36th Parliament, 1st Session

L126 - Thu 21 Nov 1996 / Jeu 21 Nov 1996





























































The House met at 1003.




Mrs McLeod moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 90, An Act to establish the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators / Projet de loi 90, Loi créant l'Ordre des éducatrices et des éducateurs de la petite enfance de l'Ontario.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I'm pleased to rise today in support of a bill which, for early childhood educators, has been a long time in coming forward. The purpose of the bill, as outlined in the explanatory note, quite clearly is to establish the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators. It's a bill which would require persons who act as early childhood educators in day nurseries or premises where private home day care is provided to hold a certificate of registration issued by the registrar of the college. It would become an offence for a person to act as an early childhood educator without holding a certificate of registration.

I want to note that there is a correction to be made in the explanatory note, because the college would be required to report annually not to the Minister of Education and Training, as stated in the explanatory note, but to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I believe that's an editorial change and can simply be noted in the record and the appropriate change made in the explanatory note of the bill.

I want to note as well that the proposal here is to establish a self-regulating college. The bill proposes that the council would be composed of 12 persons elected by members of the college and nine persons who would be appointed by the cabinet.

The objects of the college would be:

"1. To regulate the profession of early childhood education and to govern its members.

"2. To develop, establish and maintain qualifications for membership in the college.

"3. To accredit professional education programs for early childhood educators offered by educational institutions.

"4. To accredit ongoing education programs for early childhood educators offered by educational institutions and other bodies.

"5. To issue certificates of registration to early childhood educators and to renew, amend, suspend, cancel, revoke and reinstate those certificates.

"6. To provide for the ongoing education of members of the college.

"7. To establish and enforce professional standards and ethical standards applicable to members of the college.

"8. To receive and investigate complaints against members of the college and to deal with issues of discipline, fitness to practise and professional misconduct.

"9. To promote the profession of early childhood education and to communicate with the public on behalf of the members of the college.

"10. To perform the addition functions that the regulations prescribe."

Those are the objects of the college. Again, I think it's important to note that every person who holds a certificate of registration would be a member of the college and that anyone who wishes to act as an early childhood educator would be required to hold a certificate of registration, just as any teacher in our elementary or secondary school system in the province of Ontario is now required to have a teaching certificate.

The larger question is, why is the bill here? It's here because early childhood educators have sought professional recognition through legislation for a very long time. They want, as educators, to be able to set and enforce standards for those who are providing education to our youngest children. They want early childhood education to be recognized as important to the healthy development of children and, because it is so important, to be a field that demands a quality of care.

This bill has been developed in very close cooperation with early childhood educators, a number of whom are in the gallery with us today. In fact the leadership for this initiative has always come from the Association for Early Childhood Education, and I want to acknowledge their effort and their commitment to their profession and to the children whose wellbeing is their concern.

There has been indeed a long history. It began in 1990, when the association created an ad hoc committee to look at the whole issue of self-regulation of the profession. It went on in 1991, when they were given funding by government for a study to look at the feasibility of legislative recognition for early childhood educators. It went on in 1993 with a study, an extensive survey, in which there was overwhelming support to the extent of over 90% of parents, over 93% of early childhood educators, members of the association, and 76% of early childhood educators who were not members of this association, all of whom believed there should be a registration process for early childhood educators and there should be support for standards of practice and for greater accountability.

The work of the association went on in 1994 to do even further studies to ensure there would be support for the establishment of this kind of college. I think it's important to make the statement that effort has been made to get support of people who are out in the field, both the parents whose children are being placed in the care of early childhood educators and the early childhood educators themselves.

It is a fact, of course, that in establishing such a college, a self-regulating college would also be self-funding. So it both sets standards and requires a financial contribution on the part of members in order to keep it going. The commitment of people in early childhood education to setting standards, to being accountable, is so great that there is overwhelming support even for the financial contributions that would be necessary in order to establish the college.

This bill is also a follow-up to a private member's resolution presented in 1994 by Charles Beer, a former member of this Legislature and a former Minister of Community and Social Services. His resolution called for the professional regulation of early childhood educators through an act such as this which would establish minimum entry standards, standards of practice and a code of ethics. It was debated and passed in June 1994 with the unanimous support of members of all three parties.


Mr Cam Jackson, who was the community and social services critic for the Conservative Party at the time, indicated: "We had unanimity, we had agreement.... The work of early childhood educators is of a very, very high quality and they need the authority to make it even better...as a regulatory body, they can discipline those members who act out." I trust the support that was expressed by Mr Jackson in his role as Conservative critic of community and social services will be reflected in the support again of all members of the House as this resolution takes the next step of being presented in legislative form.

Mr Beer's resolution recognized that there are no formal entry standards for early childhood education beyond the ECE diploma. Early childhood educators believe very strongly that there should be a consistency in the training of early childhood educators and that high standards should be set for graduation. They see continued professional development as essential for their continued competence. The college would set the standards for graduation and ongoing professional education in early childhood education.

Mr Beer's resolution also recognized that there are at this time no formal standards of practice, no mechanisms to ensure that early childhood educators are held responsible for their professional misconduct. There is, for example, a legal requirement, as we're all aware, that outright physical abuse of children be reported to a child welfare agency, but there is no requirement that inappropriate treatment of children be reported. In fact, there's no one to report such inappropriate treatment of children to.

There was a case of children in one nursery school who were being disciplined through physical isolation. They were being locked in a closet. That kind of inappropriate behaviour simply would not meet a code of conduct test. I trust that such a situation is a very rare occurrence, but I think the capacity to deal with them is absolutely essential for the wellbeing of children.

The college we're proposing would set standards for a code of conduct and would have the capacity to discipline those whose behaviour does not meet that code. The act will bring greater accountability as well as higher standards of quality into early childhood education.

I think it's important as well to point out that this act establishing a college for early childhood educators is complementary to the Day Nurseries Act. It doesn't replace the ministry's role in administering that act, it doesn't replace the ministry's responsibility for ensuring that standards are in place; its role under the Day Nurseries Act is limited to the licensing of facilities, inspecting them and revoking licences when standards aren't met. The Day Nurseries Act doesn't give the ministry power to act to enforce standards for individual professionals. That would be the responsibility the college would undertake as a self-regulating body.

I stress that this is not in any way an end run around government. That's why I hope it will have the support of all members of the House today. Any regulations passed under this act that relate to standards, codes of conduct, the definition of misconduct, the accreditation of educational programs could only be made with the approval of cabinet and with the prior review by the minister. As I've said, the college would be self-funding, so there would be no cost to government.

Some might wonder how we can afford to set high standards for early childhood education. Is it not already difficult to provide enough spaces for children who need them and pay child care workers a decent wage? The answer, clearly, to both questions is yes, it is difficult. But the response must not be, "Well then, let's forget about quality care." We cannot accept anything less than quality care for our youngest children.

The cost of quality care and the challenge of making care accessible and affordable, large as those issues are, are not the focus of this bill. This bill is concerned with standards and accountability. I believe if we're not prepared to set high standards of care for our young children we are jeopardizing their wellbeing and their futures. They need our protection and our commitment to the quality of care they receive, as do their parents. I believe this bill is a step forward in providing that.

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

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I'm going to take a few minutes to comment on this legislation. Our critic for child care, Frances Lankin, will be taking the majority of the time.

I want to start by saying that I have no problem; I support the concept of a College of Early Childhood Educators. I just have a couple of points that I think the Leader of the Opposition will understand I would be making this morning based on a couple of positions the Liberal Party has taken in the last several months.

I believe the professions of educators should have a college. The teachers have one. But I'm getting pretty frustrated with the party to my right when one day they take one position and another day they take another position. If you believe in a college to be established for early childhood educators, which I believe in, why did you come in here and vote against the College of Teachers? Where is the consistency? How can there be any consistency?

I've taken a look at your legislation, Mrs McLeod, and I've taken a look at the makeup of the council. One of the things you tried to oppose in the College of Teachers was the makeup of the council. The makeup of the council in your proposed college does exactly the same thing as the makeup of the college in the College of Teachers.


Mr Cooke: Yes, it does, and you know it does. What I'm frustrated about is that when the Royal Commission on Learning came down, the Liberal Party opposed a program for three-year-olds, or expressed reservations about the program for three-year-olds. You endorsed the College of Teachers. Then as soon as there was opposition by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, you decided you were going to play politics with kids by opposing the College of Teachers and opposing protection of students.

I understand the position of early childhood educators, that they want to be recognized and should be recognized as a profession, but college legislation is not to recognize a group as a profession; it's consumer protection legislation. And that consumer protection legislation is essential for young people. It's essential for young people whether they're in day care centres or whether they're in our elementary and secondary school system. A College of Teachers is essential for early childhood educators, but it's also essential for elementary and secondary school teachers.

For you to have come in here and voted against the College of Teachers on second reading, on third reading, to have voiced support of it when it came in from the royal commission, to actually have had a question in the House at one point by your education critic after the implementation committee had reported saying to the Minister of Education and Training, "When are you going to bring in the legislation?" and then he brings it in exactly in line with the recommendations from the implementation commission, you opposed it for one reason. You opposed it because some of the teacher unions opposed it and you wanted to score political points. You bring this in today because you want to score political points.

If I was an early childhood educator, I would say to myself, "Does this mean there will actually be support from the Liberal Party if the government moves with the bill?" And my answer would be, "Only if the political wind is blowing in that direction will the Liberal Party support it."

I also want to say to early childhood educators that I guess I would believe there was more of a commitment from the Liberal Party to early childhood education if today we were debating a resolution from the Liberal caucus demanding that the Liberal Party in Ottawa fulfil its commitments on early childhood education. If the federal Liberals did that and if that was the resolution here, I think it would be much more meaningful, it would be much more from the heart, and it would have a heck of a lot more meaning than this particular bill which I am upset about because of the inconsistency and the politics involved.

I'll be voting in favour of it because I've been consistent in my support for protection for young people through colleges, whether it's the College of Teachers or whether it's this proposal. I just wish the Liberal Party had been consistent.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): It is a pleasure to comment briefly on private member's Bill 90, An Act to establish the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators. I want to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition for bringing this matter to our attention today because it deals with one of our most precious resources: our children.

This bill establishes the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators, requires persons who act as early childhood educators in day nurseries or premises where private home day care is provided to hold a certificate of registration issued by the registrar of the college, and makes it an offence for a person to act as an early childhood educator without holding a certificate of registration. It also requires the registrar to keep a registry of certificates of registration and requires the college to hold annual meetings of its members and report annually to the Minister of Education and Training, with the minister having supervisory control over the college, and gives the college broad powers to make regulations subject to the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council and with prior review by the minister.

Our government believes that modern Ontario families need a variety of child care supports to allow them to fulfil modern obligations, including raising children, working and participating in public life. We also believe all children should have access to child care services regardless of family income or their parents' employment status. As well, parents should have the right to determine the nature and extent of their children's participation.

To that end, you are no doubt aware that the Minister of Community and Social Services is currently examining the recommendations of Improving Ontario's Child Care System, the report that could see more quality child care options for parents and thousands of newly subsidized spaces for children.

The proposed direction for Ontario's child care system includes reallocating funding to create thousands of subsidized child care spaces; maintaining tough provincial standards; improving enforcement and licensing procedures and allowing subsidies for a wider range of quality programs for school-aged children; redesigning and expanding the licensed home child care sector; and a simplified income test to better determine who qualifies for a fee subsidy and to focus resources on those families most in need.

Our government is spending up to $600 million in 1996-97 on child care, the highest level in Ontario's history, because children are a priority of this government.

I support private member's Bill 90 in principle because child care should be of high quality and properly regulated to reflect the best current knowledge about early childhood development as well as the varied cultural and linguistic backgrounds of Canadian families.

While I do support this private member's bill in principle, I would be remiss if I failed to mention some of the concerns I have about legislation that would have a major impact on early childhood education.

In her bill, I'm pleased to see that the Leader of the Opposition suggests that this Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators would actually report to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Since there are two types of child care services in Ontario -- private, also referred to as commercial or profit, and non-profit -- I support this change to have the college report to and be accountable to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

As well, the definition of "early childhood educator" in the bill is extremely broad and could be interpreted to mean that all staff positions in a day nursery must be filled by ECEs. This could prove to be extremely expensive, very unnecessary and, quite frankly, exceedingly unrealistic. I hope the Leader of the Opposition will take the constructive criticisms and proposed amendments under serious consideration.

The Day Nurseries Act clearly sets out minimum standards for the physical facility, schedule and operation of a child care program, but there are no safeguards in place with respect to standard practices and the ethical behaviour of the staff who operate these programs and provide care for children and families.

Having said that, I will be supporting private member's Bill 90 in principle because I want to protect the children and families of Ontario and increase the quality of care and education for young children.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'm very proud to stand in support of this bill today, but before I make my comments I'd like to make a couple of comments to the member for Windsor-Riverside with regard to not me as Rick Bartolucci, Liberal MPP, but to me as Rick Bartolucci, a teacher for 30 years, just to let him know or to reaffirm in his own mind that he's absolutely correct. The teachers did not support the College of Teachers for any other reason than to say that they at no time had any trust that it was a self-regulating organization or body. He's correct when he says we didn't buy into it. It wasn't political. It was because he didn't trust teachers enough, he didn't trust that teachers could regulate themselves, and so he tried to make it a partisan body. That's why the teachers of Ontario rejected David Cooke and the NDP. That's why they'll continue to reject that concept: because teachers want to be trusted.

Let me continue just a little bit to say that when the member for Windsor-Riverside suggests that this bill is simply consumer protection, that's an insult. That's an insult to early childhood educators who are in the audience and who are at their day care settings or at their school settings. That's an absolute insult. This is so much more than consumer protection. Let me tell you what it is.

The term "early childhood education," for the former Minister of Education, refers to a group setting intended to effect and affect developmental growth in children from birth to those entering the first year. Some studies indicate that should be increased to year three but, regardless, we're talking about the early years of the child. It is during these years that those people who are committed to these early years form the foundation for future learning, form the foundation for growth in learning, form the foundation for love of learning. These are the building-block years during which a child learns to walk, to talk, to establish and develop a personality and many of the key tools he or she will use in the world that he or she will experience until death.

The members across the way don't understand children, because they wouldn't support their government agenda, but the early childhood educators in the audience do. They know that children have to feel secure. They know that children have to be affirmed. They know that children have to be provided with opportunities for success. They know that children have to experience stability. That's what this college is all about: ensuring that happens in the future.

The members across the way consider early childhood educators to be babysitters, and they should be perceived as so much more than babysitters. That's why they have to be organized. That's why they want to be regulated. These people are trained professionals. They are trained professionals who are being trusted with one of the most crucial stages of a child's development. As far as I'm concerned, in my 30 years of education, it's the most crucial stage of a child's development. The careful nurturing or the destructive influences to which a child is exposed at this stage can affect the child throughout his or her entire life.

Standards and accountability -- what early childhood educators want from this bill -- are long overdue in this area: standards to provide opportunities for children to develop an understanding of self and others which are characterized by warmth, caring, respect and the appreciation of individuality; standards which will provide excellence in the learning process, to experience a variety of developmentally appropriate activities which pursue their interests in the context of life in the community and the world around them; standards which promote the concept that families are the principal influences in their lives and that they, as secondary educators, want to enhance the importance and the love found within a family; standards which promote that the needs of individual children are to be met and which maintain excellent, positive interactions between all children, regardless of abilities or disabilities, regardless of strengths or weaknesses, regardless of race, colour or religion.


That's what this bill is all about. It's not about partisan politics. It's not about establishing anything else except a very profound position that early childhood educators deserve the right to self-regulation. Certainly that didn't happen with the College of Teachers. It didn't happen when the NDP introduced it and it didn't happen when this government took over that false concept about not trusting teachers.

I see the member for Nepean waving like an idiot. I just want him to know that you can be in the centre and be very progressive as opposed to the right and being very retarded in the direction the province is going.

In many areas of our lives where we must trust others with something that is important to us, whether that be our health or our legal matters, we count on a certain level of professionalism. Where there are regulating bodies in place it is easier to instil such a trust. Early childhood educators recognize that by adopting a regulating body, they can increase their profile as professionals and improve the level of trust that parents must have in them, given the economic and fiscal situation of this province.

That's why it's crucial that we support this bill today. Currently, there are no regulating bodies for early childhood educators. There are no formal structures regulating the type and extensive training received and no assurances that standards and skills will be of the highest quality.

This is the legislation that will enshrine that. This is the legislation that will protect that. This is the legislation that will ensure that the creation of a professional regulating body will not only be good for early childhood educators, it'll be good for the charges that these early childhood educators are responsible for. They are not afraid of high standards that a college will impose; nor were teachers. They are not afraid, because they understand that their primary concern, their raison d'être is the positive development of children.

In conclusion, all I want to say is that I commend the early childhood educators of this province for wanting to establish a college for self-regulation. I know, having worked with them for 30 years, that they will entrust this responsibility in a very, very mature, caring and loving way, the way teachers would have had the government of the day, the New Democratic Party, and the present government, the Conservative Party, trusted teachers. I cannot see how anyone in this assembly can vote against this bill today.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I want to indicate that I will be supporting this bill on second reading. I think this bill is a step in the right direction. There are some areas of concern, but I think those would be appropriately dealt with through committee hearings and allowing people to come forward and have input into the shape of the bill. But the basic direction of the bill, to move towards self-regulation of the early childhood educators as a profession and to move towards the establishment of a college, are two principles I support.

I just have to take 30 seconds, maybe a bit more, to say how amusing I find it to hear the member for Sudbury, on behalf of the Liberal Party, try and defend yet again the amazing feats of flip-flop that party is capable of -- quite, quite amazing.

For him to say the issue was whether the government of the day and/or the previous government that brought forward the proposal for a College of Teachers trusted teachers, that there was an issue of trust -- what it boils down to is what kind of role the public has with respect to self-regulated professions.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Sudbury, I'd ask you to withdraw those comments, please.

Mr Bartolucci: Which one of them would you like me to withdraw?

The Acting Speaker: I ask you to withdraw them.

Mr Bartolucci: I'm asking, which one would you like me to withdraw?

The Acting Speaker: To withdraw your comments.

Mr Bartolucci: I will withdraw that comment.

Ms Lankin: I was saying that the issue described as whether there is trust of a profession is the composition of the college and the participation of members of the public with respect to the self-regulation of professions. Having spent a significant amount of time as Minister of Health dealing with regulated health professions and shepherding that legislation through, and having some of the similar debates and arguments with professions at that point in time, and holding very tough to the principles I believed in terms of increase of public participation on those colleges, it's a fundamental participation-of-the-public principle that I believe in and would support, and would support for all colleges. So I find the member for Sudbury's characterization of this amusing but not unexpected.

However, let me turn to the bill at hand. The bill at hand is incredibly important in terms of the next step of development of the early childhood educators as a profession. But I have to say it comes at a time which is very unfortunate. It comes at time when the government of the day is about to take steps which will lead to the total dismantling of the not-for-profit, quality, licensed child care system, and I think that is a shame. I think it is a crime. We have spent so many years building this system, and I will say that it's not perfect, there's more that needs to be done, but in the exact opposite direction than the government of the day is proposing.

I listened to the member for Durham-York, who said that the government's reform proposals were about, for example, reallocating funds to increase the number of subsidized spaces. I have to tell you up front that I find the proposals for child care reform that have been released by the Minister of Community and Social Services in that document one of the most deceitful documents I have ever seen a government put forward. No rhetoric here. I'm absolutely direct with you in terms of how dishonest the proposals are in terms of what they purport to be and what the actual impact will be.

The reallocation that the member talks about is the removal of direct wage subsidies from early childhood educators' salaries. I wonder how, if we actually were able to succeed with this legislation, early childhood educators would be able to pay the professional fees for the college to operate. Many of these people in the profession are currently working at an average of about $20,000 a year. These are for highly trained professional educators, being paid $20,000 a year, and they're about to lose, on average, $4,000 to $5,000 a year out of their salary. That is an absolute crime.

The reason the direct subsidy was there in the first place was because the only alternative to that, the only other way to bring up the wages of this poorly paid professional group, is to raise parents' fees. And in raising parents' fees you do only one thing: You ensure that the vast majority of working parents will not be able to afford to have access to quality, not-for-profit, licensed child care. You will continue to provide subsidies for low income, they will have access, and people who have the financial wherewithal to pay at the high-income end will have access, but the vast majority of working parents would not be able to afford to access that kind of quality, licensed, not-for-profit child care if these wage subsidies are removed and you attempted to continue to try and pay half-decent wages to these qualified, educated educators.

When I talk about it being deceitful, what the member says and what the minister says is that they're going to take that money, the money they pull out of the pockets of qualified educators, and they're going to put it into a pool and they're going to provide a greater number of fee subsidies for low-income parents. Let me tell you, those fee subsidies are currently cost-shared with municipalities on an 80-20 basis, 80% for the province, 20% from the municipality. There is not a municipality in the province, with all the cuts they've received in their transfers from the provincial government, that has any money to move ahead and pick up more subsidized spaces to create more subsidies. It won't happen. That money will sit there. The member says we're spending $600 million this year on child care, more than has ever been paid before. Not true. They cancelled $50 million of capital for child care, moved $40 million into operating, and then the minister put a freeze on it and not one penny of that new money has been spent.


The member says this is about maintaining tough standards. Excuse me? They're talking about doing away with the standards in the Day Nurseries Act for the physical plant of day centres and putting it under the building code. What does that mean? It means kids can be put into places where there are no windows, where they are there for eight hours a day and there's no natural light.

The minister says it's not important to have fencing around the play yards. What about where you have kids who run off or where you have strangers who want to enter in? It's not important to have fences for safety? What about in northern Ontario? I visited a child care centre in rural Thunder Bay and they have cougar watches and bear watches. They need the fences. This is ludicrous. The basic standards that are to protect the health and safety of our kids are being ripped out by these proposals, and she says this is about maintaining tough standards.

She also says it's about improving enforcement. Again, right now in terms of regulated home care, the home visits occur at a minimum once every three months, and in most agencies they have monthly or bimonthly visits. We have the member over there saying, "We're going to have tougher enforcement." What the minister is proposing is going once a year, and why? Because she said that home child care providers told her these home visits were intrusive. I've not met one regulated home care provider, early childhood educator providing regulated services from their home, who has said that it's intrusive. They find it a support, they find it an opportunity for professional development, and on and on and on. They support it and they've said to me: "If you find someone who says it's intrusive, that's where you should be monitoring. That's where you should be worrying about the care that kids get."

The bottom line is, the government's proposals are about to dismantle the field at the very time we're talking about the importance of providing a college and providing the kind of structure to make sure the profession can enhance itself and enhance the quality of care.

I support the bill in principle. I hope we get it to hearings. But I would urge the minister to go out and do some meaningful consultation on her proposals because the bottom line is that we won't have a child care system left for early childhood educators to work in if she proceeds as she is wont to do.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak to this bill today. I want to say that as somebody with two young children -- I've got two young boys myself, five and three -- I think I can speak with some authority as a consumer with respect to early childhood education.

I want to say that in our family, with my wife as well a professional and me working, we really need early childhood educators in our life and we acknowledge the important role that they play in our lives and the importance that they play.

I want to say, though, that I've visited a number of day care facilities in my riding, a couple of which come to mind, and I can tell you that the work that the early childhood educators there do is really the epitome of community spirit and professionalism in what they're able to do for young people in society today. I know the member for Sudbury has been throwing around accusations that somehow the government isn't supportive of this. I can tell you that as a member of the government side, I fully support this particular college and I think it's long overdue.

Mr Bartolucci: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: He's imputing motive here. I said at the very end that I can't see how anybody could not support this, so I'd ask him to clarify his comments.

The Acting Speaker: That is a point of order. I didn't hear him impute any motive.

Mr Ron Johnson: The member for Sudbury is a little edgy today, I think. It's understandable too, because when you look at the sorts of contradictions he's faced with, it was only a few weeks ago, a number of weeks ago, that the member for Sudbury stood in his place and voted against the College of Teachers. You could see him squirming and you could see the member for Windsor-Sandwich squirming in her seat when the Leader of the Opposition was giving her 10-minute spiel about why this was such an important college, because the bottom line is that the Liberal --

Mr Bartolucci: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I had absolutely no problem voting against the College of Teachers. I've been speaking out against it for three years.

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

Mr Ron Johnson: I'd encourage the member for Sudbury to read his standing orders and realize what a point of order is and is not. I know he's struggling over there with the fact that he's now finding himself in direct conflict with legislation that he wouldn't vote for in the past, and that's understandable.

But at the same time, the back benches over there cleared out because the Leader of the Opposition a number of weeks ago whipped them into shape and said, "Despite your personal feelings, despite the fact that you really want a College of Teachers, you've got to vote against this legislation because," as the member for Windsor-Riverside said, "we need political gains." That's all this is about to them. This is about political gains for the Liberal Party of Ontario. That's all this is.

They really don't care about children. If they really cared about children, they would have wanted to put in place the same accountability mechanisms at the senior school levels and at the regular education levels as they want to put in for early childhood educators. But they didn't want to do that. They didn't want to do it because, as the member for Windsor-Riverside correctly points out, to them it's about politics and it's about using children for political gain. That's really what this is about. They have absolutely no desire whatsoever to see what's best for either early childhood educators or the children who are under their care.

That's where we as a government differ. We are consistent in our message and we are consistent with what we are doing when we look at what we have done as a government for early childhood education, when we look at the fact that we in the previous budget have committed to spending $600 million.


Mr Ron Johnson: We hear the NDP flapping over there, but I've got to tell you, that's $40 million more than the NDP government has ever spent on early childhood education. They're getting all uneasy over there because they like to say over and over again that somehow this government is against children. But we are committed to early childhood educators and the work they do and we're also committed to the children they care for. That is reflected in last spring's budget and in our financial commitments and it's reflected in the fact that I think a number of government members are going to support this particular bill put forward by the Leader of the Opposition.

We look at that and we also look at the good work that the Honourable Janet Ecker had done previous to her new portfolio, when she did a study on early childhood education. We're talking about 12,000 new spots if we move into those reinvestments that are defined in that particular study.

But I want the Liberal leader to do something for me. I'm going to ask a favour. I don't expect her to do it; I'm not that naïve. She doesn't do us favours. But I've got to tell you, I want her to phone up her federal cousins and I want her to find out why her federal cousins have not fulfilled their commitment to the people of this province and this country with the investments they promised the voters in 1993 in terms of early childhood education.

The federal government has turned its nose up at children, has turned its nose up at early childhood educators. They have said unequivocally, "We don't care about children." That is what your federal cousins have said, and I have to tell you, it's absolutely despicable from this side of the House. The people of Ontario deserve better from the federal government and so do the people of this country with respect to early childhood education.

Getting on to Bill 90, which I know this is about, and about establishing the early childhood education teachers' college, I want to say that it's important. I think it's very important that we proceed ahead with this and that we look at putting in place the accountability measures that we can obtain as a result of establishing such a college. I have to say that on the surface, of course, there's nothing wrong with establishing colleges. We've done that with a number of different professions. We can look at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the colleges of dentists and pharmacists, and of course now the Ontario College of Teachers. I think it's something very important in society.

I agree again with the member for Windsor-Riverside when he says that this in essence is consumer protection legislation. That's what colleges are. They're a regulating body, and at the same time it's consumer protection, because really this is about the kids. This is about providing adequate accountability within the child care sector and I certainly think it's something we need to move forward with.


I do have to say, though, that I have a few concerns about this particular bill and I'd be remiss if I didn't bring them up. As much as I am supportive of the general direction that we're moving in with this, right now in Ontario about half of all the people working in child care are actually early childhood educators. So the concern I have is, what happens to the other half? All of a sudden, do we have to have everybody working in child care, even those who are assistants and aides? Do they now have to be early childhood educators? I think this bill needs some work and we have to be very careful that we don't create a whole level of bureaucracy and red tape that could be associated with implementing this.

As long as my concerns are ultimately addressed with respect to the red tape bureaucracy issue and the fact that we have to clearly define parameters with respect to membership and how the college will be made up and impact early childhood educators at the working level -- in Brantford we've got some really good day care facilities and about half of the people in those facilities are actually early childhood educators and the other half are assistants and aides. I just want to make sure that this doesn't totally encompass all of them and force everybody in the child care sector to be an early childhood educator, because I think that would be counterproductive.

I want to just conclude by reaffirming my support for this particular bill and saying that, in spite of the Liberal Party and what has really become a laughable Liberal Party, a party that has been back and forth on almost every issue, absolutely laughable -- and I know the member for Sudbury is all itchy over there and he's getting really concerned and standing up on points of order, and that really --

Mr Bartolucci: On a point of order, Mr Speaker --

Mr Ron Johnson: See, here we go again. You see, that really, Mr Speaker, is because --

The Acting Speaker: Your point of order?

Mr Bartolucci: I'm not itchy at all. The member obviously doesn't know what he's talking about. I respect that he has that ability to speak and not know what he's talking about.

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

Mr Ron Johnson: Case in point.

I just think, in conclusion, that this is a good bill despite the direction in the Legislature that it came from and I certainly reaffirm my support.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I really am pleased to speak to my colleague's bill this morning. Lyn McLeod has worked for some time in the education field in Thunder Bay, and really that was her grounding that led her into politics and eventually here to Queen's Park many years ago. So I am pleased that she has been consistent. She always has been supportive of children and this is just an extension of that.

Unfortunately, this morning it has really turned into quite a partisan discussion where this bill is one of the few that in fact is as least partisan as possible. It really is something that the whole House hopefully will support, that right across the room we're going to have unanimity when it comes to the vote.

When I listen to the debate around the room -- and in particular I'm always amazed by my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside, who stands up to talk about the consistency within the Liberal Party. Now I am pleased to be here in the House, coming from the same community as the member for Windsor-Riverside, because I was in the community when he was the member and when he was the minister, and I was reading the newspapers of many, many groups, all of those who used to bang signs in for the member during an election but whom he wouldn't open the door for when he was the minister, many of the labour groups who wanted to come and speak to our member for Windsor-Riverside and to say: "We really need to talk to you. We have concerns." But Dave Cooke wasn't around. He no longer was listening to them.

That, my friends, was an indication of exactly what the New Democratic Party had done in their term in office and it was so infuriating to be a member of the community and watch that that even I chose to become involved. So it's hardly appropriate for these people now to turn to the Liberal Party. All I want to say, frankly, is pick your target because we've got a much bigger enemy right now and we'll take care of this stuff later. Really, if our member is just trying to get us going in the morning, it has probably worked, as the member for Sudbury has said.

Going back to the bill, the idea of early childhood education for many people who are not involved in the field -- they simply aren't informed to know what a critical role early childhood educators play in the life of a child. In fact most growth for any individual happens in the first three years of life. When early childhood educators actually have intervention to a child at that early stage it makes an enormous difference in the development of the child. Anything that we can do as legislators that means we're going to bring even more quality, even more of a distinction to that group that is teaching our children, is something that all of us in the House must support.

One of the things I knew when I travelled around Ontario and we held rallies trying to ask our government not to cut child care -- I met with mostly early childhood educators and the thing that always impressed me was that they really were concerned about the children, especially for children at risk because they are the ones who need the intervention. In most cases children are identified as being at risk because of the work of early childhood educators. That is how we can get at those kids who need the extra something to level the playing field for them in the rest of their education and in the rest of their development, quite frankly.

I'm more than a little pleased to support the bill because I recognize that it does give that group that professional designation that they require, that I believe they should have, that I believe parents want to see. It also gives the group itself that level of accountability within its own ranks.

I have to make one final comment and that is to the members opposite who talk about their governmental support of child care. Let me say that last year, when our federal cousins were going across Canada to see how they could implement and how they could work with the provinces, it was this Harris government that (1) refused to meet and (2) would not match funds with our federal government moneys available, and that is why Ontario could not participate.

Other provinces in Canada were getting funding for child care, but Ontario did not. The reason why? Because then-Minister Tsubouchi and now-Minister Ecker refused to play with the feds. Instead of worrying about the children and worrying about the numbers, in particular in Metro Toronto, who are doing without very much required spaces, they decided to do the political thing; they decided to fight because they don't have their friends in Ottawa. They refused to work with them. We see that happening issue after issue after issue.

But if you knew that you had to go back to your ridings and say that your Harris government would not match funds with the federal government in order to provide more day care spaces when you come from Kitchener and you know the vast number of people who are looking for the spaces in Kitchener -- I know because I've been there. When you go to Thunder Bay and you realize how many spaces would be required, it's very difficult to turn around now in the House and say that the feds weren't playing games, that the feds didn't want to play and match funds. Ontario in fact refused to come to the table. I think we need to make that absolutely clear: unfortunately this government does not have children as a priority. It is being seen time and time again that children are simply not a priority with government.

I can tell you that while we were campaigning, and unfortunately didn't win, children always have been a priority with the Liberal Party, whether that be at the federal level or at the provincial level.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): It's a pleasure to take part in this debate. I don't have much time left but I do want to say a few things. I will be supporting Ms McLeod's bill because I think it's the right thing to do. I personally don't think there are many more important people in the educational system than our early childhood educators. Just as I supported the College of Teachers for the elementary and secondary school level, I support it for early childhood educators as well.

It's really strange that a bill such as this, which a lot of people support, brought in by the official opposition, would run into such heavy water on a morning like this. It says something about what has transpired in this place over the last year or so.

As far as the member for Sudbury is concerned, who's usually quite a tranquil fellow and well-spoken, it's as though he woke up today and has a bad hair day. I think he's overreacting to the criticism from this party because all we were trying to point out were the inconsistencies of the Liberal Party when it comes to a College of Teachers, and that is hard for us to understand.

When the provincial government, the Tories, talk about their support, it really does make me almost nauseous, considering what you've done to the child care system in this province.

A pox on both your houses, but a lot of goodwill to the early education teachers of this province.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Fort William has two minutes.

Mrs McLeod: I just want to draw a bottom line in terms of priorities and consistency. Let me restate that the bill I present today follows a resolution that was presented by a member of my caucus two years ago and takes the next legislative step forward. This is the first opportunity I've had to bring to bring forward a private member's bill. I appreciate that neither the current government nor the immediate past government, in spite of their beliefs that this legislative recognition was important, was able to bring this forward. I understand the pressures of legislative agendas. I felt this was something I could do at my first opportunity, to present a private member's bill which would make a positive contribution to the quality of care our youngest children receive, and I'm appreciative, amidst all the debate, of the fact that this bill will receive support from all parties in the House.

I understand some of the debate that's gone on in terms of wanting to fight the old fight around the College of Teachers. I understand that the members of the New Democratic Party have a principle, as the member for Beaches-Woodbine has just expressed, that they wanted to see more lay representation on college boards. I differ from that, consistent in my belief that any college should be a self-regulating college of professionals, and that entails having a majority of professionals on that board. That is an essential part of the bill I present today, from my perspective.

I also happen to believe that professional recognition is an important part of this bill and that it is entirely consistent with consumer protection, as the member for Windsor-Riverside has raised. However, I do not believe that our youngest children are solely consumers. They do not have choices. They do not just need protection. They need our commitment to provide the finest quality of care we can possibly provide.

That is what I believe this bill will do, to ensure that we are not only providing for the protection of children but for the provision of standards that will lead to a higher quality of care. With the commitment the House gives to this bill, I trust the government will take it the next steps.



Mr Maves moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 89, An Act to amend the Audit Act to improve the accountability of hospitals, school boards, universities and colleges, municipalities and other organizations which receive payments from the government / Loi modifiant la Loi sur la vérification des comptes publics en vue d'améliorer la responsabilisation au sein des hôpitaux, des conseils scolaires, des universités et des collèges, des municipalités et d'autres organisations qui reçoivent des paiements du gouvernement.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I rise today to speak to my private member's bill. The purpose of this bill is to permit the Provincial Auditor to conduct audits, to the extent he or she considers necessary, of organizations, corporations, associations, foundations, institutions and other bodies that receive payments, directly or indirectly, from the consolidated revenue fund, a government ministry or a government agency.

All members of this House realize what an invaluable service the Provincial Auditor provides to us and to all Ontario taxpayers. Since 1978 the Provincial Auditor has been doing value-for-money audits of our government ministries and identifying to us hundreds of millions of dollars of waste, abuse and inefficiency.

For instance, the auditor spoke out about a previous government's poor accounting practices which hid from public view the actual size of the province's deficit. The auditor revealed waste and abuse in the old Jobs Ontario program. More recently the auditor revealed that there was still fraud and inefficiency within the social assistance system, a navy in the Ministry of Environment and a disturbing level of overprescribing of drugs within the Ontario drug benefit program.

All governments in the past may have been somewhat embarrassed by these revelations but also appreciative, as each would soon after set out to rid the province of the revealed waste and abuse. Taxpayers have been very well served by the Office of the Provincial Auditor. This act simply seeks to expand the types of organizations the Provincial Auditor can audit to continue to assure taxpayers that their dollars will be spent efficiently and appropriately.

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario funds, through ministries, over 7,000 governing bodies for many different types of organizations. The functions of these organizations can vary from providing high-level policy advice to directly providing services to Ontarians. Historically about half the government's annual expenditures are spent by these separately governed organizations. For the year ending March 31, 1996, about $28 billion, or 48% of government funds, was spent by separately governed recipients.

The principal recipients of these grants were colleges, universities, hospitals, municipalities, school boards and many agencies funded by various ministries. The payments made to these bodies are typically conditional. These conditions may require adherence with certain legislation or that these payments be used cost-effectively and for specified government purposes only.

Currently the Provincial Auditor can only conduct inspection audits of these organizations. The definition of an inspection audit is extremely restrictive in that it permits the auditor to look at accounting records only. What this means is that the auditor can look at an organization and say that, yes, they were granted a certain amount of money and that their financial receipts confirm that they received and spent the money. The auditor cannot investigate any further to determine if the money was spent effectively, efficiently and economically.

By way of example, an organization could obtain $1 million of funding to spend on computers. Upon inspection, the financial records would show that they spent $1 million on computers, but if the computers didn't work, an inspection audit would not tell us that, whereas a value-for-money audit would.

The aforementioned revelations of abuse and inefficiencies brought to light over the years would not have been uncovered if the Provincial Auditor had only been able to conduct inspection audits of these ministries.

Conversely, the value-for-money audit is much more exhaustive. Generally, a value-for-money audit includes appraising whether money was spent with due regard to economy and efficiency, whether satisfactory procedures were established to measure and report on the achievement of intended results of programs and whether money was spent for the purposes for which it was intended.

We currently hold up our own ministries to this intensive level of scrutiny and accountability. There is no reason why all of the transfer recipients receiving taxpayers' dollars should not be held to the same level of scrutiny and accountability.

The Provincial Auditor's 1996 annual report says: "A better accountability framework is necessary for the effective management of government finances, spending and resources. Such a framework, especially if anchored in legislation, would provide a better means for the Legislature to assess whether all funds have been and are being spent...for the intended legislative purpose."

I do not think there is a member in this House who would not like to see tax dollars spent more responsibly and agencies made more accountable with respect to the conditions attached to any funding.

Since 1990, members from all three parties on the public accounts committee have been in favour of expanding the Provincial Auditor's authority to do value-for-money audits of grant recipients.

In 1992 the member for Nickel Belt, at the time the province's finance minister, wrote to the Chair of the public accounts committee and said, "As I have said in the past, I support any proposed amendments which will allow the Provincial Auditor's office to continue their important role in ensuring that value for money continues to be received for all government expenditures."

More recently, in November 1995, the Liberal member for Lawrence urged the government to "make the amendments necessary to the Audit Act so the auditor could go in and audit some of these transfer payment recipients."

As you can see, this bill's intent has had all-party support since 1990 and continues to have all-party support.

It is imperative for decision-makers in this province and elsewhere in the country to be provided with reliable information so they can assess each government program or payment and whether it should continue as is, be modified or be discontinued.

The Audit Act in its current form came into effect in April 1978 and gave the auditor the ability to do inspection audits of grant recipients. Initially the auditor conducted inspection audits only on an exception basis, where evidence from ongoing ministry review and agency audits indicated that such audits were advisable.

Between 1984 and 1991 the office expanded audit activity to include the major recipients of government grants. Several audits were conducted in each of the community college, university, hospital and school board sectors. The university and hospital communities were sufficiently concerned about just inspection audits that they proceeded to get legal opinions about the authority and scope of these audits. These legal opinions are proof that the act as defined in its current form does not provide the scope necessary to carry out anything more than a very limited financial audit which does not allow for a sufficient amount of accountability.

Yesterday I received a letter from the chief operating officer of the Ontario Hospital Association which objected to allowing the Provincial Auditor to undertake value-for-money audits in hospitals. The claim is that the Ministry of Health has appropriate accountability structures in place for hospitals. To that argument, I say that we, the members of this assembly, have asked the Provincial Auditor to be our watchdog of these very same ministries which are supposed to be watchdogs of these transfer organizations. If we believe that the taxpayers deserve an independent auditor to look into the spending practices of the ministries, then how could we not, by extension, believe that an auditor is also needed to periodically look into the spending practices of the agencies that these ministries give money to?

The Provincial Auditor has told me and said publicly many times that he is a servant of the members of this House. A major part of our job when we are elected by the taxpayers is to make sure that their dollars are spent properly, to make sure that they are indeed getting value for their money. The Provincial Auditor tells us directly, without any middleman, with no bureaucratic bafflegab to get lost in, whether or not we are receiving value for the money we vote to spend. To leave this function entirely to the career civil service in these cases would be an abdication of our responsibility.

As mentioned above, the universities and hospital communities have in the past hired law firms to make sure the Provincial Auditor could not come into their institutions to conduct value-for-money audits. Well, this action is very disturbing. Public institutions have used public funds to hire lawyers in order to keep the public from being able to determine whether their money was being spent properly. When hospitals and universities are so nervous about the Provincial Auditor doing value-for-money audits of their institutions, it reinforces the belief that there indeed is a need for the auditor to conduct such audits.


This is really a fairly straightforward matter. Institutions and organizations in this province which receive substantial sums of taxpayers' dollars should be subject to full audits by the watchdog for the people, the Provincial Auditor. I hope that all of my colleagues on both sides of this House will see the public good in this bill and support its passage.

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

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I'm pleased to add my voice to the bill here today. I'm going to support it, not that the bill does a great deal for the people of Ontario but because it's practically redundant. The actions of the government that we have seen in the past year or year and a half already give the government, the various ministers, every power that they want to look, open, audit any book in Ontario where the government is giving agencies, hospitals or school boards funds. Perhaps this is another way for the government to grandstand, to try to grasp a little bit of the public's attention.

I think what the government is trying to do with the introduction of bills such as this one here is that for the next couple of years or so they will be trying very desperately to undo what they have been doing over the past year or year and a half. I think what we will see in the next couple of years is a government that will be scrambling to undo the damage they have done with their irresponsible bills, laws if you will, that they have so utterly imposed upon the people of Ontario.

We have a government that keeps on saying, "We want less government, we want to eliminate bureaucracies, we want to eliminate red tape," and here we go and create another layer of bureaucracy.

Interjection: It's already there.

Mr Sergio: It's already there. Well, you see, it's already there. If it's already there, what do we need on top of that? Do we need more on top of that? Certainly not. I'll tell you, there are no better agencies than local municipal governments, which are run more efficiently than any other agency where the government has their fingers in it.

The Minister of Health has the power to eliminate totally the hospital boards, for example. They can put in their own man or men and do whatever the heck they want. They don't have to do this. This is not needed. Why do they do it?

The government tends to run their business in the normal way they have started since the last election: suggest some actions without saying why, what for. Do we have a problem with some school boards? Do we have a problem with some municipalities? Do we have a problem with some agencies where the government has been giving them money? Why don't they give us the needed information, the tools, and say: "You know what? We have a problem with funding hospitals, funding local municipalities. We have a problem here." Show us the problem. Let the public know what they're intending to do.

Their real intent is not that, because if they showed us, they would show the people of Ontario that by introducing this new law, they would be bringing less government, more efficiencies in those particular agencies, such as school boards, hospital boards and so forth, and would make it more effective. This is the same with all the other bills the government has introduced where they said, "This is what we want to do." But, heck, they don't tell us why they want to do that. So please tell us before we go to the people of Ontario and say, "We want to have another audit, because the auditing for accounting records doesn't do."

If they have a problem giving funds to particular agencies, they shouldn't be giving funds in the first place. But when we are talking school boards, hospital administrations, municipalities, I have a problem. As I said, it doesn't do anything because the powers being requested are already there. I see it as a redundancy.

When we are saying we want to have a further audit, a value-for-money audit, what does it really mean? Is it that now we are creating another body to oversee the minute receipts of a particular government agency or hospital board? What does the government create when we are trying to impose the government's will, if you will, on another agency? Are we going to send those agencies underground to hide things? Is this what the government's thinking of doing? Certainly not.

I only have a few minutes. As I said, I have already committed myself to supporting the bill because it doesn't do a heck of a lot to change things. But I cannot understand it. The government is cutting here, is cutting there, and then you say: "We want to do more. We want to have audited some of those agencies we are trying to assist." So what does the government want to do? Do they want more cuts, less service, more responsibilities, more accountability? Do they want more efficiencies? The government should tell us, tell the people of Ontario, how they can accomplish that.

One thing I would like to say especially is on behalf of the local municipalities. There is no other level of government more open, more accountable, than the local level of government. Every particular department is scrutinized not only by the local council but the provincial government and auditors as well. What is the real reason, then, for the government to bring forth another bill like this? It is certainly to take the responsibility away from those agencies. It is to divert the real responsibility of the government and not to pull the wool over the eyes of those agencies that are doing a good job.

As I have said, I have a few minutes. I'm going to support the bill, but the power the government wants, it already has.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Before I tell the members opposite which way I plan to vote on this bill, I just want to go through some of what I think the bill will do and then sum up at the end by trying to let you know where I'll be voting on this.

What comes to my mind when I read this bill is that what he wants to do on the surface looks to be okay. He's saying, "Let's extend the provincial powers of the auditors" -- the auditors of the Provincial Auditor -- "to go out and audit municipalities, audit school boards, audit provincial agencies which receive money, and to make sure that the dollars taxpayers are giving to these other agencies are properly spent."


When I hear that kind of discussion going on and I see this legislation come forward, is the member suggesting that municipalities, school boards and hospitals are not accountable already? Is the member across the way saying that the municipalities across this province are wasting taxpayer dollars to such a degree that there is large concern and the provincial government has to reach into the municipalities and put its heavy hand on the backs of the councillors and the mayors of the cities and towns across this province to make sure they're doing their job right?

As a member representing a constituency with three municipalities, namely, Timmins, Iroquois Falls and Matheson, those particular organizations, I would say, are very responsible about how they spend taxpayers' dollars. If I look at what Mayor Power has done in the city of Timmins, what Mayor Graham has done, what they've done out in the town of Matheson, I have never seen examples to cause me to be concerned that they're wasting taxpayers' dollars. They are the local level of government. They are the closest government to the people they represent. If they do something inappropriate or that the public doesn't like, they're the first ones to find out. The municipal politicians, I find, tend to take their jobs fairly responsibly and people take their concerns to them fairly quickly.

Is it that the government wants to put its hands on the back of every mayor and every councillor across the province to make sure they're doing its bidding, doing things the way the provincial government wants things done? Is that really what we're trying to do here? If that's the case, I would not vote for this bill.

If the government is saying, "We think we can do things more efficiently by finding a different way of doing audits to municipalities, to school boards and hospitals across this province in a way that saves taxpayers some dollars," maybe then I'd support it. But it seems to me that the government, through this bill, through a private member's bill, is not putting its money where its mouth is, quite frankly, and it's quite contrary to everything else they're doing as government legislation.

If you watch what the government has been doing around the who-does-what-to-whom exercise, the whole purpose of that is to say: "Let's remove duplication from the various levels of government. Where you've got municipal governments and you've got regional governments and the province doing things jointly, let's clearly give the responsibility to one." That's something our government, under the New Democratic leadership of Bob Rae, had already started; actually, some of that started under the Liberal government as well.

Is what the government is doing with this bill to say, "We will remove the requirement from municipalities and others to audit themselves, and we will send the auditor in to do that instead"? I think the member needs to be clear about what direction the government wants to take on this particular bill.

First of all, I want to say this outright so there's no question in anybody's mind where I'm coming from on this. I support in general that there's public accountability. I haven't got a problem with that. Where I've got a problem is that the tone of this bill, along with the actions of the government this far, if I were a municipal alderman or on a hospital board, would say that I'm not doing my job right and I'm unaccountable and that the province has to come in and has to look over my shoulder to make sure I'm doing things right.

I say to the member across the way, who just got elected in 1995, I want you to recognize that there are already mechanisms within the province that your government has and which those agencies must adhere to that do make sure there is a good accountability about how taxpayers' dollars are spent. If you take a look at school boards, for example, and municipalities, they have to put their books out to the public every year through an auditing process. They don't spend taxpayers' dollars out in the dark. They strike their budgets, as the province does. Then, once they've decided how their budget is going to be spent, they go out through their administration and spend the money they're entrusted to spend and carry on the services of the school board, and at the end there is an accountability process that happens.

That the Provincial Auditor should have a duplicate role of going in after they've already been audited to do it all over again to make sure that proper policy has been followed, because I think that's what you're talking about here, I say is wrong. It is not the job of the auditor to determine what public policy should be and how it's being followed. His job, I think, should be restricted to what he's doing within the provincial realm and leave those parts to the municipalities.

The other thing is that the member would remember there was a bill that came before this House, oh, I think it was about November, about this time last year. It was called, as Speaker McLean referred to it, the ominous bill, or the omnibus bill, Bill 26. In that particular bill your government extended your powers as ministers and as cabinet to do much of what you're talking about doing in this bill.

For example in hospitals, because of Bill 26 a Minister of Health is able to take a whole board of a hospital and put them under administration and say, "We don't give a tinker's dam what the people in the city of Timmins have to say about how their hospital is run." If the minister disagrees with the decisions being made by the board of the Timmins and District Hospital, or Bingham hospital, or Anson General, he can appoint his or her trustee, who would then go in and take over the entire running of the hospital. It seems to me you've got far-sweeping, draconian powers as it is, to be able to tell the people of this province how you want their dollars spent, without having to come in with this particular bill.

I'm trying to say here, in closing off that part, that I find this somewhat intrusive. I agree with and support without any difficulty the ability to make sure that taxpayers' dollars are being spent wisely and are being spent according to the public policies we set forth in our Legislature, as are set forth at municipal and school board levels. I want to make sure that at the end there's an accountability and I have no problem with that. I will support the bill under that premise, but I want to tell the member right up front that I have some grave concerns about what he is really talking about under this bill.

It is a tradition in this Legislature -- this has not happened since the Tories have taken power, but normally we afford to private members the opportunity to have their bills passed at second reading, give them an opportunity to see the light of day at a committee, then make a decision. In the spirit of what this House is all about I will vote in favour of this bill, but I want to say there are some real questions.

On the question the member raises in regard to value-for-money audits, I just want to let you know I sat on public accounts before you were here, and there was not unanimity within the committee in regard to allowing the Provincial Auditor to have value-for-money audits. It was put forward by Mr Peters, our public auditor, and it echoed through members of your caucus and the Liberal caucus, that we do value-for-money audits on things. I say now what I said back then: Yes, you want public accountability, but there are times when the provincial government is going to spend money on a program or service to a community that is far in excess of what is being spent in another community. Sometimes there are good reasons for that. As I said in public accounts, and if you go back and look at Hansard you'll find the comment, if you go into Attawapiskat or Chapleau or Calstock, it may cost a lost more money to provide a certain service for the citizens within that community. It might be quite a bit more expensive.

If we run a hospital in some of those communities the costs are quite a lot higher because of all kinds of reasons, from geography to isolation to not being able to take advantage of certain services that would normally be available in a community that the hospital has to do itself. Therefore we sometimes spend more money, but there is a good reason for that. As a matter of public policy we as legislators and as people in this province say it is important that people, no matter where they live in this province, have a certain level of service that is available to them as its citizens.

If you move to value-for-money audits according to the way Mr Peters had echoed it at the public accounts committee when I was there, a case could be made that you would not offer certain services in particular communities because political hay could be made with how much the price for those items is. For example, a school expenditure in the community of Attawapiskat up on the James Bay coast is much more expensive per pupil than it would be, let's say, in the city of Timmins, but there's a good reason that. It's much more expensive for all kinds of reasons. Often teachers don't even come from the home community, and you're going to spend more dollars per student.

When some political opportunists of the right wing would stand up and say, "Look at how much money we're spending on Attawapiskat, look at how much money we're spending in Timmins, and is this ever terrible," the public might accept the argument just on the surface, not recognizing there are reasons why we're spending more money in Atawapiskat. There are community and social conditions that we must take into account. In a community like Attawapiskat you would have to bring into the school a whole component around native education that you would not have to do in the city of Timmins.

I think that value-for-money audits, although they sound like a good idea, have some dangerous repercussions if the results are taken by political opportunists of the right wing to expose how badly the government is spending money in a particular area where that may not be the case.


Je ne fais pas ceci pour commencer de faire l'agent provocateur. Le gouvernement, jusqu'à date, me démontre qu'ils ont vraiment un appétit, quand il s'agit de pouvoir, pour mettre la main autour et contrôler les services dans la province, même les services pour lesquels ils ne sont pas responsables.

Quand les agences municipales -- les hôpitaux, les écoles et d'autres services -- font des affaires avec lesquelles le gouvernement n'est pas d'accord, on voit beaucoup d'exemples où le gouvernement commence d'envoyer des messages très directs à ces agences en disant, «Écoutez, si vous faites quelque chose contre notre politique, qui nuit au gouvernement conservateur, on va tout d'un coup possiblement enlever votre financement,» comme l'avait dit Mme Cunningham à un certain groupe à London.

Je le sais de la part d'un maire dans le nord de l'Ontario qui ne veut pas le dire ouvertement en ce moment, mais il s'est fait dire directement que s'il continuait de faire des bruits contre le gouvernement provincial, il est possible que des demandes de financement avancées par la municipalité pourraient se faire nuire grâce à ses actions. Il y a des soins de santé dans ma communauté où les personnes responsables se sont fait dire très directement par le ministère, et par le bureau du ministre jusqu'à un certain point, que si leur point de vue est négatif, contre la politique du gouvernement, c'est très possible que ça allait nuire à leur financement.

Si cette législation mise de l'avant en était la seule et je ne voyais pas tous les indices que le gouvernement a mis en place jusqu'à date, toutes les actions, peut-être que je n'aurais pas de problème. Mais en vue de toutes les autres affaires, j'ai peur, je crains qu'à la fin de la journée le gouvernement pourra en profiter, que la raison pour le projet de loi ne sera pas suivie et que ce sera plutôt pour l'agenda politique.

In principle I will support the bill. I will give the member the opportunity to have his say in committee, if it comes to committee, to answer some of those questions.

I'd like to thank you very much for my time in the debate.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): It's my pleasure to respond today to my colleague the member for Niagara Falls's private member's bill, the Accountability Improvement Act, which proposes amendments to the Audit Act.

The member for Niagara Falls I feel has brought an important bill designed to improve accountability of previous moneys entrusted to government agencies and transfer partners. The objective of the proposed act is to ensure that these moneys have been used for intended purposes and that activities were carried out in an economic and efficient manner.

Ensuring that public moneys are spent wisely is something that I believe all members of this House support. I would like to thank the member for Niagara Falls for his personal efforts in trying to improve public accountability in this important area and offer my support today for this objective.

The Accountability Improvement Act would allow the Provincial Auditor's office to conduct value-for-money audits of organizations that receive money from the consolidated revenue fund. Few of the public outside of government certainly understand just how much money we are talking about.

The government's expenses for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1996, totalled $57.1 billion. Of that amount, $40.1 billion was made in the form of transfer payments. These payments supported all types of services to the public, primarily through grants to municipalities, school boards, hospitals, colleges and universities. It is crucial that taxpayers be assured that their money is being spent wisely. That is why I believe the objective underlying the Accountability Improvement Act is a good one.

This government strongly supports increased accountability. In fact we have already implemented many initiatives, in the past year and a half since we've been elected, to improve and clarify the precision of information that is available to members of this House and to the public.

We have published business plans which the Provincial Auditor recognized as the first step towards improved accountability; we have produced an annual report to present to Ontario's taxpayers, a simplified overview of this province's finances; and we have ended the practice of keeping two sets of books and have reported the province's true fiscal picture. The public can now review the government's plan --


The Acting Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, come to order, please.

Ms Bassett: -- and the reports on actual performance knowing the information in these reports is compiled in a consistent manner.

These initiatives were the result of recommendations made by the Ontario Financial Review Commission, which the government established in the summer of 1995 to review the government's financial practices. We are committed to implementing the commission's recommendations, as the finance minister stated in his 1996 Ontario budget, and we will continue to improve accountability for public resources entrusted to this province.

Another important government initiative already under way is the Who Does What panel, headed by David Crombie. The recommendations of this panel may change the relationship between the government and its transfer payment partners. That may in turn change the scope of how this bill would apply, but it won't change the good idea that it represents and it won't weaken our commitment to public accountability.

This government, as the Provincial Auditor notes in his 1996 annual report, has made significant progress in improving accountability by enhancing the quality of financial information available to the Legislature and through the publication of Ontario's business plans earlier this year. This government intends to continue to improve the accountability to the House and to Ontario taxpayers.

Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I rise in the House today to support this bill: a bill of accountability, a bill to better ensure value for money. The little guy, the taxpayer in my riding, can't afford to toss money away. My taxpayers, my seniors, my working poor, need every dollar. Money they entrust to us to spend wisely -- taxes -- must be accounted for. It isn't fair that some groups that receive government money never have to account for it.

The taxpayer, through various government agencies, provides grants and subsidies to many groups. A vast number of these groups have high administration costs. That usually means those in charge are paying themselves pretty impressive salaries. Instead of passing money on to the needy, these groups simply gobble up the money and pay themselves, justifying their actions in the fact that they are talking of helping the poor.

We must ensure that as much of the money as possible goes to charity and not to those who run the charities and foundations. That is why I rise in the House today to support this bill which permits the Provincial Auditor to audit any body, group or association that receives public money from the province or one of its agencies, commissions, boards or foundations.

The private sector must account for funds to its shareholders, to the taxpayer and to its lenders. Public companies have rigid full disclosure requirements. Shouldn't groups that are awarded grants, gifts and subsidies have to account to the donors, the taxpayers?

It has been my experience that the poor get shafted by what I call the poverty industry. This is the large group of people who earn a living as middlemen between those who donate to charities and foundations and those they seek to help. Those who work in the poverty industry talk a lot about the poor, and they pay themselves a lot for doing it.

During the hearings of the standing committee on finance, I witnessed the same legal aid lawyer represent at least two groups. His résumé listed over 50 poverty groups. He was a wealthy man due to the poverty industry. Under the guise of helping the poor, he has flourished.


Hard-earned taxpayers' money is frittered away by uncaring bureaucrats, bureaucrats who dispense money so they have a job, bureaucrats who aren't concerned with the use of the money, just the administrative work of reading the proposal and writing the cheques. The bureaucrats are not really concerned about accountability, but the taxpayers are and I am.

It is incomprehensible for the little guy to fund the poverty industry while not knowing the true results of those expenditures. The little guys in my riding are nice people who, for the grace of God, go they in hardship and poverty, the little guys who have been ripped off and now are getting taken advantage of again. Imagine subsidizing millionaires who take advantage of our compassion for the poor. Imagine subsidizing crazy political movements, some of them violent, at the expense of the poor.

Accountability is what this bill requires: value for money. Salary disclosure should not scare any truly compassionate person who wants to help the poor. This bill will ensure good internal control over taxpayer money. Taxpayer money ought to be spent wiser and better. We've all heard of some charities that have administrative costs exceeding 80% of revenues. I know of one funding recipient which receives $3.6 million from the government and grants $2.8 million. It costs them $800,000 to cut a few cheques. The public, which is paying, has a right to know where its money is going. Full and honest disclosure will ensure this.

Many receiving government money are social activist groups or groups promoting political beliefs. They hide their motives while appealing to our compassion and charity. Instead of giving money to the poor, they promote a political agenda and use the money to pay themselves. This was a growth industry under the previous NDP government. The czars of the give, grant and spend industry sold out the poor after using the poor to extort cash from the public purse.

We're not talking trust, but common sense. This Legislature must be accountable for every dollar it spends, and that includes the money we give to groups, foundations and causes. Let's make sure the money is going to those who really need it. Let's ensure the needy get real help. Let's make certain the needy get real value for the money taxpayers spend.

Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): It's certainly a pleasure as well to rise today to speak in support of Bill 89, standing in the name of my colleague the member for Niagara Falls. I have to say on a personal note that over the past 18 months I've come to know this member quite well, both personally and professionally, and I think this bill is very indicative of this individual's strong views to achieve greater accountability in our public expenditures process. Therefore his sponsorship of this bill comes as no surprise to me, and I congratulate him on that basis.

Bill 89, introduced by my colleague, would amend the definition of "audit" in the act so that the Provincial Auditor may conduct an audit to the extent he or she considers necessary. It would also seek to expand the ability to conduct audits, to the extent necessary, of secondary recipients such as organizations, corporations, associations, foundations and institutions and any other bodies that may receive payments, directly or indirectly, from the consolidated revenue fund.

In my mind, this is an important first step to modernize what I consider to be significant constraints with respect to accountability in auditing in this province. This bill would assist in amending the Audit Act so that the Provincial Auditor is able to determine whether the recipients of these grants and payments have met the conditions of funding.

Again from a personal perspective, I truly believe the constituents of Middlesex and London want to be assured, within reason -- I must emphasize "within reason" -- that our public expenditures are relevant and transparent, but above all accountable, in order that they and all other Ontarians can be assured that their tax dollars are being spent responsibly.

This bill, in my mind, should not be construed, as the member for Yorkview has suggested, as being redundant or as government grandstanding. In a similar vein, and while I respect the comments of the member for Cochrane South, I don't share his concern about the heavy-handedness of this bill. It's truly about getting and introducing accountability into the auditing system of this province.

In the few minutes that I have there is really little opportunity to effectively discuss the rationale between value-for-money versus inspection audits and I think the member sponsoring the bill has adequately done that in his opening remarks.

What I can say is I met with various groups and organizations in my own riding last week. There was a common theme that I've heard from them as they've made various presentations in the context of organizational relationships and reporting mechanisms that affect their organizations. Those words are "relevancy" and "transparency." I believe this is an appropriate expectation on behalf of the public, given the some 48% of government funds that are spent by recipients of government transfer payments. For the year ended March 31, 1996, this translated into approximately $28 billion. I believe this is an appropriate means to address public expectation on this issue.

As we look to page 18 of the annual report of the Office of the Provincial Auditor, it's very evident that there's been considerable discussion around this issue for some time, discussion coming from our own caucus, the Conservative caucus, in A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario in 1992, and readdressed in comments by the Honourable Floyd Laughren when he was serving as Treasurer of the province and Deputy Premier.

I share the viewpoint expressed by the auditor, and that viewpoint is one whereby permitting his office to carry out value-for-money audits of grant recipients who are given government funds to achieve legislative purpose would make his office's services to the Legislative Assembly, to the public accounts committee, and through them to the taxpayers, more comprehensive and more effective.

I certainly concur with the intention of this bill and support it in its entirety. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to it for the few minutes I've had.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I just want to speak for a couple of minutes -- that's all I've got left -- and say that I was impressed by the comments of the member for Cochrane South, although I think I'll be voting differently than he's going to be voting when it comes to the vote on the bill.

I think there are already appropriate audits done in all our public agencies and I'm not sure what you're attempting to prove with this. It might give the Provincial Auditor another photo opportunity out on the 407, which is a very unusual thing for a Provincial Auditor to do, I must add. I was quite surprised that he would be put in that position of taking advantage of such a photo op. But this will perhaps give him more opportunities.

I will be voting against this bill, partly because of the very arguments that the member for Cochrane South used. I ran into a difficulty in my own constituency where I very much wanted a road built to a small community and I had a horrible time convincing not only the bureaucracy but my colleagues of the need for that road because the traffic counts did not justify the expenditures on that road, to have it rebuilt.

It was an isolated community and you could not justify it by the numbers. You could only justify it by the need for that road for the people in that community, a community of about 3,000 people. So I had a terrible time. Finally we ended up doing it but in a fairly, quite frankly, heavy-handed way to get it through. Then it was so late in our mandate that we didn't get it started when the election was called and of course the new government cancelled it. I understand that. I'm not bitter or angry about that. But that was a case where an audit for value would not have justified that road. You can make the argument that it shouldn't be built, but I think there are other considerations that go into these kinds of decisions, and in that case I felt the road was indeed justified.

So for that reason I shall be voting against this bill.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I will be supporting the bill. I must say this is a topic that was debated in the public accounts committee during the entire reign of Mr Laughren when he was the finance minister. I understand the comments he's just made, but the topic is accountability and I think the public demands more accountability for that hard-earned tax dollar, so I encourage all members to support the bill.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This is a rather interesting bill. I always look at the motivations of various bills that we see out there. This government is embarking upon an attack on the people who are mentioned in this bill in so many ways that I am afraid that the way they will view this, whether they should or not, is as an attack on their integrity and on their ability to manage hospitals, school boards, universities, colleges and municipalities.

The auditor already has certain powers to deal with these various transfer groups and I have found that to be an interesting exercise and a helpful exercise from time to time. But there's a general pattern. If this were not part of a general pattern, there would be much less suspicion from those groups that perhaps the government has another agenda, that the government wants to continue its attack. One of the ways it's attacking all these agencies is by depriving the agencies of the funding they require to carry out their responsibilities in the various fields.

A lot of them know the reason for this is the tax scheme the government has come up with, a tax scheme which is going to require the government of Ontario to borrow money to give people a tax cut. When I talk to small-c conservative friends I know, whether they are in the economics field, the business field or the Rotary Club, they wonder how it is that the government that is so worried about the provincial deficit is going to borrow money to give a tax break to people, those people being those who are at the highest income getting the most of it.

They can't figure this out. They say, "Why at the end of the Conservative term of office will there be $20 billion more in provincial debt?" Well, that's because they're going to have to borrow the money to give a tax cut which largely benefits the richest people.

My Conservative friends -- never mind the Liberals or New Democrats or anything -- can't figure that out. My friend from Wellington can't figure that out. I've read where he said it was not a wise thing to be doing. The member for Grey-Owen Sound has wondered about this. The person who is now the Speaker, the Honourable Chris Stockwell, wondered about that aloud. The former Honourable -- because he was a minister -- Morley Kells, the member for Lakeshore, all of these people have wondered why the government would embark upon a risky tax scheme, as it is, in order that they can give money to the richest people in our society and that they would have to borrow the money, borrow additionally to give a tax break.

The people I'm talking to say: "Look, let's keep our services. Let's not close the hospitals in Ottawa that they're going to close. Let's leave that money there to do a good job for us in terms of health care. Let's ensure we have a good education system. Let's ensure our universities and colleges are able to carry out their responsibilities to make Ontario the truly competitive province we want it to be."

Yet, what do I hear? "No, it's more important to borrow some more money to give a tax cut to the most wealthy people in our society and add $20 billion to the provincial debt." Now this is bizarre, absolutely bizarre.

Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): What's in the red book?

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Please lecture on Kennedy.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Read the red book.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Bradley: I suspect from the level of noise I'm hearing from my friends on the government benches that a lot of them agree with me. They can't figure out why the whiz kids from the republican guard have sold this to the Premier and our formerly prudent Treasurer. They can't figure this out. So why not divert some attention by attacking these various agencies with a bill in the House that'll divert attention from the government?

Now the bill itself: Is it a malicious attack? I suspect not. But I simply look at the motivation of the government. I look across at my good friend from Niagara Falls and I say, "So young, yet so old." But they tell me in the Conservative Party that is the case, that the younger they are the more right-wing their views are. That's what I'm told by many in the party.

I want to leave some time for the member for Kingston and The Islands, because he has some very important things to say about this particular initiative today.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): It's always so difficult to follow my colleague from St Catharines, because he makes such eminent sense.


The Acting Speaker: Would the members come to order, please.

Mr Gerretsen: It bears repeating that this is supposed to be the government of common sense, yet what are they doing? They are borrowing $20 billion over the next four to five years in order to give a tax cut to their wealthy friends. Let's not forget that 90% of the tax cut, $4.5 billion, goes to people who earn $100,000 or more. I think that's what we really should be talking about in the House. If that money were left in the system, not only would we not be increasing the public debt of the province but we would also still have money available to look after the health care of this province properly and to look after the education system of this province properly.

In dealing with this bill, let me just say that I congratulate the member for Niagara Falls for coming up with a bill that I can certainly support.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Brantford, come to order.

Mr Gerretsen: But let's hope we use some real common sense in the way in which this bill is going to be applied, because there are many situations where we have organizations that receive relatively small amounts of money from the province in one way or the other or through one of its agencies. I would hope the audit they would be subjected to is not going to cost more than the actual dollars they're receiving from the province.

I congratulate him on this bill. I will support him on it because I think it is the right way to go. I think it will lead to greater accountability. But let's make sure that the way the bill will be implemented will be in a real commonsense way, not in the revolutionary sense that these Common Sense Revolutionaries normally talk about.

The Acting Speaker: The mover has two minutes to sum up.

Mr Maves: I thank my colleagues on all sides of the House for their comments and support on the bill.

I can't let the member for St Catharines's comments go unresponded to. He has said there should be no growth in the debt over the next four years. The only way we could do that is if we had a zero deficit over the next four years. So he supports faster, deeper cuts. Good. It's good to have that on the record.

I'd like to say, speaking to the motivation of the government, that there is no motivation for the government because this is a private member's bill, and the traditions of this House are that the government doesn't interfere with private members' bills. They haven't interfered with this bill. I respect the traditions of this House, and this is my private member's bill, not a government bill.

Some have raised questions about duplication and growth of bureaucracy. I would like to say that last year the Provincial Auditor did 18 value-for-money audits of branches of ministries in the government. If this bill passes, they won't be increasing or doubling the size of their office; they will simply take their 84 staff, down from about 120 a few years ago, and instead of looking into branches of ministries, they'll maybe check into one of the 20-plus universities or one of the 800-plus municipalities or one of the 220 hospitals in the province. They'll do that because, regardless of what the institution is, if the taxpayers' money is going into a government institution to fund certain activities in that institution, they have the right and they deserve from this government and from all members of this House to know that that money is being spent appropriately. That's what this bill is all about.

The Acting Speaker: The time provided for private members' business has expired.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): We will deal first with ballot item number 49, standing in the name of Mrs McLeod. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mrs McLeod has moved second reading of Bill 90. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Pursuant to standing order 94(k), the bill is referred to committee of the whole House.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Madam Speaker, I suggest it is appropriate for it to go to a committee of the Legislature rather than committee of the whole House so it would get some further consideration. Perhaps social development.

The Acting Speaker: You would like it to go to the standing committee on social development? You can certainly ask that. Is that agreed? No? Okay, all those in favour of the bill going to the social development committee please rise and remain standing.

Would the members take their seats, please. There is not a majority in favour; therefore, the bill will be referred to the committee of the whole House.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): We will now deal with ballot item number 50, standing in the name of Mr Maves. If any members are opposed to this motion, please rise.

Mr Maves has moved second reading of Bill 89. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."

Those opposed please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.

Pursuant to standing order 94(k), the bill is referred to committee of the whole House.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): No, I would request that the bill be sent to the standing committee on general government.

The Acting Speaker: Is there authority that the bill be sent to the standing committee on general government? All those in favour of the motion please rise and remain standing.

Please take your seats. The majority is in favour of the bill being referred to the general government committee.

The House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1202 to 1332.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Today I rise on the matter we raised yesterday in the House regarding Kathy and Dale Mutter and their daughter Quincy. The minister said that all it takes to get a new doctor in this province is to make a simple call to his office. Let me remind the House what the Mutters had to go through to get a doctor for their daughter.

They and their doctor spent a week trying to find a paediatric cardiologist, but to no avail. Then the parents called Jim Wilson's office and were told to call the College of Physicians and Surgeons. One of my staff called Wilson's office on behalf of the Mutters and was told the exact same thing. Then the college gave the Mutters the name of a doctor who had already turned them down and the name of a doctor at Sick Kids who would only consider giving them an appointment next March or April.

It was only when the Mutters came down to Queen's Park and we asked you to do something about the deplorable situation that the Mutters got a doctor for their baby. The Mutters made the phone call, my office also made the phone call and you did nothing. Then we raised the issue in the House. All of a sudden you were ready to act.

Minister, I will take you at your word. I invite all Ontarians who, like the Mutters, are caught in the middle of this government's bungled negotiations and can't find a doctor: Call on Jim Wilson himself at 327-4300. But be warned because, as the Mutters found out --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I appreciate what you're doing, but signs are out of order, and giving out a minister's phone number too is I think pushing it to some degree.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's public information.

The Speaker: I understand, but he first off has a sign. That's out of order too.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Ontarians have been strong supporters of TVOntario for over 25 years. We are proud of the successes our very own provincial broadcaster has achieved. Here are just a few examples of the international recognition TVOntario has attained: Polkaroo, Ontario's well-loved children's character will appear on Chinese television starting next season with a potential audience of 125 million; TVO's top-rated, youth-oriented science show Inquiring Minds has also been sold to China's national broadcaster, to Japan's national broadcaster and to A&E in the United States. This has generated $400,000 in gross revenue for TVOntario.

TVOntario continues to win international acclaim. The Alliance for Children and Television chose TVOntario as their first organization to receive their Special Achievement Award. TVOntario is a finalist again for the international Emmy's UNICEF Award and Canada's Genie awards.

On Tuesday of this week, I and a number of my colleagues in this Legislature participated in the on-air membership campaign. MPPs helped to raise memberships in TVO, thereby increasing self-generated revenues and keeping TVO a strong force in Canada's public broadcasting arena.

All this is occurring while TVO is in the public sector, provincially funded. TVOntario is ours. Let's keep it that way. Don't sell it off.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): I'm pleased to stand in the Legislature today to discuss an announcement in my riding this past Tuesday that is of concern to all in this House.

In keeping with the government's commitment to place the rights of the victim ahead of the rights of the criminal in our system of justice, I was honoured to have the Attorney General, the minister responsible for seniors and Debbie Mahaffy present for the announcement of the new victim/witness assistance program for Milton. This program will provide victims and witnesses of crime, 90% of whom are women and children, with the information and support they need to avoid being retraumatized by their appearance in court.

I want to take this opportunity to reiterate what both the Attorney General and my colleague from Burlington stated so eloquently on Tuesday morning, because it is something we want to make clear to those present in this House and to all Ontarians, "This government will not accept a justice system that allows victims of crime to suffer twice -- first at the hands of the criminal, and second at the hands of a justice system that does not respect their needs."

I implore all members of this House to take a moment out in recognition of November as Domestic Assault and Crime Prevention Month and remember the victims of crime.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Today the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing will introduce nothing more than a tenant destruction bill. It's getting close to Christmas, just in time for the Tory grinches to take away all protection from tenants and leave many with nowhere to go because of unnecessary rent hikes.

The Tories have completely ignored the concerns raised in their sham public hearings and declared war on Ontario's tenants. I've already been through one round of public hearings with your so-called discussion paper. It was amazing that you didn't listen to tenants' concerns, Minister, in developing this legislation, and that's reflected in the bill being introduced today. I hope the minister gives his assurance that he will not limit consultation on this bill and that he will hold full public consultation. I hope this time he listens to tenants.

This government is now famous for ramming through controversial omnibus bills, forcing closure on debate and limiting public consultation when bulldozing through with bills. I hope for the sake of tenants that they will make significant changes to this destructive tenant legislation, or even withdraw it.

Al Leach tells the media that his plan will stimulate building of affordable housing, but there is no way this plan can do that. This plan takes rental units out of the rental pool. It gives landlords the green light to put a wrecking ball to their apartment buildings and rebuild condos. The vacancy decontrol is a fast track to eliminating rent control. This bill almost guarantees that once a unit becomes vacant by a tenant moving out, landlords will be able to jack up the rents.

The Minister of Housing promised landlords he would deliver, and today he delivers.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): In the last couple of weeks I've had several meeting with the tenants of the Walmer-Spadina area -- there are many buildings there -- and some of the buildings on St George Street. These are the buildings and tenants who live in the riding of St Andrew-St Patrick. They haven't seem much of the member there with respect to these concerns.

But I tell you, they tell me they're very, very worried and frightened about what we're about to hear from the Minister of Housing today. They're worried about the harassment they've had to face over the years and that that is likely to continue no matter what policies you introduce. They talked about a number of the ugly incidents that they've had to suffer with their landlords over the years, that they are continuing to suffer with respect to issues of harassment.

They're worried about conversion of their buildings to condominiums. They're worried about their rents going up. Many talk about the fact that they pay high rents as it is. When they hear that rents are likely to go up even more, they're worried about themselves and they're worried about the state of our economic affairs when they have to put more money into rent instead of spending it on other things. They're worried about this government taking off the rent freeze when landlords are not doing the necessary repairs to their building. They've told me that this minister is going to hear from those residents, and in fact all the tenants in Ontario.



Mr John L. Parker (York East): I rise to bring to the attention of all members that this week over 15,000 Ontarians of Latvian descent celebrate the 78th anniversary of the declaration of independence of the Republic of Latvia, an event which took place for the first time on November 18, 1918. For the next two decades Latvians worked hard to build a strong, proud country, a country with an exemplary standard of living, a country which boasted one of the highest literacy rates in the world, a country known for its tolerance towards its citizens of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

During the Second World War, years of hard work, pride and perseverance came to an end with periods of Nazi and Soviet occupation. In the ensuing decades, the Soviets succeeded in destroying the work of 20 years of independence.

Since regaining its independence in 1991, Latvia has enjoyed a peaceful period of renewal and rebirth. It is now on the road to becoming once again a proud and tolerant nation and a responsible member of the international community.

Ontario is a province that may gratefully boast a thriving Latvian Canadian community whose hardworking members have enriched our society in many ways. On behalf of the government of Premier Mike Harris, I am pleased to take this opportunity to wish all Latvian Ontarians our congratulations on Latvian Independence Day and continued freedom, prosperity and happiness in the future.

I am pleased also to note that three prominent members of the Toronto Latvian community are with us today in the members' gallery: Mr Valdis Vagners, Mr Ivars Timbers and Mr Varis Pludons.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): A couple of months ago I brought to the attention of the Minister of Health the problems the Chiefari family were experiencing in attempting to donate blood for their baby Ryan's heart operation. Only after that confrontation did the long, difficult process begin to be resolved, and Ryan yesterday had his heart operation with his mother's blood.

Yesterday in this House I brought to the attention of the Minister of Health the problems being experienced by 18-month-old Quincy Mutter in finding a paediatric cardiologist. The minister's office subsequently intervened to find a doctor.

The official opposition is grateful for the assistance of the minister himself in resolving these two cases, but the urgency in Ontario's health care system continues and we should not rely on a case-by-case resolution by political staff in the minister's office.

The minister said yesterday we should feel free to call him with emergency cases. His staff made outrageous statements that members of this House needed to give the minister notice of any individual cases we might raise in the House. It appears therefore that our power as members of this House is being diminished so that from now on the new number for medical emergencies is no longer 911 but the number of the office of the Minister of Health. It's a shame for a system of health care. Ontarians deserve to be second to none.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Today the Solicitor General will be coming forward with a statement in response to Domestic Assault Prevention and Community Safety Month. He's going to be announcing a couple of more 1-800 telephone numbers, as if this somehow is going to respond to the very real issues facing many people who are victims of domestic abuse.

I was shocked, I was appalled and I was angered this week in this Legislature at the Minister of Community and Social Services' response to very real concerns being raised by women out in the field, women who work in transition houses and shelters, women who have surveyed the client population they work with, and survivors of abuse themselves who came forward to tell the story about what the cuts to shelters, to second stage housing supports in particular, have meant for women.

What they have meant is that women and children are in some cases going back to abusive situations because the supports aren't there for them and they are being threatened. They are being threatened, and the Minister of Community and Social Services could stand in her place and say she dismissed that evidence and that in her opinion the real threat to women was the debt.

It was one of the most appalling and shocking statements I could imagine a minister of the crown, particularly this minister, saying. To have today the response of the Solicitor General being one more 1-800-CALL-MIKE is totally unsatisfactory. It totally misses the point of the need of --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. The member for Scarborough West.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I rise today to recognize four Scarborough churches that are celebrating landmark anniversaries: Wanstead United Church at 3340 Danforth Avenue is celebrating its 80th anniversary; Birchcliff Heights United Church at 96 Highview is also 80 years young; St Nicholas' Anglican Church at 1512 Kingston Road is in its 85th year; and Scarborough Junction United Church is celebrating 106 years at its current location on St Clair Avenue East.

There has been a great deal of change in Ontario in the past century, but some things never change. These churches have become landmarks in my community, serving the needs of their congregations for decades, and God willing, they will be around for decades more.

These churches are pillars in our community. They are caring and supportive. They remind us that in order to be a strong community, we must support and care for each other.

I am proud to represent constituents who can look to the future brimming with optimism while recognizing our past and the people and institutions that make our community a place we can all be proud of.

Those of us who serve in this chamber and walk the historic halls of this Legislature do so with a proud sense of the past. Let us all take that feeling back to our constituents and share it with those we serve by recognizing the incredible achievements to be found in our own backyards.

To the clergy and congregations at these churches, I say congratulations, thank you and all the best in the next 80 years.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I have a message from the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor, signed by his own hand.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The Lieutenant Governor transmits supplementary estimates of certain sums required for the services of the province for the year ending March 31, 1997, and recommends them to the Legislative Assembly.


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 a member from the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, Mr Andrew Thomson. Welcome.

We also have a Korean delegation. Welcome, as well.



Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): As Domestic Assault Prevention and Community Safety Month continues, I am pleased to announce, along with my colleague the Honourable Dianne Cunningham, a new service for victims of crime, reinforcing our commitment to safeguard victims' rights and rebalance the scales of justice in favour of the victim.

Sadly, these goals are particularly significant during Domestic Assault Prevention Month. Many of those seeking help through programs for victims of crime are women who have been victimized by domestic assault. This initiative will empower them to find the help they need when they need it.

Effective today, a toll-free number, 1-888-579-2888, can bring help to crime victims right into their own homes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from anywhere in the province. It's free, available in English and French and as easy to access as a local phone call.

The automated information and referral service, AIRS, is an automated voice tape providing general information on the criminal justice system, from arrest to parole and probation.


The victim notification service, VNS, allows callers to request or provide certain information on a specific adult offender in the Ontario corrections system by leaving a voice message. Those calls will be acknowledged by the next business day, and in early 1997 this system will be automated.

Next month a third service will be added, allowing callers person-to-person contact with information counsellors across the province who can outline the services for victims of crime in the caller's home community. This telephone service brings us closer to our vision of seamless support to those who have been affected by crime no matter where they are in Ontario, no matter where they are in our justice system.

As we craft a new vision for public safety in Ontario I am proud of our commitment, and especially today of our follow-through in providing support to victims of crime. We are working to make the streets and communities of Ontario safer for everyone. AIRS and VNS particularly will benefit those women in Ontario who have suffered the violation of feeling unsafe in their own homes. It is a very important step towards restoring public confidence in Ontario's criminal justice system.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I am very pleased to inform the House today of a ground-breaking national agreement on environmental protection. Yesterday the Canadian Council of Environment Ministers endorsed the Canada-wide accord on environmental harmonization at a meeting held here in Toronto.

This accord sets out the principles for governments across Canada to coordinate their resources and efforts to enhance overall environmental protection for Canadians. As governments we have had to recognize that environmental issues extend across provincial and federal borders. Consequently, having a patchwork of different standards, regulations and approaches in each of Canada's jurisdictions has not been in the best interests of environmental protection. In fact it has been detrimental, as consistency and clarity have suffered as provinces took different approaches on similar issues.

The harmonization accord sets the stage for many subagreements on specifics like standards, inspections, environmental assessments and enforcement. Once these subagreements have been finalized, beginning at our next council meeting in May we will have an unprecedented harmony on environmental processes across Canada.

This is good news for the environment. Ontario's inspectors will work in concert with federal inspectors to cover more ground with greater efficiency. We will see better environmental protection for our tax dollars. This is also good news for businesses, especially those that have operations in several jurisdictions. No longer will they have to comply with a different set of rules for each province, with added obligations to the federal environment ministry. Consistent standards will encourage consistent compliance with less red tape for businesses.

The endorsement of the harmonization accord also speaks to the willingness of governments across Canada of all political stripes to unite so that we may deal with our common concerns.

I was proud to act as chairman at the table, where political differences were set aside so that our environment could be better served. I want to thank the former Minister of Environment and Energy, the Honourable Brenda Elliott, for her work as my predecessor as chair of this conference.

This national harmonization accord will encourage provinces to think beyond their borders when addressing environmental issues. It also lays the groundwork for future cooperation so that environmental concerns are not dealt with in isolation.

I am very pleased with what this accord means for our environment. I look forward to further progress and further enhancement of environmental protection in this great province.


Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Today I will be introducing the Tenant Protection Act for first reading. This legislation contains long-overdue improvements to the system of rent regulation in Ontario. Over the years successive governments have placed increasing restrictions on the rental housing market in Ontario, often with the best of intentions but, more often than not, with worse results.

Tenants have not always been well served by rent controls. Rent controls have created housing stock that is crumbling and requires billions of dollars in repairs. They have created a swamp of bureaucracy that means it takes months to settle a basic dispute between a tenant and a property owner. And they have killed new building for over two decades. Today, the vacancy rate is below 1% in some communities, leaving tenants with little or no choice of rental housing.

To be fair, there are aspects of the current system that work very well for tenants, such as the protection they currently receive from unfair rent increases and arbitrary evictions.

Our goal in reforming the system was to keep those aspects of it that work and fix those that do not. We have listened to find out what the public thinks. In that regard, I would like to thank the members of the standing committee on general government, which conducted public hearings in nine communities across Ontario during August and September. The committee received a great deal of valuable information and input from the public, and that input is reflected in the legislation which I will be introducing this afternoon.

In simple terms, we want to apply some common sense to the situation, so we are combining the hodgepodge of laws dealing with rental housing into just one single piece of legislation. Our new Tenant Protection Act combines the best aspects of the Rent Control Act, the Landlord and Tenant Act, the Rental Housing Protection Act, the Municipal Amendment Act, the Residents' Rights Act and the Land Lease Statute Law Amendment Act.

The central elements of the act are straightforward: Tenants must be protected from unfair rent increases; buildings must be properly maintained; we must encourage more rental housing to be built; and the entire system must be simplified and made less expensive for the taxpayer.

The new law will continue to protect tenants from unfair rent increases by keeping the annual rent control guideline. The guideline is 2.8% this year and 2.8% next year. I might add that that's the lowest guideline in the 20-year history of rent regulation in Ontario.

Tenants will continue to enjoy the many other valuable protections to which they've been entitled for many years, and I'll list just a few. Tenants will only receive one rent increase each year.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): That's mighty decent of you.

Hon Mr Leach: That's the same as it is now.

Tenants can apply for a rent refund for poor maintenance or lower rent for reduced services. Tenants can apply to challenge illegal rent increases and illegal extra charges. Tenants continue to be protected from arbitrary evictions.

All of these protections and more remain in place for tenants, as long as the tenant continues to live in the apartment. When a tenant moves out and the apartment becomes vacant, the property owner can negotiate a new rent with a new tenant. When a tenant moves in, that tenant will be protected by rent control and all other protections afforded to other tenants.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): That is insulting.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. The member for Oakwood and member for Oriole.

Hon Mr Leach: In effect, we're moving from a system that protects apartments to a system that protects the individual.

Another important feature of the legislation is that it will improve maintenance. There are any number of apartment buildings in this province with literally dozens of work orders for maintenance. The Tenant Protection Act gets tough with property owners who fail to take care of their buildings and makes them subject to a maximum fine of $100,000 for poor maintenance.

Our new legislation will improve the buildings for tenants, and our new legislation will give the property owners the incentive to improve their buildings.

In order to simplify the system, the new regulation moves disputes between tenants and property owners out of the courts and into a less formal system of adjudication, which will be known as the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal. The system is so slow that right now it can take months even to get out a crack dealer who threatens not only the landlord but all other tenants in the building. The new tribunal will cut down the time to as little as 15 days, and that's an overdue change that benefits both the tenant and the property owner.


Not least of all, this legislation represents a crucial step in creating a climate where the private market will again invest in the rental real estate market.

By making these changes, along with other changes to the property tax system, the planning system, the building code and the municipal development charges, we hope to increase the supply of rental housing in the province and increase the choices for tenants.

With this legislation we are moving to create a strong and healthy housing market for Ontario. We are protecting tenants against unfair rent increases and arbitrary evictions, we are improving maintenance and we are helping to increase the supply of new rental housing. We are creating a balanced system which will benefit tenants, property owners and taxpayers.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: In view of the number and the importance of the ministerial statements today, I would ask for unanimous consent that we extend the period for responses to 10 minutes.

The Speaker: The member for Algoma has requested unanimous consent to extend the responses to 10 minutes. Agreed? No.

Responses, the official opposition.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Mr Minister, you can run but you can't hide, even if you don't give us that other five minutes to respond to this thing.

Let me tell you something. What you have just introduced is not a tenant protection act; this is a tenant rejection act. You have let down the tenants. They warned you from the beginning that you were not looking out for their interests. That New Directions paper you published was unanimously attacked by tenants across the province during public hearings, for which you did not turn up for even one. You came to the first hearing and then disappeared. You started running then. You said you are there to protect tenants and for the interests of tenants. You were turning up at every landlord event you could find, but we could not find you at any tenant rallies or any tenant discussions at all.

As Liberals, we are very concerned about the provision in this bill that removes rent controls on apartments as they become vacant. You know that 20% to 25% of tenants move every year. Within four years we will have no rent control in this province. That's your plan. Why don't you just come clean and tell us all that you Conservatives are against rent control and you will eliminate rent control in four years? You know that; I know that; the tenants know that. The landlords also know that you're doing something for them. I'm telling you, Mr Minister, you can run but you can't hide.

As Liberals, we're also very concerned that when you remove almost all the protection from tenants against their homes, trying to turn them into condominiums and then demolish them at the whim of the landlord, you know that those will not be there in the short run.

Let me tell you this: Tenants are organized and they know they will be coming at you with full strength. We know we want public hearings, and we will have public hearings and good consultation. As I told you, you can run but you can't hide, and we'll be there for all of those discussions.

Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): We're here today to talk to a minister who has abdicated his responsibility to look after tenants and who, with this government, has abdicated his responsibility to see some reasonable quality of life.

The announcement we heard today is about the death of rent control: 20% a year. We're losing rent control. He's learning something from the Minister of Health of taking away the life support systems of something that matters to people. Evictions are already up in Toronto by 136%, Minister, thanks to your colleague's measures in terms of welfare. Family breakdowns are happening because children are having to move into hostels now. There will be less food for people as they have to have edible rent supplements from food banks and use other measures to pay the rents that are going to be increased, because every single year under this legislation, 20% of the properties are going to be vacated.

We're going to see an attack not just on poor people but on average working people, people out there who are going to pay for the extremism on the part of this government taking away the protection people have. The Rental Housing Protection Act will take away apartments right out from under people. They don't have to wait. The protection that's being offered in this legislation is fundamentally inadequate and reflects a total lack of respect on the part of this minister of this government towards the people he has the responsibility to look after.

There is not one single change in this legislation that reflects the hearings that were held across this province. There is no sign that this government listens to anyone. When it comes to the interests of tenants, the 50,000 tenants in the honourable minister's riding, they will be listening, they will be paying attention to the fact that there will be people hurt because of this legislation, that this is the death of rent control and nothing less than that.

Minister, you will be called to account. We will be looking for you to stand up and take the medicine for having brought this into the House today.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The announcement by the Minister of Environment and Energy is not good news; the announcement is bad news for the environment. Ontario should be taking the lead to set and enforce the very toughest standards, the very highest standards, not hide behind watered down standards weakened by provincial regimes that care very little for the environment. This really represents the dumbing down of environmental standards and environmental enforcement in Ontario.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): The announcement by the Solicitor General today tells abused women that they will suffer twice: once at the hand of their violent husbands and once at the hand of the government, which seeks to introduce a 1-800 number instead of dealing with the very real tragedy.

I'd like to know, where was the minister responsible for women's issues when this was being crafted? Quite frankly, shame on both of you for perpetrating this for women in this province.

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Women asked for it, that's what happened.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): They asked for second-stage housing, Dianne, they asked for those supports and you cut them.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Could the government members come to order, please. There's a discussion going on among the many; it's a din and it's very difficult to hear. I ask that if you're going to have a meeting, go out in your lobby and have the meeting there. It's very difficult as it is. Responses, third party.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Very quickly, because of course with the rent control issue it is primary in our minds today, but with respect to the Solicitor General's announcement, the minister responsible for women's issue is right: Women have asked for this information but they want this information backed up with real services.

They want to know that when this line, this 1-888 line, tells them someone has been released from jail, they're going to get the supports they need to keep themselves and their families safe. So while this is good news for some people, if it's not followed up with strong shelter services and strong policing services and strong court services, it means absolutely nothing.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): The minister is on his feet again today giving yet more bad news for the environment. This is not about harmonization; it is about a race to the bottom. The federal Liberal government is not only getting out of the business of standard-setting, but it's also giving up responsibility for enforcement and monitoring.

Given that the Harris government continues to lower standards rather than improve them, is deregulating and firing enforcement and monitoring staff and cutting budgets, it is a dark day indeed and all members in this House should vigorously oppose this move, for the sake of the environment.



Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): First of all, I want to thank the Liberals for now supporting the rent control legislation we had introduced to protect the tenants of Ontario.

Secondly, with respect to what this minister has said and has announced today, this is the worst pap I have yet heard from this minister. He calls this bill the Tenant Protection Act, and it's like calling Godzilla the Tokyo protection monster. We have heard through the hearings people attacking the title of this bill because they knew by experience that it was a lie. They told the members of that committee that it was not a tenant protection package and in fact was a landlord protection package. So when this minister comes here and says, "And we have listened to find out what the public thinks," the public out there is saying, "He's lying."

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Fort York, come to order.


The Speaker: Come to order. The member for Fort York, that's unparliamentary language. I ask you to withdraw.

Mr Marchese: I withdraw, Mr Speaker.

To continue, there are a number of things here that are going to worry and frighten tenants. The bill's central goal is to jack up rents. That's what decontrol means. You move out and the landlord can charge the new tenant whatever he or she wants, whatever they can get. That's what it means. He says no, but the tenants and what he's proposing in this bill say otherwise.

What this bill does is to offer a manifesto and a how-to manual for landlords to force people out of their homes. That's what this Common Sense Revolution has. It's a manifesto to give the tenant the boot. He's going to be paying a much higher rent.

This bill lets developers destroy affordable housing by allowing the landlord to convert or to demolish those buildings into parking lots. That's what this bill does. It gets rid of affordable rental housing that's available at the moment. They are not building, the private sector is not building, and they're getting rid of the Rental Housing Protection Act that keeps rental housing available for people who can afford to pay for what is now available.

Furthermore, he's saying on the second page that he wants to give landlords an incentive to build. He says that "we must encourage more rental housing to be built." The private sector has not built very much in the past, and their friends told us in the hearings that they will not build with this act alone; they want more. They want a red carpet out there with more tax grants or other kinds of support this government is ready to give them.

Let me tell them what one person said. Michael Howe of Norquay Homes said, "If the goal of this legislation is to get people like me back constructing residential rental suites, it will fail miserably." That's his friend saying that. This measure is not going to do it. They're looking for a different and a longer red carpet.

I want to call on the minister to talk to the tenants, to talk to Bonnie Drew, a tenant at 260 Wellesley Street East in your riding of St George-St David. Tenants in that building have been granted a rent freeze effective November 27. That means no rent increase until the landlord fixes the building. Minister, you've eliminated that. You've got to listen to tenants. You didn't listen to them in those four weeks of hearings. They were a sham, because what you've introduced is nothing different than what we've already heard.



Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Today will go down as the day you killed rent control in this province. You can put whatever smokescreen you want to put on it. You can be as sneaky as you want to be and call it "tenant protection." But today you killed rent control.

Every year about 25% of the tenants in this province move from their apartments, and when they do, your legislation lets their landlords raise the rent of their vacant apartments by 20% or as much as they like. That will happen in markets like Toronto, where the rents are already 40% higher than in the rest of the country. Within four years, apartment by apartment, community by community, you will have killed rent control. Why, particularly at this time, have you chosen to abandon the tenants of this province?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): What we have here is a rent control system that is harmful for tenants. Fifty per cent of the apartments are charging below the maximum rent now; 50% are below what they can charge now. In Ottawa, for example, they have to give incentives to get people there. If landlords could charge what the maximum rent is now, rents would skyrocket under the existing legislation.

Mr Gerretsen: That isn't true, and you should stop trying to fool the tenants. This will not lead to an increase in apartment buildings. Even landlords have told you that. The tenants who stay in their apartments won't be protected either because your bill allows landlords to demolish their buildings at their whim. All the controls will be removed.

Won't you come clean and admit that even tenants who do not plan to move are now more threatened than ever before? Will you admit that you're making it easier for landlords to demolish buildings under this bill?

Hon Mr Leach: Yes, we are, and that's a move in the right direction. If you went over to my riding and you saw all those boarded-up buildings --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I want to say very directly right off the top, member for Oakwood, come to order; member for Oriole, come to order. That's a warning. Thank you.

Hon Mr Leach: What we're doing is that an existing tenant would have tenure for life. If a tenant chooses to stay in a building that's being converted, they can stay there forever. I think that's a benefit to tenants, not a hazard.

Mr Gerretsen: Minister, in the summer you released a discussion paper on rent controls and you held hearings for three weeks all over the place, as you yourself admitted. Every single tenant and every tenants' association in every single community that the committee visited said that they felt more threatened by your proposals. If your proposal is to provide for more protection for the tenants, why is it that not one single tenant or one single tenants' association feels that they're now more protected? Will you not admit that these hearings were a sham, that you didn't listen to one word the tenants told you, that your plan all along was to jump into the Big Blue Bulldozer and plow under tenants and rent control?

Hon Mr Leach: I think it goes without saying that the existing system doesn't work. It doesn't work for tenants; it doesn't work for landlords. This Liberal Party that's making all of these grandiose statements voted against the system that's in place right now. You can't suck and blow over there. All we do is hear the sound of flip-flops back and forth. What is your position today anyway? You said in your little red book that you were going to revise rent control.

We know the system we're putting in place is fair and equitable to both tenants and landlords. The NDP in those meetings said that they had to choose, and they chose tenants. We don't choose; we're fair to both parties.

The Speaker: New question. The member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: The people of Ontario don't believe you.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): In the absence of the Minister of Community and Social Services, my question is to the Minister of Finance.

During the election Mike Harris promised not to cut funding to the disabled. I have in my hands a report from the director of family services in the regional municipality of Durham addressed to the mayor and members of council in which it states, "There appears to be a very concerted effort by the provincial government to reduce as many people from disability pensions as possible." He goes on to document several cases where your actions are leading to disabled people facing cuts as large as 44%.

Minister, as you prepare your economic statement and even more cuts, can you tell the disabled why you have broken your election promise and why you're cutting funding to them?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): We are not doing any of the above. There has been no change in the guidelines to determine eligibility for disability benefits in Ontario and there is not a great move off of disability benefits in Ontario. The member knows full well that our long-term goal is to remove the disabled from the welfare rolls where they never should have been in the first place.

Mr Gerretsen: Either the government doesn't understand how its cuts are hurting the disabled or it doesn't care. We're talking about disabled people facing a 44% cut in their income and that's twice as large as your welfare cuts.

Let me read on a little bit further about the cuts as outlined by the director of social services. He states:

"These changes will certainly save the province a lot of money, but at what human cost? What social deficit will be created by this attempt to lower the fiscal deficit? Based on the abilities of the people who will be hurt by these moves, we must ethically bring this to your attention."

Minister, how can you stand in this House and tell us that you haven't broken your promise to the disabled when the director of family and social services in the regional municipality of Durham, who deals with these matters on a day-to-day basis, is saying that your cuts are doing exactly that?

Hon Mr Eves: As I said in response to the honourable member's first question, there has been absolutely no change in the guidelines to determine who receives disability benefits in Ontario since we have assumed office. They are exactly the same.

I also noted a report this morning where some people were musing about the fact that people were moving in great numbers from the disability benefit program to GWA, and that is not true either. As a matter of fact, prior to October 1995 the ineligibility of disabled was 37% of the cases that applied in Ontario and in August 1996 that number had declined to 25%, a decrease of some 12%. So we are helping more people with disability benefits today than when we assumed office in 1995.

Mr Gerretsen: Minister, even the bureaucrats in your own Ministry of Community and Social Services are questioning your commitment to the disabled. I will release two other documents this afternoon that are interoffice memos between various ministry staff people.

One is an interoffice memo from the director of developmental services who states clearly that there is not the support of the individualized funding there used to be. Let me just read:

"The government has not declared specifically what it is prepared to support or how far it intends to go in individualized funding, although there is not the expressed interest at this point that was evident with the last minister particularly."


The other admission by your bureaucrats is that funding for programs serving the disabled, such as special services at home, will not be equitable among clients due to "the lack of funding available." If a similar request comes when few resources remain to be allotted, the field office may not be able to respond in an equitable manner due to "the lack of funding available."

Minister, I ask you again as you prepare your economic statement, why have you broken your promises to the disabled of this province?

Hon Mr Eves: To the honourable member, we have not. Special services at home have not been reduced in Ontario since we assumed office. As I already responded in my two previous answers, ultimately our plan is to move disabled people from the welfare rolls where, regardless of who was in government, they never should have been in the first place, and give them some dignity and some confidence that they will have the support mechanisms necessary in Ontario to live with dignity, not with less money.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Housing. The minister said in his earlier response to a question from the Liberals that the NDP had a choice to support either landlords or tenants and that we chose the tenants. He's damn right we chose the tenants; 33% of all people in Ontario are tenants, and we decided we should protect the tenant and not the landlord.

You are doing several things with this piece: You are going to force up rents for people moving and you're going to force up rents for the sitting duck who's going to stay there. Minister, how can you call this a Tenant Protection Act when all you are doing is forcing up rents?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Thank you for that question. Yes, they chose one side over the other, and I think that's actually quite frequent.

Do they know that 80% of landlords own two or three units or fewer and that most of those landlords are hardworking seniors who have invested their life savings in a duplex? And what did you do? You threw away all their rights. You didn't give them any rights at all; you didn't even give them any consideration. That's the kind of legislation that government put in. We're putting in a bill that's fair and equitable to everybody.

Mr Marchese: The poor tenants of Ontario. They didn't listen to tenants at all, and 70% of the deputations came from tenants, but they listened to landlords. This man and this government are transferring wealth from poor tenants who earn modest incomes to landlords who are already very wealthy. They listened to the landlords in this regard. When we listened to the various people who came to depute we asked the landlords, "Is this enough to get you to build?" People like Michael Howe of Norquay Homes said, "If the goal of this legislation is to get people like me back to constructing residential rental suites, it will fail miserably." That's what people like him said, people you support.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question?

Mr Marchese: I challenge the minister to produce one landlord or developer who says they will be building affordable rental homes in Metro as a result of this bill. Name one.

Hon Mr Leach: I'll not only do that, but I'll invite the honourable member to the sod-turning ceremony that's going to take place in the not-too-distant future. You should try to pay attention when we have those sessions.


The Speaker: Order. Member for Lake Nipigon, I'm warning you as well today.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Am I out?

The Speaker: You're warned. No, you're not out; I'm warning you. Minister?

Hon Mr Leach: I stated quite clearly when we started the hearing process back in August that this bill unto itself would not start a building boom. But all of the actions that this government is taking by addressing the property tax situation, the building tax situation, all of those together are going to provide an incentive to get the industry back out there building.

We have a report, the Lampert report, that states very clearly that rent controls are a major detriment to the construction of new buildings. What have you got?

Mr Marchese: Mr Speaker, he didn't read that report. Not only that; he didn't come to the hearings. I don't expect him to, but I heard the deputations. He heard none. I read the Lampert report. I'm not sure he read it.

Lampert, the economist they hired, didn't say this was a major detriment. He did not say that. What he in fact says is that is a minor contribution towards getting them to build. But they want the red carpet, and unless you put that red carpet having to do with a whole lot of giveaways, they will not build. That's what we heard.

You keep claiming this bill will lead to better maintenance, but you're making it easier for landlords to let their buildings turn into slums. Right now, under our legislation, if a building is subject to a municipal work order, no rent increase is allowed. In your riding, the tenants of 260 Wellesley Street East in St James Town are getting a rent increase that takes effect November 27. Minister, why should your constituents at 260 Wellesley Street East get a rent increase if the building is falling apart?

Hon Mr Leach: I'm not going to talk about the specifics of buildings in my riding, but what I can tell you and what I can point out is that one of the big detriments to getting new units built, units that are badly needed, particularly in the city of Toronto, is the property tax situation, a property tax situation where that government allows a municipality to charge as much as six times as much in property taxes as for a single-family dwelling.

We are going to fix it --

Mr Marchese: So what are you going to do with rent control? How are you going to fix it?

Hon Mr Leach: We're going to fix it.

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

Hon Mr Leach: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank my colleague for that observation. It's nice to see the city of Toronto providing buttons at the taxpayers' expense to the members of the opposition.

The honourable member across asks how we're going to do it. We're going to do it because this government has the political will to bring fairness and equity back into the tax system, something that you refused to even consider.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. For 17 months now your government has been planning and scheming over the plans for your attack on the WCB and injured workers. First of all, you killed the royal commission. Then you set aside the Common Sense Revolution and threw the project over to junior minister Jackson, who spent a year meeting in secret with insurance executives and others behind closed doors. Then that report was issued but you didn't follow that up. Months later we have a leaked cabinet document that shows you've thrown out many of his suggestions but that you're still planning to take $15 billion from injured workers and give $6 billion to your friends in the private sector and that you're planning to ram through this legislation by the end of this December, a mere few weeks from now.


Minister, if you won't call off the attack, will you at the very least announce and ensure today that there will be the necessary time to study such a mammoth document, because you're planning to replace the entire Workers' Compensation Act, that you'll provide full province-wide public hearings and that certainly --

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

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): To the member opposite, I think your representation is certainly unfair. I would indicate to you that Mr Jackson did extensive consultation. He met with injured workers and he also received over 200 briefs.

When we announce our plans to overhaul the WCB, we are going to have a system that is sensitive to the needs of injured workers and that is also fully funded. As well, it is going to be sustained by the employers who fund the system. We are not taking out, as you took out when you did the deindexation and you removed $18 billion from injured workers. We are going to make sure that our benefits are secure and fair.

I would also indicate to you that on three occasions I have announced that there will be public hearings. We will travel. This is a major piece of legislation and I have already publicly made that commitment.

Mr Christopherson: Minister, the only thing that's unfair about all of this is not my comments, but what you're doing to injured workers. The fact of the matter is that our legislation was balanced and fair and it improved the plight of 45,000 of the most vulnerable, and it had the support and involvement of the Ontario Federation of Labour. You've talked to no one and you've got nobody's support except that of your corporate friends.

Take, for example, Susan Green, whom I talked to this morning. She's 41 years old and lives in Woodstock. She has a repetitive strain disability that's resulted in a lifetime pension and supplement of $1,368.94 per month. Under your proposals, she'll lose full cost-of-living protection which she currently has under our law. By the time she's 65, under your law, she will have lost $118,000, 34% of her income. Minister, how do you justify taking that money from Susan Green and giving $6 billion to your corporate friends? How do you justify that?

Hon Mrs Witmer: To the member opposite, I think it would be more appropriate if you would spend some time looking at the facts. As you know, the benefits today are not fully indexed for inflation. You were the party that took away full indexation. You were the party that took $18.1 billion out of the hands of the injured workers.

Mr Christopherson: Just for the information of the minister, if you're suddenly interested in facts, which you haven't been up till now, Susan Green received the $200-a-month increase that we were able to provide with 100% inflation protection.

Minister, you have used the phoney financial crisis of the WCB as your shield to hide behind when you're attacking injured workers. The reality is there's $8 billion in assets in the WCB. They've never borrowed a dime. Under our legislation, the unfunded liability has dropped by half a billion dollars in each of the last two years. Now there's another report, the second one that I'm bringing to your attention, that's been released by the federal government that shows that the rates for employers in Ontario are comparable or less than the majority in the United States.

This demolishes all your credibility. Will you agree at the very least that you'll analyse this last report, which was sponsored, I point out, in part by the Royal Bank of Canada? Will you analyse that report, study it and make your analysis public before you ram through your vicious WCB attack?

Hon Mrs Witmer: To the member opposite, it's unfortunate that you have not taken the time to ascertain the true facts. You indicated that you had full support. I have numerous quotes here from your friends in the labour movement indicating that when you did your overhaul on Bill 165, you didn't have support. In fact, the Canadian Labour congress says this: "The Canadian Labour Congress views the NDP government reforms as a regressive proposal of deindexing which could take billions of dollars away from the incomes of injured workers. It strikes at the very heart of the historic compromise for which workers' compensation was designed."

I can quote from OPSEU Local 595, which did not support you. I can quote from the Quinte and District Injured Workers. I can also indicate to you that the assessment rates in this province at the present time are 40% higher than in the neighbouring American states. In fact, our assessment rates are the second highest in Canada.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Health. Minister, while we were all at home during constituency week, a very terrible thing happened. One of our mothers whom we had, after several months of trying, finally got approval to send over to the US for prenatal care because she's pregnant and she's a mom at risk last week lost her baby.

You and I both know that there are very few things that could be more important to family than the development of a healthy baby. Some 44 days ago you promised the opening of a clinic in Windsor, and 44 days ago you said that would happen between 30 and 60 days from the date of your announcement on October 9. These kinds of things that are happening to families in Windsor are not acceptable. To allow there to be a question that we could have done something that could have helped simply isn't appropriate. Minister, we need your help in Windsor. We need doctors. We need obstetricians. I'd like to have your answer.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): May I say to the honourable member that I certainly express my sympathy to the woman she raised in her question and indicate that discussions are still ongoing with her community about establishing the clinic, that the government remains firmly committed to establishing the prenatal or perinatal clinic.

I also would add that in addition to that, serious negotiations and discussions have been going on with physicians in Windsor about establishing an alternative payment plan and moving them off fee for service. I understand those discussions are going fairly well.

Mrs Pupatello: Minister, yesterday you received by fax a letter from the president of our Essex County Medical Society telling you that your behaviour to date is totally unacceptable as a Minister of Health and a minister of the crown here in Ontario.

We don't know what kind of negotiations are going on, but what we do know is that so far it has been totally unworkable and simply not finding a solution for people who really need medical care. Our calls are going well beyond pregnant moms, but let me tell you, with the people we are getting to know whom we have had to arrange to send to the US, so that we as taxpayers pay four, five, six times the amount for the same level of care, I believe the heat is on for you to resolve this. We fully expect that you are going to negotiate in good faith, that you will come up with answers.

Several weeks ago, you already received the information you needed to designate Windsor and Essex an underserviced area for doctors' services, and 44 days ago you already knew you were going to open a clinic for obstetrical services in Windsor. You keep coming to us telling us what you're going to do and what your talks are about. When are we going to see the result?

Hon Mr Wilson: To point fingers either way would simply be unfair and would indicate the honourable member is not in touch with her own community, because the community is working diligently with the ministry. Meetings occurred very recently. There has been a growing problem in your area for many years. Your obstetricians' average age is heading up over 60 years of age, where they would normally stop doing deliveries anyway. This problem existed long before this government came to office. We are doing everything we can.

Mrs Pupatello: And you're not doing a darn thing to fix it. You're making it worse.

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member is critical of the clinic --

Mrs Pupatello: Very critical of the minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: -- and yet it was her community that came to me directly and asked to establish the clinic and enter into those negotiations, and that's what we're doing. We're also going beyond that to bring some permanent solutions, not only through alternative payment plans for those physicians who voluntarily want to join that arrangement --

Mrs Pupatello: We're not listening for the words, we want to see some action.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Windsor-Sandwich, would you please come to order.

Hon Mr Wilson: Also, we're continuing to have serious negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association to resolve problems and frustrations that have been outstanding for many years on behalf of patients, first, and doctors.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is again to the Minister of Labour. You mouth words about caring for injured workers, but no one in this province believes that anything you're going to do is going to help injured workers, and you increasingly have less and less credibility around the issue of occupational health and safety.

For instance, in 1995 there was a total of $62 million committed from WCB revenues to the different agencies that specialize in health and safety training and prevention of workplace accidents. In 1996, you've cut this back by $15 million, almost 25%, down to $47 million. This has led to dramatic cuts in agencies such as the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and other organizations that provide these services.

Minister, you can begin to repair some of the damage to your credibility, because it's the only area where you've got any left at all, around the issue of occupational health and safety, by announcing that you're going to stop that $15-million drain away from accident prevention and put that money back in. Will you announce that today?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I simply indicate to you that health and safety has been a priority for this government, it has been a priority for my ministry, and we actually have a new vision for health and safety in this province.

It's a vision that was put together by stakeholders in the province. It's unfortunate that some of the unions did not see fit to participate, but for the first time we have a coordinated strategy, we actually have a new focus, we have a new mandate at the Workers' Compensation Board, and as you well know, many of the activities that were formerly funded in the clinics and in the agencies, that work is now being done by the WCB.

The priority function for the WCB today is to prevent workplace illness and injury, and we have invested $415,000 into a new young workers' awareness program. We are working and supporting the Safe Communities Foundation. We are doing more than any other government has ever done to make sure that --

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

Mr Christopherson: Minister, what a load of crap. You have not done anything.


The Speaker: That's not parliamentary. I would ask the member to withdraw.

Mr Christopherson: It may not be parliamentary, Speaker, but it is true.

The Speaker: You've got one chance left to withdraw.

Mr Christopherson: I will withdraw my unparliamentary remark, Speaker.

Minister, they're nothing but words, cheap words that, quite frankly, aren't matched up by your actions. You said not long ago that you were going to maintain the staff of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency when you gutted it and eliminated it, and a few days later they were all laid off. They're gone.

You say you believe in prevention, but you're slashing and cutting the programs and the money that actually bring about those kinds of improvements. Let's look at the Occupational Disease Panel, and if you won't believe its importance because we, the NDP, say so here and you won't listen to experts in the Ontario field, what about international experts? Sixteen professors from the University of Massachusetts signed a letter to you saying, "Reconsider your decision and maintain the highly regarded and valuable institution." That's what they think about the Occupational Disease Panel.

What about the former chief medical officer of the United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration: "Failure to keep the Occupational Disease Panel doors open will be seen as a clear and deliberate step backwards in the eyes of the public health community worldwide."

Minister, for God's sake, will you acknowledge the work of the Occupational Disease Panel and ensure that it stays in this province?

Hon Mrs Witmer: We do acknowledge that there is a very important role in this province for research into not only occupational disease but also the prevention of injury. That's why we now have as our priority focus at the WCB prevention of illness and injury, and I can tell you that we have not, unlike yourselves, reduced the number of health and safety inspectors.

I also want to tell you that the IAPA has been invited to Asia and the United States in order to articulate the new vision for health and safety in this province. People are recognizing that we're not content with the level of rate in injuries in this province. We don't want the number of fatalities. Maybe you're satisfied, but we're not, and we're going to do the job much better.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): We have up in the visitors' gallery the ex-member for York South, Mr Donald MacDonald. Welcome.

New question.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. As the minister may know, Inco of Port Colborne is a major employer in my riding of Niagara South. In fact, one could say that in the history of Port Colborne many parts of the community have been built from the dollars of Inco employees and retirees. Future employment at Inco and the spinoffs are related directly to the health of the mining industry in Ontario.

In recent media reports it has been noted that the mining industry is booming in Ontario after many years of stagnant growth. My question is, what has the minister done to encourage this growth and keep it growing?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I'd like to thank the member for Niagara South. It's true that mining is showing a remarkable improvement in Ontario. As he and the members of this Legislature know, mining is a critical industry to Ontario. We've been supportive of this sector through a number of policies, including freezing mining taxes and hydro rates, lowering and cutting worker WCB premiums and, in accordance with the Whitehouse mining initiative, reducing and cutting red tape and duplication while maintaining strict environmental standards. We have received numerous reports --

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Get lost. Come to Sudbury, live in my area and find out.

Hon Mr Hodgson: Mr Speaker, this might not be important to the member for Sudbury, but it is important to the members in the House and the people of Ontario.

We've seen remarkable improvement. Total exploration expenditures in Ontario are expected to increase by 18% this year and the number of active claims is up 10%, to a record number of claims of 180,000.

Mr Hudak: I'm aware that the Keep Mining in Canada campaign recently has been urging the Liberals in Ottawa to adopt pro-mining policies. I'm not sure if the Liberals in Ottawa are supporting the mining industry. My concern at the provincial level, Minister, specifically: What have you heard from specific mining companies? How have they reacted to these new policies in Ontario? Most important, what does it mean for workers in communities like Port Colborne?

Hon Mr Hodgson: That's a good question. We're pleased by the response at the provincial level and recent investments under way in Ontario include $15 million by River Gold Mines in Wawa; in Kirkland Lake $55 million at the Holloway project; in Timmins $150 million at Royal Oak Mines; and in the northwest $260 million at the Musselwhite project, which alone created 750 new jobs.

Perhaps I could read a letter I received from a mining executive in Sudbury, who stated: "I have a choice in where to put our money, and during the recent years that conscious choice was not Ontario but was to expand our USA plant. As a consequence of your government, we reversed our anti-Ontario policy, the result being new jobs."

We're pleased to help bring economic prosperity and opportunity not only to Sudbury and the Niagara region but to the whole province.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy, the minister responsible for the Niagara Escarpment Commission. My question is about Twenty Valley Estates development for the very wealthiest people right on our escarpment. It is said by John McClellan of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, a hearing officer, "If the province approves the subdivision, it would be the first such approval on land singled out in Ontario's Niagara Escarpment plan as an `environmental protection area.'"

In the report McClellan emphasized the land's designation as well as its location on the bench of the escarpment: land agricultural experts consider ideal for growing high-quality grapes. "In summary, it is my opinion that the proposal is not consistent with the spirit, purpose and objectives of the (Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development) Act and the (Niagara Escarpment) plan.... To allow a subdivision in this location would be a complete negation of the principles that underlie the act and the plan."

My question to the minister is, will you in cabinet speak out for those who wish to deny this development on the Niagara Escarpment?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): There is a process, of course, that the applications go through. I am given the final decision with regard to certain matters, and I wait for the proper processes to be completed before I exercise that discretion.


Mr Bradley: That's a non-answer, so I'll try this: This Niagara North Federation of Agriculture is on record as being opposed to Twenty Valley Estates since it proposes putting estate residential lots well outside the urban boundaries of the town of Lincoln's urban areas. It is stated by Mr Dave Wiley of that organization: "You must take very seriously the negative long-term effects that approving such a development outside the urban boundaries in the town of Lincoln will have on our VQA grape-growing and wine industry's ability to continue to expand and prosper. Rapidly growing sales of VQA wines in Ontario, the welcomed increase in agritourism traffic in the Niagara region and the associated provincial tax revenue generated will all ultimately be placed at risk if you allow such an unacceptable precedent to be set."

Minister, you have the opportunity. You have said that if there's a conflict between the environment and the economy, you, as Minister of Environment, particularly as the architect of the Niagara Escarpment, would stand up for the environment. Will you stand up for the environment when this matter comes before cabinet and ask that cabinet turn down this unwise development?

Hon Mr Sterling: I'm sure the member opposite is not asking me to intervene in a process, which is a very important process, and predetermine the results of that process that's going to be dealing with it. Therefore, I have made my statements with regard to the Niagara Escarpment plan. I believe very strongly in upholding that plan, and of course will reflect that, along with other input, with regard to any particular decision I might have to make. I don't know whether I've considered this particular matter yet, but I will consider it in that light.

Mr Bradley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Could I request a translation of the minister's answer, please?


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): My question is to the Minister of Finance. I have with me the latest bulletin on economic conditions and employment in Ontario. What it reveals, sir, is that the rate of unemployment is a catastrophic 15.5% for young people between the ages of 15 and 24, for the future of Ontario.

If we were to ask the question, are they better off than they were two or three years ago: in 1993, 970,000 were working; 935,000 the following year, 1994; and now a downturn, 930,000. The Common Sense Revolution promised 725,000 jobs. What has gone wrong? What specific plan do you have to address this tragedy?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): No one is ever happy, of course, talking about employment levels or unemployment levels in any province, especially with respect to young people. However, I point out to the honourable member that there have been some 127,000 net new jobs created in Ontario since the end of June 1995. We are working diligently to provide policies which we feel will provide incentives for employers, especially small businesses, to locate and expand in Ontario and employ more people.

Mr Pouliot: Minister, you're about to enter into another round of cuts, to the tune of $3 billion from what we read. John McCallum, an economist at the Royal Bank and perhaps a friend of yours, a gifted person, indicates that the economic drag of those cuts will far outweigh the tax benefits. This is the world upside down.

Why don't you take the proposed tax cut that will benefit the wealthiest in our society and give it to those between the ages of 15 and 24? Give them a chance to be like the others. Give them a chance to be like you. Put them to work and the money will call back. Is it not more commonsensical than trying to force cuts to the tune of $3 billion, where people will be victimized, people will be deprived of their livelihood, people will lose their jobs? Please come to your senses. You have that power, Minister. You're the one person who can do it.

Hon Mr Eves: The policy of reducing provincial income tax levels on taxpayers in the province of Ontario, we believe on this side of the House, will stimulate employment in Ontario and lead to more jobs being created. There is a very direct correlation between reducing taxation levels and increasing jobs.

You only have to look at studies done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Overwhelmingly of course its members are small business people all across this country of Canada. Look at the study recently done by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce with respect to payroll taxes. We are reducing payroll taxes. We are eliminating the employers' health tax in Ontario.

I say to the honourable member, the overwhelming majority of the benefit of our tax cut is going to people who earn less than $60,000 a year in Ontario. If those are the people you're referring to as our wealthy friends, they represent the overwhelming majority of hardworking, honest, taxpaying Ontarians in the province --

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


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Minister, you, along with the Premier, recently launched a worldwide business initiative that is now widely known as Market Ontario. This initiative will educate others around the globe as to the benefits of Ontario as a great place to live, work, visit, invest and do business. For the members of my riding in Halton North, this is indeed welcome news. We, like many other communities in Ontario, are ideally located to take advantage of a North American marketplace and boast a highly skilled, well-educated workforce to handle the demands of the new high-tech age.

My question to you is this: While the residents of Halton North are pleased with the announcement, they would like to know how your recent economic development trip to Japan, where you launched the new program, was received and how it will effectively benefit them and others in the province.

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): In response to the question from the member for Halton North, I'd like to say that my trip was very well received. I told those who have invested in Canada and those who are thinking of investing in Canada that we are deregulating in this province. We have improved the labour environment, we are cutting the personal income tax rate and we are being fiscally responsible.

That was good news to the people in Japan and I would like to tell you --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): They're not suffering. The people here are suffering.

The Speaker: The member for Kingston and The Islands, it's one thing to heckle, the other is to get right out of your seat. Please.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I would like to tell the member for Halton North that I think his constituents will be pleased to know that what we did was we put Ontario in front of Japanese investors. Our goal with Market Ontario is to do that in all countries. Our goal is to boost by 2% Ontario's share of direct foreign investment, from 6.8% to 8.6%. This should result in about --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister. Supplementary.

Mr Chudleigh: I imagine there's a number of jobs associated with that, which perhaps you'll include in your supplemental answer.

Market Ontario sounds like a great program, but there are always costs associated with any good program. My question to you is this: Can you clarify for the residents and constituents of Halton North what priority methods are being considered to carry this critical message to business leaders and potential customers around the world, and what are the costs associated with it?

Hon Mr Saunderson: There will be 240,000 new jobs because of this. What we will be doing is using dynamic media advertising, direct target marketing, a special promotional video, using business ambassadors as volunteers, continuous direct mail, special trade and investment missions --


The Speaker: Order. You've got to allow the minister to answer the question. Minister?

Hon Mr Saunderson: We'll be using special trade and investment missions. We'll be vigorously using trade show representations. We will be using our attractive Internet gateway for Ontario and using a new, promising database. The total cost, if you would listen, will be $17.8 million per year.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the minister responsible for women's issues. Minister, you have been silent in regard to the devastating impact that the changes to the family support plan have had on women across this province.

I have a document, the family support plan business plan, that was submitted to the minister and to the cabinet in January 1996. This document clearly outlines the difficulties that the plan was going to have once the transition took place. Let me simply read from it. This is your document. It's the marketing and communication strategy part of the family support plan:

"The plan's clients will perceive this proposal as a major reduction in service (most especially support recipients -- 90% women and children). The transition period will see a service reduction to clients" for a period of time.

It talks about how you're going to sell the plan; it talks about how you're going to convince the public it's a good idea. What we have seen is nothing more than devastation on women and children.

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

Mr Agostino: Minister, as you were aware of this as a member of the cabinet, did you advise the Attorney General at all of the concerns and the impact that this would have on women across Ontario?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Yes, I did.

Mr Agostino: Then it simply becomes a question of the inability of the minister to convince the Attorney General or simply the incompetence of the cabinet in dealing with this particular issue, because it is clear that this government knew as far back as January 1996, according to their own documents, that this was going to be devastating to women and children in this province, and you've done absolutely nothing about it.

I have in my own office as of today 85 outstanding cases, individuals who prior to the change were receiving support payments. Their life was carrying on as normally as possible, and since these changes it is devastated.

Minister, you are responsible for women's issues in this province, and 90% are women and children who have been devastated by these changes. What do you have to say to these women and children across Ontario whose lives have been devastated and turned upside down and into total hell as a result of the move, and what influence do you have in the cabinet and with the Attorney General if he obviously didn't listen to your advice in cabinet?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I've been a member of this Legislative Assembly now for over eight years. I can tell you that the family support plan has never worked. It didn't work when you were in government and it worked less when the NDP were in government.

In response, I'd like to say that we receive letters constantly with regard to --


The Speaker: The members for Sudbury East and Welland-Thorold, I want you to come to order and I want to warn you.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I think that all of us receive letters on a daily basis with regard to the concerns, that over the years governments have not dealt with getting the cheques out to women who deserve them and who should have them required by law.

The letter I'd like to read is to the member from Sudbury, who has so much to say:

"Dear Ms Martel: May we also remind you that we picketed the Attorney General's office in June of 1993" --

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): What are you doing about the crisis now, Dianne?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: -- "addressing the issues that are contained in Bill 82." I will go --


The Speaker: Member for Sudbury East, that's it. It's the final warning. If I have to bring you to order again, I'll have to name you.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: Mr Speaker, I'll look at you and perhaps I'll get my message out. This is a letter from Mothers Against Fathers in Arrears. It was sent to Ms Martel, the member for Sudbury East. I'd like just to say that this has been an ongoing problem and I'll quote:

"May we also remind you that we picketed the Attorney General's office in June of 1993 addressing the issues that are contained in Bill 82." It goes on and on. What are you moaning about is the point. Please remember that your own government, the NDP, chose to ignore this very issue.

In direct response to the question, the member stated in his question --

The Speaker: Thank you. Come to order, Minister.

Mr Agostino: You'll even put a temporary coat on their kid's back while you're at it.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, come to order. Member for Algoma, new question.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The interesting thing about the minister's response is that she was dealing with issues that have been a problem for a long time --

The Speaker: Member for Algoma, I need to know who your question is to.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Education and Training. Next Wednesday parents from Hornepayne, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Windsor, Port Arthur, Arthur, Ontario, and other towns and cities across the province are going to be visiting constituency offices to see their MPPs to protest the cuts in education across the province.

They've seen the impact of your cuts on classroom education for their children; they are worried about the additional cuts that you intend to make; they see the agenda that you've put forward for changes to secondary school education, changes to the financing of education; and yesterday they heard you say that you are going to be introducing Nintendo methodology, an idea that casts a chill on all parents about their kids' education in the province.

When is the minister going to put forward a clear vision of what he intends to do for education, for schools and the province, or is he just going to continue --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Algoma, thank you very much for your question. Minister.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member opposite for the question because it gives us a chance once again to lay out a vision for education in Ontario here in this chamber. It gives us a chance to publicly say how we will redress some of the problems in our education system that were caused by the previous governments, including a funding system that the previous government failed to address that is not fair to the students of the province.

I know parents right across the province and taxpayers right across the province who are looking forward to having a better funding system for their schools. They're also looking forward to a better governance system: one that reduces the cost of administration, one that reduces the bureaucracy that spends money outside of the classroom, that has no effect on the wellbeing or education of children.

They're looking forward to these changes. They're also looking forward to a curriculum -- finally a secondary school curriculum -- that meets the requirements set out in two royal commissions and that focuses some of its attention on the 70% of students who will not immediately go on to college or university. A lot of parents and a lot of taxpayers in this province --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister.

Mr Wildman: The minister's so-called vision isn't shared by very many from most aspects of the education community. Last Friday the chairs of the GTA boards requested an urgent meeting with the minister to deal with "the uncertainty and anxiety gripping the education community." On Monday a group of directors of education from across Ontario asked for a meeting with the minister and the Premier to discuss "a potential crisis in education that puts in jeopardy the future of Ontario's youth." On Tuesday organizations serving Chinese Canadian students and parents publicly expressed their "grave concern over the proposed restructuring of education."


When is the minister going to start listening to these people: trustees, educators, parents and students? When is he going to outline a vision and a plan for education that gives them a meaningful input into the decision-making process?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I think this government has had a record, in the education portfolio and all the other aspects of government, of doing some things that are very admirable.

One, we have consulted with people across this province. I have met with board chairs ongoing for 16 months; I will continue to do that. Yesterday, I met with CODE, the organization of directors of education across the province, those people who are charged with the day-to-day responsibility of administering this $13.6-billion school system we have. I can assure the member opposite that I will continue to talk to the directors of education and others who are involved, the professionals who are involved in delivering education.

On top of that, we will be looking to have consultations -- and we are currently doing that -- with parents, taxpayers and students because we believe their voices need to be heard too as we improve and build on the quality of our education system in the province. In the past, the voices of taxpayers, the voices of parents and the voices of students have not been heard. Those voices do not fall on deaf ears with this government.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): My question is for my colleague the honourable Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The minister is well aware of my personal interest and concern for national matters and my concern for the future of this country --


Mr Parker: -- a concern which I am sure is shared by my honourable friends opposite. I expect they're interested in hearing the question and the answer I might elicit.

Minister, as I discuss national issues, I have heard it argued in some cases that Ontario is not committed to equitable treatment for all Canadians when it comes to rebalancing the federation and determining who does what in social and non-social programs. My question is this: Can you explain to this House how rebalancing the federation will benefit all Canadians, not just Ontario?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): At the first ministers' conference this summer, the premiers agreed to ask specific ministers representing the provinces and territories to develop a three-year work plan for rebalancing federal, provincial and territorial roles and responsibilities outside social policy as well as social policy.

This work plan will identify priorities for rebalancing and it will establish time lines and monitoring processes to ensure that the work plan is completed. Together, the provinces and the federal government are taking the steps towards positive, gradual change to the federation.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The agenda for next week?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I have the weekly business statement. Pursuant to standing order 55 --


The Speaker: Order. I am fairly sure everyone will want to know what we're going to be doing next week, so if you'd come to order it would be very helpful.

Hon David Johnson: Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of November 25, 1996.

On Monday, November 25, the House will, hopefully, complete the second reading debate on Bill 82.

On Tuesday, November 26, we will resume second reading debate of Bill 86.

On Wednesday, November 27, there will be an opposition day in the name of the leader of the NDP.

On Thursday, November 28, we will debate second reading of Bill 93.



Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the provincial government of Ontario 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 the 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."

I join the more than hundreds, as we have already read this petition in and we continue to receive more.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): This morning at a news conference pointing out the devastating attack on injured workers, Karl Crevar, president of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, presented to me a petition of 7,000 signatures that reads as follows:

"Whereas the Harris government is proposing cuts to the Workers' Compensation Board to shift the responsibility to the backs of the taxpayer; and

"Whereas we reject the Harris government's proposals to attack the injured workers of Ontario; and

"Whereas the people of Ontario did not intend to vote against our neighbours; and

"Whereas we want to build a better community and injured workers are a part of that community; and

"Whereas we say no to the Harris plan to cut injured workers' benefits, cut injured workers' pensions and future economic loss (FEL) payments, introduce a waiting period for benefits after injury, refuse compensation for disabilities like repetitive strains and occupational diseases, shift the responsibility from the WCB and employer to the taxpayer and privatize the WCB at the expense of the injured worker and the public;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call on the Harris government to solve the WCB's problems without attacking injured workers; and

"Further, that the government must put the emphasis on a safer workplace and stop rewarding employers who ignore work hazards; full consultation with the main stakeholders; give injured workers the right to rehabilitation and to return to meaningful work; give all workers the protection of workers' compensation, especially at the banks, which must finally start paying their fair share; hold employers accountable for evading their WCB obligations; and give workers and injured workers at least an equal say in the system."

I add my name to theirs.


Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): I have a petition from a number of my Cambridge residents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sign the face of the petition, as required by the standing orders.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The following petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"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."

As I agree with the petition, I have affixed my name to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from members of the United Food and Commercial Workers responding to a very vicious strike that's happening in Bancroft. The petition reads as follows:

"Whereas 55 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 175 who are employed at the Bancroft IGA have been on strike since October 21 of this year in an attempt to gain a fair and just collective agreement; and

"Whereas the employer has been found in violation of nine separate provisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Act and has failed to comply with the Ontario Labour Relations Board directives; and

"Whereas UFCW Local 175 has filed a contempt-of-court motion with the Ontario Court of Justice in order to enforce compliance with the orders of the OLRB; and

"Whereas the employer, who is also the immediate past chairman of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, has instituted the use of replacement workers;" -- I'd say "scabs" -- "and

"Whereas the province of Ontario is witnessing growing labour unrest as a result of actions such as have been taken by the owner of the Bancroft IGA, in particular with the use of replacement workers;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to restore the ban on replacement workers and bring forth labour legislation that restores a fair and equitable balance between labour and management, which was contained in the previous NDP government's Bill 40."

I add my name in support of theirs.



Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition on behalf of the member for Simcoe East. I will summarize it by saying that it is in regard to the provincial interest in public libraries and is signed by 103 residents of that riding.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I've been getting petitions from thousands and thousands of people, and it says here:

"To Premier Michael Harris, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Al Leach and members of the Ontario provincial Legislature:

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to this in agreement.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a petition signed by some 200 residents of my riding and surrounding areas of Toronto which reads as follows:

"Whereas the provincial government has not given the citizens of the Toronto area any opportunity to speak on the issue of amalgamating the six municipalities within Toronto to create a megacity of 2.3 million people;

"Whereas studies reveal that amalgamation does not save taxpayers money;

"Whereas Toronto was recently cited as the world's best city in which to live and work;

"Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government undertake a public consultation process before proceeding unilaterally with the amalgamation."

I've signed my name to this.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I'm pleased to present a petition from the Clarington Public Library.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we believe that provincial interest in public libraries in Ontario is fundamental to the rights of all Ontarians;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to maintain the provincial interest in public libraries by ensuring the continuance of the following:

"(1) grants to ensure that all Ontarians have equalized access to library materials;

"(2) coordination of resource-sharing programs such as interlibrary loan and Internet access;

"(3) policy to ensure the future of the network of Ontario public libraries;

"(4) provincial assistance directly to libraries at the service level, for example, through Southern Ontario Library Service and Ontario Library Service-North;

"(5) legislation that maintains the autonomy of public library boards in Ontario."

I agree with most of this petition and am pleased to affix my name to it.


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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to it.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads:

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

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

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

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

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

That's signed by Rhonda Mason of Cambridge, by George Mailloux of Tilbury, by Judy Mess of Courtright and others, and of course by myself.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I both sign and support this petition.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here which is addressed to the Parliament of Ontario and it's to end the spring bear hunt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's by signed by about 300 residents of eastern Ontario, and I affix my signature to it.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is rolling back the clock on workers' health and safety and occupational disease; and

"Whereas before the Occupational Disease Panel was established the Workers' Compensation Board dragged its feet for decades in acknowledging evidence that work was responsible for many diseases; and

"Whereas the independent Occupational Disease Panel's work is respected internationally; and

"Whereas a leaked cabinet document shows that Labour Minister Elizabeth Witmer is planning to abolish the Occupational Disease Panel, ending this independent voice and giving the responsibility back to the WCB; and

"Whereas the government needs to hear from the people of Ontario that taking money away from workers with occupational diseases is not the way to make Ontario a better place to live;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold full, province-wide hearings on WCB reform; to listen to the voice of the people calling for the preservation of the Occupational Disease Panel; and to tell the Tory government to call off its attack on the dignity and standard of living of injured workers and their families."

It's signed by a number of constituents and I've added my signature to that.



Mr Curling from the standing committee on estimates reported the following resolutions:

Resolved, that supply in the following amounts and to defray the expenses of the following ministries be granted to Her Majesty for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997:

Ministry of Education and Training:

Ministry administration program --


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Dispense? Is it agreed? It is agreed. We will dispense.



Mr Leach moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 96, An Act to Consolidate and Revise the Law with respect to Residential Tenancies / Projet de loi 96, Loi codifiant et révisant le droit de la location à usage d'habitation.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Do the honourable thing, Al: Don't move it. Do the right thing.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I just did.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour say "aye."

All those opposed say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1532 to 1537.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Leach has moved first reading of a bill entitled An Act to consolidate and revise the law with respect to Residential Tenancies.

All those in favour will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Grimmett, Bill

Pettit, Trevor

Baird, John R.

Hudak, Tim

Sampson, Rob

Barrett, Toby

Johnson, David

Saunderson, William

Bassett, Isabel

Johnson, Ron

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Kells, Morley

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Klees, Frank

Skarica, Toni

Clement, Tony

Leach, Al

Smith, Bruce

Cunningham, Dianne

Marland, Margaret

Snobelen, John

DeFaria, Carl

Martiniuk, Gerry

Spina, Joseph

Doyle, Ed

Munro, Julia

Tilson, David

Elliott, Brenda

Newman, Dan

Tsubouchi, David H.

Eves, Ernie L.

O'Toole, John

Turnbull, David

Fisher, Barbara

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Ford, Douglas B.

Parker, John L.


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


Boyd, Marion

Kennedy, Gerard

McLeod, Lyn

Bradley, James J.

Kormos, Peter

Phillips, Gerry

Christopherson, David

Kwinter, Monte

Pouliot, Gilles

Churley, Marilyn

Lankin, Frances

Sergio, Mario

Cooke, David S.

Laughren, Floyd

Silipo, Tony

Curling, Alvin

Marchese, Rosario


Gerretsen, John

Martel, Shelley


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 41; the nays are 19.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried. Does the minister have a brief statement?

Hon Mr Leach: I'd just like to say that it's an honour and a privilege to bring in a bill that represents fairness and equity to tenant protection.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 82, An Act to establish the Family Responsibility Office, protect the interests of children and spouses through the strict enforcement of support orders while offering flexibility to responsible payors and make consequential amendments to certain statutes / Projet de loi 82, Loi créant le Bureau des obligations familiales, visant à protéger les intérêts des enfants et des conjoints grâce à l'exécution rigoureuse des ordonnances alimentaires tout en offrant une certaine souplesse aux payeurs responsables, et apportant des modifications corrélatives à des lois.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm pleased to have an opportunity to discuss this afternoon the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996. There are many things about this act that are very important in terms of the development over the last 10 years of an effective way to collect support payments from those who are reluctant to pay them.

Yesterday we heard from three speakers in the Liberal Party who gave their version of the development over the last 10 years of the plan currently known as the family support plan, formerly known as the support and custody orders enforcement plan. It is important for us to recognize that this has been a developmental and incremental process.

When the Liberal government in 1987 brought in the SCOE plan, as it was called, there were many who opposed it on the grounds that it was very intrusive. There were many who felt that was a plan that intruded far too much into the family structure, into the privacy rights of individuals who owed support. In fact what happened with the development of that plan was a real sense within the province of the responsibility of parents to pay support for their children when ordered to do so by the court, and the gradual acceptance that it matters to all of us a great deal whether or not parents accept that responsibility has grown to the point where I don't think there's much dispute now.

We all know as taxpayers that when parents don't pay, we pay, because families and children do not have the support they require otherwise, so it is in all of our best interests to be supportive of measures that are going to be effective in terms of ensuring that support payments ordered by courts are followed through on by parents.

When we come to an act like the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, we want to be very clear that there are many things that we regard as very important. We also want to make it very clear that most of these suggestions, as they have come forward, were suggestions that were developed, plans that were developed by the family support plan staff themselves. Once the law was in place in 1987, it became very clear to those responsible for enforcing that act that there were problems with enforcing the act, and the staff very carefully documented those problems and provided solutions, well-researched solutions as to how some of that could be avoided.

One of the issues that was documented in the SCOE plan, which of course included issues of custody and access with the issue of support, was that those issues should not be joined in one act, because what they saw happening was payors using the excuse that they were not getting access or using the excuse that there was a dispute over custody to not follow their obligation to pay support.

When our government was in place, one of the first things we did was use the information that came forward from the very dedicated staff who were running the SCOE plan and come up with some amendments to that act. It is really important for us to look at this as an incremental process, because at that point it was very clear to us that one of the issues was this issue of garnishment being seen in the employer population as somehow a stigma upon an employee, that when someone was not paying and a garnishment procedure was entered into, that in fact somehow reflected upon the character of the payor.

One of the things our party was most concerned about was that if the growing acceptance that people who owe support to their children under a court order ought to pay and it is all of our responsibility to ensure that that payment is made, then why should this not be done by automatic deduction at source, as are some of the other responsibilities of citizens, like income tax, like CPP, like UI. So the heart of the family support plan as we conceived it was to remove the stigma of garnishment from those who were employed, had an employer who was able to deduct at source, and institute a program whereby that deduction at source would happen.

I don't think it should surprise any of us to know that once those automatic support deduction orders were in place, the increase in the amount of funds flowing to those recipients grew dramatically as did the number of dollars flowing to the treasury of Ontario as a result of the assignment of family benefits. So we can clearly show and track and have all the figures to show that there was a substantial and dramatic increase in the ability to collect outstanding support orders once this became an automatic process.

What's really important for us to understand is the whole nature of non-payment of support orders. It is extremely important for us to be very clear why people do not fulfil their responsibility, and we need to understand that in the context of the conflict that arises when a relationship breaks down. In many relationships when there's a breakdown, there's a good deal of hostility between the two partners, and all of us know that that hostility often takes hostage the children of that relationship. It's one of the tragedies that is very clear in our day-to-day lives.

All of us read today the reports of the Stats Canada report on children and what children are at most risk. The children of single parents are clearly at higher risk and clearly subjected to greater poverty than the majority of children in this country, and yet, even where children are not in poverty as the children of single parents, they show many of the indications of distress and disturbance that should concern us with respect to their healthy future.

The paper speculated on no one being quite sure why that would be true for children of single parents who are not living in poverty, but concluded that probably it's because of the conflict between their parents, because they become the battleground of people who no longer have anything else in common or any other contact point.

As someone who has worked for many years in the field of battered women, I know that the issue between many partners around the non-payment of support orders is a continuation of the power and control politics of the relationship they had. So when we see that there has been physical, sexual or emotional abuse it's not surprising that we would find financial abuse as an aspect of the power and control issues between partners whose relationship has broken down.


That's why it's extremely important for us to look at how we enforce support orders for children, because part of our responsibility, surely, to those children is to ensure that they don't get caught in the middle, that they don't become pawns in a power game between their parents. When I say that, I don't mean to imply necessarily that parents consciously or intentionally create this pain and suffering for their children. I'm not making any kind of claim of that at all, because I think many parents become so wound up in the personal animosity between themselves that it is hard for them to see what's happening with their children.

When we were looking at how to improve the plan, the important key to this was to take the payment of support out of the arena of conflict between two partners to ensure that everything that happened around those support orders happened through the director of the family support plan so that money no longer became the issue between two adults who had a conflict, and when children were being accessed by a non-custodial parent, the issue of money did not arise as a huge conflict.

Those of you who don't know very much about the process of conflict in relationships that have broken down may think that may happen in a few cases but not in many. But if you talk to the police, to shelters and to family counselling agencies in your community they will tell you how frequently before 1992, when the family support plan took effect, the issue of dollars became an issue of war, and it centred around the issue of changing custody of children at an access visit. Most family lawyers will tell you that the issue of custody becomes extraordinarily complex and that very often non-payment of support orders is a way to try and lever one individual or the other to a more generous response in terms of access or lever a joint custody situation where that is not acceptable to another party.

I cannot tell the members of the government often enough the number of cases of coercion that occur around those issues of custody, access and support and how important it is for us, in any piece of legislation, not to allow the payment of support to become some kind of lever around issues of custody and access. It is extremely important to retain that, and I am pleased that in this bill the government did not return to conjoining access and custody issues with support issues and removed one of the ongoing obligations of the family support plan, to enforce domestic custody orders, although I'm not sure that the facile explanation that this now comes under legal aid and there's no real problem with the enforcement of those orders is very convincing. However, it is a minority of cases, only about 20 to 25 a year, so we're not making an issue of that.

On principle we believe that the issue of payment of support should be a stand-alone issue, that each of us who has a child, each of us as a parent, whether we're male or female, has a responsibility to support that child as long as that child is dependent upon us, and that it is our obligation to ensure, through the mechanisms we put in place, that all of us fulfil that obligation equally. Otherwise, frankly, we are all disadvantaged.

When we were discussing and talking about how to make this effective, we decided that there were those major issues we wanted to deal with in an act: (1) to make this a plan that would create as much possibility as possible for the payment of those support orders, and (2) to do that in a way that did not stigmatize the payor but would in fact reach those dollars in a more timely way and not depend, as it had been for years and years prior to the implementation of the SCOE plan, on just relying on the goodwill of someone to occasionally send the dollars to someone else with no enforcement plan, which of course was real. It was to do that in an orderly fashion so we could be sure the money would come in on a regular basis for those who were regularly employed.

The whole principle behind the support deduction order and making that mandatory for all new support orders was to ensure that it was not stigmatizing, that this was exactly the same as the payment of other at-source items that were due, so that employers could not discriminate against a payor because of additional work for that payor but that the law would require employers to deduct according to a regulation scheme that was similar to the tax deduction.

It was important, we felt, not to distinguish between those who were paying on a regular basis at that particular moment and those who were not; that it was important for us to understand that those who pay often stop paying when they form another relationship or a different interest, when they are not seeing their family as much, when they have other issues in their lives, but to make this into such a regime that it became automatic and wasn't up to the recipient of those funds, either the child or the other parent, to take the action required to ensure that payment was made.

That was why we resisted very strongly, in the implementation of the family support plan, the suggestions of the Liberals, who did not want those deductions to be automatic for every case of a support order at all, who wanted to have that happen only when there was a default; and similarly for the opposition party, represented by the current Attorney General.

What we believed very strongly was that if you distinguish between payors and non-payors at source, then the employer knows who's in compliance and who isn't. That's when it's stigmatizing, because if everyone who has an order gets it deducted, the employer has no way of assuming that there's any problem with his employee. The employer only knows: "Here's the court order. This is a regular process. There we go. We deduct these at source the way we would the tax that's owed."

But if you allow the kind of opt-out system the Attorney General has proposed, that is exactly what you're doing. You're leading to a stigmatization of those payors who come under that act. The employer will not know whether they are wilfully and angrily in conflict with their partner and therefore are not putting forward their money. They will not have any way of knowing whether that's the result of additional financial obligations and the inability to get through the court on a variance of the order. The employer will know, "Aha, it's exactly like the old garnishment process." The employer will say, "My employee is not fulfilling his responsibility." Therefore, those personal matters may enter into the impression an employer has of the employee, and that may not be fair.

What we were attempting will be destroyed by this provision in the act, that people opt out and only if they are in default do they then come into the plan. It's a shame, because what it does again is finger-point at people in a way that may be detrimental to their ability to make a living. I would urge the members of the government to look at that issue, because that is exactly what you are doing if you pass this opt-out provision.


One of the interesting things is that the Attorney General did not follow his own suggestion to us. The Attorney General, the member for Willowdale, had a very elaborate plan that would first of all do deduction at source but would also allow for those who are paying, and paying faithfully, not to have to go through the process of having their employer involved.

Let me read to you from Hansard the discussions we had in December 1990, because it's very important for you to know what your colleague the Attorney General proposed at that time to deal with this problem. You should question, as I question, why, when he wanted to change this, he did not go to that plan. His suggestion was, and I quote from page 2869, on December 18, 1990, what the now Attorney General said:

"But the bill before us now is not without flaw either. What this bill seeks to do is to remove the middleman in the garnishment of wages for support payments. This reduces the administrative load of the support and custody office, enabling it to better spend its time chasing down the 75% of support payors defaulting on their payments. This is good, but the price is that 25% of support payors who are registered with the program and do regularly make their payments are going to have their wages, in effect, garnished also.

"I know the government says there is no stigma attached to this program and that no one will ever know because of the confidentiality provisions accompanying the legislation, but I am sorry, it does not work that way in the real world. In a large company, where there are many hundreds or thousands of employees, perhaps the employee is just a number and he gets lost in the shuffle and it has no effect on him, but most employees work for small companies and the reality is that there is very little personal information not widely known by co-workers.

"The government holds that mass collection of these orders, like income tax or pension contributions, will remove the stigma attached with garnishment of wages. I am sorry, but I do not agree." So he at least is consistent. We have to give him the benefit of the doubt on that.

"Where a person has demonstrated in the past that he is willing and able to make his payments regularly in accordance with the requirements of the order, my party and I believe he should be allowed to continue to do so. Certainly the problems associated with divorce, separation and custody battles are damaging enough to individuals. Is it really the role of the government to seek to remove any last shreds of self-esteem remaining? I do not think so.

"To this end," the Attorney General said, "I will be introducing two amendments to the bill. The first amendment seeks to allow those persons who are currently making the provisions of their support and custody orders to pay them directly to the director, without automatic collection. It is the responsibility of the director to forward these payments on to the support recipient.

"In this manner, an individual who has demonstrated the willingness and the ability to make payments shall not be penalized for the 75% who are not. By making the payments through the office of the director, it still ensures that the director has control over the situation. As part of this amendment there will also be the proviso that if there is a single aberration from the order without explanation deemed reasonable by the director, the director will have the power to revert automatically to a direct collection method. In this manner, the recipient gets the support, the director maintains control and the support payor retains his or her dignity. I ask, where is the harm in that?

"Similarly, the second amendment that I will be introducing," said the Attorney General in 1990, "will allow new support payors the similar dignity of presuming the willingness and ability to make payments, providing that the court is satisfied the debtor is likely to make the payments. As such, unless the court deems otherwise, first-time payors will be able to voluntarily make their payments directly to the director without presumption of guilt. Once again, a single failure to make payment without reasonable explanation will result in the imposition of automatic support collection.

"These amendments are designed and intended to protect the rights and dignity of the responsible 25% of support payers who do meet the requirements of their support orders."

It's interesting that in 1990 the Attorney General had a compromise position which would have seen that issue around the privacy and the dignity of individuals met but would have ensured that the collection of support dollars did not depend on court action by the recipient. The director would still be involved; everything would pass through the director. That third party would be the one who would be responsible. He had devised a plan which might have stopped the kind of conflict that we know happens when a recipient of support has to take court action in order to initiate things.

The members of the opposition are wondering why I am making such a point of this. I'm making such a point of it because if in fact what the minister were trying to do is what he tells us he wanted to do, to make the plan better and to ensure that there was firm collection and so on, his own solution would have met both his need around the 25% who very faithfully pay their support orders and the issue of what you do when there's a default. But as it is now, when there is a default, the recipient has to notify the plan that there's a default. The recipient, if the recipient has opted out, as is envisioned in the bill, has to reinstate the claim with the director, and may have to do so at a fee. That is the other issue here. There is a money transaction proposed by this Attorney General, not an action on the part of the state.

One of the methods this government uses when it wants to change things is to try to convince the population of Ontario that what exists is broken. We heard it today from the Minister of Municipal Affairs: "Rent control is broken and therefore we're going to fix it by abolishing it." What we have in the case of family support is a very strong effort by this Attorney General first to destroy a plan that was working, convince people that it isn't working, convince people they should opt out so that his workload in his ministry, which has been heavily hit by cuts by this government because of your need to get revenue and to save so that you can pay your tax fee, takes precedence over everything else. That's exactly what's happening here.

I'm going to show you that this plan was not broken, that although it needed some of the tools you've brought forward, the preparation of which was all done by our government and would have been implemented by us in a second term, you in fact have tried to show people that the plan is rotten and doesn't work. Believe me, it's a very clear plot.

What about the minister's claim that the plan isn't working? The minister claims that the plan isn't working because there are outstanding amounts that have not been collected. That has always been true in this scheme.

One of the sad facts about this issue is that people who have an obligation and are ordered by the court to pay often renege on that obligation. We don't know how many hundreds of millions of dollars in support ordered by courts was never collected prior to 1987 because the Conservative government that had been in power for 42 years did absolutely nothing about that problem. There was no enforcement mechanism, other than the usual court order enforcement mechanism, available to citizens of Ontario under the previous Tory government.

But the minister says, as an afterthought, when their popularity was clearly dropping and they were in danger of losing the election in 1985, the then Attorney General was going to bring forward a plan. I suspect that plan looked pretty much like the Liberals' plan, because we all know how government works now, all of us together. We know that if the plan isn't on the shelf, you don't get to implement it in your first couple of years in government. So it's probably true that people within the Attorney General's ministry had been working on such a plan for some time before the Tories lost the election in 1985. That's probably quite true, because the Liberals took action fairly early on trying to find an implementation mechanism. So a lot of the research, a lot of the policy work was already there for them to take advantage of.


We do know how much was owing once all of the applications came in from the people who had decided it was worth their while to fill in the application once the SCOE law came in. I'd be interested in knowing how many of you have actually seen how complex and complicated those applications were. They were very extensive. Those of us who worked as advocates for recipients of support orders spent many hours trying to help them make sense of those very complex plans, and it depended very much upon the recipient being able to give information to the plan, as it always does, about the location and the income source of their partner. We do know that when that plan started, there was already $300 million of outstanding money on day one because of applications for people who had had court orders over the many years before and who registered them with the plan in a historical way.

In many of those cases what was owed to recipients was thousands and thousands of dollars and what was owed to the government of Ontario was hundreds of thousands of dollars. In many cases those families had had to rely on family assistance in order to survive because of the non-payment of those support orders. So when that plan started as a result of the actions taken by the Liberal government in response to the neglect of years and years by Tory governments which had completely ignored this issue as an important public policy issue, already on day one $300 million of money was outstanding.

It's really important, when the Attorney General stands up and tells us there's now $100 million outstanding, that it was always acknowledged, because of the long history of having difficulty collecting on support orders, that we would see a growth in the outstanding amounts, that we could expect that this would be true. The issue is to track through those years and see what happened in terms of the collection of fees, first under the SCOE plan and then under the current family support plan. That is a really important thing for us to know.

In 1987-88, when the plan was first in place, $19.9 million was collected. In 1988-89 that increased to $88.9 million; in 1989-90 to $104.7 million; in 1990-91 to $134.9 million; in 1991-92 to $166.4 million; in 1992-93, when we see the new family support plan come into place, up to $221.6 million; in 1993-94 to $297.5 million; and in 1994-95 to $367 million.

So what we see here is not a plan that is broken, not a plan that's not working, but a plan that every year increases its ability to collect the dollars that are owed under family support plan. It is quite clear that the same problems for those who were indigent and had no dollars to pay were there throughout that period, and because the plan was taking on anywhere from 1,200 to 1,400 new cases a month, that those uncollectible dollars would grow over that period of time.

What needs to be looked at is the proportion of uncollectible to collectible and the importance of those which might have been deemed uncollectible and became collectible after a number of years and what effect that had, because the Attorney General's bill is very clear. The Attorney General's bill allows the director of the plan to close cases. It allows the director of the bill to say, "There's no possibility of collecting money from this person," or it says: "It's too hard to try and pursue this person. It's much too difficult. It costs too much to pursue this payor."

On May 26, 1996, which is the most recent date for which we were able to get the up-to-date statistics, so these are the end of May statistics, the total arrears owing to the plan were $905.7 million. Of that, $593.3 million was owed to recipients: to children, to youth, to their mothers in most cases, although in some cases, as we all acknowledge, the custodial parent may be the father. The arrears owing to the treasury in May 1996 were $311.8 million.

Now how does that compare? First of all, we see an incremental increase in uncollected dollars, as we would expect to see under a plan like this over the years. In March 1995, the end of fiscal year 1995, the total was $831.1 million of arrears. Of those, $524.1 million was owed to recipients and $307 million to the treasury of Ontario. It's important to notice that the amount owed to the treasury of Ontario has not grown very much. It's important to notice that the emphasis on collecting dollars appears to be not for the benefit of the recipients but for the benefit of the treasury of Ontario.

That's a very important aspect for us to look at, because although we saw an increase of about $75 million in the total arrears owed, we saw very little increase in the amount of arrears owed to the Treasurer of Ontario. What we clearly have here is a situation where there's going to be an emphasis on collecting the dollars that are owed to the treasury of Ontario and very little emphasis on seeking out those dollars that are owed to individuals.

You may want to know why I make such a point of it. I make such a point of it because I have in front of me the Ministry of the Attorney General family support plan 1996-97 business plan. I don't know whether you folks on the government side have actually seen this, but it lays out quite a blueprint for the plan.

First of all, this report clearly states that Ontario currently has the best plan in Canada for collecting support orders. On page 10 of the business plan, where it says, "Comparison to Other Jurisdictions," the business plan says, "Ontario is the only maintenance enforcement program in Canada which fully offsets the cost of services and provides a similar amount as net return to the government." That means that it costs somewhere in the neighbourhood of $22 million to run, and the government, as of May 1996, was collecting per month almost $6 million per month. So when we multiply it, we know that the collection for the treasury alone was much higher than the cost of the program. In fact, in May 1996, at $5.7 million per month, if you multiply that by 12, it was almost three times the amount of the cost of the program.


This is the plan that the Attorney General stands up and tells you isn't working. This is the plan that the Attorney General has cut by 35% of the cost, to the detriment of many of the recipients. This was not a broken plan. This was a plan that could have raised a good deal more money if the same individuals who had been dedicated staff in this plan had had the tools that the minister is proposing in his act. It's important for us to recognize that.

The business plan goes on to say, "Ontario is the most `cost per case' efficient program in Canada." This program that he wants to cut the administrative cost of by 35% is already the most efficient cost-per-case program in Canada. We have much to be proud of. I think you should know that it's quite clear that those who are fleeing from the responsibility of paying their family support do not flee to Ontario with any great regularity, because they know that our enforcement measures are the strongest in Canada.

Ours is not a plan that is broken. Ours is a plan that needed the tools that are in Bill 82 to make it even better. Ours is a plan that could have found other ways of saving costs.

The business plan makes it quite clear why the minister has taken the action that he's taken. It's really important that members of the government back bench understand what the underlying issue is here for the Attorney General. It fits all the language and rhetoric that you're very familiar with, the determination of core businesses and the determination of how you look and make a business case for what's happening.

We read on page 2 of the FSP business plan dated January 18, 1996: "Renewed Approach -- Proposed Core Business within the next 3-5 Years." This is 1996, so three to five years, this is the proposed core business. "FSP will continue to be universal for filing" -- universal filing of orders -- "enforcement will occur only on client request while adhering to strict program criteria. Reforms will also provide for the following: opting-out options; and broader discretionary powers for the director to close cases as well as action cases." Clearly this person had been speaking to Mr Snobelen because all of a sudden "action" has become a verb, as well as "languaging."

"This will restrict caseload" within the family support plan "to clients who are truly in need of this service."

The next piece is, "Trace and locate activities will be centralized" -- and we've heard about the mess that the Attorney General has created in trying to centralize trace and locate activities -- "standardized and restricted to what is reasonable, given limited resources and the need for equitable access for all clients."

All of a sudden we see an issue around getting that money for those children and youth being dependent upon whether it costs a lot to do so. The reality of that is that we will go to an even greater problem very quickly. There is everything in this bill to encourage payors to evade payment -- everything.

It goes on to say that if someone flees the jurisdiction, the director can close the case. Well, let me tell you, my friends, many, many payors flee the jurisdiction now in order to avoid payment. They know that when they come back to Ontario -- if you had the new tool of the driver's licence -- and applied for a new driver's licence, immediately the FSP would pick up the case and continue to enforce it if they hadn't been able to locate them otherwise.

This plan very clearly proposes that if someone flees the jurisdiction the director can close the case, because the director is not prepared to spend the dollars that are required to track that person down in another location. The case gets closed and there's no automatic revival of that case. When all these computerized files that through Bill 82 are going to be available to the FSP apply again it won't automatically come back on line. It will only come back on line if the recipient asks for enforcement. So what you are saying to recipients is, "You're responsible for seeing that you get paid." You're saying it is the job of a custodial parent to make sure that a court order is enforced. We've gone far beyond that in this province.

The Attorney General had suggested, as I think has been suggested on a number of occasions by FSP staff, that if you have an active file and an inactive file, if you have a computer technology, when someone applies for any one of these things that's now going to be attached and available for a computer check by FSP and appears on any of those files, it automatically tickles a response and the case becomes active. That's possible with the technology that's being proposed in the plan.

That is not what we're suggesting. We're suggesting closing files and then charging people to renew those files, charging people to get back on the system so that somebody can be tracked. That assumes that the custodial parent is going to know that the person has come back into the jurisdiction. Believe me, in most cases where someone is using financial power as a form of abuse there is no way the recipient is very keen on knowing that they came back into the jurisdiction except to get their children the kinds of resources to which they're entitled by a court order.

So the government is saying, "Well, this isn't very bad, because if some information comes forward to the recipient, the recipient can reactivate this." This is completely counter to the whole theory of ensuring that court orders are enforced by a third party so that the possibility of conflict does not arise.

It spoils, as does the whole issue of opting out, the possibility of this being just a normal fact of life: You owe money as a parent, you spend money as a parent, and it's up to the state to ensure that you spend it because otherwise the state will spend it. It's as simple as that.

Let me go on with some of the other issues the business plan raises, because it's really important for you to be aware of what is envisioned here.

"Administrative and legal enforcement of support arrears," says the business plan on January 18, "will continue to be core business but it will be done differently to improve the quality of service delivery." I don't think any of us want to argue with that, particularly. It suggests: "A smaller...centralized team will respond to daily client inquiries and scheduled actions. Legal services will be delivered locally by an enhanced panel and supervised by a smaller group of centralized counsel."

How is that worked out in the plan? The smaller group of centralized counsel -- I'll say it's smaller. There used to be 17 lawyers who worked permanently with the plan as the central group, and in far-flung areas a panel would act on behalf of the plan. This minister has reduced the number of legal counsel to four when the caseload would be approximately 150,000 cases and where non-payment is a problem, as he says, in over 70% of the cases.


The legal action that's required in order to get enforcement of these orders can vary from being very simple to quite complex. It can involve action against properties; it can involve all sorts of issues that are quite time-consuming. It's important to recognize that what is happening here is an extreme reduction in available services to lawyers who are trying to represent their clients as well as to the clients themselves.

We brought up in this House the complaint of lawyers that they used to be able to talk to the lawyers in the regional office. They had direct numbers to the lawyers. They could bring a case to their attention. They could get a statement of arrears. They could deal with disclosure issues directly and they could manage those cases quite smoothly.

Lawyers now cannot get hold of counsel directly. They have to leave messages on a machine -- on one of these message centres that I think will become the epitaph, frankly, of this government -- and it's such a short message that's allowed they can't even get all the information on to one message and they often don't get answered. They don't get the response they need in order to follow through at the local level. That's the reality of this very reasonable sounding plan. That's what's happened.

Then we go to case management: "Case management will continue to be a core business, although services will be improved by an enhanced employee accountability structure, individual caseloads will no longer exist and staff will be supported with improved technology. Quality control of service delivery will be constantly monitored. Shift work, telephone outreach and expanded telephone access by clients will resolve issues at the preliminary stage."

It sounds wonderful. There's only one problem. All of the case management has ended because the files have been withdrawn and put, as all of us saw on videotape, in corridors in boxes in some building in Downsview. No one has access to those files, or hasn't had for some time, and the reality is that the improved technology is still years away. This business plan clearly says that MECA, the system that the minister talked about yesterday, is inadequate, as he says, but it also clearly says that nothing is going to be done about that technology until the second or third year of the plan.

These so-called enhanced service people who will be able to make decisions do not have the backup of enhanced technology to help them. They don't have the files in front of them because nobody, I'm sure, with the chaos we all saw in the videotape, can find them, and the reality is that the plan itself cannot function well.

The other issue is, who are these staff? It's very, very interesting when we talk about the staffing of this plan to know that in January 1996 this minister knew there would be chaos. This minister understood entirely that there would be chaos. I'm going to read to you out of the business plan what the personnel issues were. It's very important for us all to understand why they are so important.

On page 11 of the January 18 business plan, let me just read. This follows immediately, incidentally, upon the words, "Ontario is the most `cost per case' efficient program in Canada." "Proposed staffing impacts." I'm just going to read it to you. This minister says there's no chaos. He knew there would be chaos.

"This business plan will result in net staff reductions of some 160 full-time positions. As a result, the FSP will reduce gross program expenditures by $4.493 million in fiscal 1996-97 and by a further gross savings of $3.37 million in fiscal 1997-98. Net savings in each of these fiscal years will be $2.298 million in 1996-97 and an additional $1.175 million in 1997-98 once the non-tax blitz initiative" -- I'll explain that one to you later -- "funding of $2.195 million per fiscal year is factored in.

"Total full-time program positions following this restructuring, at March 31, 1997, will be 203 (including seconded legal services), down considerably from the current full-time position complement of 364." Understand, this plan was to have that staff complement down to that by March 31, 1997.

"It should be noted," the business plan says, "that employee productivity and morale will be of considerable concern and may create additional obstacles for the program to manage during the transition period."

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't think we have a quorum to continue.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Would you check for a quorum, please.

Acting Clerk Assistant (Lisa Freedman): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Acting Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: No doubt the employee productivity and morale might have been bad, but the Attorney General found a way around that. It goes on to say:

"Staffing the New FSP Organization: In order that identified savings targets for the 1996-97 fiscal year are met it is imperative that the program be advised immediately of the government's direction concerning this initiative.

"Assuming early government approval (pre-budget date) the FSP plan will issue affected program staff (some 335) effective March 1, 1996, with appropriate layoff notices (to a maximum of six months).

"The FSP seek the assistance of human resources specialists in order to plan, stage and commence the recruitment process for some 170 full-time positions.

"As previously mentioned, our concerns regarding existing employee indiscretions during this transition period, the program will plan for an early summer 1996 start date for these competitions.

"Estimated Labour Adjustment Costs: Labour adjustment costs have been estimated at some $15 million. This is an extremely high and conservative number which includes payment to all existing program staff (some 335) during a six-month notice of layoff period. The program, due to present resource limitations and time frames, has calculated that each of these 335 staff members will not be successful in competing for any of the positions established by this business initiative, nor will they be assimilated into any other provincial government position. Therefore, this $15 million" payment "assumes all 335 affected employees will be released from government employment, all having completed an appropriate number of continuous services whereby they would each receive a six-month severance payment."

We all know that's exactly what happened. It didn't happen on March 1, 1996. No, these people, who saw this in February 1996, who knew the axe was going to fall, heard on August 15, 1996, and they were immediately let go. They were given the full six-month payment and immediately left their jobs.

Was there anything in place to replace them? Of course not. In fact the competitions hadn't even been opened for the new positions at that point, and those competitions only closed three weeks ago. And the minister stands up in this House day after day and says there was nothing wrong with the plan, that in fact it was still having money flowing. Well, who was flowing it? Let's tell you. What did they do? They went to temporary hiring places, to temporary employment agencies, and took people on their books with no expertise in family support to answer phones. Basically they couldn't say anything to people except, "Somebody will get back to you; we can't find your file," or, as we heard in this House on a number of occasions, disparaging comments to people who through court order were entitled to payments: "Why don't you get a job?" or "You got money in August. What's the matter? Did you spend it all?"


So dedicated, trained staff, staff whom we as taxpayers had paid to get trained so that they could be the most effective support enforcement staff in the entire country, were thrown on the trash heap by this government, their expertise completely ignored, their loyalty and their efforts on behalf of the people of Ontario completely ignored, and temporary staff were brought on who disparaged the clients of the program or at very best could give them absolutely no information at all.

I can't wait to see the figures for July, August, September, October and November of 1996. It doesn't surprise me, quite frankly, that the last monthly report we have been able to receive is May 1996, because contrary to what the minister says, I know those figures will show a huge drop in the amount of dollars that were collected and paid out during that period of time, and so do the people who should have been recipients of that money.

They know from experience that those dollars didn't flow to them. Their question is, "Where did they go?" because they know those dollars flowed. They know, because they call the employer of their partner and the employer says: "I can't figure out what's happening. I've deducted. I sent it in. I don't know what's happening." In many cases they say: "They've cashed the cheque. We don't know why you're not getting your money." We've brought case after case after case here.

Why would this have happened? Why would a minister and a government take a plan that was working better than any other plan in the entire country, that would have worked very well if the employees had had the tools that this government is allowing for the plan now, and destroy it, destroy it with nothing to take its place, destroy it in a way that really meant only those who were already on automatic deduction, automatic payment plans convenient to the Royal Bank, could get their payments? I'll tell you why. Is it speculation? I don't know. It would be speculation if I hadn't heard the advice of the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education was very clear: "The way you deal with these issues, my friends," he said, "is to create a crisis, make a situation so bad that everybody sees any change in it as an improvement."

That's what we see here. We see those people who would have stood up, could have stood up and praised this plan and urged the government to keep the regional offices, the ones who were getting full payments, seeing a whittling down of the arrears in their cases, seeing that in a regular way, and what happens to them? They don't get their money, so they become dissatisfied customers of the plan.

Then the minister says: "That's okay. You don't like the plan? Opt out. Lower our caseload. Lower our costs. Opt out." He says to people who might go on the plan in the future: "You don't need to go on the plan. Don't bother. You don't have to go on the plan. Don't register for it."

I don't think this is a paranoid fantasy, friends, because we've seen this government do this again and again and again. The Minister of Education creates a crisis in education by withdrawing dollars, refusing to accept that people want to raise taxes to maintain services. We see the Minister of Health destroying the health system of the province, quarrelling with the doctors, closing hospitals, paying no attention to local communities. We see it again and again with the policies of this government. When you want to get out of a business, what do you do? You convince the population that they don't want that service anyway, and that's exactly what this Attorney General has done with the family support plan, the best support enforcement plan in Canada and frankly, from the information I have, probably across North America.

That's what he's done. He's destroyed any sense that the plan will work. What's more, he knew that was a danger -- always assuming he read the business plan -- because on page 13 of the business plan there is a note. It's in bold. It's underlined. It's an important note. It says:

"The 35% target reduction" -- this is in the budget of the family support plan -- "has been recommended to be applied at 15% for 1996-97 and 20% for 1997-98 instead of 20% and 15%, as exceptional costs will be incurred during the first year for reorganization of the business and relocation of staff, premises, furniture, lease costs, leasehold improvements etc. These costs will not occur in the second year." Then, underlined: "Failure to adequately fund the one-time costs in the first year will mean that the program will be unable to recover from the closure of the eight regional offices. Because surplus notices will be given to virtually all service delivery staff early in 1996-97 fiscal, it is imperative that competitions be conducted immediately in order to minimize service disruption and carry on business. The surplussed staff will not be motivated or fully committed to service delivery during the notice period. A 20% constraint in the first year will not allow the program to run the competitions to hire service delivery staff."

We know that advice was not followed. We know that those notices weren't given until August 15, 1996, at which point the staff disappeared. We know that the competitions were not opened immediately. We know that the competitions only closed at or near November 1 and that people had to go through the hiring process at that point and supposedly be trained.

What did the minister tell us? The minister told us we shouldn't worry because -- what did he say? Was it Monday he said that one point something million dollars was processed by the plan, the highest amount ever? Well, that's a joke. That's a real joke, because in May 1996, $44.9 million was processed. These folks were unionized workers who worked in the regional offices, so they worked regular working hours. They weren't on shift work. They didn't work Saturdays. Although many of them did in order to do their job, they weren't paid for it.

How many workdays do we have in a month? We have about 22 on average. Some months it's 21; some months it's 23. I don't know what it was in May 1996, but even I know that when you divide 22 working days into $44.9 million, you get well over $2 million a day.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): And that's just to recipients.

Mrs Boyd: That's just to recipients. Some $5.7 million went to the treasury.

When the minister tells us that everything's fine and his plan is working well, it doesn't take much to prove him wrong. It doesn't take much to know that he took a plan and broke it, that people from have had increasing difficulty from August to November getting their money even though they got their money before, that there was nothing put in place to ease the transition period and that what this government did was try to destroy confidence in the plan and thereby encourage people to withdraw from the plan or not to register in the plan. I call that a real shame, because what we will see is a gradual deterioration into the situation that existed 10 years ago after the Conservative governments of those days had neglected their duty on this issue.

What's the other reason? The other big reason this government starts claiming that services don't work is so they have an excuse to privatize. Boy, is that ever the agenda with the family support plan: to privatize the plan. If you look at the sequence of events, it's very clear. On page 14, "In year 2 of this plan, 1997-98, and the following year, after changes are made in program design, FSP will look at options to privatize the delivery arm of the program."


We knew that was always a pressure, because we knew how inadequate the technological resources of the ministry were to deal with this plan. It was always the challenge for the Attorney General's ministry to try and figure out how to get the capital dollars to improve the computer system to deliver this program. It's a shame that when the SCOE plan was set up in 1987, in the green years of the province of Ontario when revenues were high, the previous government didn't invest in a system that would have had the capacity to deal with that plan. But they didn't. The system was not adequate, and we inherited that system at the same time that we inherited a worldwide recession and a real inability to meet all the capital costs that had accumulated over the years of Conservative and Liberal government, particularly in the technological field.

Our government did work very closely, as had the previous government, with the Royal Bank of Canada in terms of delivery mechanisms. And that's true; we did. But our vision was to do that in such a way that the expertise of those who were public servants in the province and who had been trained and become experts in this at our expense continued to be able to deliver that expertise to the people of Ontario.

But what was one of the first actions of this government? To end successor rights for civil servants, a very important part of Bill 26. Although successor rights have been a hard-earned right of all employees over many years, and still exist in the private sector, this government in one fell swoop wiped out successor rights for the public servants it employed. That was very important because now, when you have an example like family support, you see exactly what's going on. When this plan is privatized it will be easier for private corporations, in this case the Royal Bank, to make more and more money at the expense of employees because they won't have to pay employees what they were paid. It makes it easy for the government to get rid of employees and to lower the costs of services by completely ignoring the dedication and the expertise of its staff.

There's no question that that's what to happen. I read again from page 3 of the business plan: "Payment, collection and distribution will be out-sourced to financial institutions, since this is not a core business, and can be done better outside the government. Electronic commerce will replace collection and keying of payments -- payment information will be updated electronically -- and the production and distribution of cheques to recipients."

It sounds innocuous enough, but what the plan really is is made much clearer as we go on, because the business plan says very clearly that the objective of the government is to develop expertise on this and then sell that expertise to others -- sell that expertise; make this a whole new way of dealing with things, a whole new way of selling the expertise that was built up by those employees who have now been lost, the 44% of the staffing of the FSP plan, and it is going to become a business that the government can sell. Quite frankly, what that means is the government is saying it has no obligations at all to use, in the best interests of the people of Ontario, the expertise of the staff we have trained.

Now, on page 10 of the business plan, the full effort of the privatization mechanism is very clear. "With program restructuring," it says on page 9, going on to page 10, "coupled with other business improvement continually evolving, the FSP cannot provide the required and necessary attention to assigned cases without the continuance of the government's financial support. The FSP has demonstrated" -- it certainly has -- "that it can recover the cost of the entire program twofold and expects to not only sustain this performance but to improve cost recovery to threefold as part of the overall business approach."

That would be easy for them, I would suggest, if they had kept the remaining structure with the tools that are available in Bill 82. It goes on to say:

"Agent revenue: Between the third and fifth years of this business plan, following the first year of program rationalization and stabilization and after the second year of legislative amendments and enhancements, FSP expects the potential for selling off its professional services and/or program expertise to other jurisdictions. Opportunities exist for FSP to provide effective and efficient enforcement services for courts, legal aid, Ministry of Finance, MCSS, municipalities and federal governments, such as revenue, immigration and justice, of which FSP will study further through this five-year plan."

Clearly, what we're looking at is a major issue that makes this a money-collecting agency only, and it sees it not as a specialized collection agency but as something that will do all the collecting for all the plans that report to the Ontario government, and indeed to other governments, in the future.

You may say, "Is that bad?" Not necessarily. When you develop expertise using technology, it's not necessarily bad to use that knowledge and to use that knowledge to support services. What is bad is that of course the personal element gets lost. You can't do that and prove that you're effective if you have on your books a huge amount of uncollected dollars because it's not going to look effective, right?

What you have to do is somehow find a mechanism to get rid of the almost $1 billion of outstanding enforcement. So what happens? Well, you give the director the opportunity to close files or not to accept files that look as though they might be hard to collect. Indeed, in the transition plan that was announced on August 15, 1996, the ministry, in its own backgrounder -- the last line is the giveaway: "In the transition period the director will authorize the closure of files."

Yesterday the minister, standing in his place, said $450 million of this nearly $1 billion is not collectible. He's already decided it's not collectible. So what this minister is going to do is give the director the opportunity to close files, get rid of all the files that are expensive and complicated that haven't yet resulted in a payoff and in one fell swoop say, "We have doubled the efficiency of the plan."

It's so transparent that even you must see it. You take $450 million and say, "We can't collect it, so we're writing it off," and then say, "Look how efficient we are." There's only one problem: That $450 million doesn't belong to you; it belongs to those recipients who are citizens of the province of Ontario. It's not your right to write it off. What you're doing, quite literally, is taking away the opportunity for those people to ever receive the money that is owed them legitimately under a court order.

You're writing it off because it will make the minister look good; it will make the plan look good. It will make it easier to sell to people when you can say, "We have doubled the efficiency of the plan because we only have $500 million outstanding." You didn't say: "Let's give them the tools. Let's give them two years to see how much of that $450 million they can collect with the new tools." Oh, no. Part of the transition period is to lower the number of files and look good on a competitive, privatized basis in terms of collecting money. Quite frankly, the only people who lose are the people who've been losing all along: the people who haven't had the dollars to which they were entitled. You ought to be ashamed.


Another issue in this sorry business is the part of the bill that enables the director of the family support plan to hand over his or her responsibilities to any agency, board, commission, agent, any individual to carry out. That's the giveaway, isn't it? Because that does not mean what the minister suggested it meant, that in some of these tough cases you can hand it over to a collection agency to collect -- that's always been one of the possibilities -- but that holus-bolus you can turn this entire operation over to the private sector.

We know that's the plan, and there are real concerns about that. First there's the concern of all those people who answered the competition who are now the new people trying to run the family support plan, these upgraded people, these now management classification people: no kind of protection from the union any more. All those people who in good faith have accepted these jobs, what will happen to them? We don't know, but we do know they have no job protection now. It's fine to say, "We're upgrading them to give them the expertise and the authority they need to do the job." That sounds pretty good to a lot of these folks. What they're giving up in many cases or what is really happening is that you do not have a body of unionized workers who have any kind of protection from a sudden decision to completely divest yourself of this business.

That wouldn't be nearly as frightening if this bill were not giving the government and the director of the plan access to virtually every form of information about individuals, not only in this province but across the country.

One of the things we will be doing when we go to committee on this bill is to seek an opinion from the Information and Privacy Commissioner about the possible dangers around the way this government envisions the sharing of information. What will have to be weighed in the balance is the importance of getting to recipients the dollars they are owed, to which they are entitled under a court order, and the danger of access to information by who knows whom in the future. The director is able to give this information to anybody and is exempted from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to enforce these orders.

That was not nearly so scary when we knew those would be enforced through a government agency, clearly controlled by government policy, clearly accountable to the government of the day and accountable if information were to stray, but not very comforting when we know that this bill gives the director a chance to assign any and all responsibilities and powers to any other agent, any other agency, any other business, any other corporation. That's a real worry. I think one of the issues we have to look at is what we gain and lose in terms of that information.

It brings me to the other issue: Are we pinning too many hopes on this bill? The good things in this bill are that the tracking mechanism is there for the plan, that there's going to be an interface with federal government data banks, with other provincial data banks, with all the data banks within this province. That's a good thing, in one way, because it means that some of the tracking issues that have been identified from the very beginning by the family support staff will now not be barriers. That sharing of information is good.

But it is not good if it leads to an invasion of privacy of individuals. I can assure you that there will be those who will challenge this legislation on that ground. Those who are trying to escape payment will do almost anything to evade the kind of enforcement you are proposing. It is extremely important to recognize the lengths to which evaders will go. Usually only the recipients understand that, but soon it will be apparent to all of us because we will see court cases occurring around whether you are violating the constitutional rights of individuals.

I think it is great if it works, that those who shelter their dollars under joint accounts or in joint property or under business partnerships, those who clearly take a small salary out of their business and get all their expenses paid by the business so that it looks as though they have only this much income whereas in fact they are enjoying huge benefits -- that's one of the best parts of this. I think that's great.

But I also know that the legal advice our government got about that suggestion was that it was highly challengeable and that if you take the chance of putting this kind of thing into a bill, you'd better expect legal challenges, costly legal challenges, because child support evaders will do anything to avoid payment. Their lawyers will want to test a law that appears to violate the rights of third parties.

What we may be doing here is that we may have destroyed a plan that was working in an increasing, incremental way over many years, and some of the tools that might counter that erosion of the plan may not work. I hope they do. I hope the government's determination in bringing forward this bill means they are determined to protect it in the courts, means they understand this will be a fight: that those who stand to be required, as third parties, to give financial statements are going to fight that very hard, and that those who have agreed to shelter, and there are many out there who have agreed to shelter payors, do not want their own affairs dragged into the public arena -- and they will be.

Evaders of child support very often do not want to get involved with the family support plan because they have to give financial statements. Why do they not want to give financial statements? Because then there would be a record of what their financial situation was and it would be possible to balance that against subsequent financial disclosures. Those who are evading various levels of taxes as they run their private businesses or as they are self-employed are very likely not going to want to give a financial statement to a government agency, because they are in the business of evading not only their child support obligations but also, very often, evading their other responsibilities of citizenship, like paying the various taxes and the various employer taxes involved.

What we will see are many challenges here. What we will see is a situation where it is likely, as a result of a challenge, that those parts of the bill might even be suspended and that we will not be able to deliver on the hopes we've raised among the recipients out there in Ontario. That has to be taken into account.

Most of my colleagues intend to speak on this bill; we consider it a very important one. We certainly were surprised to hear the government House leader think that it could be finished on Monday, because we have clearly told him that we are very concerned about this bill, that we are not prepared to have a truncated debate on this because we believe it is a very important principle at stake here, and that the government is trying, under the guise of improving a plan, to cover up the fact that it may have destroyed the very plan it claims to be trying to improve. And we believe very strongly that it is important for the people of Ontario to understand what is included in this bill, what the implications are of each of the various points, and that we understand it is important to us whether we are recipients or payors, because as taxpayers we pay when parents don't.


It is going to be extremely important for all of us, if this bill goes forward, to try to heal the damage caused by the Attorney General in his very clumsy implementation of so-called restructuring, his destruction of the plan as it existed, so the plan will not be further eroded by those who say, "Gosh, they can't guarantee that I'm going to get paid so I'm not going to go into it." That will hurt us all. That will hurt us all and it will particularly hurt children and youth, who are most likely to be the major recipients of support under the plan.

There are many other issues our party wants to raise around the family support plan and I know my colleagues will do that as time goes on. I would just plead with the government that, because there are good things in this act, what we are trying to do is make this work better. We are trying to take out the parts of this act that will not assist the recipients in getting their just dues and to help you make the parts that will do that stronger than ever.

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

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): In response to the member for London Centre, I would like to say that she has given her usual reasoned argument, most of which I disagree with; however, I will congratulate her. Well, I will congratulate her compared to the performance of the Liberal Party yesterday. At least she has put forward some reasonable points. Unfortunately, in the two minutes I have, I'm only able to comment on one. She has talked about a number of issues: the opting-out issue, the ability to close cases, the privatization, several other issues.

She talked as if the system is okay. It's not okay. I know that's a philosophical debate because I've heard members of her party stand up and say that we've caused the problem. Well, there has been a problem with the system for a number of years, and this bill, we believe, will solve many of those problems.

I have a minute to respond to the opting-out issue. I would like further time to debate it, and perhaps as we go on we will. Clearly, not everyone wants to be in the system.

Mrs Boyd: Yes, non-payors don't want to be in the system.

The Acting Speaker: The member for London Centre, come to order.

Mr Tilson: I'm sorry, but there are individuals who simply don't want to be in the system. They don't want government interference.

Mrs Boyd: They don't want everyone to know what their tax payable is.

Mr Tilson: Well, you can say that. I think that's the philosophical difference we have. Your government, when you were in power, wanted to be all things to all people. That's not necessarily the way to go. We simply can't afford that process. The moneys we can save from not enforcing all those orders that don't need to be enforced we can apply to other situations for the women and children who are having serious problems collecting their resources. That's a genuine philosophical difference, and I can say that we will have time to debate that as we go on.

This isn't an issue of stigmatization. This is an issue that if you wish to get out of the system you can get out of the system, so we can properly enforce those orders that need to be enforced.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): For people who are watching, the family support plan is probably something that most people have not had contact with. I can tell you, the phone in my office has been ringing since this minister, under the Harris government, has started to unravel it in the name of restructuring. The unravelling began with the closing of the regional offices and having no plan in place whatever to make sure the transition was smooth.

What this is about is making sure that women and their children -- and it is usually women and their children -- receive the support payments from their spouses. The reason this plan was put in place was because we found that there was a 75% delinquency rate and that women and children were having to go on welfare because their spouses were not giving the custody support they were supposed to give.

What happened was the previous government scooped everyone in. We knew the plan had problems, but mostly the problems were administrative. It was making sure that people got their cheques on time; it was making sure that the delinquent spouses had them properly garnished and that their moneys were put into the bank. There were growing pains of the plan because the caseload was very large.

But what this minister and this government have neglected to acknowledge, and refuse to acknowledge, is that today the problem is that we are getting the spouses who previously were delinquent phoning in and saying the money was deducted or, better still, "I made the payment. The payment is in. I want my children to have the money I have given them," and it is sitting in the government's bank account. That is a new problem and my concern is that this legislation will not fix that. There are some good things, but it won't fix the --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time has expired. Further questions or comments?

Ms Martel: I want to commend my colleague the member for London Centre for her comments with respect to this important piece of legislation and I want to reinforce a number of things she said with respect to this bill.

First and foremost, she and I yesterday heard at least three Conservative members say, "The plan is broken, the plan is falling apart, and the only thing that's going to save it is the measures we're putting forward." I'm reminded of two things. Number one, under 42 years of a previous Conservative government, there was not one single effort made to put in place any kind of enforcement agency or enforcement activity to deal with the problems that predominantly women and children --


The Acting Speaker: Member for Dufferin-Peel, come to order.

Ms Martel: -- used to have to try and get support -- not one effort whatsoever, and you have to live with that.

Second, at the same time as those same members are talking about how the plan is broken, the Attorney General's own business plan, released by him in January of this year, said the following:

"Ontario is the only maintenance enforcement program in Canada which fully offsets the cost of services and provides a similar amount as net return to government. Ontario is the most `cost per case' efficient program in Canada." The business plan went on to say it was the most effective, best enforcement agency anywhere in the country.

The crisis, my friends, did not happen under the Liberals or the New Democrats; the crisis happened in mid-August when this Attorney General decided to cut 290 staff and close the eight regional offices in order to save 35% from the family support plan to help finance the tax cut. That's when the crisis started.

What's going to happen under this bill is that all those people who have been caught in this crisis are going to say: "I'd better get the heck out of this. I'd better opt out of this plan because it's clear I'm not going to get my payments. I'd better make sure that I try and get something, so I'm going to get out now." That's what has happened. The crisis started under you.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): It gives me great pleasure to comment on the remarks from the member for London Centre as well as the member for Sudbury East because, I tell you, she talks about how the crisis has just started, but I know, as an elected representative for Brantford, that when I got elected just over a year ago, one of the first things I was faced with in terms of my constituency office and the complaints was a broken family support plan.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): How happy are they now?

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Ron Johnson: It was one of the first things I had to contend with in my constituency office, and I would say the reason I was forced to deal with that is because of the inaction of the New Democratic Party when it was in government. That is the reality behind this issue. That is why we are now coming forward with what I consider to be very progressive legislation that will actually fix the family support plan and go a long way to getting needed money to women and children of Ontario.

I just want to make it very clear that right from day one, when I set up my constituency office, the biggest complaints that I got were from women and children who couldn't get their money through the family support plan. I tell you too that as a result of some of the reforms we're putting in place, we're going to be able to channel those funds much more efficiently and effectively. It's very progressive legislation when you look at the opting-out choices that people now have.


The sort of fearmongering we're getting from the member for London Centre when she talks about how we're somehow destroying a plan that in my opinion is already broken is not unlike the fearmongering the member for London Centre and her colleagues across the way continue to perpetuate on every single issue every time the government comes forward with progressive legislation. I'm proud to support this legislation.

The Acting Speaker: The member for London Centre, you may sum up.

Mrs Boyd: I thank the member for Oriole and the member for Sudbury East and say to them very clearly that this is an important issue that we need to keep bringing forward.

To my friends in the government I repeat what I said to you before: The minister himself says that a huge portion of the problem occurs because $300 million was outstanding the first day that SCOE ever happened, because there was no plan in place. There are long-standing issues that are outstanding, and that is a problem, and those are many of the complaints that we get.

The other problem the family support plan had was that it needed some of these other tools. If the member for Brantford knew the history of the development of this plan he would understand that what you are attempting here -- I hope it works. I hope it doesn't fall to court challenge. These are very direct matters that were developed, brought forward by the family support plan and would have been put in place had we been able to get legal assurance that they would be unchallengeable or at lease winnable. They are the tools the plan needs. Those tools are needed. The commitment of the federal government, which we see in their plan, is needed to have the kind of enforcement plan that's there.

Those weren't in place in 1987 or 1990. They are in place now, so we are saying that yes, many elements of this bill are progressive and they will help. If they had been put in place without breaking the plan and encouraging people to leave the plan and actually letting people opt out of the plan, you would have seen an enormous improvement. But what you have done is destroyed the plan, destroyed confidence in the plan, and that will destroy the plan itself.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I am supporting Bill 82 as introduced by the Attorney General. It's a bill in which I've had a great deal of interest and involvement.

Before I get to the details of the bill I want to speak about my active interest in this legislation. Back in the summer of 1995 I received a letter from constituents who had formed a group called Families Against Deadbeats. Their founder was a woman named Renate Diorio and the cofounder was and is her father, Heinz Paul, or Sir Heinz as we now refer to him in my office. He is there on a regular basis with files to try to help the women -- and men, incidentally, because there are a few men in this group -- try to get their family support payments through the system.

I just want to take this moment, if I may, to wish Heinz well. He is in the hospital today for surgery, and I hope he recovers successfully.

They were also accompanied by a lady named Danielle McIsaac, a paralegal who helped to advise them, and Councillor Gael Miles from the city of Brampton and the region of Peel, who lobbied me and other MPPs and members of the federal House of Commons and other local councillors to try to address some of the problems they were experiencing with the FSP system.

They are now beginning to see the results of their efforts, and I want to help them achieve one of their goals: passing this legislation without delay. FAD are the same people the members have seen visit this Legislature since changes to the family support plan were announced in July this year. Without their input and advice on the numerous issues contained within the bill, our government would not have been able to make these substantive and effective changes to a support plan that was not working very well at all. It was not working for the children, it was not working for the single mothers, and the deadbeat spouses were being allowed to get away with, figuratively, murder.

FAD was able to provide the Attorney General and myself with some of the real-life cases and explain how parents were avoiding, at all costs, any responsibility for the children they had fostered, especially with respect to financial support. I mention this because I know the members of the third-party caucus always like to bring real-life examples to our attention, and that's laudable. Again, as promised in the Common Sense Revolution, we have listened to the people on the front lines and now we have acted.

I also hosted my monthly cable show as recently as last night. Both Heinz and Renate were my guests and we discussed the changes to the former family support plan. We took calls from several viewers, and without a doubt they were strongly in favour of these stronger reinforcement measures. Some people, not knowing the details of the changes, suggested that we include measures that are already included in this legislation. I was pleased to inform them that thanks to groups like FAD, we were able to act on their recommendations. The callers were just as pleased and thankful that a government finally decided to make a real and meaningful change and that these changes are going to be implemented.

Regarding the bill before the House today, the support plan is moving from a broken plan to a new service-oriented operation. It will better meet the needs of the women and children in this province and will also bring in the toughest enforcement measures in North America. Deadbeat parents must feel the weight of society's condemnation for not meeting their financial obligations to children which they have fathered or mothered.

When we took office it was very clear that the support plan was not working in a way that could properly meet the needs of these women and children. Specifically, with a caseload of about 148,000, growing by about 1,400 cases per month, the system couldn't work efficiently or effectively any longer the way it was. An average of 23% of the plan's cases are in compliance, and therefore these people should be given the option of getting out of the plan in order to reallocate resources to the 77% not in compliance, without losing their ability to opt back into the plan. In other words, if the government and the court system are not needed and the compliance is taking place, let them resolve it between themselves. When default happens, of course the system has to kick right back in.

Eight offices were operating around the province. Only clients in these eight locations had access to counter service. Less than 60 people a day on average went into each office. Most of them showed up only because they couldn't get through the phone lines. The eight offices were never meant or designed to provide over-the-counter service. Furthermore, 70% of the enforcement workload but only half the staff were located in the GTA.

For the first time in nearly a decade, Ontarians have a government that is willing to take the challenge of overhauling the FSP to ensure that women and children receive the money they are legally entitled to and rightfully deserve. The plan's problems are not new. They date back to 1987, when the program began to degenerate under the weight of bureaucratic and inefficient service delivery. The result is unacceptable to women and children and it is unacceptable to this government.

Close to $1 billion in child support payments is now owed by payors; 78% of the cases were in arrears. This means that three of four families don't get the money they are entitled to. It also means that many single women and their children are forced on to social assistance because they have no other income source. Estimates provided to me by FAD indicate that the Ontario government spends approximately $300 million per year on social assistance because of defaulters.



Ms Martel: How many more are hungry now because of your cuts? How many thousands? All to finance the tax cut. What a class act.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Brantford, member for Sudbury East, come to order.

Mr Spina: Among the reforms, the government will, first, suspend the driver's licence of those who refuse to meet their family support responsibilities; second, report to credit bureaus the names of defaulting parents, thereby affecting their credit rating but also allowing a trail to be there, visibly present, for tracking purposes. Third, it's important to screen all provincial appointments to agencies, boards and commissions and the judiciary to ensure the province does not appoint people who do not pay their child support. Next, we have asked to seize lottery winnings of more than $1,000 to pay child support debts.


Mr Spina: I thank the honourable member from the third party for ordering the water, which I would love to douse on his plans and his forays in the early morning.

Furthermore, we wish to provide better methods to trace and locate defaulting parents. We want to allow orders to be registered as security under the Personal Property Security Act so that when an asset is sold, for example, an automobile or a boat, the collection of the money owed as child support becomes a priority.

Next, we wish to use private collection agencies to collect the outstanding support payments. You don't need highly paid government employees to do private sector collection services for a lower price.

We are seeking improved access to income tax information regarding default payments from the federal government. Ontario needs online access to federal taxes, unemployment insurance and pension information so that we can find defaulting parents and recover the money owed to children.

Centralizing the new Family Responsibility Office in Downsview, where 70% of all the clients are located --

Ms Martel: We were there.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Downsview? I went to Downsview.

Mr Spina: Well, it's interesting that files get pulled from a box when it's in the process of being moved.

Mrs Boyd: Watch it. You're going to get into the same trouble the Attorney General got into.

The Acting Speaker: Would the member please take his seat just for a moment. Member for London Centre, please come to order. You may continue.

Mr Spina: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I prefer the warning from you than others.

Finally, we're doubling the amount of front-line staff and investing $1 million in technologies and retraining to improve direct service to the clients. The rationale behind this is the fact that in the past, telephones were being answered, messages were being taken, but cases were not accessed. As a result of this streamlining change, what is happening is that the case workers will be able to answer the phone calls directly and service the clients on a direct basis.

Despite comments that people are not receiving their cheques, the facts are different. Cheques are being processed within 24 to 36 hours upon receipt when direct-deposit technology is utilized, compared to the two to three weeks it used to take. There are currently two shifts working on cases and processing cheques at a rate of 5,000 daily. A blitzkrieg has been mounted to ensure that the backlog is being taken away. We've tripled the amount of staff answering phone calls.

Mr Martel: There's no one working at Downsview.

Mr Spina: Yes, member, we have tripled the staff. There are actually people handling calls now, rather than the inefficient, ineffective and impersonal voice-mail-type services created by your government, and 95% of the individual problems that have been discussed publicly have been addressed. It's a matter of implementation. Many of the publicly mentioned cases have historic problems which often cause delays, but until new enforcement measures and legislation are in place, these problems will recur.

It is proven that support orders that are unenforced or uncollected often result in mothers having to go on social assistance in order to support their children. In the end, the taxpayers are picking up the slack for irresponsible parents.

The commendable efforts of groups like FAD will not only benefit women and children and some men, but they benefit all taxpayers, and they benefit them by reducing the burden on the social assistance program. That's what the plan was originally created to try to do, and it slowly began to break down.

Initial calculations by the region of Peel alone indicate that over $4.3 million per year can be saved in social assistance costs if support orders are enforced. This is on top of the approximately $300-million cost to the province.

Again I want to congratulate people like Heinz Paul, Renate Diorio, the founders of Families Against Deadbeats, and their paralegal, Danielle McIsaac, who have struggled for years with past governments and members to get these changes implemented. I've been working with FAD and the staff in my office has been working closely with them to try to get the backlog of payments that is existing and that has existed back to these people. We've been excited by the fact that we can recite cases where people who have not received a plug nickel for the last three or four years have gotten as much as $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 and $60,000 in back payments as a result of the efforts of my office with the people in the ministry.

It has been a real experience. I have seen, not unlike the members of the opposition, women and children in my office with the specific problems, the very same problems, that have been voiced here, but the reality is that we have worked diligently to try to resolve the situation for each of these people. We've tried hard to resolve the situation for all of the people in all of our ridings collectively, I think, as members of this Legislature. We are trying to improve this structure because we are all fighting for the same goal, and that objective is to get the money that is owed to these mothers and to these children, and to go after the fathers or in some cases the mothers who are owing the payments to these families.

I want to close by reading a portion of the petition that was sent to me and other members in Peel region which we have presented on many occasions here in the Legislature. Overall, FAD has sent me petitions containing over 500 signatures so far. They have over 200 active members in their organization and are growing daily. They may be based in Brampton but they have members as far as Niagara-on-the-Lake, eastern Ontario, southwestern Ontario, and some from up closer to Sudbury but not quite that far. Maybe they think the members there are doing a sufficient job, so we thank you.

But all of our members, I think, have been contacted by the people in this organization and others, and it's important that we work together to get this bill through to give the system the power to be able to deliver. That's the key thing that we are all collectively trying to accomplish: the delivery of the money that is only justly owed to the children. But beyond that, it's also looking at the parents who have abrogated their responsibilities as parents, either as fathers or as mothers. We know the majority of them are men who have abandoned totally their responsibility to children they have fathered. That is totally unacceptable in any society, not just ours.


The petition in part reads:

"Whereas the administration and members of Families Against Deadbeats are in total support of Bill 82...

"Whereas the changes will relieve the taxpayers of Ontario and provide proper enforcement required to collect and administer child support payments and orders...

"We support and agree with all of the changes outlined in the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, set forth by the Honourable Charles Harnick...and urge this Legislature to pass this bill into law as soon as possible."

I challenge the members of the opposition parties, if they care as much as they say they do, to pass this bill immediately and stop playing politics with the issue. Let's get back to business in order to ensure that the women and children get the money they deserve, get the money they are entitled to, nail the deadbeat spouses and force them to accept their responsibilities as parents.

I thank you for the opportunity to share this.

Mr Kormos: You've got 11 minutes to ad lib.

Mr Ron Johnson: Give us more, Joe. Give us more.

Mr Spina: I've already done some comments and I would hope that other members of our caucus perhaps would be allowed the opportunity to make statements.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments?

Mr Colle: Yes, I would like to comment on the speech presented by the member for Brampton North. The member is basically trying to justify Bill 82, and I think there are some points he made that perhaps may be beneficial aspects of Bill 82.

The thing that concerns me, and I don't think the member appreciates it, and the whole problem really is that the minister acted in a very hasty fashion. In other words, he didn't think before he acted. He shouldn't have closed down the eight local offices. He shouldn't have laid off those 300 people as he was going through this major transition.

I think if there had been some forethought in terms of understanding the scope of this undertaking, of dealing with 145,000 cases, the minister wouldn't have acted like a bull in a china shop. The minister would have stopped and thought about the impact on those vulnerable children who are the victims of the deadbeat parents.

That is the main point that the member for Brampton North fails to appreciate, that there are a lot of people who have suffered unnecessarily because the minister and this government have been in such a mad rush to take money out of programs and they've done it without thinking of how they might hurt people. That is what I think the members on this side are trying to say. That's been the real hurt: not thinking before you rush to judgement here.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the remarks of the member for Brampton North. Obviously he's beginning to serve his penance and, fresh from his sensitivity training, he tried to give off a feeling of caring. But I have to say I had a great deal of trouble with that when he said that one of the first things they did was listen to front-line workers. I kind of doubt that. The first thing they did was fire the front-line workers. So back for remedial sensitivity training, fellow colleague.

Let me also say that it's interesting that this government says, "Don't play politics with this," but this is the first time the bill has been brought back for consideration since it was introduced October 1. If you were all that concerned about the politics of getting it through, why have you waited so long?

It's important for people to understand that we will support this bill. We will ensure that it gets the passage it needs. But there are some issues here that need to be talked about. The fact of the matter is that the Attorney General has caused these immediate problems we've raised. The reason we've been so infuriated day after day is that virtually every example we brought forward had nothing to do with the ongoing historic problems; what it had to do with was the minister's cancelling and shutting down of the regional offices. That's what caused those cheques to stop. When will the backbench Tory members start talking about that and admitting that?

Until this Attorney General takes responsibility for what he has done, we will be on our feet talking about the damage you've done to thousands of women and men and children because you're the one who caused this problem. So when we support the bill, we're going to hold you accountable to the rest.

Mr Tilson: I know the member for Brampton North has worked on this issue for some time. He's been working with Families Against Deadbeats, as he indicated in his presentation. Certainly he has been raising the issues or problems of enforcement for some time. He has listed some of the things, of course, that this legislation will do.

The member for London Centre has indicated that her caucus is going to debate and debate this. Quite frankly I don't understand her taking that position, because we have concerns that this bill will solve now. The longer it's debated, the longer it's delayed in passing, the tougher it's going to be to solve some of these problems.

The tightening up of the rules with respect to enforcement, which my colleague the member for Brampton North has referred to, the suspension of drivers' licences, this isn't a new idea. This is used in other provinces: in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Nova Scotia, and very successfully.

The issue with respect to extending income available to seize is one which the member for Brampton North has referred to on several occasions for some time. Vacation payments and lump sum commissions, those types of things should be made accessible to the women and children in this province who in many cases aren't receiving anything.

The whole issue of preventing the sheltering of assets, which other members have referred to, and I think the member for Hamilton Centre referred to it, may or may not have a legal complication. I don't think it will. The setting up of companies with a second spouse to own assets, those assets should be considered for possible seizure.

The garnishing of up to 50% of joint bank accounts with new spouses, this legislation will allow those sorts of things; the seizure of lottery earnings of over $1,000 -- I don't see how anyone can oppose these types of things. I congratulate the member for Brampton North.

Mrs Caplan: The family support plan is about making sure that women and their children, or men and their children as happens in some cases, although usually it is women and their children, get the money from their ex-spouses that they are entitled to, primarily for child support.

The problems: There are two of them. One is that there is a very large delinquency rate. As a traditional pattern about 75% of those who have support-and-custody orders have been delinquent and have not lived up to their obligation. The taxpayer has had to foot the bill in care of those women and children primarily through welfare support and other social services support. Society believes that deadbeats should pay and look after their families.

What I support about this bill are some of the enforcement provisions that I believe are an important next step for the plan to be able to take to recover those dollars. I want to go on to say that I also support the ability, where there has never been a compliance problem or delinquency, for there to be a contracting-out provision.

I'm worried, however, that because of the administrative nightmare that has been created by this government, which has put women and their children in positions where they can't pay their rent and they can't pay their hydro and they don't have money for food, people will flee the plan and we will see women and children suffer because they're in a delinquency situation and back into the old bad habits and patterns before this plan was enacted.


The other concern I have is that because of the administrative nightmare that has been created the provisions of this bill will not solve that administrative nightmare, because this government cut the resources that the family support plan needs to operate --

The Speaker: Thank you. Response, member for Brampton North.

Mr Spina: I am heartened and indeed delighted to hear the comments from the opposition that they are going to be supporting this bill. Rather than focus on the negatives and the mud-slinging, I am pleased that they are articulating. The member for Hamilton Centre and indeed the member for Oriole have stated that they will be supporting this bill because it is important. As I said earlier in my comments, it is important that the objective we collectively want to achieve here will be able to be reached by the implementation of this bill.

Mr Kormos: You've got a minute and a half. Start sucking up to Mike Harris now.

The Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, this is not a conversation.

Mr Spina: Thank you, Speaker. The interesting thing is that there are always going to be upheavals in transitions and this is part of what we are going through now. But as I said earlier, we are particularly pleased that we have been able to obtain payments in arrears, as much as $60,000 in some cases, to people in my constituency particularly, which was so heartening. There was a woman who was about to lose her family home and we were able to put her back into a normal, comfortable living style once we were able to achieve the arrears. So I thank the opposition --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Brampton North. Further debate?

Mr Colle: I'd like to rise and speak to this bill. The consensus I think is that there are some positive aspects to it and there are certainly a number of areas that nobody can possibly -- certainly we do not refute are needed. A number of members have mentioned that the suspension of drivers' licences, for instance, for people who have defaulted is a good initiative, and reporting defaulters to credit ratings. Those are positive steps.

I think, though, the real concern that has been expressed on this side of the House is the approach that the government has taken towards this social issue, and it deals with people who are vulnerable. It deals with people who are in stressful situations, who are in unfortunate situations. Really, what this government did just demonstrated in many ways its callousness. Before it arbitrarily closed the regional offices, eight of them across Ontario, and arbitrarily fired about 300 experienced front-line workers, it should have looked at the impact this would have on people who would be caught in the crossfire.

By not doing that, what has happened is that you have people who are already under a great deal of stress put into more of a stressful situation because their whole infrastructure disappeared. Sure, people will say, "The system had to be dramatically adjusted" and so forth, and those adjustments had to be made. But before you undertake such an adjustment you have to at least weigh the human impact of closing the regional offices, of firing front-line experienced staff and then introducing a whole new computer system which, as the minister has said, is not fully operational right now. Subsequently, you've had some real cases of hardship that have been brought to the Legislature, that all our offices have had brought to us, because there has been a severe fallout as a result of the haste this government has shown in undertaking this dramatic change.

This couldn't have happened at a worse time. Many people in this province are suffering from unemployment. As you know, there's 9%-plus unemployment, and some of these people don't have any other source of income. There have been also cuts to other forms of assistance, and user fees have gone up in the province. Ordinary families are under a great deal of stress. It's tough enough trying to raise a family, pay the bills, pay the rent, pay the mortgage when there's two breadwinners, but you can imagine how difficult it is with one.

I don't know whether anybody ever assessed what would happen to that person if they missed that cheque for support for a month or two. I know there have been all kinds of cases brought forward. We should sometimes remind some of the members opposite that real people have been hurt badly by this government's bulldozer approach to the family support program.

I give you the case of Marvin Lachowsky.

"Marvin Lachowsky is the father of three children, paying $600 a month to the family support plan. Until two months ago the money was being deposited in two instalments a month in his ex-wife's account.

"Then, even though the payment was still being deducted from Lachowsky's paycheque, the deposits stopped for a month. [The mother] said she received a partial payment for September on October 8. On November 1, $726 came through, but she said she is still owed $300, money her ex-husband has already paid.

"The delay in payments has cost her plenty. She turned to family and friends for help in feeding her three children. She paid about $150 in bank charges, lost her overdraft privileges and suffered the headaches of dealing with utility companies and others she owes money to, she said. `The children are being affected. My credit rating is being affected...[and] they are making interest on my money.'"

This is one example of a mother with three children who is really caught by the dramatic change in the system that almost, as I said, happened overnight. There are people who were, without warning, forced to rely on friends, to rely on support groups, and who were made desperate.

I don't know if the members opposite realize that even though the stock market is doing quite well in Ontario and corporate profits are doing well, there are a lot of ordinary working people in this province who are having trouble making payments on their homes, making their rent, even going to the grocery store. Where they used to spend $150 a week on groceries, they are now spending $100 or $80. That's because their disposable income has declined. In many cases their wages or their working hours are less. They used to work 40 hours a week. Now their bosses tell them, "I've only got 20 hours for you to work."

I know of one mother who works as a clerk in a No Frills store. She's working for $6.85 an hour. She has two children. I don't know if you've ever tried feeding a family and raising a family on $6.85 an hour. These are the types of jobs that are out there.

If you further risk their viability by cutting back on other programs for them and their children, you can see the desperation it puts people in. These are legitimate people. They're not people who are involved with any organizations or have any axe to grind. They are saying times are tough, and that's why again in this government's --

The Speaker: The member for Oakwood, it now being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until Monday at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1800.