36th Parliament, 1st Session

l130 - Thu 28 Nov 1996 / Jeu 28 Nov 1996






















































The House met at 1002.




Mr Hoy moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 78, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act / Projet de loi 78, Loi modifiant le Code de la route.

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Every school day 800,000 primary and high school students put their faith in the owners and operators of Ontario's school buses. Every school day parents trust the traditional school bus to transport their children to a place of learning and to deliver them home safely. Every school day more than one family's confidence is shaken by more than one careless driver.

Too many drivers are approaching a stationary yellow school bus with no more consideration than that given to a yellow traffic light, and too many children are paying the price for such reckless behaviour through personal injury or death.

That is the tragedy which recently shocked my riding, as I know it has previously shocked several of the ridings represented in this House.

Last January 17-year-old Ryan Marcuzzi, the youngest daughter of Larry and Colleen Marcuzzi, who are with us today in the members' gallery, was boarding her school bus when she was struck and killed by a car travelling 80 kilometres an hour from the opposite direction. The driver ignored the bus's flashing red lights, the extended stop sign and blaring horn from the school bus driver, who was helpless to prevent the impending tragedy.

With the encouragement and support of Larry and Colleen Marcuzzi I present Bill 78 for second reading in Ryan's memory, but I caution the House that Ryan's death was not an isolated incident. Since October 1974 five children have died in my riding at the hands of careless drivers who have ignored the flashing red lights of a school bus. Those children were going to school to prepare for their future. Instead, their future was tragically snatched away from them.

Ignoring school bus lights is not a rural Ontario versus urban Ontario problem. It is an Ontario problem.

The last survey carried out by the Ministry of Transportation shows that when a car meets a school bus, there is a better than one in 20 chance that the driver will attempt to pass illegally.

A current bus watch program operating in the Hamilton-Wentworth area receives approximately 40 to 60 complaints per month about motorists who have failed to stop for school buses that are loading and unloading passengers even though the red flashing signals are activated. But Hamilton-Wentworth's conviction rate, like similar conviction rates across the province, is only a fraction of what it should be because the Ontario Highway Traffic Act fails to provide adequately for the safety of children using the school bus system.

The barrier to a conviction is identification. Current law requires that a driver passing a school bus be clearly identified before charges can be laid under the Highway Traffic Act. School bus drivers and other witnesses can often identify the licence plate number, make, model and colour of the offending vehicle, but most cannot see the face of a driver long enough to make a positive identification.

The province of Ontario has taken many positive steps to safeguard our children from serious injury in recreational activities. It is time for the Legislature to protect those same children as they get on and off their school bus by sending a clear message to drivers that violations to the laws governing the passing of school buses will not be tolerated.

Bill 78 sends that message. Bill 78 attempts to correct the long-standing problem of identifying drivers of vehicles who recklessly endanger children boarding or leaving school buses. The bill imposes liability on the owner of any vehicle who fails to stop for a school bus with flashing lights.

How serious is the problem? In a recent Toronto Star article the Ministry of Transportation is reported to have obtained 1,100 convictions over two years. A ministry spokesperson told the Star that those 1,100 convictions show that the problem is already being taken seriously. But it isn't, because the ministry does not compile statistics on reported violations. We don't have an accurate ratio of convictions to violations.

School bus drivers tell us that they are passed illegally twice per shift. There are 16,000 school buses in Ontario. At two violations per shift, I'll leave it to the House to do the mathematics. You can see for yourself that the ministry does not have a handle on the problem. They barely have their finger on the pulse.

With limited resources the police are stretched to the limit and cannot mount the types of regular blitzes needed to catch violators under the provisions of the existing Highway Traffic Act. They cannot follow 16,000 buses around daily, and that's why the Police Association of Ontario supports Bill 78. They say my bill is a positive step towards insuring the safety of school children in Ontario.

The principle of vehicle liability is not new to Ontario. All parking tickets are issued using the principle of vehicle liability. Photo-radar worked on this same premise. While I recognize that photo-radar is no longer enforced on our highways, the government has kept its vehicle liability provisions on the books. Not only that, the collection of tolls along 407 will work on the same principle of vehicle liability.


Justice will not be denied because of vehicle liability. It's simple enough to show your innocence. The question becomes, how can we justify the idea of vehicle liability for the collection of tolls or parking fines if we are not prepared, as legislators, to extend the practice to the protection of our children?

Owning and operating a motor vehicle remains a privilege, not an automatic right, in Ontario. With the privilege comes responsibility and accountability. In instances such as those outlined in Bill 78, vehicle liability is both fair and just in asking that a vehicle owner either accept the responsibility for those who operate his or her motor vehicle or identify the driver who is operating said vehicle at the time of the violation so that the province can seek accountability.

Bill 78 does not attempt to unfairly penalize a vehicle owner. The vehicle itself must be properly identified to the satisfaction of the courts. An owner who can prove that a driver other than himself was in control of the vehicle would not be charged.

Only owners who fail to identify a driver will face fines beginning at $1,000 for a first-time conviction and $2,000 for a second and subsequent conviction. Drivers will face a fine beginning at $500 for a first-time conviction and $1,000 for subsequent convictions. Only in the case where the driver has been directly identified will the crown be permitted to ask for the removal of up to six demerit points under the provisions of the existing legislation.

As with other laws, including those already pertaining to vehicle liability, it will be up to the courts to ensure that justice is served. Frivolous or unsubstantiated charges will not hold up in court.

Bill 78 is not an attack on civil liberties. Ask the parents of dead or injured children whose civil liberties have been breached when an offender is shielded by an inadequate law.

None the less, the bill has been carefully written using the exact, same language as other government vehicle liability legislation. At this time I would like to commend the Minister of Transportation for keeping the spirit of safe highways and roadways alive, thus making the implementation of Bill 78 possible.

I'm also confident that Bill 78 would successfully withstand a court challenge since it only imposes a fine on vehicle owners and excludes the penalties of imprisonment and driver licence suspension as a result of conviction or default. Once again, it uses the same government legislation.

The law specifically states that when a vehicle approaches a school bus with a flashing light, either from the back or the front, the vehicle must come to a complete stop. It does not say, "Proceed with caution," nor does it say that the driver may proceed if he or she believes the road is clear. It says, "Stop." But the law is virtually unenforceable without the changes contained in Bill 78.

Bill 78 has the endorsement of parents, teachers, school boards, the Ontario School Bus Association, the Police Association of Ontario and has had an educational program put forth by Laidlaw Transit. That's why the joint Essex county school boards' public awareness committee has gone on to educational awareness on this issue.

Bill 78 will result in the protection of Ontario school bus users without eroding the civil liberties of Ontario's drivers. The children are calling. I ask that the members of this House answer that call and pass Bill 78 into legislation.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm pleased to rise today to support this private member's bill. It is indeed a tragedy that we have seen so many children killed and injured in this province. Even though we have on our highways signs warning motorists that it is the law that they must stop both ways when a school bus stops, even though we have the kind of safety features such as the flashing lights and the stop sign that rises from the side of the bus, there are some people who are not obeying that. The tragedies that result should be unacceptable to us all.

I commend the member for Essex-Kent for bringing forward this bill and recognize that he has done so in memory of a child who was killed in his own riding. That should be something that gives us all pause. This child was unfortunately not alone and we need to do everything in our power to ensure that there are not more tragedies of this kind.

I say to the member that the measures he is proposing have been approved by the parent-teacher associations and home and school associations throughout the province. There has been a very strong lobby by those driving school buses. Their frustration and their terrible fear at seeing children endangered by this kind of behaviour is well documented, and their frustration, as well as the frustration of the police, around the way the current law operates, where the driver has to be clearly identified, is a major problem.

We all know that it is going to be important for those who observe this behaviour to take very clear notes about the colour, the make and the size of the car, as well as the licence number, because we know the people who do this behaviour will likely fight in court against having their car identified. Particularly if they have not been driving themselves, that's to be expected.

It's going to be important for citizens who observe this kind of behaviour, for the drivers of school buses themselves, anyone who observes this behaviour, to be extraordinarily observant. Part of the public education around this bill is going to be to help citizens understand that to meet the requirement of the law it is going to be important to have very clear evidence that the particular vehicle is identified clearly.

Having said that, I think it is very fortunate that the provisions within the Highway Traffic Act that enable us to use the ownership of the vehicle to try and create responsibility around this kind of behaviour remains in the law even though the policy for which it was developed, the photo-radar policy, has been suspended by this government. It is a necessary tool to ensure public safety, and particularly the safety of our young people who use school buses every day.

One of the issues of course for us is that with the moves of the current government, the suggestion that many school bus regimes may disappear and students may be on ordinary buses, where there is no provision for safety around getting off those buses, there are no flashing lights, is a worry.

I think as we go on and we talk about the grandiose ideas of the Who Does What commission around transportation issues for children, we are going to have to be very aware that we may lose some of the very safety aspects that already are in place and the ones that would be represented by this bill.

As we talk about it today, I sincerely hope that this House will support Bill 78 and that the government members will urge the government to bring this through committee very quickly so that it gets in place as quickly as possible.

Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I'd like to respond to Mr Hoy's bill. Let me begin by saying this government shares Mr Hoy's concern about school bus safety, as these are the vehicles transporting this province's most precious cargo: our children.

Making our roads safer for all Ontarians is a priority with this government. When we announced our road safety plan more than a year ago, it included specific measures to design to improve school bus safety. These include improved training for school bus drivers and working with the Ministry of Education and Training putting road safety right into the school curriculum from kindergarten on up. We have always said that our plan is just the beginning. There is much more we can do and there is much we will do.


We are always working to ensure school bus safety. For instance, the staff at the Ministry of Transportation participated in the review of the school bus standards conducted by the Canadian Standards Association last year. The ministry also continues to work closely with the Ontario school bus association to ensure industry practices remain consistent with legislation and ministry policy.

On a typical day in Ontario about 800,000 children ride a school bus that takes them to school and home again. By year's end, Ontario school buses will log some 350 million kilometres on our roads. Now, that's a long trip. In fact, it's the equivalent of about 8,700 trips around the world. Based on these statistics, Canada Transport tells us that children on school buses are 16 times safer than those travelling in any other form of vehicle. We also know from statistics that, on average, one child is killed each year while crossing the road after getting off a school bus and, on average, 10 are injured.

The loss of a child's life is tragic. It causes a void that cannot be filled. Even one death is one too many. For that reason, this government does not take school bus safety lightly. That is, we already have some of the toughest legislation targeted at those who fail to stop for a school bus. In fact, one of the most serious offences under the Highway Traffic Act is the violation of the school bus stopping law.

Let me give you an example: When a driver is convicted of passing a bus while its lights are flashing and its stop arm is out, six demerit points are assigned to the driver's record. The only offence that carries more demerit points is failing to remain at the scene of a collision. As well, fines for failing to stop for a school bus are already among the highest for moving violations under the Highway Traffic Act. A first violation carries a fine of $200 to $1,000. A second offence within five years comes with a fine of $500 to $2,000. In some cases, the offender can be imprisoned for up to six months.

I share Mr Hoy's concern for this province's children. That's why the government stands behind its current position. That is, the person behind the wheel is and should be held responsible and accountable for their actions. We maintain that it is important to catch and charge the driver for failing to stop for a school bus -- the driver, who may or may not be the owner of the vehicle. We believe we already have the system in place that deals with such offenders.

While it is true we have received letters of support for the member's bill, we received as well correspondence that was not supportive of the bill. Such a letter came in from the united counties of Prescott and Russell. It was not obvious at first why the municipality chose not to support the initiative. When we called to inquire, we were told that the reason was that the two councillors who moved the resolution believe it is the driver of the vehicle who should be held responsible for running a school bus stop sign.

I think all members would prefer that such offences not occur in the first place, rather than pin our hopes on an even higher fine, which may only be a deterrent after the fact. We already have very high fines for this offence, yet we still have over 500 offences a year. Maybe there is a better way. I believe that all the members appreciate and share Mr Hoy's interest in school bus safety and are grateful for his efforts. He has succeeded in raising the awareness of this issue, and that in itself is a success.

I believe that if it is the will of the Legislature that this bill receives second reading, the government will have to seriously consider incorporating his ideas into everything else it is doing for road safety. Meanwhile, our laws for school bus safety are clear: When the red lights start flashing and the stop arm comes out, traffic must stop in both directions. When school bus operators encounter problems with motorists failing to stop for the flashing red lights, they must contact police so that they can deal with the offenders at a local level. In 1994, 554 drivers were convicted of failing to stop for a school bus. I am pleased to say this figure dropped last year to 518.

I believe one of the most effective ways to prevent drivers from illegally passing school buses is through public awareness programs. For instance, local community groups have made great strides in increasing awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, groups like MADD and SADD and others. In the same way, public awareness programs can also go a long way to deter negative and dangerous driving behaviour like disregarding school bus laws. Parents, schools and local school bus operators can take simple but effective steps to increase driver awareness in their communities.

This government remains committed to ensuring the safety of our children. We maintain that we already have the right checks in place to deal with those who pass school buses through our current system of fines and demerit points. However, we can all do more in our communities to increase awareness and improve enforcement.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): First of all, I would like to welcome our guests to the Legislature and congratulate the member for Essex-Kent for the amount of work that he has put into this Bill 78. As he explained in his opening remarks, a good amount of research has been put into the actual bill and the amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, and I think it's been done on behalf of the children that we've heard about so far and the children who will continue to use their school bus system in the province.

As well, I've heard from a good number of bus drivers and I've heard from a good number of owners and operators. This bill certainly has more public support and more attention than I have seen in many, many cases. They're all saying we need a better deterrent, better ways of putting those deterrents on to the driver of the vehicle, passing or illegally going by a school bus that is stopped, whether it be loading or unloading children. I think Bill 78 actually corrects a very long-standing problem and anything we can do to ensure the safety of our children has to be looked at very carefully.

I've seen mentioned a number of times that many communities have gone through what our guests have gone through today and have lost children when loading and unloading them. I'm sure we can all refer to examples in our own communities where this has certainly been the case.

I've received a good deal of correspondence on this particular issue, and I would just like to bring some of those views to the House today. As I indicated, a lot of the operators are strongly behind Mr Hoy's bill, and I'd just like to read from a letter from Powell's Service in Keewatin. They are a school bus operator in my riding.

They say: "The safety of our children and youth must be a top priority item at all times. When we have large groups of children, such as on school buses, this is even more critical."

They go on to say: "The role of our bus drivers is to drive the bus, not to be a traffic policeman. When students are entering and exiting the bus, the driver is watching for their safety. He or she is indeed watching the traffic around the bus ensuring that it is stopping etc, not memorizing a physical description of the driver. If the vehicle driver chooses to ignore the bus signal, the bus driver's concern is with the safety of the student, not the appearance of the vehicle driver.

"They make it very clear, particularly if the bus driver can and does get a vehicle licence number, but we are constantly told by the police that if we can't specifically identify the driver, we won't have a case.

"During 1996 to date, we've had at least six reported incidents of drivers ignoring the flashing bus lights and stop signs while children were either boarding or leaving one of our school buses. I've enclosed copies of the incident reports for your information."

They go on to say that any of these could have ended in a disastrous incident and end by saying, "Our company has a prime goal of providing a safe, efficient and on-time transportation service for our customers. We cannot continue to ensure this goal without this legislation."

That's from an operator.

I also have a letter here directed to me from the Kenora Board of Education asking that I support this bill and support Mr Hoy's efforts. It says:

"As the staff member with responsibility for student transportation, I urge you to support this bill when it is debated in the provincial Legislature this fall.

"In meeting with school bus operators and law enforcement officials earlier this year, I heard that it is very difficult to convict drivers who have ignored school bus warning signals. It is almost impossible for a school bus driver to obtain a vehicle description, licence plate number and particularly a description of the driver, while at the same time attending to the safety of our students in a dangerous situation.

"Allowing for the conviction of the owner of the vehicle instead of just the driver would bring a new level of accountability and encourage more responsible practices among drivers.

"Your support in addressing this important safety issue would be appreciated."

I certainly do support this. As I indicated, if there is anything we can do to ensure the safety of our children as they both board and depart from our school buses, I think we have to consider it very carefully. I am sure that when all members hear the arguments as put forth by the various members that are going to speak on this today that they too will see that very important need for addressing that safety issue.

I go back to the many calls I've had from parents, from drivers, from people that represent school boards, from transportation companies. They are all in support of Bill 78 and they are certainly in support of Mr Hoy's efforts. Again, I would just like to congratulate the member for bringing this forth to the House. I look forward to supporting this later this morning.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): First of all, I want to congratulate the member for Essex-Kent. I think he has brought forward a critically important issue for us. Obviously, anything that deals with our children and their safety has to be given the top priority of everyone in this House. I want to congratulate him for that. I would also hope, although I'm a little discouraged --


Mr Christopherson: I don't know why the backbench member of the Tories is heckling an issue of child safety. Perhaps if he'd listen a little he could show that he cares enough about this issue to pay attention. I'm not playing a partisan game here, I say to him. I'm talking about the safety of our children. I'm complimenting a colleague from another party for bringing forward what I think is an important issue, and I'm sure you would want to reflect and respect that thought also.

Let me say I know the member for Essex-Kent has spoken to the local police service in my area, the Hamilton-Wentworth police service, and they've advised him that we have between 40 and 60 incidents per month in the Hamilton-Wentworth area, so certainly there's a local reality for me as there is for all of us in this House. I would hope the government would see its way clear to supporting this bill, allowing it to move forward. There obviously is a need to provide a deterrent.

I want to move quickly to what is probably the most difficult issue for some members, particularly on the government side, if the member for Oshawa's comments are any indication, that is, whether or not the owner of the vehicle or the driver should be responsible. I think that's a valid concern. It's an area that we want to enter into carefully, but I think it's fair to say we have already crossed that line in a couple of areas -- minor, I agree, but the principle is already there. That is, if there's a parking ticket given to a vehicle, it doesn't matter who put the vehicle there; it's the owner of the vehicle. If you've lent it to someone who's been irresponsible and you can't get them to cough up the money, you're stuck with it.

Also, in regard to tolls that have to be paid, if you whiz by and don't pay it, again, it's the owner of the vehicle, not the driver, unless they can nab the driver on the spot. In our own photo-radar, which I know the government does not support, although I do think they'll see the light of day on that one, given enough time, again, we saw the principle that the owner of the vehicle was ultimately responsible.

Where we get into very serious charges, clearly at this stage in the evolution of our traffic laws we don't want to move into that, but in an area like this, when we see the number of accidents, the number of people who are killed with vehicles and when we're dealing with children, I think on balance it's fair to say this is a step worth taking and that it doesn't change radically the idea that the owner is still responsible.

What it really can do in effect is say to owners, those of us who own vehicles, you'd better be awfully careful who you lend a vehicle to, because you are lending someone what can be a dangerous piece of machinery. Certainly you can wreak havoc with a vehicle and the person who owns it and gives it to someone has to take some responsibility -- not all, but I am comfortable with the idea that more and more we are saying to owners, "You are more and more responsible for what happens to that vehicle when you lend it."

As I've said, there are clear lines there and I don't want to see us race across those, but given the issue here, where we're talking about our children when they're away from home, they're in the care of someone else, as a parent I know that can be the most frightening time, when they're not in the immediate care of an immediate family member, they're now in the hands of someone else. This is exactly that situation and nothing is more potentially deadly to our children than when they're near the highway and near traffic.

In closing, I want to say I appreciate the comments from the member for Oshawa. I would hope they don't preclude government members from supporting this bill. I think the member for Essex-Kent is trying to in a non-partisan way advance the safety of our children and I think really this is something we can support. If nothing else, let's at least give it a further airing. If we're going to err, let's err on the side of the safety of our children. Let's have a further discussion. Support it today and get it into the system. I would urge members of the government to join with us in opposition in supporting the member for Essex-Kent's worthy bill. Thank you.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I just want to remind the members in the gallery that you're most welcome in our House, except there are certain procedures. One of them is that you are not allowed to applaud.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I feel most privileged this morning to rise in support of this bill and I appreciate the opportunity. At the outset, I would like to congratulate the member for Essex-Kent for bringing forth this private member's bill. Frankly, I think it personifies the whole process of private members' business.

I would also, on behalf of this side of the House, like to extend our sympathy to the Marcuzzi family in the loss of their beloved daughter Ryan. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you to be here this morning. I would like you to know that you have our heartfelt sympathy.

This bill, when I first heard about it, was a very easy bill for me to support, because anything we can do to save one life, as far as I'm concerned, is something we are obligated at least to try. I recognize that the parliamentary assistant for the Minister of Transportation has expressed some of the concerns of the government, and I appreciated very much that the member for Hamilton Centre recognized that it isn't easy. I know he recognizes that from his former position as Solicitor General. But it's the old axiom, I think, that anything worthwhile in life isn't always very easy and we have to do whatever we can to improve any situation it's possible for us to improve.

Frankly, some of the statistics that I'm now aware of in terms of the numbers of violations I find tremendously shocking; to know that there are school bus drivers who have said that illegal passing occurs at least twice on very shift. For those of us who are out on the streets and on the highways all the time in our cars, as all of us in this place are, I'm sure a month doesn't go by that we don't see at least one or two cars doing that. I always find it shocking when I see it. But now I hear that bus drivers say it's at least twice per shift, and you recognize that bus drivers are out on at least two shifts a day, sometimes three shifts, morning, noon and afternoon.

Yes, I recognize that these moving violations are difficult to deal with because it means that the car essentially gets the ticket. But it's about time, in my humble opinion, that drivers are made responsible for who drives their car. This came up a little bit in my drunk driving bill, from the standpoint that there was a discussion about why you couldn't confiscate the car of someone who drove, under suspension, somebody else's car. I'm sorry, that's not a good enough excuse, in my opinion. If I loan my car to someone, it's up to me to know that that person is going to obey the Highway Traffic Act, and in this case, it's the Highway Traffic Act as it pertains to the protection of children who ride and board and get off school buses.

For somebody who drives while under suspension because they've driven drunk, it's the same thing: I have to know that that person I loaned my vehicle to is a licensed driver.

So I simply can't give any latitude to not supporting this bill because we have to prove who the driver is. Does it really matter who the driver is? The point is that that vehicle put children at risk. That's what matters. I say, with respect, that I believe that must matter to every single member in this House.


If we say that a moving violation is difficult, and it's the same with speeding and how impossible it is for highways to be patrolled, particularly at high speed, or really any of our streets and roads where the cars are moving at high speed -- the fact that you have to be able to identify the driver means that essentially you have to stop the vehicle.

I can only begin to imagine the helplessness that must be felt by our school bus drivers who sit there with their lights flashing, with their stop arms out and their children getting off that bus or crossing the road to get on the bus, and a car goes past them. It must be a horrific moment every time a school bus driver has to endure that.

I say simply, let's try some of the aspects of this bill. I think the increase in the fine is very significant. I shouldn't say "the increase." The establishment of fines is very significant. I couldn't believe that we don't have any fines now till I read it in the background. Somebody said, "If it's a leased car, how are the leasing companies going to deal with these infractions?" Well, I'm sorry, they'll have to deal with it the same way they deal with other infractions. Leased cars get parking tickets and other infractions all the time: not stopping at a stop sign, illegal turning manoeuvres.

I just don't have any sympathy for the argument that it's a leased car or the car owner isn't driving that vehicle. It's the vehicle that weighs 3,500 to 4,000 pounds. It's the vehicle that kills and maims children, with a driver at the wheel who does not obey the Highway Traffic Act as it is established, and that's what we have to get to.

If by supporting this bill and the government incorporating further road safety measures, which we are very optimistic they're going to bring forward in the spring, which of course I'm a little biased about because it will include the measures in my own drunk driving prevention legislation -- then let's get on with it. Let's try it.

Frankly, I would be the first to be at the front of the court on the first case where an owner came in and said, "It was my car, but I wasn't driving it." I'm sorry, you own that car, you are responsible for it, and if you loan it to someone who is unlicensed or underage or impaired or doesn't obey the Highway Traffic Act in terms of the protection of our children who ride on school buses in this province, it is on your head. It is your responsibility.

I will say again in closing that I think this is an excellent private member's bill. I think it demonstrates for all of us the effectiveness of private members' legislation. It gives us an opportunity in this chamber to bring forward concerns, and in this case, I would say to the member Mr Hoy, concerns that are shared around this province, not only in your riding. We thank you for bringing this legislation and we do commend you for it.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'm privileged to be able to rise and speak in support of the private member's bill from the member for Essex-Kent and thank him for the work he's put into it.

The Marcuzzi family wouldn't know this, but the tone in this House is decidedly different from what it normally is during private members' hour. I think the seriousness with which you see the members of the Legislative Assembly at work this morning is an indication that we consider the tragedy, the real tragedy, that you experienced to be one that shouldn't have happened.

The private member's bill from the member for Essex-Kent hopefully will ensure that the one life that's lost per year is one too many, that the 10 injured children, on average, per year are 10 too many. Maybe in a small way, in a very small way, this legislative body can help you in the grieving and the healing process which you naturally have to go through.

Ladies and gentlemen, having spent 30 years in education, I know the value of teaching safety: teaching safety in the classroom, teaching safety on the school grounds, teaching bus transportation safety. Certainly the first thing that teachers and principals do in September is stress the importance of being responsible as a school bus rider. The carriers, the operators and the drivers of school buses are certainly well attuned to what their expectations are and in all cases, I think, exceed the expectations that parents have, that teachers have and that students require.

But you know what? No matter how much education we go through, we cannot control what someone who is irresponsible will do. Maybe then, punitive measures have to be taken. Although this may be viewed by some as being a violation of a civil liberty, I suggest to you that anyone who has lost a child has had their civil liberties violated for a lifetime.

I know, from listening to the comments from the member for Oshawa, the members of the opposition parties and in particular the message from the member for Mississauga South, we all do not want that to ever happen again. So I suggest to you that the fines are certainly proper, that the punishment is certainly in order, and that the owner of a vehicle has some responsibility for whom he or she lends a car to.

I canvassed several bus operators in the north and spoke to several bus drivers to see if the concern is a real concern on a daily basis. Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to understand that in fact it is. It's a concern that happens regularly, on a daily basis. There are some interesting facts that the bus drivers and the bus operators told me. It's not the car immediately behind the school bus that violates in most instances; it's usually the second or third car, the one that wants to speed up and try to get by the school bus before the child leaves or the children leave the bus. It was interesting. When I asked them why it was that the car directly behind the school bus would stop but the second one is in most instances the violator, they said it's because the person in the second car believes he can beat the child across the road. That's where the tragedy occurs. I'm not sure if that is what happened with the Marcuzzi family, but we all know that the tragedy did occur.

There isn't a member in this Legislative Assembly who doesn't want to protect children. This is what this bill is all about. I know there isn't a member in this Legislative Assembly who would want to support this bill and then send it to the committee of the whole. I'm sure we all want to deal with this in a very responsible, very rational, very non-partisan way, because Mr and Mrs Marcuzzi are here today but there are several other parents who are still grieving because of the losses they've incurred. I commend the member for Essex-Kent.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): As the transportation critic for the New Democratic caucus, I would like to speak on this bill and to indicate up front that our caucus will be supporting this legislation.

We see this as a step in the right direction. We recognize that there is much more to be done on the question of highway safety and road safety, especially when it comes to the whole question of school transportation, but we see this bill as definitely a step in the right direction.

I'd like to take a couple of minutes just to go through it for the purpose of members who may not have had an opportunity to read through it. Simply, what the bill does, in the first part of the bill under section 1, is to make amendments to subsection 175(17) of the present Highway Traffic Act in order to be able to up the fines to the driver if the driver is convicted of having passed a school bus. That would be the first thing it does: It ups the fines that are currently found within the Highway Traffic Act.

The second thing it does is it brings a principle in that we had introduced as a government under photo-radar and under tolls legislation that basically says that if we don't know who the driver was because for whatever reason we were not able to identify the driver, the vehicle is then traced to the owner and the owner is charged. The simple reason for this is fairly apparent. If you go back to the owner and you charge the owner with the offence, it is more than likely that the owner will say who the driver was and then we can get to the person who really did it and be able to identify who the driver was who did the offence in the first place. What the bill does in order to do this is quite interesting and I think certainly clever: It puts the fine at double the rate of what it would be to the driver. In other words, if the driver is found guilty of an offence in the first part, he would be fined $500. In the event that we can't find the driver and we go to the vehicle, the owner of the vehicle is fined $1,000 for the first offence. The reason for that is fairly simple. We want to say: "Owner of the vehicle, cough up. Who's the driver?" We need to find out who the driver is because we need to be able to get to these people so that we can curb their driving habits, number one, and number two, make an example of them so that people take the responsibility of driving more seriously and recognize that it is extremely dangerous and quite frankly lethal to be going on with this kind of practice.

The other thing that it does, in order to clarify from the civil libertarian side of things, is that you cannot charge the owner of the vehicle with -- not "charge," but you can't imprison or put that person under probation because of the driver. The owner is protected from that.

So I think the bill is fairly sound. It's laid out in a fairly clear way and I think certainly is a step in the right direction. But I would call on the government for two things. We need to support this legislation, and I certainly hope we get unanimous support of this legislation today; second, that the bill is not sent to the committee of the whole, because if that happens, it means the bill is dead. What we're asking the government to do here is to send this back to a standing committee so that it can be dealt with properly and brought back into the House for royal assent at the end of this session or in the spring at the very latest. I would ask that we do it before Christmas.

The other thing that I ask the government is that I heard the comments of the parliamentary assistant saying, "Even though members vote for this bill at second reading and we do send it to a standing committee, it is possible that the government will never recall the bill and will wait for its own legislation," so that they can make changes in the Highway Traffic Act themselves. I'm not going get into that and the politics of that, but I'm a bit cynical when I hear that. I would say to the parliamentary assistant, and I'm sure most members of the government would support me, that is not an option we should be following here. Allow this bill to pass, allow it to go to the standing committee and allow it to come back here and get third reading some time before Christmas and get royal assent by January 1.

The reason we need to do it is fairly clear. It's been laid out in this debate today. To do anything else but that, quite frankly, is a signal by the government that it's not going to move on this issue. I know that the backbenchers of the government are as concerned about this as the Liberal and New Democratic caucuses are and I would ask the backbenchers to support the opposition in this particular move because I am sure you've had to deal with in your constituencies the same kinds of concerns and the same types of issues we've had to deal with.

I just say to the family, my heart goes out to you. I fortunately have never had to live with what you have gone through and I certainly don't want to see any other family go through what you've had to, because no price can be paid in order to bring a child back when a child has been snatched away from us. To the family, condolences from the New Democratic caucus and the Liberal caucus and the Conservative caucus go out to you and we grieve with you because it is certainly a tragic event that should never have happened.

I say to the government in closing, the last part is that we need to go the next step, and that is towards public education about highway safety and public education specifically around school buses. It doesn't cost a whole bunch of money to be able to do ads that say this is a bad thing and this is what can happen, to heighten the awareness of what the consequences of passing school buses will be. The price of that I think speaks volumes in that it's not a price too big to pay to save the life of a child.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): In the 20 seconds remaining to me, I point out that civil liberty concerns reflected in this bill can be dealt with by committee and, on balance, I ask this House to support this bill.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I rise to commend my colleague the member for Essex Kent in putting forward this very important private member's bill today, a bill that's about children, a bill about the protection of children, a bill about safety. I represent a constituency which probably has one of the highest proportions of children riding school buses in Ontario. In the district of Manitoulin almost every child is bused either to public school or to the high school at West Bay. In the Espanola district, down the Highway 17 corridor, children are required to take school buses to get to school.

I have had over the years of representing Algoma-Manitoulin many complaints from school bus operators and drivers about the dangerous conditions that they see. I want to recount for you some of the problems that we see on Highway 17. On Highway 17, running between Espanola and Blind River, we have a large number of school buses. They are required to stop on a very busy provincial highway, a provincial highway dominated by logging trucks and other trucks that use that route on a daily basis to move the resources of Algoma-Manitoulin and the rest of the north to the mills and markets that are required.

One of the great difficulties we find is especially in the areas of the passing lanes, where there are three lanes of highway. For whatever reason, drivers in that section of highway don't seem to believe that there's a problem if you're in the oncoming lane -- not in the passing lane but in the oncoming lane -- where there are three lanes. I've had school bus drivers repeatedly tell me of difficult situations, very dangerous situations caused by drivers for some reason, confusion or whatever, about having to stop for that school bus. I think, ladies and gentlemen, we have to face the fact that this is an extremely serious situation, one that needs whatever this Legislature can do to correct it.

I have trouble understanding how this could be a problem, how people would not know they have to stop, how people would not recognize the seriousness of the situation. Yet we know, with existing legislation and with existing education, that it's still happening. So something has to be done.

Mr Hoy has come before us with a very reasonable measure, a measure that makes enforcement easier; a measure that has brought public awareness of this issue all across the province. That, in and of itself, is an important contribution. But each and every member of this Legislature needs to stand in their place at 12 noon today and demonstrate their commitment to the safety of children in this province by supporting Mr Hoy's bill. It is an act that will make a great difference to the people and children of Ontario. It is something that a private member has brought before this Legislature in a totally non-partisan way in order to protect our children.

Surely, following the passage of this bill today, we will send it to a committee so that any legal difficulties or whatever can be resolved and this bill will receive third reading and royal assent as quickly as possible so that the children of Ontario will have added protection.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Essex-Kent, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Hoy: I want to thank members on all sides of the House for their comments on Bill 78 and their very supportive comments. We're talking about the children of Ontario, 800,000 of them boarding school buses daily, some of them as young as five years old, who are hoping that people will stop behind the school buses when those red lights are flashing. They depend on it; their lives depend on it. However, we find out far too often that people are ignoring those signal lights and taking a very high risk, a dangerous chance and are passing school buses on a daily basis on a route-by-route basis. They're doing it in the morning hours and they're doing it in mid-afternoon, when those children are dependent on the security of the laws that we have before us.

The member for Oshawa talked about enforcement. Part of the problem with the existing legislation is it's difficult to enforce the law on those who pass school buses today. There has to be positive identification of the driver, which is most difficult at high rates of speed, people going 50 miles an hour passing school buses with abandon. Daylight hours may make it difficult to make positive identification of the driver; blacked-out windows, darkened windows on many cars today. More important, the bus driver is watching those children and preparing to move on to their next stop, and it's very difficult to identify the driver. Let's also state that the owner who would be liable here may have been the driver.

The Deputy Speaker: The time allotted for the first ballot item has expired.


Mr Klees moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 91, An Act to provide for parental consultation under the Health Care Consent Act, 1996 / Projet de loi 91, Loi prévoyant la consultation parentale aux termes de la Loi de 1996 sur le consentement aux soins de santé.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), you have 10 minutes to make your presentation.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): I would like to begin my remarks by stating very clearly that I believe the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, which this bill proposes to amend, is in many respects good legislation. I served as a member of the standing committee on administration of justice during the hearings on that particular act. As my colleagues know, during the course of those hearings there were a number of times when I expressed my concern that there was something missing in that act, namely, the involvement of parents when it comes to important decisions regarding medical treatment for their children. So I don't think it comes as a surprise to my colleagues that I'm bringing this matter forward at this time.

During the course of those hearings a number of very strong arguments were brought forward encouraging the government to consider incorporating the involvement of parents in this act. It was not done at that time and I am hoping that my colleagues, as we debate this issue this morning, will support me in taking this particular initiative.

I'd like to share a number of facts which I believe are important to this debate and which I ask members to consider as they deliberate on this issue. First, I'd like to report that the vast majority of Ontarians whom I speak to are not aware in the first place that children in this province can receive medical treatment of any kind without the knowledge of their parents, the only condition being that the health practitioner believes in his or her mind that the child is capable of making a decision.

The reaction, when I discuss this with people across the province and in my constituency, is initially disbelief that this is the case in this province. The second reaction is indignation. Most parents in this province want to have an important role to play in the decisions around their children.

I'd like to make it very clear that this act is not about decisions relating to people who are adults in the course of their lives. This is about children who are under the age of 16. I believe, as I believe most parents in this province believe, that they not only should be involved in the decisions that relate to their children but have a responsibility to be involved.

My second objective in bringing this bill forward is to propose what I believe to be a very practical and reasonable legislative amendment that will address this particular issue. I can report that I've received expressions of support for this amendment from people across this province from varied religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I've received expressions of support for this amendment from the health care community, from people who are involved in the day-to-day practice of medicine, who are saying to me, "This amendment makes good sense; this is good medical practice."

This bill before us today does a number of things that I believe are simply common sense. In the first place, this bill provides that prior to prescribing medical treatment for a child under the age of 16, it is incumbent upon the health practitioner to make reasonable effort to contact the parents, at least one parent, or an individual acting in the role of a parent, before attending to that medical practice.

It provides some exceptions because we realize that the family is not a perfect institution. While it is, without doubt, the most fundamental institution in our society, there are dysfunctional families. Parenting is not an easy task and we understand that there are familial circumstances where perhaps there is abuse, where there is the potential for abuse, and we have incorporated into this act exceptions under those circumstances to ensure that access to treatment and support for children who find themselves in abusive situations is not withheld.

This act does not in any way present a barrier to medical treatment to children under the age of 16. I want to clarify for the record, because there has been some misinformation in the debate that's taken place over the last couple of days, there has been some misinformation about what this bill would do. There are those who would say that it will in fact present a barrier to medical treatment for young children.

It does not in any way undermine the underlying Health Care Consent Act. Children of any age still have access to health care, and as long as the medical practitioner believes that the child is capable of making an informed decision, that medical treatment can proceed. What this act simply does is ask that same medical practitioner that, before proceeding with that medical treatment, the parents are consulted. I don't think that is too much to ask.

The bill as well makes exceptions for emergency treatment. We realize that there are circumstances when children will require medical treatment as a result of accident, emergencies. This in no way prohibits that from taking place, and the act makes exceptions for those circumstances.

The act also goes one step further, and that is that if the attending physician, the health care practitioner, has any reason whatsoever to believe that as a result of seeking consultation or seeking treatment there may be potential abuse within that family situation, again, there is exception for that under those circumstances.


I'd like to clarify one thing. I believe it's in the interest of not only this House but in the interest of the people of this province that when we debate this issue this morning we deal with the facts. I'm disappointed that even this morning the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health distributed information to members that once again leaves in doubt the intent of the bill and the content of the bill.

Reference is made that research had been done by the ministry previously that relates to the age of consent. Colleagues, I ask you, as we debate this issue, let's debate it on fact, let's debate it on the content of the bill, which is not about an age of consent. This is about bringing parents into consultation when the important issues of medical treatment are being considered for their children.

I believe it's important that we put into place a completion of the legislative framework that on the one hand makes parents in this province legally obligated to provide for the care and the nurture of their children. Is it not appropriate at the same time, then, that we have something in law that ensures that those same parents who are legally obligated to provide for the care and nurture of their children also have the right to know what is going on in their lives so they can come alongside and provide the counsel, provide the care, provide the advice that any good parent in this province, I know, wants to provide?

That is what this is about, and it goes one step further because I believe, as I believe many of my colleagues and people in this province do, that the family is the cornerstone of our society. Over the years there have been many attacks on the institution of the family, but in every generation there are those who must stand up and come to the defence of the family, and I believe this House today has an opportunity to take a stand for the institution of the family, its strength and the ongoing important relationship that must exist among the members of that family, and particularly between parents and children.

Let's not contribute to the alienation of parent from child by making it so easy for children to go their own way. Let's encourage them, through this act, to have dialogue, to enter into discussion with their parents on the important issues facing them.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to this. I look forward to hearing from my colleagues on this important matter, and, please, I look forward to a factual discussion of this issue.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): In the few minutes I have to participate in this debate, I've decided, rather than expressing my own concern and alarm not only as a member of this Legislature but as a former Minister of Health, to read into the record what those who share my concern have to say about this proposal. I would point out to members of the Legislature that many of these issues were canvassed during Bill 19. Mr Klees was a member of that committee, and I would point out to members of this House that he supported the government's Bill 19 proposals under the Health Care Consent Act, as I did.

On November 25, the council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons passed a motion strongly condemning Mr Klees's private member's Bill 91. They say:

"This is retrogressive legislation that would create havoc and limit access to birth control, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as pregnancy and abortion referrals. I am overwhelmed by the lack of sensitivity of this bill," said Dr Keith Macleod of Windsor, the mover of the motion at the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Many other members of that college, which is a public interest body of the self-governing profession of doctors in this province, had this to say:

"This bill is very disheartening and could result in real harm to adolescents because of their perception of the violation of the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship." This is from Dr Miriam Rossi, an active medical staff member of the division of adolescent medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children.

It was the Hospital for Sick Children that made a presentation before our committee on Bill 19 urging that something like this with an age restriction or a requirement for parents to be brought into the doctor-patient relationship not be included in the government's legislation or considered by the committee.

Another member of that council, Dr Don Braden of Kingston, had this to say: "This bill would totally negate the relationship of a psychiatrist to a youthful patient."

Dr David Walker, who is the associate dean of continuing medical education at Queen's University and a past president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, said, "This bill is nothing short of harmful, detrimental and dangerous."

I think that sums up the position of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Frequently in this province we see that the CPSO, as they're referred to, and the Ontario Medical Association don't agree with each other, but on Mr Klees's bill this is what the Ontario Medical Association president had to say:

"This amendment will have profound consequences for the care of adolescents in Ontario. Not only does this amendment undermine the spirit and integrity of the Health Care Consent Act, it negates the tradition of medicine in this area which has evolved over hundreds of years. The effect of this amendment, if passed, will be to make health care inaccessible for adolescents who are seeking care in a host of areas, including family planning, counselling for family-related concerns and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases."

The president of the Ontario Medical Association goes on to say, "I find this amendment sadly ironic given your government's purported support for illness prevention and maintenance of wellness." He further concludes that Mr Klees's bill, as in this House today, "will show a callous disregard for the health and wellbeing of our youth." That from the president of the Ontario Medical Association.

This morning in my office I received from the Teen Health Centre in Windsor the following concerns:

"We want to express our alarm regarding Bill 91 and its amendment to the Health Care Consent Act. Our clients come to the centre seeking confidential care for very sensitive issues. These include family dysfunction issues, birth control information, eating disorders, gynaecological problems and concerns regarding sexually transmitted disease. It is our strong opinion that without the assurance of confidentiality they would not seek care.

"This bill would result in a giant step backwards in the treatment of our youth and have devastating consequences for their health and wellbeing. Adolescents will continue their high-risk behaviour but without the supervision or input of medical monitoring."

I present this evidence this morning because I believe this is the fact, that the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, the historical opportunity our professionals who work in the field with youth have, to judge the notion of whether they are able to make decisions for themselves and when it is appropriate to bring in family members in support of that child, is something we have always in this province considered a clinical judgement.

I will say to you that I do not believe the state should interfere with clinical judgements. I believe we have a responsibility to give our young people access to the care they need, free from fear. While it was some time ago that I was an adolescent myself, it was not so long ago that my own children were adolescents. I knew and understood their fears. While we always had a good and open relationship, I know there were some times they would want to be able to go and talk to somebody privately. I support their right to do that and I support the right for all youth and adolescents in this province to be able to seek care when they need it, without fear.

I do not support this bill.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I know, because I have had many discussions with the member who has brought this bill forward, that his real concern here is about the relationship of children and parents and his concern that the current legislation destroys some of the trust and communication that he believes families ought to have. I think that is a really basic concern of his, and he believes, given his view of family, that that is a normal situation for families and that it is important to support that function of families.

I would suggest to the member that there isn't a member on this side who doesn't feel the same way. I can't imagine a situation where my child would need medical care where she wouldn't have talked to me. I have a personal experience in my family where my child came to me with a problem around sexual abuse and was able to talk to me, and we subsequently found out that her many cousins who had been similarly abused had not been able to talk to their parents about that problem.


So I appreciate the feelings this member has about the importance of communication. I would say to him that I believe it is the job of all of us in our communities, all our supportive communities, our faith communities, within our own families, to do everything we can to build the level of trust and confidence between parents and children that allows a free and open discussion of any matter, whether it's a health care matter or anything else. That's a wish; it's not reality.

We know that the reality is that many, many children, both boys and girls, do not have that relationship with their parents and that very often the reason for that is that those children have been taken advantage of within the family or by close friends of the family. We know that those children have learned to keep secrets. We know that those children face people who are supposed to love and care for them and cannot share anything with them because their trust has been destroyed by those parents or by close family friends who they know are close to their parents and, however they try to tell their parents that something bad is going on, their parents don't believe them. This is a reality for such a large number of children.

The number of children who have been abused, according to the Rix Rogers study that was done for the federal government, is three out of four girls and seven out of 10 boys. That's a very high number. So what we have to look at is how we are going to ensure, as the member says, that where that sort of thing is a reality, a doctor is going to pick up on it and be able to say, "This isn't a problem."

Let me tell the member, having worked in the field of abuse for many, many years, physicians do not pick up on this. They are like all of us: They don't want to believe that this is going on. And they certainly don't want to believe they have to face a situation where they have to deal with a medical problem for their primary patient, who is the child, and the person implicated is the parent, who is also a patient. That's the reality in many of our cases. I had many, many clients who had tried to tell physicians about the problems they were facing within their families, and the physicians did not believe them and in fact told the parents what they had tried to say and children got punished even more. That's a reality.

While I appreciate and affirm the conviction this member has, and his wishes about what families were like, I don't think it's enough of a reality for us to trust the so-called safeguards he has in his bill. There are many young people who simply will not seek and will not get appropriate medical attention if a physician is required to consult with parents. It isn't a realistic wish; it isn't a wish that will result in the improvement in relations between parents and children that the member wants to achieve.

We will certainly be opposing this and we will be urging the member to withdraw this. It is clearly not something that is being supported by the health minister and the parliamentary assistant and, I would hope, by many of his own members because of the pitfalls in the bill. I would urge the member to work with the rest of us in this Legislature to try and find means to build that confidence and trust between parents and children in a way that makes his bill unnecessary, that makes it less and less common for children to want to seek medical care without the knowledge of their parents.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I would like to begin my talk this morning by saying one thing. Many of us in this caucus come together from very different backgrounds and we bring different life experiences to this House. I think that's what makes this House the place it is and what helps us to bring together, I think in some cases, superior laws and legislation.

I rise today because I feel very strongly about this legislation from a personal perspective. I believe that family values are the most important thing we have. Morals are the most important thing we can give to our children. But I believe in many cases that is not what happens. I believe with this bill today what we are going to do, even though Mr Klees says it is not this way, is limit and delay the access children will have to health care. I believe this because some children will not seek health care if they believe that their information will not be kept confidential.

The second reason I am very concerned is because of my life experience where I ran into a child who was abused. I truly believe that if she had been asked and had known that her parent at any time would be able to know what she was saying or have to be consulted with, there would have been a problem. In some cases that's a non-issue as we're talking about here, because if the child says he or she is abused, then the doctor doesn't have to consult. But in some cases, if the child wants to get a degree of confidentiality with the doctor first, he or she won't come forward and talk about abuse initially, so you have that consultation happening with the parent. I'm very concerned.

In the Health Care Consent Act one thing that I think is very important, and one of the fundamental things that wasn't brought out in Mr Klees's talk, was that a doctor has to assess capacity correctly. Mr Klees talked about that, but this means that the child or the person has to understand the information, which is the first thing that was said, but the second thing is that he or she has to be capable of understanding that information. That's very much different from just saying: "I want some help. I understand what I'm getting." To be able to understand the consequences of getting that help is a major issue that I think health professionals and people around the community take up very carefully when they're considering the issue.

I must say that from the Ministry of Health's perspective the faxes are being flooded. We've had about 27 faxes in the last three or four days: 24 of them are concerned with the bill and three of them support Mr Klees. I'm sure he's had others on the other side who have supported him too. I just have three that I think are interesting that we have to talk about.

East York Health Unit:

"Parents have a role in providing their own sons and daughters with a framework of values on which to base decisions. In homes where there is open and frank discussion and commonly held values young people will seek parental guidance and support. In homes where this is not the case it is responsible for adolescents to seek the care they need even if they cannot discuss issues with parents.

"Legislating parental `control' over access to health care will not improve the quality of parenting adolescents can expect, it will only deny care to adolescents who need it."

We have received information from the Hospital for Sick Children, which I believe is a guru in children's care, which is very concerned about this legislation; from the Association of Local Official Health Agencies; Yonge Street Mission, which takes care of kids on the streets who would be in some ways in very deep trouble with this legislation; chief medical officers of health; AIDS committees; public health officers.

I have one last letter which I think is important:

"Mr Frank Klees is proposing an amendment to the Health Care Consent Act. As a health care provider and mother of two teens, I oppose this amendment.... Youth under 16 years of age have many reasons why they do not involve their parents when they seek medical care. To insist that their parents be informed will cause many, many teens to avoid counselling and treatment for sexuality issues, drug use and many other concerns."

I think everybody has concerns and that we'll hear from many other people today.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I certainly appreciate the intent of the bill of my colleague. In a perfect world it would make some sense. The reality today is that we don't live in that perfect world, we don't live in a world where we have perfect families, where we have perfect relationships, where there is a type of nurturing, caring family relationship that many of us would like to see. The reality is that a lot of people are under some very difficult and different situations out there and we, as legislators, have to understand and be sensitive to the needs of all Ontarians and all the children of this province.


This is not an issue of family values, this is not an issue of morality; it is simply an issue of health care for people under the age of 16. As the act now states, it leaves it to the judgement of the health practitioners, people we entrust with health care in this province. It is up to his or her judgement to make the decision whether it is in the best interests of that individual, that young person, whether family members should be notified or whether there should be an attempt to notify a family member.

We're now turning it around and making it a mandatory situation. Therefore the issue becomes one of putting the notification of the family member ahead of the health care issue that person is dealing with, ahead of the treatment and counselling that may occur in that particular case. We're often dealing with situations with kids who are on the street. We are dealing with 14- or 15-year-old kids who often do not have a stable relationship with family members at home, who often are more fearful of the parent finding out why they're seeking treatment than of the illness, or of the treatment they're seeking. That is the reality of what you're dealing with out there.

You have myriad issues with young people -- suicide, psychiatric illnesses, sexual orientation, drug use -- extremely sensitive and difficult issues that many young people may feel much more comfortable speaking about to a family practitioner or health care counsellor than to their family, their parents. We're going to drive these problems underground. What you're going to say to the 14- or 15-year-old person who happened to be living on the street is, "If you're afraid that you may have been exposed to HIV," as an example, "you don't go forward and get tested for HIV," because of the fear of finding out.

What is the net result of that? What do we achieve by forcing that 14- or 15-year-old not to access that testing? What do we achieve by forcing the 14- or 15-year-old who may have problems with drug use not to access counselling or treatment? We're making what is a problem that may be treatable, that may be curable, into a problem that a year or two or three down the line may be beyond that stage. I think we have to understand very clearly that our first priority in this area must be care and treatment. It is not our job as legislators to make moral value judgements on accessibility of health care.

There are organizations that deal with young people that have expressed tremendous concern. Some have been read into the record by my colleagues from all three political parties in the House. I think if we allow this to happen we are taking health care, the treatment of young people in Ontario, back 40, 50 years. We are trying to bring us back to a world that doesn't exist any more. There's a new reality, whether we like it or not, and as legislators I believe we have to be aware of that.

In some of the work I have done I have dealt with 14- and 15-year-old kids who have had some tremendous problems, some real difficulties. As I said earlier, it was a bigger fear of their parents finding out the difficulty or the struggle they were having or the decision they were trying to make than of actually what the situation, difficult as it was, may have been at that time.

I am not sure how you tell 15-year-old kids who unfortunately are living on Yonge Street, in a blanket and maybe a couple of cardboard boxes, that to access medical treatment they would have to somehow track down, or make an attempt to track down, parents they may not have seen for a period of time or guardians who may not exist or individuals in their lives who may have done nothing more than abuse them and scar them for life. To force that prior to getting treatment I think is irresponsible. I think it's taking away the judgements that family practitioners, physicians, can make today.

I would urge this House to reject this bill. I think it is one of the most regressive pieces of legislation we have seen from the point of view of health care in Ontario and I think the message we're sending out very clearly to health care practitioners is that we don't trust their judgement. The message we're sending out to young people is: "Don't access medical treatment if you're afraid of your parents finding out. Don't access counselling." What you end up with is more kids on the street. What you end up with is more kids using drugs. What you end up with is more kids being exposed to situations that are risky and possibly putting their life at risk as a result of being afraid to seek treatment. As a legislator, I certainly don't want any part of that.

I believe we have a responsibility to encourage prevention, to encourage issues of safer sex, to encourage young people to get as much information as possible when dealing with a situation, but most of all to ensure that young people in this province have full and unhindered access to health care whether they are 12, 14, 16 or 20. Frankly, this will take that right away. I want absolutely no part of that.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): As a parent, I think I understand the motivation behind Mr Klees's resolution today. I would say that certainly all parents, both in this House and outside the House, would wish that their children feel safe enough, cherished enough, trusted enough, secure enough to be able to go to their parents and discuss very personal and delicate issues with their parents.

I certainly know from my personal experience with a wonderful young woman who is now 22 and a young parent herself. I think the whole world knows that she had a very difficult adolescence and of our struggles. I'm proud and happy to say, I think partially because of the love and security that she got as a young child, she came through. She went through a very, very difficult time and is now just a wonderful, mature human being whom I'm very proud of: back in school, a wonderful parent herself. But she did have a very difficult adolescence.

She was able to come to me, and I'm so happy about that. I'm sure there are secrets she has that I'll probably never know about. Who in this House today who can remember anything about their adolescence -- I know it's getting harder and harder for some of us to reach back that far. Who among us, though, can't think back to some secrets we have kept from our parents over time? But my daughter was able to come to me on several occasions and discuss some of the situations she found herself in, particularly during the time when she did run away from home and was on the street for a while. I had to go to Vancouver and track her down; again, a nice happy ending. I actually found her on the street and brought her home.

I guess I could go on for a long time about my relationship with my daughter, but I'm bringing her up because I met a lot of her friends during that time who for a variety of reasons were not able to go and talk to their parents. God knows I'm not saying I was a perfect parent, but I do know that she knew that she wouldn't be beaten. She knew that she wouldn't be verbally abused. She knew that other family members wouldn't be verbally abused and blamed. She knew that if she came to me, she was safe and we could discuss problems and try to work them out together.

Some of her friends did not have that option. They knew that they would be beaten or thrown out of their home, if they weren't street kids but in very precarious situations. These children, these young people, if they find themselves -- and let's get frank here; no pun intended. If young girls find themselves pregnant or thinking that they may have a sexually transmitted disease and they come from an environment where they don't feel safe to discuss this with their parents, and if there's any chance whatsoever that they go to any kind of health care person to discuss their problems -- I understand that Mr Klees in his bill is honestly trying to work with that and find a solution, but unfortunately there is still the chance that that child will not be absolutely assured of confidentiality, and I can assure you that in some circumstances that would be enough for that child to not take the risk.


While we're speaking candidly here, I'll tell you what some of my greatest fears are, because I agree with my colleague from Hamilton that this is not about family values; this is not about morals. This is about health care. I have grave concerns that we're going to find very young girls having illegal abortions because they will be too afraid to go through the proper channels, that there will be more cases of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and that these children will end up in very, very risky situations because of their fear of being found out by their families and punished.

Speaking again as a parent, I would say that I certainly understand, Mr Klees, that you as a parent -- I don't know you and I don't know your relationship with your children, but I trust that it's a good one and you feel confident that your children would come and discuss problems with you. Or perhaps you don't -- I don't know -- and you'd like to make sure there's some legal means by which they'd have to. I'm not sure. But I understand what you're trying to do here, and that is to give parents the right to know what is happening with their young children. I understand that. I certainly would not like to think that my daughter would have gone off and, for instance, had an abortion or gone through something like that without me knowing about it, if for no other reason, in my case, than to support her through it. I think all parents would agree that is the ideal situation. But that is not the ideal situation, sadly. There are many reasons why our children can't go to their parents and in some cases, I suppose, won't go to their parents, even if they do come from a secure, generally safe family situation.

I think that when you are getting the kinds of letters and responses from the health care community and those who work with youth, it seems like it's pretty unanimous in terms of the concern by the health care community about the implications a bill like this could have on children. I know that when we were in government, this was an issue when we were changing some things in the Health Care Consent Act. Certainly you always have to weigh the balance between the parents' right to know, the parents' rights to take care of their children and be involved in their choices, with real concerns about children's need for confidentiality when it comes to health care.

I believe this bill is playing with fire. I believe it is a very, very dangerous step backwards. I believe Mr Klees is sincere in his approach and what he's trying to do, but I believe it is misguided and is trying to put his perception of what family life should be in an ideal world into one little box and saying it's got to be like that for everybody. And that's wrong, because it isn't like that.

I am not going to be supporting this bill, and I hope very much -- I understand that the health minister, and the parliamentary assistant has already spoken, is not supporting this bill, I think for the same reasons many of us in this House are not supporting it.

I'm not supporting it because I believe that, in the words of a doctor from the Hospital for Sick Children, it is harmful and detrimental. I don't know who said that, if it was the president of the Ontario Medical Association or somebody from the Hospital for Sick Children, but I know the kinds of mail and phone calls that many of us have received on this issue have made it very clear that this is not a partisan thing. It is not an issue that I believe any of us are debating in a partisan way. I believe we are listening carefully to the health care community out there and people who work with young people, those who are expressing concerns about the long-term implication of a bill like this.

I suppose that what I would recommend on the basis of what we've heard is that the bill actually be withdrawn, because I think some very convincing arguments have been made today from all sides of the House why this bill couldn't possibly work and would actually be harmful to children.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I am rising in support of Bill 91. I could give you my personal reasons but I'm elected to represent my constituents and I believe that in supporting Bill 91 I am representing my constituents.

I guess the whole debate evolves around who is a minor child, and when is that person a minor child and when should they have all the freedom in the world to do whatever they want. It's a very, very interesting debate, because on the one hand, we say parents are legally bound for the care, nurturing, health and welfare of children until they're 16. Then we turn around and say, "Okay, we'll tie the parents' hands behind their backs when we're dealing with health issues."

I'm sorry, but you can't speak out of both sides of your mouth as a government in terms of legislation and say, "We're going to make you legally responsible for that child." Take education, for example. It's mandatory for children to be in school until they're 16 unless they have permission through the early school leaving provisions of the Education Act to leave prior to 16 with the consultation of the parents, the school and the child.

How is it on the one hand we say you must consult with the parent about whether a child stays in school, but on something that is probably even more important than whether they stay in school, the health issues for that child, we say you don't have to involve the parent? In this case, we must emphasize, we're not talking about the parent granting permission; we are simply talking about the right of that parent to know. When we talk about rights, I think it's very important that we talk about everybody's rights.

We criticize so many parents today in this world -- and certainly our province is no different. We criticize parents for not fulfilling their rights and their responsibilities, and this legislation is simply saying for parents to fulfil their rights and their responsibilities as parents, let them know what is going on with their child. If the medical practitioner and the child decide that a certain form of treatment has to be executed, fine, but the point is the parent still has the right to know.

This bill is not about stopping anything; it's about information, and frankly, it's very interesting, because I've heard an example in my riding recently, about something as simple as a measles shot, and a child up to 16 now -- and I agree most parents don't know about it and it's shocking to think that this is the fact -- but a child now can go for treatment to a doctor who doesn't know that child, doesn't know the history of the child, and the child itself up until age 16 may not know all of its own history, and there may be a very important reason that a certain medical procedure should not be entered into for that child because of a medical procedure that happened when the child was very young. An allergy is very obvious, but procedures other than just allergies. So the doctor and the child enter into this treatment and that child may be incredibly at risk because nobody has informed the parent and given the parent the opportunity to say, "This in the history of my child's health."


It's very difficult in the very short time we have this morning to try to emphasize why I am concerned on behalf of my constituents. I think if we're concerned about these few children in terms of them not seeking medical help, yes, I share that concern. I'm very concerned about the few who may not seek medical help because of their own fear of their parents. There is an exemption for that in this legislation and people are choosing to ignore that exemption, but I simply want to say while I share that concern for the few children, I really believe we can never design legislation that fits every concern. I have a concern for the majority of the children who, when they need medical help, also need their parents. Legislation has to be for the majority of children and we all have a responsibility to try to execute that kind of voting on this important bill.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I have a limited time, but I want to get on record that when there was information regarding this private member's bill coming forward into the House, I received immediate phone calls from people from the riding of Windsor-Sandwich who really were stunned, I suppose, that anyone would bring this forward with so little thought and so little consultation.

I can honestly say that the thing that pleases me today is that the parliamentary assistant to the health minister who was here in the House to speak to this bill I assume is also speaking on behalf of the health minister and the health minister himself is opposed to this bill.

The ramifications of the introduction of this kind of bill are so widespread. I want to read in brief a letter from the Teen Health Centre that my colleagues have already alluded to. The Teen Health Centre deals with young people and knows this issue better than many of us in this House.

"This bill would result in a giant step backwards in the treatment of our youth and devastating consequences for their health and wellbeing. Adolescents will continue their high-risk behaviours, but without the supervision or input of medical monitoring.

"We strongly support the OMA's position that implementation of this amendment does not support either illness prevention nor the maintenance of wellness."

In closing, I must say there are areas we need to work on, in particular young people who deal with mental illness. In the case of mental illness with young people, parents do need to have a better way to deal with this situation in family so that if the member is trying to help in certain areas, there are areas that absolutely need to be addressed. We would encourage that there would be more thought given to those areas such as the area of mental illness.

We cannot support this bill. I am speaking for the people of Windsor-Sandwich and hope that everyone in the House too will not support this bill today.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): First off, I'd like to commend my colleague from York-Mackenzie for bringing this matter forward. I think the level of debate on this issue has been exemplary and I think it was long overdue in this House on an issue such as this.

My point in speaking is not to convince anybody to my side, but just to outline and underline that second side of this particular issue. I have no criticism of anyone who doesn't agree with me on this issue and I recognize the value and I commend the member for London Centre for putting in capsule form the other side of that argument.

I agree with the member for Hamilton East that this is not a morals issue, this is not a religious conviction issue. I think it's more than a health issue, though. It's an issue of human rights and parental rights, and if we constantly erase the parental rights and increase the parental obligations, I think it's time to look at the ramifications of the actions which we're taking in issues where we have removed the right to know, a person's right to be informed.

I harken to the issue of the adoption act, where we indirectly allow the young mother not to name the putative father, notwithstanding the DNA testing that removes the risk in that issue. Twenty years later the child is looking for their roots; the mother is dead, the mother is gone. It's significant.

Let me tell you about a more significant issue, and that's the medical aspect of that. Ten years later, the 10-year-old child, searching for medical help, the bone marrow transplant, and there is no record of the father, no record of that family that could provide the assistance. Why? To save some family grief is the argument. Well, let me tell you, the grief of that 10-year-old who can't be treated or can't be helped far exceeds the grief and the knowledge of the family of the putative father.

I could name you a situation I came across in my life on the bench of a young lady seven days before her wedding, engaged to be married to her half brother.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): What does that have to do with this bill?

Mr Guzzo: It has to do with this bill because it was a situation created because of the removal of the right to know, and that's what this issue is about.

Ms Lankin: No, it's not related. It's not related at all.

Mr Guzzo: In comparison in the criminal law, where we've moved under the YOA to treat people differently until they're 18 years of age, now we want to treat medically and provide additional rights and additional information? Where are we going if we continue on this particular route as we override the rights of individuals?

I suggest that a logical extension of this particular situation is in terms of religious rights under those medical situations where we are faced with a blood transfusion operation. Once again, the logical extension is to deny the parents and override their rights. At the present time we go to tremendous lengths and tremendous expense to protect those particular rights.

How much further, if we allow the medical association or the College of Physicians and Surgeons to dictate the avenue to be followed, before those particular operations and those particular procedures will see the waiving of the right of the parents in those particular circumstances to know? In every instance where we have taken that step and we have progressed, we have created individual situations -- not many, mind you -- where the harm created far exceeds the damage that would have been done by living up to the obligation to provide the information that rightfully belongs to the individuals in question.

Our caucus has had a beneficial debate on this and I commend the level of debate in this House. I think that issues such as this require the type of airing that we have enjoyed here, and I thank again the member for bringing it forward and allowing it to take place.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for York-Mackenzie, you have two minutes.

Mr Klees: I take this opportunity to thank all of my colleagues for their contribution to this debate. Clearly, not everyone is in favour of my proposal, and I have a feeling that it may not be a unanimous vote in favour of this bill.

What I would like to point out is that contrary to a comment that was made by one of my colleagues, it is also not unanimous on the part of the health care field that this is not good legislation. I'd like to read from a letter written to me by Dr Linda Douville, who says, "As a family physician and as a parent, I am of the opinion that medical decisions involving the treatment of patients in this age group are best made in consultation with the patient and their parent or legal guardian."

I'd like to also read from a Dr Douglas K. Martin, who is a PhD in the field of bioethics with the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, who says the following: "I have always considered that permitting children to be treated by health care practitioners without their parents' knowledge and permission to be a glaring departure from common wisdom and ethical prudence. I encourage the Ontario Legislature to support the Health Care Consent Amendment Act (Parental Consultation.)"

This is not -- and I agree -- about morality, it is not about family values, and I agree with my colleague Mr Guzzo that this is not simply about health care. This goes far beyond that. It goes to the principle of whether or not this Legislature is prepared to take an initiative to improve on the current reality that we have in this province and take action legislatively to set a new benchmark in this province as to the role of parents with their children, giving them an opportunity to participate in the very important decision-making process regarding their medical treatment.

I urge members of this House to consider this very seriously and to support this legislation.

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


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will deal first with ballot item number 51, standing in the name of Mr Hoy. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mr Hoy has moved second reading of Bill 78, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I would like the bill referred to the standing committee on resources development.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it agreed that the bill should go to the resources development committee? Agreed.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 52, standing in the name of Mr Klees. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, would they please rise.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1202 to 1207.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr Klees has moved second reading of Bill 91, An Act to provide for parental consultation under the Health Care Consent Act.

All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing until your names are called.


Baird, John R.

Guzzo, Garry J.

Shea, Derwyn

Barrett, Toby

Hardeman, Ernie

Sheehan, Frank

Boushy, Dave

Hudak, Tim

Smith, Bruce

Brown, Jim

Johnson, Bert

Spina, Joseph

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, Ron

Stewart, R. Gary

Chudleigh, Ted

Klees, Frank

Tascona, Joseph N.

Clement, Tony

Leadston, Gary L.

Vankoughnet, Bill

Fisher, Barbara

Marland, Margaret

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Ford, Douglas B.

Murdoch, Bill

Wood, Bob

Froese, Tom

O'Toole, John

Young, Terence H.

Gilchrist, Steve

Ouellette, Jerry J.


Grimmett, Bill

Ross, Lillian


The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed to this question will please rise and remain standing until your names are called.


Agostino, Dominic

Flaherty, Jim

McLeod, Lyn

Arnott, Ted

Gerretsen, John

Miclash, Frank

Bartolucci, Rick

Grandmaître, Bernard

Munro, Julia

Bassett, Isabel

Gravelle, Michael

Parker, John L.

Boyd, Marion

Hoy, Pat

Patten, Richard

Brown, Michael A.

Johns, Helen

Phillips, Gerry

Caplan, Elinor

Jordan, W. Leo

Preston, Peter

Churley, Marilyn

Kennedy, Gerard

Pupatello, Sandra

Cleary, John C.

Kormos, Peter

Ramsay, David

Colle, Mike

Kwinter, Monte

Ruprecht, Tony

Cooke, David S.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Saunderson, William

Cordiano, Joseph

Lankin, Frances

Sergio, Mario

Crozier, Bruce

Laughren, Floyd

Turnbull, David

Ecker, Janet

Leach, Al

Wilson, Jim

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 34, the nays are 42.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

All matters relating to private members' public business having been completed, I will now leave the Chair and the House will resume at 1:30 of the clock.

The House recessed from 1212 to 1330.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I rise today to present to the Premier a collection of several hundred petitions from the Alliance of Seniors to Protect Canada's Social Programs. The signatures on these petitions were collected at a forum representing a cross-section of seniors' groups. The petitions express the dismay that so many seniors feel when they witness the erosion of social programs and seniors' quality of life.

These seniors are becoming increasingly alarmed about the drastic cuts to pensions, health care, social services, education, Wheel-Trans and public transportation. Representatives of the alliance want you to know, Premier, that they are discouraged that rather than live up to your promise of no user fees for health care, you have imposed user fees on prescription drugs and now seniors are facing a new fee of $40 a day while in hospital awaiting placement in a nursing home or other institution. Most importantly, they are disappointed and disillusioned that you have broken a key election promise to protect Ontario's senior citizens.

I call upon the Premier and his ministers to review these petitions and reconsider their narrow-minded policies that are rapidly destroying the social programs which not only serve our seniors, but society as a whole. Indeed, to the Premier as well, why are you and your government --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'd like to bring to the attention of members of the House an issue that has become quite hot in my riding. There is a planning process that many people know about with respect to the Greenwood lands, and in dispute is a proposed 2,000- to 3,000-seat teletheatre. Many citizens oppose this and they have taken their democratic right by appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board. But as a result of the Harris government's amendments to the Planning Act, their process has been threatened with early dismissal and with being charged the legal costs of the developer and the city.

In the Planning Act amendments, you said if an individual was not on record as having participated in the planning process either verbally or in written presentations, that could be grounds for early dismissal. In a community coalition and in large community meetings, lots of people participate in many different ways. The Coalition Against the Teletheatre has many individuals who are actually on record, but the individual citizen who volunteered to be the chair of this new coalition is not technically on record, and because her name appears on the appeal, the city of Toronto and the developer have taken steps to ask for early dismissal and charges.

This is an attack on the democratic right of citizens and it happens as a result of the anti-democratic provisions in the Planning Act amendments brought forward by the Harris government. We said at the time that this would be the result, that it would chill democratic participation by citizens. It's being proved true in my community, and I say shame on the Harris government.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): As you're aware, Mr Speaker, a leading goal of this government is to promote economic development and job creation. According to Statistics Canada labour force surveys, since the June 1995 election, under Harris government policies, employment in Ontario has increased by 127,000 net new jobs. I'm proud to report to the Legislature today a number of new employment opportunities and business developments that have been created in my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay.

Algonquin Industries, already a major employer in Huntsville, is expanding into the town of Gravenhurst and creating up to 100 new positions. A recent expansion at Panolam Industries of Huntsville has created an additional eight jobs. Two new 16,000-square-foot grocery stores are scheduled to open in my riding in the spring of 1997, one in Port Carling and the other in Bracebridge. It is estimated that they will create 50 new jobs. Eight new construction jobs were created in the building of a new 24-hour service station in southern Gravenhurst that will open this winter, and it will employ 10 to 15 people.

An undetermined number of new jobs will be created at the TRW seatbelt stamping plant in Midland, and the new Segwun by the Bay restaurant and marina will soon be under construction in Gravenhurst. Tembec Forest Products in Huntsville has recently hired an additional 20 full-time employees. Finally, the planned expansion of the Muskoka Nursing Home in Gravenhurst is expected to create 70 new jobs.

These new business developments and employment opportunities in Muskoka-Georgian Bay are solid evidence of the positive impact this government's policies are having in the province of Ontario.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Today I stand to commemorate the night that members of this Legislature supported me in the effort to stop this bully government in ramming through Bill 26, the bully bill that was an unprecedented power grab by this government.

The top 10 list of problems with Bill 26:

Number 10: The Minister of Health is closing and amalgamating hospitals and terminating services that individual hospitals provide.

Number 9: The Minister of Health has given the power to take over the operation of a community hospital by appointing hospital supervisors who will have all the powers of the hospital board.

Number 8: $225 million in new user fees under the Ontario drug benefit program will be imposed on seniors and others most in need.

Number 7: Drug costs under the Ontario drug benefit program will no longer be regulated, leading to sharp increases in the price of prescription drugs.

Number 6: The Minister of Health gives power to unilaterally remove health care services from OHIP coverage, meaning these services will have to paid for by the public.

Number 5: The government gives the power to unilaterally close down the public service pension plan and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union pension plan.

Number 4: The Minister of Municipal Affairs is using his new powers to amalgamate and dissolve the municipalities.

Number 3: There are restrictions on access of freedom of information requests by implementing new fees and providing greater powers to the government to keep files secret.

Number 2: In the past year the province has given the green light to over 1,000 new user fees.

The Number 1 reason that Mike Harris's government rammed through the bully bill: All of the above can be done without any discussion or debate or a vote in the Legislature.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On September 24 of this year in St Catharines, 14-year-old Jasmine Vanscoy was killed in her own home when a bullet from a stolen handgun tore through her head. Shortly afterwards, a 17-year-old male was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. That matter, of course, went before the courts.

I spoke with Karen Vanscoy, Jasmine's mother, yesterday. Karen Vanscoy is outraged, appalled and astonished that in a meeting at the crown attorney's office Monday of this week, she was told that a deal had been struck, a deal had been made. She was told that the offender would be pleading to manslaughter and there would be consent to a sentence of a mere two years in a young offenders facility.

It is astonishing and appalling that Ms Vanscoy, the mother of this slain child, would not have been actively involved in the consideration of plea bargaining of this nature. It's astonishing that the crown would not utilize its power to put before the courts the issue of whether this 17-year-old should indeed be treated as a young offender or as an adult. It's astonishing that a two-year sentence would be considered before any trial when the life of a young child has been so brutally taken.

I think all of us should share the outrage of Ms Vanscoy and the outrage of people across Niagara region who are witnessing what they perceive to be a gross miscarriage of justice and a denial of Ms Vanscoy and her dead daughter, a denial for them of the right to have the criminal justice system applied in their favour.


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): In the 1996 budget, Finance Minister Ernie Eves introduced the student opportunity trust fund, which committed the government to matching dollar for dollar any public donation to higher education made by March 31, 1997.

Last week I was gratified to see a spectacular example of this initiative in action. It was all the more satisfying because it involved a great institution in my riding of St Andrew-St Patrick. The University of Toronto was the proud recipient of a $3-million donation from the Bank of Montreal and its employees. This initiative is a direct result of the finance minister's budget announcement last spring.

I'm happy to inform the House that the government of Ontario will indeed match the Bank of Montreal's $3-million donation with a $3-million grant. To add to the good news, the University of Toronto will also contribute $3 million to this initiative, for a grand total of $9 million.

This is an excellent example of why we have introduced the student opportunity trust fund and of how it is working to help create more public-private partnerships so that we can serve the taxpayers of Ontario better.

I wish to congratulate the Bank of Montreal, its employees, the University of Toronto and its visionary president, Rob Prichard, for leading the way in turning fiscal restraint into an advantage.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to congratulate and honour the work of Ontario filmmakers, whose continuing efforts to give Ontarians an opportunity to see themselves, and to see their culture, on the big screen were handsomely rewarded last night at the 1996 Canadian Genie Awards.

While the eclectic mix of nominated films certainly offered up different takes of what cultural expression is all about, from the audacious Crash to the Ontario-made Swann to Bruce McDonald's Hard Core Logo, the Canadian filmmakers themselves are to be loudly applauded for setting new worldwide standards of film excellence.

Winning Ontario films and artists at this year's awards included best picture honours for Toronto-based filmmaker John Greyson's Lillies; David Cronenberg, best director for Crash; Ontario director David Wellington's Long Day's Journey Into Night, which swept all the acting honours; composer Mark Korven for the score of Curtis's Charm ; and the best first-feature award to Peter Wellington for Joe's So Mean To Josephine.

It should be noted that for all the success achieved by Canadian films last night, this Tory government has made the economically foolish decision to eliminate all funding for production financing and development programs through the Ontario Film Development Corp. The modest government support given to these programs, totalling $9 million in 1995, went a long way in contributing to the continued success of the Ontario film industry. Indeed, it is sadly ironic that the last film to receive OFDC support under these programs was Lillies, last night's biggest winner.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I rise in the House today to bring good news from my riding of Niagara South. At the recent International City/County Management Annual Conference in Washington, DC, the city of Port Colborne was presented with the award for program excellence for its outstanding citizen involvement in its Earth Works program.

Under the direction of Mayor Neal Schoen and Cecil Vincent, the chief administrator officer of Port Colborne, the Earth Works compost project was introduced to educate the public about the use of composting as an economically viable and environmentally responsible alternative to landfill organic waste.

Port Colborne's Earth Works program resulted in the diversion of approximately 789 metric tonnes of organic waste from landfills and a dramatic increase in industrial, commercial and institutional composting, and most importantly a sense of community and ownership among the citizens of Port Colborne.

I would like to congratulate the citizens of Port Colborne for its development of these successful strategies to encourage and enhance citizen participation in local government. Emphasizing citizen involvement, the good people of Port Colborne are leading the charge on innovative waste management. I would like to commend them today for their outstanding leadership and initiative.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I'd like to welcome Mr King and the class of Mark Wilson, the hardest-working page here at Queen's Park, from the Caroline M. Thompson School in the gallery this afternoon. Joining them on behalf of Welland MPP Peter Kormos is Princess Elizabeth School of Welland. I'd like to welcome them to Queen's Park today.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to take this time to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in our Speaker's gallery today the northwest regional chairs of the Federation Council of Russia. Welcome.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent today to pay tribute to the leader of the official opposition.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Do we have unanimous consent to pay tribute to the leader of the official opposition? Agreed.

Hon David Johnson: This is not a eulogy, of course. We're very delighted that while the member for Fort William will be entering a new part of her career, she'll still be with us in the time ahead.

I rise today on behalf of the Premier and the whole government and caucus members to pay tribute to the honourable member for Fort William on this, her last day in the House as the leader of the official opposition. I know that the Premier didn't have the opportunity to talk to you this morning and offer his personal congratulations. He certainly expressed to me last night his deep regret that he would be unable to be here today, something he had planned some long time ago, but he extended his best wishes on your service as the 20th leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario. I'd like to say a few words today as well.

It's always interesting that a political departure, whatever form it may take, is one of the few times we have the opportunity to say something nice and true about the members of this House, in particular our political opponents. I think it was Harry Truman a few years ago who said a statesman is a politician who has been dead for 10 or 15 years. This is certainly not the case today, and I would like to talk about the statesmanlike qualities of the member opposite.

While we've undoubtedly had the odd policy difference over the past 18 months or so since I've been on this side and the official leader has been on the other side, I believe you've always personally shown a great respect for this institution and the democratic ways of this institution and the process that allows us the free-flowing exchange that I'll say we so often enjoy in this House, enjoy maybe more so outside of question period but enjoy considerably. You've been a very active, articulate, reliable, dependable member for your party, and I know you will continue to represent well the people of Fort William.

One of the characteristics I would like to comment on in particular, and I know that's shared by all the members, has been your strong dedication to your family. It's a dedication that is particularly laudable and notable in view of your responsibilities in leadership, not an easy situation. As someone who comes from a close-by riding to this complex of Queen's Park I have the opportunity to go home every night and spend the time with my family, but such is not the case particularly for a leader but indeed for many members of this House.

I know it's difficult for people such as yourself, Leader, and the Premier and other members who not only must entertain their duties in this House but then go home to their apartment here at Queen's Park, away from their family, and not have that comfort. I was thinking of you this morning while driving my daughter to school, which I do most mornings on my way down to Queen's Park. You don't have that sort of comfort, I suppose, on most days.

While I can't speak for the members of your family, I can say that to those of us who observed you in the House during your time as leader, you seem to bring very capable leadership to the Liberal Party, provide a very valued service to the people of Ontario and at the same time remain a very committed parent. That is an excellent combination.

I strongly suspect that maybe now Neil, Dana, Robin, Dara and Kristen will look forward to a few more hours from you, with the absence in your official capacity as leader allowing more of that time, which I'm sure you will value greatly.

It's said in history that political figures are remembered, and they're quite often remembered for one particular action or characteristic -- Bill Davis maybe for his steady, solid leadership, John Robarts for his great love of the outdoors, and Mitch Hepburn for his willingness to take on the federal government and fight for Ontario, but what history will write about us we really don't know for sure. I guess we have to take the time and see what is written.


But there are a number of things that could be written about the official Leader of the Opposition, many things, I'm sure. One perhaps will be most significant. You broke through one of the barriers that has existed for women in the province by assuming the official leadership of your party, a very significant contribution and action. In this light, at this time in our history, if I might be permitted to say it, in that context you may be considered as a revolutionary by the members of this House.


Hon David Johnson: That's stretching it too far, is it? For that you will, I believe, assume a prominent place in the history of our province, as the history continues to be written.

So to you, honourable leader, on behalf of our government, thank you for your committed service as leader of the official opposition, for your service over the years. I wish you nothing but good luck and happiness and success and all of those good things in the years that lie ahead as you continue to serve the people of Fort William.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): It's indeed an honour to recognize my colleague Lyn McLeod from the constituency of Fort William, who has worked so hard and so honourably as leader of her party. I want to say right off the bat that this is difficult for me. I have members of my own family who live in the constituency of Fort William and they actually broke from the faith to vote for Lyn McLeod, so this is not an easy time for me to give this recognition. I want Lyn to know I'm going to send them a copy of my remarks today in the hope this may bring them back to the faith.

Lyn McLeod is someone I have got to know well since 1987. We were elected in the same election, September 10, 1987. I went to the very back bench; Lyn McLeod went right into the cabinet. She went from being the Minister of Colleges and Universities to the cabinet post that everybody from northern Ontario wants, Minister of Natural Resources, and Minister of Energy. Then she went on to become leader of her party. So she has established quite a course in the time she has been a member of this Legislature, and one that I know everyone in Thunder Bay, not just her constituency of Fort William but everyone in Thunder Bay, is very proud of, and very proud of her.

Lyn McLeod, however, has been dedicated to public service long before being elected to this place. For 17 years she served as a trustee on the Lakehead Board of Education. For those of you who don't know something about the politics of Thunder Bay, for a long time you could describe the Thunder Bay board of education as the battle between two women: Lyn McLeod and someone named Evelyn Dodds. Thank God, Lyn is still active and Evelyn has gone on somewhere else.

Lyn, before you were elected to this place, I often would read the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal and the Times-News and read about your exploits at the Lakehead Board of Education. It says something about someone's character, someone's stamina and someone's capacity to sustain themselves that you could be a trustee for 17 years and chair of the board for seven years, in particular under some of the circumstances in which you had to work. You are indeed dedicated to public service, and all of us are proud of you for that and proud of you for what you have done and what you have contributed.

I know Lyn McLeod in another way. We often get to ride on the same airplane that flies from Thunder Bay on Monday mornings and flies back to Thunder Bay on Thursday nights. We have had our share of announcements that say: "The flight is cancelled. Find yourself a hotel. The flight will not make it into Toronto today. How does London sound, or how does Ottawa sound?" We've had our share of being told that the Thunder Bay airport is closed for three days; not only that, the highways are closed for three days. And I might remark, that seems to have happened a lot in the last 16 months or so.

Lyn, I am happy that although you are stepping down as leader, I will continue to see you on those flights back and forth from Thunder Bay. I am happy that you're going to continue to sit as the MPP for Fort William. I know members of my family are very happy that you are going to continue to sit as the MPP for Fort William.

Please take from all of us our congratulations to you. Please take from all of the people of northwestern Ontario our congratulations to you. Everyone was proud of you when you became leader of the Liberal Party. Everyone in northwestern Ontario is proud of how hard you have worked, of how you have conducted yourself, and we are very proud to have you continue.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Indeed it is an honour for each one of us who has the opportunity to pay tribute to Lyn McLeod in her capacity as the leader of the official opposition and leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

When you think of trying to get good candidates to run for public office, that is, people who are honest, people who have integrity, people who are trustworthy, you go around the province and try to encourage those people to become involved in the political process. Sometimes it's difficult, because it's a difficult decision to make, first of all to run for public office with the many sacrifices that are part of that, but even more so to run for political leadership. I know that those of us who have never decided to make a run for leadership sit almost in awe of those who will take that opportunity, who will work so very hard to achieve this, because it means an awful lot of sacrifice.

It is interesting and it was noted already that Lyn McLeod, when she became a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, was immediately placed in the cabinet and placed on the very important policies and priorities board of cabinet. I think that was a recognition of her talent, of her capability, of her intelligence, of her common sense, if I can use that word in the general context as opposed to a political context. All of us in the Liberal caucus have seen that perhaps more than others.

It is often said, when you speak to members of political parties, that they see in individuals who lead the party something that others don't. In this House we tend to be confrontational. That is part of the political process, particularly during question period and during debates where there are contentious issues. But throughout this exercise, Lyn McLeod has maintained her integrity, has maintained her honesty, has been seen, I think, as a truly decent person in politics.

There's a special sacrifice that Mr Johnson of the Conservative Party, the member for Don Mills, alluded to, and that sacrifice is even more for a northern member than for those of us who serve in the general area of Metropolitan Toronto. Lyn McLeod has a large family -- large by today's standards I guess, Lyn, we would say -- a very nice family, a family she's very close to. Yet being the member for Fort William means she has had to spend a lot of time, particularly as the leader of the official opposition and leader of the Liberal Party, away from her family and away from her own community. For any political leader, being from northwestern Ontario, an area where it's not easy to get to Toronto just overnight or quickly, for a variety of reasons -- Lyn has made that sacrifice, and certainly it is one we all recognize and pay tribute to her for having made.


I was talking to one of the NDP members, Mr Cooke actually -- he won't mind me mentioning it -- the former House leader of the New Democratic Party. He mentioned, and I give him credit for this, because I know he was saying it in all sincerity, that one of the things he noticed about Lyn McLeod was how she became very familiar with pieces of legislation with which he was dealing. Not all of us do that to the same degree. Some can make a speech on virtually any piece of legislation and perhaps not be aware of all the intricate detail. Let me assure you that Lyn McLeod is an individual who can do exactly that; she becomes involved with the detail and the ramifications of legislation. That's important, because that means she's an excellent parliamentarian and I'm sure will continue to be so.

All of her life, Lyn McLeod has been about public service and looking after those who, in many cases, have been unable to fend for themselves. You will note -- and biographies are interestingly written -- but one part I picked out was that she had worked with troubled youth in the psychology department of the McKellar General Hospital in Thunder Bay. I think you gain some special insights when you work with people who require special assistance from others. Lyn has always, throughout her life, fought for those who required the assistance of those of us in public life. I know she has the respect of all members of the Legislative Assembly.

There was an allusion made to the fact that she was the first woman leader of the Liberal Party. While we like to look around the legislatures of this country and in other bodies and say that women have established themselves, have finally been accepted, have finally been appropriately recognized for the talents they have, Lyn McLeod is testimony to the fact that a person is able to rise to the top position within a political party and do an excellent job. She obviously would like to see many more women join that. In the fairly early days of politics, and we're still in the fairly early days if you look around legislatures, she has been one of the leaders in that direction, has brought credibility to the office of a leader of the official opposition.

Knowing Lyn as I do and as my colleagues do, I know that there is a persona, and a very sincere persona, which brings about confrontation in this House. But I know also of her special affection for all members of the House. She has that unique ability, and it's difficult for many of us, to deal harshly with the issues, toughly with the issues, but liking and respecting the people to whom she is directing her questions or her criticism. I think that speaks very well for Lyn McLeod.

Lyn, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, on behalf of all members of the House, because we've heard representatives of the other two parties indicate this, and I think on behalf of the people of the province of Ontario as a whole, we would like to express our appreciation to you for the service that you have provided as leader of the official opposition and leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I won't pretend that this isn't a rather emotional moment for me, which also makes it a rather difficult one. I think my reputation for remaining cool in the Legislature has been established even longer than that of the government House leader.

There is a certain awkwardness, as the government House leader has noted, and as my colleague from Wilson Heights last night said as well, in the fact that the tributes are usually reserved for those who are leaving, and it is certainly my intention, as you have noted, to stay. The fact that I'm not retiring means that I'm also not going to seize this opportunity to indulge in a lengthy retrospective look at the past. I'm sure that comes as a relief to all members of the House as well as to you, Mr Speaker, because you've also, I'm sure, promised to indulge me when I ask my last lead questions a little bit later in the afternoon.

The Speaker: That was a secret.

Mrs McLeod: I just wanted to get it on the record before we begin. I do want to thank the government House leader and the leader of the third party for their very gracious remarks. Since I appreciate the awkwardness of paying tribute to a leader who is retiring from the leadership but not from the House, I will promise, on a point of principle, not to use any of your comments in my next election brochure.

I want to thank our House leader, Jim Bradley, for the remarks he's made on behalf of our caucus, and I want to take a moment to recognize the fact that there is no one whom the leader of a party works with more closely or is more dependent on than the House leader of that party. I want publicly, Jim, to express my appreciation to you for the knowledge you've brought to the job, for the judgement I've been able to count on, on a daily basis, and as well for Jim Bradley's very passionate commitment to the importance of what we do in this Legislature. I have appreciated that a great deal in the last months and years. I appreciate the fact, as well, if the House will bear with me for a moment, that Jim's words today are added, for me, to the words of my colleagues last night and their expressions of appreciation and support have moved me a great deal.

I am sorry that the Premier was not able to join us. Yes, he did call me earlier to express his regret that he couldn't be here. I guess the reason I'm sorry he's not able to be here is that Mike and I actually go back a long way. I've known Mike since about 20 years ago, when he picked me up.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'd speak a little more quickly, if I were you.

Mrs McLeod: I guess I'd better catch up to Alvin Curling's method of delivery and get through this and fly.

It was actually at the airport in North Bay. Mike was on the school board in Nipissing, and Nipissing school board was hosting a northern Ontario trustees' conference and Mike and I shared the responsibilities of school trustee in northern Ontario back then. I suspect it's possible that Mike might have had visions of premiership dancing in his mind even at that date, but I can assure you that I had no idea at that point in time that we would be in these respective positions, because that was just before I left politics forever for the second time.

Howard Hampton and I, of course, as he has said, share ridings in northwestern Ontario. In fact, if the redistribution bill passes, as we suspect it might, we're actually going to share a riding. But that's going to be a story for another day.

There is a historical note or two that I want to add this afternoon. One is the fact that if the redistribution bill indeed passes I will be the last member to represent the historic riding of Fort William, and while I will continue to hold that post for the balance of the term, I did want to make note of it while I have this opportunity today.

I also want to make note of the fact that my leaving the leadership of our party today brings to an end a brief period, but I think a unique period that may not be repeated for some time, when the leaders of all three political parties are from northern Ontario. I feel a sense of pride in having been the first to have been elected leader of a party from northwestern Ontario. Howard, I'd forgotten in how many ways I had paved the way for you, first as Minister of Natural Resources and then as leader of a political party. I think I've earned those votes I got from your family member in the last election.

And I do feel a sense of pride and achievement, as others have noted, in having been the first woman to have been elected leader of a political party in the province of Ontario. Many of you have heard me speak, more than once, about the role of women in politics, so I will not go on at length today other than to say it is still my goal that someday it will be truly natural, as natural to have a woman in a leadership role in politics as it is to have a man, and indeed that it will be natural to have a woman in any role. I hope I have advanced the yardstick towards that goal to some degree.


I want to take a moment to express my personal best wishes to each of the candidates for the leadership of our party. Each is a fine individual with tremendous potential for leadership. We've had an exciting leadership campaign and we're going to have a very exciting weekend, and I am ready to pledge my full support, my wholehearted support to the individual who is chosen as leader of our party this weekend.

I am trusting that the new leader will find some work for me to do. I know that one of the rewards for moving from leadership into the caucus role is that I get to spend hours and hours on committee work, so I've been in training on a voluntary basis for the last few weeks just to get some practice at it. I guess I've always been a person who preferred New Year's Day to New Year's Eve, so I'm already beginning to think about what tomorrow brings and what my new role can bring rather than dwelling on the past.

I would just like to conclude with a few words of thanks. A number of people have mentioned my family here this afternoon, and I think it's probably traditional to say thank you to your family when you're given an opportunity like this in politics. I think it's important, and I think it's particularly important when the family has been so closely involved with me in my political career, particularly in these last almost five years as leader.

I think all of us who are in politics know that the unconditional love and support that you get from your family is really critical to us, and it's the kind of love and support that you can only get from the people who love you.

But one of the unique things about my family is that they've also been very involved. They've been thoughtful and knowledgeable and sometimes challenging and concerned and truly actively involved in what I was doing, and I think that is truly a rare kind of support.

I think there can be difficult times for family members when their spouse or their mother is in such a public and often a very controversial role. I know they feel every criticism and feel rather helpless to do anything to deflect it or to change the way things work. I know they often have to struggle to have their own views recognized as being independent ones, even when they are as strongly opinionated as my own family members are, and they usually have to kind of hold back from expressing their own views in case it ends up being interpreted as the official position of the party that their particular mother or spouse represents. I know too that they are constantly called upon to explain or to defend or to interpret what it is their spouse or mother has done, and I know they worry about the kind of responsibility that can bring.

Having said all that, I am happy to report that my husband continues to be my greatest supporter and that after almost 30 years with a political mom, my daughters continue to be knowledgeable and concerned and involved. I am very appreciative of that.

I also want to thank those who have been my staff support over the last few years, and perhaps this is a little less traditional. But I think that unless you've been there, you can't possibly know the crazy hours of work and the incredible extra effort that political staffers put in. I know that every one of us who serves as a political representative is grateful for the kind of personal commitment and the loyalty that keeps our political staff going. I have been particularly blessed in that respect, and I just want to say a very sincere thank you to all those who have worked so very hard on my behalf.

Lastly, truly lastly, Mr Speaker, I want to express my appreciation to my colleagues, particularly those of my own caucus who have been so wonderfully supportive, if at times challenging, in the last years, but as well to members of all parties for the kind of support that often crosses party lines on issues where we share concerns.

As Jim has said, it's a confrontational kind of business we're in, and with the very confrontational nature of our work and the fact that we truly do hold very different views on many issues, as the government House leader has noted, sometimes I think that makes it very difficult to see the ways in which we actually do share concerns, but I think they are always there in the essence of who we are and why we're here.

I truly believe that we're here because we care, because we want to make a difference, we believe that what we do here actually does make a difference. It matters in people's lives, and so we make that commitment to be public representatives. We keep crazy schedules, some of us commute 1,000 miles a week in order to get to our jobs, and we go to countless events in our communities so that we can understand what people need and want and what they're worried about and then we fight on their behalf for what we believe in and what we care about. Sometimes we get angry and sometimes the debate in this place gets rather passionate, and it is always and only because we are so deeply committed to what we're doing.

It has been a truly unique opportunity to be the leader of a political party in the province of Ontario. It has given me a chance to know and to appreciate the incredible strength and diversity of this province, of its people and of its communities. I know that the people and the places of Ontario are now so much a part of me that I suspect I will never lose the desire to fight for their wellbeing, and I will always believe that the work that we do here is important. Thank you very much.


The Speaker: It's time for oral questions.

Mr Bradley: It's time to put on the gloves now.

Mrs McLeod: This is truly emotional.

The Speaker: That was a good segue, don't you think? The leader of the official opposition.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): It's a little bit regrettable that in the absence of both the Premier and the Minister of Finance, my questions today must go to the government House leader who substitutes for them. It's regrettable after those kind words of support.

Minister, yesterday the chickens came home to roost for your government. Yesterday Ontarians learned what we have been saying all along, that your reckless tax scheme is a fraud, that it and it alone is destroying everything that is great in this province, from our schools to our hospitals. Yesterday Ontarians learned that Mike Harris's math just didn't work. They learned that you have to borrow and you have to cut even more to pay for your tax cut. They learned that you could not find the cuts without further damaging health care and education.

Your government has ripped this province apart and you're now finding that you can't put it back together again because you have no plan. Ontarians are suffering because you made an irresponsible promise during the last election: A $6-billion giveaway that is now wreaking havoc in our schools, in our hospitals and in our homes.

Minister, we're one month away from the end of the year. School boards, municipalities, colleges and universities need to know what you're going to do. They need to know how much more you're going to cut to find the dollars for your tax scheme. When are you going to tell them?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I'm a little at a loss as to where the fraud is here or where the regret is. Is there regret that through the course of the last year some 127,000 jobs have been created in this economy in Ontario, many of them I suspect as a result of the fact that we now have a government committed to fiscal responsibility, a government which has committed to a tax reduction to allow people to keep more of their own hard-earned dollars in their pockets, to spend that money to create jobs in the economy? Is there regret that the economic forecasts for this province are indeed on the bright side and there's more economic growth projected in the future?

I think, contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition is saying, that we are spot on, as the former Treasurer says, and that in fact there's a great deal of optimism. I would say to the official leader, attend the economic statement of the finance minister this afternoon and I'm sure you will be receiving a great deal of --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Supplementary.

Mrs McLeod: Let me tell you where the regret is. Let me tell you, for example, what your incompetence and your desperate cost cutting is doing just to our schools. The number of children in portables is at record levels. Thanks to your incompetence and your sheer mismanagement, class sizes across the province are going to unacceptable levels. Every day parents and students, teachers and principals are raising new concerns about what your cuts are doing to classroom education, just one of the promises that you have not kept in the last 18 months. Ontarians are suffering, the students are suffering because of this tax cut. That's what the cuts that you made last year are doing to education, and now we hear you may be planning to cut another $800 million from schools to pay for that tax scheme.


Minister, will you tell us how cutting more money from schools is going to help you keep that promise to protect classroom education? How will making students pay for your incompetence and your mismanagement make Ontario a better-educated province?

Hon David Johnson: If the member opposite wishes more details, then she should attend the economic statement in the committee this afternoon. This is a time-honoured tradition that Paul Martin, for example, Minister of Finance for the federal --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon David Johnson: I'm merely pointing out that in the federal government, with which I'm sure the member opposite is acquainted, this is the traditional procedure, that these matters are discussed in the committee, and it will be discussed here.

But if the member opposite is concerned about the future, as we are, of our children in the province of Ontario, then look no further than the deficit and look no further than the debt that has been piled on this government, that has been piled on the people of Ontario and that is being piled in ever-increasing amounts on our children and our grandchildren. For the sake of the young people today, this government is coming to grips with --

The Speaker: Thank you. Final supplementary.

Mrs McLeod: I don't think we're going to hear a whole lot this afternoon when the finance minister comes with his so-called update to the finance committee, because what we really want to know is what you're going to do and whether you understand what you have already done.

Let me give you another example of what your incompetence has done to post-secondary education. In post-secondary education Ontario now ranks 10th out of 10 in this country. Thanks to your desperate need to find money for the tax scheme, we are spending less per student on post-secondary education than every other province in this country. We are dead last.

Thanks to the cuts you made last year to post-secondary education, community colleges across this province have now accumulated $50 million in debt. They don't know what they are going to do if you have another round of cuts in store for them. That's the effect of the cuts you made last year, Minister, and now you're planning more.

Will you tell me how cutting and gutting Ontario's colleges and universities to finance your reckless tax scheme is going to actually make Ontario a more competitive province?

Hon David Johnson: The member opposite is speculating, crystal-balling, in terms of what might happen. I suggest that she attend the economic statement from the Minister of Finance this afternoon and she will be treated to the facts of the matter.

What this government is doing is planning a fiscal environment for this province that is sustainable, that will sustain the education that we need in the future, the secondary, the primary, the post-secondary education. Indeed, we are proud of the system we have. The system we have will be improved. There will be the financial wherewithal, and I'm sure that this afternoon the Minister of Finance will lay the foundation for that. I'd encourage the Leader of the Opposition to attend.

Mrs McLeod: My second question is also for the government House leader. I am already appalled at what I've been hearing from your government in the last 24 hours. Rather than be upfront and say you simply didn't know what you were doing 18 months ago and you still don't know what you're doing, yesterday we heard the Premier and we heard the finance minister just blame David Crombie for your delays in telling us where your cuts were going to come from next. You have the nerve to say that your announcements would come right after Mr Crombie makes his final report. Minister, you already know what you're going to cut. You just want to use David Crombie in a public relations charade designed to pretend that your cuts are coming from some kind of restructuring.

Why don't you just admit that it doesn't matter what David Crombie says, that it doesn't matter what anybody says? More cuts are coming and they are going to be deep. Why don't you just admit to people that they are going to have to pay for your tax scheme with deeper cuts to hospitals, schools, municipalities, colleges and universities?

Hon David Johnson: This government has said over and over again -- I believe we're gaining more converts as the days go by and I hope we'll count the member opposite the official Leader of the Opposition in this regard -- that nobody will pay for these tax cuts. These tax cuts will allow ordinary citizens, ordinary people, the vast majority, ordinary citizens earning under $60,000 a year, to keep some of their own money, the money they've earned, worked hard for. They will keep that money, which they deserve.

I might say that the income taxes in the province of Ontario are very high. The residents of Ontario deserve to keep more of their own money. They will then spend that money, invest it, create jobs and grow the economy. More people working will pay more taxes and the money will come into the consolidated revenue fund. Our tax cut will pay for itself this term.

Mrs McLeod: That answer means nothing at all to people who cannot get the health care they need in this province today. The next round of cuts you've promised has not even hit our hospitals yet and yet we see today that the number of people who are on waiting lists for cardiac care has now grown to record levels. Thanks to your incompetence and your desperate cost-cutting to fund your tax scheme, thousands of nurses are being laid off and people are not getting the care they need.

Day after day we are raising examples in this House of people who have been hurt by your health cuts. Thanks to your incompetence and your cost-cutting, we are now seeing that seniors are going to have to pay even new user fees, not only for their drugs but for their hospital stays.

Minister, that's the effect of the cuts you made last year. You cut that money before you found any real savings, and now your cuts and not quality patient care are driving your agenda. Will you admit that when it comes to health care you do not know what you're doing, that you don't understand the consequences of your cuts and that you don't care? Will you admit that quality health care has been sacrificed to pay for your tax scheme?

Hon David Johnson: What I will admit is that this government has pursued the policies we put to the people of Ontario before and during the last election: We would protect the health care envelope. Indeed this government has not only protected the health care envelope, which was $17.4 billion in health care in this province of Ontario, but we have exceeded that promise. We have put forward $17.7 billion for health care in Ontario this month. We have committed to investing some $170 million into long-term care. We have a number of other investments in cardiac care and breast cancer detection, and on and on.

This government is committed to health care. We have exceeded our pledge in the election. We are investing in health care in Ontario because we consider it important.

Mrs McLeod: You never told people in the last election campaign that they wouldn't be able to get the health care they need. You did tell people that your cuts were not going to hurt classroom education.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): That was the big lie.

Mrs McLeod: You never told people that you were going to be so desperate to find money to pay for your tax cut up front that you were going to have to hit the most vulnerable people in this province over and over again. And you never told people -- maybe it comes as a surprise to us all -- that you were going to be so desperate for money that you weren't going to be able to plan a single thing.

We have seen it over and over again. We have seen the disabled, the poor, seniors, we've seen women and children being hurt by your government's desire to cut first and ask questions later. The family support plan was cut before you had any plans in place to make sure that women and children were going to get the cheques they needed to pay the rent and put food on the table and maybe buy a Christmas gift this Christmas.

You closed the environment labs up in Thunder Bay before you found out that you were actually going to have to pay more to have the private sector do their tests. You haven't restructured a thing in 18 months. You couldn't restructure your way out of a paper bag. You don't plan, you don't consult, you don't manage, you just cut. Minister, why don't you just admit that you don't care about the impacts, that you don't want to know about the impacts, that you just want to cut to find the money for your tax scheme.

Hon David Johnson: What I will admit to and what people across the province of Ontario I am sure recognize is that this government put forward a platform before the last election and this government has stuck to it; it's lived up to its promises. We said we'd protect the elderly and the disabled on welfare. We've lived up to that promise. We've said we'd protect health care for the citizens of Ontario. Not only have we protected health care, we have put more money into health care. We have put $300 million more into health care. We have promised $170 million for long-term care. At the same time we said, in terms of the future of the province, we would come to grips with the deficit, which is adding to the debt of Ontario, which is mortgaging the future of our children and our grandchildren.

We are on track, and I'm sure that will be the indication from the economic statement this afternoon: that we are on track to eliminate that deficit this term and then to start paying down the debt.


The Speaker: I would ask the member for Lake Nipigon to withdraw that previous comment that I heard.

Mr Pouliot: With respect, I'm searching long and hard, but if it suits your purpose, with high respect, sir, on a day like today I will withdraw, but I'm searching. What is it I said?

The Speaker: I feel fairly confident I heard you say, "That's the big lie." Could I ask you to withdraw that, please.

Mr Pouliot: The last campaign. I see.

The Speaker: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you.

Mr Pouliot: I will indeed, sir, and go home and write it 100 times on a blackboard.

The Speaker: Thank you very much. New question.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Chair of Management Board as well. Yesterday both the Premier and the Minister of Finance stated that your economic statement was being put off due to delays in the Crombie report. Mr Crombie said point-blank this morning that he was delaying nothing, that his work is on schedule.

People across this province need some straight answers. People need to know how much hospitals are going to be cut, how much schools are going to be cut, how much municipalities are going to be cut and how many people are going to lose their jobs as a result of your government.

Minister, isn't it true that the sole reason for the delay in your economic statement is that to finance your phoney tax scheme for the wealthy you will have to make large cuts to education and you will have to download $4 billion on to municipalities? Isn't that true?

Hon David Johnson: As this government has indicated over and over again, nobody will be paying for these tax cuts, in the sense that these tax cuts will generate economic growth and activity, along with a number of other measures, I might say, in terms of reducing the regulations and red tape that hinder job growth in Ontario. We will see that economic growth, we will see more people going back to work, we will see more taxpayers, we will see more revenue coming into Ontario and we will see the books of the province balanced in this term of government for the first time in many, many years.

There seems to be some idea that the economic statement is delayed, deferred, downgraded or whatever. This is a normal economic statement which will be issued this afternoon. I would encourage the leader of the third party to attend and listen and gain information from the tabling of the economic statement.

Mr Hampton: Not even the likes of Ronald Reagan believe that voodoo economic stuff any more. No one, not even Newt Gingrich, believes that giving a tax cut to the wealthy is going to benefit other people in society, and for this government to continue to preach that shows just how out of touch you are.

Yesterday we had evidence from your caucus meeting that your government is debating plans to cut another $800 million from education. The Minister of Education, though given the opportunity to deny that on three occasions, didn't deny it. Now we know you're going to take financial control of education from school boards so that you can drive down teachers' wages and impose the cuts on education programs. But if you're going to take financial control of education off the property tax, then you're going to have to download another $4 billion.

Minister, do you acknowledge that your government is planning to download the costs of ambulance services, child welfare and support for the disabled on to municipal taxpayers? Do you acknowledge that?

Hon David Johnson: The leader of the third party is speculating. What we have said all along is that we are looking at any number of alternatives to do exactly what municipalities have been asking us to do for many years: to disentangle, to decide which level of government is going to deliver which service.

This is a process initiated by the NDP when they were in government. This is a process the NDP touted to the high heavens. The NDP said: "Disentanglement. Decide which level of government should perform a service, which level of government should pay for a service." What happened? They failed. They could not deliver. This government is picking up the ball. This government is looking at all alternatives. Attend the economic statement this afternoon. Perhaps you'll learn some of your answers.

Mr Hampton: Even George Orwell would describe this as going beyond doublespeak. I asked you a simple question, and frankly you had no response, so let me try again.

We know from a source inside your government that your phoney tax scheme for the wealthy is now pushing you into absurd downloading of costs on to municipalities. The list, we are told, includes moving welfare cost sharing from 80-20 -- 80 province, 20 municipal -- to 50-50; cost sharing of income support for the disabled on to a 50-50 basis -- municipalities will have to pick up 50%; moving child care and child welfare to 50-50 -- municipalities will have to pick up more; and downloading ambulance services, community health centres and even possibly assistive devices programs. Moving these programs on to municipalities is going to force municipal taxes up. Minister, I'm going to put it to you again: Are you denying that your government is considering these downloading options?

Hon David Johnson: I'll simply reiterate that when the leader was in government, the NDP government at that time said, "Let's look at a system which the municipalities have been requesting for many, many years." That system is to decide what services should be delivered by what level of government; shift the cost to that level. Some costs would shift to the province; some costs would shift to the municipalities. The delivery of those services would go along with it. That way there's greater accountability and there's greater efficiency and there is less cost to taxpayers.

This is the premise the leader of the third party and the NDP government undertook to satisfy. They failed. They tried, but they failed. They couldn't get the agreement. This government is picking up the ball. This government intends to be fiscally responsible. This government intends to work with the municipalities to establish exactly what they're looking at. We're looking at all alternatives, and I think at the end of the day the people of Ontario will be well served: more accountable government, less expensive government.


The Speaker: Can the members for Sudbury East, Cochrane North and Cochrane South come to order. Constant heckling -- it's difficult to hear.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): When you get an answer like that --

The Speaker: I think the point I'm trying to make is quite clearly made there, member for Cochrane North. It's constant heckling. It's tough to hear the answer.

New question, third party.

Mr Hampton: The point we're trying to make is that the government should come clean with hospitals and municipalities about how deep the cuts are going to be, how big the downloading is going to be and about how many people are going to lose their jobs.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. You have had requests from environmentalists across this province to meet with you and you have refused, so today a large coalition of environmentalists went to your office and stood outside and waited for you to come out and meet with them. You didn't show. You are Minister of the Environment. Why won't you meet with environmentalists?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): My staff and my parliamentary assistant have been meeting with environmentalists.


Mr Hampton: The environmentalists don't ask to meet with the minister's staff; they ask to meet with the minister. He is the elected one. He is the person who has the cabinet position. He is the one who is to be held accountable, and he refuses to meet with them.

Recently, Ontario's Environmental Commissioner made a special report to denounce your government's record. She said, "I am concerned that the government's sweeping changes to environmental safeguards are happening behind closed doors with minimum public consultation." Her report goes beyond showing how your government is moving too fast and ignoring the law. She says, "The Ministry of the Environment has been cutting back in air quality monitoring, laying off scientists and shutting down drinking water labs without paying any attention to what the effects might be on the environment or with respect to human health."

In view of the fact that your ministry is making all of these destructive cuts, why won't you meet with environmentalists to at least answer their questions and be held accountable?

Hon Mr Sterling: As I said before, I, my staff and my parliamentary assistant are meeting with environmentalists.

Mr Hampton: It was more than passing strange that a whole group of environmentalists representing people who are concerned about air quality, people who are concerned about water quality, people who are concerned about the privatization of our forests, people who are concerned about the fact that you've cut $200 million from the ministry and you've laid off close to 800 people who do monitoring and testing, that all those people were there today and they all, to a one, say: "The Minister of Environment won't meet with us. The reason we're here today is we came to meet with him."

Minister, admit it. You look foolish trying to maintain that environmental protection will actually be enhanced by these cuts. Will you tell the people the truth? In order for the wealthy to get their 30% tax cut, the rest of us will have to give up protection of the environment. Will you at least tell the truth to people?

Hon Mr Sterling: This morning I met with the Recycling Council of Ontario and talked to many, many people involved with the environment, many environmentalists, at that point in time. I understand that this morning or around noon there were approximately 60 people in front of my offices when I was meeting with other people in this very building with regard to other matters that I'm responsible for. Many of the 60 people were members opposite in this Legislature. I thought it most appropriate that when we're discussing environment, when we're dealing with environmental issues, dealing with primarily members of the Legislature from the third party, we do it in this place.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Your proposed development charges legislation has brought the city of Mississauga to a standstill. The mayor of that city, Hazel McCallion, says that you have caved in to the pressures of the development industry and are going to force local property taxpayers in growing cities to pay for new development rather than the developers. She says that your legislation is the most ridiculous, irresponsible legislation she has ever seen.

How can you justify this sellout of the property taxpayers of Mississauga and other cities like Vaughan and Markham just to make developers richer when your own Who Does What panel strongly recommended that you not interfere and allow the cities instead to decide the level of development charges?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I should point out to the member, in case he doesn't recognize this, that the developer doesn't pay; the home buyer pays. If you want to drive the price of houses out of the reach of the average potential home buyer in Ontario, that's fine. We don't. What we want to do is to ensure we put in a system that's fair and equitable to the municipalities and to the new home buyer so that new growth pays for growth but doesn't extract a ransom from the potential home buyer.

Mr Colle: I think my money's on the mayor of Mississauga. She says -- this is Hazel speaking -- "There won't be a house sold in Mississauga that will cost one nickel less if your legislation goes through."

Minister, your proposed legislation offloading development charges from developers on to property taxpayers has forced an unprecedented freeze on all development as of today. Before this chaos spreads throughout the 905, why don't you withdraw this sellout to the developers and come to your senses and realize that the property taxpayers will have to pay for your legislation either in higher property taxes or more user fees? Do the right thing. Admit that this is a blatant sellout and withdraw this legislation.

Hon Mr Leach: If the mayor of Mississauga has put a freeze on development in Mississauga, I'm quite confident that the people in Brampton and Vaughan and York and Durham will be pleased to have heard that.


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

Hon Mr Leach: The bill that's before the House at the present time is intended to ensure that development charges pay for new growth. That's what this bill does and it does it in a way that's fair and equitable both to the municipality and to the new home buyer.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Pearl Miller was here again today, and I'm very sure that you remember Pearl Miller. She'd be pretty hard to forget. Maybe, though, you weren't aware that her appeal has been denied and Pearl Miller has been cut off Wheel-Trans. Minister, Mrs Miller feels you duped her. A month ago you were only too eager, in front of all the cameras, to pull out all the stops to come to her aid, and now she's been cut off Wheel-Trans -- and she's not the only one.

Your cuts mean that children with special needs lose out, because Freda Bryman has been cut off and she can't get to their school where she volunteered twice a week. Your cuts severely limit the health and independence of Trent Brady, who's recovering from a stroke and used Wheel-Trans to get to therapy. Your cuts mean Brenda Morris has had to quit a full-time job and reduce her hours to half-time because her son, who was born with cerebral palsy, autism and epilepsy, has been cut off Wheel-Trans. She has to stay home to look after him.

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

Ms Lankin: Minister, these are your cuts. When are you going to take responsibility for them and for the people who are being cut off of Wheel-Trans because of them?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I have reiterated in this House all along that I am concerned about the mobility and accessibility needs of the disabled people in the province of Ontario, and I do have some concern about how some of these people might have been handled in the new approach through re-evaluation. But again I want to emphasize that while the ministry provides the funding for this support, we don't make that decision. It's clearly done by the Toronto Transit Commission and Metro. It is not a Harris government cut. I want to say it once more: We did not cut one dollar from disabled transit.


Ms Lankin: Minister, please, please stop with the smoke and the mirrors. You assessed a cut to the TTC, a percentage based on conventional transit and a percentage based on special transit. You've rolled it all up into the $8.17 million and said, "You can take it anywhere you want," but you've assessed that whole amount. You have not insisted that the special transit be maintained.

It's not just Toronto. You keep saying that it's only Toronto, that it is the only errant municipality. In London your cuts mean reduced service for everyone in Paratransit. In Ottawa your cuts mean tightened registration and prioritized booking. In Sault Ste Marie your cuts mean changes in who's eligible and increased fares. In Thunder Bay your cuts mean fewer vehicles and reduced hours of service. In Chatham your cuts mean eligibility changes; only one half of the riders are still registered. I could go on.

Your government promised in the Common Sense Revolution that "Aid to seniors and the disabled will not be cut."

The Speaker: Question, please.

Ms Lankin: These are broken promises. Real people like Mrs Miller are being hurt. When will you live up to your promises and restore this funding to special transit?

Hon Mr Palladini: The honourable member mentioned Wheel-Trans, and that is the reason I addressed the Toronto Transit Commission and Metro, because the honourable member mentioned Wheel-Trans.

However, I have a letter that I wrote to Mr Paul Christie back in August 1995, clearly looking to work together in a cooperative way at how we can avoid these situations. I asked the Toronto Transit Commission to look at an operating reduction in their budget of $8.17 million on a $708-million budget. I further reiterated in my letter after the meeting, "I am prepared to instruct ministry staff to immediately make the necessary changes to give you the option of meeting the saving target entirely from the conventional transit and maintain Wheel-Trans funding at the same level."


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Affairs. Some of my constituents from Durham East have been asking about loan brokers. My constituents are concerned because they feel that as citizens of Ontario they should be entitled to fair marketplace practices.

They have come to me to become informed about these so-called loan brokers. They hear that these people are ripping citizens off with what might be considered unfair business practices. My constituents say that these so-called loan brokers charge expensive upfront fees just for people to apply for a loan and then refuse the loan they have been promised, and then they refuse to return the fee they had paid. Minister, what is this government's position on these corrupt practices?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I thank the member for Durham East for the question. Our ministry is committed to protecting the consumers from unscrupulous loan brokers. There are many instances of illegal and unscrupulous activities where loan brokers quite often will not arrange to contact the lender, will not arrange a loan, and will not arrange to return that upfront or, as they call it, administrative fee when they have not been successful in obtaining a loan.

The act makes it illegal for anyone to obtain an upfront fee. We will consider any contravention of the Loan Brokers Act to be a serious offence, and we will continue to pursue these violations through enforcement activity and will not tolerate this type of activity for the consumers of Ontario. The ministry's marketplace services and standards branch is dedicated to identifying and protecting consumers from this type of scam.

Mr O'Toole: I'm pleased to hear that these upfront fees are illegal. What kind of success are you having in enforcing these laws on these unethical loan brokers who are taking advantage of unsuspecting customers?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The ministry's investigation section has recently laid 42 charges of fraud under the Loan Brokers Act on October 25, 1996. We're actively pursuing numerous other investigations, including the execution of search warrants and commencement of court proceedings.

Our ministry is also currently monitoring in excess of 60 loan broker companies through the collection of complaints and other data from law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP. The most important thing for the consumers to understand and to know is that it is illegal in Ontario to charge an upfront fee for a loan.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Health. For several months now we've been asking you to negotiate with doctors in good faith because we have people in Ontario who desperately need care. Many of those are women in southwestern Ontario, particularly Windsor, where we don't have people to deliver babies. Last week, in your last question that you attempted to answer, you said that was because the problem in Windsor has been going on for some time. "That's not this government's fault," you said. "We've had a shortage of obstetricians for many years now."

I'd like to know what you are doing for the women in Sarnia who are looking for obstetricians. They do not have too many or too few people to deliver babies in Sarnia. I'd like to know what you are doing for the women who are calling the member for Sarnia, Mr Boushy, and who are breathing down his neck, as he puts it, because they are desperate for care and they are pregnant.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I would say to the honourable member that we are at the negotiating table with Ontario's doctors. The bargaining process is in place. Both sides are very serious about trying to come to an agreement. We had one agreement. It wasn't acceptable to Ontario's doctors. Therefore, we're trying to get another agreement together. I'd remind the honourable member that we've already invested in obstetrical care, in terms of last April, giving a 30% increase to any physician who delivers babies. We want to build upon that and try to come to an agreement with Ontario's doctors.

You said in your question there were enough obstetricians in that area. If they're slowing down their work now, we're at the bargaining table trying to solve those problems.

Mrs Pupatello: Minister, may I say that you have constantly tried to move the blame to someone else. The blame here clearly sits with the Minister of Health. You, sir, are responsible for the crisis in medical care in Ontario. Not only do Liberal caucus members feel this way but your Conservative members do as well. May I quote you the member for Sarnia: "He bashed the doctors when he shouldn't have. He created the bad feelings. Wilson broke a promise to doctors." It is not just Liberal members.

Today you have doctors from the southwest region here in the House. They are looking too, as we are, to see that you are doing your part to resolve the crisis. Women in Sarnia do not have care. Women in Windsor do not have care.

On September 25, we asked you -- it's been two months now -- "What do we do for women who are delivering in the US?" At that time you had prepared nothing. Two weeks ago we reported here that someone did deliver across in the United States. You have done nothing to prepare for that. I need to know, Minister, that you are to blame and that you are rectifying the situation. We need obstetrical care in the southwest.

Hon Mr Wilson: We are working very hard to try to put in place solutions for the southwest, for Windsor-Essex. The negotiations are ongoing. We're going to solve, hopefully, or begin to solve in a serious way problems that were neglected during the entire time your party was in office, problems that festered during the entire time the NDP was in office. Every effort is being made to solve some of these historic concerns.

The reason some women have gone to the United States -- they've gone there with prior approval and arrangements made by the Ministry of Health and local hospitals in Ontario -- is because we're also making every effort to ensure that the women of this province receive the care they need. Again I would say to the honourable member that if there are specific cases, both the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Ministry of Health are available to help women find the care they need.



M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Ma question était pour le ministre délégué aux Affaires francophones, mais puisqu'il n'est pas là, on va aller directement au président du Conseil des ministres.

On a appris dernièrement que dans les prochains jours votre gouvernement va aller en avant avec la privatisation du service de traduction à travers tous les ministères. On sait que deux tiers de tous les traducteurs du gouvernement de l'Ontario vont être mis à pied et que vous allez les remplacer avec des contracteurs privés.

Il y a des préoccupations à l'intérieur de la communauté francophone que, avec cette privatisation, il va y avoir personne dans les ministères capable de s'assurer que tous les documents qui sont présentement disponibles à la communauté francophone ne vont pas être traduits.

Êtes-vous capable de nous donner des assurances que tous les documents que le gouvernement donne présentement à la communauté francophone vont être là, même avec la privatisation ?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Certainly my response to the member opposite is that this government fully intends to ensure that the translation services are up to the standards and beyond the standards that we have today.

The government has had to deal with the unfortunate fiscal situation, which it inherited a year and a half ago, of about $100 billion in debt, deficits of some $10 billion, $12 billion a year in spending, and as a result, the government has looked for many, many ways of providing services, such as translation services, such as maintenance of the roads in the province, all the services at equal or better standards but at lower cost.

Yes, the translation services are being investigated in terms of using outsourcing, but I can assure the member opposite it's the government's intention that they be of excellent quality.

M. Bisson : On sait déjà présentement à l'intérieur des ministères que le gouvernement ne se pose pas sérieusement la question de traduction qu'il a besoin de prendre. Je sais que des documents qui dans le passé ont été établis et écrits en français pour les francophones aux conseils séparés de la province présentement sont envoyés en anglais où avant c'était donné en français.

Avec la privatisation, il va y avoir quasiment personne dans tous les ministères du gouvernement de l'Ontario qui pourrait regarder cette question-là puis militer pour les francophones à l'intérieur. Je vous dis encore que c'est important que dans l'intérieur des ministères il y ait du personnel non seulement pour faire de la traduction mais pour s'assurer que le gouvernement vit selon l'esprit de la Loi 8.

Je vous demande une autre fois -- vous dites que vous allez l'assurer. Je vais vous demander la deuxième question : quant au ministre responsable des Affaires francophones, n'avez-vous pas à vous parler de cette question-là ? Est-ce que M. Noble Villeneuve est au cabinet pour militer pour les francophones sur cette question-là ?

Hon David Johnson: The minister responsible for francophone affairs is a very active and vocal voice at the cabinet table in terms of defending the rights of the francophone community. I can assure the member opposite of that.

I will say to the member opposite that even today some 63% of the translation is done by external suppliers and some 37% is done in-house. So even today a good deal of the services are contracted out. No final decisions have been made. This government is reviewing possibilities. We are reviewing possibilities all across the board in terms of delivering better services to the francophone community, to all the people of Ontario, but at reduced cost.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines. As the House is no doubt aware, the people of the north face many different challenges than the more populous areas in the south regarding development, employment and infrastructure.

With this in mind, I understand that the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp board is currently approving funding for projects in the north. Could the minister advise the House as to the status of this vital economic development tool?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I would like thank the member for Halton North for the question. As I recently announced, the new board is up and running. They spent the summer working on new criteria, and I'm pleased to say that the northern Ontario heritage fund is open for business again.

Over the term of our government we'll be spending $210 million in new dollars. This includes the $60 million plus interest that was quietly taken out of the fund by the previous government, and that's part of the commitment from the Premier and this government to northern Ontario.

Mr Chudleigh: I, as well as many of my constituents in Halton North, was shocked to learn that the previous NDP government had to write off over $30 million in bad loans made to the heritage fund. How has this fund changed to prevent this situation from happening in the future and how can people apply for funding?

Hon Mr Hodgson: The board's focus has been reoriented. I know this isn't as important --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I ask the member --

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Let's talk about the northern Ontario cancer treatment clinics, the wellness centres. Let's talk about the simulator.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I heard you were getting all kinds of phone calls.

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, I ask you to come to order, as well as the member for Sudbury.

Hon Mr Hodgson: In answer to the question, the board's focus has been reoriented not to give direct business assistance to a particular company. It's divided into three broad categories to diversify and expand the economy of northern Ontario, including infrastructure, telecommunications and community support, to build a common ground that all individuals can participate in.

I'm proud to say that under these guidelines the board recently announced up to $1 million approximately for their northern Ontario tourism association to market northern Ontario as a world-class destination for world travellers and people in Ontario.

As well, I'm pleased to announce up to $6 million for the Sault Ste Marie locks to help their economy. Parties interested in applying, and this is open to all members of the House, I'd encourage to phone 1-800-461-8329 for how to apply.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Attorney General relating to the shooting of Jasmine Vanscoy of St Catharines. I've been contacted by representatives of her mother, Karen Vanscoy. Members of the House will recall that her 14-year-old daughter Jasmine was shot in the head with a stolen gun in her St Catharines home on September 24.

Mrs Vanscoy is very concerned that a plea bargain apparently has taken place. She has had a three-hour meeting with representatives of the office of the Attorney General, and she is very concerned that a plea bargain apparently has been struck for a two-year sentence for the individual who is alleged to have committed the crime and that she was not consulted in any meaningful way in this regard. I wonder if the Attorney General has anything to say about this circumstance.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I know the member is fully understanding of the fact that this is presently a case that is before the court and it would be inappropriate to make any comment about the case or the status of the matter, and the issue will be spoken about in the courtroom.

The other thing I can tell the member -- and again I know that he's supportive; he knows where the government stands on the issue of the Young Offenders Act. I know that his views in many respects parallel the views of the government in some of the changes we would like to see made to the Young Offenders Act, and I'd encourage the member to tell his federal colleagues that they should look at some of those changes and make some significant change to the Young Offenders Act.

Mr Bradley: There are a couple of issues involved in this, and one is certainly the Young Offenders Act. Another is the process of plea bargaining. I remember when the Homolka case was before the public. There were some recommendations, I believe, that were forthcoming after the Homolka case as to how plea bargaining should be dealt with in the future. Also, I know that the minister was kind enough to come down to St Catharines to announce the opening of an office in the Niagara Peninsula to assist victims of crime, and we're certainly all supportive of that.

I've been wondering how the recommendations that evolved from the Homolka case on plea bargaining would have been applied to this specific case where it appears that the charge is reduced from second-degree murder to manslaughter with a two-year sentence. This deal apparently is going to be finished by Monday. The concern of the mother is, first of all, about the speed it's going through; also the fact that she was not consulted; and third, it seems to fly in the face of the recommendations from the Homolka plea bargain.

Hon Mr Harnick: Again, I can't comment on the specifics of the member's question. What I can tell the member is that there are procedures that are followed by crown attorneys. They adhere to those procedures very closely in issues of this type. I would assume a senior crown attorney who's dealing with this matter will follow those procedures.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I put a question to the minister responsible for women's issues and it too, as my colleague from St Catharines expressed concern, relates to the tragic taking of the life of young Jasmine Vanscoy. The Speaker has heard that Jasmine was killed when a bullet from a stolen handgun smashed through her head. A 17-year-old male was charged with second-degree murder. It's alleged that he was a boyfriend of young Jasmine.

Now the crown attorney, acting on behalf of the Attorney General, has agreed to a deal, plea bargaining such that the 17-year-old male killer can plead guilty to mere manslaughter and serve a mere two years in a young offender facility. Will the minister responsible for women's issues please tell us that she will intervene to ensure that justice is obtained for Jasmine and her surviving mother, Karen?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): I would want to refer that to the Attorney General in that we've both had these discussions and he's more prepared to answer the question than I am.

The Speaker: Minister, if you're going to refer a question, it's best that you just get up and refer it rather than going into any detail. Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: As the member knows, this is a matter before the courts. The crown attorney will speak in the courtroom pertaining to any issues that exist with respect to this case.

Mr Kormos: Speaker, the Attorney General doesn't understand that his very own bill, Bill 23, purported to give victims of crimes rights and that he has denied Karen Vanscoy the very rights that are contained in his Bill 23: the right, among other things, to be actively involved in any discussions around plea bargaining. Ms Vanscoy was only informed after the fact and was told it was a done deal. Your own Victims' Bill of Rights has been violated, Attorney General. Why won't you act to ensure that Karen Vanscoy and her dead daughter, Jasmine, receive justice in our courts?

Hon Mr Harnick: The senior crown attorney who is dealing with this is well aware of the requirements and well aware of the issues of law and I have no doubt will adequately deal with this case.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. As you know, Casino Niagara will soon be opening, and with Bill 75 finally passing, we also have some benefits for the Fort Erie Race Track.

I know many people from my riding, not just from Niagara Falls but from Fort Erie, Port Colborne and Wainfleet, will be working at Casino Niagara. People calling my office are wondering what the economic spinoffs should be to the Niagara region and also to the rest of Ontario. My question to the minister is, what can he tell us about the economic spinoffs so far from the existing casinos in Ontario?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): There are very good statistics about the spinoffs from the existing two casinos in Ontario. As you know, there are two casinos in Windsor and they now employ more than 3,000 people. That has a spinoff effect of creating 11,000 jobs in Ontario. The provincial treasury is receiving on an estimated basis about $350 million annually from the two Windsor casinos, which I think is a very substantial amount, and the Windsor-area municipalities have received about $20 million.

Casino Rama, which is our newest casino, has an employment number of about 2,500 people and it also has a spinoff effect of about 6,000 jobs in Ontario. It's the largest commercial tourism attraction in central Ontario. It is very good news for those communities affected by our casinos.

Mr Hudak: That's certainly good news from the minister about Windsor and Rama and the effects on the rest of Ontario. As to my concerns for today for the Niagara region, Minister, what can you tell me about the clearly defined job and revenue benefits that we can expect in the Niagara Peninsula and the rest of Ontario from the opening of Casino Niagara?

Hon Mr Saunderson: In response to the supplementary question, I would like to say to the member for Niagara South that 3,000 people will be working in the casino in Niagara, and that is going to create 6,000 jobs in the Niagara Peninsula and a total of 9,000 jobs as a result of this throughout Ontario. The expected revenues are expected to exceed those revenues from the two Windsor casinos, which, I mentioned earlier, was about $350 million annually. That is a large amount of money.

I would like to also mention, if I may, just at the last, some headlines which I think would encourage people in the Niagara Peninsula. They say that a Welland man is flushed with pride over the casino job he has obtained, that "Casino Deals Niagara Firms Great Opportunities," and that the welfare rolls have hit a five-year low in the Niagara region.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is to the Minister of Northern Development. You will know that we've had a rash of accidents throughout northern Ontario. Winter came about three to four weeks ago to northern Ontario. Of particular concern was that two weeks ago east of Kenora, in the early morning, we had five transport trucks collide and end up in quite a mess out there. The following day I had a fireman into my office and he indicated to me that the OPP radio dispatcher phoned the fire department wanting to know if they knew how she could find a sanding truck to go to the accident site.

Do you think this is what northerners, northerners whom you represent, whom you're an advocate for, deserve when it comes to highway safety? Your minister keeps telling us that highway safety is a priority in your government.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I'll take it to the Minister of Transportation to find out the details of that specific incident. I can tell you, though, that the Ministry of Transportation, with our ministry, has spent more money in northern Ontario on road construction and resurfacing to make the road safe this year. As well, I'll take it to the minister on this particular incident.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. We're right at the very end here. We'll let the minister respond.

Hon Mr Hodgson: I would just like to reiterate that that is unfortunate and I will take it to the Minister of Transportation to get the specifics and try to get the situation fixed.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I believe we have the agreement of all parties relating to Bill 82, the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act. I see heads nodding. This afternoon we shall complete second reading of the bill. The bill will then be referred to the standing committee on administration of justice.

Next week, in addition to the regularly scheduled time, the committee shall meet to consider the bill following routine proceedings on Wednesday, December 4, 1996, and Thursday, December 5, 1996, until 9 pm to consider the bill for public hearings.

The committee will complete clause-by-clause consideration of the bill Monday, December 9, 1996. The committee will be authorized to meet beyond 6 pm on that day, if necessary, until consideration of clause-by-clause has been completed.

The third reading of the bill will be completed at 6 pm on the day that the bill is called as the first order.

I will now move the motions which result from our agreement.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): If that's what you want to do. I don't understand the procedure, but go ahead.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): We've agreed to agree.

Hon David Johnson: We've agreed to agree. I believe we have unanimous consent to move the following motion.

I move that the standing committee on administration of justice be authorized to meet following routine proceedings on Wednesday, December 4, 1996, and Thursday, December 5, 1996, until 9 pm for the purpose of consideration 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.

That's the first motion.

The Speaker: Agreed?

Hon David Johnson: Agreed.

The Speaker: You have to get consent, though.

Mr Johnson moves that the standing committee on administration of justice be authorized --

Interjection: Dispense.

The Speaker: Dispense? Good. All agreed? Agreed.

Hon David Johnson: I believe we have unanimous consent that I move the following motion.

The Speaker: Do we have consent for the following motion by the government House Leader? Agreed.

Hon David Johnson: I move that the standing committee on administration of justice meet to complete clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 82 on Monday, December 9, 1996. All proposed amendments must be filed with the clerk of the committee prior to 12 noon on the abovenoted day. At 5 pm on that day, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further amendment or debate, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 128(a); and

That the committee be authorized to continue to meet beyond 6 pm on December 9, 1996, if necessary, until clause-by-clause consideration has been completed.

The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.




Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition submitted by the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Resource Centre for Injured Workers that reads in part as follows:

"Whereas the Workers' Compensation Act is a vital protection for all workers in Ontario; and

"Whereas the Occupational Health and Safety Act has prevented untold numbers of accidents and saved thousands from illness and diseases;

"We, therefore, demand full public hearings throughout the province of Ontario on the Workers' Compensation Act proposed changes, and no changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, workers' right to refuse and joint health and safety committees."

This petition has been signed by 40 residents in my riding.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have hundreds of letters and petitions from students and teachers in my riding about the so-called reforms to the education system. Today I'm going to read you but one of those. The petition reads:

"Dear Mr Snobelen:

"In school I am on the soccer team, volleyball team, trying out for hockey and going to sign up for the swimming team and basketball team. I also love gym class. So if you cut our gym teacher, gym classes or gym equipment, then maybe I'll fail you instead of you failing other extracurricular programs."

This is from Gabriel Grant, age 10, grade 5.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition which, in accordance with standing order 36(b), I will summarize by saying that it's from the supporters of the Baysville Public Library and it expresses a concern about public libraries and public library boards. It's signed by approximately 45 of my constituents, and I file it today.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that the present structure of school boards within the province of Ontario continue to have a major role in governance of 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."

In agreement with it, I add my signature.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a petition to present from parents of over 3,500 students who were represented at a vigil yesterday, schools from Hawthorne, Winona, Hughes, Pauline, Palmerston, Gabrielle-Roy, St Sebastian, Regal Road, McMurrich. The petition reads simply:

"We, the undersigned, oppose the government of Ontario's cutbacks to public education funding."

I agree with that petition and I've affixed my name to it.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas we believe that the 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 and services;

"(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."


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is in response to Bill 84 and it's to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the firefighters of Sudbury and Ontario are very concerned about Bill 84;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is unfair;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is discriminatory;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 endangers the wellbeing of the people of Ontario;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 requires extensive changes;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 needs broad provincial public hearings before implementation;

"We, the undersigned, therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand the Solicitor General to rewrite Bill 84 before being enacted into law and only after extensive public hearings across Ontario."


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the founding meeting of Deadbeat Government -- Payors and Payees Unite, which was held on November 14. The co-chairs are Agnes Scheer and Marie Lafleur, and the petition reads as follows:

"Whereas Mike Harris and Charles Harnick promised to improve the family support program; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that `government should concentrate its efforts on tracking down deadbeat parents and enforcing payment orders'; and

"Whereas the cuts to the family support plan have eliminated community-based services, replaced enforcement staff with technology and limited communication; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to provide better enforcement of support;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris reopen the regional offices and guarantee adequate staffing numbers to provide quality service to recipients and children. We also request a formal apology from Mike Harris and Charles Harnick for the manner in which the current system has handled our cases."

I would advise they're holding their second meeting this evening in Hamilton also and I add my name to theirs in support.


Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we believe that the 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 and services;

"(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."

It's signed by 225-plus members of my constituency, and I affix my signature.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a petition that was gathered by the chairperson of St Timothy's Catholic School Advisory Council, Mrs Therese MacNeil, and it reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Minister of Education promised that cuts to education would not hurt the classroom;

"Whereas the cuts to education have resulted in many of our very young children being housed in inadequate, poorly ventilated portables;

"Whereas the children who are housed in portable classrooms that occupy crowded school yards are educationally at risk and their safety is in jeopardy;

"Whereas the current moratorium on capital expenditures makes it impossible for some school boards to provide safe, comfortable learning environments for our children, thus adversely affecting the quality of their education;

"Whereas the government of Ontario has proposed that $250 million be spent on building a superjail while withholding funds for necessary school construction;

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

"Remove the freeze on capital expenditures to ensure that our children are educated in buildings appropriate to and conducive of learning, comfort and safety."

I add my signature to this important petition.



Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a privilege today to stand and present a petition. I've received correspondence from a Mrs Ruth Hinkley and Phyllis Baker, who are from the Wilmot Creek Homeowners' Association in Newcastle, Ontario.

"To the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Al Leach:

"The undersigned endorse the comments of the Wilmot Creek Homeowners' Association submission on tenant protection legislation, New Directions for Discussion. New Directions ignores the needs of an ever-increasing segment of society, ie, homeowners on leased-land communities. It proves that there is a need for separate legislation for land-lease communities."

I'm pleased to affix my name in support of this petition.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition signed by hundreds of members from the Alliance for Seniors calling on both the provincial and federal government to ensure accessibility and affordability of post-secondary education, among many other things, to guarantee a high standard of universal health care coverage, to restore the funding for social assistance, maintain rent controls, eliminate drug user fees, establish programs to promote jobs, training and the retraining of workers and provide a public education system of lifelong learning.

I do concur with the contents of the petition, and I will affix my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions from hundreds of firefighters in Mississauga, particularly Station 115, Station 119, Station 114, Station 108, Station 103, the inspection division, Station 110, Station 112, Station 106 and Station 104. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

On behalf of my caucus colleagues, I add my name.


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the administration of Families Against Deadbeats, Renate Diorio, Heinz Paul and Danielle McIsaac, are in total support of Bill 82, presented by the Honourable Charles Harnick to the Legislative Assembly on October 2, 1996, outlining the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, to replace the Family Support Plan Act, 1992; and

"Whereas the changes will relieve the taxpayers of Ontario and provide proper enforcement required to collect and administer child support payments and orders;

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

"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 as Bill 82, and urge the Legislature to pass this bill into law as soon as possible."

I support this petition and am signing it.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents who are very concerned about Veronica Manuel and her severely disabled son Dylan. The petition reads as follows:

"Whereas the Health Services Restructuring Commission has recommended a significant reduction of chronic care and psychiatric beds in Thunder Bay, which serves northwestern Ontario; and

"Whereas there is no commitment to reinvest the $40 million saved back into our community to compensate families and the people who may have to abandon paying professions for the uncompensated one of caregiving but rather in the specific case of Veronica Manuel, because of her overwhelming and demanding task as caregiver to a severely handicapped son, she has been forced on to welfare with imposed irrational eligibility criteria, poverty and hardship; and

"Whereas more and more families may also be forced to struggle under these conditions to adequately care for their loved ones, we will not only see a higher rate of unemployment but also the creation of at least two ill people for every original one;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to not only reject this recommendation but to offer adequate compensation to Veronica Manuel, recognize and support her and remove the irrational eligibility criteria that hinder her."

I'm proud to sign my name to this.


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

"Whereas Mike Harris and Charles Harnick promised to improve the family support program; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that `government should concentrate its efforts on tracking down deadbeat parents and enforcing payment orders'; and

"Whereas the closure of the family support plan's regional offices has caused a decrease in quality services and lengthened delays; and

"Whereas the cuts to the family support plan have eliminated community-based services, replaced enforcement staff with technology, and limited communication;

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris reopen the regional offices and guarantee adequate staffing numbers to provide quality services to recipients and children."

That is signed by 36 residents of the riding of Sudbury East. I agree with the petitioners entirely and I have affixed my signature to it.


Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph) : I bring to the House today a petition regarding the funding levels in contracts for cooperative housing. It's signed by 349 constituents from my riding of Guelph. It appears to be in the standard form and I am submitting it today on their behalf.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Kenora on a point of privilege.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would just like to have the House recognize that we have a good number of my constituents from Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Oxdrift and Kenora in the members' gallery with us here today. They've travelled a long distance to be with us and are here for the weekend.

The Acting Speaker: My mistake. It wasn't a point of privilege, but yours is not a point of order as well.



Mr Grimmett moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr68, An Act respecting the Huronia Airport Commission.

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



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.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I am pleased to have this opportunity to join in what has been quite frankly a fascinating debate around Bill 82. I refer not so much to the speeches that have been read, the scripted written speeches, written by Lord knows whom, some PR department, that have been read by the government backbenchers. I have been impressed from time to time with the skill, the reading ability of some of those backbenchers, and at other times concerned about the relative lack of skill of the reading abilities of some of those backbenchers.

But it remains that the opposition members, quite frankly in both the Liberal caucus and in the New Democratic Party caucus, have been addressing Bill 82 in a way that's been fascinating not only to me, but as well to the thousands of people who have been watching this debate and who have been concerned about this very issue for literally months now.

One of the truly remarkable things that the government has tried to do in its hectic spin-doctoring -- and Lord knows how much they're paying the PR people whom they hire to try to put positive spin on what has been a literal crisis for them -- is to somehow suggest that there's been obstruction with respect to Bill 82. Oh, my God, I've listened to the debate and I've heard concerns expressed day after day, hour after hour, about the capacity of this government to operate the system as it is now, never mind with the powers that are included in Bill 82. It also has to be noted, and people have been making note of this, that the government waited 49 days before it brought Bill 82 forward for second reading. It was November 7 when members of the New Democratic Party called for unanimous consent to bring Bill 82 forward and begin the debate on it then and now.


November 7 might cause some recollection in some people's minds. I know Ms Martel is cognizant of Thursday, November 7, because Thursday, November 7, is when -- see, what had been happening is that for approximately three months, our constituency offices had been plagued with a deluge of complaints about what was happening in the family support plan, in unprecedented numbers. Members of the New Democratic Party were raising these almost daily during question period to the Attorney General.

The Attorney General, on each and every occasion, in response to each and every case, attempted to, let's say, trivialize the case. He certainly wanted to create the impression that these were but the exceptions rather than the rule, the number of new problems that were being encountered by my constituency office and by Ms Martel's constituency office and Ms Lankin's and Ms Churley's and virtually every member on the opposition benches, both parties, the new and growing number of problems that we were encountering with our own offices getting in touch with the family support plan.

That had never happened before. There was a special phone line that constituency assistants could call. Sometimes it took a couple of calls, because the family support plan has always been busy, no two ways about it, and some might argue had historically warranted yet more staff than it had. Clearly the people in the family support plan were working hard and diligently in trying to resolve problems that came across their desks. But our constituency assistants and our legislative assistants, prior to around August 1996, had some level of success in contacting real people, real staff from the family support plan, and getting the problems that arose from time to time addressed and dealt with. All of a sudden, in August, this changed.

It certainly was obvious to us that the rapid and escalating and dramatic increase in the number of foulups in the system coincided with the Attorney General shutting down eight of the nine regional offices. They just shut them down. Information we've received is that this was done almost overnight, or at least so it seemed to the staff in some of those offices: just orders to order boxes, those oh-so-familiar-now brown cardboard packing boxes, pack the files, pack up the mail, and it'll be shipped on. That was the information we received from offices.

We knew that the Attorney General had shut down eight of nine regional offices. We also know that in August of this year, the Attorney General terminated 290 staff from the family support plan, staff working in all those regional offices in so far as we were concerned down in Welland-Thorold and -- I know Dave Christopherson has spoken about this a number of times -- including the Hamilton regional office. These people weren't working for the family support plan any more. They weren't there to address problems that had from time to time arisen and about which our constituency offices had been contacted, but more so to deal with the new influx of support orders that were being made and continue to be made on a daily basis.

I've got to tell you, Speaker, and I don't know if I've ever had a chance to tell you this before, what happened that Thursday morning, November 7. Ms Martel and I, figuring something was seriously out of order, that something wasn't quite in sync here, that there was something inherently contradictory about how the Attorney General was trying to explain away this incredible increase in problems with the plan beginning in August 1996 and continuing through September and then into October and, as we knew, into the first week of November -- there was a contradiction between that and the Attorney General's proclamation that there was this super new office set up in Downsview that was high-tech and rip-roaring, ready to go, and was going to do a job that those eight regional offices that it's purported to replace could never have contemplated in their histories.

Okay. If it was what Mr Harnick, the Attorney General, said it was, I expected that if anything, the ministry would be proud to show it off, would be proud to let a couple of small-town MPPs like Ms Martel and myself go up there and take a look at the files being processed and the cheques being processed and the new support orders -- because they're happening every day across the province -- being implemented.

So Ms Martel and I went up to Downsview. There we are at 7 am at the new, improved, oh-so-highly-touted family support plan office. Well, did we find computers spitting out documents and processing material, and staff for the family support plan processing cheques and payments and making sure that women and their kids were getting those payments that their former partners were making through their workplaces? No. Did we find an office? No. What did we find? We found the key to the problem here, we found the missing pieces of the puzzle, because we were puzzled by Mr Harnick day after day after day insisting that he had things under control and that they were in order.

When I got up there with Ms Martel, we saw cardboard box after cardboard box after cardboard box, unsealed, of files from family support offices across Ontario, those files that had been shipped, oh, so speedily -- haphazardly, if you will -- from the eight of nine regional offices that Charlie Harnick, the Attorney General, shut down, those files that normally would have been dealt with and handled and processed and investigated by the 290 staff people: hardworking, good people, committed to their jobs, dedicated, eager to address problems when they arose within the system. The staff were gone. They were gone. They'd been terminated. They weren't working for the family support plan any more. We found box after box after box of files and of correspondence, unopened, I'm sure, because that's the information we received from any number of sources within any number of FSP offices, the eight that had been shut down: that they just loaded up the cardboard boxes with unopened mail.

Where did it end up? It ended up in Downsview being warehoused, with that light film of dust that accumulates on things when they're undisturbed so as you could write your name or, quite frankly, Charlie Harnick's name on any one of those cardboard boxes with your finger.

We found out that the problem wasn't a computer glitch. Computer glitch, my foot. There was no computer glitch. There was an Attorney General glitch; that's what there was.


Let me put this proposition to you. I am confident that Charlie Harnick, the Attorney General, did not -- and, please, I'm being very careful with my language -- consciously or purposely lie in this House. I'm confident that he did not consciously or purposely lie, because I suspect that Charlie Harnick, the Attorney General, had never bothered to go to the Downsview office, that he believed his own hype, he believed his own spin-doctoring. Because if he had gone to the Downsview office -- and Lord knows we had hoped he'd be there when we got up there on that Thursday morning, November 7, but it was like Diogenes looking for an honest man: Every corner we looked in, every unlocked door that we went through, not one to be found, certainly not the Attorney General. We found that his high-tech up in Downsview consisted of nothing more than --

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe the member opposite just called our Attorney General a dishonest man. I don't believe that is anywhere near parliamentary.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I didn't hear that.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): It is a point of order. If that was the terminology used, I'd ask you to withdraw.

Mr Kormos: I didn't say that, Speaker, and the record will demonstrate that, please.

The Acting Speaker: You did not?

Mr Kormos: Of course not.

The Acting Speaker: Fine. Then I'd ask you to continue.

Mr Kormos: Thank you. None the less, this Diogenic search by Ms Martel and myself up at the Downsview office proved futile because we didn't find what we were looking for. We didn't find Charlie Harnick, the Attorney General. We didn't find his high-tech office up and running. The most sophisticated thing there were those plain old brown cardboard boxes -- that was as sophisticated as it got -- stored in hallways to which the public clearly -- we were there -- had unfettered, uncontrolled access, strewn throughout large, incredible warehouse-style rooms with unlocked doors and unattended by any staff of any sort whatsoever; computers, looking as if -- again as we have been told, just hurriedly shipped from one place to another, piled up there, their conduits and various connectors strewn about like -- well, any number of similes I could use, but I won't. We found an office that was in total disarray, that wasn't operational, wasn't close to operational.

I'll tell you this, we again have been blessed with getting some information from inside the family support plan that tells us that on a good day, in the best-case scenario, that office in Downsview can't be up and running until at least January 1997, and everything we saw would indicate at the very least January 1997, if not later.

We learned, and this is undisputed by the Attorney General -- oh, and the taunting that took place in the chamber of the Attorney General when he started to talk about the high-tech office. Opposition members, even some government backbenchers, were heckling. I heard some of the government backbenchers heckling the Attorney General, saying: "What high-tech? Cardboard boxes are the Attorney General's version of high-tech?" The absurdity of the Attorney General's suggestion, as I say, outraged even government backbenchers. Yes, they were somewhat careful not to be easily recognized as taunting their own Attorney General because the repercussions could indeed flow. But the outrageousness of the suggestion that that office was even close to being operational became vividly clear to anybody who saw the videotape that Ms Martel and I brought back to Queen's Park.

I suspect -- and this is just a suspicion; I don't know this for a fact, but it's just a suspicion -- that at some point shortly after the morning of November 7, when Ms Martel and I were up at Downsview to see the warehouse boxes and the computer equipment that wasn't even close to being set up, I suspect that the Attorney General or one of his political staff, at the very least, took a trip up there too. When they saw what we saw, the expression "Holy zonkers" was probably the most modest misstatement of the exclamation that would flow, because they would have seen the very same thing we saw: chaos, anarchy, if you will. No, it wasn't even akin to anarchy, because anarchy suggests some sort of activity -- zip, zero, nothing. The office was in a catatonic state, and it was obvious to Mr Harnick's political staff who I'm sure went up there.

I'm not sure the Attorney General himself wanted to go up there, because I suspect that by the time Thursday afternoon came around, there finally were some security guards working at the Downsview office. I suspect that there were a couple in position at the foyer, where Ms Martel and I couldn't find any when we entered the building at 7 in the morning. I suspect that finally there was some sort of reception area whereby people entering the building and entering the elevator to go up to the fourth floor or the fifth floor or the sixth floor -- I suspect there was finally somebody at a work station to ask at least who you are and have you sign in.

Heck, anybody whom we encountered up at the Downsview office -- and we did; we found a young woman working in the sixth floor.


Mr Kormos: I'll explain that in just a sec. She was in there. We walked in and we explained. Ms Martel told her, "I'm Shelley Martel." I told her: "I'm Peter Kormos. We're from Queen's Park." She indicated that she was a GO temp, one of these temporary services people -- and again, I've got no quarrel with people to have to work for GO Temp. I have a great deal of sympathy for them because they get ripped off, they get scammed by virtue of inevitably low wages and basically no protection in terms of their relationship with the employer. She spoke with us and she indicated that there were a few other people who would be showing up there eventually and that they were in training. In training? The Attorney General laid off 290 staff people, and here was a poor young woman merely in training.

Let me tell you some of the response. Well, we know the response of the Attorney General. He went ballistic. The Attorney General went ballistic. He was bouncing off walls. You could have illuminated the city for a week with the fireworks that Mr Harnick generated down at 720 Bay Street when it was clear that we had videotaped his secret. That's really what it was: It was a secret. It was a secret that the Ministry of the Attorney General wanted very badly to keep, that there was no office in Downsview; there were no working staff there; there were no work stations that were functional; there were no computers plugged in; there were no telephones that were operative; there weren't any fax machines that were receiving or sending out faxes. I guess we videotaped Charlie's secret.

As I say, we know what Charlie Harnick's response was. Charlie went ballistic. Boom. No two ways about it. Right off the wall, bouncing. I'm not sure, but I think I heard him from over here in Queen's Park, and that's while he was still down at 720 Bay Street.

Let me tell you, people from across this province who had had the same difficulty understanding why all of a sudden in August and September and October 1996 and, yes, now through November, their family support plan files were getting fouled up, screwed up, jiggered, had been as confounded as we were in the opposition, because they were assured by Mr Harnick day after day that this Downsview office was taking care of business. But they knew then too about Mr Harnick's secret, about the government's little secret up in Downsview.

It's incredible, the contact we had. We of course generated a whole lot of correspondence and telephone calls from people who said, "Look, once all is said and done, the reality is that my kids are going hungry because Mr Harnick has shut down the family support plan and isn't processing the moneys that my former spouse is having deducted from his workplace." Let's make it very clear, let's understand very clearly, that the moneys that are distributed by the family support plan are not public funds; they are moneys that are deducted from the paycheques of, in the vast majority of cases, men. It doesn't have to be men; it can be women who are the payors, supporting spouses. They are moneys that are being deducted to be processed and sent to the rightful recipient, a mom and her kids, whose money it is and who weren't getting it.

You were here, Speaker, after Ms Martel and I got back from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and you saw some of the unpaid bills and invoices and overdue accounts that were exposed by Ms Martel as she confronted the Attorney General about his dirty little Downsview secret -- eviction notices, overdue telephone bills, overdue utility bills.


We were talking to families, women and their kids, who were on the verge of losing their homes because they were about to be evicted; who were on the verge of losing heat and electricity as we begin winter, and it's been a particularly cold November; at risk of losing their heat and their electricity because of unpaid bills because the Attorney General has their money and won't give it to them. He's got their money, not just thousands, not just hundreds of thousands, but literally millions of dollars that the Attorney General has that doesn't belong to him, that belongs to these women and their kids who are being forced out of their homes and forced into the cold and the snow and the bitterness of a Christmas that would have been modest at the best of times, but because of an Attorney General who really is the penultimate deadbeat, is going to become tragic and miserable for hundreds of thousands.

One fax that we got on Friday from Point Edward, Ontario, in big headlines it says: "Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah. Don't stop now. Keep up the pressure. Harass, harass, harass." The author of this fax knows about harassment, because this government, Mike Harris and their Attorney General, have been harassing her for the last three and a half months when they have not been processing the support that her partner has been paying through his workplace into the family support plan.

I tell you, she saw the videotape. She said the videotape was clear to her that no one was working in the Downsview office, that no one was there to return calls. There weren't any phones set up to return calls. No one was filing all the confidential records. They were strewn about hallways and public places and in unlocked rooms -- and "strewn about," I mean that literally. You've got to look at the videotape again, Speaker. If this were Mike Harris's videotape, there would be a 1-800 number to call to get one. You know that. But you've got to look at the videotape: open cartons, half-empty, contents spilled out on to the floor in totally accessible, non-secured offices.

The person from Point Edward speaks on behalf, as she wrote, of the thousands of others behind in their rent, who can't pay utility bills and may even be struggling to put food on the table. She expressed some thanks for the exposure of Charlie's dirty little secret up in Downsview, hidden away on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of that Ministry of Transportation building; the vision, as he would attempt to create it day after day in response to questions, of this high-tech, fully operational office being shattered in but a few minutes of harshly real videotape which exposed that nasty little secret and let thousands of women and their spouses and their kids know across this province that this government -- is "mendacity" an appropriate description of this government in its response to the questions by the opposition? I suppose "mendacity" is -- that this government had been mendacious in its response to questions put to it by members of the New Democratic Party caucus; that the Premier had been; that the Attorney General had been.

Of course we're going to support the proposition of enforcement measures. Again, I know some have raised objections, saying that they could well be challenged subsequently as being contrary to various rights provisions. So be it; that'll be resolved later. I tell you, to support the proposition that there are going to be user fees that can be imposed by the family support plan on participants in that plan is something that is intolerable to anybody in this caucus, to support the proposition that by fiat a director can determine that any number of files are simply not to be collected. Maybe that's what the office in Downsview is ultimately for, to store all of the files that the director is going to close, as of right from the statute, so that the government can look good and not appear to be overly engaged in the quest to seek out arrears.

There's not a single person who has spoken with me about the appropriateness of using, let's say, licence suspensions as a means of enforcing orders in arrears who has also agreed that the director of the family support plan should have the right to simply shut down a file, to shut a case, to close it out, to take it off the system. Nor is there a single person who has agreed that the proposition of user fees, that in the instance of parties opting out of the plan -- and one of the important things about the family support plan, as it was an amendment to SCOE, was the universality of it. Of course the proposition, and I recall it well, in response to that aspect of it was that people will be outraged. The fact remains that payors and payees have, until this government screwed up the plan big time, royally -- this government shut it down -- tended to acknowledge that a universal plan that applied to all support orders was the fairest and most appropriate and most efficient way to do it.

The plan is so screwed up that there will be a whole lot of people who will opt out because this government did a number on the plan; this government shut it down. So this government will have forced people to opt out and then, when problems develop in the collection of their payments, will charge them a fee for getting back in. That's not what was ever contemplated, either by SCOE when it was developed -- and it was developed during that period of accord when the New Democrats forced the minority Liberal government of the day to implement such a plan -- or by the family support plan as it was implemented by the Attorneys General of the last government here in the province of Ontario. User fees, simply cutting people off, simply shutting them down, having a scattered plan with an opting-out provision, these are aspects of the bill that simply aren't acceptable.

I tell you this: This bill warrants being put to committee promptly. Don't forget it was New Democrats who had urged this government, on November 7, with unanimous consent to bring this bill forward to debate, and this government waited 50 days -- 49 to be precise -- 49 days before it brought the bill forward. We know why it brought the bill forward. It brought the bill forward because the exposure of its dirty little secret embarrassed the daylights out of the government. They got caught -- bold-faced, bare-faced, red-handed caught -- in their penultimate mendacity. This government has to take control of the FSP instead of trying to obfuscate as it does with Bill 82.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): We've listened to the member for Welland-Thorold talk about his trip to Downsview and boxes and other assorted things. The fact of the matter is, we have a problem in this province with respect to the family support plan and we've had it for the last decade, really. He will argue of course that we caused it, but the fact of the matter is, when you talk to anyone who's been involved in this, whether it's been lawyers, whether it's parents, whether it be women who are involved, the problems have been going on for some time. Obviously the decentralized system didn't work. The enforcement procedures didn't work. That's the whole purpose of this bill.

The facts are that each day the family support plan receives 8,000 pieces of correspondence, and the decentralized system simply wasn't able to handle it. The decentralized system handled 50,000 telephone calls per day, of which only 6% were answered. The member for Welland-Thorold seems to be supporting the decentralized system. The fact of the matter is that only clients in the eight cities where these regional offices were located had counter access to the program. Fewer than 60 people visited each regional office each day, and they did so because they were unable to reach the program by telephone. That's why they were doing it. The system didn't work.

Caseloads were uneven across the province. Thunder Bay had 3,000 cases, 11 staff, versus Whitby -- which is the area that serviced my riding, and I don't know why in the world Whitby was servicing the town of Orangeville -- which had 26,000 to 28,000 cases a day and 60 staff. The process was helter-skelter across the province. We're going to fix that.

Regions didn't make sense geographically. As I've stated, for example, Whitby rather than Toronto served Brampton. How strange. Calls to the plan didn't go through the regional offices but were redirected to central inquiry in each case. Many clients said they preferred to reach the program by phone, eliminating the need for regional offices to serve as walk-in centres. All of these problems we're going to fix.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I think the member for Welland-Thorold's comments were thoughtful and reasonable, and I don't always say that about the comments of the member for Welland-Thorold. But in this particular case the revolution is really on. How do revolutions occur? What happens in a revolution? In a revolution there's always chaos. That's what happens when a revolution occurs, rather than an evolution or a thoughtful public policy, a change.

The member for Dufferin-Peel makes the point there are problems, big problems, in the family support plan. I don't think any member on any side of this Legislature would say there weren't big problems. There were huge problems. There were problems that were causing women and children, mostly, a great deal of heartache. They weren't able to pay their bills, they weren't able to do a great number of things. That existed, and nobody would deny it, since SCOE was introduced back in 1987. It had to be fixed.

There needed to be better enforcement measures, and they're contained here in Bill 82. There had to be a change in the way the bureaucracy handled those things. What I find really difficult to believe is that the government's solution to this very problem was to literally blow it up and then just scratch their head and say, "Well, now what am I going to do?" The victims of this revolution were the women and children across this province. To deny that and to have the Attorney General deny that on a day-by-day basis is offensive to us all.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I want to commend my colleague from Welland-Thorold for his comments today and I want to reinforce a number of points that he made.

First of all, I want to reinforce again the portions of this bill which we find to be utterly unacceptable, portions of this bill which will in the long term hurt women and children, not help them, as the Attorney General purports.

Number one, user fees: It's unacceptable that we would be charging any form of user fees for people trying to opt back into the plan, for people trying to get documents from the plan, or for any other service that the plan provides. Let me remind government members, this is not taxpayers' money. The money that is owed to women and children comes from legal court orders which they have obtained. It comes from payors who are assuming responsibility for their children and for their ex-spouses. The government of the day has absolutely no right in this legislation to implement any form of user fees for these services whatsoever.

Secondly, it is unacceptable that the director of the plan would have the discretion, the authority, the ability to determine that somehow cases are no longer enforceable and that he can somehow shut those cases down. What will happen is that two years from now the Attorney General will stand in his place and he will say that his provisions are working and that we have only $300 million of arrears, and he won't say that the director has wiped off hundreds of millions of dollars of arrears because the director has decided that those are somehow unenforceable.

The Attorney General, in his own comments in his opening remarks on this debate, said that $500 million of arrears was unenforceable, according to his calculation, and I have no doubt that's the $500 million he's going to want the director to write off. That's not right. That's not acceptable. It certainly isn't fair to the women and children in this province who are owed that money and who have a right to get it back.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): It gives me great pleasure to respond to the member for Welland-Thorold and also some of the things the member for Sudbury East said. I'll reiterate what I said last week, and it's obvious that the members across the way weren't listening when I spoke.

I remember that when I was elected MPP for Brantford just over a year ago one of the first things I had to deal with -- and I want the member for Welland-Thorold to listen to what I'm saying -- one of the first concerns and the first things that fell to my office were complaints about the family support plan. It wasn't working.

The reason it wasn't working is that the member for Welland-Thorold and his colleague the member for Sudbury East and the rest of the NDP caucus did absolutely nothing to help support and change and fix what at that time was a broken family support plan. It was their inaction and their inability to show leadership on the issue which has resulted in thousands and thousands of women and children who even today, despite what we've done so far in our efforts -- and I think this new bill will address most of the concerns -- still are suffering as a result of a broken family support plan.

I want to say that I am very encouraged by Bill 82, and of course it's got my unequivocal support because I believe that this bill is a very proactive piece of legislation, despite what the member for Sudbury East says.

Ms Martel: Tell that to those women who'll have $500 million in support written off.

Mr Ron Johnson: I hear her yacking over there. But I've got to tell you, when she was in government she didn't do a darned thing to help women and children in this province. In fact, it was her government that put more women and more children on welfare than any other government in the history of this country.

As somebody who supports Bill 82 and as somebody who sees this as a very progressive piece of legislation, it gives me absolute, tremendous pleasure to support this legislation. I want to commend the Attorney General for developing the legislation, which we think will help women and children.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold has two minutes to respond.

Mr Kormos: One has to be a little amused by the member for Dufferin-Peel --

Mr Michael Brown: That's polite.

Mr Kormos: Well, that is polite -- and by the member from the Brantford area, the fellow in the back, the one who just spoke. We understand why the government cut 290 staff and why it shut down eight of the nine regional offices. Those were the cuts they had to engage in to help fund the 30% tax break for the richest in this province, their rich buddies. The 30% tax break for the rich is being funded, in this instance, by exposing women and their kids to poverty, to the prospect of eviction, to the prospect of overdue and unpaid utility bills. This government is all that anxious to create a 30% tax break for the richest that it will attack women and children.

This is the same government that reduced support payments by way of social assistance to the poorest in our society to the tune of 21.6%, almost 22% -- people and their kids. This government takes pride in that. Here it is, we're about a month away from Christmas, when the members of this Tory group will have the luxury, with their $78,000-plus incomes, of sitting down to goose and turkey dinners. Yet the poverty and the despair that they've created for so many women and so many children in this province will create longer and longer lineups at food banks, longer and longer lineups at missions and hostels and by the advent of a rate of child poverty here in the city of Toronto, that Mike Harris created, that's higher than any region in all of Canada, including the poorest parts of Canada. Shame on you.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further debate?


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I rise today in support of Bill 82, the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act. I am confident that my colleagues on both sides of the House are as anxious as I and the other members of this side are to pass this legislation so that no more time is wasted and we will be able to provide the women and children with the support money to which they are entitled.

When women and children do not receive support payments owed to them, they're often forced into poverty and on to social assistance. This is unacceptable and we are going to do something about it, and the sooner, the better.

The Ministry of the Attorney General is already fundamentally transforming the family support plan to improve service by consolidating all the plan's operations into one location, the Family Responsibility Office. We're well aware that in the past it didn't work the way it was. We need to make changes so that these payments can be made: by more than doubling the number of front-line staff workers, from 40 to 97; by providing one-stop service for clients; by giving staff the authority and the training to immediately address the problems; by creating a call response centre with the capacity to handle thousands of calls per day -- and that's with a real voice and a real person attached to the other end, not a system that has it backed up into an infinite number of days before a response is even thought of being made; by enhancing the free 1-800 telephone service to provide greater access to the plan for all Ontarians; by investing almost $1 million in new technology to improve service, including telephone access beyond regular business hours and better fax capabilities; and by moving to the much faster electronic transmission of funds.

Although the plan is in transition to the new and improved service, it is already producing results. Where it used to take up to a week or more to produce a cheque, it now only takes 24 to 36 hours. This month, in one week alone, $12 million was disbursed to women and children. During this transition, more than 95% of the individual concerns brought to the attention of the ministry have been resolved and where there are special problems, immediate action has been taken.

The Attorney General and his ministry are doing all they can to fix the problem. As we all realize, problems aren't created overnight and can't be fixed overnight, but we're moving with haste to try and improve it as quickly as we can. In order to truly resolve the situation, we must address the nearly $1 billion that defaulting payors owe to women and to children. Three out of four families are not receiving the full amount of the support to which they are legally entitled, and in more than half of those cases that are registered with the plan, money does not flow regularly. It's not a new problem; it's an outstanding problem, one which we know we have to address.

In addition, the existing enforcement tools are not effective in tracking self-employed and intermittently employed defaulting payors. The old family support plan that our government inherited in June 1995 was not working, is not working and has never worked. The problems it has caused which are creating hardships for women and for children will continue until Bill 82 is passed.

Bill 82 contains some of the toughest support payment measures in North America. These measures include such things as suspending the driver's licence of those who refuse to meet their family support responsibilities; reporting to credit bureaus the names of parents who do not pay their child support, thereby affecting defaulting parents' credit ratings; obtaining financial statements and making orders against third parties who help support payors avoid enforcement by sheltering their assets; seizing 50% of any funds in a joint bank account of a payor and his or her new partner; expanding the definition of "income source" to include commissions, salary draws, advances and lump sum payments; and providing better methods to trace and locate defaulting parents who cannot be found so that the plan can take enforcement action.

The message that this legislation sends to parents who don't pay their child support is very clear: Not paying child support and not complying with court orders is no longer acceptable and will not be tolerated in the province of Ontario.

This legislation also recognizes a serious flaw in the system administered by the previous governments: Parents who have reached amicable separation settlements and have no dispute over support payments cannot opt out of this government-mandated program at present. As a result, taxpayers are paying for a service to monitor those parents who are complying with support obligations.

The plan's caseload has grown 40% over the past three years and there are currently 150,000 cases in the system. We cannot afford to handle cases where family support payments can be effectively managed without government intervention. Therefore, Bill 82 will allow consenting parties to opt out of this government-mandated enforcement system. This measure gives responsible parents a choice of making their own private arrangements to provide support and at the same time ensures that vulnerable individuals will be protected from coercion. In turn, this will allow the ministry to streamline the family support plan so that it can focus on the cases where the government's resources are most needed and can be most effective in collecting the money that women and children are entitled to.

These are not quick-fix solutions. They are part of a long-term strategy to overhaul the system and ensure that the problems that have plagued women and children who depend on the family support plan are fixed properly and permanently. Getting money into the hands of women and children who need it is our number one priority. Our goal is to ensure that the new program works for the children it is meant to serve and that women and children receive the service they need when they need it and from staff trained and equipped to provide it. However, each day that passes is one more day that women and children in this province are forced to do without. The women and children of Ontario cannot wait any longer. They need our help and they need it now.

Through you, Mr Speaker, I would ask all members of this House to act quickly and pass this legislation.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Michael Brown: I am concerned, at least a little bit, about some of the comments from the member for Bruce. Maybe she can help me and in her response she will no doubt clarify that. I have been a member of the Legislature for nine years, maybe a little more, and I've had experience with SCOE and the family support plan. We have had calls in my constituency office pretty much since I was elected regarding the family support plan and SCOE that came before it. It has been a problem.

But you know what? The calls from constituents about the family support plan have increased to my office about fivefold in the last two or three months. Currently --

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Name names.

Mr Michael Brown: The member says, "Name names." You know you can't do that. But I will tell you that the total arrears -- these are the current family support plan inquiries, the people that just called my office -- are $84,000.

I just wonder if the member for Bruce's own constituency office isn't experiencing this very same phenomenon, that since Mr Harnick closed the regional offices, supposedly centralized to Toronto, she has not experienced a huge increase in the number of family support plan inquiries she was getting, not just from the parent who was receiving the support, but often from the parent who was paying the support, because it was being paid, it just was not getting to the spouse or the ex-spouse that needed it.

I would just like the member for Bruce to clarify what's going on in her constituency office today with regard to this plan.


Ms Martel: Let me make the following comments. I heard the member for Bruce say that women and children can't wait any longer, we have to pass this bill, and I really find it appalling that the Conservative government would be holding out such false promises to women, that if this bill were passed today, suddenly tomorrow enforcement action is going to be taken on their cases.

I would remind the member for Bruce and all of the Conservative members in the House today that Downsview is nowhere near to being up and running. We exposed the government on that score three weeks ago. There are boxes piled all over the place, faxes that are not in, computers that are not in. That office isn't going to be running for months. You have staff who have just been hired, never mind even having their training started. You laid off the 290 experienced staff who would have been in a good position to implement some of these positions. Now you have staff who are just being hired, who are just in training, who won't be able to take on these additional responsibilities for months yet.

We just found out in this House last week that the requests for proposals for the new technology which is needed to put some of these enforcement mechanisms into place just went out two weeks ago. You don't have the computer technology to implement any of these changes. You won't have it for months, you won't have it purchased, people trained on it and ready to go for months. How dare you stand in your place and tell people that if we pass this today, somehow we're going to have some response for them tomorrow.

The worst part of it is, to all of you who have tried to say we've had historical problems, the way you decided to fix it is appalling. Your Attorney General laid off 290 staff. He closed eight regional offices. He sent women and children who used to receive regular support payments into financial distress. And what for? To help all of you finance the big tax break for the rich and famous. I hope you're proud that he did that.

Mr Ron Johnson: I just want to reply to a couple of comments and of course, first I want to congratulate the member for Bruce on her very insightful remarks. I have to say that she made some very good points and I hope the opposition really took note of some of the things she was saying.

She indicated that 75%, a full three out of four families today, are not getting the support they deserve because of the broken family support plan. That's a full 75%, so obviously, as the member for Bruce correctly points out, there has been absolutely no success in the way the family support plan has been operated in the past.

Again, she said, and I found this very enlightening, it is going to send a very clear message that you cannot go against court orders. If you have a court order, you must comply. This government is not going to tolerate parents who do not meet the obligations to their families. I think that was a very important message that the member for Bruce so rightly pointed out. It's all about making parents responsible for their children. That's what this legislation is for and I think, at the same time, we're going to see us be able to manage the family support plan much more quickly and much more effectively.

With respect to a remark that the member for Algoma-Manitoulin made, he was talking about how he's hearing from his constituents. I want to tell him what the constituents in Brantford are saying because I've talked to a lot of women and their children, and men as well, who are involved in the FSP. They're telling me loud and clear to get this legislation passed because they need it.

The member for Sudbury East points out, and I might say correctly, that the legislation being passed today doesn't mean it's going to be fixed tomorrow. We acknowledge that. That's a no-brainer. But at the same time, if we get it done today, we will eventually get it implemented a lot quicker. She would rather wait, but we're a government of action.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): One doesn't know where to begin in terms of responding to the comments made by the member for Brantford and the speech by the member for Bruce because there are so many elements of this that make you just think of how hypocritical the government is. On the one hand, they're talking about getting the bill passed immediately. On the other hand, they introduced the bill and then waited 49 days to bring it for second reading debate. It's quite bizarre.

The member for Brantford talks about the need for enforcement, and we recognize there's some useful enforcement tools in this bill. But here we have a government that closes down the regional offices in August and enforcement completely absolutely ceases as of that time. The whole system has been a complete disaster, yet they piously stand there and talk about how this bill must get passed immediately when they themselves have been the ones delaying it, let alone the fact that their office in Downsview is still not ready to go. Those are just the facts. You can't even deny them. Those are simply the facts. We know that's the case.

Responding if I may also to the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, I want to back up what he is saying. Certainly before August we did have the occasional call in terms of family support and we were glad to take them on. The fact is that after that date, the number of calls in my constituency office went up extraordinarily.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Forty-nine days.

Mr Gravelle: I did say 49 days between the first and second reading. Thank you very much, the member for St Catharines.

The fact is that the numbers have gone up extraordinarily in terms of the calls of people desperate for help. The fact is the calls were going up. Why did they go up? Because you closed the regional offices, you laid off 290 people, people who were skilled and who cared and who were involved in this program. You closed the program down, for God's sake. You've got to recognize that. If you want to pretend you've had no calls at all, we happen to know that is probably not the truth. I don't know why you're into denial. The fact is, you can't have it both ways.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Bruce has two minutes to respond.

Mrs Fisher: I'm very appreciative of the time in the House today so that we can once again summarize before we get on with the vote, I hope relatively soon. Now would be great, but of course that's not going to happen.

I would like to address a couple of the comments of the Algoma-Manitoulin member, the Sudbury East member, the Port Arthur member and everybody else, as a matter of fact, who has talked to this bill in the past.

The difference between what we're looking at here in this House is dwelling on the past and the mistakes, and that's what people from the opposite side continue to reiterate: the past, the mistakes. I don't know how anybody can stand and be proud of that, because it doesn't solve the problem. The problem is that we have women and children who need their support payments. Why a member opposite would stand and brag about an $84,000 outstanding claim, which represents not a month or two or three or four, but years of incompetence, is beyond me. Maybe what we need to do is really address what we're here for: serving the people of Ontario.

In fact, as our government has demonstrated, we care. We have to move forward. We want to make the mistakes into positive actions of delivery. We need to take care of our people. We need to realize that in any transition of any program that is this large, there will be bumps until it is fully in service. We have experienced in my office, since I was elected, numerous, numerous outstanding, continuing, carryover cases which I can, as a matter of fact, attribute back past the five years that some will only take credit for doing it for but in fact go back further than that. We are going to come with solutions that are going to bring remedies to those problems. We are going to take care of the people.

I just want to remind us, in the few short seconds I have left, of a letter that was read into Hansard a few days ago by the minister. It says: "We believe that the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act, 1996, is good legislation and will accomplish our goals for tougher enforcement. That is why we need you to stop the political games and expedite the passage of the legislation. Putting your political motives ahead of the needs of Ontario's children is reprehensible. Shame on you for that" -- as written by the Mothers Against Fathers in Arrears.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Michael Brown: I look forward to participating in this debate. If the members would notice, I asked the member for Bruce if miraculously there was not a huge increase in the number of calls to the family support plan when they blew up the regional offices, laid off 290 people, without a system in place to make the transition work. Did I get an answer from the member for Bruce? No, I didn't. Who are the victims? The victims are the children and, mostly, women of Ontario who are being captured, being used as prisoners in this war, this revolution that cares only about the wealthy in the province of Ontario. That's the revolution we're in and that's what we're seeing.

Members should understand what we're talking about today. We know that 97% of the parents ordered to pay child support in Canada are fathers. About 76% of the support orders are in arrears. Ontario fathers currently owe about $1 billion. This goes up about $10 million per year. It costs the taxpayers of this province $300 million in social assistance payments to families who are not receiving the support payments they are due. That is a huge and important problem to solve.

I think we should take the members back and understand that this is a huge and important problem and it needs to be solved with some common sense. That term might be somewhat familiar to the government members: common sense. So we have a problem, we know we have a problem, and how are we going to address it? I would suggest to you that the way you address a problem is to get a game plan and then to put it into place. In this case you will need legislation, and Bill 82 meets that criterion. We have legislation. That's good. We had a plan in place. We had to get to a new plan. You needed to know what the legislation would be before you could get from A to B. What did we see? We saw the Attorney General, with absolutely callous disregard for the children of this province, blow up, get rid of, lay off 290 workers in the regional centres across Ontario with no real plan other than some vague notion of centralization to deal with it. They just shut it down.

It's no wonder that my constituency office is flooded with family support plan calls. They have gone up, in terms of frequency, four to five times over what it has been during my history as a member, over eight or nine years. I don't think that has anything to do with Bill 82. It has to do with a government that is incompetent. It has to do with a government that has callous disregard for the children of the province of Ontario, for the women of the province of Ontario, callous disregard for those who need the help the most. Attack the victims: That's the policy of the revolution, and that's what we've seen in this catastrophe that the Attorney General stands up and embarrasses himself on a daily basis by defending.

It is not possible. There are 130 members in this Legislature. I do not believe my constituency would be a lot different than Port Arthur or Bruce or Brantford or Sudbury East. It would not be different. We have the same problem. And the problem has grown to catastrophic proportions over the last three or four months. It's absolutely a disaster, and it's all caused by the revolution, it's all caused by callous mismanagement of a system, it's all caused because the Attorney General, in his business plan, had to find a bunch of cash to pay for the Harris tax scheme. That's the tax scheme that rewards people for being bank presidents, the tax scheme that rewards people like bank presidents to the tune of probably $200,000 per year and at the same time attacks the middle class, attacks the children of this province through withdrawal of programs and attacks virtually all the institutions that Ontarians have come to believe are important to them and important to our society. I think there's no better example than the Attorney General's handling of the family support plan in this particular instance.

I have before me a partial list of the constituents in Algoma-Manitoulin who are having some difficulty -- not some; it's impossible for them to deal with the family support plan. I have one that's probably the most recent one who has arrears starting in November. The second one has arrears of $500; a third one has not received a cent since May 1996. Another one has not seen any money since August. The next one is receiving only one third of her court-ordered payment. The next one can't find $229. The family support plan doesn't know where it is -- gone.

The next one, $1,475 is owing and there hasn't been a payment since August. We have another one who's receiving only one quarter of the court-ordered amount, and one who just wanted to change his address. This is a payor. He moved, he changed his address, he tried to let the family support plan know that he had changed so they could make the appropriate deductions, so things would work properly. He can't get through. He has had no response from the family support plan.

We have another female who's owed $493. Christmas is coming. We have another one, a woman, who hasn't seen a payment since May 1996. It goes on and on and on, and these are real people. It is why the family support plan needs to be reformed, but it is not the reason to blow it up; it is not the reason to do what the revolution has done to these people.

Any sensible, even commonsensical, government would have dealt with this problem in a reasonable fashion before laying off 290 people, before closing eight regional centres. It would have set up the system that was going to take its place. Even if you agree that the solution is right, and that is quite debatable, but even if you agree that the government's position on how to have cost-effectively managed the system was right, the government in its haste to pay for its crazy tax cut decided to forget about transition: "There's no need for a transition period. We'll just close them down and see what happens."

And who suffered? Was it Mr Eves and the treasury? No, I don't think so. Was it the bank presidents? I don't think so. It's the women and children in the province of Ontario. What I find the most galling is the fact that the government stays on message, as you say; stays on message -- you keep repeating the same thing. It doesn't matter whether it's wrong. You repeat and you repeat and you repeat and you repeat, and sooner or later people will come to believe that to be fact.

But I look over at the back bench over there and I would think that some of you would understand what I understand in Algoma-Manitoulin, that this is a real problem for real people approaching winter, approaching Christmas without the money to pay utility bills, without the money to buy coats and boots for the kids, without the money to think about Christmas at all because the government has mismanaged this file to a degree that is, I might say, criminal -- is that permissible, Mr Speaker, "criminal"? -- and they know it. I can't believe that a back bench member of the government would stand up and defend what's going on here. It has to be the biggest example of incompetence and bad public policy I have ever seen.


We had Bill 82 before us. Bill 82 should have been before us before the government made one move with regard to family support. We should have had the legislation, because it only makes sense that before you decide how you're going to do something, you know what you're going to do. So the legislation needed to come first. We should have seen that in the spring and it could have been acted upon in the spring. The government then could have set up the appropriate bureaucratic mechanism for enforcing the legislation that it is bringing forward and then designed a transition process to move from the present system to the new and "improved" system. I think most people would say that would be common sense, that it would work.

Mr Preston: Why didn't you do it when you had a chance?

Mr Michael Brown: The member says, "Why didn't you do it when you had a chance?" As the member would know, SCOE was put in place, not family support, in 1987 or 1986 when it actually started to run. It had some problems. It didn't work perfectly, as any system that's started up. Given the technology, the changes in society that have come since then, any government would have to change.

Mr Preston: They didn't.

Mr Michael Brown: The member doesn't know what he's talking about. He said, "They didn't." They did. They changed it to the family support plan, with a wide variety of changes to the former SCOE system, some of which we disagreed with at the time, some of which Liberals did not think was the proper solution. However, it was their solution. They did something. It may have been wrong, but they did something.

Instead of playing partisan politics with this, why don't we just approach this matter in a sensible way? I'm saying the legislation was introduced on October 2. Why did the government wait 49 days to call it in here? Forty-nine days, and now they're all in a hurry: "Got to be done today. We're going to vote at 5:45. The world won't be a reasonable place to be. We waited for 49 days but now we need it by 5:45, and if you guys don't do it, women and children are going to suffer." That's an absurd argument. It's not even worthy of this government to make that argument because we know if we pass this today, the provisions of this bill can't be enacted tomorrow anyway. It will take some time after this act is put together and actually proclaimed after third reading for the government to enforce the regulations in this, particularly in that they have this huge chaos going on in the system.

I want to say to you, I look over at some of the members who I used to think were reasonable when they were on this side of the House --

Mr Tilson: We're still your friends.

Mr Michael Brown: I'm told they're still my friends -- and I wonder: What is going on in your constituency office? Are you not experiencing the same problems I'm having in mine? We're trying to help people and the caseload we're getting is almost insurmountable.

I'm told, as a matter of fact, by my constituency assistant, who called the Attorney General's office and talked to his political staff person who's in charge of sorting out these things on behalf of MPPs, that he was most happy because he was getting out of this job tomorrow and there would be a new person who would have to deal with it, because he was finding it impossible. He didn't like getting all the flak. He didn't like the fact that he couldn't get answers. He didn't like the fact that he couldn't respond not only to opposition members but I think basically to the government back bench. The calls were coming into the Attorney General's political staffers' office at a rate that they could not cope with themselves. They were as frustrated with it as we are, and our frustration is nothing compared to the women and children across the province who are having real financial difficulties.

These are not people who have three or four months' income sitting in a bank somewhere that they can draw down on. The people who need this money are generally young families, single support. If they are able to have a job and they have young children, they have the costs of providing child care to their children while they're at work. They have a huge number of costs that we all know about when you have young children. That's the time when your income is typically the lowest. So every dollar that comes in is a precious dollar. It is a dollar that the family needs. It's a dollar that the family needs for clothes for the kids for going to school, for buying the school supplies, for all those things. It is not a frill. There isn't a choice for these people.

The government must have known. I look over at these folks over here and I know that some of them have been in business, the occasional one, and they know that in business you would not manage a transition like this. Could you imagine an insurance company managing a transition of files like this? It would be impossible.

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): They do it all the time.

Mr Michael Brown: I hope you didn't mean that. They would not do that.

I guess my biggest problem here is this staying-on-message business. No matter what we say over here, whatever the back bench on the Conservative government side knows and says, it's two different things. Their constituency offices are being deluged with calls from people who really do need their help. They're being called by fathers. They're being called by fathers who have made their payments. They have made their payments faithfully for three or four months. They have not been received by the spouse, or the ex-spouse. Where's the money? I suspect some of the money is in some of those boxes out at Downsview. I suspect that some of the mail hasn't been opened. I suspect that it will take maybe years to sort out the mess of the transition period that the government administration has had. It is not the government that loses here. The government doesn't lose anything. What would the government lose? Who loses are the children.

I wonder what it would have cost the government to have managed this transition in a reasonable way. I wouldn't suspect it would have cost very much money. I think it would have been money well spent. I think the government knows it should have done it. I think the government should come clean and tell the people of Ontario that just to fund a tax scheme that benefits their corporate friends the most, they are quite willing to attack in this revolution of theirs the victims.

I think you would agree that this is just another element that we might say paints a picture of this government across the board. That's how they operate. First you take everything apart, throw the pieces on the floor, and then you see if you can figure out how to get it back together. That might be all right if it's the old jalopy you're working with, but this is people's lives.

I want to speak just for a little bit about the enforcement measures that are provided in the bill. This is a tough bill and enforcement is a problem. But I would tell the government that (a) enforcement costs money and you're going to have to spend it if you're going to get a return from it; and (b) you better get your bureaucratic act together or this enforcement will be the nightmare of all nightmares.


I look at some of the things that are included in the enforcement.

Suspending the driver's licence of defaulters: If you're in default of your family support plan payment, you will lose your driver's licence or have it suspended -- a very good idea, I think. However, given the track record of this bureaucracy, how many drivers' licences of fathers who have paid their family support will be suspended? In my own constituency office, probably a quarter of the people here would have their licence suspended, and they haven't missed a payment. I want to see you explain that to them.

You're going to report defaulters to credit rating bureaus -- same problem. How many people's credit ratings do you want to destroy because your bureaucracy works this well?

They're going to garnish joint bank accounts up to 50% if one of the holders of the account is a defaulting payor. That should make some interesting arrangements in partnerships across the province. Again, this is not a bad idea, but where the rubber hits the road over there, you'd better get it right or you'll be taking the money not only of the person you're accusing of being in default but another person's money also. Given the history of this bureaucracy, I would be very concerned that this will cause some problems.

I'm saying to the government, you'd better take some time to figure out how you're going to get this right, because you'll end up with not only the people who are supposed to get support not getting it, but you're going to find out that you'll be taking money from people who have absolutely nothing to do with this particular court order and taking it off into Never-Never Land. I think you'd better be careful.

What else are we going to do here? Oh, they're going to order third parties who have a financial relationship with the defaulter to provide financial statements and allow orders to be made against such parties if they were involved in sheltering the payor's assets or income from enforcement of the support order. Well, of course this is a problem. There has always been a problem where people will shuffle off to Buffalo some of the money, so to speak. They will shelter it in someone else's account etc.

The difficulty here is deciding when that happens. The difficulty is deciding whose money really is over there. Again, I'm telling you this will be expensive, and you'd better get it right. You'd better actually find people who are sheltering the money and keeping it away from the government, because you're going to have someone paying someone else's child support if you're not careful.

They're going to put liens against property.

This one people will really enjoy: They're intercepting lottery winnings of $1,000 or more and requiring support arrears to be paid from them before the winnings are distributed to the defaulter. I guess you're going to have a direct line to the slot machines across the province, to the VLTs. This will be an interesting bureaucracy.

You're going to be giving support orders priority over other debt judgements. I'm not a lawyer, but I think that when we take this to committee there will have to be some hard questions asked about these enforcement provisions. We have to understand that given the track record of the family support plan, SCOE before it, I would be very careful that you are going to get the right person and attack the right asset.

This really comes down to credibility. The government's credibility here is on the line. The government's credibility here is in tatters. They have revolutionized the province. They have become very good at blowing up institutions. They have been very good at laying off 290 experienced employees in places like Thunder Bay and Sudbury and the other regional centres that used to deal with this problem. They have been very bad at setting up a centralized office. They are right now, if you can believe it, still attempting to set this office up. As I understand it, there's a tender out right now calling for technology to support the centralized office. Can you believe it? Why would you have not tendered this in the spring? Why would you have not taken the measure to make this plan efficient before you closed the regional offices?

Mr Gravelle: Had to get some money.

Mr Michael Brown: Why would you do that? My friend from Port Arthur suggests it's about money. I suggest it's about money too, because no government with common sense would have done this. No government with a sense of how to do business would have done this. No government that cared about children would have done this. So what does that leave this government caring much about? I suggest to you it's about money. It's about a tax scheme that rewards you for being the president of a bank. That's what it's about. It's about a government that beats its chest and tells us how great the economy is when there are 57,000 more people unemployed this year than there were last. It's about a government that says it believes in deficit reduction. It's about a government that believes we should have a balanced budget and then go out and borrow, borrow, borrow in order to pay for a tax cut.

The people of Ontario should understand. They shouldn't listen to this government; they should watch what it does. If you watch what it does, it's going to borrow $22 billion over its four years in power at the same time that it's claiming to be fiscally responsible. It's a government that isn't paying its bills but is saying to taxpayers, "You get our big spending program: our tax scheme." You know, it sounds an awful lot like buying our way out of a recession, that a former government, the past one, did -- same thing. They were going to spend, and your spending program you've packaged up a little differently and called it a tax scheme. But essentially it is the same kind of crazy economics that the people of Ontario will pay for, not only during these next two or three years but for generations.

That's $22 billion, and you're proud of it. You're proud you're going to borrow $22 billion. I can't believe anybody could be proud of that. You're proud of the fact that you're borrowing in your first year in power more money than the Liberal administration borrowed between 1985 and 1990. You're proud of the fact that in one year you can borrow more than a previous administration borrowed in five. You're proud of the fact that you might in some distant future have a balanced budget, when the last balanced budget in Ontario was in 1989. And you're going to achieve your goals on the backs of the children and women of the province. This is not common sense; it sure is revolutionary.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to compliment the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for his edifying speech. I think he points out a lot of the historical significance to this issue that unfortunately the government backbench members refuse to acknowledge. Sitting here listening to the back benches of the government heckle the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, one quickly becomes aware of the fact that the reality is that many of those members don't know what they're talking about.

They do not know the history of what happened before 1987, what took place in 1987 in terms of the SCOE legislation that was brought in, what happened after that, what then led to the changes that we made and brought about the family support plan, which brought about many of the changes that are in Bill 82, which, by the way, we have always said we will be supporting. They do not know, as has been pointed out by my colleague the former Attorney General, that much of what you're doing is a continuation of work we started, and much of the work we did was work that was started right after SCOE was brought in by the Liberals in 1987. That's the reality.


What has caused all of the anger in this House on the part of the opposition is the action that was taken by the Attorney General on August 15 when he summarily shut down eight offices and laid off 290 staff and then caused all the resulting citizens of this province, vulnerable women and children who need those support payments, to lose the money they deserve. It's in the bank, and that's why we're so angry.

We are going to continue to point out that it's not in disagreement with the changes per se, but it's the actions of the Attorney General. And he still hasn't stood in his place and taken responsibility for the actions he's taken.

Mr Clement: I'd like to thank on behalf of our caucus the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for his contribution to this debate, which has been a fairly fair and frank discussion of the issues.

I share with the honourable member his concerns about untrammelled bureaucracy. As parliamentarians, surely all members of this House share that concern, that when a civil service, with the best of intentions perhaps, is given authority over something, there is proper oversight and control over their actions.

I agree with him in that respect, but I call to the honourable member's attention the record of the past few years. We are now at a point in the family support plan's history where there is $1 billion of arrears, $1 billion not getting out to the spouses and to the children who need that money. Surely there is no better reason for this Legislature to get involved than that. What we are trying to do, however, is to ensure that the bureaucracy and the machine that is running this particular plan is focused on precisely the issues that have to be solved.

That's why we're talking about tendering out, so that there's accountability with some private sector partners who can do the job better for less. That's why we're talking about the opt-out, so that those plans made by men and women who are operating responsibly and in the best interests of the family involved don't have to be part of a system that, quite frankly, hasn't worked very well in the past. Those two items will allow us to focus on the things that matter, the problem areas that have to be solved on behalf of the people of Ontario.

Mr Gravelle: I certainly want to compliment the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for his wise remarks. I think he echoed what a lot of people in the House feel.

What's really so very sad about all this is that it absolutely wasn't necessary. The truth is that many of the parts of this bill which I personally think are a very good idea, and I support those measures, are things that were put forward by the staff of the family support plan office themselves, the regional staff. They could be literally in place and using these measures to do the job better themselves. They put forward a 19-point streamlining plan to the minister. This plan was ignored, and the reason it was ignored quite clearly is because they simply wanted to centralize the operation in Toronto. They wanted to get rid of 290 staff to meet their job cut goal.

The truth is, if they really cared about the women and children of this province and really cared about this plan, they could have put this bill forward and used the family support plan regional office staff to implement it so that people in Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario, people in Sudbury and the regional area around that, could have access to some real people.

No matter what is said in this House, there are two things that the people of this province are not going to forget: (1) that they closed the offices of the regional plan in August and as a result absolutely shut off access to people to get to this plan, to speak to anybody at all; and (2) they put this bill forward on October 2, I believe, and then they waited 49 days to bring it forward. No matter what they say and no matter what anybody says, the fact is that they are still responsible for this extraordinary delay, and the fact is that there is no excuse and they should not be forgiven for that.

There was a way to solve this, there was a way to keep it going. There was no need for this horrible tragedy for the people of the province to take place. I call on the minister to apologize before this bill goes through.

Ms Martel: I want to commend my colleague from Algoma-Manitoulin for his comments on this important legislation. There are a couple of things I want to pick up on. First is the fact that I have also been a member for nine years. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin and I were elected at the same time. I have always dealt with the SCOE or FSP.

I tell the members of the House again that never, ever have I seen the chaos in the family support plan that I have seen since this Attorney General decided it was okay to finance the tax cut on the backs of women and children and then decide to lay off 290 staff in a single day and close the eight regional offices.

In my office now we have over 105 cases since the end of August of women and children who used to receive regular support payments, whose husbands or ex-spouses have made payments and whose cheques have gone into the black hole of Downsview. That is what has happened. For all of you who want to say there have been historical problems and the plan has never worked, I am telling you as an MPP who has always been involved in this issue that we have never seen the kind of chaos that we have witnessed in the last number of months.

I ask the government members, if the plan was historically bad, if there was always a problem, why then would your Attorney General cause the disaster he has by laying off the experienced staff in the plan and by closing the regional office? What government in its right mind would attack women and children in that way?

The fact of the matter is, the Attorney General was warned by all of his staff, from front-line right to his senior management staff, that if he took the actions he did, he would cause chaos for women and children who used to be getting their payments.

This is all about this government financing the tax cut. The Attorney General is taking 35% of the funds from the family support plan. He is laying off over 40% of his staff permanently. He has put women and children at risk, and he should have at least had the decency to accept responsibility for that.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Algoma-Manitoulin, you have two minutes.

Mr Michael Brown: I appreciate the comments of the members. This problem is not an ideological one. It isn't one of high public policy. This is a problem of real people with real needs who need real help. It is a problem of administration and it is a problem of what I would characterize as callous indifference to the people in this province who are least able to protect themselves.

I cannot believe for one moment that the Attorney General did not know what the effect of this transition would be. I do not believe for one moment that the Harris government did not know what suffering it would inflict on women and children in this province. I do not believe this was a mistake. I firmly believe they knew exactly what they were doing.

I am most angered and offended by a government that is run by spin doctors who tell their members to get up on their feet and to stay on message, to blame the victim, to blame the opposition for holding up a bill they themselves did not move to second reading for 49 days. It is absolutely unacceptable to the people of Ontario for a government to deny responsibility.


The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Christopherson: I'm pleased to have this opportunity to comment. One of the things I'm going to do during the 30 minutes that's allotted to me is to read into the record an analysis from the stats, as best we can get them, from the government that point out that the plan was making improvements in terms of the amount of money it was collecting and the amount of money it was providing to mainly the women and children in this province whose money it rightfully is and to show statistically that there was a major dropoff in the effectiveness of this plan from the moment the current Attorney General started to wield his axe indiscriminately in order to find the money he needs as part of his ministry's quota to pay for that tax cut, and I will read that into the record in a few moments.

I want to begin my remarks, however, by pointing out to those who are watching that when the government -- I heard one of the other backbenchers speak the other day and I was quite enraged, I truly was, to hear him talk about the fact that when they came into office they talked to the front-line people about what changes need to be made in the plan. First of all, a lot of that work was already done. There's one major part of Bill 82 we have a problem with, the voluntary opting out. It's a significant piece but we aren't going to hold up this legislation for that one part, but we are going to hold the government's feet to the fire in terms of being accountable for that because it's going to cause serious problems. We know that.

But the fact is that this government did not consult with the front-line people. You not only didn't talk to them, you not only ignored them, you fired them. You outright fired them, and because of your ability now under Bill 7 to not have to provide successor rights, at the end of the day most of those jobs will be privatized, the few jobs that are left, and they will go to a private bank, which will pay fewer wages, fewer benefits, and that's where they'll derive their profit. That's the reality of what this government did in terms of those front-line people, the front-line workers, and it fits with their overall plan.

We said from the outset when this government brought in that legislation that that was the name of the game. In this case we can point to it clearly and I am certain, unfortunately, that we'll be able to do that time and time again, to point out the fact that you disallowed those workers the right to keep their democratically chosen union and collective agreement so that your friends in the private sector could make a greater profit at the public expense and directly as a result of those workers not being paid what they're entitled to and not receiving the kind of benefits they're entitled to.

What I want to do now, because I want to make sure this is on the record -- we are going into some public hearings next week and we want to make sure that this analysis is there for those who are coming in to look at it. Draw your own conclusions, but please take the time to read this because we have taken the time to look at the stats, to back up the argument we've made that the crisis created now by this Attorney General has caused a lot of hurt to vulnerable people and there's no way to justify that.

If I can, with your indulgence, Speaker -- and I also want to point out, I'm sure you'd be interested to know, that the only months we could get are May and September and October. Interestingly enough, I'm advised by the member for London Centre, our critic, that we are unable to get June and July and August. Interesting that we can get May and we can get September and October, but we can't get those crucial -- it's almost like Nixon's 18 minutes -- we can't get the crucial part in between. which is the June, July and August statistics, and they are obviously important to both sides of the House.

The government doesn't want us to have those numbers because they know that it will verify the argument we're making and we're angry because we just want the truth to come out and not having those documents --

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Huh.

Mr Christopherson: I hear the member for Bedrock scoffing over there. The reality is that when we do get those statistics, what I have now said will be borne out to be what I think the vast majority will see as the truth.

Let me then read into the record this analysis.

Caseload numbers under the current plan are expected to rise at 1,200 to 1,400 cases per month, this being the number of orders usually made by Ontario courts in any given month. Because the law currently requires that all orders be registered and enforced, a regular growth in caseload is a sign that the plan is working, not that it is broken.

But what do we see in the statistics provided by the ministry? Between September 21 and October 19, 1996, only 619 orders were added to the caseload, some 600 to 800 fewer cases than we ought to expect to have been added, given the ministry's figures of 1,200 to 1,400 cases per month. Between May 26 and September 21, a four-month period, the number of cases added to the plan was 3,871, whereas on average, over four months, 4,800 to 5,600 ought to have accrued. In other words, because of the actions of the Attorney General in closing down the regional offices before the new systems were in place, we know that many orders made in recent months have not been even registered by the plan and, of course, no enforcement is being done on those cases, in number at least 1,000 to 1,600 fewer than ought to have been acted upon under the current law.

Since part of the Attorney General's plan is to encourage recipients of family support to opt out of the plan, to lower the workload and to maximize the profits for a privatized operation, the failure of the plan to register and enforce these orders amounts to a deliberate effort to create a lack of confidence in the current plan. This will encourage recipients not to rely upon it for enforcement.

Compliance: Before the family support plan came into force on March 1, 1992, the plan collected $14 million per month. By May 26, 1996, the last month for which we have statistics prior to the Attorney General's devastation of the plan, the plan collected $44.9 million. By September 21, that amount had dropped to $37.2 million; in October, only $28.7 million were collected. Obviously, these figures clearly show that the actions of the Attorney General in closing the regional offices, firing 290 qualified and expert staff and making files unavailable to the temporary staff attempting to keep the plan working caused a disruption in the receipt of previously regular payments by recipients across the province. Even the amount paid to the treasury dropped dramatically from $5.7 million in May 1996 to only $3.6 million in September and $3.7 million in October 1996.

The government has claimed that three out of four support payors are not fulfilling their responsibility. Those figures are not accurate. While it is true that full compliance, that is, regular payments as ordered with no arrears accumulated, were in May 1996 at only 24% overall, dropping incidentally to 22% in September 1996 and to only 20% in October 1996, that figure in no way explains what is actually happening in the plan. The real figure is that percentage of cases which have funds flowing regularly.

Flowing regularly means that the current amount of the order is being flowed and that an arrangement to pay down the accumulated arrears has been made and moneys are flowing to meet that obligation. Money was flowing regularly in May 1996 to 59% of recipients; in both September and October 1996 only 53% of cases saw a regular flow of money. That drop of 6% in recipients who receive regular payments meant the over 9,000 clients of the plan ceased to receive regular payments between May 1996 and October 1996. In other words, the Attorney General's cost-cutting measures resulted in over 9,000 families who either had received regular funds or were new members of the plan not receiving the money which they were entitled by court order to have.

Total arrears owing: In May 1996 $905.7 million were the arrears owing under the plan. By September 1996 that amount had jumped to $942.6 million, and by October to $962.1 million, an increase over five months of $56.4 million. This is a huge increase, much of which can be attributed directly to the actions of the Attorney General for destroying the plan. In the span of years since 1987, when the original SCOE plan was put in place, arrears had grown on average by $8 million per month. Because many of the arrears date well before 1987, this figure is theoretical because a large accumulation of arrears existed on day one of the SCOE plan. But even allowing for that, the growth in arrears between May and October 1996 averages over $11 million per month, a huge increase over the average growth, which is unexplained by anything other than the Attorney General's budget-cutting destruction of the current plan.


It is interesting too to look at the distribution of arrears between the dollars owed to recipients and those owed to the province because of the assignment of social assistance. In May 1996 $311.8 million was owed the treasury, by October $313.6 million, an increase of less than $2 million. Contrast this to the $54.6-million increase in the amounts owed to recipients in the same period. The government is clearly expending what resources it still has to collecting government receipts, not to helping women and children obtain the dollars they require in order to live.

How can we be sure that this same disregard will not govern the closure of files if this bill passes? How can we have any confidence in the will of this government to make sure every file registered by the plan has the opportunity to be enforced, using the new tools of Bill 82, for a sufficient period of time to ensure it really is "uncollectible"? The implementation plan of the Attorney General is for files to be closed during the transition period, before the new systems and the new enforcement measures are in place.

This means that anywhere from $450 million to $500 million will be written off as not collectible by this government before the measures in this bill come into force. The government is telling thousands of women and children that their entitlement to support arrears does not matter, that they will see the possibility of the new trace-and-enforce measures snatched away from them. It is grossly unfair of this government to write off these arrears, to decide that it is too time-consuming and costly to collect.

Once this plan is based on profit, collection of arrears will cease to be based on the entitlement of the court order and will become based on whether or not the private company to which the plan is divested sees collection as cost-effective. The bill encourages non-payors to leave the jurisdiction, to make collection difficult and expensive long enough to ensure that the private company writes it off as uncollectible even though the money is owed not to the company, not to the government but to the recipients, usually the children and their mothers.

I realize not everyone has an interest in this issue. This may not be as riveting for those who do not have a professional or personal interest. But for those who do, this is a crucial issue, and I would urge particularly those who are planning to make public presentations to please review carefully the analysis we have provided today. Draw your own conclusions, of course, but please don't just listen to the government rhetoric about the plan being broken, "They're fixing it and that's what Bill 82 is about and there's politics here slowing this down." Please take a look at the substantive issues that are at stake. This analysis, I believe, is a part of that.

I would also encourage those who are very serious about this issue to give a great deal of attention to the Hansard of November 21 and the speech in this House by my colleague the member for London Centre, who is not only our critic on this issue but is a former Attorney General of this province, and for the overwhelming length of time that we were in government, the minister responsible for women's issues. She goes into a great deal of detail that deserves to be considered when one is deciding whether to believe that the government does not have a responsibility to answer for the current crisis or whether the opposition in this case has made a bona fide case, that the facts hold up and that this government is running away from their responsibility and not acknowledging their culpability in all this.

When I talk of crisis being generated I think it's important that we constantly remember the words of the Minister of Education and Training before his handlers got hold of him and got him inside a tighter cocoon. People will recall that the Minister of Education was caught on video very early on in the life of this Mike Harris government, saying to a group of staff members within the ministry: "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."

Certainly as the labour critic for the New Democratic Party, I have seen this practice at work with regard to the WCB, and I know we've seen it at work with the Ministry of Health, where the minister swings one day from praising the system to the next day condemning it, depending on what suits him. But clearly this idea of creating a crisis is necessary in order to have a legitimate -- or at least for it to seem that there's a legitimate front to take the dramatic and draconian actions that they have.

We've always maintained, with regard to the family support plan, with WCB, with the health care system, the education system, all the issues that are before us as a province, that there are problems, indeed serious problems. But there is no crisis, certainly not one to the extent that would warrant and legitimize and justify the hurt and harm that is being inflicted upon the most vulnerable people in this province: in this case, with regard to the discussion around Bill 82 and the actions of the Attorney General, women and children, the vast majority of whom are among those who are in our low-income categories; just this week the legislation around injured workers, attacking them; the absolutely outrageous and unfathomable action of cutting 22% last summer from the poorest of the poor.

None of the problems that face this province warrant that kind of action, certainly not while this government and its cronies sit back in the comfort of their high-income lifestyles and go further to collect tens of thousands and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars of gift money in terms of income tax refund at a time when you're attacking the people I've mentioned so far. It's so horrific it's hard to believe you're doing it.

The only way that one will be able to put it properly in its scope is, unfortunately, through the vision of history. History will clearly show that you put Bennett to shame, you put Hepburn to shame in terms of what governments, both nationally and provincially, did during the last Depression, the other most severe economic times we've ever faced. When looked at in that light, you're going to look even worse.

What we find so objectionable is that this government first of all refuses to accept the fact that the current crisis, when I raised the issues of my constituents who were here yesterday -- Helen Teepell, Sandra Dunsdon and Rick Hunter-Wolff were here yesterday. They took the time to come down and sit in the members' gallery, not 15 feet from where I stand, so that they could watch the government members, particularly the Attorney General, attempt to justify and defend the harm they've caused my constituents, when the reality is that before the Attorney General took his action in August they didn't have any problems.

That is what's so grossly unfair about what the government is attempting to do in terms of the position it's taken. You refuse to accept the fact that you shut down that system for the sole purpose of making sure the Attorney General's ministry could pay its quota to the Treasurer because you have to pay for your tax cut -- $5 billion a year that you have to borrow, over $20 billion during the life of this government. That's why you did it, and you don't even have the decency or the guts to stand up and at least admit that that's what you're doing and that's why you did it.

You continue to pretend there's no problem. You talk about the fact that there are improvements needed in the family support plan and jump immediately to the wonderful world of the future and take no responsibility for the harm that you've done, for the disruption you've caused where there was none before. That's the crucial issue.


In my community of Hamilton there's a new group being formed. They've called themselves Deadbeat Government -- Payors and Payees Unite. They've got another meeting tonight. They had their founding meeting on November 14. As I mentioned yesterday, none of the Tories who were invited -- and we have four Tories in our area of six seats, one New Democrat, one Lib, four Tories, and not a one showed up.

It's easy to understand on a personal level. Who wants to go to a meeting and get beat up? Fair enough to understand. But your responsibilities as an MPP go beyond that, and unfortunately, as a government backbencher you have a responsibility to carry the can for the decisions of your cabinet. Now, I'm the first one to admit how tough that is. In fact, I've often said that the toughest job in this place is a government backbencher. I've been there. I know what that's like. It's very difficult. However, that does not excuse nor allow government backbenchers to abdicate their responsibility to talk to their constituents.

I say the reason those Tories didn't show up is that they know they can't defend this. They'd rather take the kind of heat and pressure that I'm bringing right now in pointing out that they didn't show up than actually show up and take the heat and stand there, stammering, trying to defend the indefensible. The majority of examples given that night were clearly the result of actions this Attorney General had taken. None of those Tory MPPs wanted to be there and take the flak, because that's all they could do: stand there and take it. Instead, they hid and ran.

As I pointed out yesterday, that's not the first time. I've been at public meetings on rent control. They were invited, didn't show. I've met with injured workers. My colleague the Liberal member for Hamilton East was there. I realize it's a lot easier to be an opposition member in front of public meetings when people are angry. I understand that reality. But the fact of the matter is that you have a responsibility as a government member to be there none the less. You've got the power. You're sure as hell not afraid to wield it and use it when you want to go after people. You're quite comfortable standing here in your vast majority and ramming down the throats of the powerless in this province your hard, right-wing ideology. But in my community, the Tory MPPs haven't got the guts and the decency to show up at public meetings and defend those actions face to face to the citizens. That's the reality.

While I'm talking about government members, I'm advised that the member for Hamilton Mountain, Trevor Pettit, when there was some discussion about the staff that used to be there, those front-line staff you fired, heckled across the House, "Office in Hamilton was useless anyway."

Given the constant and continuing attack on workers and injured workers and workers' rights and the rights to have a union, it doesn't surprise me in the least. This is very consistent with the mindset of an awful lot of government backbenchers, because at the end of the day, that's what this is about: It's about making sure that tax cut can be funded and it's about making sure that the path is clear for the privatization of these services so that their pals can buy them up, snap them up, just as Mulroney did, and they can go ahead and make a profit, and they can make an even greater profit by ensuring that they don't have to respect the collective agreement, they don't have to pay decent wages, they don't have to pay benefits, they can pay the bare minimum possible.

As we know, they're moving the bare minimum down as much as they can. They've announced a freeze on minimum wage. It'll probably be a cold day in hell before they actually increase it. Recognizing that the Americans have already increased their minimum wage, we're now behind them. This government takes a great deal of pride in talking about how low the minimum wage is. And they're going to take great pride in pointing out how they've watered down environmental legislation and Employment Standards Act legislation, how difficult it is to organize a union --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I don't mean to jump in and interrupt the member. I believe we're debating Bill 82, the family support plan.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate your comment, Speaker. I would suggest to you, however, that the whole issue of privatizing the family support plan and the firing of 290 members is in order, but I would ask you whether or not you believe I'm correct.

The Speaker: I just want to make sure that we're on topic in the debate. As long as you refer to the bill occasionally and discuss Bill 82, that's fine.

Mr Christopherson: Thank you, Speaker. I appreciate the correction, or at least the clarification. Indeed I am staying on topic because I do believe that the issue of privatization is a part of Bill 82 and it's a part of every major issue and initiative that this government will bring forward.


Mr Christopherson: You can howl all you want from the back benches. You're all nice and comfortable here in the House where no one can get at you, but I'd sure like to see you talk about this stuff the way you do here out there in the public. Let's see that one. Let's see you bring your arguments about how all you're doing is fixing the family support plan into a meeting of women and families who have been injured as a result of the actions you've taken. Let's see that. That's not happening because this government and the backbenchers know they can't defend it. In fact, I wouldn't be very surprised at all if there have been some rather interesting discussions in their caucus room.

We all make mistakes. Particularly those who have the privilege of serving as ministers will stand up and acknowledge those mistakes and take responsibility and do what they can to fix it. I know what it's like when there's a mistake made by a colleague and you have to defend it and live with it, and I'm sure you've had your discussions. I've got to believe that things are getting pretty warm in the Tory caucus room when you've got a minister who has decided his personal feelings about having to say, "I'm sorry, I screwed up and I'll fix it," are more important than your ability to go back into your riding and have any kind of credibility at all.

The fact is that what you did to this plan on August 15 of this year is indefensible. It would certainly be refreshing if one of you -- one of you -- would at least in some fashion show a little backbone and acknowledge that some of the problems that are caused now are your fault, because all the proof is there, but I suspect we won't see that. They've all been given their little typed speeches and they won't move too far from them; they're all scripted very tight. They're going to talk about the future and they're going to talk about the past. They will not talk about their culpability here because that would put them in trouble with the government.

When we talk about Bill 82, in the last minute and a half I have, I want to say again that it's our intention to support this bill, as we've said all along. I reject outright -- rightly so, I think -- the fact that we're playing any kind of political games, as has been pointed out. You waited 49 days from the time you introduced this bill until you called it for proper debate. How the hell can you say we're playing games when you waited 49 days? I'd like to know how you're going to argue that away to the general public. We even offered up unanimous consent before the 49 days were up in order to debate it and again you wouldn't --


The Speaker: Order. Members on the government side, I'd appreciate it if the heckling would be brought down somewhat. It's becoming very difficult. I caution the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale specifically.

Interjection: Awwww.

The Speaker: I don't find that very humorous either. I would prefer if you came to order.

Mr Christopherson: Thank you, Speaker. I appreciate your concern for my ability to get my message out in terms of my rights as an opposition member.

I want to close my comments in the few seconds I have to say to this government that the only reason there are even voices being raised at all is because, first of all, we resent the fact that you're trying to say we've played political games with the timing of this bill. You waited 49 days before you brought this bill to the House to be debated, you denied unanimous consent to have it brought forward during that 49 days, and you still steadfastly refuse to accept the fact that the crisis right now in terms of women and children not receiving money that's legally theirs is your responsibility and the fault of your Attorney General. As long as you maintain that position, we'll continue to scream the truth from the rooftops.


The Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Tilson: The member for Hamilton Centre, it's unbelievable that we'd go through this entire period of time -- what is it -- six days that we've been debating this bill in the House and finally the members of the third party are saying that they're going to accept the bill.

Mrs Boyd: No, it's not six days.

Mr Bradley: It's only been three days.

Mr Tilson: It hasn't been three days, it's been six days. We've been having six days of debate in this House, and all of a sudden now they say they're going to accept the bill. Well, I'm glad to hear that. I'm glad to hear from the member for Hamilton Centre that he's going to be accepting the bill and voting for the bill, because clearly we have had a problem in this province. We've had the problem that a decentralized system simply hasn't worked. No one over here is denying -- you people say we're denying that we've had problems in our constituency offices. Of course we've had. We've had no choice but to change a system that didn't work.

We've explained all the problems. My goodness, as I repeat every time I stand up, 8,000 pieces of correspondence per day comes to the offices. You haven't been able to handle that. There have been 50,000 telephone calls per day, and only a small percentage, I think 6% of those, have you been able to answer. The process you created hasn't worked.

Yes, we've had to completely redo the system. Why? Because there was no way the decentralized system was going to work. You realized that. In fact, I'm amazed, as you over in the third party were in power and you chose during that time not to do anything about it. You started something in 1992. I think Mr Hampton, the leader of the third party, introduced a bill which made it universal. The universal process hasn't worked, and we're going to change that. A number of people in this system know they simply don't want to be part of the system, feel they can do it themselves, can agree. If anything, you've created more dissension among parties who are trying to resolve their matrimonial difficulties. We're going to solve all those problems.

Mr Bradley: I enjoyed the member's speech because it brought to the attention of the public of Ontario, through the television station that we're on, the many accurate facts about the problem that's before us today with family support. I'm glad we have this televised service, because they wouldn't learn about this in the Pelham newspaper -- a newspaper that has been in existence for some 20 years, a newspaper that's making money -- because Conrad Black bought the newspaper and now he's closing it down. We're not going to be able to read about things like this that affect this bill.

I was startled when I heard that it had been 49 days between the time the government introduced this bill and actually decided to proceed with the bill. Here I was, under the impression that the government was eager to get it passed, and indeed a lot of people want to see many of these provisions in place, and I found out that the government had waited 49 days.

I don't know if that was in the information that was provided to the Conservative caucus. I don't think it was. They got up and they were in a panic and they launched a counter-offensive, even though there had been problems in all their constituency offices and their own staff is overworked, the staff of the family support office is beside itself from the onerous responsibilities it has day after day. I have the sheets for today from my constituency office: seven pages, the majority family support problems being brought to my attention, because the government has botched this particular matter, all because it wants to have a tax cut and it wants to save money in one area. It closes some offices and of course tries to consolidate centrally and botches the whole thing.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I want to congratulate my colleague from Hamilton Centre for his remarks with regard to Bill 82, the family responsibility bill, and to point out that in his response to my colleague's comments, my friend from Dufferin-Peel still could not bring himself to admit that not only, as all of us concede, have there been long-standing problems with SCOE and then with the family support plan, but that those problems have been exacerbated and made worse by what this government has done over the summer and the fall.

The fact is that the government did not bring any measures forward for transition. They took the position that they had to centralize the operation. I debate that, but even if they take their position, they made no provision for a transition period. They just fired the people who knew how to do it, they didn't have the office in place, they left everything in boxes, and children and women who had been getting their support payments now found that they weren't, and fathers, mainly fathers, who were under court orders to pay and were paying and always had paid -- not people who had been in default, but people who had paid because they care about their kids and they were complying with the orders -- found that their money was going out but it wasn't getting to their kids and it was disappearing into that black hole at Downsview.

The suggestion has been made that this has been held up in this House. All I can say is that the government must have lost this bill in one of those boxes in Downsview, because it took them 49 days to bring it before the House.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I wish I could agree with my friend and colleague the member for St Catharines when he stands in this place and says he's glad that we have television of these proceedings, because in commenting on the speech by the member for Hamilton Centre, I would like to express one expression of remorse and perhaps guilt.

You see, I sat on the committee and I have a feeling the member for St Catharines sat on that Legislative Assembly committee with me in 1985 when we reviewed the option of introducing television cameras into this place. Frankly, other than the fact that, yes, it is a good communications tool, I often have thought that the level of debate in this chamber was not enhanced by the introduction of these five cameras in this chamber. I think we have just had that very fully demonstrated, because I happen to believe that the language used by the member for Hamilton Centre was unparliamentary and I don't think we'd have quite that demonstration and bravado if we didn't have the cameras in the chamber. I wish I could agree with the member for St Catharines about the cameras in the chamber. I also wish the member for Hamilton Centre would refrain from using unparliamentary language.

The Speaker: Response, the member for Hamilton Centre.

Mr Christopherson: Let me just say to the member for Mississauga South that I think it would be a lot more credible on her part if she were concerned about the thousands of women and children who have been hurt by the actions of her Attorney General rather than worrying about whether I said the word "hell" in my speech when I was trying to point out the fact that it's her Attorney General who did that.

I would also suggest to her that if she's not keen on the way cameras are being used in messaging, let's go back and look at some of the questions and the way you framed them around the film review board. Let's just remember some of the things that you said and the way you said them. So get off your high horse and get down to reality and deal with what's happening to these people, because that's what we're trying to do.

I want to thank the members for St Catharines and Algoma for their supportive comments -- very much appreciated.

As regards the comments of the member for Dufferin-Peel, unfortunately for him, this ever-popular member continues to add misinformation on top of misinformation. I said the first day we began discussing this that we would indeed be supporting this bill, so for him to stand up and say as his first comment that he's glad we finally decided we're going to support this -- I'm paraphrasing. The fact is that we had already made that very clear. You were obviously grasping for something and that's the best you could come up with, and you couldn't even come up with something that was accurate.

The fact is we've said all along that we would support this. We offered unanimous consent to support it during the 49 days, when you felt that passing VLT legislation was more important than dealing with Bill 82. So don't give us this pious nonsense that you care more about the women and children who are affected than we do. The reality is that you've made it worse for people and the fact of the matter is that you refuse to take responsibility. Shame on you.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): We just have one minute before this House adjourns. I want to say that while I support this bill in principle, I have some serious concerns about provisions of the bill. I will yield the floor now so that we can have the vote, but I'm looking forward to both committee and third reading on this bill to see if it has been fixed.

The Speaker: Any further debate?

Mr Harnick has moved second reading of Bill 82. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): The standing committee on the administration of justice.

The Speaker: Referred to the standing committee on justice.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I have the weekly business statement. Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of December 2.

On Monday, December 2, we plan to complete second reading of Bill 86 and third reading of Bill 57.

On Tuesday, December 3, we plan to complete committee of the whole House consideration of Bills 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68 and 69, and to complete third reading of Bill 81.

On Wednesday, December 4, we plan to complete both second and third readings of Bill 93 and second reading of Bill 84.

On Thursday, December 5, we plan to discharge the order of Bill 52 for third reading and refer the bill to committee of the whole House and will then consider the bill in committee of the whole House.

We also plan on Thursday, December 5, to complete third reading of Bills 61, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68 and 69 and to complete second and third readings of Bill 95 and, finally, to complete second reading of Bill 92.

I know this whole House shares my enthusiasm for that agenda.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Well, that certainly is an ambitious week. It now being after 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until Monday at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1802.