased from $796.5 million in 1995 to $801.1 million in 1996.

School boards were directed to meet our reduction by cutting costs outside the classroom and without increasing the tax burden on local ratepayers. But our research shows that 100 school boards did not manage to reduce costs outside the classroom. Instead, they raised taxes and made cuts. In some cases, those cuts have affected the classroom.


The Ontario School Board Reduction Task Force found that 47%, or $6.7 billion, of school board expenditures represents costs outside the classroom. The task force recommended that non-classroom expenditures made by school boards be limited to 40% of their total budgets. That would reduce education expenditures by about $1 billion a year. On a per-student basis, the Ontario school system is spending a total of close to $1 billion more than the average of the other provinces in Canada.

It's this spending beyond our means that threatens the future of Ontario's students. We do not want to hand over to the young people of this province a bill for their education in the form of never-ending debts and deficits. We are working to improve quality education programming in parallel with bringing our spending into line with that of the other provinces. The Minister of Education and Training is working closely with the Who Does What panel. The panel has already made important recommendations on property tax reform, and as a first step we've begun a province-wide reassessment of property values. The panel submitted a letter to both Al Leach and John Snobelen providing its recommendations on how education should be funded. The letter outlined a number of recommendations on how taxpayers should be taxed for education. All these recommendations will be carefully reviewed and considered before the government makes any decisions.

In addition to the recommendations of the Who Does What panel, we'll be taking into consideration the recommendations of lawyer Leon Paroian. He reported on the collective bargaining arrangements between teachers' unions and school boards. He has extensive experience working for both school boards and teachers' federations. Bill 100, despite numerous studies, has not been significantly altered for 20 years. Decisions on his recommendations must be weighed within the context of several related matters, such as who is responsible for school governance and how education is financed.

I understand that a number of groups may have difficulty with some of these recommendations, but that does not mean they should not be considered. We hear a lot about structures and about job benefits that are sacred in education. In my view, the only thing that is sacred is our children's future. You will find that this government is improving the school system to make it better for our students, teachers and parents in Ontario. In the end we will have an improved and affordable school system.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): It's with great pride that I partake in this debate on our education opposition day motion put forth by my leader.

I'd like to begin by saying that the Minister of Education, when he first came into this House, had indicated he was going to create a crisis in education. I must say that he is getting closer and closer to creating that crisis, whether it be in the capital funding which he has cut which is being taken out of our classrooms, which of course has put more and more portables on to the school yards of schools across the province, or whether it be the assault he put on teachers, an assault that I took personally, being a former educator. To listen to him, just days before the teachers returned to the classroom, suggest that they did not have a commitment to the children of this province, that they did not have the commitment it would take to ensure the best quality of education in the country, was something I could not believe.

Again, if the minister wants a crisis, he's moving closer and closer to it. For him to even suggest that teachers were not the most committed to the students we've ever had was something I could not believe. I think maybe the minister might want to take a lesson from the teachers of the province and find out what it is to be committed to a cause, committed to education, as we'd like to see him be.

I would just like to read part of a letter from a constituent of mine in Sioux Lookout, and I think this speaks on behalf of many people throughout the province. I know it speaks on behalf of the many constituents I talk to on a daily basis. He says in his letter to the minister, "Your cutbacks are affecting the classroom despite your promise that this would not happen." This is Allen Best from Sioux Lookout. He writes: "You are moving too quickly on changing education. It is too important an issue to make rash decisions without a plan for the future. It is also not an issue to be bashing the players in the game as I have heard you doing. Our children's future is at stake." Mr Best concludes his letter to the minister by stating, "Don't gamble with our students' futures."

I think he has hit the nail right on the head. What this minister is doing is gambling with the future of our students. When he says he's not having an impact on the classroom, all he has to do is take a look at areas that he really, truly is having an impact on, such as the library. He considers the library not a part of the classroom. You speak to any teacher in the system and ask them where a part of their teaching is carried on, whether it be in the library or with the use of the library. This minister seems to think that has no impact on classroom education.

I had a good number of students in my riding protest the minister's cuts because he was telling them that physical education was going to be taken out of the program, physical education that led to the development of sports teams that would travel throughout the region. Their boards were having to say no to that because they were suffering from the cutbacks by this Minister of Education.

I cannot say that I was so astounded as when I heard that the user fees in the schools are growing. Students are being asked for more and more: to supply more and more for the mine of supplies, for travel, which is very important to students in northwestern Ontario. We depend heavily on travel to get our students out into the other areas of the province. The Ontario young travellers program is a very, very important part of our program, but parents are finding that they are being asked on a regular basis to supply more and more of that funding.

There's something I just heard the other day. A teacher was telling me that they are now required to raise funding in order to pay for the supply teacher who will come in while these students travel, something I've never heard of before and something that I know they're finding to be an extra challenge.

Just a couple of weeks ago I asked the Minister of Education to speak to a teacher in the classroom who had come to me and said that she was burning out at a very quick rate. This is a teacher I've known for a good number of years, a young, vibrant, committed teacher. I asked the minister to pick up the phone and call Barbara, and I gave him the numbers. I gave him the number to Barbara's school; I gave him the number to Barbara's home. I just wanted him to call and speak to her and ask her about what was actually happening in the classroom. You know what happened, Madam Speaker? She got a phone call from the minister's secretary, who gave her a good number of excuses and a good number of things the minister was allegedly doing. But she didn't want that. She wanted the minister, and I wanted the minister, to call her, a front-line worker, to find out what was happening in that school in Kenora. He did not have the courtesy to do that. He had his secretary call Barbara. I will certainly be taking that issue up with him again because I think it's extremely important that the minister hear what is going on in that classroom.

I would just say, in wrapping up, that I would like the minister to pay a little bit more attention to what is happening around him and to make sure our children are put first, not the bottom line, when it comes to education in this province.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): Further debate?

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I'm just going to speak for a few minutes so that my colleague the member for Fort York can speak and my leader as well later. I'm going to speak very specifically to the situation in my riding and leave it to my colleague from Fort York to talk more about the specifics of the impacts that are already being felt in Metro and will be felt even more.

I know I'm not supposed to hold up props, and I'll do this quickly because it's so pretty. This is from a child in a school in my riding, a drawing that says, "We Like Skhool." I've received many of these drawings with letters attached, mounds of letters from parents from all over my riding expressing extreme concern about what is going on with the created crisis in education. What I'm going to talk about is the process, however.

There was a question raised in this House on November 7 by the Leader of the Opposition to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing about a phone call which was made to John Matheson, who works for the firm of Cassels Brock and Blackwell, about the letter that the parents' group from Franklin school in my riding -- some them are here in the gallery today. A lawyer they hired wrote on their behalf to David Crombie, the chair of the Who Does What panel, to ask some very important questions about the process.

I can't take the time now to read all the details of that letter, but I can assure you that as very concerned parents who have children in the school system in Metro, they had legitimate questions to ask the Who Does What panel about the process. In particular, this letter was around how this subcommittee, the finance subcommittee from the panel on education was set up. Their questions were around: "What are their terms of reference? Who are these people? We want to meet with you to be heard." All kinds of questions like that, extremely serious questions.


They kept writing and they kept getting no responses. They were unable to get answers to their questions. Their major concern, however, is that the government and the panel refused to put on a representative from Metro. This is a subpanel discussing restructuring of financing of the education system, which is obviously going to have huge impacts for the students of Metro. There was no representation from Metro on that subpanel -- absolutely ludicrous.

These parents decided to hire a lawyer to write a letter saying they wanted answers and they had reason to believe, or he had reason to believe, that a lawsuit could be brought forward because there were a lot of questions about the constitutionality of this panel. What happened is that shortly after the letter was sent, a lawyer who works for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing called somebody from the law firm. Shortly after that, lo and behold, suddenly the lawyer in question, Brian Donovan, who I think did a very courageous thing -- first of all worried about his job because he was intimidated by the law firm. We don't know exactly what was said in that conversation, but after that phone call was made -- gone. They withdrew. The firm withdrew the threat of a lawsuit.

I take this very seriously and I think the citizens of Ontario would take this very seriously. It is a gross interference in the democratic process, and I say to the minister that this is by no means the end of it. His answer in the House was totally inappropriate and unacceptable. He basically said it was frivolous and tried to find out if it was serious or not. This is not the end of the matter.

I congratulate the parents from Franklin school and all of the parents all over my riding and all over Metro who are working so hard to bring this government to some kind of accountability and to answer their questions. It's not happening, but they are working hard to be heard. Without them, this would be just rammed through. I believe the minister has got to start listening to the parents and the teachers of this province.

The last thing I want to say is that I am extremely concerned about what's going to happen to adult education. We know that if another $1 billion is taken out of the system and money is transferred out of Metro, goodbye to junior kindergarten and goodbye to adult education.

This is a government that says it wants people who have dropped out of school to get an education so they can get a job. There are new Canadians in my riding who go to the Jones Avenue school, the Adult Learning Centre. They're working hard to get a high school diploma, because we know unemployment among those who do not have a high school education -- I forget the number but it's high, it's higher than most other groups of people. They are scared to death. I met with them recently, wonderful people, many new Canadians working so hard to learn English so they can get a job, many single parents going back to school and terrified because they can't go to night school, if that's where we're heading. They need child care.

There are so many aspects to this whole so-called created crisis. The minister, as we know, needs to find $1 billion more. It is atrocious to even attempt to take that money out of the education system. It already has hurt the classroom. This will have an absolutely terrible effect on the quality of education, not only for our children but for the adults who are going to school and trying to move up in the world.

I congratulate the Liberal Party for bringing this opposition day motion forward today. I'm glad to have had an opportunity to participate in the debate and I hope that some of the members from the government party are hearing the same things from their constituents and will consider supporting this very important motion today.

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to rise to speak to this motion. As a father of four children, I, like all the citizens of Ontario, have a vested interest in our education system. My children appreciate their teachers and so do I. The Minister of Education and I have had many opportunities to tell teachers throughout this province that we appreciate what they do, yet somehow the message has not gotten out.

As I listened to the opposition members, you would think the government members of the House do not appreciate teachers and what they do on a day-to-day basis. This simply is not the case. True, we and many others have repeatedly said that our education system is broken. But let's be very clear: We're not saying the teachers are at fault for that fact. I have talked to many teachers, who are constituents, friends, family, who one on one will tell you what is wrong with the system and when it started to go wrong.

So I would like to say very clearly that we appreciate teachers. They work very hard. They care very deeply about children and the youth they teach. Therefore, when we say the system is broken, we're not placing blame on our front-line workers. It's because of other factors, most far beyond the control of the classroom teachers.

To get to what I mean, let's look at what constitutes the education system. The system is complex and made up of interconnected groups and interests. There are research departments in faculties of education. Academics receive funds to conduct studies and report on state-of-the-art research. The recommendations of these studies make their way to the Ministry of Education policy officials and on down to the boards of education.

Parents and parent activity groups work diligently on behalf of individual groups across the province, such as special needs associations. They provide a very important and crucial public service by keeping government responsive to children's needs and their rights as human beings. They too conduct research and provide the Ministry of Education with recommendations for policy direction.

Politicians of every political stripe on behalf of all government levels campaign on certain educational issues, particularly school board trustees. Topics change with each municipal and provincial election and boards of education and school administrations also make decisions about learning and curriculum, as do teachers' federations.


When we say the system is broken, we're all to blame. For example, in 1960 the call for change was based on what was perceived as a need for more individualization, improving self-esteem through social promotion, and less rigidity in the curricula. This call was based on public input, research studies and school board and teachers' federation recommendations. The result was an educational change culminating in the Hall-Dennis report, Living and Learning.

Let's be clear. I'm not criticizing that report in any way. Its conclusions and recommendations were based on research and social and political consensus at the time. Now we have the benefit of hindsight, and hindsight's 20-20. We can look back now and see clearly that it was during that period that the pendulum swung too far away from the basics and clearly established and measurable standards.

What we now know is that it was the beginning of the end of the grade step system. Children moved from grade to grade whether they were ready or not. It was called "social promotion." It was the end of standardized departmental secondary school exams. It was the beginning of the end of formalized teaching of reading, writing, grammar, spelling and phonics, although I'm told that many teachers continue to this day to teach these subjects in an informal way even though they're no longer recommended.

It was the beginning of "whole language," which, as it turns out, is not whole at all. Spelling lists were replaced with a method called "invented spelling." Primary readers were replaced with large-print whole-group stories. Oral reading and discussions were replaced with what is called "language experiences."

What started as an educational revolution to improve students' self-esteem became so loosey-goosey that the opposite occurred. Children became adults who could not read or write effectively. These adults in our workplace today will tell you that their self-esteem was affected, all right -- negatively -- far more than had they not been moved ahead before they were ready, particularly since the criteria for literacy have changed with the knowledge boom and computer technology.

The 1960s and 1970s wave continued into the 1980s with a move towards an integrated studies curriculum. What that meant was that such skills as memorization of times tables and learning the capitals of all the Canadian provinces became optional. Children who moved from one community to another had to start all over again.

The consistency of the curriculum and accountability were missing. Parents began to ask what the report cards meant in real terms. How did their children rank and what did they know in relationship to other children their age? Parents also began to ask about the basics and what happened to them. Too often, I'm told, when they asked questions they were minimized because they were not educators. They were told about the necessity of learning experiences, incidental learning, learning styles and multiple intelligences. Had things changed that much since they had attended school?

The interesting thing is that no matter when you went to school after the late 1960s, things changed from one generation to another. And with each successive change, we moved towards the information age of creative thinking, at the expense of leaving the basics behind, such formal subjects as reading, grammar, spelling, writing and calculation.

What that says to me is that successive governments have recognized that change was needed, but instead of reform that dealt with accountability, affordability and quality, there was a lot of tinkering around the edges.

More recently, the Sweeney report, which was commissioned by the former NDP government, was to find out how the system could be more accountable, reduce duplication and ensure quality of outcomes for its students. With that, all of us in this House can agree. I commend the former minister, Mr David Cooke, for trying to find out that whole process.

As I said at the outset, changes to educational policy and practices are affected not only by the individual classroom teacher but also by all those who are links in the system: the researchers, the parents, parents' groups, taxpayers, board administrators, teachers' federations and politicians of all political stripes and different levels of government.

There has been much stated that the Common Curriculum assures quality and accountability. The honourable member for Windsor-Riverside stated in his message at the front of the document, "The goal of the Common Curriculum is to improve student performance by setting out clear learning expectations, along with performance standards, to help schools measure and report on student achievement."

There is absolutely nothing accountable about the outcome statements. They are so broadly stated that they are impossible to measure. For example, in the language grades 1 to 9 document it states that by the end of grade 6 "a student should be able to apply a variety of reading strategies to improve their understanding of a text." What does that mean? How can that be measured? What strategies is it referring to and what type of text? Then, by the end of grade 9, students "should be able to apply a wide variety of reading strategies to improve their understanding of a text." The exact same outcome three years later. I ask the same questions: Which strategies and what type of text?

The bottom line is that we have a system out of control in terms of affordability, accountability and quality. We all recognize that we are living in a very different and diverse society compared to the 1950s and 1960s. Certainly no one is suggesting that we go back to that time. We can't look at history through rose-coloured glasses. However, we can learn and should learn from history. We can take the best from the earlier times and combine it with the needs of the present and the future. We need to find a way to make our education system affordable and yet of the highest quality in the world. We also need to deal with equity issues and be responsive to local needs.

Rather than scaring the teachers and the students and the parents, as the opposition's doing, I'd like to see everybody involved in the education system by putting their energies into finding solutions for the 21st century. The system needs fixing, and I invite educators to be part of the process of fixing it.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm very pleased to join the debate today on our opposition motion demanding that the Mike Harris government stop any further reductions, cuts to elementary and secondary schools and, I think very significantly, start listening to parents, students and teachers.

The message I really want to pass across the floor to this government is that the people of this province are waking up to the reality. They are certainly not buying into the fabrications being sent around this province by the education minister in terms of the cuts not affecting the classrooms, in terms of the cuts being a very small percentage of the funding. People in this province know this and certainly the parents, teachers and students are acting.

In Thunder Bay, my colleague from Fort William and I attended a public meeting last week which well over 200 people attended. People who had never been involved in political action before are upset. They know what's happening in their children's schools. We had a remarkable meeting with 500 students last week as well. Students know what's happening. They are recognizing that these things must be stopped. The government cannot be allowed to get away with what they're getting away with.

I want to use the short time I have today to read a few words from some of the groups sending these messages to the government.

Eve Dowson, who's the chair of the Vance Chapman Elementary School Advisory Council, says:

"The Vance Chapman Elementary School Advisory Council established as one of their priorities special education and the lack of funds for this program. People of Ontario were proud of the integration and support systems for children with special needs. This resulted in a win-win situation. The child benefited, the school benefited and the community benefited. This was achieved through the development of children to the best of their ability in an integrated system that allowed them to grow and learn alongside their peers. Ontario was beginning to realize success with children with special needs. The investment of removing barriers and providing supports was resulting in a positive impact in their future. Cuts to the support system for those children is detrimental to all. Children with special needs are once again being placed at risk, a situation that would not have been tolerated as recently as one year ago. The shortsightedness of your government in this circumstance cannot be excused."


I have a letter from Suzan Labine, trustee with the Lakehead Board of Education. She writes today as a trustee of the Lakehead Board of Education but also as a parent of four children who are in school, and she has very deep concerns about the education system:

"As a trustee, I am dedicated to ensuring that our students receive the best education possible, realizing the current fiscal restraints. I am also aware that a quality education for all students does have a cost. Technology, integration of special needs students, qualified staff, safe schools and equity are legitimate expectations of an education system. We must all work together using true, accurate and honest data. The future of education in Ontario depends upon the decisions you shall be making. I implore you, do not fail the children in this province."

A new group that has formed in Thunder Bay -- and groups have formed all across the province -- is Mothers for Education, formed in Thunder Bay by Beverley Rizzi, a remarkable woman who has gathered together a strong group of concerned parents who are beginning a very active campaign to stop this government from continuing these cuts. They have a remarkable coupon going out to all the people in our riding and across the province. Thousands of these have been sent to the Minister of Education and to the Premier imploring them and demanding that they stop the cuts. If I may, I'll read some words from her:

"We are Mothers for Education. As previously stated in various press releases and letters, we all share an overwhelming concern over the effect of your budget cuts on our children's education system. We are comfortable in stating that we are acting as advocates for all children.

"As Mothers for Education, we believe that your government is ripping away funds from education to finance your 30% income tax reduction promise. You insist your cuts do not enter the classroom, yet eight of our elementary schools have closed their doors. We share principals between schools divided by 50 kilometres or more. We are losing special education, moving into a system relying on parent volunteers. Privacy is broken, integration by abandonment.

"What are you planning to tell the parents of these children? Librarians are becoming a thing of the past, a reflection of days gone by. Transportation and the safety of our kids is now an issue."

There is no question that the people of this province will not accept it. Quite frankly, they're as mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.

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

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I'm happy to have five or six minutes to make my comments on this motion, which I support, and I want to get right into the matter because time is very limited. I want to use this particular brochure to make the point. It was written by the Peel Board of Education, and it makes an excellent case as to where this government is at with respect to education.

Mr Wildman: Mr Snobelen's riding.

Mr Marchese: Mr Snobelen is in this riding, it's true, in that particular area of Peel.

"The government," they say, "uses fiction as an excuse to change education." They're right. That's what he does. They talk about a number of fictions, and here is fiction number one: Parents are unhappy with schools. This is what the government continually says. This board proves in terms of the number of polls that have been done that parents are not unhappy with schools and points to two in particular in Peel where 89% of the people say they're very happy and uses one Southam News/Angus Reid poll where it says, "Most Canadian taxpayers are also satisfied with public education."

The next fiction: The system is broken. The minister says often, and this government says, the system is broken. The fact, Peel says, is this: "The evidence is clear that schools are better than ever. Literacy: 97% of grade 9 students in Peel read at or above the range as set by the Ministry of Education and Training and 95% write at or above expected ranges." That's not just in Peel; it is the case throughout most of Ontario.

Fiction: By cutting administration, boards can cut millions without affecting the classroom. Mr Snobelen says this every day in the House. That's all he says. The parliamentary assistants say the same thing.

What does Peel say: "Fact: There is not enough administration in all of education to save the money the government is slashing. The minister claims that 48% of education dollars go to administration. That figure is false. Over 90% of the Peel board budget is spent on the schools; only 3.8% is spent on business and administration, including all of the trustee costs."

This figure proves that what the ministry has been talking about -- the 48% of waste here and there -- is false, and Peel said as much, and they elected Mr Snobelen and a lot of other fine Tories in that area of Peel.

"Fiction: Government cuts will not affect the classroom."

"Fact: By drastically reducing funding, the minister is causing local taxes to rise and student programs to be cut."

This is what Peel says. They also say this, and I agree with them: "Is dictatorship the shape of things to come?" This is Peel, where they elected people like you. They say: "Recent weeks have shown us how willing the government is to make major changes without asking elected representatives for input. Is this how the government would run a centralized school system?"

If Peel is worried, I can tell you I'm worried. Let me tell you, here are some other folks, a long list of people who are very worried, from every major newspaper.

Here's one: "According to the 1996 World Competitiveness Report, business leaders rank Canada's education system ahead of the US in terms of ability to meet the needs of a competitive economy." Do you know who said that? Mike Harris said that on September 11, 1996. Mr Snobelen said it was broken, everybody else said it was broken; Mike Harris says it's one of the best in Canada, in the world. You have to understand that the government is completely confused and contradictory about what it says on the matter of education.

Here's another one: "Education wasn't better in the good old days. Despite the constant criticism of Canadian education by politicians, our schools are the best they've ever been. They are probably the best in the world." This is the Globe and Mail, August 31, 1996.

There are a number of people, journalists and newspapers who say very much the same thing. But the minister says the system is broken and the Premier says we have one of the better systems in the world. What are you to think about the incompetence and confusion of this government?

Further, the government says, "We want to change the educational system and reform it." It's called Excellence in Education: High School Reform. Doesn't it remind you of the tenant protection package, which is designed to help the landlords but the title is designed to make it appear that they're helping tenants? It's the same with this title, Excellence in Education: High School Reform.

Do you know what? They got this very complicated book in the mail some time in mid to late September, and the parents are supposed to respond to these educational changes by the end of November. You go figure that. You, the public, who are listening, try to understand whether or not this complicated stuff I have read gives anybody any time to understand what's contained within it and what people do with it in the space of two months.

In a meeting we had at Howard school with the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education, the parents and teachers who were there were livid about the lack of time they've had to respond to this document. It's shameful. It raises more questions than it does answers.

Here is the multitude of questions: "Are post-secondary institutions preparing for the double cohort, ie, those students now in grades 7 and 8 who will graduate together from the first four-year secondary school experience?" "Can students with special needs complete diploma requirements in four years?" "The grade 11 literacy test in the OSR: What is its purpose? Whom is it helping, to give that test in grade 11?" There are many more questions that it raises, and in the space of two months how can the public and teachers and parents legitimately respond?

We have a crisis, and they're taking $500 million out of the school system in Metro to spread out so it can help their friends with the income tax cut. That's what it's doing in Metro -- $500 million siphoned off to deal with the income tax cut to help their bank presidents. It's shameful.

I support this motion and I hope the people of Ontario see through all this sham.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I'm pleased to participate today in the Liberal opposition day number 4. I actually have read with some understanding the actual motion by the Leader of the Opposition. She's trying to make a point here, although struggling. I look at it and I sort of say to myself that I could agree if there was really some kind of direction here. Perhaps I would agree if she was encouraging the boards, directing them to be more accountable and more fiscal, but I always look at it from a background and I want to address my comments today with that in mind.

I'm just going to read from a document here: "We should really improve -- a core education program with clear standards that are tested." Yes, I think we should do that; I would agree with that. "Publish spending guidelines for school administration. Cap trustees' salaries and reduce the number of trustees." I would agree with that. By the way, I'm reading from the original Liberal plan booklet. In fact we're doing much of what is in here. "Establish local school councils, volunteer parents, community leaders, students and teachers," all of which really is very central to much of what our changes are all about.

I believe that the people of Ontario knew much of the material in this book was a plan very much copied from a plan that's going to work.

If we look at the background, I think the ministry has a vision and a plan -- that's most important -- to achieve an educational system based on excellence, student achievement, affordability and accountability for Ontario parents and taxpayers. There are centres of excellence. Certainly in my riding of Durham East there are centres of excellence, like the Durham Board of Education. There are excellent teachers, for example, Harvey Webster, a teacher who was recently recognized by our board as an excellent lifelong dedicated teacher, and certainly excellent students -- a young student I was privileged to give the Governor General's award to, studying engineering at Queen's University. There are a lot of very excellent examples throughout Ontario of students, teachers and indeed boards, the Durham Board of Education most recently getting the Bertelsmann award.

Let's keep in mind education is all about children. My riding of Durham East has five boards of education plus a Christian school component which has two elementary and a secondary school, all with volunteer boards. I would agree that they're probably contributing fine students and fine citizens to our communities.

That's the background. This isn't really something where we have to look at making fundamental change. Why are we making changes? Really the changes are a result of about five to 10 years of serious mismanagement. Right now we've taken our children and we've not only eliminated their future, we've handed each one of them about an $8,700 debt. That's their share of the $100-billion deficit which was doubled in the last five years -- complete irresponsible government. We spend more money on the interest on our debt than we do on education.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Saving the money for the rich. Give them a tax cut.

Mr O'Toole: I think the fundamentals of the economics clearly indicate that we had to address the way we were doing things in Ontario. Mr Bradley over there is saying that their answer is always to spend more money. You know, if I look at the example set by -- the federal Liberal government is downloading about $1.2 billion to health care in Ontario. In fact they're reducing the funding to education and OTAB. We're trying to do more with less.

I think if we look at much more of the background of this, there's a wide series of debate. There will be other members on our side who will be trying to get the information out. This year the people of Ontario will spend about $13 billion educating elementary and secondary students. This money pays for the 1.9 million students enrolled in 5,200 schools of learning under the direction of some 120,000 teachers. So we're dealing with a very large system and it's really not fair to compare our jurisdiction to other provinces, because we're a very large part of Canada. Certainly we're twice the size of any other provincial jurisdiction.

But when I look across the issue of education in Canada today, I just want to read a quote here and then I'll play a little quiz with you. You can guess who said it. How's that? Sort of like a whodunit.

Mr Wildman: Is this a test?

Mr O'Toole: Yes, it's a test. This goes on. I am quoting here from a document: "I had the audacity to stand up and say that education in Canada was in crisis and needed to be studied and reported on. I got unanimous support on my motion." By the way, these are from the debates that were held this past summer --

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Who said that?

Mr O'Toole: Who said it? It was Senator Lorne Bonnell. In fact, this document I'm reading from now is from "Roundtable on Restructuring Education." This forum was conducted in 1996 at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in Winnipeg. One of the commenters -- I try to read his articles all the time in the Globe and Mail -- is William Thorsell, editor in chief of the Globe and Mail, speaking at this meeting. I'm going to quote what he said. He said:

"I have long arrogantly assumed that standards of literacy, numeracy and knowledge of such things as history, geography and literature have declined since I graduated from high school in 1963. On reviewing some of the recent literature, I am surprised to find that my assumptions about this are pretty accurate. I find that after 10 years in school, 44% of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are functionally innumerate and almost 30% are functionally illiterate. That is defined by their ability to understand a comparatively simple newspaper article." This again is done by William Thorsell. He's the education editor of the Globe and Mail.

Furthermore, the comments I found when you look at education across Canada are there are some common complaints or common concerns. What people really want is a system to deliver a much higher outcome and they want much higher and clearer standards. That's clear in every province. They want clarity in the standards and clarity in the measurement of those standards, and equity and access.

I'm going to quote here from a couple of other people, because I think we're looking at this too narrowly, if we're looking at Ontario, without taking into consideration what has been said in other parts of Canada. For example, there was Mr Shariff from Alberta, a former teacher and social worker. His comment is:

"I found a common thread in clients who were perpetually relegated to the status of poverty. It was a lack of education and social skills," much of which is dismissed in our school system today. "Some studies indicate that any child born after 1964 may go through five to eight career changes in a lifetime." So education has to be modernized and updated to meet the challenges of a changing work world.

I could go on. There are some other comments in here that I think I'd like to share with the viewers today or those participating in the debate. There is a very definite common thrust that they want the curriculum to get back to basics. So in fact our Minister of Education has a series of initiatives that are trying to focus on quality in education. We're all hearing that word. I just mentioned it was the central theme in this legislative committee that met in Winnipeg.

Provincial-wide testing: That's been instituted. Education Quality and Accountability Office: That's been instituted. Technology investments: We've done that with the TIPS program. We've doubled the funding in that area. Accountability both in the profession and in the outcomes: We did that with Bill 31, the College of Teachers. So there have been significant changes to ensure the quality of education.

A further consideration the ministry put forward is the secondary school reform, which was referred to by the previous speaker, and all parents and students and schools are given the opportunity to feed back. The parliamentary assistant, Tony Skarica, is travelling among the province to gather input from parents, students and teachers. In fact, tonight he's in Scarborough. For those viewing, he'll be in Scarborough tonight in Mr Newman's riding.


Actually, last week, in constituency week, I had a round table on education meeting. At that meeting I had current teachers, retired teachers, the president of the student council for Bowmanville High School, regular parents, a former head of the school board. By the way, Mr Strike, who was the head of the school board in our area at that time, was --

Mr Wildman: Strike? I thought you were going to eliminate that.

Mr O'Toole: That was another bill.

In fact, he was the head of the board at the time they went through the last reorganization, in 1968. In 1968 we ended up changing from approximately 1,500 school boards down to the approximately 165 that exist today. Going back to 1968, that was a very significant change at that time. I think we're at the same time of looking at how to clear out the money and waste and duplication in administration.

I'm running out of time. I want to save the rest of the time I've got. There's one more point I want to make. To those people looking today, we want equity in education. If you think of a typical classroom with 25 students in it and each student was to get $6,000, that would amount to $150,000 per classroom. If we take out $50,000 for the teacher and let's say $25,000 out for transportation -- that's $100 per month per child -- and take out $25,000 for maintenance and heating and all the rest of it, you've still got $50,000 left. Where's the money gone? We've paid the teacher; we've paid for the building. Where's the money gone? I think we've started it all wrong.

If you take a typical school community with 500 students with $6,000 per student, that's a budget for that school of $3 million. The problem today is that we're starting at the top with the boards of education with $140 million or $150 million, and they're telling us there's nothing left for the classroom. I put the question to you that these changes are putting the dollars in the classroom. That's what we said in the Common Sense document. The boards were given the chance to do it. They didn't do it, and we're going to.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): In the short time I have, I would like to bring this back to a reality check. In my 30 years in education, certainly I've seen many changes in education, many, many reforms. But this has to be the first time I think I can liken education reform to a runaway train, with students and taxpayers in the path of destruction.

The Minister of Education and Training clearly has no apparent plan for education. He has no vision for the way things have to be changed to make them more effective. What we have to do is to slow this whole thing down before we crash as an educational system.

Where's the involvement of the providers, of the stakeholders? Where's the involvement of the taxpayer, of the trustee? Issues of education have to be prioritized, and that's not happening. This government has to put important things first in education. It needs to take time to ensure that the right changes are made but that they're done in the right way.

What's happened across Ontario to date with the $400 million in cuts to education, which really when you compound it is like $800 million, is that class sizes have increased. Clearly class sizes all over Ontario have increased. There is less resource time. So children at the various spectrums in education, especially the two extremes, the gifted and those requiring special education, suffer. Principals are now teaching. They are not in their offices being able to counsel children, being able to provide guidance to parents, to teachers and to children. There is more time required for teachers to prepare materials, less time for teachers to work with children.

You know what? We must always remember that we must educate the total child. We cannot educate only one or two components of children. We must take the total child and we must ensure that education happens globally and totally for children.

I'd like to take the example of just one school that I referred to earlier, and I'd like to go through the student population. The grade 1 and 2 classroom has 30 students, with two exceptionalities; the grade 3 and 4 classroom split has 30 students, with six exceptionalities; the grade 4 and 5 class has 31 students, with 14 exceptionalities. The grade 5-6 class has 30 students, with 12 exceptionalities. The grade 7 class has 36 students, with 10 exceptionalities. The grade 8 class has 29 students, with 13 exceptionalities. Ladies and gentlemen, all those classrooms are taught by the teacher only. All the support staff has gone. School boards can't afford it.

Let's spend a few seconds talking about high school reform. The curriculum in high school is going to be drastically altered by this particular government. What you are going to see is credit courses going from 110 hours to 90 hours. You're going to be reducing the compulsory time for the study of English from 580 hours to as little as 360 hours. Is that preparing the total child, the total student, for the real world?

Probably the thing that is really disconcerting to the people of the Sudbury region is that you don't understand the importance of this education of the total child, because you're de-emphasizing many very valuable subjects, such as the creative arts and physical education. I have literally hundreds of letters from students in Sudbury asking the Minister of Education: "Why are you doing that? Do you not understand that these programs help us to become the type of citizen any government should want for the future citizenry of Ontario?"

I've asked the government to reconsider some of its directions, because clearly in education they're wrong. Let me quote from a few parents in the 45 seconds I have left. Ron Tough: "I see a deterioration of educational service." Cathy Martikineen: "I'm a young parent and I'll fight with everything I have to make sure my two young children have quality education -- this government doesn't believe in quality" education. Elizabeth Spry: "We've got a child in high school and a child in elementary school. I pity the teachers -- they're overworked, underresourced and the boards can't do anything about it because this government has taken so much away from education." Finally, Bill Nurmi: "Where's the quality classroom this government promised? They snowed us. A snow job by Snobelen."

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I am pleased to be able to take part in this debate today because what the government is doing to Ontario's educational system and what the government is trying to do to Ontario's educational system in terms of trying to extract billions of dollars from it is absolutely the worst thing that could happen to our educational system at this juncture in our history and absolutely the wrong direction to be moving in at this juncture in our history.

I want to comment a bit on that. It's very interesting that during the summer when the Premier went to Germany, to France and to Great Britain to talk to the business sector in those jurisdictions, what he said was that Ontario has an excellent education system, Ontario has a well-trained workforce, and he said to people in those jurisdictions that that is one of the reasons they ought to come to Ontario to invest: a good education system that's been in place for many years and a well-trained workforce that is a product of that education system.

It's interesting that the Premier acknowledges that a succession of governments over the years has built up in Ontario a good education system, an education system that has provided for a well-trained and productive workforce. It's interesting that that is the setting we have now. The Premier has acknowledged that.


What's also interesting is that if you read anything that talks about the economy we're entering into, the so-called knowledge economy, what is said over and over again is that, if anything, jurisdictions around the world will have to find ways to invest even more in things like education and training and to invest money in education and training which, if anything, will further uplift the skill, the knowledge, the base of learning that people carry with them through their lives. Everyone who looks at that 21st century economy acknowledges that jurisdictions which are able to have and to consistently fund a strong education and training system will have a decided advantage in that new and developing economy.

Over time, anyone who studies education acknowledges that learning, that the acquiring of skills, the development of analytical thinking, the capacity to question, to think critically, all of these things are tied at some point in someone's educational development to the size of classroom, to how many children are in a classroom, to how much individual attention they receive, to how much interaction there is between teacher and student, how much interaction there is back and forth between students. Everyone acknowledges that. Study after study has confirmed it. Study after study has confirmed that if you want to uplift the standards, if you want to uplift the results that you get in your education system, these are the things you must pay attention to: the size of the classroom, the quality of interaction in the classroom, the amount of special assistance and help that students receive. If you're dealing with reading, in many cases children develop their reading ability at different rates, different times. All children may at some point in their educational development require extra help, special help, unique approaches. That's all out there. It's all in the educational research. That's the background I think we need to acknowledge.

The Premier said when he went to Europe that we have had in Ontario a first-rate education system; we have a well-trained, productive workforce. Then he comes back here and we find the Minister of Education, who took almost $1 billion out of the system last year -- he tried to couch it in terms of saying, "Well, it's only $400 million," but it's $400 million taken out halfway through the year, so annualized it comes out to at least $800 million. When you add on some of the other incidental cuts, it's about $1 billion. Now we see the Minister of Education talking about a further $1 billion.

We've brought into this Legislature day after day after day examples: 38 children in a grade 1 classroom. Anyone who has spent any time in a classroom knows that 38 children in a grade 1 classroom is a completely unmanageable situation. By the end of grade 1, every child is supposed to be able to read, and a grade 1 teacher simply will not have the time to work with every child in a classroom that has that many children. It's physically impossible.

We have examples where you've got 40 children in a grade 6 or a grade 7 classroom and the teacher acknowledges that many of those children have special needs, but there is no resource there to help in terms of special needs, and that teacher herself or himself is simply too overtaxed in terms of time to be able to give that special attention.

What we've got happening here is that at the very time when we need good investment in education, at the very time when we need thoughtful investment in education, at the very time when we need to be looking at smaller classes, more additional help in the classroom, more attention to reading resources, libraries and those sorts of things, we've got a Minister of Education who goes across the province and his sole objective is to extract as much as he can out of education. We've got a Minister of Education who is not being driven by an educational agenda; he is being driven by a financial agenda: Take as much money as you can out of the education system to pass it on to the corporate friends of this government. Take money from children in order that the president of the Bank of Montreal can get a $200,000 tax cut.

The government members go back to their constituencies and babble on, go through the deficit-and-debt mantra: "We've got to do these things because it has to do with removing this burden. If we don't remove this burden, our children won't have the opportunity."

Well, let's cut to the quick, let's cut right through it. The burden being put on children in this jurisdiction is that this government is depriving them of the education they will need to be well positioned in that knowledge economy we're moving into. That is the burden that's being placed on children, the burden that's being placed on children across this province, and this government is solely responsible. The fact of the matter is that money is being extracted out of education by this Minister of Education in order to redistribute wealth, resources and income to the wealthiest people in this province.

Children are going to classrooms where they're not getting the attention they need, children are being put in larger and larger classrooms, children aren't getting the special help they need, children are not getting the reading resources they need in order that this government can redistribute income to the wealthiest people in this province. That is what this phoney tax scheme is all about. That is how that phoney tax scheme is affecting the education of children all across this province.

I don't know why the government doesn't come clean, just come clean and admit it. I don't know why they don't just come right out and say to people, "Look, we are more interested in redistributing money, wealth and power to those people who already have a lot than we're interested in the education of children." Just be honest about it.

Anybody who looks at the data, anybody who looks at the transfers -- "take money out of education and give money to bankers" -- comes to that conclusion. The government is not fooling anybody. The government, by repeating over and over again their silly mantra, is not adding to the debate in the province. They're not going to fool people any longer. Why don't you just come out and admit it? Then there can be an honest and open, clear debate in the province about what direction we ought to move in. Then we can have a real debate about how money ought to be spent on education, where those resources ought to be placed, what the priorities ought to be. Should the priorities be in terms of improving the standards of high school students? Should the priorities be in terms of elementary education? Should the priorities be somewhere else? None of these things get on the agenda with this government, none of these things manage to be discussed, because the government is so committed, so obsessed with taking money away from education so they can transfer it to their wealthy friends.

We want to say, in the closing minutes of this debate, that a Conservative government about 25 years ago, 30 years ago -- but it was a much different Conservative government than your stripe. They were Progressive Conservatives; they were not Republicans, as you people are. Progressive Conservatives actually sat down and made investments in Ontario's education system. In fact, they went out and borrowed money to make those investments because they recognized what a productive investment education is, that by developing a better university system, by developing a better community college system, by improvements in the elementary system and the secondary system we could enhance the skills, the knowledge and the ability of a broad base of Ontario residents and that would position us well to be productive through the 1970s, the 1980s and into the 1990s.

Oh, how I wish this government had a vision even remotely like that. Oh, how I wish we had a government that had a vision for education rather than just a vision for tax cuts for the wealthy.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I'm pleased to rise this afternoon and participate in this debate on education. I want to set the record straight on a couple of issues that have been mentioned this afternoon that weren't exactly as they are, one about our reduction in funding to special education. In actual fact, we have not reduced funding to special education. The other was about comments made by the Premier when he was overseas about the quality of education in Canada. I'm sure, if I remember the record properly, they were in relation to North America, not the world. I just want to set the record straight on that.

It's interesting that the leader of the third party would make the suggestion that we borrow some more money -- an interesting issue. I believe the two previous parties in government totally exhausted all those possibilities by running up $100 billion in debt, so borrowing more money is totally not an option any more.

The resolution from the leader of the official opposition states at the end -- she calls on the Mike Harris government to "bring forward policies and initiatives that are guided by the best interest of children." I could not agree with her more. As a matter of fact, I think that particular issue should be the driving force behind everything we do in education. We have to remember our education system exists for the students; it does not exist to provide employment for those people working in it.

Now that the leader of the official opposition and I agree on the purpose of education, let's look at the track record over the last little while.

Let's look at the College of Teachers, an independent, professional, self-regulating body responsible for the governance of the teaching profession. I have to believe that the establishment of this college elevates teachers to the professional status they deserve. It's difficult for me to understand why members of the opposition were not overwhelmingly supportive of this initiative. I believe that the College of Teachers, which may not be in the best interests of the teacher federations, is most certainly in the best interests of children and our teachers.

Education Quality and Accountability Office: This particular function will provide province-wide testing for all students in grades 3 and 11 and random testing in grades 6 and 9. The results gathered from these tests will allow for recommendations to the government for improvement of the education system and student performance. Again, this legislation, which is obviously in the best interests of students, was not supported by the members opposite.

Standardized curriculum: It seems to me that everyone would agree, at least in the core subjects, that a standard curriculum for all schools across the province is in the best interests of all students. In addition to the substantial cost saving associated with removing this task from each board, our increasingly mobile society will know what to expect from the school curriculum in each area of the province.

Grade 13, or whatever else you choose to call it: Completing high school in four years, as all other provinces do and as most other areas of the world do, in fact, is most definitely in the best interests of students. Our students in Ontario are certainly as smart as anywhere else in the world; our teachers are certainly as effective. Why would the opposition be so upset about eliminating the fifth year of high school? I think we should respect the fact that we have good students and good teachers and have a four-year secondary school program.

General education development testing, which allows students to write an exam to qualify for high school equivalency, and an additional $20 million invested in technology and an incentive partnership program designed to foster partnerships and advance integration of information technology: Both these issues, by any standard of measurement, are in the best interests of our students. Junior kindergarten funded the same way as every other grade in school makes sense to me.

So you see, as one member on this government's side, the motion by the member for Thunder Bay reflects some contradictions. Several initiatives, as I have outlined, introduced by this government are guided solely by the best interests of the children, yet they've not been supported by the member and her colleagues. She now brings forward a motion calling on the Mike Harris government to "bring forward policies and initiatives that are guided by the best interest of children." I'm confused.

I'd like to talk a little bit, in the time I have left, about the member for Sudbury saying, "Let's slow things down." A typical Liberal answer: "Let's slow things down." I've got to tell you that in my area of the province, Kent county, slowing things down is not an option.

I had an opportunity last week to spend some time in the classroom at the Victor Lauriston school with its wonderful principal, Anne Pegg. I have to compliment the school and the tremendous attitude of its teachers and students.

In Kent county we've been underfunded for years, and because of that we've had to be more efficient. But our students graduate and they compete. They're very effective at competing at universities and colleges and for employment opportunities with students educated in boards that have per-pupil costs 60% higher than ours.

Also for your information, in our county of Kent we have three Christian schools. They educate and graduate students at a substantially lower cost than our public and separate boards do and they also go on to compete. So you see that money doesn't make all the difference.

For several years our educational system has required major reform in the best interests of the children. Previous governments have avoided reform. They had studies and studies and then did nothing.

Minister Snobelen said this afternoon that education was too important to be politicized, and I agree with him. Education is the backbone of the future of our province. The system doesn't need more money. The taxpayers of Ontario are tapped out. They do not have any more money to spend on the system. If students educated in one system at a fraction of the price of another system all go out and compete, then we have to look and say: "Money is not the answer. The system requires some major restructuring."

I would like to encourage the members opposite and all the teachers' federations, teachers and educators to work along with the government to help us design a system we can all be proud of, that will serve us well, so that in the future we can genuinely say we have the best educational system in the world.

Mr Bradley: The first initiative that John Snobelen, as Minister of Education and Training, took in this province was to create a crisis -- I might add a phoney crisis -- and that particular comment was caught on tape. Ever since then we've had a minister bent on disruption and disarray in education, in a system which has evolved over the years through the development of consensus. He takes pleasure, it seems to me, in intimidating people, in provoking confrontation rather than creating consensus. We all know that the best way of developing good policy is through consensus and consultation, not simply by supreme edict of a Minister of Education.

Make no mistake about it, though: The author of this disruption is not John Snobelen. The author of the education policy of this government is Mike Harris, the Premier of this province, and his advisers, the Republican guard, as they call them, who worship at the altar of Newt Gingrich and other Republicans in the south, the extreme right of the south.


The real agenda of this government was probably revealed in St Catharines, and I say so anecdotally, on the same day Dianne Cunningham, the member for London North, the education critic, was in St Catharines speaking to the Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation: a very moderate speech, a conciliatory speech, a very thoughtful speech. I think a lot of people were impressed by it and should have been. The same day, speaking to the Rotary Club in St Catharines, was none other than the leader of the Conservative Party, Mike Harris, using insulting terminology to describe educators and people involved in education, in keeping with the fact that this government, or at least many members of this government, simply don't like anybody who is associated with the public sector.

We're seeing hundreds of millions of dollars already cut from education and hundreds of millions more likely to be cut from education. Why are they doing it? They're doing it to finance their crazy tax scheme, a tax scheme which will cut taxes for the richest people in our province to their greatest benefit, and will cost money. This is a Conservative government -- I emphasize Conservative government -- that is going to borrow money to give us a tax break. It makes no sense at all. Surely if the problem in this province is the deficit, as the government would contend, they wouldn't borrow more money. They're going to put us, according to the Common Sense Revolution, $20 billion more into debt to finance a tax scheme. It makes no sense at all. Even small-c conservatives in this province are shaking their heads at this particular prospect.

But what this government has been doing is cutting in all areas of education. The strategy is to intimidate; the strategy is to divide and conquer. They are pitting people who believe in junior kindergarten against those who believe in adult education, school board against school board, teachers against school boards, trustees against teachers. There were 200,000 people out here, many of them interested in education, who were demonstrating against that.

But you have to pin the tail on the donkey. That's a child's game, pinning the tail on the donkey, and the donkey is the Harris government. Don't get people blaming one another. Don't be intimidating them into silence. The people who are the author of this problem reside in the government caucus and particularly in the Premier's office.

So we have larger, crowded classes. We have fewer resources. The special needs of special children in the system cannot be met with the kind of cuts you're making. Junior kindergarten is being abolished at the very time when the experts in the field, such as Dr Fraser Mustard, eminently respected, are saying that's when you need this kind of intervention. Now you want to take away the local input. You want to take away local boards of education, boards that people can get at. They can't get at the Ministry of Education. They can get at the local board of education, however, and make any changes or alterations they want.

The directors of education had a press conference this week at which they offered to be participants in change in Ontario and bringing about the kind of changes you want. The message from the people out there is clear: You are moving too quickly and too drastically without taking into consideration the consequences of what you are doing. People across the education sector are prepared to sit down with government and work with them, but you're more interested in creating a crisis and disruption than you are in creating a consensus.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Further debate?

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I welcome the opportunity to provide some observations on the debate today. I thought there was good debate. There were some very thoughtful points that were made. It seems to me, though, that the evidence is conclusive. The evidence that was presented, not just a point of view but the evidence from people who know something about education -- and I'd like to refer to parents at this particular point, parents who have in the last recent number of weeks been mobilizing around this province. They receive more calls than ever from parents who are concerned. As you well know, it takes a while for policies and strategies of government to kick in. Well, it's kicking in. I would say to my colleagues on the other side, you must be experiencing this as well, that indeed you must be receiving calls from students and from parents, particularly parents.

It seems to me that I've heard at different times: "Teachers' federations; well, what do you expect?"

Mr Baird: They're really unions.

Mr Patten: "They're really unions," says the member. "They have a vested interest." The trustees have a vested interest, because I suppose they receive a degree of remuneration as well.


Mr Patten: The students? Well, I haven't heard too much discussion about the students, but I believe the government should listen very, very carefully to the parents.

I'd like to acknowledge that there are four parents here from a small community called Nottawa. That's not Ottawa, but Nottawa. It is a fine community. It has a strong sense of social responsibility. These parents have been here for seven hours today. Why are they here today? Because they care about their children, they care about their school and they care about the students who are being affected because their school is in dire straits. It needs some support. It was a victim of the freeze. The freeze of course, as we know, was the reason to try to find $400 million -- it was $167 million -- to try and find money to take out of education.

I would like to come back to some of the statements that parents make, because I know on the government side they expect, "Well, the opposition just whines and no matter what we do, they complain." I want to provide some testimony of what parents are saying. Some of these parents, by the way, are in your ridings and you should take note of what they say.

I would like to address an issue that was raised by the member for Durham East. He said, about our motion put forward by our leader today, "There were no recommendations or alternatives or suggestions as to what could be done." Then he read a few examples of where, in the last campaign, out of our red book, some of the areas where you may find resources. You were absolutely correct. You didn't complete reading the passage in the book, because what you would have found was that our policy was to put a freeze on education for four years, work with the system, find some resources and then put them back and keep them in the system for enhancing the classroom and for enhancing junior kindergarten and early childhood education within the system. By the way, we are hearing people say that policy looks not too bad today.

But that's not what is happening. I hear very few members on the opposite side talk about what is going to happen to the resource that is found out of possible waste. You never answer that question. You just say, "We're going to deal with waste." Many parents believe that what you're talking about is streamlining administration and then taking that resource and putting it back somehow within the system, but that's not what you're doing. It's not what you're doing.

Almost every speaker today has referred in one way or another to funding that $5.5-billion tax break which you refuse to acknowledge or even mention because you know it adds to your deficit. It's not even progressive -- the Progressive Conservatives -- because the richer you are, the more money you'll get back. Someone in the low-income or the middle-income category gets a menial amount of money of a couple of hundred dollars here or there. If they have one student who's going to a college or a university, it is wiped out -- a $400 increase, $500 increase.

Mr Baird: You raised my tuition, Richard.

Mr Patten: Look at that. Look at that.

I would like to read a few quotes from --


Mr Patten: Mr Speaker, it's hard to --

The Speaker: Order. The member for Nepean.


The Speaker: Order. Sit down. Government members, it's difficult to hear the member speaking. I'm not going to allow the --


The Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon, it's difficult to tell the government members that it's hard to hear them when you're in the middle of heckling. It's difficult to hear. I'd appreciate it if you could keep it down. There are four minutes left in his presentation. I'd appreciate if I could hear it.


Mr Patten: I would like to share some thoughts from some parents. A concerned parent, Sharon Preston of Fort Frances, wrote a letter:

"We are desperately concerned about what the cuts to education have done to our classrooms in the northern parts of Ontario. We do not have the flexibility to absorb such cuts. We have lost our guidance and library teachers. Music is done by the classroom teacher, as are phys ed and art. Our special education is being cut back. Our classes are larger. More cuts will be devastating and the children seem to have been forgotten in this whole picture."

That addresses an issue that the member for Durham East had mentioned before, and that was the teacher's salary in a classroom. We all know, for gosh sakes, that today a classroom is made up of more than just the one teacher in that particular classroom. In our multicultural society in Ontario, we know that there need to be English-as-a-second-language specialists, counsellors who work with the families who are new to Canada. It is indeed more expensive to operate an educational system in Ontario, but there are good reasons for it. I don't hear those good reasons for it.

You cannot -- and I would like to debate this with any member -- relate the demography of Ontario to the demography of PEI or the demography of Saskatchewan or Alberta. That is not a pejorative statement; that is simply to say that the makeup of the communities is decidedly different, which places different demands on our particular educational system by virtue of the demographics of our particular province. That is reflected in a higher cost. Our salaries are higher, our cost of living is higher, hence we have a more expensive system on a relative basis. It is not, when you take into consideration those factors.

A concerned parent, Al Chambers, also chair of the Ottawa Board of Education's parent advisory committee, says estimates of Harris's education finance reform will result in a cut of at least $50 million in the Ottawa board's budget, forcing a 32% increase in class size in inner-school cities, the loss of junior kindergarten, the closing of its adult high schools, the loss of programs for disadvantaged children.

I have hundreds of letters that I would be very happy to share, especially with the members on the other side because they come from your ridings. Maybe that's what I should do, send them to you, but they've been writing to me as opposition education critic because they find they're not being listened to, that somehow there isn't the sense of responsiveness to their concerns.

I would like to end my comments, because I only have 56 seconds, by commenting on the Crombie report, which I believe is very close to what the government will do. I can't say for sure; I hope they won't, on some things. That particular report, in the final analysis, will weaken the strength of local participation to have a voice in education. They'll still have a voice, but they will not have any economic clout. If taxpayers think they're going to pay anything less for education because they're now only going to be paying 5%, as proposed, they have another think coming, because that educational tax will now be a transportation or a transit tax. Do they want to trade that off, not having a strong voice in education versus dealing with their transit or transportation system?

I'm very proud to support the motion as presented by our leader today and I hope that all the members will support it as well.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Before we put the question on Ms McLeod's opposition day motion, I would like to inform the House that His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to two bills in his chambers.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): The following are the titles of the bills to which His Honour did assent:

Bill 75, An Act to regulate alcohol and gaming in the public interest, to fund charities through the responsible management of video lotteries and to amend certain statutes related to alcohol and gaming / Projet de loi 75, Loi réglementant les alcools et les jeux dans l'intérêt public, prévoyant le financement des organismes de bienfaisance grâce à la gestion responsable des loteries vidéo et modifiant des lois en ce qui a trait aux alcools et aux jeux

Bill 76, An Act to improve environmental protection, increase accountability and enshrine public consultation in the Environmental Assessment Act / Projet de loi 76, Loi visant à améliorer la protection de l'environnement, à accroître l'obligation de rendre des comptes et à intégrer la consultation publique à la Loi sur les évaluations environnementales.


The Speaker: Mrs McLeod has moved opposition day number 4. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1756 to 1801.

The Speaker: All those in favour, please stand and be recognized by the Clerk.


Bartolucci, Rick

Curling, Alvin

Miclash, Frank

Bradley, James J.

Gerretsen, John

Patten, Richard

Brown, Michael A.

Gravelle, Michael

Phillips, Gerry

Caplan, Elinor

Hoy, Pat

Pouliot, Gilles

Christopherson, David

Kennedy, Gerard

Ramsay, David

Churley, Marilyn

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Sergio, Mario

Cleary, John C.

Marchese, Rosario

Wildman, Bud

Conway, Sean G.

Martin, Tony

Wood, Len

Crozier, Bruce

McLeod, Lyn


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


Arnott, Ted

Hardeman, Ernie

Palladini, Al

Baird, John R.

Harnick, Charles

Parker, John L.

Barrett, Toby

Hastings, John

Pettit, Trevor

Bassett, Isabel

Hodgson, Chris

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Boushy, Dave

Hudak, Tim

Ross, Lillian

Brown, Jim

Johns, Helen

Runciman, Robert W.

Carr, Gary

Johnson, Bert

Sampson, Rob

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, David

Shea, Derwyn

Chudleigh, Ted

Jordan, W. Leo

Sheehan, Frank

DeFaria, Carl

Kells, Morley

Smith, Bruce

Doyle, Ed

Klees, Frank

Snobelen, John

Ecker, Janet

Leach, Al

Spina, Joseph

Elliott, Brenda

Leadston, Gary L.

Sterling, Norman W.

Eves, Ernie L.

Marland, Margaret

Stewart, R. Gary

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tascona, Joseph N.

Fox, Gary

Maves, Bart

Tilson, David

Froese, Tom

Munro, Julia

Turnbull, David

Galt, Doug

Murdoch, Bill

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Gilchrist, Steve

Newman, Dan

Wood, Bob

Grimmett, Bill

O'Toole, John

Young, Terence H.

Guzzo, Garry J.

Ouellette, Jerry J.


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 26; the nays are 62.

The Speaker: The motion is lost.

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

The House adjourned at 1805.