36th Parliament, 1st Session

l131 - Mon 2 Dec 1996 / Lun 2 Déc 1996
















































The House met at 1332.




Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I'm proud to be the first speaker in the House to congratulate Dalton McGuinty, our new Liberal leader. I have known Dalton for many years and we share riding boundaries in Ottawa. I'm confident we'll all find in him a strong and compassionate Liberal leader and a future Premier of Ontario.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I note that the Minister of Education has extended the consultation deadline for the high school reform to January 2, 1997. Even so, many of my constituents as well as parents across this province are still unhappy. They are unhappy with the process and the content of the consultations held by the ministry.

The high school reform initiative has incredible ramifications throughout the system and will affect the system for the next 10 years or so. Many parents of children currently in grade 7 are worried at the moment.

Parent Diane Van Abbe of Toronto wrote to me and she says:

"I am a mother of three children in elementary school. The oldest is in grade 7, a very vulnerable position" to be in at the moment. "If the proposed high school education reform takes place, he will be graduating with the children who are in grade 8 this year -- double the amount of high school graduates in one year! At a recent public forum meeting, the question was asked: `Have the universities/colleges been made aware of this fact? How are they preparing for this? What plan does the board of education have in place to deal with this problem?' The answer was `None.'"

Many parents and teachers are unhappy with the reduced classroom time for English, especially for high school students currently enrolled in ESL and wishing to go on to college or university. I share their disappointment as well.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): As an honorary patron of a community organization, Voices of Positive Women, I'm pleased today to rise in the House and make a statement with respect to World AIDS Day. December 1 is a day of celebration for people living with HIV/AIDS as well as a day of remembrance for those who have died in Canada and worldwide.

As of July 1996, UNAIDS estimated that there were over 22 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS with over five new infections each minute. In Canada over 14,000 AIDS cases had been reported to Health Canada's Laboratory Centre for Disease Control by September 1996, and when adjusted for reporting delay and underreporting, this number rises to over 20,000. This does not include those who are HIV positive and have not yet progressed to AIDS.

I want to urge the federal government to respond to the community's cry for renewal of the national AIDS strategy. Most people will know that the national AIDS strategy will run out -- phase 2 in March 1997 -- and there has been no commitment from the federal government to renew its funding to support for this important area of research and coordination with respect to this disease.

Certainly, under the circumstances of the expansion of this disease and the infection rates, we know it doesn't make sense that Canada will be abandoning its efforts to deal with HIV/AIDS. Our main hope for World AIDS Day is that the national AIDS strategy is renewed and I add my voice to join with the community to call for that.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): As you know, Bill 176, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to Slow Moving Vehicle Signs, came into effect yesterday on December 1. This act makes changes which, among others, will require vehicles that cannot maintain the speed of at least 40 kilometres an hour to use a slow-moving vehicle sign, including roadbuilding equipment, horse-drawn carriages and farm and antique vehicles.

People have been calling for these improvements for many years in order to increase the safety of those who travel Ontario roads.

Mrs Morgan has travelled from Brighton today to be present in the Legislature on the day these amendments to the Highway Traffic Act come into effect. She watches today, as a representative of some 20 years of dedication through the Ontario Farm Safety Association, dedication to better road safety laws in Ontario for all who travel here.

I would ask the honourable members today to carry this important message to their constituents: If you see the red and orange triangular sign which designates a slow-moving vehicle, please reduce your speed, stay well back, proceed with caution and pass only when it is safe to do so.

Having said this, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the commitment of Mrs Patricia Morgan, president of the Ontario Farm Safety Association. Please join me in welcoming Mrs Morgan here today.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the members of this House and the government for their unanimous support last Thursday of my private member's bill to protect Ontario school children riding school buses. I owe a debt of gratitude to the thousands of supporters of my bill in every community in the province who have lobbied the government on my behalf to get the tough measures contained in this bill implemented, as well as the Ontario School Bus Association, the Ontario police association, the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, and many, many school boards, municipalities and groups, all of whom raised public awareness of the problem.

Most particularly, I want to thank Larry and Colleen Marcuzzi for their selfless commitment to this cause. Their courage is an inspiration to us all.

The next hurdle is to have my bill scheduled for committee and brought back to this House for third reading and royal assent. I have already spoken with many of the organizations and individuals supporting my bill and they are poised and ready to begin the campaign to ensure that Bill 78 is passed quickly.

I look forward to working with the government and the minister, Mr Palladini, to accomplish this and improve child safety in Ontario.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Tomorrow, December 3, we celebrate International Day of Disabled Persons. Unfortunately, this will not be a day of celebration for disabled tenants across this province if the government's proposed Tenant Protection Act is passed. There are three areas of concern to tenants with disabilities.

First, the loss of rent control will mean huge shortages of accessible units. Without rent control, the few limited units that do exist will be in great demand and landlords know that where there is little supply exorbitant rents can be charged.

Second is the question of tenants living in care homes. The proposed tribunal to be set up to deal with landlord and tenant matters would be making decisions about the adequacy of tenant health care, and that is clearly not their area of expertise. If a disabled tenant lives in a care home and the landlord decides the tenant needs more services than the landlord can provide, that tenant can be evicted.

The third concern is that the proposals will make it possible for landlords or property owners to demolish care homes or convert these apartments to condominiums without municipal approval. What a blow to any tenant, let alone a disabled tenant. The tenant must now start to search for another apartment, one that will probably take him or her farther away from family, caregivers and support workers.

Without a doubt, the new Tenant Protection Act will surely compromise the rights of tenants with disabilities. It is an outright crime to subject disabled tenants to this type of anguish and indeed discrimination, and I urge the government to scrap their proposed legislation.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): The holiday season RIDE program began last weekend. This year, our police officers have a powerful new tool to help them. Now drivers' licences are automatically suspended for 90 days if a certified breathalyser test finds the driver's blood alcohol level to be over the legal limit. On November 29, the first day when administrative driver's licence suspension was in effect, 53 Ontario drivers received 90-day licence suspensions.

It already appears that ADLS is making people think twice before they drink and drive. In Metro Toronto only seven drivers received 90-day suspensions in the first three days of the RIDE program, compared with 21 drivers who were charged with impaired driving in the same three-day period last year.

While ADLS is an effective deterrent against impaired driving, it is just the beginning. I look forward to the passage of my private member's Bill 85, which will require education and treatment, lengthens licence suspensions and permanently revokes the licences of drivers who have repeatedly committed this crime. We still need tougher measures against the hard-core, repeat offenders who commit the majority of impaired driving offences.

I too welcome the new leader of the official opposition, Dalton McGuinty.



Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): On Thursday I was fortunate to be able to participate in an environment rally which was held outside the Minister of Environment's office. We were all dismayed to see that the Minister of Environment himself was not present and chose not to address the groups which arrived to tell the minister what we have been saying for some time, that this Conservative government is paying absolutely no heed to what the environmentalists in Ontario are saying about the changes they are making to the environment laws in Ontario.

As a member who comes from Windsor, I can tell you that it took a Liberal minister during a Liberal government to get scrubbers on the incinerator in Detroit on Zug Island. When you come from my part of Ontario, it is critical to see what kind of environment laws you need in the province of Ontario.

We are very disappointed that while everyone took their time during a busy schedule in the cold weather on Thursday to participate, to speak with the minister, the minister himself couldn't take the time to meet and speak with the people who are truly concerned. We must say too that while it was snowing and cold, he really should have taken the time to explain why he is changing the assessment rules, why he is changing it so that companies which really are the bad apples in that business are not going to be told to toe the line for the environment in Ontario.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): The Sudbury Health Services Restructuring Report is fundamentally flawed. It has neglected to take into account Sudbury's unique nature of health care. It will cripple Sudbury's ability to act as a health care referral centre and jeopardize both the quality of care and the range of services offered by Sudbury's hospital system.

The member for Sudbury East and I have made recommendations which we believe will enhance this report and subsequently help the constituents of the Sudbury region. I hope the Harris government has the common sense to heed our advice and pursue the changes that are needed to this report.

First, the new system the report provides is critically undersized and does not have the flexibility and capacity required to meet the real needs of Sudbury and northeastern Ontario. Secondly, the commission must come clean as to the number of staff layoffs expected. A labour adjustment plan must be clearly outlined to the employees. Once this is done, the numbers will show the devastating impact layoffs will have on patient care.

Furthermore, the report ignores the subject of community-based care, transitional care and home care. The implementation time line is too fast, too arbitrary and is arguably unworkable. Finally, the operational savings must be reinvested into Sudbury's community.

The current recommendations combined with the absence of leadership from the minister have created a crisis of confidence in the future of hospital care in Sudbury.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): Members of this House know that yesterday was World AIDS Day. I am pleased to be able to reiterate this government's and the Ministry of Health's five-part plan to combat HIV and AIDS.

First, we have announced a reinvestment of $2 million to begin an HIV viral load testing program which has already begun and will be fully operational by the new year.

Second, between June 1995 and July 1996, we spent more than $11 million to provide HIV and AIDS patients with important AIDS drugs. This is approximately $5 million more than the previous year.

Third, we have taken steps to reduce the amount of paperwork that doctors had to complete, to give people easier access to promising new AIDS-related drugs by placing them on the facilitated access list. The slashing of red tape and paperwork ensures that these drugs are more readily available to the people who need them most.

Fourth, we have maintained funding for community-based AIDS programs. This allows communities to operate programs that meet their needs, such as counselling and education.

Finally, we have asked the federal Minister of Health to extend the national AIDS strategy. This plan demonstrates this government's commitment to people living with HIV and AIDS.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House that Mr Dalton J.P. McGuinty, member for the electoral district of Ottawa South, is recognized as leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I wonder if we might have unanimous consent to say a few words about the new leader. He doesn't have a pension any more, but he got a --

The Speaker: The Premier seeks unanimous consent. Agreed? Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: I do want to take the opportunity to say a few words of congratulations to the member for Ottawa South. It was with a great deal of interest for those of us who have been through this experience not just to watch the weekend but to reflect upon, in many cases, years and months of campaigning and of travelling the province and, as you get closer, long months and long days and long hours. I can say this, that I don't think the late bedtime phased any of the honourable candidates for leader and I think it showed, and my congratulations for that.

I want to congratulate particularly all the members of the Liberal Party who put their names forward as candidates this past weekend. I know that having spent these past months on the hustings, you'll have many cherished memories, all of you. You'll have renewed insight, I believe, into this great province of Ontario. You will have found many solutions to the problems, more so than there can possibly be. I know that from travelling the province myself. Particularly during leadership and particularly in opposition there are lots of ideas out there, but there are a lot of great people in this province of Ontario and you've had the opportunity to meet them.

To the honourable member for Ottawa South, you've been charged with an important responsibility. There will be some emotional debate, there will be demands from the Chair to come to order, it may seem as if questions you ask have no definitive answer, but then when your caucus meeting is finally over, you will have to come to question period and to the Legislature. I say that because I've been there. I've been there in opposition and I've been there in government.

I was interested to learn that you are the first leader of the Liberal Party to come from eastern Ontario since George Perry Graham in 1907. Mr Graham served for only nine months as leader back then because he left Ontario politics to take a position in the cabinet of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. I'm not sure of the significance of that precedent. I'm going to leave it to others to draw their own conclusions.

But in all seriousness to the Legislature, I want to say, Leader, that we have served together in this place for six years. We've come to know you as someone who has a strong commitment to your family -- and I offer my congratulations today to your family -- that you have a wide range of interests, both political and personal, a popular profile and commitment to the people you represent in Ottawa South and now the challenge, of course, to take that across the province.


I was interested to read in the Star this morning about how the availability of preprinted lawn signs was an important factor in seeking this office in the first place and the decision to follow in the footsteps of your late father as the MPP for Ottawa South. I might say to you, as the younger half of a successful father-son combination, you set a good example for my son Mike Jr who, I have to tell you, on many occasions thinks the name is a drawback. Not every day in the school grounds has he thought this was a positive thing.

I want to say directly to you that, having been elected leader of my party just a very short six years ago, I understand the challenges you're going to be facing today. Your expectations are limitless, the demands on your time are endless, your office is phoneless, and you will find quite a significant change. You will need your family to help you with that change; you will need your friends to help you with that change. There will be some difficult adjustments. You and your family will face many challenges; some will be very exciting, some will be very difficult as you all adjust now to a different way of living.

I say to all members of the House, and the leader of the New Democratic Party I'm sure is beginning to understand this, that it is different and it does change. It's especially true, I would say, representing a riding that is not within the same commute distance from Queen's Park as many members of the House have. That adjustment is even more difficult as well for a family.

I want to say that I look forward to what I know will be many lively exchanges in this Legislature. I think that conflict of ideas and of competing visions for the direction of our province are what bring the vitality, the vibrancy to the political process in our parliamentary democracy that we cherish and that I believe this great province is very fortunate to enjoy. Congratulations and welcome to you on this, your very first day in the Legislature as Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I would also like to congratulate the member for Ottawa South on his election as leader of the Liberal Party and the official opposition. I can say that the member for Ottawa South and I have something in common: We went to the same law school. He predated me by a couple of years. I know he and I share many of the same friends in the Ottawa legal community. Unfortunately, too many of them are Liberals. But we'll have our chance to talk about that and I'm sure even argue about it.

I knew his father. I, in fact, had the privilege of serving on committee with his father when I was first elected to this House. His father brought a delightful sense of humour to everything we did in this House. I would say to you that you will need some of your father's sense of humour in the weeks and months to come.

Like many of you, I stayed up very late Saturday night watching for the results on television. I can say to you I've never watched so much Hockey Night in Canada in my life. It wasn't until 2:30 that I couldn't make it any more, so I already appreciate your stamina and your capacity to work.

I want to wish you good fortune with your caucus. You will have work to do there. I also wish you good fortune in getting some answers from the government when we do come to question period. I would say to you that I know that all of the Irish of the Ottawa Valley have been celebrating not just Saturday night but are probably still celebrating, knowing something about that community and all the towns of the Ottawa Valley, which I'm sure are all very proud of you. I've had a few telephone calls from friends of mine in Ottawa who tell me that everyone is happy and everyone there congratulates you.

I think it's important for our democratic institutions to go through the kind of process you have gone through. I know from talking with your caucus colleagues that this has been a long, hard march and that you have earned your position after much long, hard work.

I look forward to our relationship both here in the Legislature and on the hustings. I'm sure it's going to prove to be a very interesting one. Congratulations.

The Speaker: The leader of the official opposition.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I want to thank the Premier and the leader of the third party for their kind remarks. I'll cherish them especially because I assume they'll be the last until the date of my retirement.

We had a very exciting convention, as every one of you will have heard by now. It took us into the wee hours, the late hours of the morning, 5:30, 6 o'clock, until the final results were announced. I want to advise members who did not have the opportunity to see it on TV that it's out on video. The abridged version is available in a 15-volume set. If you can believe it, we've got films of the caucus doing the macarena. You may have seen my macarena. It's sort of like Al Gore's but not quite as colourful.

I want to take the opportunity to thank all the candidates who participated in the race. They have all been strengthened in their capacity as public representatives. The Premier made reference to this, but one of the things the race does is that it requires you to vacate Queen's Park. From time to time, of course, we get caught up in everything that goes on in here, and there's no doubt that what we do here is important public business, but sometimes there's a marked difference between that and what's important, what's on the minds of people at their doorstep and when you get to meet them in cafeterias, in church basements and wherever we could pull a group of people together to speak with them. It's an invigorating experience to get out there and get plugged into what people are thinking and bring that back with us, and I think we're all better armed and better able to deal with the issues we address in here.

Politics for me remains an honourable profession, and reference was made to my father, who sat here between 1987 and 1990. I grew up as one of 10 children at home, but one of the things he used to impress upon all of us was that we had an obligation, that it wasn't good enough simply to get up in the morning, go to work and pay taxes, that if the opportunity should ever present itself, even if the opportunity did not present itself, "Find an avenue, find an outlet to serve your community."

I am delighted to have the privilege of serving the greater community of Ontario and I'm honoured to have the support of all my caucus members. I'm excited about the future. I'm especially proud to serve as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, a party with a long and distinguished tradition in our province. I look forward to engaging you, Mr Premier, and your colleagues in debate during the course of this session and I look forward, of course, to forming the government in 1999.

I want just for one moment to say hello to some of the members of my family sitting in the gallery -- there are only 28 members of my immediate family here today -- who have been there for me throughout this undertaking. I have relied on them for advice, inspiration and support, and without them I simply could not have done it.


Mr McGuinty: Thank you very much.

The Speaker: Just as an anecdote, I was out Saturday as well and I knew it was going late because I phoned home and my son answered the phone. I said, "Run downstairs and tell me who's winning the Liberal leadership convention." He came back and said, "Vancouver." I said I'd never heard of him, but "Good luck."




Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. Child poverty is a big problem in Ontario, and you and your government are doing nothing about it. Compared to other provinces, we have the greatest number of children living in poverty, a staggering 350,000. In 1996 over 70,000 kids in Metro alone used the food bank, and sadly the number of children growing up in shelters instead of their own homes has grown dramatically.

The big difference between you and me is that I believe we have a responsibility to deal with child poverty. I'm committed to doing just that. You've been in government for 17 long months and your policies have only made it worse. Premier, when are you going to do something of substance to help Ontario's kids?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I appreciate the question. I know, as do our caucus, our party and our cabinet as well the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, that we have joined forces with the other first ministers from across the country to deal with the whole issue of children: children's hopes and dreams and aspirations within this great country of Canada.

I might add and give credit to the premiers of British Columbia and Saskatchewan, who brought it to our meetings, enthusiastically endorsed by all the premiers and now working in conjunction with the federal government in a coordinated way. Minister Pettigrew from the federal government I think received plaudits from the other provinces to deal with the situation where clearly not all are sharing in what are the beginnings of recovery in this province and the country.

Mr McGuinty: I didn't get any answer in that question at all, nothing there that would lend any comfort to kids in Ontario.

Let me tell you what it means to grow up poor in Ontario. It means you're more likely to do poorly in school, it means you're more likely to have behaviour problems, it means you're more likely to get into trouble with the law, it means you're more likely to need social assistance and it means you're more likely to need health care services.

One in five kids in Ontario lives in poverty, and your policies have only made it worse: your policy to cut social assistance, a program that almost one half-million Ontario kids rely on; you've got a policy to cut junior kindergarten; you've cut funding to children's aid; and you've cut women's shelters as well. The mess you've created with the family support plan and the threat you've made against child care workers are also hurting kids. Your actions in government are hurting kids.

Premier, when will you start making a real investment in Ontario's children?

Hon Mr Harris: The reason I sought the leadership of this party and developed the Common Sense Revolution campaign in this province and our whole raison d'être is for my children and for their generation, that they can have similar opportunities to ours or better ones than we had. Unfortunately, after 10 years of your party and the NDP, my children and their generation were looking forward to a legacy of debt.

What have we done? We are reducing that deficit, taking that burden off them. In addition to balancing the books, getting our affairs in order, taking that burden, specific proposals are new funding for nutrition programs in elementary schools; enhanced child care support, $200 million over five years, bringing funding for child care to the highest level in our province's history, significantly higher than any other province on a per capita basis; funding for immunization of school children; expansion of early intervention services, $10 million annually for expectant mothers and families with children under six to help implement wellness strategies that target at-risk population; expansion of a leading-edge computer technology, $40 million; $59 million with Ontario summer jobs --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Mr McGuinty: That sounds more like bureaucratic tinkering than real action on behalf of Ontario's kids. Maybe the problem is this: You know, the damnedest thing about kids is they can't get their act together. They don't organize busloads to march on Queen's Park, they don't write us as MPPs, they don't telephone us. What that means is that we have a very special responsibility as members of this House to represent those concerns.

I don't feel, and anybody who knows anything about kids in this province doesn't feel, that your government is properly representing the interests of children here. Ontario kids are counting on us to make their lives better. I'm going to be a voice for them. I'm going to propose programs that will make a difference. Premier, when are you going to do that?

Hon Mr Harris: Before I was cut off, I listed about 12, and they're there. Let me say that I welcome an added voice, in addition to my own and our cabinet and our caucus and our colleagues, for children.

What have been the results of some of the programs so far? The results have been that children in Ontario are the best off anywhere they are in the entire country. We have more child care dollars and more child care spaces per capita than any other jurisdiction in the country.

Between December 1989 and December 1994, we had a 121% increase in the number of families with children on social assistance under the NDP. Since December 1994, our policies have led to an 11% decline in the number of families with children on social assistance in this province.

So the policies are there, they are working, children are better off. But I have to tell you, there is more that we need yet to do. It's why the first ministers have set the priorities they have; it's why we've instructed our minister; it's why we're in politics, and now we are happy to have another voice from the Liberal Party to help us.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is also for the Premier. I believe that of all the things that government can do for people to prepare them for the future, the most important is to provide them with the best possible education. Not only does education allow people to make a success of themselves, it allows our province as a whole to succeed. You and I both know that in a global economy, the best jobs and the best quality of life depend on a world-class education. At a time when we should be investing in our future through education, you've cut junior kindergarten, you've increased class sizes, you've forced more students into portables and you've increased tuition fees.

Premier, would you not agree that the quality of our future depends on the quality of the education we offer our people in this province?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Minister of Education agrees and I'm sure he'd be glad to answer.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Yes, I'm very pleased to address that question by the Leader of the Opposition. In fact, as the member probably knows and as I've said in this chamber before, we have found ourselves with an education system where our students, our young people in Ontario, are not performing as well in international standards, international tests, as their peers in other countries and other provinces. We are moving now very quickly to change our education system, to improve it, to set higher standards for our students, to have a more rigorous curriculum for our students, to test better for our students.

We are also looking at the legacy of the last decade, where we have in those 10 years put 8,000 additional portables in our school system across the province. I find that deplorable. I find the state of our education system when we took office to be deplorable. We are making those improvements. We are making them for the benefit of the students of this province.


Mr McGuinty: Nobody here is indicating that education is perfect in Ontario, but I think the very last thing that you would do is take money out of it. We need every cent in there spent in the most effective way possible. The last thing you'd do is take money out of it.

One of the big differences between we Liberals over here and you Tories over there is that we see education as an investment in our future; you see it purely as an expense. You talk about making education a priority, but our students, teachers and parents all know that the only time education is a priority for this Conservative government is when you're looking for more money to cut.

Post-secondary education is a good example. Thanks to your cuts, Ontario now ranks 10th out of 10 in per-student funding. We are last, and that doesn't bode well for our future. When it comes to other things this government does, you like to cite your spending in relation to the national average. Minister, why is it, when it comes to post-secondary education, we have to settle for last place?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I thank the honourable member for the question, because I think if I can point out to him the difference between this party and his party, it's very simple. When we look to the future of children in this province, we look at their whole future.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Members of the official opposition, it's difficult when you're all heckling.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Yes, I want to hear John again.


The Speaker: Apparently you're not that hoarse; I can hear a few comments.

Hon Mr Snobelen: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank you because I believe this is an important distinction. It's not just partisan politics, it's an important distinction, because we look at the whole future for the young people of this province, and that means having the opportunity for a decent job and a career and to raise a family in this province. That means not saddling them with the kind of high debt your government has or the high spending your government has. It means leaving them with some investment in this province and a chance for a real job, and that's a task we're taking on, preparing the future for those young people. I take that task very seriously.

Mr McGuinty: Talking about borrowing money, it's going to cost taxpayers in this province a total of $12 billion to fund this tax cut. You could do one heck of a lot in education with $12 billion.

I believe our children need an education that will enable them not only to survive but to thrive in the 21st century, to secure the best jobs and meet the demands of responsible citizenship. For me, that starts with junior kindergarten. One of the first decisions you made was to cut funding to early childhood education, to take away the tools which allowed our kids to get a jump-start on learning. Minister, will you today admit that your decision to cut junior kindergarten was wrong and shortsighted? Will you restore funding to junior kindergarten?

Hon Mr Snobelen: No. Having spent the last year and a half or so looking at not only the education system in Ontario but education systems around the world, I can tell you this: What has happened to the education system in Ontario is a lack of standards, and we are restoring standards to the education system.

What has happened is that we have spent money outside of the classroom that should be directed at the classroom to make a difference in young people's lives. We are correcting that, because we believe a more affordable system, a more accountable system and a higher quality system is an absolute imperative for this government. We are moving forward quickly on that front.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Finance. Last week, the Minister of Finance let the people of Ontario down. He told them about the government's phoney tax scheme, but he refused to tell people across Ontario where the $3 billion in cuts will come from to pay for his tax scheme. People across this province know that the $3 billion in further cuts will hurt health care, education, colleges, universities and municipalities, and they also know it will cost thousands of further jobs lost. Can the Minister of Finance tell us now where the $3 billion in cuts will come from, and can he guarantee that he will not be offloading responsibility for important services like health care and social services on to the municipal tax base? Can he guarantee that?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The leader of the third party knows full well -- he was in committee for the better part of an hour, until he decided to go to a scrum --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Oh, Jeez.

Hon Mr Eves: It's true. Gilles was there. Excuse me.

As I explained to the honourable member on Thursday, when the government is in a position to announce its restructuring exercise, it will do so, but it's not going to do so in a thoughtless and careless manner. Municipalities and hospitals were told on November 29, 1995, what funding levels for the fiscal year 1997-98 would be. That is a full 15 months or more before those fiscal years started. I appreciate that you may not be able to understand that, because your government never did that. As a matter of fact, in 1994 your Treasurer informed municipalities --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Minister of Finance, come to order, please. Supplementary.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Minister, allow me to continue the same line of questioning on your fiscal plan. Last week when you released your so-called economic statement, you exuded confidence, and yet at the marketplace, once you step out of here, out of the media room, you don't find the same confidence among shoppers, among Ontarians.

I would like to turn your attention to last week's Report on Business. It says, "Where have all the shoppers gone?" Keep in mind that demographics are two thirds of everything. This is what Mike McCracken of Informetrica says: "I would love to be an optimist. But we won't get the real growth in disposable income to sustain any kind of consumer strength in the coming years."

You have to snap out of it. You're about to release tax cuts on the people of Ontario, and yet job cuts and $3 billion in expenditure cuts --

The Speaker: Thank you, member.

Hon Mr Eves: Consumer confidence is up 19.2% in the province of Ontario in this calendar year. Those are the Conference Board of Canada's figures. New housing starts are up in excess of 21%. House sales are up 24%. There are 127,000 net new jobs created since July 1, 1995. I know you find that difficult to believe, representing a party whose legacy to employment was a loss of 10,000 jobs in the five years you were there, but 127,000 net new jobs have been created in Ontario in the last 16 months.

Mr Pouliot: Save me your political spin. Numero uno, bankruptcies are at an all-time high. Credit cards, plastico: all-time high. Job rate among young people: 15.5% unemployment. This is what the bond rating agencies, the people who grade those people -- and the only reason Ontario was not downgraded is because of his zeal to cut yet more jobs and more into the economy. This is what they're telling you: If you're off a single one percentage point in your projection, you will have to raise another $2.8 billion. That's $3 billion that you have yet to announce --

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): You're off several points.

Mr Pouliot: -- plus $2.8 billion on top of the $7 billion that's already been announced. This government, this minister will have us in the poorhouse in no time. When are you going to come clean?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Listen to who's talking. Wow.

Mr Pouliot: When are you going to come clean and tell us about the real projection for the province of Ontario? Tell us, Minister.


The Speaker: I ask the government members to come to order, please. It's very difficult to hear the question. Have you finished putting the question? Yes, you have. Minister.

Hon Mr Eves: He is referring, of course, with respect to the projections of DBRS, and they're quite accurate as far as they go, but they say, "If the province of Ontario's forecast was out by 1% a year for four consecutive years, there would be a necessity to find another $2.8 billion." He's quite correct, but he also knows that in this fiscal year that we're currently in, our projections were 1.9 real GDP growth. We're now saying it's going to be 2.3, and most private forecasters are well ahead of that. What he's not saying is the other side of the coin. If we underestimate how the economy performs by 1% a year for four consecutive years we will have a $2.8-billion surplus, or we will balance the books of the province one year ahead of time. Heaven forbid that should happen in Ontario.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question is for the Minister of Health. We've heard from sources inside your government that you are contemplating moving the responsibility for community health services to municipalities. I asked you this question last week and you did not deny it.

You know that community health centres represent $103 million worth of health care expenditure. They provide care in many communities across this province. They provide integrated care to the populations they serve, allowing people to see the appropriate health care professional at the appropriate time, saving money and providing complete health care services to the populations they serve.

Minister, last week you would not deny this $103-million shift of community health centres to municipalities. Are you still contemplating pushing the important health care work of community health services on to the property tax base in municipalities?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): My answer to the honourable member is the same as when he asked the question last week: that in the Who Does What discussions which are taking place across all ministries the government, along with municipal partners and others who are helping out, is trying to figure out exactly how we can get rid of duplication, waste and overlap in the system and drive every dollar towards, in this case, direct patient care.

I say to the honourable member that community health centres will continue to be an important part of the primary care health care system in Ontario, and that would be regardless of where all their funding would come from. At the end of the day, I can assure you, they are an important part of the health care system today and will continue to be that way.

Mr Hampton: There's an issue here. These community health centres, which provide some of the most efficient care in the province and cost the province $103 million, are very worried about any plan to transfer them to the municipal tax base, because you know, as you go around cutting hospital services, that puts more and more pressure on community services. Those community services have to pick up more and more of the patient load. If you're going to put community health centres on to the property tax base, you know what's going to happen.

There isn't enough strength in the municipal property tax base to fund the pressure you're pushing off on community health centres. This will be a very dangerous offloading indeed. The association of community health centres wants to know: Will you guarantee that they will be maintained as an important provincial health care service and that they will not be pushed off to the limited municipal tax base?

Hon Mr Wilson: This government doesn't need any lectures about the importance of community-based care. This government just a few months ago made the largest single investment in modern history in health care in Ontario: $170 million into community-based care, creating some 4,400 new jobs for nurses and front-line providers; and expanding those services, creating access to those services to between 80,000 and 100,000 more seniors and disabled and children who need the community-based services.

I repeat my answer to the previous question and my answer of last week: Community health centres will continue to be an important part of health care in Ontario. They will continue to be part of a comprehensive health care delivery system. Because the direction we're going in is the same direction as nurses and doctors and other providers, a fully integrated health care system, at the end of the day community health centres will be part of that new and fully integrated health care system, which is the vision of the government and the vision of health care for this province.

Mr Hampton: This is what community health centres find so frustrating. You told them and the public that in a move towards integrated health care, you would have some pilots up and running involving community health centres in providing that overall integrated health care.

I'll tell you what they're really worried about: that this is how you're going to cut health care, that you're going to push the dirty work off on to municipalities, and they'll have to either increase their municipal taxes significantly or watch those important health care services start to wither. That's why they want the guarantee. If you're about true health care change and not about health care cuts, you can't put this on the municipal tax base. Give them that guarantee.

Hon Mr Wilson: I think the honourable member is splitting hairs here. At the end of the day, I think we can agree there's one taxpayer. Frankly, what they want to see is the best use of their dollar, and they want to see that dollar not go towards administration and more government, which was what you were all about. In the five years you were in office and in the five years the Liberals were in office, this place and its bureaucracy grew beyond anyone's wildest imagination, totally out of control.

We will not retreat from our determination to delayer the system, to get rid of the red tape, to get rid of the waste, to get rid of the duplication and give those single taxpayers the best value for their dollar, and that includes the health care dollar, that we can humanly muster on this side of the House. That's our commitment to the people of Ontario. As I've said, we are moving towards a fully integrated health care delivery system, and the government today reiterates its commitment to at least spending $17.4 billion in health care in this province.

I really can't answer the honourable member's question better than that.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd ask the leader of the official opposition and member for Algoma to come to order please.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is for the Minister of Finance and it has to do with last week's financial statement. I remember that a year ago, in your fiscal and economic statement, which was exactly a year ago, you gave quite a lecture to what you called the transfer partners about the need for them to plan better, to get at their core businesses, to function more efficiently and all those sorts of things. It was an interesting lecture.

But part of it was that you said: "For the transfer partners to plan effectively, they must know, as early as possible, the funding. That is why the government is announcing the plans for the transfers." So last year you said: "Plan effectively. We will tell you your transfers." Now we've found out that contrary to what you had told us, you don't know what the transfers are going to be for colleges, universities, school boards. Last year you said that to plan effectively you would give them the transfers. Are you now saying that because you cannot give them the transfers they will now not be able to plan effectively?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): No, I am not saying that at all. The honourable member for Scarborough-Agincourt knows full well. He heard the question the leader of the third party asked today and in committee, as indeed he did himself last Thursday. Municipalities and hospitals knew 15 months ago roughly what the transfers would be.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): But there are more cuts coming.

Hon Mr Eves: That is simply not true, I say to the honourable member. For hospitals and municipalities, the transfer levels were announced on November 29, 1995. With respect to boards of education, colleges and universities, as I told the honourable member and other honourable members on Thursday afternoon in finance committee, as soon as the Minister of Education is able to make recommendations following the submission of the Crombie report, which will be done early this month, and after we have the report in about colleges and universities, which is scheduled to be in on December 15 or shortly thereafter, the minister of colleges and universities and education will be able to provide those details as well.


Mr Phillips: The fact is, you can't get your act together. It's getting embarrassing. You promised these transfers. There are colleges, school boards, universities.

I will say to the minister also that I see on your economic numbers that now, six months after the budget, your projections for retail sales are lower for 1996 and 1997 than in your budget. Your projection for housing starts for 1997 is lower now, six months later, than it was in the budget. Your projection for growth in personal income is lower than it was in your budget six months ago. Your projection for corporate profit is lower than it was six months ago. The four key economic indicators -- personal income growth, growth in retail sales, housing and corporate profits -- are all lower than six months ago. Can the Minister of Finance explain why you have had to downgrade all four of those in the last six months in this economic report?

Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member knows full well, if he reads the entire statement and all the background information, that we will exceed our target of an $8.2-billion deficit this year, just as we exceeded it by $582 million last year. He will also know that housing starts are up 21%, consumer confidence is up 19.2%. I'd be more than happy to have this discussion with the honourable member at the conclusion of this fiscal year, and I'd be happy to compare the results of any forecast. Our numbers have always been cautious, prudent numbers. Unlike previous administrations, we do not predict that the economy will grow by some exorbitant rate to make our figures look good. They are very --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Finance, just come to order for a minute. Members of the opposition, Minister of Finance.


The Speaker: Minister of Finance, when I'm standing in my place, there's got to be no one else standing. I would caution you to come to order. I will say to the opposition, it's difficult to hear the answer. Particularly today, there are some cantankerous responses coming from this side. Please, please, keep it down. I want to hear the members.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services and it's with respect to child care and her report on the child care system in the province of Ontario. In your proposed directions, you set out that physical plant requirements that you say are unnecessary and too costly should be limited, and you use this example. You say, "These include compulsory provision of windows larger than current building code specifications."

The Day Nurseries Act regulations state that every operator of a day nursery shall ensure that the window glass area in each play activity room of each day nursery that is operated by an operator and has a program that runs for six hours or more contains an area that is at least equivalent to 10% of the floor area of the play activity room.

What is it about 10% natural daylight for toddlers and preschoolers that has you so bothered that you want to eliminate that regulation?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Thank you to the honourable member for the question. We raised the issue in the child care report that there were some building code specifications, some items in the requirements put on day care centres that we were told perhaps added additional costs and may not contribute to quality. We felt it was worthwhile exploring that suggestion, since people from the child care field seemed to think that it might be of assistance, so we are exploring that recommendation. As the honourable member knows, we are continuing to consult and I look forward to getting the information that I'm sure she will have for me as well before we make final decisions about how to improve the child care system.

Ms Lankin: The only people who have said that windows for kids are an unnecessary regulation are the commercial for-profit operators, and that's who the minister seems to be listening to. Let me give you another example of what you cite as an unnecessary and costly provision: "overly restrictive requirements for fencing playground areas." That's from your report.

The Day Nurseries Act regulation: "Every operator of a day nursery shall ensure that each playground and each day nursery operated by an operator used by children under six years of age is fenced to a minimum height of 1.2 metres and the fence is furnished with one or more gates that are securely closed at all times."

As I travelled the province in urban centres, I heard about the need for fences to stop kids from bolting out into busy streets, from keeping ill-intentioned strangers out of the play yards, to prevent child abduction in custody and abuse cases. In northern rural Ontario, I was in a community at a centre where they regularly have cougar alerts and bear alerts.

Fences seem pretty necessary. What is it about fences for our preschoolers and toddlers that has you so bothered that you want to eliminate that regulation?

Hon Mrs Ecker: The honourable member knows we are not talking about eliminating necessary fences around child care centres. Of course we need fences around child care centres, and she well knows that.

What we are talking about is looking at options that may actually help us improve this child care system. We've got parents out there who say they want child care and they can't afford it. I think this government should pay attention to what those parents are saying so that we can give them the supports they need, instead of being so hung up on everything having to be the status quo. Whenever we talk about trying to change, they stand up and say, "My goodness, we can't change anything," at the same time as those same people are saying that more parents need more choices and more quality care. That's what this government is interested in. And as for consultation, our government let in groups to consult with on child care that their government, when they were there, refused to speak to.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. In my riding of Durham East, there are many knowledgeable professional and volunteer organizations, like SAGA, STORM and private sector firms, that want a role in sound environmental decision-making. I would like to ask you today what roles you see for private sector and public sector involvement in environmental protection in Ontario's future.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): My ministry is looking for new ways to forge ahead in environmental protection not only by regulating as we have in the past, not only by the command and control approach of the past, but by looking for new partnerships with private industry, with private industry groups and with non-profit groups as well.

We, the Ministry of Environment, are not the only body that's responsible for the environment. Everybody in Ontario is responsible for the environment. In essence, what our government is doing is that we're going to look for new ways because the old ways haven't worked; we're looking for new partnerships to deal with old problems.

Mr O'Toole: When you were speaking of various non-profit and private sector initiatives, what types of ideas and approaches are you seeing and which industry groups are bringing these suggestions forward?

Hon Mr Sterling: Many industries are developing environmental codes of practice which help the individual businesses manage their environmental waste and emissions. Other groups are joining together to attack waste problems. For instance, the household battery association, representing manufacturers of batteries, has submitted a proposal for an industry-led recycling project. Another group is the photo-finishing industry, which has forged ahead in recycling a lot of the silver waste from their processing chemicals. Recently, I challenged the Recycling Council of Ontario for other major industry groups to come forward with other ideas. Other provinces have been able to forge new alliances, have tried new ideas which have worked in the past, and we're willing to accept any new idea which will improve our environment.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. You may recall that last week when you were asked a question by my colleague related to the Development Charges Act changes you indicated that if Mississauga was prepared to put a freeze on development, the people in Brampton and Vaughan and York and Durham would be quite happy to hear about that. Well, we've since learned that in effect those municipalities are intending to freeze development as well. Basically, they're saying that if there are any changes in the act, their taxes may go up by as much as 25%.

What we would like to know is why you would go against the recommendation of your own Who Does What committee when it suggested in writing to you that "the development charges are a critical and essential municipal revenue source to finance growth-related capital infrastructure and any amendments to the act to reduce the scope or permitted level of development charges will mean higher municipal taxes or user fees."

Minister, why are you in favour of higher local real estate taxes?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): To the member opposite, what we are in favour of is affordable housing. We don't like to see the municipalities put high charges on new home buyers, young families who are trying to buy their first home who have to pay $20,000 on a $160,000 house as a head tax. We brought in a bill to bring some fairness and equity to the Development Charges Act. It gives the municipalities the opportunity to have growth pay for growth, but in a reasonable and fair method.


Mr Gerretsen: You know as well as I do that no non-profit or housing that is relatively cheap to accommodate people is going to be subjected to a $40,000 kind of charge under the existing act. No municipality is going to allow that to happen.

Why are you not simply allowing municipalities to do what they're elected to do? You've always talked about an equal partnership with municipalities. Let the municipalities decide what kind of services they want to have subject to the development charges. Why don't you allow them to simply make up their own mind whether or not they want any development charges in their municipality, and how much they're going to be and for what kind of services they are going to be?

Hon Mr Leach: I think development charges are discretionary and a municipality can either charge them or doesn't have to charge them. Many municipalities are not charging the amount they are allowed to do now.

We want to bring in a system that is fair. I know that all the development within the community is paid for by that, that the works that are done outside serve all members of the community -- like recreation centres, like the widening of an arterial road. I don't think it is unfair at all to see the general tax base pay for 10% of a road that everybody in the community is going to use.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Why don't you limit the amount developers can charge for houses.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Essex South, will you come to order, please. New question.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Attorney General. Over the weekend we read reports about your family support plan blitz up at Downsview, trying to empty those boxes out and get them filed away and processed before Christmas.

Last week in this House I raised the case with you of Susan Wilkins. It took over a week to find her file in those boxes up at Downsview, and when they did find it they found the court order that had been registered with the family support plan on August 2 sitting there in that file. It had not been acted on for five months.

That file sat, like thousands of others, in those boxes because you laid off 290 staff and closed the regional offices without having a replacement system up and running. For months you've been defending yourself and saying that everything is fine and is on track. If that is true, then how do you explain to Susan Wilkins and her three children that they have not received one cent from family support?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): There have been people who haven't been receiving money from the family support plan from the days their orders have been registered with the plan because there has been an inability for many years to make collection on a lot of those orders. We, through Bill 82, are developing a better plan to in fact make enforcement more effective and to be able to collect some of the money that accrues on the basis of arrears of $100 million a year. I can tell you that in the month of November almost $34 million was disbursed to 110,104 recipients.

Ms Lankin: You can't collect money if you don't file the garnish order with employers. It sat in that file for five months. You took no action. It's got nothing to do with an ex-spouse's refusing to pay, nothing to do with an employer who's refusing to cooperate. It sat in your files, in boxes, at Downsview for five months with no action. Take some responsibility.

Susan Wilkins has a support order for $1,300 a month. She is owed $7,800 now. She's not going to get a cent, according to family support plan, who's just filed the garnish order with the employer last week, until February. By then she'll be out over $10,000. Minister, it's four weeks before Christmas. Susan and her three children do not have that $7,800. It is your fault. Would you give us a commitment today that your government will advance Susan and her three kids the $7,800 before Christmas so that they can have a merry Christmas, like your family will?

Hon Mr Harnick: The member knows that of people who receive money from the family support plan, only 23% of orders, at a maximum, have ever been in full compliance. The number of people who get nothing from the family support plan, even though they have an order that's been registered with the plan, is over 50%.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): You don't even file them, so why bother?

Ms Lankin: You didn't file this one. It is your fault.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. The members for London Centre, Algoma and Beaches-Woodbine, please come to order and allow the minister --

Ms Lankin: You didn't file it.

The Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine, allow the minister to respond.

Hon Mr Harnick: With the new bill that has received second reading, we will now be able to start to do a much better job than we've ever been able to do before dealing with the issues of enforcement. As soon as that bill receives third reading, we can implement driver's licence suspensions; we can implement better collection procedures, referring issues and notifying credit bureaus; getting at people who shelter. Once that becomes law, those tools will then be available to the family support plan.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): My question is for my colleague the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. As you are aware, my riding of York East is home to a great number of filmmakers. In fact, I suspect that we have more filmmakers per capita in my riding than we have in any jurisdiction in North America outside Hollywood.

Last week, following the presentation of the Genie awards, for reasons that I can't explain, my good friend the member for Port Arthur stood in this place and criticized our government for its policies regarding the film industry in Ontario. Minister, I wonder if you can set the record straight and explain for this House what your ministry is doing to support the film industry in Ontario.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): To the member for York East, first of all I'd like to start off by congratulating all of the award winners of last week's Genie awards and particularly to recognize the solid representation of Ontario's film industry. I think this is a strong statement of the quality and the vitality of the province's film industry.

I'd just like to point out that the government continues to support the industry through the Ontario film and television tax credit, and it's anticipated that this credit will inject about $15 million into the Ontario film and television production community in its first year.

Mr Parker: Minister, I wonder, by way of supplementary, if I could ask you to explain to my good friends opposite what the response of the film industry has been to your initiatives.

Hon Ms Mushinski: To quote the Globe and Mail of November 7, reporting on the latest figures, it stated that Ontario was also the most profitable place to be in the film and television business. Producers in the province raked in operating profits of $58.3 million, or 91% of the industry total.

I might add that this quote comes from Mr Gerry Phillips, the member for Scarborough-Agincourt: "The programs on film development, clearly that is a growth industry, one that we all want to encourage. It is a unique industry that I think is a terrific industry for Ontario and will support clearly the things that help develop that."


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I say to the members, particularly the member for Cochrane South, ministers are allowed to read answers it they choose to, excerpts from issues. The only thing I would caution is, if you ask ministers not to read answers, then you have to be prepared not to read your questions. So that's the point.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): My question is to the minister for seniors issues, the member for Burlington South. Minister, you and your government continually attack the most vulnerable in our society, our seniors, especially those who, because of their age and health conditions, seek the ultimate health care in a nursing home.

After being hit with prescription fees, Wheel-Trans cuts and cuts that affect seniors' services in many other ways, you and your ministry have now imposed a punitive $40-a-day charge while waiting for a nursing home bed. This is an intolerable action towards our seniors. They are now required to pay immediately the $40-a-day charge, the same charge as if they were receiving the care and attention of a nursing home.

My question to the minister is this: With a waiting list of some 4,500 people -- I said this is my question to the minister; I hope the minister is listening -- and a freeze on nursing home beds, please tell us what you are going to do --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, member for Yorkview.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I'd like to thank the member opposite for his question. I know all members of this House are concerned about the long-term-care needs of Ontario seniors.

The member opposite would be aware that this government has embarked on an ambitious investment plan to ensure that seniors have access to appropriate care. We inherited a system, quite frankly, a patchwork system of overbedded and underbedded areas all across this province. I want to advise the member opposite that his assertion that there are 4,500 people on waiting lists is a little high compared to the data that we're using and that is generally accepted within the industry across Ontario by health care professionals.

The truth is that we have people who are currently in chronic care beds in hospitals who can move comfortably to nursing home beds which are available. The principle that is being established here is that seniors should receive the most appropriate care where it can be sensitively presented at the least amount of cost. The very expensive chronic care beds are not the most efficient use of Ontario's precious health care resources.

Mr Sergio: Is this the best message you can deliver to our seniors? Is this the best you can do for our seniors? Did you consult our seniors? Are you willing to have our seniors languishing in a hospital corridor, neglected, abandoned, uncared for, with no other option or alternative? You are treating our seniors and those in need of a nursing home with disrespect and shame.

I'm asking you again. You have created an intolerable crisis. Will you commit to discontinue your policies which are causing seniors so much anxiety and which are affecting the quality of health care they deserve and they need? Will you please commit yourself to that?

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to remind the member opposite that this government is committed to making sure that seniors receive the most appropriate care where it meets their best needs. The fact is that your government, for five years, worked on long-term care, reduced its transfer payments to chronic care hospitals, and the litany goes on. Our colleagues in the third party worked on long-term care. At least they got it to a legislative change and to a bill in this province. But seniors waited 10 years for these reforms so that they could have not only adequate services but appropriate services.

This government has moved decisively to ensure that those beds are available in those parts of the province where they are badly needed and were badly neglected over the last, quite frankly, more than a decade, and we'll be the first to admit that. But I want to reassure the member opposite that the taxpayers have requested that health dollars be spent wisely, judiciously and sensitively, and we will believe these programs, especially the review of chronic care bed utilization, are appropriate for the province of Ontario.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It's becoming clearer and clearer as you proceed with your amalgamation of municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto that you seem to be guided far more by political expediency than by the practical realities of what is going on and what best planning is able to be put in place. One of the things that shows this distinction is that you seem to be very determined to proceed to amalgamate within Metropolitan Toronto the six area municipalities into one, yet you don't seem to want to apply the same logic to the surrounding areas -- Peel region, Durham region, York region, for example. I'd just like to ask you minister, why is it that your logic around restructuring municipalities within the GTA is confined only to Metropolitan Toronto?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I don't think anything could be further from the truth. We intend to deal with all the regions throughout the province of Ontario. Many of them have asked us to provide some assistance. The region of Hamilton-Wentworth, for example, has asked us to provide a facilitator. We've done that. They're in favour of a single tier; they're in favour of putting six municipalities into one municipality. We're going to assist them in doing that. There are other issues that face the regions in the GTA, and we will be dealing with them as well when we deal with the city of Toronto.

Mr Silipo: I don't know if the minister was simply evading my question, because in his answer he didn't mention at all the regions I referred to, which are the other parts of the GTA in terms of Peel region, Durham region and York region, for example, or if he's just now told us that there will be changes to those municipalities, which is what I was trying to find out.

The other point I want the minister to address is why in this whole issue he is forgetting about the fact that the economic entity around Toronto is the greater Toronto area, however we may want to define that. The point is that the issue is bigger than just Metropolitan Toronto. You can look at ways of restructuring local municipalities, but you still will need to deal with the reality of the economic region, which is the greater Toronto area, and we would suggest even to look at the governance question as it applies to that entity.

What I want to ask you is, why are you not bringing forward any proposals to deal with the governance of the greater Toronto area?

Hon Mr Leach: I guess the honourable member didn't hear my response. I said we would be bringing forward recommendations on all of the regions within the GTA in the not-too-distant future. I'm meeting with the regional chairs very soon to go over the requests they've made to restructure and reshape their municipalities. I intend to bring all that material together roughly at the same point in time. We will be dealing with the Metropolitan Toronto issue and we will be dealing with the GTA regional issue, as well as with other regions throughout the province.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Recently, I met with a constituent, and during my meeting with her we discussed the issue of time-share fraud and the fact that many people purchase time shares outside the province of Ontario. Some, my constituent tells me, do not fully understand what they may be getting into. My constituent spoke about high-pressure sales tactics with no cooling-off period, questionable promotions, lack of disclosure and poor management. What is the government doing to protect consumers like my constituent from this type of scam?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Project TimeShare, which is a joint task force composed of the OPP, Peel Region police, our ministry and York Region police, was established in 1995 to deal with the complaints against the time-share industry. Our ministry does refer the complaints to Project TimeShare, and in fact consumers can directly contact Project TimeShare through an established hotline, at area code 905-612-7042, if they have a complaint.

Project TimeShare has had extensive investigations which have led to the arrest of a former York region resident in connection with the fraudulent sales of time-shares in vacation resorts. The press release that was issued about a month ago indicated that of course the resorts have lost money as a result of time-share fraud and the consumers who have purchased the time-shares have lost money and have lost any time they might have had.

Mr Newman: What else is the government doing to ensure that consumers are aware of these time-share schemes? Can the government work with responsible businesses within the industry to help eliminate the problem people?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The typical problems that have been with us in the time-share industry have been some of the very high-pressure sales tactics, with no cooling-off or cancellation periods; questionable promotions and advertising; a real lack of disclosure and alleged misrepresentations; high-risk developments; and poor management. Certainly this is a huge risk for consumers right now.

Our ministry also produces a consumer package called Consumer Beat, which informs the consumer on a regular basis about many of the consumer fraud initiatives, also specifically on time-shares. We are prepared right now to work with the legitimate time-share industry, to prepare certain standards that will assist in avoiding these types of problems in the future. These are a few of the initiatives, but once again I do encourage any consumer who has a problem to contact Project TimeShare.



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a question for the Minister of Health. You realize that the merger between the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and the Queen Street Mental Health Centre is proceeding because you want to save money. The state of mental health care in Ontario is near collapse. Hundreds of patients are roaming our streets. You have provided no support or after-care once you've pushed them out of these institutions. Metro police alone are reporting over 300 escapes from both these institutions over a period of 11 months. How will your mental health care system improve when you continue to reduce the dollar amounts and propose to cut 102 psychiatric beds?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'm not directly involved in the talks the honourable member brings forward with respect to the Clarke and Queen Street Mental Health Centre. Those are voluntary talks right now. In fact, I don't even know if they're still ongoing; the last I heard, they weren't talking any more.

All of our health care administrators and institutions in the province are having discussions with other institutions similar to themselves to see if they can find efficiencies. Why do we have two administrations down there within spitting distance of each other? It doesn't make any sense. I prefer they do it on a voluntary basis, but they have to have these discussions, they have to get their administration down and they've got to drive those administrative dollars and that waste and duplication -- all that money has to go into patient services.

I will remind the honourable member that this government has invested $20 million in the community investment fund. We've done that without seeing any money saved in the administration that we're asking them to save. We've done that out of money we found through getting rid of waste in the --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister, thank you very much.



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

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

"Whereas the overall number of available beds will be reduced by approximately 35%; and

"Whereas the reduction in beds will affect Sudbury's ability to remain the referral centre for health care in northeastern Ontario; and

"Whereas there will be a large number of layoffs in the health profession, impacting the quality of local health care and our Sudbury economy; and

"Whereas the global annual budget for Sudbury health care will be reduced by 25%;

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

This brings the total number to 18,504 who have signed this petition, and I again affix my name to it.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a petition I received in the mail this morning. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It says:

"I oppose Bill 26. I protest this Tory proposal to deregulate the price of prescribed medicine, to dismantle the services that make up the common fabric of our communities; to introduce a two-tier health system, one for the rich and one for the rest of the citizens of our province.

"This Bill 26 is draconian. The way it's being handled by the Tory government is anti-democratic. The government should withdraw or repeal this bill and commence broad community-based consultations on the future of public services in Ontario."

It's signed by Donna Speck from Thorold Road and Pam Hardman from Iron Street and a whole bunch of other people from down Welland-Thorold area.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise today to present a petition to the Parliament of Ontario.

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness;

"Whereas abortion is not therapeutic;

"Whereas abortion is never medically necessary;

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require elective procedures to be funded;

"Whereas there is no right to publicly funded abortion;

"Whereas it is the responsibility and the authority of the province exclusively to determine what services will be insured;

"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is, indeed, hazardous to women's health;

"Whereas the availability of abortion at public expense leads to the use of modern abortion as a means of birth control;

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded 45,000 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario that the government remove abortion as a service or procedure covered under the provincial health insurance plan."

I affix my name to this petition.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition regarding secondary school reform in Ontario that reads as follows:

"We believe that the heart of education in our province is the relationship between students and teachers and that the human and rational dimension should be maintained and extended as proposed reform. The Minister of Education knows how strongly we oppose the secondary reform recommendations being proposed by the ministry and government.

"We recognize that support is needed to review secondary education in Ontario. The proposal for reform as put forward by the educational ministry, however, is substantially flawed in several key areas: reduced instruction time, reduction in instruction in English, reduction of quality teaching personnel, academic work, experience not linked to education curriculum, devaluation of formal education.

"We strongly urge the Minister of Education to delay the implementation of secondary school reform so interested stakeholders -- parents, students, school councils, trustees and teachers -- are able to participate in a more meaningful consultation process which will help ensure that a high quality of publicly funded education is provided."

That's signed by 44 residents of Cornwall, and I also signed the petition.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): This is a petition to the Legislature of Ontario from literally hundreds of people from Sault Ste Marie and area.

"Whereas child care is an essential service and children should not be used to make money;

"Whereas reducing current standards to minimal building codes compromises the safety of children;

"Whereas providing funding to the private sector will lead to reduced accountability for tax dollars;

"Whereas children's growth and development could be in serious jeopardy without trained professionals caring for them;

"Whereas reducing monitoring inspections and increasing staff-child ratios will result in poor-quality child care programs; and

"Whereas staff wages are a major indicator of quality, proposed reductions in wage subsidies will have a negative impact on child care; and

"Whereas the need for parental choice in child care is recognized;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to reconsider the directions proposed in Improving Ontario's Child Care System, the report released by Janet Ecker, as we feel it will have a negative impact on the families of Ontario."

I sign my name to this petition.


Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): I rise to present a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents which reads:

"We, the undersigned and residents of the riding of High Park-Swansea, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to take every action possible to prevent the eviction of Bloor Village Video, currently occupying premises located at 2327 Bloor Street West in the Bloor West village of Toronto.

"We support and endorse the view of the province that small business is the economic backbone of Ontario. We hold the opinion that the increasing concentration of financial institutions at the expense of retailers threatens the future viability of this business area.

"We call upon the Parliament of Ontario to intervene on behalf of Bloor Village Video by asking the mayor of Toronto and city planners to urgently address this intensification of financial institutions that threatens the economic vitality of this retail community."

I affix my name thereto.



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep receiving hundreds of petitions against the senior user fee and I have a petition that reads as follows:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has started to charge a senior $2 user fee for each prescription filled since July 15, 1996; and

"Whereas seniors on fixed income do not significantly benefit from the income tax savings created by this user fee co-payment or from any other non-health user fee; and

"Whereas the perceived savings to health care from the $2 copayment fee will not compensate for the suffering and misery caused by this user fee or the painstaking task involved to fill out the application forms; and

"Whereas the current Minister of Health, Jim Wilson, promised as an opposition MPP in a July 5, 1993, letter to Ontario pharmacists that his party would not endorse legislation that will punish patients to the detriment of health care in Ontario; and

"Therefore, we, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge the government of the PC administration to repeal this user fee plan because the tax-saving user fee concept is not fair, is not sensitive, is not accessible to low-income or fixed-income seniors; and lest we forget, our province's seniors have paid their dues by collectively contributing to the social, economic, moral and political fabric of Canada."

I agree with this petition and I'm affixing my signature to it.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): "Whereas we, the undersigned, believe that helping reduce crime and abuse in our communities is our responsibility as employees of the Ministry of Correctional Services, as professionals in related fields and as concerned citizens;

"That closing institutions which provide specialized services to women and treatment to men does not achieve that goal;

"That physical, emotional and sexual abuse is often transmitted from one generation to the next, with tremendous cost to society;

"That treatment aimed at breaking that cycle must include the abuser so that another generation of children is not raised with the same destructive lessons;

"That the Ontario Correctional Institute is a therapeutic community known around the world for their techniques;

"That research statistics support anecdotal evidence that we are effective in changing abusive behaviour;

"That a therapeutic community cannot exist in a superprison;

"Therefore, we urge you to save victims and money by keeping open what works."

This is signed by hundreds of people all over Ontario.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition today on behalf of the member for Simcoe East. This petition requesting the government to institute a court challenges program of Ontario is signed by one constituent from the riding of Simcoe East and I file it today.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the quality of care for residents of nursing homes and homes for the aged is being directly and adversely affected by the funding policies of the Mike Harris Conservative government;

"Whereas the funding deficiencies are forcing these institutions to reduce available staff assistance to residents to unacceptable levels;

"Whereas the user taxes placed on prescription drugs unfairly discriminate against residents of nursing homes;

"Whereas the residents of these institutions are the very people who built this great province and country;

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

"To provide adequate funding for long-term-care institutions and eliminate the user taxes on prescription drugs for seniors."

This is signed by numerous people from the district of Manitoulin.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by almost 3,000 secondary school teachers in which they express opposition to any loss or reduction in preparation time for teachers since they believe it will have a negative impact on the quality of education that those teachers provide to their students.

I support the petition and I affix my name thereto.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I have a petition here addressed to the Legislative Assembly.

"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 Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition signed by about 50 constituents, very concerned about increased access to beer stores over the holiday season. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, protest in the strongest terms the recent decision made by the government of Ontario to allow beer stores to remain open the three Sundays prior to Christmas;

"The present practice of these stores being open six days a week for 12 hours per day allows sufficient time to purchase this product. Traditionally, Sunday has been regarded as a day of worship and rest from the work of the previous week. This political decision will result in the further erosion of the family values upon which this country was built."


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition forwarded to me by Kathleen Zarowny on behalf of the members of OPSEU Local 340. Kathleen is the health and safety co-chair and Local 340 is in the Oshawa area. 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 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;

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

I add my name to theirs.


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

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has passed Bill C-68, An Act Respecting Firearms and Other Weapons; and

"Whereas we welcome real gun control and support those portions of Bill C-68 which provide tougher penalties for the criminal use of firearms, new offences related to firearms smuggling and trafficking, and a ban on paramilitary weapons; and

"Whereas existing laws requiring the registration of handguns have done little to reduce the number of crimes committed with handguns or lower the volume of handguns smuggled into Canada; and

"Whereas the national gun registration provisions of Bill C-68 will result in a massive misallocation of the limited resources available to law enforcement agencies, with no practical effect on the traffic in illegal firearms or the use of guns by violent criminals; and

"Whereas the gun registration provisions of Bill C-68 will take police officers off the streets and involve them in bureaucracy rather than fighting crime and will make the task of real gun control more difficult and dangerous for police officers;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the province of Ontario to continue to urge the government of Canada to repeal from Bill C-68 those provisions for a compulsory registration of all firearms."

I have signed this petition.



Mr Carroll from the standing committee on general government presented the following report and moved its adoption:

Your committee begs to report the following report without amendment:

Bill 81, An Act to reduce the number of members of the Legislative Assembly by making the number and boundaries of provincial electoral districts identical to those of their federal counterparts and to make consequential amendments to statutes concerning electoral representation / Projet de loi 81, Loi visant à réduire le nombre des députés à l'Assemblée législative en rendant identiques le nombre et les limites des circonscriptions électorales provinciales et fédérales et à apporter des modifications corrélatives à des lois concernant la représentation électorale.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed. Shall Bill 81 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.

Mr Carroll from the standing committee on general government presented the following report and moved its adoption:

Your committee begs to report the following bill, as amended:

Bill 53, An Act to Promote Full Financial Accountability of Labour Unions and Employees Associations to Their Members / Projet de loi 53, Loi visant à promouvoir la responsabilité financière complète des syndicats et des associations d'employés envers leurs membres.

The Deputy Speaker: Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed. Shall Bill 53 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.




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

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): It's my pleasure today to speak to Bill 86, An Act to provide for better local government by updating and streamlining the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Act and related statutes.

There are a number of things in this bill that are very useful, interesting, and some of them, to be fair, make sense. At the same time as they're being debated, however, the government, with no consultation whatsoever, is getting ready to rob the people of Metropolitan Toronto of their right to responsible, accessible government. It's important to make this link because here we have a chance to discuss and debate some matters of interest to all of us, and we would like to be able to debate what this government is doing around the elimination of city governments. We think it's a problem.

The minister has refused to look at the Golden report, or if he has, he says, "No, it's not workable." The minister has rejected the Robarts report which didn't advocate the elimination of local government. The minister comes back saying: "We have plenty of studies. There are 64 studies that we have on this issue so it's time to move on." So what does he do? He says, "We're going to get rid of city governments."

We think that's a problem. We think it's a back-door kind of politics that isn't fitting of any government. We believe that when you have no public hearings, no public input, no public debate, then we've got a real problem.

This is the style of the government that many people in Ontario are getting accustomed to and it frightens them. And I have to tell you, it frightens me. When you are about to eliminate city local governments and you call that leadership, without any consultation, without any hearings, without any debate, we have a government that is oppressive in the way it deals with public policy. It is unheard of that any government can simply decide to get rid of local governments without giving those local governments and the public they serve a say.

It's ironic that Minister Leach, before he became minister, said, "What we should do is get rid of the Metro government." He gets into government, changes his course and decides, "What we need to do is get rid of local government." It is complicated for the public to understand how they make decisions when the minister himself had one position before the election, gets into government, and lo and behold, we've got another position by that member. We've got a problem. The public has a problem.

We met with the mayors this very morning in fact and they gave us their understanding, their perception of why local government is important to keep, and I have to tell you that I agree with them. As we consult around issues to change municipal elections, we are about to eliminate these local mayors and eliminate local government.

These mayors came to tell us why local government is working effectively, and I agree with them. They told us why local government is important to maintain: because it is accessible. When there is a problem in local government, they go to the municipal local member, because they are the ones who are the closest to the people. They argue that if you get rid of them, it will make accessibility much more difficult and complicated. They argue that they are more accountable to the public, because they're able to talk to and see the local member on a regular basis; frequently at that. They argue, as Mel Lastman, the mayor of North York, argued, that cities are able to respond to the needs of their local constituents in ways that other governments may not be able to.

I'm not arguing that we should eliminate the Metro government. I don't believe that's the right thing to do. But he argues that local governments are very responsive to the electorate in areas of their responsibility, and they are. He gave one example to show how responsive they are. He talked about snow removal. He said they've developed a system that is able to not just push the snow from the street, which often goes on to the sidewalk, causing a great deal of irritation and anger to the householders, but they managed to develop a system that pushes the snow on top of the sidewalk while at the same time removing it from the sidewalk. He says, "We are the only local government that has done that." That's responding to the wishes of the people in North York. He said, "We pick up our garbage in North York twice a week." Why? "Because," he argues, "we want a clean city and the people of North York want that."

Naturally, the service varies from one municipality to another. The point is, though, that municipalities respond to the various differing needs of each municipality, and that's good.

Before this government engages in changes that are so radical, the public in Toronto, the people I've been meeting in Toronto, say, "Don't change the system without consulting us." In fact many have said, "We've had a referendum on municipal government here in Toronto," and in that referendum they argued to keep local government and get rid of Metro, if that's what they had to do. In that particular referendum, the people of Toronto spoke.

If this government is big on referendums and believes the public should have a say, in Toronto they have already spoken. If they have spoken in this regard, they should listen. They should not set aside that referendum and decide that what we need here in Ontario is leadership. If that leadership means we will not have public hearings, that there will be no public input and that there will be no public debate, this is the worst type of leadership in Ontario. It would be unprecedented for any government to lead in this manner, this manner that we believe, many of us, is very, very oppressive.

Some have in fact said at some of the meetings that if you want to be informed about the way this government is acting, you should read some of the Soviet dissidents, some of the writers who have spoken about the style of leadership in the Soviet Union, to get a glimpse of the way this government is behaving, the way this government is acting. If that's the leadership that they think is what the people want, they've got it all wrong, because that's not what people want. On issues of major importance, the public wants to be consulted and, in my view, deserves and needs to be consulted.

Around this particular issue, we've got a serious political problem. I believe that the issue of city and Metro is a very political issue; it's not an economic one.

I asked Minister Leach in my question to show us studies that show that getting rid of cities would make it more economical. In my question, I said to him that Anne Golden and the GTA task force that the minister praised said that amalgamation won't work. A study of Ontario municipalities published this year by the Canadian Tax Journal says, "Costs are affected by the quantity and quality of services provided, not by the government structure." A Price Waterhouse study of Ottawa-Carleton done in 1992 said, "One-tier government would increase taxes by 5% to 16%." An article by George Boyne in the journal Public Administration says, "Based on US experience, a one-tier system may not lead to greater efficiency" and that "the advantages of a two-tier system have been underestimated." Harry Kitchen, professor of economics at Trent University, Peterborough, says, "Not all services get cheaper with amalgamation."


When I read the research, I'm convinced that this government is in the wrong direction. What studies do they bring to our attention to show us that we're wrong? That's why we say the decision around this has nothing to do with economics but has a lot to do with ideology. It's politics. The reason they decided that perhaps we should eliminate the cities and maybe not Metro was because Golden recommended something different. She recommended a GTA coordination of services with a weaker sort of GTA government but a GTA-type of municipal governance structure. I think it was a very useful suggestion to look at because some of the issues overlap; in fact, important issues overlap between Metro and the GTA.

But the people around the GTA did not support the Golden recommendation, and because the political support of this party is very strong in the greater Toronto area, they decided they should not introduce any policy changes, any governance changes that would anger the Conservative support in the greater Toronto area. In order not to be politically attacked by their friends, they decided that the best thing to do would be to eliminate cities, under the guise of saving money. Study after study that I have referred to say there are likely not to be any savings, so what I have concluded is that the reasons for those things are political, having nothing to do with economics whatsoever.

But we are hopeful that we are going to have in this province a process that will allow the people in Metropolitan Toronto to decide the kind of governance they want. We are hoping that this government will not step over the democratic right of people in this Metropolitan area to have the decisive vote around what kind of governance they should have. We're hoping that the members of the Metropolitan area, Conservative members, are going to convince Mike Harris and M. Leach that they are on the wrong course and that they must consult before they make radical changes of this kind.

While we are looking at tinkering with the municipal process, which in some ways may be useful, sometimes practical, sometimes probably the right thing to do, they are wielding the hammer in dealing with the issue of governance here in Toronto and Metropolitan Toronto at large. We tinker in Bill 86 with many changes that are interesting and useful but, "We're going to rule with an iron fist when it comes to deciding how we're going to deal with the cities of Toronto."

I find that shameful for this government. I find it shameful, and I'm hoping that the people who watch this program through the parliamentary channel will not only call me to tell me that they agree with me but will call M. Leach and M. Harris and let them know. Write your letters to Mr Leach and to the Premier of this province and put on that envelope "Private and confidential," so that it gets directly to their political office. Don't send that letter to the minister without doing that, because if you don't write "Private and confidential," it will go through the civil service and the political staff and the Premier will never see it. The time they will see it is when they're out of office. That's too late.

They need to write a simple letter. It doesn't have to be long. It doesn't have to be an academic study. It doesn't have to be a research paper. Pen or pencil, it doesn't matter. Write on the front of that envelope "Private and confidential." Send it to Derwyn Shea. Send it to him, because I know he's a member who really cares about what's going to happen to Toronto. "Send it to Derwyn Shea because he cares," he says.

When he comes to those meetings he will explain to the public how he's going to defend the right of Toronto to have a say in this matter. Surely this member's not going to go out there not defending a process that should be democratic. Surely he's not going to go into that caucus, as he meets once a week with the Premier, and simply allow the Premier to stomp all over Toronto. He's not going to do that, I hope. If he's going to do what is right, he will defend the people of Ontario, the people of Toronto to have the right to have a say.

Send your letters "Private and confidential" to the ministers. To the local members it doesn't have to be "Private and confidential" because they will get it in their offices and their assistants will show it to them, but to the ministers, that's what you need to do.

If you agree with us, you can't just sit back wherever you are and decide this is wrong and not do anything to fight against what you believe is the wrong course this government is taking us on, this journey that is a mistake to begin with, this leadership by the iron fist that is the worst type of leadership you would want in a democracy. You'll have to write them, you'll have to tell them, because if you don't do that, you will be part of the problem. You will tacitly be agreeing with this government if you're not writing that letter, if you're not out at that public meeting forcing these Conservative members to come to the meetings.

I can tell you from my experience, many of them are not showing up to those meetings. They have an excuse, as always: they're busy, they're somewhere else, they've got another meeting. But when there are tough issues like rent control, where I have been at a number of meetings already in Mr Saunderson's riding, in Mr Shea's riding as well, some of the MPPs don't show up. They don't show up because they're afraid to defend the policies they have introduced in this House. They're afraid.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): The Toronto Club, the Boulevard Club, the Canadian Club.

Mr Marchese: They may be at other meetings but it's not political meetings. In fact it's at a club probably.

Mr Pouliot: One of those private clubs.

Mr Marchese: One of the private clubs perhaps. You never know.

Some of you have a duty. Mr Parker came to a meeting. I will give him that. We had a meeting on rent control and Mr Parker came. He had the courage to come and defend what this government is doing on the issue of rent control, and I respect that. I respect people -- politicians -- who come to the meetings to defend their policies. There's more respect in that than simply not showing up, for whatever reason. It doesn't matter. You might have a good reason, you might have an excuse, you might not want to show up, but it's important for the public, for the electorate who may have elected you, for you to have the courage to go back into those constituencies and defend yourself and your policies.

This government claims it wants local people to make local decisions. That's what they do, that's what they say, and in the rest of Ontario Mike Harris has said to the various municipalities, "You go out and solve the problems of duplication or inefficiency and amalgamate where you need to." That's what he said to other municipalities across Ontario, but here in Toronto he's ramming his one big government model down the throats of the people of Toronto. It's wrong. Then what else does he do? He hides under the cloak of the David Crombie Who Does What group of people. They hide behind that group of people. It is wrong to allow a group of people behind doors to make decisions on matters that are very important.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I don't believe we have a quorum in the House presently.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Would you please verify if there is a quorum?

Acting Clerk Assistant (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is not present.

The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.


Acting Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: What this government has created is a Who Does What panel. Mr Speaker, to you and to the public that's watching, do you know who this group is? Do you know where they meet? Do you know what they do? They are meeting behind closed doors, making decisions for this government. They are the foil for this government's dirty work. When they need them, they use them; when they don't need them, they make them wait so that they can think about what they need to do, and then they communicate with Mr Crombie about the kinds of things that they have in mind. It's a back-door kind of politics.

Is that the kind of democracy we want? People want and deserve to have these kinds of decisions dealt with in a very public, visible, transparent way, and they don't see transparency or honesty in the way we do things when they know there's a group of people, not elected, not accountable, working behind the doors doing the dirty work for this government. It's a perfect foil for the massacre this government wants to hand out to the people of Ontario.

This panel deliberates, and every now and then, like a terrible striptease, they bring out these reports. Every week, every other week, they bring a report, willy-nilly. Let me read you some of these reports here.

"Who Does What Panel Recommends New Municipal Act: David Crombie today recommended a new Municipal Act that would give municipalities more flexibility to deliver services taxpayers want at a price they can afford." It sounds like Mike Harris, doesn't it? Sure it does. We get this one week, August 14.

October 11: "Panel Recommends Province Pay Full Social Service Costs: Welfare, employment programs and child care fee subsidies in Ontario should be managed and fully funded by the provincial government."

Another report, November 4: "`Municipalities should deliver and pay for sewer and water systems and municipal transit service,' Who Does What panel chair David Crombie told the province today."

Every couple of weeks you get another report. I've got them here in my hand. Does that give you a sense of a government that is operating under a vision, that is being guided by some vision of what it wants to do? No.

Every couple of weeks you get another report. Here, another one, November 12: "`Municipalities should be fully responsible for setting police budgets and for appointing community representatives to police service boards,' Who Does What panel chair David Crombie recommended today."

November 13: "Province Should Pay Bigger Share of Education Costs, Panel Says: `The provincial government should take a bigger role in funding education, developing curriculum and setting standards,' Who Does What panel chair David Crombie recommended today."

Every week or every other week you've got this Who Does What, and to whom, with what guidance, what parameters, what principle, what vision? I don't see any vision here. I see this unveiling of this onion on a weekly basis coming through. The public is perplexed by it. They are working behind doors. It's not the kind of politics the people of Ontario want. You can't dismiss the public in this way, you cannot. That's what they're doing. You can appoint a few of your good friends to do the dirty work for you, as you've done, we understand that, but the public is deserving of more. They deserve more than this. They deserve to be able to participate, because that's what democracy is all about.

Democracy is about participation. If you take that right away, then democracy is diminished; then you no longer have a democracy, you have something else, which is what you call leadership, which is an oppressive type of leadership because it tells what's good to the people of Ontario. It doesn't let them decide what's good for them, you tell them what's good for them. That's not democracy.

A number of people I've heard say, "Read a number of the Soviet writers to be instructed about how this government is being guided and is operating." I thought that very interesting. I thought that if a socialist said that they would say, "Oh, my God." But it wasn't a socialist, I can tell you that. The NDP, if we were in power doing that could have been accused of some terrible socialist, even Stalinist, things. We could have been accused of that. But for a Tory government, my God, eh? I mean, it's a bit odd. But that is your style of leadership. You have gone beyond Conservative politics; you have gone to Reform politics.

I was reading one of -- his name escapes me. The Toronto Star; he's a regular writer. It was I think yesterday.

Mr Pouliot: It wasn't Walkom?

Mr Marchese: No, no. He's a former Tory staffer, a well-know Tory staffer at the federal level. He was saying that this government has crossed the line, that the politics of this government is not Conservative, it is Reform, and it's frightening. People are beginning to understand that that's not the kind of politics they want.

Let's look at some of the changes this government has introduced. As I say, some of them are very useful and some of them are debatable. They have said, "The bill allows municipalities to vote by phone or Internet or whatever means they choose." That to me sounds good; it even sounds 21st century. But if you let everyone vote by Internet, will you be creating a problem for yourselves? Are we going to be able to monitor that in ways that everybody will feel protected, in ways that everybody will feel that we will have no fraud as people vote by phone or by Internet? While it sounds 21st century, I am not sure that we have taken the measures to prevent fraud from happening.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): What are they?

Mr Marchese: The member asks, "Who are they?"

Mr Hastings: No, what are these measures against fraud?

Mr Marchese: We've got a problem. I think voting through the Internet may cause unforeseen problems that we have not yet thought about. I think this government needs to think through, before it passes this particular component of facilitating the voting process, that we put in measures that will prevent fraud. That's important, because I can see it happening. The mayor of East York raised this with me today at the meeting with the mayors. The very point he made is, "How will they prevent fraud from happening?" I agree with him, because that was my initial reaction. While it sounds 21st century, sexy even, I think it can create problems of its own, and we need to be mindful of that.

Others have argued, "Isn't it great that we have made it possible for a 20-year-old computer whiz kid to be able to get into the Internet and from home simply type it in, and there you go, he's voted." But what have we done for older seniors who are going to, as they get older, have more difficulties getting to the poll? Are we making it easier for them to vote, and how are we doing that? The Internet is not going to make it easier, necessarily, because I suspect a lot of the seniors have not learned to use the Internet.

We've got several little problems. First, how do we make it possible for seniors to have an easier time getting to the poll, and have we thought about that? Second, have we thought about how we're going to control fraud in relation to the use of the phone or the Internet or any other means that municipalities might think of?

The government is changing the rules around the election recounts. Municipalities are required to hold recounts if the vote was close. This problem existed in the past and it's led to wide-open interpretations and endless recounts. That is a good thing, that we are finally getting to solving that particular problem. On the other hand, the question I raise is, does this go too far? The only time we're going to have an automatic recount is if there is a tie vote. It may not at first blush seem like a problem. It may seem reasonable: You have a tie vote, you have a recount. Or if the court decides or rules that because of that, there is a right to a recount, then you would have that as a measure. That's fine, but I think it may be going too far.


What this will do, of course, is that for candidates who feel they might want to go for a recount, they will face big court costs to ensure a fair election. In many of these cases, we're going to have a lot of people saying: "I'm not sure I can afford it. Yes, I might have noticed or my election workers might have noticed that there were some irregularities here and there that I might decide to go for a recount." If they do that, they have to pick up the costs, and the costs could be costly.

Not all the candidates who run for politics are rich like most of the Conservative members. By and large, they're well-to-do. Not all the people who run for municipal elections are wealthy individuals. Some of them are just modest-income Ontarians. So if they go for this recount, they've got a problem.

Could the government have decided to define a close election by a certain percentage of the vote and have mandatory recounts in those cases? I think it could, I think it can, and I think you should look at that a little more closely, because simply leaving it to a tie vote may not solve some of the problems that some of the candidates face in those elections. I think we should look at what a close vote might look like, establish some parameters, define a little bit, put some percentage attached to it. I think that would go a long way to solving some of the predicaments that we have seen in the past, in the city of Toronto in particular, with the former city councillor Mr O'Donohue and Mario Silva in the west end.

There are more issues, one that deals with the referendum. Municipalities and elected boards in the province will all have the right to place a referendum item on the municipal ballot without reference to the Ontario Municipal Board, and the municipalities will be able to recover costs when others put referendum questions on their ballot.

In principle, there appears to be nothing wrong with that. But by and large, people like me have a problem with referendums in general, because you never know how referendums are going to attack the rights of minorities in this province, and you never know how the rights of smaller groups of people in society -- they don't have to be minorities in the sense that I meant it in the first example -- would be affected by the tyranny of the majority.

I am fearful of those kinds of referendums that would complicate political life in Ontario in ways that we have not yet understood. We've seen this process of referendum in the US and some other countries, and I tell you, many people are not happy with seeing what is happening in those jurisdictions.

I am one who believes that election time is the determinant time to be able to displace politicians, throw them out if you don't like them. If you don't like them, that is the time to take a good, hard, long look at the policies of that particular government and decide, "We've had enough." I've already had enough of this Conservative government, but maybe others need more time, others in Ontario need more time to assess whether they have been hurt enough already by this government or whether they need a little more flagellation to make them understand that we are really being hurt in this province. We may need to walk long and hard on the coal and the broken glass. We may need to release our hand from the barbed wire so that then we can see the blood on our hands. We may need to be able to go through all these hard times to decide at the end of the four-year period that this government has hurt us enough.

I don't see referendum as the solution to our parliamentary system, to the democratic process that we have in this country. I don't see that as the solution. This Reform-minded government obviously believes in referendum. They believe in it. It is a Reform party. They will admit to it if you ask them seriously. They like these things, but I'm very frightened of what could happen to people when you put referenda questions that you cannot control.

This particular measure will allow a municipality, a board of education, to put any question it wants on the ballot at any time during its three-year term, and it's dealt with. They no longer have to go to the Ontario Municipal Board. They would be given the right to be able to go and do what they want. They say, "Isn't that great?" The Conservative government will feel so happy to be able to have all these referendum questions on education, on municipal issues, and they will massacre themselves as they do that. Then the provincial government, in its wonderful autocratic wisdom, can come and fix it all for them -- or not fix it at all, because they will have done their damage at the local level and they, Conservatives at the provincial level, will look good. So referendum is not the answer for me and I know it's not the answer for many.

I have here a document from the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario. These are the people who provide the professional, expert, administrative support required for the efficient, continuous and professional delivery of municipal services. In relation to referendum, they have a particular problem that they want to be able to address. On the issue of referendum they say the following: "...it's concerned with the lack of any restrictions in terms of timing. As it now stands, Bill 86 would appear to allow an elected body to propose the inclusion of a question on the ballot as late as the day before a special or regular municipal election."

As they argue, and I believe them, the day before a special or regular municipal election, they could, in their view, decide to have a referendum. That could cause some administrative problems. They say, "It should go without saying that this amounts to an administrative impossibility, fraught with a host of political and procedural problems. In order for clerks to carry out their functions effectively and efficiently, in a regular election, nomination day should be the deadline for the inclusion of a question on the ballot. For a new election or where the question is the reason for the ballot, it is recommended that a minimum of 60 to 90 days prior to notice be required."

They are raising an interesting point. I found it very useful. I found it reflective. These are the folks who obviously have to do the administrative work, and I think that when they come forth with such concerns, we should listen to them. I'm hoping that Minister Leach, who I know is listening from his office, and his staff, of course -- I know they're listening as well -- are going to take this into account.

Connected to this issue, municipalities will be able to recover costs when others put a referendum question on their ballot. This same Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario has something to say about that as well, and I think we should listen to them again because I think they are right in raising this particular issue.


Subsection 7(1) reads as follows: "Unless an act specifically provides otherwise, the costs incurred by the clerk of a local municipality in conducting an election shall be paid by the local municipality."

Mr Gerretsen: That's shameful.

Mr Marchese: Not entirely. They have a good explanation here. It is the association's view and understanding from ministry officials that the act that they believe specifically provides otherwise is intended to be that famous omnibus Bill 26, passed earlier this year by the Legislature. More specifically, they say schedule M of Bill 26 provides the authority to a municipality to charge for a service rendered. Bear in mind they're talking about service rendered.

Section 220.1 reads as follows:

"(2) Despite any act, a municipality and a local board may pass bylaws imposing fees or charges on any class of persons,

"(a) for services or activities provided or done by or on behalf of it;

"(b) for costs payable by it for services or activities provided or done by or on behalf of any other municipality or local board; and

"(c) for the use of its property including property under its control."

Note that the clause refers only to services, activities or use of property. Is an election any of these? It doesn't sound like it to me.

"So," they say, "we worry that schedule M is not nearly specific enough to trigger the exemption contained in subsection 7(1)." They say the reference to services in Bill 26 is unclear. It can be convincingly debated that elections are not services or activities, that they are a legislated requirement. "Therefore, it is the association's view and recommendation that the proposed legislation be explicit in its intent by including elections, both special and regular, as an exemption along with recounts and by-elections, analogous to the wording of subsection 7(3)."

I thought it was a convincing argument. I think they have raised a good point. Where municipalities may not be able to recover the costs of these referenda done by a board or utility, that would put municipalities of course in a very difficult financial position. So they are urging the minister to listen to their concern. I, in reading their concerns, found it to be an intelligent reflection of the problem, and they've recommended obviously language that will help them out to solve it. So I hope they will do that.

Moving on, there are other issues. Candidates will have to make a deposit in an amount to be determined by regulation. It will be refunded if the candidate gets a certain percentage of the vote, also to be determined by regulation. Part of this, I suspect, I think they've argued, is to weed out a number of candidates who may not genuinely be there to run seriously for those positions, and perhaps that deposit may discourage some of those not-so-serious candidates. I'm not entirely sure of that, but it may not be such a bad thing.

On the other hand, I wonder and question why this is not put into the bill and why it's left to regulation. Is the government's intent to make the percentage of the vote unreasonably high so as not to permit some of those candidates to be able to get that deposit back? If that is the case, why would they do that? If that's not the case, what have we got to hide? Why not say what we mean? In my view, we could just name a figure or put a figure, keep it low so the system is accessible, and put that in the bill instead of leaving it for regulation. I think that is a useful thing for the government to look at, but we'll see whether the government is listening. They rarely listen to anything the public has to say, so you can imagine whether they listen to the opposition parties.

Let's move on and talk about enumeration. There will no longer be, according to Bill 86, a specific municipal enumeration, meaning municipal enumeration could be combined with federal or provincial enumeration. This may not sound unreasonable. In fact it may make sense, and it does make sense as long as the revisions are done properly and are not victims of this government's cutbacks. Because I have to tell you the cutbacks are serious and I have to tell you, if you don't do enumeration municipally, there will be a lot of revisions to be made.

It will not be the wealthy who will be disfranchised if this happens, because they know how to get on to the voters list. They don't have any problem knowing that there's a municipal election and they understand that in order to exercise that vote they will have to get themselves on that voters list. They will not be the victims of this cutback. The victims of these cutbacks and the victims of these revisions that will have to be done are the modest-income people who move frequently and are hard to enumerate, but they have as much right to vote as wealthy people do. If you disfranchise them in this way, it will be a problem. We should look at that. We should look at how we make sure that when the revisions are done we will not leave anybody out of that process.

I was thinking, and I want to get back to a point because it strikes me, as we are talking about allowing people to vote by phone or Internet, that that's a useful way to allow people who own property across the province to be able to vote.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): And it's also élitist and classist.

Mr Marchese: Of course it's élitist and classist. It allows only the wealthy class, the wealthy individuals to be able to vote in Minden, or wherever they have cottages, because if you don't have to get there -- it's hard to get there by car; it takes two hours and 15 minutes to Minden, two and half hours in fact -- if you could just vote either by phone or the Internet, isn't that wonderful to allow wealthy Canadians to be able to have 10 votes if they own 10 properties across Ontario. Rich people own a lot of property, not just cottages but properties across this great province.

As some of you know -- I'm not sure everybody does -- in municipal elections if you own property in another municipality you can vote; that is to say, if you are in North York but you own property in Toronto, you can vote in North York and vote in Toronto, but you have to get there.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Because you pay taxes.

Mr Marchese: The Conservative members across the way say, "But they pay taxes."

Mr Ford: Yes.

Mr Marchese: If you're wealthy and own property they say that's okay because they pay taxes.

Mr Kormos: Vote early and vote often.

Mr Marchese: It's vote early and vote many times if you can do it by Internet and by phone. Now you can do it. You don't have to worry about getting to Minden because it takes two and a half hours. Now the Internet allows the wealthy people just to type it right in.

I had almost forgotten about that. I think it's an important point. The poor people who don't own property only get to vote once. Why? Because they only pay taxes in one jurisdiction. They're poor. If you're wealthy and you pay taxes, you can vote anywhere you want. Isn't it legitimate and right that the wealthy should be able to do that so they can move around and go and vote wherever they want and influence votes wherever they want? That's all right for the wealthy because they pay taxes, God bless them.

I have another friend whose name is Bill Williams, and he came to my office and said that was a bit unfair. I like Bill and I thought about what he had to say, and I thought about how I might include some of these things into my remarks. Then when I thought about it, I said I'm not sure I agree that wealthy people should have that power to be able to vote wherever they want. Bill Williams said, "It's unfair that people can do that now but I, who don't own the property but pay taxes on that property, am not entitled to vote."


I thought it was a legitimate argument. It was a reasoned argument. I thought: "It's true. If others who own property can vote, why not people who rent them and pay taxes?" So I thought, "It's logical." They should be entitled to. But then I thought, "I'm not sure I agree that wealthy people should have 10 votes or 20 or however many properties they own." So I'm going to have to disappoint my friend Bill. I know when he sees this he'll be disappointed. I know he has urged this government to make these changes, and I know he was expecting me to support him.

I have to tell you the argument he makes is a very reasoned one. It's logical, but I can't support it, because it would be perpetuating something that's faulty to begin with. It's perpetuating a wrong to begin with. It is perpetuating a problem where the wealthy can continue to do what they want. Because they've got money, they can do what they want. So, Bill my friend, if you're watching or if you see this Hansard, I know I will have disappointed you in not bringing this forward in the way you might have wanted by an amendment to make you feel better. But, Bill, I can't. I think this is a mistake.

Moving on with other changes: The campaign period has been shortened significantly but will be automatically extended to let a candidate clear a debt. That's a good thing. This is important as candidates without big business backing sometimes need more time to pay their debts. I'm not sure that's what they had in mind, that they were worried about --

Mr Pouliot: Advertising has been extended, so those with money again --

Mr Marchese: This is true. That's right. People with money will be able to advertise however long they want with the big bucks, from January 1; that's right, an extended period of time to be able to send their message to the public. What money can do in this country -- the power of money, the power of billboards -- it's wonderful. I see these rich people that Mike Harris is encouraging to give back to the community.

We have Mr Jackman, the Lieutenant Governor, giving money, and Mr Jackman is urging all the wealthy friends out there to come and give money. "We need to take control of the arts," he says. Imagine. "We need to take control of the arts." Do you want the corporate sector on your back? Do you want the corporations leading what culture does and should do? I think it's wrong, fundamentally wrong.

You have Hummingbird now, the O'Keefe Centre -- well, it was O'Keefe before. Instead of drinking beer, you have a computer system company, Hummingbird, companies taking over. Imagine the kind of publicity for this man. Over a 20-year period that kind of publicity is big stuff. He covers it all. He gets a 20% tax cut and he has got lifelong publicity over there. At the same time, we're supposed to thank these wealthy men for the goodness that they do for Ontario. We have the Lieutenant Governor going out there drumming the drum for Mike Harris, for the wealthy to go out and give more. They take our money, then they give it back and we're supposed to say, "Thank you for saving us." Mike Harris cuts, the rich go back and they save us from Mike Harris's cuts. It's shameful.

It is a shameful, shameful thing we are witnessing in this country, where this government is decimating our services and then asking the private sector to go and help them, put some money back, taken out of the sweat and tears of ordinary men and women of this province. It's our money that we then take from them, that they give back to us and we're supposed to feel grateful. It is shameful what's happening in this country.

Unemployment is very high, wages are going down, bankruptcies are going up, youth unemployment is up, and this government laughs with smugness and says, "Oh, no, consumer confidence is up." Mr Ernie Eves stands up and says, "Oh, we've created over 100,000 jobs." It's laughable; it's farcical. We have a province that's going down the tubes because of their tax cuts and Mr Ernie Eves says: "Oh no, consumer confidence has gone up by 19%. You should be happy about that."

We've got a problem. When Bob Rae, our former leader, used to say, "We've created 80,000 jobs," and so on, they would laugh on the other side. Now they create 120,000 and they say smugly, "We created 120,000 jobs in this country and consumer confidence is up by 19%."

Unemployment is up, they're firing more and more people, youth unemployment is up, bankruptcies are up, the economy's going down the tubes, the banks are making money, the bondholders are making money, and the country's going down the tubes and: "Oh no, consumer confidence is going up by 19%." We've got a big, big problem. As Rome is burning, we tinker around the Municipal Elections Act. Rome is burning and we tinker with the Municipal Act.

Let me go through some of these. There are a few more things I have to say about this.

Administrative changes to reduce the number of forms and make candidates give surpluses to the clerk only if they exceed $500: It makes sense. You see that? It's a little thing; it's useful, though. It gets rid of a lot of forms, surpluses -- and make candidates give surpluses to the clerk only if they exceed $500. It makes sense. You reduce the work of the clerk that is not necessary. That's good. Rome is burning and we're tinkering with the Municipal Act. It's in comparison, right? This is what we're introducing here today, that we're talking about today. It's a good thing what I just read, but we've got bigger problems to deal with and they're not dealing with them. In fact they're trying to make the public feel good about how things are going.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Like Nero fiddling.

Mr Marchese: Nero is wonderful, yes, with a fiddle and Rome is burning.

There are a few more things here. That's good. It is also appropriate to allow people who declared bankruptcy to stand for election. That's fine, because people shouldn't lose their democratic rights because they have suffered financial hardship. We support this move by the government.

Mr Kormos: But it says an undischarged bankrupt, so that their rich friends can --

Mr Marchese: My colleague Mr Kormos is going to speak to this afterwards and has got much more to say about these things.

There are a few other measures here in the next half-hour that I've got to deal with because they connect very much to what this government is all about, three important things I'm about to talk about which have been put into this bill. The government is reducing municipal liability in two ways: through a relief from liability for nuisances in regard to sewer and water systems, and liability for negligence in regard to road, bridge and sidewalk repair.

Remember Mr Crombie behind the scenes, working it and working it, the foil for the Premier to do the evil deeds. They said sewers and water systems should be given to the municipalities. So what does this government do through Bill 86? It's going to give them relief from liability for nuisances. What does that mean? What this means is that the government has slashed municipal support by about 43% in these two years. That means municipalities have less and less money to do what they need to do.

What does this government do to help them out? You can't just take all the time. You've got to give them some tools. Some tools work at times. You notice we've heard about the toolbox, the educational toolbox that never arrived. There are a variety of different toolboxes that this government has that never seem to function or work, but this is another tool they're giving municipalities: relief from liability for nuisances.


The side of the coin about cutbacks is this: If there is a sewer backup in somebody's home, the municipality is no longer held liable. They are off the hook. No longer does a municipality have to pay out -- a problem -- for a damage that has been caused by a sewer backup. This is to help the municipalities out. Who do you think is going to have to pay for that?

Mr Kormos: The poor working stiffs who own that house.

Mr Marchese: The working stiffs, the people who bought a house, who devote all of their energies, all of their money into buying a home. Sometimes the money just barely makes it through to pay for the mortgage for a lot of homeowners. But they are the ones who are going to, from now on, pick up the tab for government. Why? Because the provincial government has decided it's going to give them responsibilities, and with that, it's going to give them the tools so that somebody else will pay.

Mr Kormos: It's going to be a little bit of a gift to the insurance companies.

Mr Marchese: Who's going to pay? Peter, you're going to talk about that. Someone's going to pay. The poor person whose basement has been flooded is going to pick up the tab, and the poor person who's tripped on the sidewalk, because the government is changing the rules around as well in terms of negligence, is going to pick up the tab. So if you trip somewhere, if you've got a problem somewhere, the government is going to make it possible for the municipality to be relieved from the liability. Isn't that wonderful, what this province has come to?

You can't help thinking that government has slashed grants to municipalities. Crombie is saying the province should get out of the water and sewer and local road business entirely. The municipalities will take them over, and the government wants to give them a gift to ease the blow. That's what it's all about. That's the toolbox; that's part of the toolbox. It's part of the cutbacks, because the income tax cut is so ugly and so evil that they're going to need so much cash in the next six months to a year to make up for that cut. They need cash at hand.

That's why I'm worried they're going to have to go after civil servants. They're going to go after teachers, I can tell you that, with the rollbacks. The preparation time is going to be slowly taken away from these teachers, and it's coming soon. The 5% wage rollback is coming.

It's not just that we fire 20,000 people, we're going to fire them and we're going to take money from them as well. That's what this government is doing. It's giving an income tax cut to those wealthy bankers. It makes me cry to think of where the money is going, because I know the ordinary person watching this program, the ordinary person making $25,000 or $30,000, has probably looked at that paycheque and said: "Somebody told me this government was giving me a tax cut last July. Where is it? I'm looking through from one cheque to the other. I haven't seen it. Where has it gone?"

They haven't seen it because the person making $25,000 or $30,000 doesn't get any back except for a few pennies. Oh, and user fees and sewer backups, they're going to be paying for that. But the wealthy banker, that banker who makes $1.9 million, he's going to get back $130,000 at the end of the 30% tax cut. Can you believe it?

This government says: "Don't worry, this is leadership. Don't worry, those bankers are going to invest their money." I tell you, if you're making $30,000, you know you're not going to invest one single penny, because if you get $5 more a week or every two weeks, it's not going to help you to make it through the kinds of costs that you are going to be absorbing because of the cuts in health care, in education and in municipal services.

Garbage: Pretty soon you're going to have to pay for every bag of garbage you put out. Why? Because municipalities are not getting the money, and they have to find ways to raise money. Imagine the chaos. You're going to have people throwing garbage left and right, because nobody, of course, wants to pay.

They've got to find all these crazy ways to be able to raise money. So the five bucks that you, making $25,000, might be getting out of this income tax is going to have to pay for that kind of fee that's coming up. The poor seniors are already paying it; we've seen it with the drugs.

Mr Kormos: How much do Tory backbenchers make?

Mr Marchese: The Tory backbenchers are doing fine. They're going to get a few bucks back.

That's what it's about. It's a tax cut that's going to hurt those poor people at the lower levels. It's a tax cut that forces cutbacks against municipalities, and when municipalities are cut to the bone, where do they go? They go in user fees and they're going to hurt the people who have the least, while the government at the same time gives the wealthy, the bankers, more money back so they can invest more in their mutual funds. The government laughs about this when you raise it. They're smug and they say: "No, everything's fine. You guys are scaremongering." Mr Eves says, "Oh, no, 19% consumer confidence is going up." Rome is burning. We are witnessing the burning of Ontario by this government.

These poor municipalities will now have to hurt the local people to make up for those cuts that this government has already passed on and will pass on, more and more of them in time. The poor teachers are going to be the worst ones, you wait and see. The rollbacks are coming for them, and they're coming quick, because the government needs cash right now. It has introduced measures to make cuts, but money is not coming into the coffers. That's why they held back on that press conference in terms of announcing where the cuts are going to be: because they don't have a clue. They're so confused by it, they don't have a clue how to move.

They need money and they don't have it and they need to think quickly about how to get it. That's why people in the civil service are going to be hit hard and teachers in particular are going to be hit the hardest. Some people say $1 billion will be taken out of the education system. I argue that $2 billion will come out of the educational system in one form or another. I tell you, at the end of the day, when this government cuts to make it better, it is not going to make it better; it's going to make it worse.

We have here the nuisance matter, the relief from liability for nuisances, meaning that the poor person is going to pick up the tab. These will be the victims of the Harris government's cutbacks, and we've said that.

Now we move on to another matter. It is always worth repeating, particularly with Conservative members. They need to listen to it seven times in order to understand it, and then, once they've understood it, to decipher it and do something with that information. You've got to repeat it over and over again. It's part of our job here in this role as opposition members.

They are engaging in something else that is happening with this act. The changes are to the Ambulance Act to define when a non-ambulance vehicle may be used. Municipalities will be allowed to set standards for these non-ambulance vehicles. It may not seem so bad, but there are consequences that flow from this that worry many of us and, I'm sure, worry those workers who work with ambulances. I'm sure they're worried about an attempt to reduce the use of ambulances. I feel that's what this is all about. In some instances, this may be appropriate, but it could also open the door to fewer services, open the door to more privatization, and possibly even become a danger to the public.

Privatization: I tell you, when members speak of that, they drool at the thought. They love to privatize because they fundamentally believe in this, but they also want to help out their friends who want a piece of what we offer as a government. They want a piece of the public asset that should be ours to own and to manage and to manage effectively with people in mind, not with profits in mind. When I hear the word "privatization," I see them drooling. I can just picture them drooling at the thought and I picture all their other rich friends out there drooling at the thought as well. They say: "No, we've got to make governments more efficient. So what do we do? We're going to take a bit out of public service and give it out to the private sector, because you all know the private sector does it better."


Well, everybody knows that the private sector does not do it better. Everybody knows that the number one thought of the private sector is to make money, at all costs. That's why we're seeing hundreds of companies, big companies, laying off workers. I was just reading a Globe article the other day and it had a picture of stone bleeding. That's what's happening these days: even stones bleed these days. It was about how workers are picking up more and more of the work because companies are firing more and more of their workers, and of course those who remain end up having to do more. That's what this is all about.

I remember debating Bill 181 with some individual in Ottawa. He was proud. He was one of those private sector guys. He came and said: "My wife works in a bank and she is working long hours now. They cut two or three people from the area where she worked and she is working a lot more." I thought, is this the kind of system that you want, to have banks which make billions of dollars worth of profits firing workers and keeping the few who are left working more hours with fewer dollars? As their wages go down, they end up doing more, because the banks are firing more people to keep their profits up.

I said to this individual who came, who loves the private sector: "Is this the kind of society you want? Are you saying you are happy that your wife is working longer hours and that's the way it should be for everybody?" He didn't have an answer, but that's not the kind of vision I have for working people. I have a vision that people work hard for their money, true. I have a vision that they get good salaries, as they should. But they should have some time to be able to get to their home and do whatever it is that they need to do there. If they've got children, that's a big job; they need time to raise children. If you're keeping them in their workplace doing more, squeezing blood out of that rock, eventually somebody's going to suffer. It's not just that individual family that suffers. Society eventually suffers by the weight of all these problems that everybody is engaged in.

I am not proud of that. That is a very sad, sad vision of the way I want to see society. But that's what the private sector is all about. The banks are about making money. The banks are about using 90% of our money to make money, and then they say, "We are responsible to the private sector." They use our money -- small business money, 90% of it -- to go and make money, and then they dare to fire workers and they dare to keep the wages low. Then on top of that, to show goodwill, they come up with some charitable donation. They come up with some money to give to the United Way, and don't they look great? Using our money to make big profits for the 10% of the people who invest in their banks and then shamelessly, or because they were ashamed, they had to give some money back to the United Way so they can show that they care about those little people, the poor people. It is blood money.

That's not the kind of society that people should tolerate. It's not the kind of vision that people should have. I'm sure it's not the vision they have, other than this Tory vision of cutting and cutting and cutting more and giving and giving more to those who don't need it. That's not the kind of vision that we have in the north, that we have in the eastern part of Ontario, the western part of Ontario or the southern part of Ontario. That's not the kind of vision people have, but that's the kind of vision this government is moving into, and it's a pitiful, pitiful sight to witness on a daily basis.

We have yet another insertion in this bill having to do with community transportation. This all looks a bit innocuous at first. Who would be against cooperation in transportation? No one. In fact, our government started a process in the greater Toronto area that is now leading to more integrated transit planning. That is why it's upsetting to see the government try to sneak draconian powers for the minister under cover of something that seems to make so much sense. Subsection 79(6) gives the minister the power to appoint a third party to restructure public transit. This section of the bill is supposed to be all about demonstration projects and pilot projects and the like. But here, Bill 26-style, we see the following. This is what that section says:

"The minister may enter into an agreement with a municipality, local board, individual, corporation, firm or unincorporated association to provide, facilitate, coordinate or restructure community and transportation, including any experimental or demonstration projects related to community transportation."

The problem is that community transportation, in subsection 79(2), is a very all-encompassing definition of public transport. So the question we ask this government is: Why are they trying to sneak -- that's the way I see it and that's the way, by the way, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Canadian Council sees it. They say that this government is trying to sneak draconian powers by the municipalities, opposition parties, local transit users, trade unions and others. As if they hadn't already learned their lesson from Bill 26. Or perhaps the who does what to whom process has given the government renewed enthusiasm for sticking it to people when they least expect it.

This particular power in this section was not anticipated by people who have been involved in this for years. Under our NDP government a number of people endorse the community transportation review, which was aimed to bring school busing, transit and other transportation services under one roof. Under our government, however, this process was to be locally driven and the final product was to be under the control of local government. Bill 86 raises the possibility of a centralized, holus-bolus restructuring of the municipal transit industry under the guise of the community transportation review.

There are a number of civil servants we or other people have spoken to who say there is no hidden agenda in that clause, that the intent is still to have local development and local control. They say that the intent of subsection 79(6) is to allow for agreements between the Ministry of Transportation and local providers that would allow money to flow to community transportation projects.

The problem is that this is not what the legislation says. I read it to you, and those of you who were listening and heard realized that the clause, as it's worded, doesn't say that. Some of us believe that the legislation should clearly state that agreements with service providers should only come on the recommendation of the municipalities involved and not simply on the decision of the minister.

If, as the bureaucrats say, there is no hidden agenda, then the minister should be able to agree to an amendment that would deal with the problems we have raised, that other people have raised with the ministry so far.


In relation to the particular element I've brought here today, I hope the number of ministers who are involved in this will come together and solve it, because that was not the original intent of what we had in mind when we were talking about community transportation review. If they're serious about doing it in ways that involve municipalities to come up with the solutions for an integrated system, they should not have a clause that gives draconian, Bill 26-like powers to the minister to decide, with whomever he chooses, to amalgamate service or restructure transportation services. That's what that clause allows. It allows for the minister to appoint anybody he chooses to do that kind of review or restructuring. We think that's wrong. We think it's a problem. Either allow municipalities to drive this issue and be clear about it or rethink the way you have presented this position here today.

I understand that the Minister of Transportation is meeting with some of the people from the Amalgamated Transit Union, Canadian Council, on Wednesday. We hope the minister is going to take into account the concerns that have been raised today by me and many others.

Mr Wildman: Does that mean we have to keep talking about this bill until Wednesday?

Mr Marchese: That's what I was thinking. I thought, "Is this a way to make us speak to this bill until Wednesday?" We're not quite certain of the outcome of the meeting between the minister and those Amalgamated Transit Union people. Is that what the minister wants? I'm not quite sure. "Why else," I was saying to myself, "has he waited until Wednesday to meet with them when he knew this bill was being debated today?" Either we will introduce a motion in committee or the minister can decide on his own to introduce amendments that would take care of the concerns these workers have raised.

Mr Kormos: We could move to adjourn the House.

Mr Marchese: We could. We could move to adjourn the House to allow the minister to deal with that particular issue, but we'll wait for that. We'll give the minister some time to reflect on this and/or hold it until Wednesday. There's still some time.

Mr Kormos: What week was that?

Mr Marchese: This Wednesday.

I want to go back to another point that the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario raised as well. I didn't want to be remiss in mentioning it and I will get to their concern. Let me go through it. There are numerous issues they are concerned about:

"We will not inundate you, Minister, with all of our detailed concerns. Rather, we have identified and prioritized our major issues in order to make this presentation more digestible." Imagine, the poor minister would have a digestion problem with this. "Generally our concerns are associated with the electoral process. Our first concern relates to the clerk's ability to certify or refuse nomination papers." It's in a section under 35(5).

As it now stands with this clause, it grants unfettered administrative discretion to clerks to accept or reject a candidate's nomination papers. They say, "We do not seek such wide discretionary powers, nor do we think, as a matter of principle, that they are justified or appropriate in our system of government."

"In order for a clerk to complete his or her duties with minimal ambiguity or legal exposure, the association recommends that a regulatory framework be established that would set out at least some of the conditions or situations requiring acceptance or rejection of nomination papers.

"We recognize that such regulations cannot be all-inclusive and that there must be some latitude for a clerk to handle unique circumstances or requirements. We also recognize that they" -- meaning the regulations -- "cannot be immutable. They must be flexible and subject to change and adaptation. That's why we support the regulations rather than entrenching them in the statute."

I think in this regard it's all right to put it in regulation as opposed to putting that into the bill. What they're asking for is guidance and limitation or an unnecessary discretion. They prepared some suggestions.

"The association of municipal clerks is prepared, in fact anxious, to work with the government on the development of such regulations. To that end, the association recommends that tests be established by regulation. They include but are not limited to:

"(1) Failure to file the necessary financial forms for the previous election:

"(2) Failure to file a registration form;

"(3) Failure to take the necessary declarations; or

"(4) Failure to provide personal identification to the satisfaction of the municipal clerk upon request."

I believe that their request is a reasonable one and I think this government should listen to them. These are the people who have a great deal of expertise, and when they say they do not want unfettered administrative discretion I think they've got a point and we should, hopefully, listen to those wise suggestions they have made.

We're winding down now to a conclusion. I want to go back to some of the points I made earlier and say that some of the things that are contained within Bill 86 are practical, useful and should be implemented. Some of the questions, some other elements of this bill have raised questions in my mind. I have touched on some concerns I have. I hope the government will look very carefully at some of those areas of concern, particularly as they connect to fraud and the Internet. I would remind the government of that.

As we tinker with the Municipal Act, some of these changes that are small and some that are bigger in nature and constitute, in my mind, some violations, like the ones the Amalgamated Transit Union people have raised, need to be very carefully looked at. The powers they give to themselves, as have been shown in Bill 26, are again presented here under the community transportation review that gives the minister the power to get into any agreement with anybody he chooses around transportation. We feel that is draconian and wrong, unnecessary.

As we tinker with these changes we should remember what I said earlier: that around this megacity idea that Minister Leach seems to be totally committed to, he is not giving people the democratic right to decide what is right for them to do. They are having taken from them the opportunity to decide what's good for them. The people of Toronto want Toronto to stay; the people of East York and North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke and so on want to be able to have a say. Don't take that away.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member's time has expired. Comments or questions?

Mr Wildman: I want to congratulate my colleague for a very comprehensive and enlightening exposé on this bill. I think it was important for all members to have the member for Fort York go through each section of the bill and describe those that are desirable and those that have some problems so that all members of the House would be able to share from his experience and understand better the complexities of this very large bill.

I think it's important to recognize that while there are some things that are useful and new measures that are helpful in the legislation, as the member for Fort York clearly pointed out, this is really just tinkering with the changes to the Municipal Act, when there are major problems facing the province and the municipalities and particularly the taxpayers because of the downloading that this government has already done and the downloading that it is proposing to do in the future.

Unfortunately for the taxpayers of this province the Treasurer, the Minister of Finance, did not make clear where the $3 billion, the further cuts that are being proposed in order to finance the income tax scheme, will be made. So we don't know, but we do know that those changes, those cuts in service will mean probably two things: increases in property taxes and user fees for the municipal ratepayers and the loss of jobs and services.

I think it's important for us to look at this bill in that context, to understand that this bill in itself will not resolve those very serious problems. I think we're all indebted to the member for Fort York for such a comprehensive outline.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): First of all, I'd like to thank the member from the opposition for the, what shall we say, thorough discussion of the bill. I was somewhat disappointed that the first half of the presentation dealt with the restructuring and the amalgamations of municipalities and the streamlining of local government; I would be the first to agree with him that this is a very important issue, but not relating to Bill 86. Obviously we know the only part of Bill 86 that deals with restructuring are the provisions for allowing the wards and so forth to be decided by local councils.

Having said that, I have some concerns with his assertion that the municipal voters who are property owners and only property owners and not resident in a municipality should be disfranchised in their voting. In fact, we have a lot of municipalities in Ontario where 75% or 80% of the people who pay for the local services in municipalities do not live in those municipalities, and I would find it somewhat disheartening to hear the member from the opposition suggest that these people should be disfranchised and we should just charge them the taxes but not allow them to vote. I don't think that is a very appropriate way of dealing with the paying for local services and having a say in the level and the type of local service that would be provided.

I also have some concerns with his suggestion that we should look at retaining the present way of compiling a voters' list and not be allowed or we should not look at using other methods, such as using the federal and the provincial voters' lists to reduce costs and have more economical elections.

The other part, I guess I had a little concern about his suggestion that a referendum would take away people's rights.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This bill must be taken in context of the entire fiscal policy that the government's involved in. That is the streak that runs through this bill. Of course we know that municipalities are joining so many others in paying for the tax scheme this government has perpetrated upon this province. That is where, in a full tax year, when the 30% income tax cut which benefits the rich to the greatest extent is implemented, it will cost the treasury $5 billion a year, which means the government will have to borrow on behalf of the people of this province $5 billion additional per year in order to give a tax cut which largely benefits the richest people.

Mr Gerretsen: Five billion?

Mr Bradley: It's $5 billion per year, as the member for Kingston and The Island emphasizes. That's the context within which we must look at this bill. Municipalities are being put upon now by the government. I know from time to time AMO may say what you want to hear, but you have to talk to the individual municipalities, not to the structure of AMO, to know what the municipalities are actually thinking. This is also in the context --

Mr Gerretsen: You're losing me, Jim.

Mr Bradley: This is after the member for Kingston and The Islands has left the executive of that, and some of his friends. I'm sure they're not all that way.

Anyway, what else is contentious is you're doing this at the same time as you're giving the developers a big break. By not allowing the municipalities to levy appropriate development charges, you are putting the money in the hands of the developers, in their pockets. As a result, even some mayors and others who like the government in some cases are distraught about this. My good friend Hazel McCallion in Mississauga is beside herself over this. I can certainly understand that and empathize with my friend Hazel.

Mr Kormos: Our colleague Rosario Marchese's analysis of this bill was certainly thorough. I tell you, though, I have some concern about the tone of some of his interpretation of the bill. I understand, I think, the origins of that. There was on his part and I think on all of our parts a tendency to interpret the bill as being in some respects, let's say, somewhat benign or mere tinkering. When I first read the bill, I held much of a similar view, that it was relatively benign for the largest part, other than some atrociously obvious and unconscionable things like section 79 of the bill.

But even as I was listening to Rosario Marchese's analysis, it began to strike me all that much more forcefully that what appears at first reading to be benign and but mere tinkering ends up being very much part and parcel of a very sinister purpose that this government has, and that is to take democracy away from people and isolate it in the hands of an élite, inevitably an élite that's friends of this government, an élite that's wealthy, an élite that's already powerful in its own right.

So I would put by way of question to my colleague from Fort York, and I would ask him to respond, please: During the course of listening to his analysis of this bill, am I incorrect in becoming more and more sceptical and suspicious about the real purpose behind so many sections in this bill; that in fact it goes well beyond mere tinkering and starts to attack grass-roots democracy in a very fundamental and basic way and in a way that I'm convinced most Ontarians will not tolerate?

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

Mr Marchese: I thank the members for Algoma, Oxford, St Catharines and Welland-Thorold for their kind words.

The member for Oxford said that I spoke for half an hour on a matter that seemed to be unconnected, but the government is giving local councils more authority to decide what council members should be called and under what system they should be elected. That's why I linked it to the farcical situation in terms of what's happening in Toronto. While on the one hand they give municipalities this kind of power to decide how they should be called and under what system they should be elected, in Toronto and in Metro they're getting rid of the cities within the metropolitan area. That's how they're connected, and that's why I say it's farcical on the one hand to give cities and municipalities authority over something and on the other hand to abolish them completely. So there was a connection, obviously. I knew the member for Oxford would eventually understand the connection between that and what I just said.


In relation to what others have said, it's true: All this has to do with a tax cut, all this has to do with downloading, all this has to do with offloading, all this has to do with user fees to fund that tax cut. Most of this, as my friend from Welland-Thorold has said, is tinkering. That's correct: Most of it is tinkering. But there are other nefarious elements contained, he's right, and I touched on them. They have to do with the community transportation review that would allow autocratic power to the Minister of Transportation, unnecessary autocratic powers; and the relief from liability for nuisance gives municipalities power to offload their responsibilities to that poor working stiff who's now going to have to pay. In that guise, it is nefarious while tinkering at the same time.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to rise to participate in this debate on Bill 86, which I believe is a very important and fundamental piece of legislation and clearly in harmony and sympathy with many of the things we said during the election when we talked about less government and less complicated government.

Mr Gerretsen: It has nothing to do with that.

Mr O'Toole: If I look at the bill, and in talking with people at home today and people in the House -- I know Mr Gerretsen with all his municipal background will want to pay very close attention to many of the points I'm going to make because I know how important local municipal government is to you. I'm waiting for your response to my comments today.

Mr Wildman: We're hanging on every word.

Mr O'Toole: Mr Wildman and everyone in the House today will need to listen because this is really a fairly simple bill that I believe has really been responsive to much of what the smaller communities that I have long represented want. It's An Act to provide for better local government by updating and streamlining the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Act and related statutes. Minister Leach introduced this into the House on October 17 and we're now participating in second reading.

I just want to go back into the background of the bill. I'll read it right from the bill so we don't get too far off the topic.

"The bill represents the first phase of a comprehensive rewriting of Ontario's municipal legislation. Its major components are:

"(1) The Municipal Elections Act, 1996, which replaces the existing Municipal Elections Act, and consequential amendments to municipal and other statutes."

I'll go over each one of these in some detail, similar to the member from Utopia's statements a little earlier on. The member from Utopia? We all know who that is.

"(2) Election-related changes dealing with council size and composition and division into wards."

In fact, that's been going on in my riding of Durham East over the past year. They've been very responsible, led by Chairman Jim Witty. He appointed a committee, a committee was chaired by Councillor Larry Hannah, who's from the municipality of Clarington. It was a restructuring committee at Durham region. They've actually downsized Durham region and have sent off their approvals to the municipal board to have those resizings approved. That resizing was very comprehensive. All the member municipalities -- I served on Durham region and I know all of them; I know they're committed. It isn't politics, it's just good government: a fewer politicians act similar to Bill 81, which we'll probably be debating later on and in some subcommittee, which I know most of the members here will support, with the possible exception of Mr Wildman. His riding might disappear.

Mr Wildman: No, no, my riding doubles in size.

Mr O'Toole: Doubles: That's it, yes. You get to share it with somebody else.

This is a very important one: amendments relating to the municipal debt and investment. I remember sitting and chairing finance for four years, and when I was there I was always surprised at how little flexibility was at the local finance department level for their investment strategies.

Amendments relating to the Municipal Liability Act: Anyone who served on local council would know that this has always been a pain for local councils. You have to carry high-cost premiums to cover negligence and liability.

Mr Kormos: Being responsible for their negligence has been a pain, yes.

Mr O'Toole: They're still responsible for proven negligence.

There are some minor amendments dealing with airport licensing; the assessment update relates to what we're going through right now, an examination of the whole Assessment Act; amendments to community transportation.

There you have it. It's worth listening. I think Rosario, the member for Fort York, made some very strong comments which, in some respects, as I heard him, he was a little bit supportive.

In the notes I've got with me -- fortunately, I have a few notes to address what the opposition has said about this Bill 86. I'm going to read the quote and then have you guess who said it, so you may have to listen.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): Oh, a contest?

Mr O'Toole: A little contest here, yes. "In dealing with the Municipal Elections Act changes, it's very interesting that most of the changes I think we can certainly support."

Mr Grimmett: It must have been a Tory.

Mr O'Toole: It sounds like that, doesn't it? "The easier we make it for people to exercise their franchise, the better our system will be." Guess who that was? It was Mr Gerretsen, the former mayor of Kingston. That was his comment. I wish he was listening. He's missed it. It was actually quite a good quote. I liked it so I wrote it down. This was the November 18 Hansard. You can see what you actually said in support of Bill 86.

There's another one which I think is quite good as well. This is a contest, but this person who said it isn't here, so in all fairness, I'll give the name first. Mike Colle, well-known municipal councillor for a few years: "I know the minister is talking about using Web sites or the Internet or fax and phone lines to allow people to vote [more easily]. I think that is [worthwhile]." That's Mike Colle. As to the portion that deals with the election process being simplified, I think it's clear there, without me going on at any great length, that it's probably the right think to do.

Now, you'll never get unanimous agreement on anything. That's clear. We only won by 50% of the popular vote, yet there are 82 members. It's a very difficult thing to get --

Mr Wildman: You didn't get 50% of the popular vote.

Mr O'Toole: Well, close to 50%. In my riding it was over 60%, but that was easy, because it was a good riding, a riding with a lot of commonsense, hardworking people like myself.

This is another one. I think members here should listen. This is another what I call a supportive quote. "On the whole matter of giving people an alternative way of voting, it's [very] interesting. It will bring the ways that people can vote into the 21st century." Guess who said that?

Mr Grimmett: Tom Long?

Mr O'Toole: No, it wasn't Tom Long, although Tom has a lot of futuristic ideas. This was Rosario Marchese. I've got to be careful on that pronunciation; I've run into problems in the past on that. How did I do on the pronunciation?

Mr Grimmett: A good supporter of this bill.

Mr O'Toole: I agree. The member for Fort York is clearly on record, in that particular aspect, of being supportive.

Before we get into the detail here, other endorsements that are very important: We've tried to work with the municipal associations, whether it's AMO or ROMA, and to listen to those people who've been elected across this province to represent their constituents. These aren't provincial politicians; these are municipal people, with their communities at the very heart of their decision-making process. We somehow get blurred sometimes by a larger view of policies that we're dealing with.

Terry Mundell, for example, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said his organization supports the proposed changes -- very clearly. He said the new technology could give more voters greater access to the system and increase the voter turnout in municipal elections. We all know that the turnout in municipal elections, for weather and other reasons, lack of publicity perhaps, is very, very dismal, very slow, and it isn't really widely known sometimes who's running.

Mr Grimmett: Kind of like the Liberal leadership.

Mr O'Toole: Well, it could be confused with the Liberal leadership. There were so many people running, it just went on and on and on. People lose interest after a while, including the TV crews. They all go home and go to bed. Television: Basically, there's a lot of theatre in this job -- I have to admit that -- since I've been here.

Mr Gerretsen: And you're only playing a bit part.

Mr O'Toole: Exactly, Mr Gerretsen, and now your part's even smaller than it was, and you're in opposition. You'd better pipe down a little bit, because at the end of the day your vote really is just that.

This is another important comment made by the mayor of Brockville. If you look at Brockville, a community in the eastern part of Ontario --

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): And a great member representing it.

Mr O'Toole: Exactly, a great member representing it. Bob Runciman, of course, is the member representing Brockville. He's a minister. I wouldn't suggest for one moment that one of our ministers allowed undue influence, but the mayor from Brockville has said: "I think that it's a positive step. I like the idea of being allowed to open up the polls earlier." That's allowed in this act, to open them up earlier in the day to accommodate people who may be commuting or working different kinds of shift hours etc, accommodating the working person.


Mr Grimmett: Dairy farmers.

Mr O'Toole: Dairy farmers who are up at 5 in the morning, exactly.

Mr Gerretsen: Are you filibustering this bill or what?

Mr O'Toole: Look, this is a creative, thoughtful caucus. You see, they're kind of giving me the ideas and we're listening. That's what we do as a government: We listen.

The mayor said he was very supportive of the time changes. Another one here from the member for Kirkland Lake, Joe Mavrinac. Joe is on the record for many things, but certainly on this one he's on the record here. He seemed to have ongoing dialogue with the previous government on Bill 143. Maybe he's still having the same dialogue.

A lot of this is very good and these changes have been asked for at the provincial government for a long time. They want the bureaucracy cut and they want things to get done. This is the mayor of Kirkland Lake, who is known to be a man to get things done. He's certainly been championing that city for a long time.

But I think this government, as I started out, is a kind of responsive government, with this bill particularly. Let's focus our remarks today on this bill, Bill 86, which is to provide better local government. I'm convinced as I go through my own briefing notes on this that -- I'm just going to make a couple of comments. I know Mr Marchese made some, but the most important one that I want to talk about to start with before they give me the cane here -- that's when they yank you off the stage -- is council size and composition. Durham region, where I am, is primarily in my riding, but I have other parts. Manvers township is in my riding. It includes Port Perry, which is kind of a rural area -- it has a council, Scugog council -- and it also includes Clarington. The municipality of Clarington has a good council there. It also includes part of Whitby, which has a very large council actually; part of Oshawa, a large council; and this bill is going to allow them to examine downsizing local government, down to perhaps as few as five members on council.

That's a very practical idea. Why should I walk into a council chamber and see 15, 20, even more people sitting around a table, when the population may be less than 50,000 people? It allows them --

Mr Wildman: Why don't they get rid of the municipality? Just forget about it.

Mr O'Toole: No, no. Using modern technology and highly cooperative within the community -- there are other things here that I believe are important. Durham region -- I just want to complete that -- had gone through a downsizing process which I think was responsive to the people in that area, not the government. Here's a government trying to make the rules a lot easier for them to do just that.

Another small kind of housekeeping issue is the members' titles. As we all know, in cities people are called "aldermen" and in other towns they're called "councillors." To change those titles was a bit of a conundrum and they would have to make application to the Ontario Municipal Board to do that. Now we're making it their choice, a local choice to call their members what they wish. Some of it may not be "aldermen" or "councilmen." They'll find other names, I'm sure.

Ward structures, for example, is another thing that's going on. When they changed the size and representation model for the municipality of Clarington, they changed the ward structure, a very controversial issue; it always is. Certainly we're seeing that in Bill 81, which is the Fewer Politicians Act. As we're trying to move from 130 MPPs down to 103, that reduction of 27 members is in some ridings very controversial. It works out that it's not so controversial in my riding. In fact, my riding gets smaller.

But how this applies here is, the ward structuring, all of these things had to be approved by the provincial government, when it really affects the local committee or council. That's what we're doing; we're simplifying the process. Those are just a couple of examples: the council composition, the name of what they call themselves and the designation of wards in distributed areas.

Other municipal issues that really aren't that big but I thought I'd like to talk about them include the ability of delegating responsibilities. Councils today have very restricted practices of delegating any of the functions that they perform, but I know in my own municipality that there were inconsistencies across the whole municipality. In the older areas, there were volunteer-operated boards and commissions, almost completely removed from the municipal operations, whereas other things had to be run by the bigger cities. Bowmanville has the largest population and Courtice, a very rapidly growing area, is building a new arena. It has to be run by the town; you can't have the volunteer boards.

This legislation is being amended to clarify that municipal councils may delegate a range of administrative responsibilities to committees and/or staff. This will not enable them to delegate government responsibilities, such as passing bylaws or adopting budgets or cancelling or reducing deferred taxes, but they can perform very useful and sometimes voluntary functions, saving municipal councils a lot of administrative time. That may not really be that important at the end of the day.

There's another one in that area with respect to issues of conduct on municipalities. I read about them. Our municipality never had those problems, but certainly there are occasions when there is misconduct and those can involve a whole range of inquiries. We're streamlining that process as well to eliminate the duplication of the number and types of inquiries that would be required to resolve the situation.

I'm going to wrap up; I'm getting the signal here from the leader of the pack, the member for Oxford. I'm sure I'm saying everything he's going to say.

Mr Hardeman: No, you're not.

Mr O'Toole: But the municipal liability is one I have some personal experience with. When I was a local councillor, I really enjoyed that function. I know for most of the members here that probably serves as part of their background; very enjoyable, non-partisan, trying to help people solve problems in the most efficient, cost-effective way possible and to make sure that people are treated fairly. That's really what we all want.

On this municipal liability thing, in the last few years I know the cost of insurance -- there's one large underwriter for many of the municipalities -- has been going through the roof, just absolutely unbelievable. Now I know each of our constituents has the same problem with the ever-increasing cost of insurance, but in this case this liability insurance, for a variety of reasons, has been doubling. The premiums have constituted a kind of double threat for the municipality: the cost of the premiums themselves and also people's desire to sue or take you on for any kind of perhaps dereliction of duty became more of a severe consequence.

I'm just going to say in this part here what I'm talking about in liability. I want to make this kind of clear. Let me just make sure I get my point here. Pardon me. Municipalities want to predict a legal liability so that they can plan. Obviously they have to do things according to the standards and regulations -- that's not optional; that isn't what's optional -- so that they can buy affordable insurance. They want reform in order to ensure that municipal services the community wants remain affordable and therefore available to the community.

Municipalities have asked the government to reduce and prohibit claims based on acts of omission or performance or failing to perform discretionary functions, not standard or mandatory functions; systems of inspections or maintenance, where in fact we have building inspectors in large subdivisions. I'm not certain they actually inspect every two by four. At the end of the day I think the builder, and in fact the trade, have some responsibility and liability as well. Why should the municipality assume it all?

Failure to enforce bylaws: There have been cases where municipalities generally enforced bylaws on complaint, rather than enforcing them and having full-time people going around nailing people or issuing a summons to someone when it really isn't a major issue. Some municipalities have been held to be liable for not enforcing their bylaws. That's a bit of a dilemma for some smaller municipalities. Certainly larger ones -- I was reading this morning in the paper that in Toronto the whole issue of parking tickets is a constant conundrum. They have phoney people issuing tickets with other addresses where the money's forwarded, and they have some that are done by private companies on contract for the city, and then they have the police themselves. So the bylaw enforcement aspect of it is a confusing jungle.

This is really trying to eliminate the nuisance liabilities arising from roads, somebody accusing the municipality of deliberately not maintaining certain standards. But the cost avoidance for the taxpayer -- that's what we're all trying to do, avoid needless cost, and certainly there will be a requirement to carry minimal levels of liability insurance. That's a balance, finding out in each municipality --


Mr Grimmett: The member for Welland-Thorold wants more money for lawyers.

Mr O'Toole: Yes. Liability: The very word itself tells you who's really getting the money: the liability, the lia -- lawyers, rather.

Interjection: Careful.

Mr Wildman: That's "lawyer," not "liar."

Mr O'Toole: "Lawyer," yes, not "liar."


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please.


Mr O'Toole: Nuisance liability has been around since 1989. I believe we're setting some direction and leadership there.

I'm going to make one more comment. The most important immediate change is to the municipal elections process. Most members here have gone through it. It's become more and more of a quagmire of forms and applications than anything that I can think of. You're trying to do it, in most parts, on your own without a great big organizational team.

In fact, we're eliminating the number of forms down from some 40 forms that they use today -- making application for candidacy, filing your financial statements, all these forms plus the mailers, early elections and all that -- down to five different forms, which is going to make it much easier for our clerks in our municipalities. Less paperwork, more jobs: You may have heard that expression before. Frank Sheehan would probably know that expression: less paper, more jobs. That's from the Red Tape Review Commission.

It's much more simplified. Especially, if you think of the application of electronics in the future, whether it's voting by digital phone or voting by other methods, it should be giving the opportunity to avoid some costs of having the election itself. To maintain the validity and reliability of the election is very important in this whole process. Also, the duration of time spent in the election is being addressed. It's being reduced considerably, which is going to save the candidates money and save the people all the nuisance of having all this literature blowing around on their front lawn, because very few people read it.

Mr Grimmett: Does it apply to Liberal conventions?

Mr O'Toole: No, it doesn't. It lengthened the Liberal convention. We should have had this act in here and it would have reduced that time. Mr Gerretsen would have been a lot less fatigued today.

The process is far too lengthy. It starts in January. In fact, I believe the elections will occur earlier, which will be a convenience for -- it always occurs around November 14 or some time in the middle of November.


Mr O'Toole: A little bit shorter, warmer weather, a little brighter in the evening.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): But the elections are the same date.

Mr O'Toole: There's talk about in the future allowing them to change those dates, which would be earlier, better weather perhaps for senior citizens. That's the kind of flexibility that is in the act. Most of the members in this House today, I have the greatest regard for, even though they may be on the other side of the House. I know Mr Crozier is just saying things there that -- all of us have the interest of the community in mind, and at the end of the day, Bill 86 that we're discussing today will simplify the process, make it more streamlined and efficient and accountable at the local level of government, so I'm very much supportive of this and I'm interested in response from those who have been participating in this debate today.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I'd just like to point out to you that members on all sides of the House have a tendency nowadays, it appears, to refer to other members by their names rather than by the name of their riding or their office, which is contrary to the standing orders. I would hope that you would call them to order.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Algoma, you're quite correct. I would remind the members to refer to each other by their riding. For instance, I recognize the member for Durham East.

Mr O'Toole: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I appreciate the member for Algoma. That is my lack of experience, and I acquiesce to you for that experience.

Mr Wildman: I wasn't just being critical of you.

Mr O'Toole: But I agree. When dealing with the people at home, it's difficult to make those points sometimes. It's more colourful when you mention the member's name, for me.

The Acting Speaker: I believe the member was pointing out that all members of the House sometimes make that mistake.

Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: On the same point of order, I understand the point that the member for Algoma, Mr Wildman, makes. I confess that from time to time I have indeed --

The Acting Speaker: Well, member for Welland-Thorold, you just did it. What's your point of order?

Mr Kormos: My goodness, Speaker -- okay, exactly the point. I apologize for any of those occasions on which I might have referred to Mr Marchese as Mr Marchese instead of the member for Fort York.

The Acting Speaker: Okay, member for Welland-Thorold. Thank you. Take your seat, please.

Mr Kormos: I apologize to you, Speaker. I apologize to any members I might have offended --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, I think I get the point, as do other members. Thank you.

Questions or comments?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of privilege, Madam Speaker: I would like to bring to your attention standing order 21(a), which is referring to the privileges and the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by members of the House individually, conferred by the Legislative Assembly Act.

I do believe during the speech we just heard from the member opposite, he made reference that the votes of members of the opposition were somehow less worthy than votes of the members of the government. I would ask the Speaker to take a look at that. It seems to me that the government is somehow trying to imply that they are more worthy of this House than members of the opposition, and I would ask you to warn the member on that particular point.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, I didn't hear the member say that, but I believe you're on very thin ice there. I don't think that is --

Mr Pouliot: If I have to listen to this until midnight, what about my privileges?

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

Thank you for raising your point. Questions or comments?

Mr Gerretsen: The last point that was raised is precisely what I wanted to discuss as well, but I'll do it during this two-minute time period.

The member for Durham East said exactly -- and I quoted him, because I wrote it down at that time -- "Your vote is only just that." It's very interesting that he should say that, because I'm not sure what he's implying there. I think he's implying that if you're in opposition it really doesn't matter when they've got such a huge majority. The irony is that here we're talking about a municipal election bill, a bill that talks about how elections in this province ought to be run. We all know that certainly at the local level, there's usually a lack of interest in elections. We're lucky if we get 30% or 40% or 50% of the people out, if it's a really thrilling election.

For the member for Durham East to suggest that the people who vote for the candidates who don't happen to win in an election -- that that somehow diminishes their vote is what I would call a direct attack on democracy. I think it just goes to show you the length to which the government will go in its off-the-cuff comments -- and I realize it was an off-the-cuff comment. That kind of comment in our democracy is something that we should not only not allow, but we certainly should view it with much disdain and contempt, because that's exactly the kind of contempt they feel about our democratic system.

I know we've got major problems in this province. There is no way that 45% of the people who voted on a given day, which was June 8, 1995, should be able to dictate the kind of overwhelming majority government we have in this province. I think this again shows the reason why, at some point of time in the future, we should go to a representative system whereby the percentage of votes are equal to the percentage of seats.

Mr Marchese: Just a few quick things in response to the member for Durham East. First of all, I did point out that there were a number of things which I refer to as tinkering, and some of them are very useful really, such as not posting the voters' list on a post, for example, and others that I mentioned earlier. They're useful, and by and large most people will agree.

On the whole issue of what I had said about voting by Internet or by phone, I probably said in my comments earlier on that it's interesting that we're getting on to the 21st century, but I also indicated when I made my statement then that we've got to worry about some of the concerns that brings. Today I talked about fraud and how we're going to deal with that. I also talked about the problems that someone will have who is very wealthy and owns 10 properties and will now have an easy time to vote in 10 different municipalities. He won't be able to drive there in time to vote in more than one jurisdiction if he's got properties 200 kilometres from here, but through the Internet now he can do it, and I find this particularly unfair.


In relation to the other bill that my friend from Welland-Thorold talked about, there are some other problems that are not so benign. That's why we pointed them out. The one dealing with relief from liability for nuisance is a problem. When you privatize, as I know many municipalities will privatize sewer and water systems, they will not do the same work we have done in the public system with the same kind of accountability. They will have relief from liability when that job doesn't get done well. The poor working stiff is going to have to pay for that, including the community transportation review that gives this minister the power to get into any agreement with anybody to amalgamate services. That is a Bill 26, draconian style of affairs, it is wrong and shouldn't be in this bill.

Mr Galt: First my compliments to the member for Durham East for an absolutely excellent presentation, very thoughtful, with a lot of quotes that were very interesting, especially from the member for Kingston and The Islands; very insightful, some of the things that have been said before, some by the member for Fort York. It's quite interesting just how supportive the members of the opposition and of the third party are of a bill that we've brought in. It's heartwarming to recognize that they're that supportive of what we are doing. It's good to hear the member for Durham East talk about reduction of paper. It'll be a little easier in the future, with this bill, for the clerks of municipalities to look after some of these elections. It has been horrendously complicated and far more red tape than has really been necessary in the past.

This bill certainly blends in very nicely with Bill 81, the reduction of numbers of provincial politicians. Certainly that one is long overdue. The member for Algoma just mentioned a few minutes ago how thrilled he was to have a riding that's going to be much larger in the future, looking forward to getting a new helicopter to cover it with.

The member for Fort York made reference, and so did the member for Durham East, to the new methods of voting. I think it's time we looked at new methods of voting. I'm sure if the Liberal Party had last Saturday, they wouldn't have been into the mess they were in that went till 4:30, 5 o'clock in the morning. We have to look at ideas like Internet and at ways of phone-in voting and we do have to be concerned about fraud, but with modern electronics that certainly can be looked after. We have to look ahead to the next century and to modern technology that we will have to work with.

Mr Bisson: The general comment I would like to make to the member for Durham East in regard to his presentation is a recurring theme that we hear from government members on a very continuous basis in this Legislature: the notion that somehow there seems to be, on the part of government members, a sort of contempt on their part when it comes to public services and government in general.

The whole point of public services is to have public accountability. There is in some cases a system that has many more checks and balances in it when it comes to public services, but for a reason. I get somewhat frustrated when I listen to the government members say that if something is run in the public service it's somehow inefficient or not well run at all. We can look at many examples in the private sector, at everything from the failed Canary Wharf that we saw a few years ago to other companies that are much more bureaucratic, in some cases, than government is generally. I would say to the member opposite that there is a place in Canada, there is a place in Ontario, for government to play a role when it comes to delivery of services. In those cases it makes perfectly good sense for the government to run those.

The other thing I want to say to the member opposite is that in his speech, and I alluded to it in a point of privilege a little while ago, he made a comment -- I take it that it was an off-the-cuff comment, but it disturbs me somewhat, and this is why I raise it -- that somehow the government members' votes are more important in this House and somehow more valued. I think that really is a lack of understanding of what the tradition of Parliament is all about and what the tradition of the Legislature is for.

We are all elected by members of our constituencies, we come to this Legislative chamber to represent the people of our constituencies and we vote according to our own consciences in representing the people of our ridings. For a member of the government to come here and somehow allude to the fact that his vote is more important than somebody else's I think is sadly mistaken.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Durham East, you can sum up.

Mr O'Toole: I thank the members from both sides of the House for their comments. The purpose of the debate is grow and learn and understand, and certainly I am able to learn and listen and take many of the comments in stride.

For the member for Kingston and The Islands -- the issue was also brought up by the member for Cochrane South, with respect to the importance of your vote -- I meant it in a rather off-the-cuff way as your vote is just that: your vote. Each of us has to examine our own integrity, and that's the truth. I really mean that. Whether we vote on party or other issues -- we certainly see that on private member's day -- each one of us should keep that clarity in mind. I'm not saying that in a lecturing sort of way. I find the most mean thing here for me personally is to be completely denigrated or criticized in the same kind of form or expression as the member for Cochrane South who, in a critical way, is called a "backbencher" -- or "government backbenchers."

The truth is that if we're all elected representatives, that's the dignity I would like to be treated with, and some days I sit here during the debate and don't participate as much; I don't get the same sense of respect and decorum I would like to see. Each one of us, I'm sure, wants to see more of that. I know that people watching want to see it.

The member for Fort York talked about the 21st century. I think we all believe that we have to look forward, not backwards, that we can learn from history or we're doomed to repeat it. I've learned that the penetration of the vote and the number of people participating had to be addressed and I think much of that is looked at in this bill, to help people with disabilities and other kinds of situations, where they can participate in the public process. We have television today. When the original bill was drawn up, we didn't.

I want to conclude with that. A great friend of mine, Mr Galt, the member for Northumberland -- I can call him Dr Galt and I mean that respectfully -- has helped me immensely. His comments today just build that confidence I need to move forward with the people of Ontario.

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


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's a pleasure for me today to have the opportunity to stand and speak on the second reading debate on Bill 86. Speaker, much the same as when we're interviewed on television they always say, "You can't say hello to your family back home," I'm in a similar position today. If you'll indulge me, I got started on this debate later than anticipated and there's a lovely lady from my home town, my wife, who's here in Toronto.


Mr Crozier: Thank you, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell her: "Go ahead. I'll catch up with you later for dinner."

Having said that and also having told everybody back home that I am taking my wife out for dinner tonight, I would like to speak to this bill in all seriousness. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to a bill like this, where essentially we're in favour of the bill. There are many parts of the bill we can support, but it does give us an opportunity to comment on those and what it might mean to our municipalities.

As some of the members would know, and as the member for Durham East mentioned earlier, many of us have municipal experience, so we know the effect that some of the legislation we deal with can have on our local municipalities.

I come from a riding that's made up mostly of small urban and rural municipalities. At the present time, there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12 or 13 municipalities in my riding and they're all small urban and rural. We know we have over 800 municipalities in this province, and this legislation therefore is going to affect a great many of them, if not all of them, and a great many of those are going to be the smaller municipalities.

I'd like to address my comments to the area of finance, to that of liability, and then maybe touch on the area of voting.

To begin with, I read with some interest recently a report on property tax assessment reform, and this comes from the Tax Equity Alliance. Certainly as we get on into the legislative calendar of the government, we're going to have the opportunity to speak to various issues when it comes to the taxes of the municipalities we represent, but there are some interesting comments I'd like to have as part of the context of what I'm going to address. Out of this report, they say:

"Municipal governance, disentanglement and property tax reform are all ambitious undertakings, but like building a new house or renovating an old one, there's a certain order to getting the job done right. How many levels of government, and which level should deliver and fund the services? That needs to be sorted out first. The next logical step is to determine how those services which end up at the local municipal level should be paid for, and separating those which should be financed strictly by user and licensing fees from those which should be funded by a general levy against each property. The final and most difficult step is determining the nature of general levy."

In the area of finance, initially I would like to say that this bill, although it's general in nature, has a lot to do with finance, has an awful lot to do with finance at the local level. We know that what's going to happen is that subsidies from the province are being reduced constantly, and eventually may be eliminated altogether. If that's the case, as this bill allows, municipalities need a different way to finance themselves. In fact, I think that's the whole reason behind this: that this government knows it's going to continue to reduce the grants to municipalities, and they've said, "If we're going to do that, we have to give municipalities the opportunity to have a more flexible way of financing themselves."

When I say that, I'm not necessarily in favour of reducing grants to municipalities. That brings in the idea of downloading, because we know the municipalities still have to carry on these services, so that then brings up, as I mentioned a moment ago, the fact that there have to be licence fees, there have to be user fees.

At the same time the current provincial government is lecturing municipalities on how efficient they should be, it's interesting to note that municipalities have been much more efficient than provincial and federal governments when it comes to financing the services they have to provide. Municipalities, as we all know, in the past couldn't incur debt unless that debt was set up on a schedule for retirement over a period of time. Provincial and federal governments haven't quite operated that way. This government, for example, as it's preaching that that should be done, is going to go out and borrow money. They're going to borrow money to finance a tax cut. It's difficult for me to understand how the government can preach to its partners, or so-called partners, on how efficient they should be and how they should reduce costs and how they should limit their borrowing, and yet the government of Ontario can continue to increase an already unacceptable debt by going out and borrowing the money.

As we're talking about finances for local and municipal government, which in my estimation have been very well managed over the many decades, it's interesting to note that while this provincial debt is increasing on borrowed money, while the government is going to have to spend $12 billion a year just to finance its tax cut, the provincial debt will rise from what it was in 1995, from around $100 billion, to somewhere in the area of $120 billion by the time this government's mandate is finished.

I can't understand how on one hand they talk to municipalities about having better ways to finance themselves, better ways to pay for services, when they would run the provincial debt from $100 billion to $120 billion. What that will leave us with at the end of the term of this government is a total debt of around $120 billion, for which I think each party should bear responsibility. The Liberals, for example, will be responsible for $5 billion of that debt. The previous government, and they came through a very difficult economic time, will be responsible for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $90 billion of that debt, but this cost-conscious, cost-cutting, fiscally conservative government will have run their share of the total debt from the $35 billion they were responsible for when they were out of office 11 years ago to $55 billion. They'll have a great responsibility for a certain part of that debt.

Now, municipalities need flexibility. They need to be able to manage their own affairs, because as they become more responsible this is going to become more necessary. One of the things that I'm a bit concerned about, though, in giving them that responsibility is the fact that we keep saying we want more local autonomy. That's what they're doing with this bill in fact, giving more local autonomy, yet what they're doing with other legislation they're proposing is that these municipalities are going to be getting bigger at the same time. The problem there is that even though they have more local autonomy, the local taxpayers find government growing away from them.

I encourage the government to be consistent in its message. If you want the local taxpayer to have more autonomy, more input, then when it comes to the encouragement of local municipalities to amalgamate, we have to be careful because we're making them bigger and therefore to some extent taking them further away from the taxpayer.

Others of my colleagues have referred in this debate to liability. I concur with many of their observations that for local municipalities their cost of liability insurance has increased almost out of reach, although municipalities have to have insurance, just like the rest of us, so they therefore have had to bear much of the cost of that liability insurance. A local municipality still has to remain responsible -- they can't abdicate all of their responsibilities -- so in limiting this liability I support the government.

What we have to advise the taxpayer, though, the residents of and the businesses in the municipalities, is that, for example, when those once-in-100-years storms come along, which end in many basements being flooded at great cost to the taxpayer, this in itself is a kind of downloading on the taxpayer. If the municipality is going to be immune from having to pay those costs, we all know what's going to happen; that is, the costs of the householder, the person who owns the home and has insurance on the home, are going to go up. In some communities now, they can't even get insurance for sewer backup, for example.

We have to always keep in mind that one action by one level of government can, and usually does, have an effect on another level of government or, in this case, may even have an effect directly on the taxpayer.

Also in the area of liability, the municipalities will be excluded from being sued, it would appear, if their streets are in some sort of disrepair. This is probably one of the more difficult ones, because how do we really know what that level of repair should be or what the condition of those streets should be?


We all know that the weather conditions in this province -- we have freezing and thawing, particularly here in the south -- have caused a great deal of wear and tear on our streets and highways. We know that almost all municipalities, if not all, keep their roads and streets in repair with good conscience, but we all know as well that occasionally there's going to be the odd pothole or two. I hope that if we have those potholes, we continue to have the Minister of Transportation's suggestion, his promise to us as he did last year, that he'll actually come out and fill those potholes.

This is an area we're going to have to be careful of because a municipality can't abdicate all its responsibility and simply let its streets and roads go into disrepair. But if they're not going to pay for damage caused to automobiles, it increases the municipality's responsibility to see that those streets are kept in repair.

We know that part of the reason they're going to have a more difficult time doing that is because of the costs incurred. Again I refer to municipal finances. They have to be very careful with their finances. A related issue, because Bill 86 also has an effect on the authority to borrow, is the Development Charges Act, which we know we'll be debating in the very near future. Under that, we know that municipalities are not going to be able to charge 100% of development charges on development in their community. In fact, we know that some municipalities have already stopped developing their community because of the possibility of this act coming along.

When we have growth-related projects like streets and sewers, even though they're in a brand-new part of town and of no benefit to anyone else in that community, the general tax levy is going to have to pick up 10% of that cost. We feel, through experience, that developers' margins, they have felt, have been narrow enough up till now. If we think that all developers are going to pass on the savings in that 10%, we might find ourselves disappointed in the future.

Even more than that, the general levy in a municipality will have to pay for 30% of the net capital cost of other services like libraries, for example, like recreation centres. That's going to put an undue burden on the general taxpayer, because municipalities won't be able to afford simply to do that. As we all know, there's only one taxpayer and there's only one source of that funding.

Everything we do, although we might put the emphasis on the flexibility of a municipality to do it, in one way or another is going to affect that local taxpayer, so we have to be very careful how we do it.

I said I'd like to talk a bit about voting. In my time on municipal council in my home town, which was about eight years altogether, I certainly was concerned about the fact that we have trouble getting the voter out to vote, getting some enthusiasm up. I don't know whether we can do that by legislation.

We always want to make it easier for the voter. In fact, this bill has suggested a general way that a municipality will have more flexibility in how it can handle voting, how it can handle voting lists, how it can handle the actual vote itself. There are two ways to look at that.

I have always thought that the right to vote or the privilege I have of voting should not be taken lightly, that they should not necessarily make it easier for me. As we all know, there are people in many areas of this world who would crawl on their hands and knees through broken glass if they were given the opportunity to vote.

So, should we make it easier for our electorate to vote? Yes, we should make it convenient; we should always provide convenient polling stations. We should always do everything we can for the convenience of those who may find it physically difficult to get in or out of voting polls or for those who are elderly who may find it difficult. But whether we want to bring voting entirely into the computer age, where you can simply sit home and vote, I'm not so sure. That privilege should be one we have to give a little bit of effort to.

With Bill 86, where there is a great deal of flexibility and it's looking for original ideas on how we can change the way we vote today, I hope we don't make it so easy that voting isn't, in our mind, a very honoured privilege that we have.

Oftentimes what really gets the voter excited is what the issues are, who the candidates are. That, to me, should continue to be the focal point of why local elections should be interesting. It's always interesting to me, and this is just an observation as a side issue, that for example there doesn't seem to be as much interest in who's running for school board, yet school boards generally, in the municipalities I'm familiar with, spend more than 50% of the tax revenue a municipality has to collect. Yet it seems that people aren't quite as interested in who the members of the school board are, and that's always been of some minor interest to me.

I've brought up those areas of finance that I'm concerned about, the areas of liability that I think we should continue to look at, because it isn't so cut and dried that to reduce the cost to a municipality of liability insurance -- it isn't just that which we should be after. We want to find the best way to reduce the cost of liability insurance to municipalities but we don't, I think, want to allow them to simply abdicate all responsibility in that area.

In the area of voting, I think we want to look at ways of encouraging the electorate to come out and vote. It's a privilege that wars have been fought over and have been won for us. But at the same time I'm not so sure we should make it a system of voting where it would be difficult to identify who is casting that vote, because one of the principles we live by is "one person, one vote."

As a final note, over the next several months there will be many reforms put forth regarding local government. I sincerely hope that all members of the Legislature, especially those with the unique experience of having served on municipal government, will look at these reforms with a view to giving citizens better government as being the bottom line. Giving citizens better government is what we're really after. It can't be only to reduce or downsize, cut, slash. Local government in Ontario has worked over the decades because it's evolved thoughtfully, over time, with the full participation of our constituents and with their full consultation.


I know we have some consultation going on, and we always appreciate that. However, I hope the reforms we bring forward in this House flow from thoughtful consultation and are not merely some sort of thoughtless justification for an effort to downsize and download on to municipalities. Those are the comments I have on this bill. As I said at the outset, we will support the bill in second reading, and I hope that as it goes to committee some thoughtful amendments will come to it.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have a couple of minutes to respond to the member's comments. I think there are some positive measures here, as the member has said, in trying to deal with looking at how we run elections municipally. Madam Speaker, I notice I've got six minutes on the clock for a two-minute response. This is interesting.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you for pointing that out. Could you reset the clock, please.

Mr Bisson: I would just point that out to you. There are some points in this particular bill that deal in a positive way with trying to reform -- I hate to use that word loosely -- the system of elections municipally, but there is in that some danger.

I think the member for Fort York had pointed out, just as the previous member pointed out, that there are some real dangers in moving towards allowing, for example, balloting to be done by telephone or by modem through computers. It might sound okay up front, it might sound like a perfectly -- as the government would put it -- commonsense way of doing things, but I think we can't forget what the whole process of an election is all about and why people before us and our forefathers set up the system the way they did. It's important that people themselves take the time, first, to inform themselves about whom they might be voting for, but second, to go down to the polling station.

The only time I would be in support of seeing people given the ability to phone in their ballot or do it by modem should be in fairly restrictive cases. In cases where people are housebound and can't get out I think it makes a certain amount of sense to be able to say, "Let's allow special circumstances for those people to be able to vote through those means." But to allow just every voter out there that kind of ability to send in their ballot through the phone or modem, I don't think that's how far the government wants to go. If you start going down that path, I think there's a certain danger.

On one hand the government wants to see higher participation at the municipal election level, but it could have a bit of a reverse effect on the voting thing. It just sits badly with me. It's important that people take the time to walk down to the polling booth to mark their ballot, to do that in a physical way rather than just trying to do it by way of a modem or telephone. With that, I would like to thank the member very much for having participated in this debate and I look forward to hearing some more.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It certainly is enlightening to hear some of the remarks of members of the opposition bench in the context of admitting that there are at least some positive innovations in this particular bill. What confounds me, however, is that we have a situation in which both opposition members seem to have a strong ambivalence or reservation about some of the technological innovations.

For the life of me I cannot understand what is so dangerous about making it more convenient for people to be able to vote, particularly in a time when people are so rushed today. If they are computer literate, if they have access to the ballot, if there are checks in place, then we ought to proceed down the road, absolutely, towards getting more people involved in democracy, not fewer by putting some sort of phoney restriction on them as to whether they are able or disabled or not. If you are disabled, housebound, and you are computer literate, you should be able to access the Internet or any other means to vote in municipal elections. If the phone system is the way to do it, so be it. For the able-bodied, if they want to go and vote at the polls physically, no problem.

What's wrong with advancing the uses of technology into the 21st century whereby we have more people involved in democracy? That's the fundamental line we're trying to deal with in this particular bill, the Better Local Government Act. For members to put up phoney arguments that there can be computer fraud -- there are means and ways of counteracting that. All they have to do is read Wired World.

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I'm pleased to make some comments on the fine remarks made by the member for Essex South, Mr Crozier. I'm going to speak very briefly to one issue. The events of this weekend, where the Liberal Party was so very pleased to be in this city with our convention, have left me with diminished voice strength.

The issue of liability as it pertains to municipalities has been relayed to me by all concerned in my riding, mayors and reeves, that they do seek some relief in regard to liability insurance. As a matter of fact, I brought up this issue in a previous bill in regard to shortline railroads, that if municipalities were to take back or buy shortline railroads they were very concerned about liability insurance along those lines; the railroad lines I'm speaking of. Of course they were telling me that they were already spending huge amounts of money for liability insurance and it was difficult to acquire any more.

We welcome the idea of reducing liability insurance costs and nuisance claims. However, we must recognize that we can't simply do away with all the liability a municipality must be responsible for and that we must be very careful that citizens are protected.

I also note that the provincial government has downloaded a lot of roads in my municipality in particular. Yes, there was monetary settlement, but it is not enough to maintain those roads forever.

I have some concerns around the liability nuisance claim issue, but I know the municipalities would welcome some relief in that regard.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I listened very carefully to the member for Essex South. There's no doubt that there's a lot of information in this particular bill. On some items there's no problem agreeing with him, but there is a lot of uncertainty in here. A lot of things in here at the end of the bill look very similar to Bill 26, the bully bill that was rammed through the Legislature last January. It leaves so much open to allow the minister, at his discretion, to order a third party, and it could be a private company, to go in and take a look at transportation and suggest that it be privatized. You're looking at making a lot of major changes.

For example, with the discussions going on in the greater Toronto area now, are we going to have municipal government in Toronto with the new and bigger city or is it going to be people appointed to those positions? What is going to happen? When you have Bill 86, if there isn't a good and lengthy debate and people getting into the details of what is in each and every section, we don't know what can happen. Sure, we're talking about the way municipal elections are being held, but people are very suspicious after they saw what happened with Bill 26. With any piece of legislation coming forward, people are saying, "Let's take a good look at it and see if there's not something in here that will give the government in office at this time under the leadership of Mike Harris the right to eliminate a lot of the things that are so dear to the people in this province," so I'm sure there's going to be debate on through the night, probably till midnight tonight, on this particular bill.


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

Mr Crozier: I appreciate the comments from the members for Cochrane South, Cochrane North, Essex-Kent and Etobicoke-Rexdale.

I don't want to be misunderstood when I speak about making it easier for voting in municipal elections. Anyone who is housebound, for example, can use the proxy system. My concern is identification as much as anything. If it becomes so simple -- the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale said we should take advantage of all the technical assistance we have. If I were to carry that to a conclusion, I guess I could say: "Rather than attending House when the bells start to ring for a vote, maybe we could just vote from our office." I mean, that's where most of us are. I wouldn't want to see that. Also, if an election is held, as municipal elections are, in November, maybe we should just make it easier for those who go to Florida for the winter to vote.

I'm saying there are two areas. Don't make it so easy that voting can be done anywhere almost at any time. In doing that, I just caution that we have to use a means of voting, because we believe in one vote for each individual, that it's serious enough -- it's a very serious business -- that we are able to identify who the voters are. If we suddenly had turnouts of 99%, I'd be a little concerned that the old adage "Vote early and vote often" might be the case. We just have to be careful when we're doing it, because voting is a privilege.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member for Cochrane South.


Mr Bisson: Thank you, but I haven't even started yet.

I would like to take this opportunity to limit my comments to sections of this bill that deal with transportation. As the NDP transportation critic, there are, particularly around section 79, concerns I have in regard to the direction the government is taking through this legislation.

Although Bill 86 deals primarily with issues around municipal elections and the financing of municipalities in regard to how they can raise much-needed money for capital and also deals somewhat with the question of referendum, section 79 of this bill deals with transportation and transit authorities, and I'd like to get into that specifically.

First of all, I want to say up front that there are sections of this bill that are a step in the right direction, but when it comes to this section 79, it can be divided into two parts. The first part of section 79 deals with how to try to bring together a coordinated service for the utilization of transportation vehicles within various ministries and community agencies out there. For example, you may have in a community such as Timmins an organization such as the Association for Community Living. You may have the children's aid society. The Ministry of Health may have facilities to offer transportation to the disabled community. One of the problems we have across the province is that there is not a very good coordination of all those services.

For example, in Timmins we've worked a long time with the municipal transit people through the city of Timmins to try to figure out a way to increase Wheel-Trans to the people of Timmins. It gets frustrating at times, because the municipality only has a certain amount of money. The province used to transfer over a fairly good sum of money to municipalities for transit. That's all going to be gone in two years after this government has finished reducing transit -- but that will be for another debate.

The municipality itself never really has enough money to offer the type of service that the disabled community needs just to be able to function, not for frills. We're not talking about frills here for the disabled community; we're talking about being able to call for transportation to go to a doctor's appointment, to go shopping, to go to the bank and to do the things that you and I take for granted. It's frustrating from their perspective, because they look around the community and they say: "Look at that, the Association for Community Living has a vehicle that is perfectly suitable for the disabled community" -- a small minivan. The children's treatment centre may have the same type of facility.

What this bill tries to do is something that we as government had embarked upon, the community transportation action plan, which I'll talk about a little bit later. That would have coordinated all those services and said, yes, the Ministry of Health has the ability to own a van and operate it and so do individual provincial agencies, but there needs to be some coordination of all those vans so that it's not just the city of Timmins transit authority vans available to the community for transportation for the disabled, but that you're able to draw on all those other services from other ministries. The bill tries to address that, but it stops short. It just basically says it's a possibility under this bill, but it doesn't do anything towards actually reforming that particular issue.

I would note that under the leadership of Gilles Pouliot, the Minister of Transportation under the NDP government, we had struck together the community transportation action plan, which was basically a plan that said, here's what we're going to do about trying to manage all the transportation services within a community so that there is efficiency and we don't have individual dispatching systems across a community, Timmins or Toronto or whatever it might be, for all individual kinds of services, but that all the dispatching would be done centrally and all the management of the maintenance of the vehicles, how that system runs, would come under one roof. With the work that had been done by Frances Lankin, the then Minister of Health, the whole question of community long-term care was also part of that, so truly we were moving to a system where we were looking at health care not just from the perspective of institutions and dollars and cents, but also about how you use the dollars and the facilities in the community much better.

That's what the community transportation action plan had set out to do, and the government comes forward in Bill 86, under section 79, and attempts to try to speak to that to a certain extent. As I say, the government is not taking the extra step, which is to put in place a system of coordination -- not at all; they're just saying it's a possibility under this bill. The second thing, and more important, is that the government is not putting the dollars forward needed to support such a system.

In fact many people in Ontario don't know this, but come two years from now, the province of Ontario will not be delivering one red cent to municipal transit authorities in the province. It's the truth. Each of the municipalities across the province will be entirely responsible for the delivery of transit services within their communities, both on the capital and on the operating side. That is very troubling because while the city of Toronto may be fairly progressive when it comes to offering transportation within the urban community through the TTC and really tries to do a good job of using public dollars run by a public institution called the TTC, a service for the commuters, other communities across Ontario may not be so forthcoming in trying to deliver those services because, quite frankly, they're not going to be able to afford to offer those transit services.

I fear in many communities across the province -- possibly in London, possibly in Sarnia and, who knows, maybe even Timmins -- the city councils and the town councils across the province, in trying to deal with the downloading this government is doing by the province taking away transfer dollars from the municipalities, will be stuck in a situation where they're not hoping to have the money to offer the service. A council is going to sit around the council chamber one evening two or three years from now and is going to have to make a decision: "We have lost the entire transit subsidy from the province of Ontario. Can we still afford to offer transit services to our residents?" What will happen is that in many cases we will lose transit service altogether within communities. That is just the way it's going to go, because in many communities municipalities can't deliver the service on their own.

It's really unfortunate. What we're seeing is that the provincial and federal governments are really in sync on this one. You've got Mr Chrétien at the federal level, along with Mr Martin, and in this case Mr Harris, along with his finance minister, Mr Eves, embarking down the same slippery slope, that is, they're going to block funding. They're saying that in the future, rather than the federal and provincial governments, as they have in the past, where they used to transfer dollars over tied to a service -- in other words, the province had a program for transportation, and if the municipality wanted a subsidy for transportation it had to adhere to certain provincial policies. It was the way that the provincial government was able to control, to a certain extent, the level of service and the quality of service we had in our municipalities.


But the provincial government now is moving away and going to block transfers, where they say, "Here's the total amount of money you're going to get," which is going to be a lot less than they're getting now; probably a third of what the total dollars in provincial transfers were in 1995 is what's going to be available two years from now. Municipalities, in exchange for having lost that money -- and for communities, it could mean as much as 40% to 60% of their entire municipal budgets. If you're the community of Black River-Matheson in northern Ontario and you lose subsidies in the way this provincial government is cutting that community, you're going to be left with, if you're lucky, a loss of around 40% to 50% of your entire budget. And how are they going to offset this? The province is saying: "You as a municipality are going to be able to do absolutely anything you want when it comes to whatever service. If you want to privatize, go and privatize. If you want to contract out and get rid of your unions, go out and do it. If you want to eliminate an entire service, go ahead and do it, because we're not going to tie the dollars to any particular program."

That's what's going to happen to transit authorities across the province. In fact, in section 79, and I'll go into the detail, this particular bill gives the municipalities or gives the province in many cases the ability to do just that, and spells it out very clearly in the bill.

People won't remember this, because what I'm referring to is legislation that was passed in this House many years ago, but under the Metropolitan Toronto act of some years ago -- I forget the year it was passed -- the provincial government of the day, a Conservative government, gave the transit authority in Metropolitan Toronto the exclusive right to deal with urban transportation. They said: "We recognize as the Conservative government of the day that we need to regulate to a certain extent the area within the Metropolitan area under one jurisdiction." That way, you'd have an efficiency of scale, one management, one corporation, one public sector entity that would deliver everything in transit, the buses on the street, the streetcars and the subways underground. They said, "We will make that an exclusive right of Metropolitan Toronto to deliver that service."

It was done for a reason, and what this government is doing through this act is taking that away. Under 79(4)(1.1) and also under subsection (5), you're giving the municipality the ability to chop that all up into as many pieces as they want. If you're a commuter in the city of Toronto and you look at your transit system today, if you were for some reason to leave and come back five years from now, your transit system will be totally different, and I don't think it's going to be a step in the right direction. There are all kinds of examples of how this deregulation process we've undertaken in other areas, such as in trucking or in the airline industry, has actually ended up costing the taxpayers more money in the form of higher fares and also, quite frankly, has dropped the quality and dropped the frequency of service to many communities, and I'll get into that a little bit later.

But what this bill specifically does is that you're saying under subsection 79(6) that "The minister" -- and under subsection (5) it's a municipality -- "may enter into an agreement with a municipality, local board, individual" -- that's really interesting -- "corporation, firm or unincorporated association to provide, facilitate, coordinate or restructure community transportation, including any experimental or demonstration project related to community transportation."

If you go through that whole section, you're basically saying that the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto can, if it chooses, once this bill is set, do a number of options. They can say, "We want to chop up the TTC." They'd be able to do it under the power of this act and there's nothing that anybody can do about it other than trying to apply pressure on Metropolitan Toronto. I hope they don't do that, but they will have the power to do that, or they may turn round and say, "We're going to enter into an agreement with carriers from outside the jurisdiction of the city of Toronto."

For example, you may have in the city of Vaughan a transit service that brings people from the city of Vaughan to the most northerly subway stop or bus stop of the TTC. Jurisdictions are drawn out under the agreements I talked about a little while ago under the Metropolitan Toronto act, and what they're going to allow to happen in this particular bill is that the city of Vaughan or the individual private carrier will be able to drive their buses in competition with the TTC within the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Toronto. What you'll end up with is a system where you're going to have competition within the boundaries of the city of Toronto for that transit service.

You might think, at first blush, that this is a positive thing, you know, that somehow competition is better and the private sector does it better and the public sector can't do anything right. All of that mantra is going to be repeated. But what you're going to see happen through this bill is an erosion of what the TTC is now, to the point where you're going to end up in the long term having a much lesser system of urban transportation in Toronto.

Let me just give an example, and I think it's quite poignant. We find ourselves today, in December 1996, in a situation where Canadian Airlines is basically facing bankruptcy. It's a private sector corporation, right? I turn the clock back to the days of Brian Mulroney when they deregulated the airline industry. At the time, prior to Mr Mulroney doing this, we had one central Canadian air carrier, owned by the public sector, called Air Canada. Air Canada worked on a fairly simple principle. It said, "We will offer services" --


Mr Bisson: It was much better than what we have now. You have no idea what you're talking about. Listen, I've got to fly every weekend to this place. Tell me.


Mr Bisson: I just woke up the Tories. That's really good.

The point I'm making is that before deregulation Air Canada had a mandate, and the mandate of this public corporation was very simple. The mandate was that Air Canada would offer services across the country to municipalities throughout -- east to west, north to south, within our country -- and they would have to subsidize some of the less populated routes by using the dollars they were making on the more populous routes. For example, they would make money on the route from Toronto to Montreal or Montreal to Quebec City or Toronto to Timmins, and then they could afford to offer services to other communities that otherwise would not have air services.

Under privatization, when they deregulated the airline industry and Mr Mulroney, I think a cousin to Mr Harris in his politics, privatized the airline industries, we ended up having a situation where we sold off Air Canada --

I notice that we don't have a quorum in the House, Mr Speaker, and I would ask you to check to see if there is a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum in the House?

Acting Clerk Assistant (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Cochrane South.

Mr Bisson: As I was saying, if we look at the example of deregulation and the privatization of Air Canada, we see that we've gone from a publicly controlled airline that provided services from coast to coast to coast in our country and did it at a rate less than we're paying now to assist them, to the situation where we have moved to private corporations -- Air Canada and Canadian Airlines -- basically competing within the market of Canada for the same business. Where we find ourselves today is that Canadian Airlines is in the hole to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. They're not able to keep that company afloat, and now they're going off to the workers at that particular airline and they're saying, "We want you, for the third time, to give us concessions," and somehow or other, by the workers giving concessions, it will save the company. I don't often agree with Mr Hargrove, but on this particular point I think Buzz is right.


Buzz, in this particular case, is saying, "Listen, you can give concessions all you want, you can give concessions till the cows come home, but the point is that this corporation is out of control." This company is not making money because it's got management problems -- a private sector corporation, I would point out -- and it is having problems when it comes to market share.

Canadian Airlines used to operate out of the city of Timmins. They don't any more because they were not able to get into a profitable situation in competing with Air Ontario. The point I'm getting at here is that what we've ended up with is that we've gone full circle with deregulation. We were promised at the outset that if we deregulated the airline industry, service would go up and dollars -- I believe we don't have a quorum again, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to check for quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Would you please check for a quorum.

Acting Clerk Assistant: Mr Speaker, a quorum is present.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Cochrane South.

Interjection: Eighteen? Come on.

Mr Bisson: The clerk needs to learn how to count; we're going to do this again. Now we have a quorum; they've snuck in.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Nobody snuck in over here. I see two sneakers coming in right now.

Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, did I hit a raw nerve here?

The Acting Speaker: I'd like to remind you that I think that was provocative.

Mr Bisson: Provocative?


Mr Bisson: Here we go. The point I'm getting at is that the government, under this bill, is moving to a system where it's going to deregulate the transit authorities within the province, namely, the TTC and others, by allowing a number of things to happen when it comes to how those particular entities are structured.

If we look at the example of what's happened in the airline industry, we were promised that with privatization we were going to get increased services, we were going to get cheaper prices and we were going to get a more frequent service by moving to private air carriers in competition with each other. What have we ended up with? Our airline tickets are three times the price they were prior to deregulation.

We used to fly from the city of Timmins to Toronto under Air Canada on a DC-9 jet that took 55 minutes at a price of about $180 prior to deregulation. Some mere six or seven years later, under deregulation, the price has gone to $600 for a return ticket. I don't see the private sector in this case being any more efficient. I would argue that the private sector is actually inefficient as compared to the public sector corporation because the difference with Air Canada, as a public entity, is that the entire airline offset certain routes so that people were able to fly for reasonable rates within this country, not just people who happen to fly from the city of Toronto or the city of Montreal.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am intrigued by the member's insight into the operations of Canadian Airlines and the airline transportation industry, but could he keep his remarks focused upon the bill that's before us today?

The Acting Speaker: The matter of talking on the subject is a point of order.

Mr Bisson: The member is a parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I believe. The bill deals with transportation as it affects bus and transit services within Ontario. I'm making --

Mr Shea: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It is with pride that I carry the responsibility as parliamentary assistant, but I will remind the member that it is not my responsibility to be concerned with the federal jurisdiction of transportation such as Canadian Airlines.

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

Mr Bisson: Again, the point is that as we move to a system of deregulating and privatizing transit authorities within municipalities, the government will argue that the private sector will do it for less, that it will offer more competitive fares to the transit users and that it will offer better service. The point I'm making is that in cases where we've already deregulated transportation and other sectors, such as federally controlled airlines, as the parliamentary assistant pointed out, quite the opposite has happened.

We have gone, as I said, from a system of a regulated, publicly owned corporation called Air Canada flying return from Toronto to Timmins for about $180 on a DC-9 jet in 55 minutes to where we find ourselves today flying on a twin-engine Dash-8, which is a nice aircraft for a small commuter, on an hour-and-a-half flight with inferior service compared to what we found with Air Canada in regard to the comfort of the aircraft, because they're really not the same aircraft, and for a much higher price.

The government argued that if the private sector did it, we the consumers would be the benefactors because we would end up paying less for our tickets or we would not see increases any higher than they would be under a publicly controlled airline. It is more expensive now by three times.

Also on the question of safety, we have proven that where governments have deregulated truck transportation, both provincially, I might add, and federally, we have seen safety go out the door, to the point that municipalities in Ontario, like the municipality of Vaughan, are moving themselves to reregulate the trucking industry within their own boundaries, which is quite an interesting turn of event. Vaughan, not being known as a social democratic bastion in favour of regulation, is moving on its own to regulate because it recognizes that deregulation has been a disaster when it comes to truck safety in Ontario.

In fact the Minister of Transportation of the province of Ontario, under our government prior to deregulation but especially now under the current government that's deregulating, is moving fast and furiously trying to figure out how his government is going to deal with truck safety. The government has a bill before the House right now -- I think it's Bill 82 or 83; I forget the number offhand -- that deals with the whole question of how we're going to deal with road safety overall as it affects truck transportation.

The point I make is that the government is, through this bill, giving municipalities the ability to go out and deregulate transit authorities, open them up to competition, with the private sector coming in and possibly taking over some of the routes, or in some cases privatizing them altogether. The government will argue, and the municipal governments will argue then, when it is being done, that it's going to be more efficient and it's going to be better when the private sector does it. I just want the record to show that as a New Democrat I'm saying that ain't going to be the case.

There are perfectly good reasons why we decided some years ago that the public sector would play a very important role when it comes to public transportation. We said in the case of transit that if we wanted to offer a uniform service to the people within our communities, you needed to have efficiency of scale to a certain extent. It took a fair amount of money to offer a service because the ridership in many cases is not strong enough to leave it entirely in the realm of the private sector, because if you can't make a buck in the private sector -- and this is not their fault, it's just the way it runs -- you're not going to offer the service. When the municipalities lose their transportation subsidies from the province when it comes to transfer payments in two years, municipalities will really be bent out of shape trying to figure out how to scramble to save services and communities.

We are seeing today in communities across Ontario the frequency of trips of transit buses and other vehicles being reduced. I've seen it in the city of Timmins. The Amalgamated Transit Union, ATU, people in the city of Windsor are telling me that indeed that is what is happening. In the city of Hamilton they're reducing the number of buses out on the road in regard to how often they run and do particular runs. The point I'm getting at is that the government has a very strong role to play when it comes to making sure, first, that we have some provincial policy that deals with how the transit authorities are to operate but, second, that the province has a responsibility when it comes to the dollars going into them, because if the province does not transfer the dollars on to the municipalities, the municipalities themselves are going to get rid of the service.

The other thing I find kind of interesting here, and this is a little bit of a side note, is that the government, in this bill, is increasing the ability of municipalities and the minister to hold referendum questions on municipal ballots. We know that the government, on another particular endeavour, is moving in order to bring referenda legislation to Ontario so that the public can be more directly involved in deciding public policy. But what's passing strange is that when it suits its purpose, the government closes the door to the public when it comes to having their say through referenda.

That's what I really find very difficult to take from the government. You'll remember that about this time last year there was a very big controversy in the province in regard to Bill 26, the omnibus bill. One of the things the omnibus bill did back then -- and we warned what had happened, that this was a mistake -- was that there was a provision in certain acts that said that if the municipality was moving to privatize let's say a PUC -- a public utility corporation -- or a transit authority, as might be the case under this legislation, there needed to be a municipal question. There had to be some sort of referendum so that the people had their say. You couldn't just privatize a PUC without the public themselves having their say about how that should or should not be done.


The government took away the right of the people to express their will when it comes to the privatization of public utility corporations such as hydro or water and sewer, whatever it might be, including transit authorities. That's gone. It's been taken out by Bill 26. And in this very act, Bill 86, which we find ourselves with today, the government is coming back and saying, "We're going to give people -- municipalities -- the right and we're going to give the minister of transportation or others the ability to be able to put referenda questions on municipal ballots."

Well, you can't have it both ways. Either you're for them or you're against them. Either you're for referendums -- and you should have a clear policy, as a government, that deals with referendums -- or you're against them. You can't have it both ways.

I heard the Premier musing just the other day in a press scrum that he did in regard to a particular issue. They were talking about whether the city of Toronto should have a referendum in order to decide which way that municipality's going to be restructured. Should it be a megacity? Should it be individual cities such as Mayor Barbara Hall and others are purporting? The Premier at that particular point was opting away from referenda. He was saying, "Oh no, I don't want a referendum there," because I think he knows what the referendum result would be: People would unanimously support their local councils and would not support the option put over by the Minister of Municipal Affairs for one big megacity.

The other thing I want to point out, just in the closing moments I have here, is that I was reading in the Toronto Star on the weekend a fairly interesting article about Minister Leach, and it went on to talk about his pet dog, Tory. What is really interesting here is that the minister has a dog that he spent some $10,000 on last year, trying to do everything from sending it to obedience school to getting its stomach pumped because it ate something that wasn't too good for it, or fixing up shoes or trying to fix different things.


Mr Bisson: Exactly.

The point I'm getting at here is that you've got a government that's pretty out of touch. Here you've got a guy who's responsible for public housing in Ontario, people who are trying to live in some cases on less than $10,000 a year, and his dog Tory gets more money than most people in this province do living in public housing. I think that says something about some of the decisions we got from this government.

The other point I'd like to make is that the minister has sent his dog Tory to boot camp in order to be able to train the dog to be a better dog. Well, the dog flunked boot camp, which I thought was interesting. So maybe at the cabinet table the Minister of Municipal Affairs can talk to the Solicitor General about not doing boot camp for the citizens of this province when it comes to young offenders as even his dog was not able to pass that particular trick.

On that, Mr Speaker, I'd like to thank you for this particular opportunity to debate.

The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions? The Chair recognizes the member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Thank you, Speaker. Thank you again, quite frankly.

This has been a full afternoon of debate over Bill 86, as was indicated earlier, and I was a little concerned about the nature of some of the interruptions of my colleague Mr Bisson. There was an attempt to obscure what in fact were the very pointed remarks he was making by someone suggesting that they weren't what the bill was all about.

The reality is, though, that Bill 86, like so many other pieces of legislation this Harris Tory government has rammed through this chamber, is about far more than what it appears to be on its face. My colleague was speaking very much to that. He was speaking very much to the fact that this is part and parcel -- this is all the little pieces of a puzzle. Some of the pieces are bigger than others, but at the end of the day there's a particular vision of Ontario that the Conservative government has and it's a vision that, quite frankly, we New Democrats don't share. We don't share it with great passion and our distaste for it is profound.

There's one portion of Bill 86 that's tantamount to -- what was it? -- schedule A of Bill 26, which again was touted as, "See, here you are," as if to suggest that's what Bill 26 was about. Bill 86 is very much about far more than permitting municipalities to become more effective. It's all about attacking municipalities. It's about the process of destroying democracy at the grass-roots level. And again, in some respects so much like Bill 26, it is about the minister securing for himself some very specific powers that are designed to diminish and eliminate the powers of municipal councils.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I listened with interest to the comments of the member for Welland-Thorold and to the member for Cochrane South whose speech I listened to. I listened basically to a speech which was ideological, a speech that said: "I am against privatization. I am in favour of regulation. I'm in favour of lots of regulation." We know what that means because we have experience with it: It means high costs to consumers; it means lots of bureaucracy; it means governments transferring and entangling their services; it means more bureaucrats, not less bureaucrats; it means more government, not less government, and in the end, it doesn't serve those people whom we are all elected to serve, that is, the taxpayers of Ontario.

I'd remind the honourable member for Cochrane South that we all serve just one taxpayer, whether we serve as elected representatives at the municipal level or the provincial level or the federal level. A tax is a tax is a tax, and the families of Ontario have had their fill of taxes in recent years from all levels.

Our government is trying to take a practical approach to look at the real problem, which is entanglement and multiplicity of services. If we can simplify matters, which the Better Local Government Act seeks to do, then we move towards less cost, less government, less service and happier families in the province, because they'll have more disposable income rather than be sending more income to their municipal government, their provincial government and their federal government. Whether it's GST or PST or municipal property tax, whether it's going to the school board or to the municipality or to the province, a tax is a tax, and there's only one taxpayer in the province.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): To tell you the truth, I'm really concerned about this Bill 86 also, referring to my friend from Cochrane South when he says that we are in a way going towards privatization. When we start to play around with the security of the Ontario public, we have to be in deep trouble, especially when we refer to fire services.

We have said that we would give more authority to local government. In this case, I don't say we have followed what we have said all along. When it came down to the VLTs, Bill 75, have we consulted the local government? Have we gone to a referendum within the municipality? I think we bypassed the local municipality and we said: "Yes, we need some money for our coffers because we made some promises during the last campaign. We need 30%. We have to reach our goal of that tax scheme, the 30% tax cut. Why? Because we want to use some of that money to reimburse the high-salary people in this country." When I say high-salary people, I mean the high-revenue companies of this country.

I really have to say that there are good parts within this bill, but for the majority of them, we have gone way too far with it. We have gone ahead too soon with it. We haven't told the people what would be happening. We didn't instruct the municipality properly. At the present time they're just rushing to have these bylaws passed so we can meet the deadline, but we are going way too fast.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to add my comments to those of other members in this House, like the members for Welland-Thorold and Durham Centre, in response to the member for Cochrane South. I must say, the member for Durham Centre accused the member for Cochrane South of making an ideological speech and yet he stood there and said that anything that's done in the public sector costs more, is less efficient, has more bureaucracy and it's always better if it's done in the private sector. If that's not ideological, I don't know what is.


Let me say that the member for Cochrane South rightly pointed out that in Bill 86 there are many aspects which affect coordination of local transit services, transportation issues, that are very important for us to examine. I think it would do the members opposite well to take a look at some of those issues and, in particular, to understand the implication for workers who work in our municipal transit system. As in many other areas, whether you're dealing with firefighters, whether you're dealing with teachers, whether you're dealing with members of the direct public service, this government thinks it's okay simply to privatize, to move out jobs, and that the workers have no stake in those jobs.

Like taxpayers have a stake in the services that government provides, like private sector shareholders have a stake in their companies, workers have a stake in their jobs. They have, as we know, in the recent past in the public sector, increased their stake in their job security by taking lower wage increases or taking wage rollbacks.

To simply think it is okay to give the power for amalgamation without protection for workers' contracts, workers' seniority, for them to take the provision of their workplace contracts with them, for successor rights, in other words, successor rights that you've done away with through a number of measures, through the Labour Relations Act and through your Bill 26 measures with respect to public sector institutions that are not covered under the Labour Relations Act, shows time and time again your disrespect for workers, your disdain for working people, particularly in the public sector. This is an area of the bill that certainly should be amended.

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

Mr Bisson: To the member for Beaches-Woodbine, I agree with you entirely. I listened to the member for Durham Centre talk about how somehow I had an ideological point of view. Yes, I do, but so do you. You have an ideological point of view that's completely different from mine, and we're having a debate about that particular example. But to impute motive I think was a bit shortsighted on your part.

To the member for Welland-Thorold, thank you very much for the comments, as always, along with the member for Prescott and Russell.

Let me say directly to the government, if being ideological means to say that I'm in favour of public education, I guess I'm an ideologue; and if being ideological means to say I'm in favour of public health care, well damn it, I'm an ideologue again, and on and on with the services we have built within this province and this country with the blood, sweat and tears of the people in our communities to make sure that we are able to care for each other within our communities in a way that's humanistic rather than only trying to do things from strictly a bottom-line perspective.

At times, yes, the private sector has a role to play when it comes to the delivery of services, but we need to recognize that the public sector services that we have put in place were put there for a reason. If government didn't get involved in transit authorities, quite frankly, we would not have transit authorities in many of the communities across Ontario.

The Mike Harris government is going to be cutting transit funding in the next two years to zero. It is going to result in the loss of service. There's just no two ways about it. Who is going to get hurt? It's not going to be Mr Palladini, it's not going to be Mr Leach with his $10,000 Tory dog; it's going to be the people in our communities who are least able to defend themselves. That's who I'm speaking for on this particular bill. If being an ideologue means to say that I speak out in favour of them, I am proud to be an ideologue and I'm proud to call myself a New Democrat.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Hastings: It's interesting to join in this debate regarding some major changes that this government is proposing with respect to Bill 86. The things that I want to speak to regarding the detailed changes in Bill 86 range all the way from changes in the composition and size of councils through Election Act changes through new provisions for campaign financing to the division of wards and the reduction of politicos, the subject of limited liability and the whole issue of debt restructuring.

It's interesting to listen to the mixed criticisms from the opposition benches trying to balance several balls at the same time. But I did hear from several of the speakers across the way that they believe there are positive changes being made in this legislation, in Bill 86; changes I counted up just recently, some 43 bills, 43 previous acts, things from the Conservation Authorities Act, the City of Timmins-Porcupine Act, the City of Thunder Bay Act, the Regional Municipalities Act, on and on.

What I want to focus on is what these detailed changes relate to and how they are going to affect the citizens of this province. For example, we are allowing municipalities and the councillors in these municipalities in Ontario to change the size and composition of councils. It was noted in previous debate about two weeks ago that this would be a rather odd thing to do, because you might allow municipal councils to increase their number. However, if the critics of the bill had looked at it more closely, there were specific provisions within Bill 86, particularly if you look at the section dealing with counties and upper-tier municipalities.

In order for the size of a council or the wards to be changed, that particular council had to pass a bylaw. At the end of 30 days, there are specific provisions. In order for the bylaw to go into effect, there had to be what is known as a triple majority. What we're referring to there in this particular section of the bill is that there had to be a majority of the votes on the county council cast in its favour; that was the first level of a triple majority. The second level involved the majority of the councils of all the municipalities that form part of the council for municipal purposes agreeing with this provision. The third part of the triple majority was that the total number of electors in the local municipalities affected that had passed these resolutions also had to be a majority of the voters in that given county.

So here we have the first specific provision by which there are checks and balances in changes proposed for the reforms of the number of councillors or the size and composition of a given municipal council.

Furthermore, within other bills that are being amended in Bill 86, the public had a right to appeal this particular provision to the Ontario Municipal Board. In my estimation, this is a good change because it is consistent with what this government has been doing in terms of its own reduction of the number of politicos provincially, from 130 down to 103, through the Fewer Politicians Act. I think we're being very consistent in terms of giving greater flexibility to municipal governments to deal with this issue of how many representatives they want to have on a municipal council.

In a previous debate regarding this, it was noted that there was a great concern that by allowing councils to make these changes there was somehow an inherent conflict of interest and you were actually changing the very foundation of local representation. I would argue, on the other hand, that the way in which we are proposing to allow councils to change their composition and size, with the built-in checks and balances, is consistent with the philosophy of what people in the public want today. They do not want more politicians; they want fewer politicians. They want politicians who will be effective, and they want to see greater accountability in the way in which their tax dollars are spent. Hence, both the Fewer Politicians Act and the provision within this particular section of Bill 86 are consistent on that line. Furthermore, I would argue that this is simply an example of legislative and administrative simplification.

Another major reform that we are proposing in Bill 86 relates to the way in which the voter can register his or her vote. It has been noted in debate today that a lot of the speakers are concerned with respect to how people go to vote. The traditional way seems to be the best way, according to certain critics. On the other hand, it seems to me that if you have modern technology available, people who are disabled or are housebound for other reasons, people who are simply busy in a very busy lifestyle that most of are living today, ought to have the opportunity to participate in democracy through whatever means is available that is both legitimate and convenient. By that, I refer to the proposals in this particular section of Bill 86 that would allow the local elector to vote by phone or by the Internet or some combination.


It has been mentioned that there is potential for voter fraud in this particular situation. We've already known that there is the potential for voter fraud in the traditional context of voting. We've recently had a case before the courts of Ontario involving a school board trustee who will probably be removed from office because this particular trustee had managed to persuade her daughter's boyfriend to register in only a partial degree of name, leaving out the surname. She won the election, but she has now lost the court case and subsequently her position on that school board. So I think one can argue that you can have voter fraud in whatever way in which people go to vote.

The means of expanding the right to vote and to register a vote should not inhibit government from proceeding with new technological innovations to allow for greater voter participation. There are particular software modes available to block repeated-and-often types of voting, just as there are mechanical means already in place when one goes to the polls in the traditional sense of registering a vote at a poll. So I think this is a particularly good move in terms of advancing local government and getting greater participation in local government, because at the moment, over the history of the rate of voting in this province and in a large number of other jurisdictions throughout North America, we seem to end up with about a 30% to 40% rate of voter participation. It behooves me to understand why critics would not want to expand that rate of participation in a democracy if you can ensure there are adequate and comprehensive safeguards put in place regarding voter fraud, whether it be committed through the Internet or a touch-tone phone.

These particular means aren't by any means the only way that people can vote. If they still want to go out and vote in a physical sense, register their concerns at the polls, that's their particular choice. All we're doing is widening the type and range of choice that people have in order to vote.

One of the other things that I want to dwell on briefly is the way in which governments finance their debt. In the local government context, most municipalities have borrowed moneys for capital assets. They want to build infrastructure. They want to pay it down through a debt, and they borrow the debt. The rate of interest on which a particular debenture is issued is usually paid semi-annually. That has been the traditional way in which municipalities in this province have repaid their principal and debt. There is a specific provision within the debt and investment section of Bill 86 that will allow for variable rate interest to be set.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There is no quorum in the House.

The Acting Speaker: Would you check for a quorum, please.

Acting Clerk Assistant: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Hastings: As I was saying, the traditional way in which interest is calculated on a debenture for a capital asset that a municipality has the right to borrow under the Municipal Act has been on a semiannual basis, twice a year. That will change with the provision of allowing in this particular bill, Bill 86, to a new frequency. That frequency would be on a monthly basis and is very consistent with the new financial products that are being offered by the financial services sector of this country and this province, because a large number of people who are taking early retirement or who have already retired are looking for ways in which they can be assured of a stable and certain income. I think that particular change modifies and recognizes the changes that are occurring in the styles of retirement in this particular province. So I think it's a good move on the part of the government to be consistent in this particular way because it is being modernistic and up to date in terms of the way municipalities borrow for their particular municipal infrastructure and capital assets.

Another subject that is placed within Bill 86 deals with limited liability. On this particular subject, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario for many years has been asking successive governments to make some changes in the way in which liability is dealt with at the municipal level. By this particular bill, we are recognizing and providing some degree of relief to those municipalities which are doing their best to deal with nuisance suits that end up in the courts. I think that particular provision will be helpful to local government.

On the subject of changes in campaign financing, we have made some new provisions there and laid out a very detailed and comprehensive strategy for ensuring that voters are clearly comfortable with the way in which financing of elections occurs at the local government level.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): You wouldn't have to do this if you didn't have the tax cut.

Mr Hastings: Isn't it interesting that the member opposite has to bring up the tax cut when in fact it has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of campaign financing?

Mr Bradley: You are kidding.

Mr Hastings: "You're kidding." Well, I would say that the member for St Catharines certainly hasn't even read the bill probably, so he's not even sure as to whether in point of fact there is a relationship.

Mr Bradley: I'm going to read it.

Mr Hastings: Good. I hope the member will get educated at midnight tonight when he goes home and maybe he'll repent of his remark and feel sorry for himself and the rest of the House for that unsolicited comment.

I must say that some of the other changes that we have made and are proposed in Bill 86 deal in the whole area of red tape reduction. It may have been missed by members from the opposition benches, but I think it's significant to note that the required number of forms that are needed in a general local government election will be reduced from 40 to five. We'll shorten the period for the election by approximately 15 to 20 days.

We are going to require that people who are serious about a candidacy for a local government position, whether it be a school board, a local utility or a local council, focus on what particular choice they are going to make when the nomination process opens on the second day after the new year. Under the present provisions you can do a little bottom-fishing. You can put your name in for school trustee; you can decide: "Well, maybe I want to be a local councillor. No, maybe I want to be on a utilities commission." It seems to be eeny, meany, miney, mo, and they can't make up their minds until the last few days before the actual nomination process concludes, and suddenly they aren't prepared to decide, except with the flip of a coin perhaps, what is the particular position they favour. I think this minor provision and change in Bill 86 will focus the mind wondrously in terms of getting people to be more committed, focused and targeted on what specific position they are going to go to the voters on, and it will demonstrate a greater and serious commitment to that position.


There are a couple of other things I wanted to add as general concluding comments that seem to have eluded members of the opposition. But I think it would be interesting for the people of this province to know that who is qualified to vote is still going to be maintained in this bill. That is, anybody who is serving a sentence in a correctional institution or a jail is disqualified from voting, quite unlike, I believe, the changes that were made in the federal elections machinery that allow people who have committed a serious crime to participate democratically in voting in this country. I think it's a fundamental contrast and I think it is consistent and in context with keeping an integrity in campaign financing in the local government context.

May I conclude by saying that there are some other minor technical changes in this legislation dealing with the debt restructuring, limited liability, which is a very, very complex subject in terms of insurance coverage for municipalities, and in terms of the details of the comprehensive campaign financing.

I simply want to add that this particular bill is being presented at this time for changes that will follow in other legislation, I surmise, during the 1997 session and leading up to the municipal elections in this province for next year.

Finally, I would like to say that the changes are consistent with the following philosophy: reducing the number of local politicians at both the provincial and local government context; simplifying municipal election procedures; reducing red tape where possible; getting the most benefit for taxpayers when they borrow and spend and invest; better management of liability risks, particularly of the nuisance variety; and removing potential barriers to community transportation initiatives. I think all in all these particular proposed changes in Bill 86 add up to what I would consider a good name for this legislation, the Better Local Government Act.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Bradley: I always enjoy listening to the member from Rexdale because he has some interesting things to say on the legislation. He does his job of defending of government policy well, but, I must give him credit, not to the extent that it reads as though it came from the Premier's office itself. I like the way he puts some of his own thoughts into these matters, and I want to give him credit. I always like having him in the House to be able to interject and keep people on their toes as well, even though interjections are out of order.

But I can't find myself entirely in agreement with him. He contended during his speech and in answer to an interjection that this has nothing to do with the tax cut. I always manage to actually relate it to the tax cut because a lot of the measures they're embarking upon that are designed to reduce government expenditures are as a result of the fact that the government is involved in what we call a risky and unwise tax scheme, one which will give a 30% cut in provincial income taxes, which will benefit the richest people the most. For instance, bank presidents will be applauding and corporate giants will be applauding this because they will be getting the best out of it. What is the government going to have to do if that means it has to cut in other areas? It's going to borrow the money: $5 billion a year will be borrowed, even though we have a deficit already, to finance the tax cut.

Mr Speaker, you're often in the chair and you wonder how I relate these matters to the tax cut. That's how it happens. The cuts, the corners that are cut by the government, are because they have to cut far more from their various programs and projects than the backbenchers ever anticipated. Some of them did and were outspoken on it, but I don't have time to list them this evening. They're probably just as happy.

Ms Lankin: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. In his wrapup he talked about the principles in the bill and he talked about fewer politicians. I just want to focus on that for a moment because in fact it's one of the reasons we think much of what's in this bill should be included in the larger bill that's coming forward that will be dealing with municipal restructuring. In particular, I want to point out that this government has zeroed in on Metro Toronto and believes that Metro Toronto needs fewer politicians between the regional and the cities. I see a lot of Tory heads nodding up and down.

I just want to point out to you that if you look at North York, the ratio is one politician to 39,000. If you look at Toronto, it's 1 to 37; Scarborough, 1 to 36; and in the smallest, East York, it's 1 to 12. There is a big difference there, but of course it's because of the small size of the city. But I point out to you that in the GTA belt, the GTA region that you refuse to touch -- let's talk about York or Peel or Halton or Durham, let's just take a look at some of the numbers.

York region, one of the highest ratios there, is 1 to 16,000; in Markham, 1 to 12; in Richmond Hill, 1 to 10; but then we go Newmarket, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, and we're down to 1 to 4 or 1 to 3.9 or 1 to 3. What about in Peel? Mississauga is high at 1 to 53, but Brampton is 1 to 14; Caledon is 1 to 4.

Let's look at Halton: Oakville, 1 to 9,800; Burlington, 1 to 8,000; Halton, 1 to 3,200; Milton, 1 to 3,000; Durham, the same thing, average of 1 to 9,000, 1 to 8,000; or Scugog is 1 to 3,000; Uxbridge, 1 to 2,400. Yet the Tory government has focused all of its energy on fewer politicians in Metro Toronto and the cities within the area of Metro Toronto. They somehow think that's the area that needs to be fixed. Why don't they touch the GTA belt? Because the political base of Tory support is there. If you're going to have forced amalgamation in Toronto, force it in the rest of the GTA region as well.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I just want to commend the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale for his fine rendition of the Better Local Government Act. I want to point out that it is the Better Local Government Act and it deals with local government, and I think it might be appropriate to read into the record some of the comments of those people who are involved with local government.

October 23 in the Cambridge Times: "`The act will cut out much of the red tape in the administration of elections, for example, which will help simplify the process, and it will also allow us to change the size and composition of council if we wish without approval from the Ontario Municipal Board,' said Smith." This was Don Smith, the CAO for Cambridge.

In the Northern Daily News: "A lot of this is good and we have been asking for these changes and provincial government is responding to local needs. They want the bureaucracy cut and they are doing it." That's the mayor of Kirkland Lake, Joe Mavrinac.

Not to be outdone, from the Sentinel-Review in Oxford county: "Oxford county warden Ed Down is pleased with the moves. `It gives a lot more responsibility to municipalities and lessens the paperwork and red tape municipalities have to go through.' `It's good to have local decisions made at the local level.'"

Again, I would like to thank the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale for his fine rendition of the bill.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): There are some provisions in this bill which I think are positive and which will be helpful to local municipalities. There are some provisions of the bill with which I have concern, and one in particular. I feel that the bill does not address the issue in a comprehensive way and I'd like to put forward a suggestion to the government.

We've had a bill already which has changed the provincial boundaries so that they are the same as the federal boundaries. This piece of legislation that is before us, Bill 86, actually says that municipalities are no longer required to do an enumeration at every municipal election. For the information of members of the government, it would actually save the province some $16 million if they were to adopt the same voters list as the federal government voters list. If you are eliminating the need for municipal enumeration at every municipal election, I believe that if there were one voters list in Ontario, that would make a lot of sense and would be the sensible thing to do, yet we don't see that as part of the government's plan and proposal.


This bill could be amended, if the government wanted to, to say that the municipal voters list is the same as the federal voters list. Then you could include the provincial one and you would eliminate the need for continuous enumeration. Costs could be shared between the province and the federal government. It could be an electronic voters list. I think it's important that those new technologies are available to keep voters lists up to date and make sure that nobody gets left off. I've spoken with the chief returning officer, and as long as people could get on the voters list, if they moved or showed up even on election day, as they did during a recent by-election, I think that idea is something the government could amend and include in this bill.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale has two minutes to respond.

Mr Hastings: I'd simply like to thank the member for Oriole for her positive proposal. Perhaps the government will look at it in its widest context.

I'm somewhat disappointed by the remarks of the members opposite in terms of not even focusing in on what are the defects of the bill on a specific basis. For example, the member for St Catharines, in his usual litany, goes back to the tax reduction. I guess he taught school for a while. I don't know if he got into the complexities of history, but usually history has a continuity to it, and in that context I think he was part of history in terms of the previous government that ran up a pretty fat spending bill and bigger government agenda, if my memory serves me correctly. So it's passing strange that the member for St Catharines always has to link back to the so-called tax cut and that everything we're doing revolves around that. Perhaps he should rejig his thinking and say it revolves around the past accumulated debt this particular government was left with and that we're trying to reduce that debt.

Even members of AMO and members of municipalities who are not members of AMO have said time and again: "Give us some of the tools for us to get on with what needs to be done and we will do it. We understand that we have a task facing us and we would be appreciative if you'd give us some tools with which we could carry out that task." That's what the Better Local Government Act has.

Mr Lalonde: I appreciate having the opportunity to speak on Bill 86.

Le gouvernement a manqué de leadership dans ce dossier. Les municipalités ont reçu très peu de direction et certaines municipalités sont complètement délaissées. Exclues des négociations, d'autres ne veulent pas s'amalgamer sans savoir si la province imposera une fusion plus tard. Il y a eu des tiraillements entre les élus des différentes municipalités. Il y a beaucoup d'insécurité pour les employés municipaux. Dans les régions rurales comme Prescott et Russell les gens devront franchir de longues distances pour obtenir ces services, tels que les centres communautaires.

In Ontario we have, I believe, 833 municipalities, excluding regional government, for a population of 11.2 million. In Quebec we have 1,433 municipalities for a population of 7.3 million. I'm not saying they have too many municipalities in Quebec; they are the ones who should know and who should take the proper steps. But here in Ontario, especially in Prescott and Russell, there are 19 municipalities for a population of 126,000. We have municipal councils that are formed by between five and nine members.

This government is very strong on toolboxes. We just have to remember what happened to the Ministry of Education when the ministry transferred toolboxes to school boards. The local school board found out that the toolboxes were empty. This time we are in the process of transferring toolboxes to municipalities, but this time the toolbox is not empty; it has a little note inside. It says, "Municipalities, now you will have to collect money from the vulnerable people."

What I mean by this is we will go ahead with user fees. Remember one thing: Roads are built for everyone, but at times there are people who use those roads very little, but we need the roads to go to hospital, we need the roads to go to church, we need the roads to do our shopping.

We are talking about the possibility of transferring the responsibility of ambulances to municipalities. Very few people use ambulances, but when the time comes, we need those ambulances in place. Who is going to pay for those ambulances? The taxpayers of the local municipalities.

We are talking of charging for people going to the library. We say in French, «Une ville sans bibliothèque est une ville morte, une ville qui s'en va vers un profond sommeil.» A municipality without a library is a dead town to me. It's very important that all taxpayers are paying for this library.

Just lately, we were told that all police services will be transferred to municipalities. Municipalities will have to pay for those police services. We are told it might come up to about $380 per household a year. I'm even told it's going to be higher than that. Well, where are we going to take the money to pay for those police services? From the local taxpayers.

It's true. The government is thinking of taking over up to 95% of the education costs but, in turn, they will reduce the transfer to the municipality, they will reduce the unconditional grant, they will reduce the MTO subsidies to municipalities.

We are told that anyone who is in the hospital after surgery, when the doctor says, "It's time for you to go home," if that person hasn't got anybody to help them at home, the person has no choice but to stay in the hospital. But what is going to happen to that person or to the family who has to pay for that hospital? There will be an additional cost of $40 a day for that person who will be staying in the hospital. Why are we doing all this? It's just to meet the tax scheme this government came with.

Mind you, I'm not against everything in that bill. There are definitely some good portions of the bill that we should seriously consider. Talking of cuts, the government has guaranteed a 30% tax cut to the well-off. The home care service is reduced at this time and will be reduced further. Again, when those people are coming out of the hospital, they go home. Are we going to be able to keep that home care service that we have? I have some doubt.


A lot of municipalities have no choice right now. They have to have a user fee for garbage pickup. Again, it is just to meet some of the promises we made during the campaign.

When I said that we have 19 municipalities in Prescott and Russell, of which one major municipality is Cumberland township, with a population of 46,000, it is part of the Ottawa-Carleton regional government. They have some additional services that other rural municipalities don't have, but they too are going to be hit very hard. If I'm looking at Highway 17 and Highway 34, will the government be transferring the maintenance or the construction of those highways to the municipality? I really believe so.

Just lately I've heard one of the wardens saying at one of the meetings or at one of the banquets, "The best thing that could happen was Bill 26. Now we have the power," but the warden who said that never realized that this government was going to transfer every little cost that has to be spent in the municipality to the local municipality.

To come back to the ambulance service, I just don't know how this government is going to handle this. Really, not too many small municipalities will be able to afford it, but still the government is thinking of transferring the responsibility of ambulances to small municipalities. Transferring county roads from the county responsibility to the local municipalities; again, that would be additional costs. I was talking to one small municipality; 82% of its budget goes towards the roads. Will they be able to afford this? I don't think so.

But one of the points we are talking about very lately, and I'm sure there'll be a lot of Hydro people watching this on television, is that the municipalities will have the chance, will have the power to take over Hydro. Do we have the competent people at the municipal level to run Hydro? This will be decided by themselves.

We've always said that we want to leave the management to the municipalities, but we still dictate to local government very often. Just lately, in this release we got last week on lot levies, we didn't say we were going to leave that to local government. We dictate to local government by saying, "From now on you cannot use 100% of the lot levies plus having the subdividers build their own roads at 100% of the cost, to build a water system, to build a sewer system." No, we are going to dictate to local government, the municipality, by saying, "From now on you will be paying 10% of any road construction, 10% of the water construction and the sanitary sewer construction."

Mr Murdoch: What do you think of that deal?

Mr Lalonde: I really think it is a steal.

Thirty per cent of the cost for a new library, new community centres, new city hall, parks and recreation, day care: how do you think the municipalities are going to be able to afford this?

Mr Bradley: They won't.

Mr Lalonde: Certainly they won't. But there's a little note at the bottom. It will be left to the municipality to borrow the money. Who will be paying to borrow that money? All the local taxpayers only. This is a real scheme. It's robbery.

There's a good part in that lot levy, though, with which I agree, but only if the municipality can afford it and only if the services are in place to service that sector. It's the elimination of 50% of the "agrandissement" or the expansion of the industry sector. It might create jobs. It will boost up the assessment for the municipality, but that is the only good part of that new announcement.

Mr Murdoch: What did Hazel say about that?

Mr Bradley: Hazel?

The Acting Speaker: Order. The members for St Catharines and Grey-Owen Sound, come to order, please.

Mr Lalonde: We kept on saying that it will reduce the cost of having, let's say, four municipal councils, that we want to reduce to one. Do you think we are crazy? You say that it will reduce the cost multiplied by four? Do you think the members of council will work at $2,000 a year or the reeve will work at $7,000 a year? He will have to become a full-time reeve, a full-time mayor, plus he will have to have a secretary or an assistant to work with him, and an office. That will create additional costs to local government.

We were supposed to have a bill passed that I'm told -- I don't know. I've been asking the question, how is the ward system going to work? I only know of a few municipalities that have agreed, that have passed a bill or bylaw already to decide on a ward system. What is going to happen to the others that didn't pass the bylaw for the ward system? My recommendation to the government is to extend the actual mandate of local government, local municipalities, by a year. This would give a chance to this government to inform properly the municipalities of what the impact will be after the amalgamation of all those municipalities. It would be easy to do. All the government has to do -- you have the number of people to pass it -- is pass a bill extending by one year so you would be in a position to inform properly all the municipalities.

I was told -- I heard it right here in this House -- that many elected members spend an awful lot of money by going to fund-raisers, giving money to charitable groups. Do you think municipal councillors will continue going to every activity? If I'm looking at one municipality within my own riding which will be amalgamated, Clarence township and Rockland, it will come down to probably approximately seven or eight hamlets within the municipality. There are three or four community centres. The ones that don't have the community centre within their boundaries, will they be paying the same tax bill as the others that have the community centres? There will be a great fight for that one.

I remember when the Premier announced that there was a program of $8 million for the lunch box. When I say "lunch box," it would give a chance to the needy people who don't have a chance to have a breakfast in the morning to have a breakfast when they get to school. At that time we came out with this, we definitely insulted the women of this province. We said, "For those women who cannot feed their children before they go to school, we will have this program in place." Gentlemen, I don't think we made a good move there.

I was approached just lately by the farming community, the dairy farmers especially. They told me it is the end of any dairy farmers in this province to be elected to municipal council. I believed it when they said that, because they are going to go probably a distance of 30, 40, 50 miles or even 100 kilometres to get to the council meeting. There will not be a local voice any more within the community to respond to the needs of those people who at times require the additional services.

I remember why the election was pushed to November every three years. It's because we wanted to give a chance to the dairy farmers to participate at the election. Today we're talking about having the election back in October. This will mean we don't consider the dairy farmer, which is the second-largest industry in our province. We just forgot about them.


Just lately also, we received a statement that it is now going to be left to the community to decide on where construction or residential development will occur. We talked about giving the right to the farmers to farm, but in this case it was right in that memo. We said that the municipalities will decide if they want to go ahead with development within a farming community or within the dairy farmers. Again, I don't think this is fair.

In my own riding of Prescott-Russell, excluding Cumberland township, because it comes with the regional government, over two years we are going to lose in unconditional grants and MTO grants close to $2.2 million. That is only 47%. This government keeps saying, "We will take over $4 billion to $4.5 billion in education but we will cut $4 billion to $4.5 billion in transfer money to municipalities."

Lately I was in North Bay, right in the backyard of our Premier. We kept on saying all the time that we wanted to give a break to small business people. First of all, we eliminated the Ontario health tax to the small employer. We have frozen the WCB. We said that we would freeze hydro, but we forget to tell them that we would increase the municipal tax. Why do I say we have to increase municipal tax? It's because we have to charge the municipal business sector the full cost of the operation. In North Bay alone, in two and a half blocks, 22 stores were closed. In Pembroke, in one block, seven stores were closed. If I go to Hawkesbury, to Cornwall, it is a real bad position in the business area.

I don't think this was the right approach, to say, "We are going to cut down the Ontario health tax." The business people have agreed to it but they haven't seen the 1998 municipal tax bill yet. I'm not saying 1997, I'm saying 1998, because this is going to happen after the next municipal election. You will see the municipal taxes skyrocketing.

There is one municipality in my own riding at the present time -- not only one, but there are a few that have not decided to amalgamate. If I were in the shoes of the reeve of the municipality of Russell, I would think twice before going to amalgamation. It is up to them as long as they do a proper study. It might pay to join another municipality, but a small municipality, with the territory it is covering, and also having a 13,000 population, I would think twice. Once again, there was no proper study done by this government.

We have said we would give more power to the municipalities. Have we approached the municipalities for the VLTs? Have we asked the municipalities if they were in favour of Bill 75? I don't think so. We completely forgot them once again. We only say that we are giving power to the municipalities, but when we want to have control of the money, we take over. This is the government.

There was only one government in the last 20 years, I would say, that really knew how to operate properly or to administer a budget: The Liberal government finished in 1990 with a $90,000 surplus. We didn't have to go to all those cuts that we are doing. We never promised the people of this province that we would reduce their personal income tax by 30%.

I've done a study to find out how much the people in my riding will benefit from that 30% tax cut. I took the average revenue of the ladies living in the Osprey area. They will benefit by $1.25 a week. But I went a little further, looking at how much it would cost to send their kids to play hockey, how much it would cost to send their kids to the swimming pool, how much it would cost to go to the library, and I end up by having minus $14.69 instead of having a tax break. This is the type of tax break this government is talking about: an increase in fees and a tax break of $1.25 a week versus the $14.69 a week more that these people will have to pay.

By amalgamation, we will eliminate a lot of volunteer-operated boards. I'm sure of that, because when you hire in a small rural area or a small rural municipality, everybody knows each other, but when you start dealing with other municipalities that are as far as 50 kilometres farther, there's no way you're going to get the same volunteer support.

In Ontario, in 1953, we had a total of 924 municipalities. Today we have 833 and we are talking about reducing the number of municipalities by probably 400.

I will end my brief on this note: I just hope this government will do a deep study of what the impact will be of forcing municipalities to amalgamate under Bill 86.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I will take a couple of minutes here to comment before I come back and take the chair and be, of course, totally neutral again for a little while, as we all are when we get in the chair.

Now as I stand in my place here, I would like to tell the member for Prescott-Russell that I listened with great interest to his comments because he represents a different constituency than I do in Metro Toronto. I found some of his points very interesting in terms of, for instance, farmers feeling that they won't be able to participate in local democracy again.

I think that is part of the whole theme we're seeing throughout this bill and other bills that are coming from the Tory Harris government. For a government that claims to want to put more power back into the communities and have less government, it's doing just the opposite. In all of its so-called reforms what it is doing in fact is creating larger, more complex bureaucracies and taking more and more power away from local municipalities and from communities, and unfortunately that's what we are seeing in this bill.

I find it also quite interesting that while this bill is going through, we have a process that's going on which we're all referring to now as the who does what to whom process, which is happening in secret, behind closed doors. I know in my riding, on the education finance subcommittee of the who does what to whom, the parents, the teachers, everybody was shut right out of that process. Then when the parents hired a lawyer to try to fight back and perhaps cause an injunction, the minister's office phoned and shut that process down. That's the kind of thing that's going on here.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I want to compliment the member for Prescott-Russell for his fine remarks, as usual, and certainly I want to have the opportunity to make some comments myself, if I can, just in terms of municipalities and the realities they're facing, particularly those in northern Ontario.

We know that municipalities are certainly under a great deal of pressure these days while they wait for the further axe to fall in terms of transfer payments and have to deal with the fact that the finance minister last week obviously embarrassed himself and embarrassed the government by not making the commitment he said he would in letting the municipalities know what the reality was going to be in terms of further transfer payment cuts.

I know that in northern Ontario there are a number of things that have got people very, very concerned. One of them that is just coming to the forefront is the fact that Ministry of Natural Resources and the minister himself are putting forward the possibility and the likelihood that municipalities will now also have to take some responsibility for fighting forest fires. We know what the costs of fighting forest fires is in the province -- last year it was somewhere in the area of $100 million -- and we also know that the bulk of these forest fires take place in northern Ontario.

I know the municipal mayors and reeves that I've spoken to are very concerned, and certainly I want to ask the Minister of Natural Resources to be very upfront and open about it, because that is simply something they cannot afford. Here they are waiting to find out what the further transfer payment cuts will be and they're being told through leaked documents and through various studies that are being done that they may now have to pay a certain portion to fight forest fires when we know full well this is the full responsibility of the provincial government. It's something that I want to put on notice to the minister, that we expect some response for that and, quite frankly, to maintain the responsibilities they presently have.


Mr Kormos: I've listened again to the member for Prescott and Russell and I appreciated and enjoyed and understood most of his analysis. He, however, brought to our attention again the surplus.

Ms Churley: What surplus?

Mr Kormos: The surplus in 1990. We in this caucus remember that Liberal surplus well.

Ms Churley: How many hours did that last?

Mr Kormos: It was a surplus that existed for around 15 minutes and descended, descended, descended into a deficit that was of enormous proportions. I appreciate that the Liberals campaigned on that surplus, but during the course of that election campaign in 1990 that surplus dwindled as readily as their support did in the popularity polls.

There was no surplus in 1990, and the fact is that the last government inherited a deficit that it responded to with a sense of long-term economic planning and with a sense of compassion for the people who are going to be hurt most in recessionary times, in times of high unemployment. It didn't take the easy route of saying, "Well, fine, we'll reduce the number of people on welfare by putting them out on the street and by putting them into hostels and by putting them into cardboard shipping crates in the back alleys off Yonge Street." That's how this government has responded to a crisis of unemployment. That's how this government has responded to a crisis of growing poverty in this province, including child poverty, where one in three children in the city of Toronto relies on social assistance for their sustenance. It's those one in three children that this government put under direct attack when it reduced their support amounts to the tune of 22%. That's what this government did.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I can't sit quiet any longer. I must make a comment of what's going on in this House. I would like to make one suggestion to some of the members: that they read this bill. It might enlighten them on really what we're talking about.

I hear the member for Riverdale saying that we are taking everything away from the municipalities. That is not true. What we are doing is giving them the authority they have wanted for a lot of years. As a municipal councillor for 13 years, we kept constantly saying: "Please, provincial government, get out of our pockets. Let us do it ourselves. We know what we want in our municipalities; let us do it with the help of the people in those municipalities."

What we have done on this particular legislation is we are asking municipalities to do what we've done: reduce officials, reduce politicians. There is no reason in the world it can't be done. In the municipalities that I represented back for a couple or three years as warden, we had 109 politicians for approximately 120,000 people. I used to do a speech when I was warden suggesting that there were 24,000 politicians in Canada. I believe that's just a touch overgoverned, and I believe that if we want to show the people of this province responsibility, efficiency, accountability, less duplication and reduced costs, which is what this bill talks about, then this is a good bill.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Prescott-Russell has two minutes to respond.

Mr Lalonde: A lot of points have been touched on. My friend from Port Arthur said really, yes, it's true there was a reduction in the forest fire operation. In my own county, Larose forest, which is the second-largest manmade forest in the world, has been given back to the municipality and the municipality will have no money to operate it. It would mean that we will close it. I don't know what's going to happen if there's ever a fire in the Larose forest.

But talking to my friend -- I forget which area he's from --

Mr Gravelle: Peterborough.

Mr Lalonde: He's from Peterborough. I really believe within his area they need a restructuring. Having 109 politicians for 120,000 population, he did need to restructure, but in our area we knew how to operate our own municipality. I was on municipal council for 25 years and I could tell you that at times we would say, "If only the government would let us run our own municipality." But only at times, not all the time.

Today we are transferring everything that we think we could let them control. But the things that the government wants to keep the control on, they don't approach the municipality. They make the decision on their own. This is my answer to some of the points that were brought up.

But don't forget: The farming community has to be important within the municipality. A farming community is part of a municipality; it's part of a local community. If we eliminate the chance of all the dairy farmers to be part of a local council, we are in deep trouble.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Welland-Thorold.

Ms Churley: Jim was all ready to go.

Mr Kormos: I didn't want to cut Mr Bradley's grass, but he's been up till way past midnight for the last few days anyway. His body clock is tuned into it now. He figures it's just breakfast time. He figures it's time for the first ballot; after all, it is 8 in the evening.

Here we are. This is only but the second day of debating Bill 86, and one of the interesting observations is that this is so reminiscent in so many ways of Bill 26 -- well, the same minister, and I'll speak about that in just a few minutes, but also a bill that is very much omnibus in character because what it does is address several areas that are of interest and concern to municipalities but it does it in such a way that they deserve to be spoken to as separate bills and debated each separate from the other.

It's a bill of some 153 pages. I've got a feeling that very few municipal councillors across Ontario have had a chance to obtain a copy of this yet or indeed to read it, and I have read it. The problem is I've read it once, and then I listened to some of the debate, and I went through it again trying to put various clauses and sections and subsections in the context of what people had talked about during the course of debate. It's something I'm convinced is of great interest to a large number of municipal councillors and other municipal-level politicians.

This is the first of two weeks of midnight sittings, so here we are at 8 o'clock on Monday night, December 2. Many people are watching the legislative channel at this point and they're suspecting this is a rerun. I can understand why they would be suspicious that it is a rerun, because oftentimes the sort of dialogue that's engaged in becomes somewhat repetitious.


I have no idea what the Queen's Printer is charging for a copy of Bill 86, but I would urge people to write to the Minister of Municipal Affairs at Queen's Park and insist on their own copy of the bill: not a Xeroxed copy, not one that's been passed around and is dog-eared and marked up as it has passed through many hands or that's been highlighted in that way that students often do. You ever buy a used textbook and it's been owned by a student who has a highlighter obsession, and what's remarkable are only the pieces that aren't coloured pink or yellow or green, whatever the particular predilection is? So I would really urge people -- it's their right. It's a bill that probably if you were to buy it at the Queen's Printer costs $8, $9, $10, but I think Al Leach ought to be giving one free to anybody who writes in to Al Leach, Minister of Municipal Affairs at Queen's Park in Toronto. I think they should start writing and faxing as quickly as possible, because it's important. It does a whole lot of things.

I recall the minister's sponsorship of Bill 26. I'm sure he recalls it too. I'm sure it dwells in his mind --

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Like a bad dream.

Mr Kormos: That's right. It dwells in his mind like a juvenile nightmare. I'm sure the minister recalls Bill 26: the questioning in the House, the scrumming outside in the hallways, and more so the public hearings. I'm sure he recalls them with some fear and anxiety -- nothing that medication wouldn't resolve, I suppose, if properly administered, but with a trepidation and a regret that is probably close to unequalled in his lifetime.

I don't know the minister. I knew the minister was the head of the Toronto Transit Commission. I had read that in the paper. I presume that gave him some or spoke of some administrative skill, so I was quite interested in meeting him. Of course, he'd been elected with the rest of those Tories back in the summer of 1995. So I was fascinated by the piece in the Star yesterday, one of these human interest fluff pieces that usually end up in the Sunday paper. Those are the canned papers, the ones that are pre-written because the papers prepare a lot of editorial copy and use it as filler. I was fascinated by the photograph. The minister lives in a beautiful home. It was something out of Architectural Digest. There were little gold -- what do they call them? -- cherubs, little cherub things, sitting on the mantel. The carpet was described -- and also the visuals were incredible, but we're talking thick white carpet, the sort of carpet that if that Lhasa apso had indeed tossed those Tic Tacs it swallowed, all hell would have broken loose in the Leach household because you don't do that to white carpet.

But I was interested in the article because of the fact that Lisa Wright is a top-notch reporter. I was interested in the types of insights she could give us into the minister who gave us Bill 26. Now we have Bill 86 from the same man who brought you Bill 26. This is like a movie scripted by Joe Esterhasz, and you know the sort of stuff he produces. It's not the sort of stuff that has long run times even in the video stores.

So you've got a minister who knows Arnie Palmer. He knows a very famous golfer and he knows a not-so-famous golfer. He has two golfers in his life, one far more famous than the other. And he has a dog, a very expensive dog. The man suffers from anthropomorphism. You know what I mean, don't you, Speaker? Again I understand that's something that's very North American, but it's also something that's very Rosedale. All I know is that I'm sad that Charlie the beagle is dead, because Charlie the beagle didn't cost anything near what Tory the Lhasa apso cost, but I'd put Charlie the beagle, God bless his dead soul, against that Lhasa apso any day, I tell you, and Charlie the beagle was no Tory.

One of the interesting things about the bill is that we're talking about a variety of areas that it affects in municipalities. One of the things that's been talked about, and I've had the chance to respond to several, is the fact that even some of my own colleagues have had an approach to the bill that is, as I've said, more benign than mine is. Some of my own colleagues have been inclined to suggest, "Well, maybe that's not such a bad idea."

One of the areas that's been responded to positively has been the matter of how you vote, of the fact that you don't have to, according to the bill, be municipalities with designed voting regimes whereby you don't have to go from 10 in the morning until 8 pm, although the municipality -- quite frankly, this part I don't have a quarrel with: voting hours of 10 am to 8 pm with the municipality having the power to bring, I presume, only the beginning hours down to an earlier time range. Fine; so be it.

But then there's the hoopla of high-tech voting, of using the Internet or using telephones, using some sort of electronics to vote. Unfortunately, I'm a little sceptical about high-tech voting for a couple of reasons that I'm going to speak to. This government's experience with high-tech anything -- to wit, the high technology up at the family support plan in Downsview -- has not proven itself to be very successful. Their high technology up in Downsview, which they're purporting to import through Bill 86, consisted of a bunch of dusty cardboard boxes, and some of them will have the initials PK and SM written in the dust on those cardboard boxes in fingerprints.

We've witnessed voting machines, and I know a whole lot of municipalities that have purchased electronic voting equipment. Most of it doesn't work particularly well.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): The Liberals could have used it on Saturday.

Mr Kormos: Yes, tell me about it. The high technology that this government is contemplating is probably exactly what the Liberals were using over at Maple Leaf Gardens on Saturday from, what was it, 1 in the afternoon until 4:30 in the morning, the same sort of high technology that attracted the attention of all the Canadian TV networks such that their broadcasters were glued to the events at Maple Leaf Gardens.

But I should tell you that I'm concerned about several things. I'm concerned about the élitism inherent in suggesting that people use their home computers to vote. We've got a whole lot of people who simply don't have home computers, who don't have access to them. There's been discussion that, "People don't turn out to municipal elections." Is the reason people don't turn out to municipal elections because it's all that much more bothersome to attend a voting area and cast a ballot or is it because they've become more and more detached from what their municipal councillors are doing?

I've got to confess something to you. I used to be a municipal councillor, and that was back from 1985 to 1988. Of the people who elected me to Queen's Park in 1988, some suggested it was to get me out of city hall. Others suggested that it was perhaps some sort of accident. One of the things I share with most other people who have been in municipal government is that in municipal government we had a far closer role in terms of this decision-making that was taking place. As municipal councillors, especially in a small town -- I shouldn't call Welland a small town; it's a smaller community in the province -- like a whole lot of the other people here who were in similar-sized municipal councils, we had an opportunity to address issues, to get things resolved, to get things done in a far more direct way than you can at Queen's Park, regardless of where you're sitting in any of these benches.

Some of us on municipal council felt that type of active hands-on involvement was a very valuable way for politicians to address the affairs of their constituents. It's one of the concerns I have about Bill 86; that is, that there seems to be very much here a repetition of this government's desire to, in its language, reduce the number of politicians, but in reality that amounts to reducing the amount of government -- to wit, the amount of democratic representation -- that voters, ratepayers, citizens have at any one of any number of levels of government.


I tell you that people down in Welland-Thorold are eager to see their governments work for them, not to see their governments eradicated. The people in Welland-Thorold are eager to have the opportunity to vote for elected politicians who they hope will reflect and represent and articulate their views, be it at city councils in Welland or Thorold, at the regional municipality of Niagara or at Queen's Park or at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

I don't accept the proposition that there has to be an introduction of high-tech voting to reinforce the participation of voters in municipal elections. Rather I suggest to you that it's the quality of politicians and the commitment of politicians who run for those offices, whose job it is to persuade people that they have a reason to want to vote in that municipal election. That's where this bill erodes the role of municipal governments and detracts from that responsibility that municipal politicians have to their electorate.

This government, and in a way that's reminiscent very much of Bill 26, wants to give the provincial government and the minister powers to do certain things that were within the realm of municipal governments, specifically with respect to the area of public transportation. I don't think the people where I come from are eager to see that put into effect, and I'm telling you that the debate we've heard over the issue so far has convinced me that this bill should be defeated for that reason alone.

Look, all we can do is highlight some of the areas that have generated concern. There's some talk about how wonderful it is that undischarged bankrupts will now be able to run for municipal office. I suppose on the one hand we're witnessing unprecedented levels of bankruptcy here in the province of Ontario -- there seems to be no abatement in that regard -- and the argument is: "That's true democracy. Just because a person's gone into bankruptcy, why should that person be precluded from serving on a municipal council or running for office?"

I happen to have spent a little bit of time in bankruptcy court, about a month and half ago. I watched the people who were petitioning the bankruptcy court for their bankruptcies. There were entrepreneurs there for whom a bankruptcy was a genuine tragedy, small business people whose bankruptcies could be attributed to the economic conditions, to bad business advice, to bad financial planning. There were business bankruptcies, corporate receivership types of bankruptcies.

I understand that a white paper has been tabled in Ottawa talking about reform of the bankruptcy laws. At the same time, there were any number of people in that bankruptcy court who had no business being there. There were people who were bankrupts, and I'm sure they were because of the definition of bankruptcy, who were relatively young, who were quite capable, but who in my view, sitting there as a spectator in the bankruptcy court for a full day -- it was the first opportunity I'd ever had to do that -- when I saw the list of creditors --

Let me tell you why I was there: I've got a constituent, a young woman whose former common-law partner had bilked her to the tune of around $3,500. She obtained judgement against this person in Small Claims Court, properly so. This person, at the age of around 34 years old, physically able, fit, declared bankruptcy with accumulated debts of around $10,000, $11,000 or $12,000. I was there on behalf of that constituent to tell the bankruptcy court that this is absurd, that my constituent is a victim of a predator who had ripped her off and no way should this bankruptcy court allow this person to be discharged from bankruptcy before he had exhausted all of his capacity to pay off his debt, especially to my constituent -- a victim, a little person.

I don't think that an undischarged bankrupt who's in that position, who may well have bilked any number of small business people, who may well have bilked any number of innocent victims, I don't believe that an undischarged bankrupt in terms of the existing nature of the bankruptcy laws should be allowed to participate as a candidate in a municipal election.

Mr O'Toole -- and I know I'm not supposed to refer to him by name, am I, Speaker? -- but, Mr O'Toole, you know who I'm speaking of. As a matter of fact, it was Mr Wildman, who is the member for Algoma, who raised the issue while Mr O'Toole was addressing the assembly. Mr O'Toole praised -- I'm now in the area of victims -- the statutory controls on liability of a municipality. You'll recall that he did that. He praised the fact that municipalities will be less and less liable to property owners as this bill progresses and gets passed into law. He talked about how little people are going to suffer from the negligence or wrongdoing of municipalities and how municipalities are going to be protected by this government from doing justice for the person who has had wrong done to them.

He talked about things like sewer backups, the nuisance liability, the liability for the nuisance of a sewer backup, and explained that this legislation will make it impossible for a property owner to collect compensation for the cost that's inherent in a sewer backup down in your basement. You know, you've got your rec room, you've got the carpet with the foam back, some imitation mahogany panelling. Maybe to a person like Al Leach, with a thick white shag, that sort of basement rec room is not the sort of place where you'd want to park your Lhasa apso. But to people where I come from, a rec room that as often as not they've built themselves or as often as not they pay hard-earned money to have built for them, the destruction and damage that's caused by a sewer backup is phenomenal.

I know the response of Mr O'Toole: Mr O'Toole would say, "Well, that person should carry their own insurance." That's what Mr O'Toole would say. I wish that some of the members of this government who have been oh so eager to argue --

Mr Galt: He's the member for Durham East.

Mr Kormos: Yes, Mr O'Toole. That's the one that that's referring to. In any event, Mr O'Toole was eager to talk about the fact that people should insure their own homes. You see, the problem is that anybody who has been on a municipal council who's received a call at 2 or 3 in the morning or at 7 or 8 in the morning to go and look at a homeowner's basement where the sewage and effluent is more than ankle deep knows that it's easy to tell that homeowner to use their own insurance, but the reality is that homeowners who make insurance claims of that type find themselves in short order being literally blacklisted, blackballed, by the insurance companies, having reached the point where they can no longer insure their houses.

The fact is that here's a bill that's going to service or accommodate municipalities by relieving them of the liability for the damage that's caused when their sewers back up into a homeowner's basement. We shouldn't be buying into that. At the end of the day, the real break there goes not only to the municipality but to their own insurance companies. I've got a feeling that this really isn't about the municipalities decrying the cost of insurance coverage but is more about insurance companies not wanting to accept responsibility for insuring for the breaches of conduct by their clients like municipalities.

Quite frankly, the same argument could be made with respect to the liability of municipalities for the conditions of roads or sidewalks or other public spaces. If there's a problem with insurance premiums, with insurance rates, why doesn't this government deal with the problem and address the issue of insurance companies who perpetually gouge and overcharge?

What this bill does is relieve the municipality of any responsibility for its wrongdoing. As has been mentioned, as we see a deterioration in support for municipalities by this government, we're going to see a deterioration of infrastructures. As we see the selling off or contracting out or privatization of things like water and sewer systems, we're going to see a diminished responsibility on the part of those operators for the maintenance of quality water and sewer systems and we're going to witness more and more victims of something as mundane but tragic for a homeowner as a sewer backup.

What this bill does is very much part and parcel of paving the way to the privatization and the deterioration of services by municipal levels of government, because they'll be forced into doing that by a province that persistently and continuously and with no shame, unabashedly, attacks municipal services and undermines municipal governments.


One of the sections of the bill that's been of real concern and one that sneaks its way in, it just weaves its way in there into the viscera of the bill -- and you know this, Speaker -- is section 79. Again, that's one of the problems with these types of omnibus bills. That's why Minister Leach, he of the Lhasa apso called Tory -- did you see in the story that the minister bought a king-sized bed so the dog could get into bed with he and his partner? Lhasa apsos are not that big. We're not talking here about a Rottweiler; for that, you need a king-sized bed. If Minister Leach and his spouse can't get a Lhasa apso into a queen-sized bed, there's something seriously wrong with his planning ability and his organizational ability.

Just like Tory would be inclined to sneak into Minister Leach's bed, we've got Minister Leach sneaking section 79 into Bill 86. You know why I raise that, because section 79, in Bill 26 tradition, permits this government, or quite frankly successive governments -- but no, the dirty work is going to be done by this government -- to impose upon a municipality what could very well be a private sector operation to restructure the public transportation of that municipality.

What are we talking about? We're talking about cities like Welland that have worked hard and paid their dues to develop a public transit system, that operated with all the best of motives. Now they're confronted with section 79 of this Bill 86, which lumps school busing, public transit, almost all other forms of municipally regulated transit, lumps them together under the new term of "community transportation." It gives the government, again, the undisputable power to appoint a "corporation, firm or unincorporated association to provide, facilitate, coordinate or restructure community transportation," without any consent or agreement or approval or acceptance of this proposition by city hall or by school boards or by any other facet of the community.

You know where that's going to take us, don't you, Speaker? You know exactly where that's going to take us. That's going to be big corporate friends, the Laidlaws of the world. Just as Tory would jump into bed with Minister Leach, Laidlaw would climb into bed with this government in a New York minute. That would give the Laidlaws of the world fiat power if appointed to do so by this government, and those are the people this government's going to be going to.

Clearly they don't have regard for publicly elected boards. They're going to encourage municipalities to downgrade municipal councils, to reduce the number of people who speak for residents in their community of municipal councils. They're going to be imposing on municipalities the prospect of private corporations with their own very clear profit motives, impose them upon municipalities, such that they can similarly seize and destroy public transportation as municipalities have worked so hard for so long to do it.

Unfortunately, time is running short, but there's one other issue that I wanted to raise with you, Speaker, and that was the issue of the period of election campaigns, because again some folks here have been talking about what a great thing it is to reduce the overall length of the election process from 18 months to 13 months and to reduce the period of an election campaign municipally.

But at the same time as this government will do that, this government is going to permit media advertising so it's no longer restricted to the 28 days before voting day. What does that mean? That means rich candidates, wealthy candidates are going to be able to engage in protracted newspaper, billboard, media advertising, it would appear, from the period from January 1 of the election year through to the election date itself. Is that a level playing field? Far from it. Once again, this government has no interest in seeing people participate in the democratic process; rather it wants to create an oligarchy here in Ontario that's a reflection of its own very special white-carpeted -- white shag, plush-carpeted -- with the little gold cherubs on the mantel.

That's the vision this government has. That's Mike Harris's Ontario. If you don't have the white plush carpet with the little gold cherubs on the mantel and if you ain't in Rosedale as your domicile, then you're not part of the process here. This government again wants to paint a rosy picture by suggesting that by imposing entry fees on people wishing to participate in municipal elections, somehow that's going to streamline the process. You and I both know what it's going to do. It's going to mean that the electoral process and participation in it as a candidate is going to be designed increasingly for the wealthy, just as the protracted advertising campaigns are.

I tell you, Speaker, this government had better make sure that this bill, if it passes on second reading, gets itself out into the hands of every municipal councillor, every municipality, every big city and small town in this province and that it be the subject matter of public hearings so that the fraud that's being perpetrated here in the way this 153-page bill, An Act to provide for better local government -- better local government? This is an act that begins the process of abolishing local government and of placing fiat power for the control of municipal affairs in the hands of Mike Harris and his cabinet at Queen's Park.

I'm not going to support this on second reading, Speaker. You know that, don't you? I thank you kindly for your time.

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

Mr Galt: I'm very pleased to hear the member for Welland-Thorold refer to Tory, the Lhasa apso dog of the Honourable Al Leach. Being a veterinarian, I was particularly pleased to see that he spent some $10,000 to look after Tory. You know, that's just marvellous to help the veterinary profession. I'm real proud he's in the hands of a concerned pet owner and is being well looked after, regardless of the depth of the shag carpet that you were showing us there a few minutes ago.

I think this bill, as the member for Welland-Thorold was referring to, is just great as the councils have the opportunity to be truly autonomous. Once this bill is in place, it'll be their choice how big their councils will be. They will choose the size of their councils, not somebody in Toronto at Queen's Park. They will decide the manner of elections, the size of the wards, how those wards should be divided up.

It won't be Queen's Park that will be telling them how to go about bringing those wards or what the names of the councillors or aldermen or alderwomen or whatever you call them should be. They will decide on the names they will be using. They'll have choices. Like the polls, yes, will have to be open from 10 in the morning to 8 at night, but they'll have a choice whether they want to open them earlier when people are on their way to work.

I noticed the member for Welland-Thorold referred to bankruptcy and members being bankrupt. The direction the NDP was carrying us in the last five years, I can understand why he'd be very supportive of that: spend like crazy and end up bankrupt. I can see where you would be quite enthused that we would have councillors, whether they're bankrupt or not, it should be a good role, a good position for them to be in. Oh, you're trying to twist it around. I can tell you're trying to tilt the boat and get it on a level playing field. We did appreciate your comment and your support in that direction, but the councils will be autonomous.


Mr Gravelle: Certainly it is good to have another opportunity to talk about some issues related to municipalities. This government just about a year ago brought down Bill 26, which had and will have an enormous impact on municipalities in light of some the rather draconian, bullying sort of parts of that particular bill.

One thing that concerns the municipalities in northern Ontario is the municipal affairs minister coming to Thunder Bay, actually, when the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association was holding its spring meeting. The minister came and told them quite bluntly, and rather rudely I thought, that what this really was all about was reducing the number of municipalities that would be managing to stay in place in the province. He made it clear that there were 800 municipalities and he wanted there to be 200 municipalities in the future, and that if indeed the municipalities didn't find their own way to amalgamate or to subdivide, he would make them do it themselves and in fact he would make them pay for that.

So it's interesting seeing a bill like this, which is being painted and pictured as a bill for better local government. What is not really being said is that we're not sure what the local governments are really going to look like, let alone the reality of the fact that there are going to be massive transfer payments to municipalities, that there are going to be remarkable extra costs to municipalities.

As I mentioned earlier this evening, in terms of the responsibilities now being expected or that will be expected by municipalities to pay for fighting their forest fires, it is rather coy and cute of the government to try and put forward this as a bill for better local government when there is so much more that is to come, let alone the frightening aspects of Bill 26 that the minister, in essence, seems to have quietly backed away from but we have no doubt he will be bringing forward in the very near future.

Ms Martel: I want to follow up on some of the comments my colleague from Welland-Thorold has made and congratulate him on his remarks here this evening.

I too have a concern about this whole question of accessibility for voting. The government seems to think that if people can use the Internet or can use home computers, that's somehow miraculously going to change voting patterns in municipalities across the province, and that people who before had no interest whatsoever in taking a drive down to the polling station to vote are somehow going to get on their home computer and now exercise their democratic right.

I think, regrettably, it's going to take a whole lot more than that and that responsible politicians have to be looking at the ways and means by which they can involve more people, can make it more accessible but can convince people that they should exercise their democratic vote. I don't think the élitism in voting, as my colleague has called it, is going to quite do the trick and get more numbers of people participating, exercising their democratic right in the democratic process.

I am very concerned about the relief from liability that the government wants to provide municipalities in this bill, and for the life of me I cannot understand why they want to do that unless the municipalities have come and said that the insurance companies want a little bit more than they already have, which is a whole heck of a lot, and enough, in my humble opinion. As a homeowner, I am fortunate that I can afford extended coverage to deal with sewer backups. I suspect there are a whole lot of people in my community who can't afford to do that.

I say to the government members, why is it then that homeowners who have something like that happen in their home shouldn't expect to be afforded protection? Why shouldn't the municipality have to deal with those things? Why we should ever expect, with the much-reduced staff that MTO is going to have when this government is finished, that MTO is going to be in a position to determine standards of sidewalks etc is just beyond me.

One final point: Having met Charlie the beagle before his untimely demise, I believe he could take Tory any day of the week.

Mr Bradley: I found, as I always do, the words of the member to be very interesting on this and some other subjects. I was wondering, however, when he was speaking whether he had fully the opportunity to canvass the issue of municipal campaign spending, because one of the provisions of this act in fact deals with municipal campaign spending and seems to loosen some of the control on that.

We all know that the opportunity at the local level for developers, for instance, and others who have proposals to get at local councillors is far greater than it is to get at provincial people. They often are people with whom they go to church or go to social clubs or associate with in some way or another, people they see on the street, who have more of a chance as developers or proponents to influence local politicians.

So we can see more severances granted or more rezonings granted or things of that nature, and when I see some loosening, what looks like loosening, of the control over municipal campaign spending and the province stepping back from that through its provincial agency, I wonder whether the member has a concern that I have, that indeed we could see increased opportunities for some corruption. I know all of us, regardless of our political backgrounds, would want to avoid that, but when one starts deregulating, that's a long slippery road down to some rather unfortunate circumstances, and I know the member, if he has a moment or two, might want to address this.

Mr Kormos: I appreciate the response and I appreciate the fact that the member for Northumberland -- we have been chastised earlier. That's the member for Northumberland. His wife calls him Doug Galt.

Interjection: Dr Galt.

Mr Kormos: Perhaps his wife calls him Dr Doug Galt. But the member for Northumberland, again, was trying to pay attention, and I appreciate that, but the fact is that we're dealing here with 153 pages of amendments to the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Act and some brand-new stuff standing all on its own. There's some real sneakiness about the way that a whole lot of this stuff is being presented.

When the member for St Catharines, whom his constituents call Jim Bradley, speaks about the fears that this bill can generate in terms of what's being promoted and what type of funding and expense controls are being promoted, when we observe that the legislation very specifically restricts the campaign period to 28 days for a municipal election, which gives you carte blanche in terms of media advertising, we're talking about this government, as I say, being well on its way to creating something no less than an oligarchy when it comes to municipal governments. We're talking about legislation which is part and parcel of the overall plan of privatization, of degovernmentalization and of direct control and authority over municipal issues by Queen's Park.

It's the sort of thing -- reference was made to this earlier -- that's almost Soviet in its approach and style, and who'd have thought, from all the people who would be emulating that sort of centralist policy and control, it would be this gang of so-called revolutionaries.

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

Mr Hardeman: I'm pleased to rise to speak on behalf of my constituents in Oxford during this debate on the Better Local Government Act. As you may know, Madam Speaker, before being elected to this honourable position, I was involved in municipal politics for many years in Oxford county and I've experienced some of the problems with the present system.

As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I was asked to chair the Advisory Group on Municipal Government Reform. The advisory group was set up last fall and has met over the last year to discuss the legislative framework under which municipalities work, clarification of responsibilities between different levels of government and issues of local autonomy and municipal issues.

The group was struck to give input to establishing more capable municipalities which are modern and streamlined, promoting more innovative, efficient service delivery, elimination of duplication and overlap in the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government. Our group's goal was clear, to set out a new framework for structure outlining the organization and powers of municipal government with respect to governance authority and responsibilities.

I believe we represent a fair cross-section of the municipal community in Ontario. Our group is composed of individuals with different outlooks on restructuring, with their own views on where this reform should be headed. The members not only brought their own experience that they have honed from their individual councils, but also their different experience of dealing with regional issues.

At the outset, our role was to advise the minister on restructuring of municipal governments across this province and to review and revise the Municipal Act as required. We believe this act reflects the input and experiences of that committee.


I also want to point that while the committee discussed issues it determined needed changing, it also invited a lot of input from outside groups and individuals to get a clear picture of what municipalities are facing in Ontario.

I do not need to point out that when this committee was formed, our time frame was about six months, with the opportunity of being extended. I can tell you now that we have met for almost 10 months because there are numerous issues in regard to municipal reform which need to be reviewed. While this sounds like a phenomenal task, the advisory group did have a strong starting point as it looked at the numerous reports and studies on municipal restructuring that have been done over the years. I believe, as I look at this act, that the advisory group has done its work to give the minister input on the needed changes.

All the different parts of this legislation have a common goal: to give municipalities the flexibility to be more accountable to the people they represent. For instance, under this act municipalities will be allowed to change the size and composition of council. For years the people of Ontario have said they have too much government. Throughout the province we have small and large municipalities represented by the same number of council members. It's obvious that for the small townships this may not be the most efficient way to do business, but it has been difficult to change.

With the amendments in this act, council now can decide on behalf of its own constituents what will work best for them. These are the people who have the most contact with the ratepayers. If the people disagree, their council will be informed.

Though local autonomy is present, a basic minimum is included in the legislation. Also, these changes have to be put in the public eye, with advertised meetings before a bylaw can be passed, to let constituents know about the changes. Members of the advisory group felt strongly that municipal councils are responsible to those they represent and they should have the ability to decide on the size and shape of governance.

Some of the other changes in regard to composition are again best left to be addressed by local council, such as whether representatives are called mayor, reeve, councillor or alderman or something else entirely. These types of housekeeping items allow a council in a community to choose what is right for them. It is a small item but one that allows community identity.

Municipalities will also have the discretion to decide whether council members will be elected to represent a distinct area or wards or to represent all the residents of a municipality, or a combination of the two. Again, if council wants to change the way its residents are represented, there is a requirement for public notice of the change and to hold a public meeting.

Making this type of change will no longer require the approval of the Ontario Municipal Board but council's decision on this issue can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, so residents who are opposed to the change do have a recourse. However, if there isn't an appeal on the matter of representation, the bylaw changing ward structures will come into effect as soon as the bylaw is passed. In other words, it is appealable but not approved by the Ontario Municipal Board.

There are also changes in the municipal election process to help make it a more flexible process while ensuring electoral integrity. A number of changes are being made to ensure accessibility and integrity. We need to ensure the privacy of the electorate and their voting rights while also ensuring that people responsible for running the election can do a job efficiently.

Basically, the Municipal Elections Act is being brought up to date. It will continue to be flexible so it can meet the community's needs but also modernized to allow voter flexibility and convenience. Changes to the voting rights, methods and residency requirements are important to give seasonal residents the ability to hold accountable their representatives on their local councils in the case of dual residence and cottage owners.

In speaking with the public, many people have come forward to say that they wanted to exercise their franchise but were unable to do so because of distance and inconvenience involved. Municipal governments will be able to institute other voting methods to allow greater access, such as electronic or by phone or through mail-in ballots. They must also continue to allow proxy voting for those unable to attend the polling station.

Municipalities will also be able to extend voting opportunities if they wish, but they are mandated to have polls open from 10 am to 8 pm on election day. This will maintain a consistent election day in Ontario. All voters will know what day the election will be held and what times the polls are open. Traditionally, there is a low voter turnout for municipal elections, which is unfortunate, as it is these politicians who have the greatest impact on local services. These changes will make voting easier, more convenient and could hopefully help increase the voter turnout for municipal elections. We are not only making it easier to cast a vote; we are also making it easier for those who want to be a candidate, as we are moving to combine registration and nomination of candidates on the same forms.

I want to clarify a point made by the honourable member for Kingston and The Islands in previous debate. The member spoke on the issue during the debate. He indicated that this change would force candidates to decide much earlier in the year which office they would stand for. In fact, under the present legislation, when a candidate registers they must also outline the office they are seeking and raising funds for. This bill will not shorten the time for a candidate to decide about which office to campaign for. This act will significantly lessen the paperwork involved in municipal elections. The number of prescribed forms will decrease from 40 to five.

To help eliminate phantom and frivolous candidates, each candidate will be required to make a deposit before officially becoming registered. This deposit will be refunded if the individual is elected or reaches a certain percentage of the votes. This percentage will be low enough so as not to discourage any legitimate candidate from seeking office.

Once an election is held, recounts by the clerk will only be held if there's a tie vote or if the local council or board decides it is in the public interest to hold a recount or if the courts decide there are legal grounds for a recount. These recounts will no longer be automatically held simply because it was close.

Recently in my municipality, in a municipal by-election there was a recount as there was only one vote separating the two candidates. Granted, the number of ballots was fairly small in this race, but there was no questioning of the official results. No one indicated that a recount was needed for the sake of the public interest. In this case, the only reason the votes were recounted was due to how close the results were. With the Better Local Government Act, this type of recount will no longer be the case.

By increasing this local flexibility, changing the rules on recounts and shortening the process, we're allowing municipalities to improve efficiency while maintaining integrity and moving to create a system that will save taxpayers money. Overall, these changes in the act are flexible to the community, less complicated and will ensure that all voters across the province have accessibility to the polls.

Municipal liability is also an issue we have been hearing a lot about lately, especially in relation to the cost of municipal liability insurance. The cost of liability insurance is on the rise. Many people are saying the increase is due to recent court decisions giving substantial awards for events caused by circumstances beyond the control of the municipality. Municipalities have said for some time now that they need to be protected from people launching frivolous lawsuits that affect the business of their municipality. Prior to 1989, municipalities were not responsible for damages incurred as a result of public works they were legally permitted to do unless the project was carried out in a negligent way. A court decision changed that, and as a result of this precedent municipalities are paying out large settlements for nuisance-type claims such as sewer and watermain backups and breaks.

Municipalities have been saying that what they need is predictable and avoidable liability. I want to point out that if a municipality is negligent, they should and they will be accountable for the damages. This government will not allow municipalities to be protected from liability for disregarding their responsibilities. Under the Better Local Government Act, municipalities will also have a clearer understanding of what their responsibilities are when it comes to standards of care, especially for roads and bridges under their jurisdiction. As the minister pointed out during the introduction, the Ministry of Transportation is being given regulatory powers to set standards for municipalities. Courts will judge the liability based on whether the municipality has met the standards of care as set out by the ministry. If a municipality fails to meet these standards of care, it will be held liable.

These changes to areas of nuisance liability and liability for negligence will lead to a balance between what is an appropriate level of municipal responsibility, while at the same time allowing municipalities to keep costs down. At present, our government is continuing review of liability issues as they relate to building inspection, occupier's liability and joint and several liability.


Now I want to touch on the municipal debt and investment policies.

Mr Galt: Hear, hear.

Mr Hardeman: Thank you. First, I want to say that this act does not increase the amount of money a municipality can borrow. The limitations outlined in present legislation will continue to be valid. The process is not changing to allow deficit spending. Municipalities will continue, as they have in the past, to pay as they go. However, they will be able to borrow at lower cost, as this legislation gives them the ability, along with other broader public sector bodies, to cover each other's short-term borrowing requirements. These arrangements would help reduce short-term borrowing costs and, in turn, save money.

When it comes to debenturing capital projects, this act will allow municipalities to issue variable rate debentures. Many people are taking advantage of the low interest rates we have today and municipalities should have that same opportunity. Present legislation does not allow issue of variable rate debentures. In the past, that has been in place to limit the risk, but today it has turned into a situation where municipalities may be paying more than they should to borrow. We will allow municipalities with at least a AA- credit rating to issue these variable rate debentures.

This act will also give municipalities the authority to take advantage of opportunities in capital and financial markets to reduce cost while ensuring fiscal integrity and prudence. We are giving them the tools to keep up with capital markets and improved practices in regard to municipal borrowing and investing while ensuring that they are doing so wisely.

As an example, municipalities will be allowed to invest in a range of instruments, excluding publicly traded corporate stocks. To help monitor investments, municipalities will be required to prepare a statement of investment policies and goals, as well as prepare an annual report to council on compliance with this statement.

I think it is evident from the proposed legislation that this act is aimed at more effective, cost-efficient government that is in tune with its constituents and still able to compete on a firm financial footing in today's markets.

We are moving to change the way municipal governments operate. It is a change that has been a long time coming and in many cases has been at the request of both the residents of Ontario and the municipal representatives themselves. By making this type of change, municipal councils will be able to decide how best to do business in their community and they will be able to do it in a more cost-effective manner.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to respond to the member for Oxford, who obviously illustrates some of his own experience and knowledge in dealing with municipal affairs. I suppose my first comment in relation to Bill 86 has to be its relationship to the Crombie commission's Who Does What panel and, as has been mentioned before, the feeling of some councils today, wondering whether they will even still exist and their response to looking at reducing red tape when they may have a different amalgam.

In my neck of the woods, the Ottawa-Carleton area has put in a great deal of effort, and a reform paper by the regional council has just come forward. Some members may have seen it. I think it's a document worthy of serious consideration. It's a modification of the 11 municipalities actually becoming three municipalities, with still some division between the local municipalities and the regional government. I believe that has a fair amount of merit at this stage.

In the long term it might indeed be one tier, but I must tell you that the people of the Ottawa-Carleton area are quite worried that they will not be part of determining the constructs of their own larger municipality, or structures. Their worry is, seeing what they've seen heretofore, that there will be something imposed upon them. Their worst worry is that what might be imposed is what might be perceived as being the cheapest possible way for the region to go in terms of the relationship with the provincial government and --

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): In commenting on the member for Oxford's remarks, it's interesting to note that while he went on -- and on and on -- from his prepared text about an awful lot of the detail in this very large, all-encompassing bill, some 153 pages, he spent little time, if any, talking about section 79, which is of particular interest to those who care about public transportation. Interestingly, it doesn't really seem to fit with the rest of the bill. The bill talks primarily about municipal governance and elections. Everything's related to the running of municipalities, and there out of the blue is dropped in this section 79, which we've been speaking to tonight and will speak to at greater length -- certainly I intend to if the opportunity comes up this evening -- wherein the minister à la Bill 26 is giving himself incredible amounts of power to step in and indeed usurp municipal structuring.

It's interesting that while the parliamentary assistant talks at great length about democracy and returning power back to the local level, section 79 can, if all the powers are used, take a great deal of power away from municipalities, away from communities, and impose on them a governance for community transportation -- a new term that's created for the purposes of this bill -- whatever they choose. Like Bill 26, we're convinced that if the power's in here, unfortunately this government will use it, and that's not necessarily good for democracy.

Mr Hastings: I'd like to just point out that the member for Oxford drew the attention of all members of the House to the content and detail in the bill -- I think he drew from his own practical experience of many years in municipal government and how this related, I thought, quite well -- and interlinked up some of the difficulties he had experienced and seen as the mayor of his municipality with what the provisions are in Bill 86, as there will be adjustments to overcome those problems.

I think the key to the whole situation relates to the points of municipal flexibility in terms of administrative savings, in terms of giving the municipalities what they have been asking for for so many years through AMO, and those municipalities that have never been members of AMO: the tools to deal with getting more value out of their investment dollars in terms of when they have to make debentures for capital assets, in terms of the variable rate flexibility, variable rates of interest and particularly the repayment schedule I alluded to earlier in my remarks today.

I think also, in view of the terms of accessing the vote for people as citizens in our democracy, contrary to the views we often hear in the House from members opposite, this is not a bill that attacks democracy; it is a bill that has the heart and soul of advancing democracy in terms of allowing more people to participate in local government, whether it's through going to the polls to vote or in the new proposed ways as laid out in Bill 86.

Mr Bradley: I also want to look at the community transportation aspect of the bill, which the member did not spend a good deal of time on, because it reminds me of the cuts the province is making to public transportation, as we refer to it. I guess that's supposed to be an unacceptable word now in the days of the new revolution, but there have been considerable cuts to public transportation and, as a result, the most disadvantaged people in our society are the ones who pay the consequences. People of means usually have their own vehicles and the wherewithal financially to operate those vehicles. Those who aren't able to operate vehicles and still have money have the opportunity to access other private ways of moving around a community or around a province or a country. But those who are affected most are those who do not have the financial means and rely on public transport.

While we are always prepared to subsidize roads, and indeed we want to keep our roads in good shape in this province, it's never referred to as a subsidy; it's referred to as infrastructure money. The same is not true of transportation, where governments today -- at least this government, and other governments, I must say, of the same ilk -- seem to be aiming at public transportation as an area where there should be considerable cutbacks. That includes Paratransit for disabled people who have to get around their own communities and who had won the right some time ago to be able to have that kind of access to public transportation. So I hoped in this bill we would have seen a reference to saving public transportation for those who need it most.


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

Mr Hardeman: I'd like to thank the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale for his kind comments about my presentation, and the members for Ottawa Centre, Hamilton Centre and St Catharines for their comments as they relate to that part of the presentation I made and that part which I didn't make.

I would just like to comment to the member for Hamilton Centre, in his preface to his comments about my presentation, first of all, that it was a prepared text. I make no apologies for being prepared to come to this Legislative sitting, as opposed to some who will come and just go on and on. I would point out, as he referred to the length of my presentation, it was not the length of half an hour which some members would require or seem to require to make their points.

Interjection: Or 90 minutes, as he does.

Mr Hardeman: Exactly, or 90 minutes, as was mentioned.

I do want to thank him for pointing out the areas of the bill that concern the members. I do want to point out that the transportation portion of the bill is not designed, as was suggested by them, to put us out of the public transportation business, but in fact it is, again, to give local autonomy in all aspects of local government.

Again, I want to say thank you to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale and thank you, Mr Speaker, for the time.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bradley: I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this particular bill. It's one of the more benign pieces of legislation the government has brought forward. However, we always look for particular points in the bill that could be of some concern to the general public in this province, and indeed some of those do exist.

In terms of the bill itself -- and it has a good deal to do with municipal elections -- I think most people want to see as efficient a municipal election as possible. I can't recall the amount of deposit that's required for candidates, and while we want to discourage those who are there simply to be nuisances or to be frivolous candidates -- we saw an example of that in Vancouver -- I don't think we would want to see a figure in a bill or in a subsequent regulation which discouraged people of modest means from seeking public office.

It's a difficult balance for governments. It seems to swing back and forth. You get the example of Vancouver and everybody says, "You'd better do something about this," because the ballot is so long and most of the people are really not serious candidates, even by anyone's most favourable definitions. So one looks at that and wonders if in the future, if it's included in legislation, indeed that will be increased. I hope that would not be the case.

We always have to look at legislation in the context of overall government policy. This comes in in connection with several other bills or initiatives that are forthcoming from the government. My constituents for the most part would say they're coming too quickly. They would say the changes are too drastic. They would say the government's not looking at the consequences. They would say it's not a traditional Conservative government which moved cautiously and very carefully when implementing its policies.

This government, with its whiz kids, the people who advise it, who are not elected members, wants to move forward with the reform agenda, with the revolutionary agenda which it has set out for itself, but I suspect some of the more cautious members of the caucus, some of whom have served at the local level, some who have served as assistants to members in years gone by, would know that it's important to move with care and caution so that you do things right.

I'm sure the government members themselves hear from people, their own friends, their own supporters, "Look, we like the general direction in which you're going, and you're addressing some problems we think had to be addressed," those people will say, your supporters, but they'll say: "Why are you moving so quickly? You have a full five-year mandate if you wish to take it. Why must you move so rapidly and so drastically?" I agree with that sentiment.

I don't deny the government the opportunity to move forward. It has a mandate given to it by the people of this province, and indeed the government has a right to put forward its legislation for consideration in this House. But the government backbenchers -- and "backbencher" is just a term we use -- the non-cabinet people in government, have a special responsibility and role to play, because those of us in the opposition, while we can publicly indicate our opposition to certain provisions in legislation and regulations, you have a different role to play. We can do that. The government members in the back rooms, and I don't use that in a bad sense, in a negative sense, in the caucus room, where there is simply a situation where members of a party get together to discuss matters, you have an opportunity to question the ministers, or should have, and to try to change their minds when they're moving too quickly.

If I may divert my remarks just for a small moment, Mr Speaker, I suspect that's what happened on the bill which would allow VLTs, video lottery terminals, in every bar, every restaurant and every neighbourhood in Ontario. I think probably what happened -- and you're a member of the government caucus when you're not sitting impartially in the chair -- was that some of the members were getting a lot of flak from commonsense people who said, "If you're going to put them in, put them in controlled situations like the big casino or racetracks or something, but we don't really want them in the restaurants and bars." As a result, while it's in the legislation, the Premier was up saying to us that wouldn't be part of the government's agenda.

I point that out because I think members of the back bench, contrary to what sometimes is said, have a role to play to put the brakes on the government when it's needed, because once it hits the House, the government feels a compulsion to move forward and doesn't want to bow to what might be perceived to be opposition criticism or pressure; even though it does it sometimes, it doesn't like to do it. So government non-cabinet members have a specific role to play if they want to exercise it.

You will find out in the long run that the person the Premier will respect the most, if the Premier's got any common sense, and I think every Premier has it, is the person who will disagree not every week at the caucus meeting but will disagree on specific issues, because there will always be members, and you know who they are, in the government caucus, in every government caucus, who say what the Premier wants to hear, because they think that's the quick route to the cabinet. Is the word "sycophant"? Is that the word they use?

Mr Gravelle: Sycophant.

Mr Bradley: Sycophant, that's it, what they use. Maybe it advances the case, maybe it doesn't.

I remember Larry Grossman, when he was in this House, didn't do that. He sat in the back benches and from time to time expressed himself publicly in opposition to what the government was saying. Larry eventually got into the cabinet and became the party leader at one time. I always thought he was a very capable member of this Legislature. I didn't always agree with him, but I thought he was a capable person. He was a red Tory as well, although when I hear him on the radio now, he's not quite so red now that there's a very, very deep blue government in power. It's good to hear Larry on the radio, because he was a former colleague of ours, and I certainly wish him well in all of his endeavours.

But this also must be taken into context with the sop you gave or the Christmas present you gave to developers in this province, which affects these very municipalities that are affected by this bill, and that is the one where you are now restricting municipalities in their application of development fees. These fees were to be used to construct sewers and roads and to help out with the community projects which will be needed as a result of the increasing population, libraries and arenas and parks and so on. The developers have complained for years about this, so instead of listening to the municipalities -- and my dear friend Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga, with whom I had a very nice relationship when I was a minister, is the one leading the charge publicly.



Mr Bradley: I must clarify this, because I hear some comments. I will clarify it for the Speaker. In terms of our political relationship, ministers deal with mayors from time to time. I heard Don Cousens, the mayor of Markham, a former member of this House, good friend of many people who are here today, again a more moderate Conservative, certainly complaining. All of these municipalities, Mayor Robertson in Brampton, another Tory, and the Tory regional chairman in York, all of them are saying this government is wrong in that legislation, as it is in parts of this legislation. But as I said on another occasion, it will cause a building boom in Ontario, because they'll have to build bigger halls to hold those Tory fund-raisers to get all the developers in at the same time, because they will be lining up, I assure you.

You also have to look at this bill in the context of your changes to the Planning Act, unwise changes, I think, because they were there to speed up development at the expense of the environment and good planning. There were some provisions of that legislation that were beneficial. Let's not create the impression, those of us in opposition, that every aspect of every bill the government brings forward is evil or ill-considered or unwise. That's not the case. Many parts of bills that you bring forward are good, and we would be supportive of those. We probably wouldn't say too much about them, because we know there are government members to indicate support for those provisions.

But when I look at this bill in connection with the changes to the Planning Act, I fear for planning in this province. I also see something that affects it in there, and I alluded to it when I was asking a question of a previous speaker, and that is the aspect that deals with financing of campaigns. That's always an interesting subject at any level. It says one of the things that's going to happen as a result of this bill passing, when it does, is that the provincial Commission on Election Finances will no longer be responsible for overseeing municipal election finances and only campaign surpluses over $500 are required to be turned over to the clerk or held in trust for the next campaign. The last one may be fairly practical in the context of what $500 is today, and so I'm not going to lose any sleep tonight over that one. It's something to be cautious about, but I'm more concerned about your taking the election finances commission out of this in Ontario.

The reason you're doing it is simple: You want to dump the cost on somebody else, on the municipality, so the Treasurer -- now we call him the finance minister -- can go and say, "Look, our deficit position is better," because you just shoved those costs off on the local government, municipalities, school boards and transfer agencies of other kinds. I become concerned. I put this, again, in the context of planning decisions. You're putting them more at the local level in some cases and you're speeding them up, but I don't think the planning decisions are necessarily good ones.

I can tell you about one that took place in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It's actually, believe it or not, within the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake's borders. They had some land designated along the Queen Elizabeth Way right adjacent to St Catharines. The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake decided they wanted to put subdivisions out there, way away from the regular town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, out on the highway, along with big-box retail.

The Tories and others who promote this kind of project say, "Well, there's going to be jobs and profit for people." Yes, there will be jobs, but the jobs will be because people will be going from other shopping areas in designated, properly zoned places out to the big-box retail, largely big American corporate chains, and they'll be buying their goods out there. A lot of the people here I think are small business people who have a concern about downtowns and other established shopping centres within communities. All this does, with the decision they made, is draw it out of the areas and out to the highway, and then you have to drag services out there.

It's hard to believe this, but the regional municipality of Niagara just ignored its official plan. I know the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs would not be happy with that, because that's why we have municipal plans. This is the problem with regional council: It's the backscratching going on. Please don't give us Metro-Niagara government. Please don't give us one government in Niagara called regional government, because all they'll do is back-scratch. "Well, you approve my subdivision and I'll approve yours. We municipalities have to get along well together, so we won't complain about each other's developments," even when they break every planning principle there is. This is what's happening under the legislation that's there.

The city of St Catharines was opposed to it, but they got told by somebody that the case could cost a lot of money and therefore they shouldn't proceed with it because they might win or might not win before the Ontario Municipal Board. Well, it's unfortunate that today municipalities can't stand up for a principle because they're simply not getting the transfers from the province that they did in years gone by. They have to let principle go out the window and a bad decision go uncontested, except by Stan Ignatczyk who is a former mayor of Niagara-on-the-Lake and an interested observer.

It's just bizarre planning, in my view. I'm sorry, I know I will annoy some people in Niagara-on-the-Lake by saying this, and some regional councillors, but I want to tell members of this assembly, if my own city were doing it, I'd be complaining in this House. It's a matter of principle, not a matter of who's doing it.

The other part I worry about in the context of this bill is that all these changes are coming at once and quickly and it's hard for municipalities to digest them and adjust properly to them. Individually some of the changes may be reasonable, and staggered, as they might be from time to time in their implementation, could be more easily received, even by municipalities that don't particularly agree with them.

I was trying to figure out how I could get hospital closings into this. I don't think I can, for some reason, but I just caution the government: Don't arrive in St Catharines closing hospitals. I'll leave it at that because the Speaker is kind enough to give me a few seconds to be able to interject that. I just noted that in this speech.

I note that lower-tier municipalities are allowed to determine the council size, composition and titles, and upper-tier can determine the size and composition. Do you know what my problem with that is? It's not that this shouldn't change from time to time; it should. You see, the existing local council has a vested interest in how big that council is. That's a case where I think at election time there is a reasonable provision for a municipal referendum. That's the kind of issue, I think, that is reasonable at the local level. I'm not a great fan of referenda on a variety of issues that are very complicated and hard to deal with, but this is a pretty basic issue and I would prefer the local electorate to make the decision, or the OMB to oversee it to see that it's not a bad decision being made.

There's an obsession I know in this government with fewer elected representatives. You use the word "politician" because it has unfortunately a negative connotation today. But I remember when I was speaking at another time in response to your bill reducing the number of members of this Legislature. I looked over at one of your members -- I won't mention the person because it would be most unfair -- but I looked over at a member of the government for whom I have a lot of respect and who has served for some time in this House, and the person was nodding his head in agreement when I was saying that what you do --

Mr Flaherty: He was nodding off.

Mr Bradley: The member opposite suggest he was nodding off. That is possible, but he was nodding vigorously so I thought perhaps that wouldn't be the case. Perhaps I'm being hopeful, but the point I was making on that occasion was that you demean all elected representatives when you say the "Too Many Politicians Act," because what's happening in many cases, particularly in this Legislature, is that we're the only people whom the people can get at, the locally elected people and those of us in this Legislature. They can't get at the people who sit in the chairs over there, the Premier's advisers. They can't get at -- what's his name? Guy Giorno or something like this, one of your big advisers. I apologize to him for not knowing the last name, but there's a fellow who advises, and Leslie Noble and some of the other people. Does Leslie Noble advise as well?


Mr Murdoch: Not any more.

Mr Bradley: Not any more. She's now a consultant. Anyway, all these wise people, none of whom have been elected the way you have, come up with these schemes and convince you people.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Bill Murdoch.

Mr Bradley: It may have been Bill Murdoch. The point I'm making is, sometimes it is reasonable to reduce the number of representatives and sometimes it is not. I think you have to look at the individual cases. I'm prepared to say there are cases where it's reasonable to do so, but there's an obsession over there with the Reform Party crowd that you want to get on your side that somehow the fewer politicians you have the better.

I remember when the NDP was in power, the local board of education reduced from 17 to 15 the size of the board. There was big applause from -- I won't say which group because one of my colleagues from the peninsula is in the House and was a member of it -- but a local group concerned about government expenditures. I heard some of the people in it say: "Isn't this great? They've reduced from 17 to 15." Well, big deal.


Mr Bradley: The member is correct. The member interjects, "It would have to be more than that." He would want to get rid of it perhaps. But the point I'm making is that in the context of overall government expenditures, the amount we spend on the democratic process itself is minuscule compared to the amount that is spent overall. It doesn't mean we don't have to be efficient, but this obsession to pander to -- and that's what it is -- to pander to the Reform Party crowd demeans all elected members in this House and elsewhere.

I often wonder how Conrad Black's newspapers will cover this, because he's now --

Mr Morley Kells (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): That is what Michele Landsberg said.

Mr Bradley: Michele Landsberg does not quote Liberals in the House but she does quote New Democrats and they do need --


Mr Bradley: Well, here's the member -- I'm happy because some of my favourite government members are here, a prolific writer in the Toronto Star. The member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Morley Kells, the former lacrosse great -- at least, lacrosse-builder great -- is here, and there was some advice -- you see, I'm contending that this legislation wouldn't be needed if it weren't for the tax cut. The member for Grey-Owen Sound, the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, the member for Wellington and the new Speaker of the House, Mr Stockwell, the member for Etobicoke West, among others, said: "It's not the time to proceed with the tax cut because we're going to have to borrow the money. We don't have the money now. We're running a deficit, so we're going to have to borrow the money." So these wise souls -- they'll use this in their campaign literature now; the campaign literature will read as follows for Mr Kells, who has used this before: "`Wise soul,' says Bradley," and that will be a compliment to my friend Morley Kells.

But the point I'm making is that these people who have some experience say: "Look, you wait until you balance the budget. Then you can look at across-the-board tax cuts if you want to." Instead, we had a debacle taking place last Thursday, when the government was supposed to announce another -- this is additional, because remember, last spring in the budget the Premier and the Minister of Finance said: "That's it. No more cuts. The cuts are over." Now we hear about $3 billion more in cuts.

What does that mean? That means the Ministry of Environment has fewer people to go out to inspect those who would be polluting the soil and the air and the water of this province. Mr Kells, as a former Minister of Environment, must be beside himself over that fact, and I could say this with any ministry, including the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. So I can understand why you're trying to push these costs away as another form of cutting, because you're trapped by a risky and bizarre tax scheme which has you in a vice because you can't do anything else. You'd now have to either cut deeper and deeper or come up with some magic that is going to avoid the loss of taxes to you.

The Premier has done one thing: He has reneged on a promise by not bringing it in as soon as you promised. That's okay with me, but I want it to be noted, because I've had some Reform Party people tell me, "You know, you should get up in the Legislature and say, `This government has broken its promise to implement its tax cut.'" I don't want to do that because I think the government simply recognizes reality and it's now paying the consequences. It was a debacle last Thursday. We heard there was going to be a big financial statement, the transfers announced. In sneaks the Minister of Finance into a committee on Thursday afternoon when question period is over and has a non-announcement to make because the government is in disarray on this issue, because there's considerable disagreement.

I see the member for Sarnia here. I had the clipping in my desk but I can't find it now; he doesn't want me to find it. It says "Boushy Attacks Health Minister" or something like that. I'll try to find it later on. So we're seeing some --

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Jim, "It worked for Larry Grossman 20 years ago, David, so it will work for you now."

Mr Bradley: This was back with the closing of the Doctors' Hospital.

Mr Conway: Absolutely. Frank closed it and Larry opened it.

Mr Bradley: I want to look at the provisions of this bill, and there are important provisions, but I worry about the phone-in and mail-in. I listened to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale because I wanted to see, am I wrong on this? Is my apprehension about phoning in votes and mailing in votes -- I guess it's e-mailing them in -- simply because I'm a Luddite? I shouldn't ask that question. Is it because I am computer illiterate and I don't understand how this can work? Am I electronically deficient or something?


Mr Bradley: All of these. I'm hurt. But I must express at least apprehension on behalf of those of us who can't operate computers and worry about how this telephone technology or the e-mail would work. I hope the government moves with caution on it.

I want to see as much participation as possible, but the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale would be disappointed if I didn't see a plot to the disadvantaged in this province. It's unlikely that poor people in this province would have this electronic equipment available as much as rich people would, so you want to ensure that you can vote right from the Albany Club. You just take your phone at the Albany Club and phone in the vote.

Interjection: The St Catharines Club.

Mr Bradley: That member mentions the St Catharines Club. I must say that the president of the St Catharine's Club, Barry Matheson, wrote me a letter and said I was invited to come to the St Catharines Club because I always mention the Albany Club in here. That's what happens.

I am coming down to the latter part of my remarks, I know you'll be pleased to know.

Municipal liability is of concern to me. We've had all kinds of flooding take place in our city in places I didn't think it could flood. My basement didn't flood -- I didn't look at it for a week, I guess. Maybe it flooded and everything is gone.

Mr Conway: If it did, the Cleveland Plain Dealer of 1956 would be in trouble.

Mr Bradley: I'm noted for keeping newspapers from time to time and I brought in a newspaper this year that said, "American Troops Land in Lebanon." I was telling somebody about it and they said: "Wasn't that terrible? There's President Reagan sending those troops into Lebanon and he shouldn't have done it." Little did they realize it was President Eisenhower who had sent in the troops, and I had the newspaper. It was of those wide ones from I think July 15, 1958.


Mr Hastings: Remember Conrad Black bought it.

Mr Bradley: That was an independent St Catharines Standard before Conrad Black bought it and put his wife, Barbara Amiel, and Andrew Coyne, who's so right-wing, on those pages.

I'm pleased to be able to discuss aspects of this bill. It's such a long and detailed bill that it's difficult to get into some aspects of it. It mentions assessment. I want to tell you I've had people calling my constituency office who are beside themselves over assessments that have taken place which they feel do not reflect what they should be paying. On behalf of those people, if they're watching tonight, I want to say I've raised that issue and I hope the government pays some considerable attention to it.

There's a part on inquiries that I want to look at. Some inquiries have revealed some interesting things, but I don't want to get into the details of those. I want to get into municipal financing and say you've got to watch that very carefully. I go back to the fact that the easiest people for proponents of projects to get at are local politicians. They see them daily in the community, shake their hands, play golf with them, go to social or private clubs or to church with them or see them in many places in the community, and the province is detached from that.

I know they'll say you're being distant, but you're detached, and I think it's much harder, to put it bluntly, to bribe provincial people. I don't think you can bribe the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I don't think that can be done. That's why I think it's better, at the provincial level, to have that overseen than it is at a local level where a person can attempt to bribe somebody that person knows. I don't think provincial cabinet ministers or provincial officials can be bribed, because they're detached from this operation.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Comments or questions?

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): It's with delight that I rise to make a couple of comments on the speech from the member for St Catharines, which as usual combines a fairly high degree of insight into what the government is up to, in pointing out that all this is linked to the tax cut, but he also showed some courage in his comments as he treads on ground which may somewhat be dangerous.

I couldn't help but note his concern about those who can't operate computers. I thought that would be an area he might have stayed away from, given his party's experience this past weekend, but that just shows, I think, the degree of courage this member has, not being afraid to venture into those areas.

I want to say, on a more important note with respect to this bill, that he made a couple of comments that I think were very appropriate among the many he made. One was that this government continues to take pride, if you will, in cutting politicians and how this bill, among other things, facilitates the reduction of politicians. As the member for St Catharines pointed out, we need to be wary of that because you can't really have good government, whether it's at the provincial level or in this case at the municipal level, if you are bent on just simply getting rid of more and more politicians. I think we need to be wary of just buying into the notion that fewer politicians means better government. Fewer politicians may sometimes be needed, but fewer politicians means less access for people to those who can influence. That is something we need to keep in mind.

As the government members want to expand upon this notion of giving people greater powers and greater rights and encouraging democracy and participation, I have to wonder why the Minister of Municipal Affairs then is hell-bent on amalgamating municipalities within Metropolitan Toronto without giving people any say in that process and any ability to influence a decision the government is about to make.

Mr Galt: I certainly enjoyed the presentation the member for St Catharines made. He's just an excellent speaker and has often taken great glee in teasing the members on this side of the House about laughing really hard at the Premier's jokes and smiling at the Premier and enjoying the Premier so much. I couldn't help but notice today how big his smile was when the new leader came in. It was very broad and lasted so long, and he clapped really hard and long. Certainly we wish the member for St Catharines well as the new leader selects the shadow cabinet and critics over the next few days or weeks. We hope you continue as the House leader. We certainly wish you well as we proceed down the road.

You mentioned that we're moving too quickly, that we should be more cautious. Good advice, but with the damage that's been done over the past 10 years you have to move quickly to correct some of those mistakes and some of that mess that was created by the previous two governments.

You referred to the $3 billion in cuts and the concern. I can tell the member for St Catharines that part of the problem is that the interest is at $8.7 billion. To put that into some sort of context for you, that would build 13 SkyDomes in the province. Imagine 13 cities with a SkyDome if we didn't have this horrendous debt, which the NDP doubled, and the budget that the Liberals managed to double during their term in office.

We talked about liability and concern. It certainly is good that we're finally addressing, in this bill, the liability in connection with roads and nuisances, particularly as it relates to some discretionary activities of municipal politicians. In the past, because of some of the court activities, we had to address the liability insurance for cars, and certainly on Thursday I'll bring up my concern about liability and risk for volunteers.

Mr Patten: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the thoughts of the member for St Catharines. I think all will agree that this is a rare member, with his capacity to provide what may appear to be desperate and disparate concepts and weave them all the way through and continue to touch on points in the bill, a very long bill, as he pointed out, and just when the Speaker might be about to call him to relate back to the bill he does so quickly. He moves swiftly, nimbly and very adeptly to other related issues because this man's capacity to think is not confined, of course, to one bill but relates to the totality of the general thrust of the government.

He referred this bill to developers and their particular role in development, development fees, their interrelatedness with the Planning Act, for example. In other words, if you cannot relate the quality and principles of the impact that municipal politicians are accountable for, what sense is there in terms of a structure? It almost goes hand in hand, as he pointed out, with the quality of what one is required to do and on what principles. Of course he correctly pointed out that a lot of this somehow relates to the big tax break, therefore the pressure in every field to try and find ways to cut down costs of provincial structures or provide vehicles and opportunities for finding funds that otherwise might go to municipalities.

It is not unusual for this member to continue to help us see, in the grand scheme of things, the general thrust of this government.

Mr Kormos: Once again I have to address the matter of what the bill does to protect municipalities from claims against them for damage done by municipalities' negligence or wrongdoing to innocent victims. The government's own briefing notes read that cities have expressed concern about increases in the numbers of claims for negligent building inspection and in the number of claims related to the repair of roads. Especially with this government and its undermining of the financing of municipalities, the fact is that there are going to be more claims as a result of ill-repaired or unrepaired roads. There are going to be more claims as a result of faulty building inspections as municipalities become harder and harder pressed to perform their role in this regard.

Some of the members of this government used to have concern about innocent victims and used to believe that innocent victims had a right to be compensated for the damage done to them by the wrongdoer. Clearly this government no longer believes in that, if it ever did. This government is saying that there is going to be an increasing number of victims of municipal negligence, undoubtedly caused by the underfunding of municipalities by this government, and rather than permit innocent victims to seek compensation, what they've done is made municipalities immune from claims against them by victims of municipal negligence and their increasing inability to effect road repairs and to maintain sewers and water supply systems to adequate standards.

This aspect of the bill is a copout. It's a betrayal of residential property owners and taxpayers. This government is sending them to the cleaners.


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

Mr Bradley: Thank you to the member for Welland-Thorold, the member for Northumberland, the member for Dovercourt and the member for Ottawa Centre for your input. By the way, I like this part of the -- we never used to have this in the House, where you could respond to members. That was an innovation that was placed in the rules that I think is very good, because it keeps all of us on our toes and new points are brought up and counterpoints are made. I think that's very beneficial, if I can comment on that.

I indeed am pleased to see that our new leader has performed so well today. I'm glad that the members opposite note that we have a new leader who will be a person of great capacity, a person of great leadership ability for many years to come, particularly when he becomes Premier of the province.

I'm interested in the member for Welland-Thorold, because he's a lawyer and I'm not, in terms of the liability claims. He makes a good point that I want to respond to, a very good point that perhaps I didn't expand upon sufficiently; that is, because of the underfunding from this government for municipalities, we are seeing worse roads and worse sewer systems. You tend to notice it on the roads more because we all use the roads, but I haven't seen the roads in this province in various municipalities in such bad shape, ever, as I have recently. So you're bound to have more claims and you're bound to have more claims from sewer systems backing up and breaking down.

In addition to this, the member for Northumberland mentioned the tax cut and the amount of debt there is. I can't understand, if the government is concerned about debt, why it's borrowing more money, as the member from Lakeshore noted -- the member for Wellington. Why would it borrow more money when it's already in debt and increase the provincial debt? It doesn't make sense, and I've yet to hear anybody on the government side make sense of it.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): It is indeed an honour and a privilege to stand here tonight and debate in this place, particularly when you consider what this government is about to do to this place and consider for a brief second the future of this wonderful place of discussion about issues that are so important to all of us, this place of decision-making where over the years so many learned folks, so many committed and important folks from communities across this province, have stood and talked about things that impacted on the lives of their friends and neighbours. Soon it will be diminished.

I look around tonight and I see members here from all over the province -- from Welland, from Sarnia, from Thunder Bay -- and I wonder how many of us will be here after the next election, not because we haven't done a good job and not because we haven't worked hard on behalf of our constituents and tried to participate in a way that was responsible and honourable, but because this government has decided that in this province we have too much government, we have too much democracy, we have too many people representing the people of this province in a meaningful way in this place, so they're going to diminish that.

As they move the balance of power in this province from a legislative, representative, democratic system to a more centralized executive type of decision-making, one has to wonder when it will be that this place simply disappears altogether, that there's no longer any use for this place and we will simply turn the affairs of this province over to the real power behind the government of today in Ontario: the corporations and the mandarins of business and the forces of the free marketplace and Bay Street.

Which brings me to the bill we have in front of us here tonight, which on its own is rather an innocuous little piece of work that the Liberals and perhaps ourselves may have wanted to take a look at and perhaps do something with if we were government. But you have to put this piece of legislation into the context of what's been happening over the last year and a half to this province by way of the legislative agenda, the decisions being made every day by this government on behalf of all of us as we see the diminishing and downsizing of all those very wonderful institutions that over the years we've put in place so that there are checks and balances, so that all of us have a voice, so that whatever we do collectively is done in the best interests of all the people who have chosen or who have been fortunate to have been born into this very, very wonderful jurisdiction that we all have come to know and to appreciate as Ontario.

This piece of legislation, in my mind, if you look at it closely is just another Trojan horse, very similar to every other piece of legislation this government has brought forward. There's lots of warm, fuzzy language; even the names of the bills presented in this House make one feel that this government is interested in the wellbeing of the ordinary citizen out there, of the person who is working very hard to feed his or her family, to put a roof over the heads of their children, to put nice clothing on their backs and to keep the small business community alive in the towns and cities that we all live in. But we know that when you look more closely at these bills, wrapped up inside, in the very middle of them, is usually a bullet, and that bullet is targeted at those who are most vulnerable and who are most unsuspecting of what's coming at them. This bill --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Kills democracy.

Mr Martin: That's right, it kills democracy, it kills communities, it kills people, it kills families.

This piece of legislation is part of a larger agenda, a puzzle this government is putting together that they hope the people of Ontario will not suspect is happening and will only realize its real intent when it's all over. This piece of legislation will change the way our communities operate, will change the very essence of democracy at that level which is closest to people and makes decisions about things that affect people on a day-to-day basis.

This government is about bankrupting small communities, taking away their tax base, taking away their decision-making power, and in such a way that they will eventually throw up their hands and this government will be able to say: "I told you so. See, they can't run their own affairs. They're not responsible. They can't be held accountable. So we will take the power unto ourselves now, because they have shown themselves to be so irresponsible, and we will make the decisions," and ultimately turn that decision-making power over to the free market system, to the mandarins and the barons on Bay Street. And it's presented to us that this in fact will all be in our best interests.

We just have to look at a number of the initiatives this government has introduced over the last year and a half to see just exactly that what I'm saying is true, that every piece of legislation that this government presents is in some way, some significant and important way, a Trojan horse. Every piece of legislation, every decision made by this government has wrapped up in it, when you look at it in some detail, a bullet that is targeted, that is aimed, that has in its cross-hairs the institutions that many decent people over a long period of time have put in place in this province so we could have a democratic system of government, a way of making decisions that considered the needs and aspirations of all the people who live in communities and towns across this province and made sure they had a decent standard of living, an opportunity to be educated and a health care system that was accessible to all.


We simply have to think for a second of one of the very first decisions, probably the first decision, this government made when it came to power, and that was that very awful day in July 1995 when we all woke up to the realization that the poorest in our communities -- single mothers, people out of work, the handicapped -- were going to lose 22% of their income, the money they counted on to buy the very basics of life, the money they got that very seldom stayed in their pocket more than half an hour, an hour perhaps, in some instances even a day, but eventually got spent in the corner stores and the grocery stores and the small businesses of our communities, on food, on clothes and on housing for themselves and their families and their children.

This government presented that as if it was going to be good for those people, as if somehow this was going to make them better people, as if somehow this was going to make them more responsible people, as if these people, given an opportunity to work and have a real job, would not be interested in that job. We know, from the number of times over the last two or three years in this province when real jobs presented themselves, that no matter what the weather, no matter what the season, literally thousands of people have lined up to apply for those jobs. Very few ever got them. Nevertheless, the folks this government first laid a beating on in taking the reins of power in this province have proven themselves time and time again to be ready and willing to work any time work is presented. But that's not what this government is about.

This government is about squeezing people, this government is about intimidation, this government is about bullying. It brings in these initiatives wrapped in this wonderful language that makes it sound like this is all good for everybody, when we know, those of us who are closest to it, those of us in this House who stand in debate and read this legislation, that it is nothing but another Trojan horse.

Imagine the question of poverty when it's raised. We know that when you take money away from families, when you take money away from mothers and fathers who want to feed their children and then their children go hungry and these families cannot buy clothing for their children, that's the real cause of poverty. That's what puts people in poverty. People are in poverty because they don't have enough money to buy the things they need, the basics in life. That's what creates poverty.

There's not enough jobs. This government came into power saying it was going to create 725,000 jobs for people. We don't know where those jobs are. They haven't been created yet and there is nothing to indicate to us that they're going to be created down the road, particularly for those who find themselves every day more and more behind the eight ball when it comes to their attempt to make a living, to have a decent income coming in so they can buy the kinds of things they need to keep their kids from being hungry or cold or not able to learn properly in school.

This government has the gall to come forward with a nutrition program in schools for kids who are going to go to school hungry and then blame the fact that they're going to school hungry on their mothers, to not see for a second that the reason more and more people are going hungry, more and more people are in poverty in this province is because --

The Acting Speaker: Order. I've been waiting some time, and I would ask the member to bring his comments within the context of the debate, municipal elections and Bill 86 that's in front of us, please.

Mr Martin: Mr Speaker, I'm trying to create for you and for the members of this House a context so that you will understand where this bill fits in the bigger puzzle that this government is putting in place that will eventually hoodwink us all into believing that what they're doing is good for us, that this bill somehow is going to enhance the ability of communities to make life better for the citizens they are responsible for, when we know in fact what this government is about is on one hand saying to communities, "You will have more power to make decisions about things that affect you," but on the other hand: "We're going to take your money away. We're going to take not only your money away but the base upon which you raise your money away." This government is going to throw --

Mr Gerretsen: The democratic rights of people.

Mr Martin: Exactly -- the democratic rights of people. It's going to throw small communities and medium-sized communities, which are for all intents and purposes the heartbeat of this province, into trauma. You're going to throw them into bankruptcy. You're going to push them to the point where they're going to start agreeing with the program you're presenting, not because they feel it's going to be good for them, not because they feel it's in their best interests, but because at the end of the day they will have no choice.

We shouldn't be surprised, because it's consistent with everything this government has done to date. You present this wonderful, warm, fuzzy, well-heeled and well-named bill that you suggest is going to be in the best interests of everybody and make things better. In fact, we know at the end of the day what happens. Anybody who lives in a community in this province knows when the Minister of Health gets up in this House every day and tells us that there are no cuts to health care --

Mr Gerretsen: That's wrong.

Mr Martin: That's wrong. We who live in communities, who go back to the communities every weekend, know that health care is being cut in a way that is now creating chaos and diminishing the quality of service that those very well intentioned and hardworking and perplexed administrators and doctors and nurses in our communities are trying hard to deal with but can't. We're told every day when we come in here by the minister, as we ask him questions about that very important issue, that in fact: "No cuts are happening. What are you talking about? Are you crazy? We're reinvesting. We're putting money back in. What's the problem here?" We know that is not what's happening.

Another example of the kind of flim-flam and Trojan horse approach to life in this place is the Attorney General, who has for about two months now in this House, or maybe longer, stood up every day consistently when questioned about the condition of the family support plan and said there is no problem, and that if there is a problem, it's not his fault, it's not his government's fault, it's our fault. Somehow people who were getting cheques through the family support plan that we put in place are not getting cheques any more.

I just want to share with you because it's important to note that however trained these folks are in making this stuff sound like it's good for us, the people out there will only be fooled for so long. The people out there are beginning to catch on; they're beginning to become aware.

Here's an editorial from the Sault Star in Sault Ste Marie about the family support plan. I thought I'd put it on the record here today. It says, "The chaos in the province's child support system is an absolute disgrace." That's what they say in here. When people find out what this piece of legislation is about, they will be saying the exact same thing: It's an absolute disgrace. "There has been widespread approval of the Harris government's determined efforts to reform many of the operations of government," and, it says here, "with good reason. However, these reforms ought to be based on common sense and a commitment not only to improve the system but also to assure that the changes will not create hardships on people affected." Every piece of legislation, every decision you make, turns out the very same way. The result is that thousands of mothers and children across the province are left without adequate support and with nowhere to turn for action. There was not even a warning that there might be difficulties in the changes that were being made, and so those affected had no chance to prepare for the problem.


We're discussing tonight, Mr Speaker, a piece of legislation that, as I said before, presents as quite innocuous. But we know that at the end of the day, when it begins to roll out and we begin to see the impact and we begin to see communities go bankrupt and we begin to see municipal councils wondering how they're going to find the money to do the kind of things that they know they need to do -- to keep roads up, to collect garbage, to do all the very important functions that we as a community collectively decided we could do cheaper together as opposed to individually -- we're no longer able to do that, and that's what this government's about.

"Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton," it says here, "professes to see a pattern here" that has the government thoroughly screwing up programs so that it can say the programs don't work and are now to be handed over to the private sector. That's exactly what's happening with this piece of legislation here: You're going to screw up communities, you're going to cause communities to go bankrupt, and then they'll have no choice. They'll have to follow the agenda. They'll have to follow the program. They'll have to get in line, because if they don't, they don't get the money.

Mr Kormos: Get with the program.

Mr Martin: Get with the program.

"It's difficult to believe anyone could be so deceitful and uncaring about the hardships such action would create. However, if indeed there is an element of truth in Hampton's accusations, let it be said loud and clear that the chaos in the child support system doesn't show that a government-run operation doesn't work. It simply demonstrates that this government agency is incompetent to make it work."

You'll be interested in this, Attorney General: It says, "Attorney General Charles Harnick has apologized for the delays in getting cheques out to single parents."

Mr Gerretsen: Not in the House he hasn't.

Mr Martin: It says here: "It's not enough. The government must act immediately to remedy the situation, even if it takes additional personnel and financing to straighten out the mess. The people of Ontario support reforms to government and its operations. They do not support and will not tolerate bungling and mismanagement that harms the most vulnerable of our citizens and children." I rest my case on that one.

We move very quickly from there to this government's answer to people who find themselves in the very unfortunate circumstances of needing to depend on the system and to be collecting social assistance, and we introduced a concept called workfare. You know, some of the people on welfare voted for you guys in the last election because they thought you were actually going to get them a job.

Mr Kormos: They were deceived.

Mr Martin: They were deceived, yes. They thought they were going to get a job. Deceived. Deception.

Let me read to you from this very excellent document from a group called Workfare Watch. You guys should subscribe to this. You might learn something. It says:

"Workfare is one of the most divisive issues ever faced by the non-profit sector. There are numerous issues that the voluntary sector has to consider in relation to workfare. We need to recognize that requiring work outside the home in exchange for social assistance represents a fundamental shift in the nature and purpose of social programs. Workfare moves assistance away from eligibility based on need towards providing assistance only to those who prove their deservedness through work. Many volunteer sector agencies are currently considering whether to participate in workfare either to make up for funding losses or because they support the idea of workfare." Sounds like intimidation to me. "There are numerous practical and philosophical considerations for voluntary sector agencies contemplating participation in workfare.

"Workfare is fraught with perils for the voluntary sector. It threatens the entire ethic of voluntarism, relations among paid staff, volunteers and workfare placements and even public support for voluntary agencies."

This is not in any way inconsistent with what's in this bill that we're considering here tonight. We have, across this province, a myriad of wonderful communities, all of them different, all of them with people in them who have histories that are very exciting and worth protecting. They've come together, each one of them, collectively, and decided that they would look after each other, put money into a pool so that they could take care of roads and collect garbage, stuff that they couldn't do individually that they will do now together, and they formed municipal councils and little governments, ways of participating in representative democracy.

Because of the heavy-handedness of this government and its push to present a very lucrative tax break to its friends and its push to turn decision-making and the power in this province over to the corporate sector, they're going to wipe out a whole whack of these little communities. They're going to wipe out a whole whack of these small communities.

Mr Hardeman: In this bill?

Mr Martin: In this bill and with this bill as it plays itself out in the context of all the other bills that you're presenting. You have to put it in context. You have to see this not as a single piece of work. You have to see this as part of a larger agenda which is going to push small communities into disarray. So they will have to come together and form larger entities and they'll lose their individual identity and will no longer have the wonderful diversity that is so much that which makes up the richness of this province.

But they're not going to get away with it because people out there today in this province are a lot smarter than you think. They're a lot smarter than you think and they're catching on in a big hurry because we're out there telling them and because newspapers across this province are telling them. I guess the ultimate deceit is what you're doing with the economy -- what you're not doing with the economy. The ultimate deceit is the way that you're not dealing with the economic challenges that present themselves.

Let me just share with you tonight, because most of you probably didn't read this, a little article written by Richard Gwyn in the Toronto Star back on October 6.

Mr Kormos: He's known as a right-wing type.

Mr Martin: He's sort of right-wing. Listen to what he says.

Mr Kormos: Read it slowly, because most of those folks didn't.

Mr Martin: He says, "The big question of the coming decades is how to find a socially acceptable means of dismantling democracy." Interesting. "Governments chosen by the majority are governments chosen by losers," it says here. "Democracy will degenerate to being the means of governing the immobile and dependent service workers," and, "Politicians may promise, but markets decide. Governments are impotent.... The world belongs to the global corporation.

"Now that you know all of this, or at least have heard it proclaimed, do you in fact suppose any of it is actually wrong in the sense of it being inaccurate rather than immoral? Do you doubt all of these forecasts will in fact be fulfilled, indeed are already being fulfilled? They most certainly will be unless there's a popular backlash against this kind of future, mobilized by some inspirational new leader and sustained by some new set of socioeconomic ideas about how societies should organize relations among their citizens.

"These alarming forecasts matter because they aren't the products of any paranoid lefty. Instead, their author is a pristine, pure neo-conservative.

"Ian Angell, a professor of information systems at the London School of Economics," according to Richard Gwyn, "is my favourite neo-con. He's one of the few I know of who is truly intellectually honest.

"The neo-cons you keep hearing about -- Margaret Thatcher, Conrad Black, Newt Gingrich, David Frum and the rest" --

Mr Kormos: Mike Harris.

Mr Martin: Mike Harris, Ernie Eves -- "all blather on about how the free market and global free trade, minimal taxes and minimal government will liberate all of us to become freer, richer, more self-reliant, more creative, more responsible."

Can we identify with that? We take money away from the poor. We take 22% out of the pockets of the poor so that they can become freer and richer and more self-reliant and more creative and more responsible. That's what we tell them, and we tell them that not only will they be better off, but the communities in which they live will be better off because they're making less money. Have you ever heard anything so ludicrous?

It goes on here: "It's hard to believe any of them really believe a word they are saying. The consequences of the neo-conservative creed have long been clear. The two most market-oriented western societies, the US and Britain, are today the most unequal in income terms in the industrial world. Both are more unequal than either have been in the past half century. In Britain, some statistical measures show incomes may be more equal now than they were in the middle of the 19th century."


Mr Kormos: Mr Martin, read that Gwyn article again. Mushinski didn't get it the first time.

Mr Martin: I'll pass it over to her.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please, member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Martin: She can have a look at it before she goes to bed tonight, because it's really a telling piece.

We hear from time to time -- and I know I spent some time over the last month at the standing committee on estimates -- from the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism talking about the States and what's happening in American jurisdictions, what's happening in Japan and what's happening in Germany. It's too bad he doesn't spend more time in places like Welland, Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury to find out what's happening there, what people are thinking and how the decisions this government is making or not making on their behalf are affecting them directly in the ways that are most harmful to them and their families.

Here's a letter to the editor in the Sault Star that I thought was worth sharing. It says:

"Mike Harris's plan hasn't worked in New Jersey. It's interesting and revealing to learn that the Mike Harris government's Common Sense Revolution, complete with its 30% cut in provincial personal income taxes phased in over three years, was actually patterned on the successful 1993 election campaign of Christine Whitman, the present Republican governor of New Jersey.

"An analysis of the New Jersey experience written by William Walker appeared in the Toronto Star. The author points out that in March 1994 Harris went to New Jersey. Two months later, the Conservative program was presented to Ontarians. According to Walker, in order to pay for the tax cut, Whitman has had to lay off thousands of civil servants, cut many health and social service programs, slash funding to municipalities and school boards, privatize many government services and siphon more than $1 billion from the state pension fund," and destroyed that wonderful state.

Anybody who's watched or knows anything about what Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did to Britain and the United States, and the debt they ran up -- Reagan took the debt from the billions to the trillions with this kind of approach to taxation and spending and cutting programs.

That's what's going to happen to communities across this province, wonderful communities like Sault Ste Marie and Kingston, Thunder Bay and Sarnia, when this government is allowed to implement what's inside this bill. When you put it in the context of everything else you do, it all fits together, and none of it is good news. It's a Trojan horse. There's a bullet in this bill wrapped up in all kinds of very benign and innocuous language, and other kinds of things that are not going to be at all good news for the people of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I think we've just seen a new record from the member for Sault Ste Marie. I thought the member for St Catharines did a pretty good job of talking a lot about health care, the family support plan, municipal restructuring, the demise of democracy, but the member for Sault Ste Marie has topped him. I just want to help him out a little bit here. It's Bill 86. It's entitled An Act to provide for better local government by updating and streamlining the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Act and related statutes.

I just want to quote a few things out of here for the member for Sault Ste Marie in case he hasn't seen them, some explanatory notes on the bill. We're talking about amendments relating to municipal liability, amendments relating to annual assessment updates. We're talking about municipalities being able to pass bylaws providing for the use of alternative voting methods. Are municipalities, elected local boards or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing entitled to have questions placed on the ballots? Are municipal councils permitted to change council size and composition? It is a rather large document, it does take some reading, but it's an important document.

The thing that I struggle with a little bit -- and maybe the member for Sault Ste Marie can help me with this when he gives his final comments. He might be able to tell us, since he didn't make any reference to the bill, what he really thinks about the bill. Is it a good bill? It is a bad bill? Will he be supporting it? Won't he be supporting it?

Mr Flaherty: Has he ever read it?

Mr Carroll: Has he ever read it? We don't much care about what Conrad Black has to say about it, but we are interested in what you have to say. Maybe in his final two-minute wrapup he could make some comment about how he really does feel about Bill 86.

Mr Gerretsen: I'd like to congratulate the member for Sault Ste Marie for his very insightful comments about Bill 86. I think they were extremely beneficial, not only to the members in the House but I'm sure to the viewing audience.

We really know what this bill is all about. There is a section in the bill that gives municipalities much greater abilities to borrow money. You could ask the question, why do municipalities need these powers? Why do they need these newer instruments to borrow more money in more imaginative and different ways? Well, there's only one reason, Madam Speaker. You know it, I know it and they know it. It's because the province has basically decided that within the next year or so it's going to get out of all the grants and subsidies it's giving to municipalities and each municipality will just have to make it on its own.

They realize that there are many, many small municipalities in this province and those municipalities will not be able to do that on their own. So what are we doing? We're creating these larger places with larger assessment bases etc. There will be enough of an assessment base there so that the province says these municipalities can go out and actually borrow the money. That's what this bill is all about. I would like to congratulate this member on pointing that out to us, because he knows and we know and you know that basically this bill is a money bill. It's a downloading bill. It's a bill which will basically allow the province to get out of a lot of different programs that it's currently involved in. It takes insightful members such as the member for Sault Ste Marie to point this out to us.

It was very interesting. The member across the way has read the index of the bill, and I'll congratulate him for that, but I bet he wouldn't have a clue as to what sections 35 or 36 are about, and they are very, very important.

Mr Silipo: I know the member for Sault Ste Marie has somewhat irritated the government members opposite because rather than doing a line-by-line analysis of the bill, as he could have done, he chose instead to talk about some of the broader issues this government is dealing with and to point out that in fact --

Mr Murdoch: He chose not to talk about the bill, right?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Grey-Owen Sound, come to order.

Mr Silipo: -- while we're here debating this bill, which makes a number of changes -- significant ones -- to the structure of municipal government and which has a number of areas that we can support, as we've indicated in the past, at the same time it's important to continue to remind the members of the government that we haven't forgotten that while the government wants to put so much emphasis on improving local government in this way, through making improvements to the election procedures, for example, to the borrowing procedures that local governments have to follow and many of the other elements that are outlined in this bill, they also forget about how contradictory they are being, to put it mildly, when they refuse to apply some of those same principles to how they approach some of the bigger issues around local government.

You know and I know that we are on the eve of hearing from the Minister of Municipal Affairs about a new system of governance in Metropolitan Toronto, an amalgamation of the six local municipalities into one.

Mr Murdoch: Good idea.

Mr Silipo: Well, it may be a good idea. I don't think it's a particularly good idea because it omits some significant points that have to be looked at in terms of what the metropolis really is like today and how you govern that in an effective and democratic way. But the important point is that that is about to be done without any respect for the democratic process this government wants to talk about as being in this bill. The member for Sault Ste Marie, while he didn't talk about that specific example, gave lots of examples where the government has been undemocratic, where the government has been very unfair.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I have some comments about the speech from the member for Sault Ste Marie. Actually, I was told once that if you can't say something good about it, you shouldn't say anything. I've resisted that temptation. But I do think that he left his colleagues in the front benches squirming. They have four very excellent speakers sitting there, and they had to remain silent and listen to that. Indeed, they were squirming for the people in Sault Ste Marie, who deserve to know what's in Bill 86. Those people are still waiting. They heard more from the members for Kingston and The Islands and Dovercourt about Bill 86 in two minutes each than they heard in 30 minutes from the member for Sault Ste Marie; they would learn more in the coming two minutes. I'm sure that he'll want to make up for the deficiencies.

Mr Gerretsen: Hey, we don't need you. Please take it back.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Kingston and The Islands, come to order, please.

Mr Bert Johnson: Indeed, they have some very good speakers over there. I see the member for St Catharines, the member for Renfrew North. They are excellent. They can talk on for half an hour and say absolutely nothing as well, but at least you can enjoy it and you learn something for it. They bring in a little bit of history and what happened back in Laurier's time and so on.

It's just that I felt that when we're talking about Bill 86 and we're talking about elections and reforming the Municipal Act, the people we are speaking to, be they here in the House or on television, deserve to hear a little bit about what the debate is about. I'm sure that the people over the last half-hour are going to wonder just what bill is coming in front of us here tonight. They must wonder why we're sitting here at 20 after 10 at night debating on something that has absolutely no relationship to anything that the member for Sault Ste Marie said. I would like to commend him, though, on putting in a lot of time and keeping us here.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time has expired.

Mr Bert Johnson: Well, then, I'll stop.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie, you may sum up now.

Mr Martin: I'd like to thank the members for Chatham-Kent, Kingston and The Islands, Downsview and Perth for participating in this very important debate here tonight and assure them that I have in fact read that bill, and I tell you, it's consistent with everything else you're doing. That's the point I was making here tonight: You're taking money away from people, you're taking money away from families, you're taking money away from communities and you're giving it to your wealthy friends. That's what you're doing.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for Durham Centre, come to order.

Mr Martin: You're shifting power from the traditional democratic representative base that this province has become very proud of over the years and you're putting it in the hands of a few executive mandarin types in the Office of the Premier, who in turn turns it over to the corporate sector, to the boys on Bay Street and the free market system, which in the end is going to hurt all of us.

Bill 86 is lockstep in line with that approach. It presents, as do all the bills that they present here, as very benign, innocuous, a wonderful title, just like they said taking 22% of the income away from the poor was going to be good for them. That's exactly what they're doing with every other piece of legislation that they're presenting. The title of the bill does not tell you what's in the bill. What's in the bill is about taking away money and giving it to the rich. What's in the bill is about taking away power and giving it to a small executive body and Bay Street. That's what this government's about. You're not going to get away with it, because the people across this province -- you should go and talk to your constituents.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I have.

Mr Martin: No, you haven't. You haven't heard a thing, then, if you have. Listen to this, "Tony, please also tell Mike to stop destroying the educational system," something we'll talk about another night.

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


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for Renfrew North.


The Acting Speaker: Members, come to order, please.

Mr Conway: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I think it is a good thing that at 10:30 in the evening we have such a lively spirit in the place and we have a good bill, I think, to excite members this evening.

Mr Murdoch: Don't let us nod off then.

Mr Conway: Listen, I'm not about to --

Mr Shea: The word was "inflame," Sean.

Mr Conway: I'm very sensitive -- as the member for Perth takes his leave.

Mr Bert Johnson: I haven't left yet. I'll listen to it on TV.

Mr Conway: Listen, Bert, how we ever got by without you, I just think -- God. If Darcy McKeough knew that there was a Bert Johnson in the wings, he would have retired a lot sooner than 1978.

I appreciate members from all sides who have spoken to this bill. I am very fond of the parliamentary assistant, the member for Oxford, who seems to really know these issues of local government. I've had the pleasure of watching him do his work in the resources committee when we were dealing with the Planning Act, and he was very adept and obviously knowledgeable.

Mr Gerretsen: You'd better get ready, Ernie. You'd better get ready.

Mr Conway: Then there's the former mayor of Kingston.

Mr Hastings: The former mayor member.

Mr Conway: The former mayor of Kingston; I was going to say, "The former mayor of Kingston and The Islands," but that's not yet a reality.

Mr Murdoch: You're ahead of yourself.

Mr Conway: Actually, that reminds me of Darcy McKeough's line about Michael Cassidy. He used to refer to Michael as the member for Ottawa and The Islands, but that was another story. The member for St Catharines on our side, and the member from Kingston, are two people who have had considerable experience in local government. My friend Bradley never tires; though he has been long removed from the council chamber in St Catharines, he tells us constantly about the municipal rhythm, about the importance of local government and what on a given day the finance committee of St Catharines city council might be thinking about a government initiative. I was interested tonight to hear his observations about Bill 86, although I thought the member for St Catharines did widen the scope of debate somewhat.

There is, of course, the member for Grey-Owen Sound, who has had probably one of the most colourful careers in local government in the modern era, that is, at least if Michael Valpy is to be believed. It's too bad we've got Mr Murdoch from Grey-Owen Sound here now, because it means that Michael Valpy and the Globe and Mail aren't able to tell us, on at least a monthly basis, Bill, about the planning decisions that have been made in that part of the western peninsula. There was a time when the Globe columns were replete with the latest of Bill Murdoch's decision-making, antiseptic, evenhanded, as it always was, according to Mr Valpy.

Mr Bradley: Bill has been busy squiring the leader of the Reform Party around his riding.

Mr Conway: That, I think, is out of order, Madam Speaker. I am not about to engage in that kind of partisan talk at so late an hour. But I do want to make this observation: that I think it can be fairly said that in Ontario, over a long period of time, we have managed in the main to provide ourselves and our communities with relatively good local government, from the famous Baldwin act of 1849 through many revisions. I don't want to excite the member for Perth, who I know, and rightly, thinks some of us are a little too antique in our interests.

We've got, in this province, quite a good record in local government matters. It is not a perfect record. We have made some very significant mistakes, and it is interesting to look back at some of the mistakes. I was part of a government that reorganized the largest urban community in Ontario, and I'm not at all convinced, as I believe the current government is not convinced, that some of the restructuring of Metropolitan Toronto back in 1987-88 in fact produced the kind of results that the planners imagined. As a former Minister of Education, I can tell you that the architects of the school boundary reforms of the mid-to-late 1960s would, if they were here today, admit that there was some considerable success but there was some real perversity in some of the downstream consequences. No one set out to produce unintended or perverse consequences, but we got them.

I'm going to return very briefly to one of my favourite little studies, and I'm glad my friend from Oxford is here. I remember that a few years ago I was going off to a seminar about local government, and I said, as I sometimes like to say, "Have there been any successes?" I know there has been lots of difficulty.

I say to the current government caucus, I don't think there has ever been a more highly regarded member of this Legislature than the late James N. Allan. Jimmy Allan was for 25 years the member for Haldimand-Norfolk, a very highly regarded local member, local dairyman, I believe. He was Minister of Highways but he was Minister of Finance. Jimmy Allan was one of the great people of not only the Tory party in government but of the Legislature generally.


Jimmy Allan went down to defeat in 1975 because his friend Bill Davis got it wrong in terms of local government reform. There were lots of people, including many Liberals, who couldn't believe that the local reaction to miscalculated restructuring could be so profound and so deep as to catch Jimmy Allan in the general election of 1975, but he was caught and he was defeated. That's just one example of the political price that can be paid when the central planners and their political masters at Queen's Park, or in some cases nationally, get it wrong.

So it was that when I asked the question of someone a few years ago whether there were any success stories -- because for a long time around this place "regional government" was really one of the dirtiest phrases, one of the most pejorative phrases, one of the most electric phrases you could inject into a debate. Most people's experience with regional government -- municipal reform, restructuring, call it what you will -- of the late 1960s and early 1970s was profoundly controversial and significantly negative. Against that backdrop, I asked, "Is there any place in Ontario where there was a success story?" I forget who it was, but someone said: "There's a new book out by a fellow down at the University of Western Ontario. You should read that book because it talks about a success story." Here it gets a bit local for my friend. It's Restructuring an Ontario County: The Oxford Achievement, by Eric Beecroft. It's a very interesting little book published by the department of political studies at the University of Western Ontario.

It is a very interesting book to read, because it talks about what worked, it talks about what didn't work. It highlights some very able local leadership, a significant part of the local leadership being a willingness of people in places like Tillsonburg and Ingersoll and Woodstock and Dereham -- have I got that right? -- to stand up to the late John White and say: "No. I don't care what they're telling you down at Queen's Park, it's wrong." To give Harry Parrott his due, the then Conservative member for Oxford and a minister, Harry stood with the local folks and said, "The local people have it right and the central planners in Toronto are wrong on that point."

That's a fascinating story in here about these local people who took charge of it themselves, gave it their direction, hired their consultant. Interesting: their consultant was a young fellow named Brian Turnbull, now mayor of Waterloo, I think. Is Brian still the mayor of Waterloo?

Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): Yes, he is.

Mr Conway: A very able fellow, a Conservative candidate provincially in North Waterloo in 1971, as I recall. Turnbull provided very effective leadership to that community. He was a consultant, not for John White in Queen's Park; he was a consultant to good, local political leadership in Oxford county.

As I say, the interesting thing about this little book is the number of occasions when there was a very real clash and where the local politicians in Oxford county, with their consultant, dug in their heels and said, "We believe we are right and we're not backing down, because if this is going to work it has to be this way." One of the big fights -- interesting -- was about water and sewer. It sounds really mundane. I don't know anything about water and sewer in Ostrander or Saltford, or Ingersoll for that matter, but I'll tell you, these people did, and when push came to shove, the local MLA-minister stood with his people.

A fascinating story. You read it and say, this is so trite. There's nothing in it that's breathtaking. It's all kind of matter of fact -- except, apparently, it didn't happen in too many places, and we all I think know why: "Oh well, there's some big government grant. Let's hire a consultant. We'll get that good Charlie Harnick. He's a good guy and he comes highly recommended by somebody I know in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Charlie's a heck of a nice guy" -- an imaginary Charlie Harnick, you understand. But in many of these cases, apparently, the consultant to do the local work is really the agent of the central power. The local leadership is not there, for whatever reason. Anyway, it's a very interesting little book about one of the few restructurings that worked. I repeat, the evidence seems to be that most of them didn't work.

I'm also reminded, when I reflect on this, about one of the fundamental issues in local government, and that is our ongoing ability to recruit to the Chatham city council, to the Dover township council, to the Sebastopol township council, to the Pembroke city council men and women who are going to do as Dalton McGuinty I thought said so eloquently here today: give of themselves in community service for a job that is often very thankless. I think one of the aspects of the success of our very positive tradition of local government is that, again, in the main we have been successful and able to do that.

I've never served on local council, but I've got to tell you, I represent the largest county in Ontario: Renfrew. There are 36 municipalities. It is 3,000 square miles. From Arnprior in the east to Deux Rivières in the northeast it is about 100-and-how-many miles? Well, in kilometres, it's at least 160 kilometres up the Ottawa River. Its average depth -- from Pembroke out to Barry's Bay is 90 kilometres, out to Palmer Rapids is 110. The county seat is in Pembroke, so to go to a county meeting is to drive, for many of these people, from downtown Toronto out to Collingwood or almost to Woodstock. Think about that. On a snowy night in January or a rainy night in May, after a full day's work, I'll tell you, that is real commitment. We have got to, in a greater way than we have been doing in recent times, honour and respect the men and women who make that commitment.

I am deeply concerned, quite frankly, in recent months about how fashionable it has become for people -- and I have to say this -- particularly some people on the treasury bench in this government, in the cabinet, to disparage local politicians. It's becoming fashionable. We have Bill 81, the Fewer Politicians Act. Well, that's an act of self-flagellation respecting provincial MLAs. Let's set that aside for the moment, but let us just observe the tendency. But I have been listening carefully around the circle over the last number of months to just how willing some very prominent Conservative cabinet ministers are, and their minions are, to disparage local politicians.

Let me be the first to admit that there are some local politicians, as there are and have been provincial politicians, as there are and have been national politicians, who do no credit to our trade, our profession. As a matter of fact, there's a very interesting new book by a fellow named William Weintraub called City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and '50s, published by McClelland and Stewart. It's a very interesting book to read. It talks about the bawdy, brawling quality of civic politics in the then largest metropolis in Canada. It gives a very good insight into the operational attitudes and ethics of one Camillien Houde.

I noticed particularly the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay when my friend Bradley was a while ago talking about ethics at the local level, and I saw some eyebrows raised elsewhere. I'm going to tell you, you read the Weintraub book -- I know it's a little bit of history, but not that far removed -- and it certainly would not make you very comfortable about the way some people practised politics at the local level.


You know, it is not that many years ago that my old friend Merle Dickerson, the now deceased former mayor of North Bay -- do you remember that, Bill? Remember the trial, the conviction?

Mr Gerretsen: Which one? Which trial?

Mr Conway: Well, we shall not speak ill of the dead, but that's not that long ago, and that was a very public trial. It is interesting that after the convicted former mayor returned, he was re-elected. That's not some far-distant precinct in Alabama that you'd see on 60 Minutes; that was North Bay, Ontario, in the 1970 and 1980s. That's not ancient history.

I want to come back to my primary concern, and that is the tendency that is developing to trash people who serve at the local level by creating the impression that they're all a bunch of profligates, that they're just looking for ways to pad expense accounts and fill their day with committee meetings. I think we are going to pay a very real price for the propagation of that attitude.

Hon Ms Mushinski: You didn't say that once, did you?

Mr Conway: The czarina of culture asks rather loudly, "Who said such a thing?" Her hearing, her auditory skills, perhaps need the kind of refinement that her cultural instinct has been developing here in the last few months.

I simply want to say that you do not have to be very acute or very astute to get the message, and that's a message that I think we've got to stop propagating.

Yes, we should censor people who are up to no good. There are elements of this bill -- the member for Dovercourt is here, and I'm glad he is. It's easy for me to say -- I'm a bumpkin from the rural hinterland -- but I have wondered for years how it is that in a place --

Mr Christopherson: What does that make Murdoch?

Mr Conway: Now, that is a good interjection.

Seriously, when I see school board trustees, even in so great and so powerful a place as old York, paying themselves the near equivalent of a federal member's salary, I ask myself, need it be so?

Mr Gerretsen: How do I get to be a trustee?

Mr Conway: No, I do not think that is an appropriate response, I say to my friend from Kingston. That, in my view, is not as it should be. It is too bloody much money to be paying a school trustee, because I don't believe -- and although I'm sure it sounds like it, I'm not here to disparage my friend the cardinal from Dovercourt. But ask yourself the question, are Toronto school trustees the near equivalent of an MP? I don't think so.

Mr Silipo: It wasn't much of a ministry then.

Mr Conway: He says, "It wasn't much of a ministry then." That may be a fair point, but I just think that sets a bad example and sends a wrong signal, just as I think we set a bad example and send an even worse signal to all of those hardworking farmers and labour people and housewives and students who serve on councils in my county. In the main, they're the best deal we've got. Have you any idea what it's like -- I know some of you do -- to be a municipal councillor in a rural township in Renfrew? I don't know what they get paid; they get paid some money. I know that. But I tell you, most of them are just volunteer community workers. They get called in the middle of the night about everything from "Where's the snowplow" to "There are cattle loose down the concession road" to "The hydro line is coming down in the ice storm." It is an incredible performance that most of them provide, and they don't get paid very much money.

Now we talk about better local government, and what we intend in many of these places is that we are going to, yes, probably consolidate. We are going to have fewer of these people. They are going to be centralized. They are undoubtedly going to require some more staff because, you see, the functions won't go away. If you're Doug Rollins and you live up in Mayo township in north Hastings, the arrival of the school bus, the inability of the oil truck to get in to put fuel into the bloody barn or your house is an issue that faces the nation every day. There's no TTC and there's no Alan Tonks up front or Paul Godfrey behind the scenes to pull the wires to make it happen like that.

Hon Ms Mushinski: No Patti Starrs either.

Mr Conway: Pardon me? Patti Starr? Where is Patti Starr, you ask? She's having lunch with Alan Eagleson.

I say to the czarina of all culture that is Ontario, mind your Ps and Qs or you might encourage me to tell you more about Patti Starr than you ever wanted to know, and I might even do so in a way that would make my friend the minister of justice seated before you blush.

But back to my point. These are extremely good, community-minded people. I'm not saying there can't be some change. In fact, a number of things here I like. I like some of the ceilings on salaries. I like some of the changes about making elections easier. I don't have some of the concerns some others might have. I am a techno-peasant, but I'm sure there are ways we can apply modern technology to reasonably assist our democracy.

I'm a little reluctant maybe to raise this. Much has been said about our party convention on the weekend and I think people rightly make the point that it was not exactly an organizational success, but as I said to some of my Tory friends earlier, the last time I was in that arena for a political convention was, as it happened, in 1971. It was a great convention.

A very good friend of mine was a very active Tory. I happened to be in Toronto and he said, "Why don't you come over and see some of the action?" I remember going in there and the great to-do was: "What are these voting machines about? Where did Alan Eagleson get these electronic voting machines that will not work?" I think there was a five-hour delay while Windy O'Neill's Liberal voting machines were replaced by better manual Tory know-how.

Mr Bradley: Was Alan Eagleson the president?

Mr Conway: Alan Eagleson was the president of the Conservative Party; he was president for about 10 years, as I recall. But the point I want to make --


Mr Conway: No, my time is running down.

The point I want to make, because it concerns local democracy, is I think it is an amazing tribute to 2,500 citizens that they would come, many of them from a great distance, to old muddy York here last week and they would, frustrated though many of them were, for 15 hours dedicate themselves to an important process. I don't say that because I'm a Liberal. I'm quite confident that if they were Conservative or New Democratic delegates, they would have probably done the same, and you see, I think that speaks well about the way our democracy works.

I saw a US election here a few weeks ago. They registered the lowest voter turnout since 1924, less than 50%. Anybody remember the number? I think it was 48 or 49.

Provincially and nationally we do substantially better than that, and for those people around this place whose primary interest is suburban New Jersey and what magic is gong on there, I hope we're not going to buy some American package that is supposed to improve our democracy in a way that resembles theirs, because while I don't want to be too boastful and I don't think we Ontarians in some critical respects have much to learn from the American republic on some of these matters, particularly around local government. We have lots to learn from the Americans, and I'm not here to engage in any kind of xenophobia, but when you look at our local democracy, our participation rates, and yes, notwithstanding what I said a while ago, our ethics at the local level, if you watch the Buffalo evening news, there's always somebody under indictment in Erie county.

Mr Bradley: Lackawanna.

Mr Conway: In Lackawanna or wherever. We're not pure and we've had our problems, but in relative or comparative terms, I think we're in not bad shape. We can improve and we must improve.

I simply say that local government, particularly in my part of rural Ontario, depends on people in and of the community, feeling that they have a role and an opportunity to do something meaningful. Again, back to the Beecroft study about Oxford county, another one of the big fights was about representation: What was an appropriate balance between the rural and the urban interest?


God help these people that they should have been here for the debate about Bill 81. God help these people that they should have ever encountered the current member from Scarborough-Canadian Tire, who tells people in Rainy River, "As far as I can tell, the only difference between Rainy River and the lower Rouge River Valley is the weather." Think about it. It's breathtaking.

I don't profess to understand the intricacies of the Golden Mile in the czarina's borough or city of Scarborough, but I'm telling you, it is my view that there is not adequate understanding about the way local democracy works at the rural level.

I was at Remembrance Day services in many of my small communities and one of the things that concerned me greatly was the number of very good people in local government who are counting down the weeks until they sign off and say goodbye because they're just not prepared to do it any more.

Someone once asked Pierre Trudeau why he was in politics, the millionaire son of privilege --


Mr Conway: Well, that's essentially the line.

Trudeau said -- I saw the quote the other day -- quoting Plato, "We must understand that if we choose not to engage in the business of civic responsibility, then we must as citizens in a society be willing to be governed by people less able than ourselves." It sounds a bit --


Mr Conway: People laugh, but --

Ms Lankin: Well, it's happened. It's here is Ontario. It's arrived.

Mr Conway: It's easy to say that, but think about it. I'm just reporting from the field and I'm talking about some people I know in my community who I really respect for what they do and have done, and when those people tell me they're leaving because they're not doing it any more and they're not doing it for a variety of reasons that give me pause about some of the reforms that not just the current government but other governments have offered with good hope but again with some unintended consequences, I ask myself the question: Who next? Who's going to do all of this?

I hear, for example, people including some members of the assembly saying, "I think it would be a good thing if we sort of took apart school boards and transferred a whole bunch of these functions to municipalities." There are some rearrangements that I think are possible. I've been asking some people in my area, good local politicians, and I'm telling you there is no unanimity. I'm not meeting very many local reeves and councillors who want the phone ringing about the school bus routes. I'm not saying that there aren't some, but I'm not seeing any rush to that responsibility.

So we have to, I think, as we look at better local government, look at what we've got, look at the culture in which this is developed, understand that distance and rural environments are important, that the best government is the government provided closest to those people who are in receipt of the service and try to balance those requirements with some of the obvious pressures that this or any government faces.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Questions and comments?

Mr Kormos: Once again, and most eloquently, concern about the very nature of what it means to be involved in politics at the local level has been addressed by Mr Conway --

Ms Churley: The member for Renfrew North.

Mr Kormos: The member for Renfrew North, known to his constituents as Mr Conway. This is what this government really fails to understand. This government doesn't understand what it means in communities like Welland and Thorold for people to want to participate at local levels of government, for people who look to the province with its taxation powers to provide that modest level of support for the building and the maintenance of infrastructure. Now they're confronted by a government that has no regard for local governance, that very much wants to impose -- I said before and others have said the same and I'll repeat it again -- almost a Soviet style, that sort of centralism, that wants to impose its will from Queen's Park on diverse municipalities across the province, and that wants to erode the stature and status of local government.

This government has as an agenda two very specific things: One, driven by its commitment to a tax break for the very richest in this province, it's engaging in an orgy of privatization that is designed to transfer over to the private sector the vast majority of things that are currently owned or within the realm of public ownership. Part of the process of achieving that goal is to attack and disintegrate local government, be they school boards, be they hydro-electric commissions, be they municipal councils. I say that the folks in Welland-Thorold and, I trust, across the province won't stand for it.

Mr Hardeman: Thank you to the member for Renfrew North for what I think was support for the bill and some kind comments or some other comments on other parts of municipal restructuring. I would just like to thank him for bringing up the restructuring of Oxford county and to point out that indeed that was a success in 1975. But I think there's some confusion over whether in fact it was the local politicians standing up and saying they would not do what others suggested, or whether in fact it was a compromise where we had forward-thinking and compromising politicians who could see there was a future in restructuring local government.

I think the member spoke to the issue of the sewer and water, and it was one of the biggest issues in that debate, but in fact the end result was that the legislation did what was suggested by the consultant and the advice from Queen's Park that sewer and water should be the responsibility of the upper-tier government. To accommodate the needs of the local people, it was entrenched in legislation that they were allowed to put that back to the local municipalities for its operation. I would point out that they are presently in the process of taking that back up to the upper tier to administer it in a more cost-effective manner.

I also want to say that the member suggested there was a situation where we needed equal representation for the rural and the urban. I want to point out, as you read the book, you will find that the representation turned out that way because it is representation by population. At the time of restructuring, it was approximately one representative for every 4,000 to 5,000 people. That applied to both the rural and the urban people. I think it is a success story and we would wish that many more municipalities would see fit to do that.

Mr Bradley: I want to compliment the member on this speech and for recalling historically the imposition of regional government in many places in Ontario, including regional Niagara. It was as popular as a skunk at the proverbial garden party when it was implemented in the Niagara region and was seen as a duplication of local government. Over the years, the member would know, at least there's been an evolution which has taken place, where there's been a better delineation of powers between the region and the individual area municipalities so that much of the duplication that used to be there, to the credit of both levels has been removed.

Nevertheless, the member for Renfrew North will be interested to know that some of the proponents of one metro government in Niagara are none other than some Tories I know who would like nothing better than to get rid of the local councils. What you find is that the people of Port Colborne would prefer an individual from Port Colborne dealing with matters of strictly a local nature within the confines of that municipality, just as a person in St Catharines is annoyed when a person from Wainfleet has more control over a local road or local issue than a councillor locally elected. So, I caution the government not to move into Niagara, as I said in the first place, closing hospitals holus-bolus with the chattering classes somehow agreeing to this and the rest not agreeing to it, and the same could be said of regional government.


Before I conclude my remarks, I'm wondering if someone from the Ministry of Environment is here to determine whether the member for Rexdale has violated any provincial regulations and has a certificate of approval for the pile of paper that is now beside his desk.

Mr Martin: I want to say that the member for Renfrew North has presented some really important ideas here this evening, as is his style. He brings an historical perspective that many of us do not have the luxury of having access to because we haven't been here as long as he has. I think it's important that we hear from and listen to members such as Mr Conway. He made a speech here a few weeks ago about another bill about which I feel particularly strongly and I'm very concerned because of the impact it will have on the province.

The point I want to make is that it's really important that we have an opportunity, as people given responsibility by the folks who voted for us, to debate at length and to discuss in a way that calls for mutual exchange of ideas and listening and understanding so that what we're doing here by way of this bill and Bill 81 and the so many other bills that we're having to look at because of the agenda of this government is fundamental and large and is going to have tremendous impact on the way that we do things in this province. It's important that we not rush them through, that we not make decisions in haste, that we take our time, because these bills are deserving of the kind of presentation and debate and discussion and ideas that the member for Renfrew North has presented to us here tonight.

The fact that this government is willing to go to the people and spend upwards of $48 million on a referendum on casinos and on bills such as this one and Bill 81 and the so many other bills that are going to affect directly and in major ways the everyday life of communities and people and families in this province and not be willing to take the time to do it properly is disgraceful and needs to be challenged and needs to be said. I think the member for Renfrew North does that quite well.

The Speaker: Responses?

Mr Conway: Again, very quickly, I cite the Oxford example not in any particular way, but I just look back on the last major round of municipal reform. It didn't work nearly as well as had been intended. If we look at a case like Oxford, it did work. Let's look carefully at why it worked. One of the reasons it worked, apparently, was there was strong local political leadership that saw the matter through based on good local political judgement.

I resent the disparagement of the local politicians because, while they're not all perfect, they are accountable, and to the extent that they get away with bad behaviour, it is a failure of ourselves as a community not to exact a higher level of accountability. I'll say this: If Arnott is my reeve, I can talk to him, I can complain to him, and yes, I can vote against him. That's a lot more than I can do about some consultant or some bureaucrat that's buried in the bowels of some tower in Winnipeg, Toronto or Ottawa. We've got to continue an environment where people of all walks of life, in all communities, large and small, are willing and feel it worth their time and while to make a contribution as civic leaders.

A second and final point is that whatever our plans -- I mentioned positively Pierre Trudeau. In a more negative way, he weaved schemes that were wonderful theoretical constructs that absolutely failed in terms of the delivery of what was intended. Jim Fleck and that crowd here 25 years ago did a version of the same. So, I simply ask, who could be opposed to better local government? We all want it, in Renfrew and in Etobicoke. Let us make sure that if that is what we want, we deliver to a reasonable extent what looks like and what feels like good government. That's my point. Enough said.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity to join in the discussion and the debate on Bill 86. The first thing I'd like to do is to simply state for the record that, given all the speeches we have to listen to, it's always an enjoyment to listen to the member for Renfrew North.

When I first came to this place some six years ago, I was always keenly interested when the former Treasurer and one-time leader of the Liberal Party spoke, Mr Bob Nixon, and, as a new member trying to understand the historical culture of this place and the province in a way that I never had before, always enjoyed particularly his historical reflections and always learned from that. I think that has now been passed on to the member for Renfrew North, and I think he does a great service to all who care about why we have many of the situations, both good and bad, that we do and what some of the lessons are that we can learn from history. I wanted to say that, because consistently his speeches continue to provide that kind of education, certainly for me.

The other thing I want to mention is that, for people who might possibly, although I doubt many, still be staying with us at some few minutes after 11, if one were to watch this evening and the ensuing midnight sittings that happen in the last two weeks of the session, you begin to see why it's not really that productive for us to do that around the clock. I understand at one time on a fairly regular basis this Legislature would sit until 10 o'clock or midnight. For various reasons, both solid and liquid, it was determined that wasn't the wisest thing in the world to do. If you look at the fatigue of members around here and the pressing schedules that all members have, I think it's fair to say that the public business isn't necessarily served by the longer hours, certainly not on a regular basis.

Having said all of that, I want to get into the issue of Bill 86. There is much, I would say, to support in Bill 86, certainly the idea that municipalities have come into their own, that there isn't the need to be treated as a child of the province, which is the way municipalities are often described. I know that during my five years on city and regional council I began to resent some of the strings that Queen's Park continued to hold and felt that they weren't necessarily important in our time. I think this bill, in modest ways, reflects that, and I'll comment on some of the details of that in a moment.

It's important to understand that municipalities are not what they once were when the original concepts of the laws we now have around governing municipal councils were created. Of course, as everyone knows, municipalities have no status in the Constitution. In fact, it's been a position of AMO for quite some time and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the FCM, the federal body of municipalities, that they have some constitutional standing. I don't know if that has any great takeup these days, but it's there. Without that constitutional existence, as the province has and certainly a national government has, municipalities have been very much at the whim of the government of the day here at Queen's Park.

If you think about some of the things that went on -- that's why I mentioned the comments of the member for Renfrew North -- if you look at some of the things that have happened in the past, I think it made a great deal of sense that that happened. Certainly, the kind of media scrutiny -- although it's not necessarily always a positive contribution, on balance we're better with it than without it -- that exists now in no way, shape or form existed in the past.

In fact, I can remember being on Hamilton city council and listening to some of the veterans who'd been on for decades or talking to people who had been aldermen in the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s. I was told that it would be quite unusual, when they went into an in camera session, meaning they were to discuss something that was done behind closed doors -- a personnel matter, a legal matter, selling or buying of real estate, things where there were legitimate reasons to do it behind closed doors -- rather than actually moving in camera, because the only people who were at the meeting were some of the media representatives, and they were just one of the guys, because they were all guys, the mayor of the day would simply say: "You guys won't report any of this, will you? We'll just quietly go into an in camera," and they would agree. Certainly I don't believe they were any less professional in their time. You have to take things in their historical context, and in that time that was the way business was done. They would do that; they would put down their pens, probably lean back, light up a cigarette and listen but not take any particular note of what was happening and wouldn't report on anything. It would be a frosty day in hell before that sort of thing would happen now. That's an example of the way things were done.


I know that at the Hamilton Club on the corner of James and Main in downtown Hamilton, in the heart of my community, in the heart of my riding, much of the real business of city council was done. The deals were cooked up and cut there and then they walked across the street, over to city hall and went through the formalities. That's to some degree not unlike caucusing that happens now and the deals that are cut, but there was clearly a system of those who were in control of that community and they made sure that control was maintained all the way through. We see that in the minutes reflected through the way things were debated and how much time or, more important, the lack any real debate on a lot of important issues, particularly things that had the interest of the business community, which obviously wielded the greatest amount of power.

There have been obviously a lot of changes since then. The idea that we would move towards other means of voting, such as phoning and the Internet, while somewhat disconcerting because they're so different from the past, I think are important, because it does allow us to reach into the future, it does let us acknowledge that the world is changing around us. As much as there are important traditions that are worth keeping and building on and not letting go of, politics has to change and the business of governing has to change. I don't agree with some of the broader sweeps of change that this government brings in, such as its overreliance on referenda and other such populist things, and the holus-bolus turning over of all decision-making down to the lowest level, the local level, which is the closest level, the level that is, if this is considered to be far away, lowest in terms of being close to the people. I'm going to comment on that in a moment too.

I think that's an important measure. Certainly, the idea that we no longer post voters' lists on telephone poles and hydro poles makes an awful lot of sense, particularly for some people who are living on their own and have privacy reasons that cause them to not want their address and their name and the fact that they live alone to be published. I think they're entitled to that privacy. The idea that we would move to a common enumeration makes a great deal of sense. That's a cost-cutting measure.

By the way, none of these things is revolutionary. They're not all that new. I suspect that the matters I've just raised would have been done by any government that's in power. That's just my speculation. This is the government that's doing it; you will get the credit for it; that's the way it needs to be. But I think it's fair to say that there's nothing too insightful or creative or new about it. These ideas have been there and have been worked on inside the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for quite some time and certainly have been talked about by an awful lot of councils.

When we talk about the amount of power however that is being given over to the minister, I begin to part company with some of the small but important positive measures that are contained in Bill 86. I want to spend the balance of my time commenting on that.

Bill 86 is a very large bill, as I mentioned in a two-minute response earlier. It's 153 pages. That is an unusually long bill, for those of us who deal with these every day. This is a very substantive bill. It has a lot of things in it. When you look at the explanatory notes, virtually everything, save and except one matter, deals with councils, their structure, governance, elections, matters of that ilk. Then, out of the clear blue, you have this issue of section 79, which is dropped in here and stands out like a sore thumb.

It's part XV, it starts on page 70, and it's headed "Community and Public Transportation." We go from a bill that talks about the structure of municipal government, elections and the like, and suddenly we're talking about transportation. The first question to be asked is, why is this not being dealt with as a standalone piece of legislation from the Minister of Transportation? Given the amount of powers he's giving himself and the concerns that some of us have about what's in here, it would make a great deal of sense that this would be a stand-alone bill and have its own time to be debated and considered in this Legislature, because I believe this could have incredibly huge, sweeping implications for communities like mine in Hamilton-Wentworth and others across the province.

The first thing that section 79 does -- this is a brand-new term, by the way; this has not been used before that I'm aware of. This is new jargon: "community transportation." The definition -- I know it's not always riveting to be reading directly from a bill, but it's not that long and I think it's important -- says: "`Community transportation' means all services and related facilities and equipment, including public transportation, used to transport, or to facilitate, coordinate or otherwise provide for the transportation of individuals within, to or from a municipality, but it does not include" and then it gives a number of exemptions, none of which are relevant to the comments that I'm going to make.

First of all, I had an opportunity to ask the parliamentary assistant earlier about an interpretation of this -- and I'm not a lawyer, but that I took from this; that's why I wanted to ask him before I made comments publicly -- and he's advised me that if indeed I am correct in my interpretation, that certainly was not the intent, at least that's what the parliamentary assistant is advised, and I believe that that's what he was advised. Whether or not that truly is what went on, I would say he knows no more than I. I take him off the hook in that regard, because I believe him to be an honourable member.

But the way I read this, this not only includes public transportation and the parts of private transportation that may be funded by different provincial ministries, but the way this reads it could also mean the taxicab industry in every community.

Those members who have served on councils, particularly those like myself who've served on licensing committees -- in fact, I chaired our licensing committee -- in fairly large urban centres, will know, particularly where you have a regulated taxi industry, that this is a very sensitive area and cab drivers do not take kindly to people who don't understand the specifics of their industry stepping in and telling them how to do their business. They understand in communities like Hamilton that there will be regulation, but they like an open process, they like to be informed, they like to have input and they like to know that the people who are making the decisions are accountable to them.

I can recall before the 1988 municipal election -- I won't get into the specifics of the issue, but there was quite a scandal brewing in our community around the issuance of licence plates, which at that time were worth in the neighbourhood of $70,000 or $80,000 a pop. There were cab drivers in cabs lined up in parade fashion in front of city hall on a number of occasions -- lights on, horns blaring, signs a-going -- because they wanted to hold city hall accountable to what was going on.

I think anybody out there who has an interest in the taxicab industry ought to be getting a hold of their local government member and finding out whether that is indeed the way this is meant to be interpreted, and if it isn't, get assurances that there will be amendments to Bill 86 to specifically exclude or ensure that the language does not include the taxicab industry.


Having said that, the concern about this is that this minister, just like in Bill 26, is giving himself incredible power over what he calls community transportation. Certainly one of those that have taken a leadership role in raising this issue -- and I grant you, they have a vested interest, but that's fine, that doesn't deny them their democratic right to have a say; if anything, it should give them the respect that their expertise says they should get. The Amalgamated Transit Union, Canadian Council, under the leadership of Ken Foster, who is the Canadian director, have a lot of concerns about Bill 79 and what it might mean in terms of the privatization of public transit in all our communities.

Given this government's track record on privatization and all the plans you have and what you're planning to do to public sector unions that get in the way and what you're going to do to wages and benefits, I think they have every right to be as concerned as they are in representing their members. After all, like anybody out there watching or anyone reading the Hansard, everyone's entitled to a decent standard of living and a decent income and decent benefits. This province is wealthy enough that we can do that, but the name of the game, in terms of this government, is to move in the opposite direction, because the lower the wages and the lower the benefits and the fewer the benefits, the more profit there is, which is in large part why they're doing all this privatization. As we've said on many occasions, that's why, like Mulroney, they'll make sure it's their cronies, Mike Harris's golfing cronies, that get all these public services, and with the legislation that goes with it they stand to make a lot of bucks.

What's the minister going to do that's so terribly horrific that I feel the need to make it a focus of my comments? Well, contained in a clause here -- I'm going to read this again, because it's just as short as the other one -- it says: "The minister may enter into an agreement with a municipality, local board, individual, corporation, firm or unincorporated association" -- the minister may enter into an agreement with any of those, not all of them or one specifically but any of those -- "to provide, facilitate, coordinate or restructure community transportation."

That's powerful stuff. That clause, linked with the definition of this new term "community transportation," means, as I read it -- and I haven't heard the parliamentary assistant or the minister or anybody else say that this isn't true, and if it is, you've got your chance when I'm done in your two-minute responses to tell me I'm wrong. But as I understand this, what it means is that the minister can enter into an agreement with either the municipality, a local board, any individual, anybody, his closest pal. We already know that the Minister of Education hired a former employee and a good pal to do just a review. This is to take power.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): For $1.

Mr Christopherson: I hear one of the government backbenchers saying, "For $1." All the more reason that the average working person ought to be concerned, because how many working people can take on any kind of full-time responsibility for a buck a year? The wealthy can. If you've got $10 million in the bank, you've got the luxury of saying, "Yes, I'll do a public service for $1 a year." But if you're an ordinary working stiff, you don't have that luxury. So don't throw that at me.

That means that the minister can enter into an agreement with a municipality, local board, any individual, any corporation, any firm or unincorporated association, to do what? To provide community transportation, to facilitate community transportation, to coordinate community transportation or restructure community transportation.

We already know that "community transportation" means just about everything that moves the public. Whether it's public or private is yet to be defined. Exclude the taxicab industry, although I think you might have a tiger by the tail there. Even if you're just dealing with public transit, what this says is that the minister could -- I realize I am taking an extreme, but with this government anything's possible. You told us you didn't need the powers in Bill 26 because the Minister of Health would never do those awful things, would never close hospitals, and look what the health restructuring commission is doing: blowing into community after community and shutting down hospitals. And the minister stands up and say: "I can't do anything about it. The law says the commission has that power."

Just like Bill 86, Bill 26 -- they have a thing for bills that end in "6" giving power -- gave all that power to the minister. It's his law, it's his commission. To stand up and say, "I can't take responsibility because I am just following the law," is a load.

Mr Bradley: A load of what?

Mr Christopherson: I'll get thrown out if I say a load of what, and I want to finish my speech, but I think people know what I mean.

What this now does is that it will provide the minister the ability to give his closest crony or a consulting firm or a local business -- anything he wants or anybody he wants -- the ability to come into my community of Hamilton-Wentworth or any other community across the province and absolutely take over control of the public transportation system. That's what it says. The minister can then do an agreement with these people or corporations or entities and they can provide, facilitate, coordinate or restructure community transportation. And one wonders why the Amalgamated Transit Union might be a little bit concerned about what's going to happen to their members and their collective agreements?

We just went through a short strike in Hamilton-Wentworth with our HSR drivers. Fortunately, there was a resolution found fairly quickly. I am sure that both sides would have preferred to get more of what they wanted at the bargaining table, but at the end of the day there was an agreement that was ratified by a vast majority of that membership, so that service has continued. We're very proud of the HSR in Hamilton, yet there were threats out there. I won't say by whom or who they might be affiliated to, but there were certain threats and murmurings made by some regional council members: "Gee, if we don't get the kind of collective agreement we need, we might have to look at privatization." It's always the threat, but with this government it's more than a threat. It's a real possibility. With Bill 86 and with this section 79, it's all there to do.

I would like to hear the parliamentary assistant stand up and say, first of all, that I'm wrong. If I am, fair enough, let's have that debate; I'd like to hear that. If I'm not wrong but I'm exaggerating, then let him say that. But I would remind him that that's the same answer we got when we were worried about the powers that Bill 26 gave to certain ministers such as the Minister of Health and the restructuring commission and all the things that could happen. We were told, "Oh, no, you're just fearmongering again."

We know that this government and the Minister of Transportation have no commitment to public transit, just like they have no commitment to the environment. That's been proven time and time again. And it's for bloody certain that they've got no concern about workers and, God forbid, those workers who have the audacity to join a union. We know how you feel about those things.

So I would say that those workers in communities like mine and people who care about public transit and people who care about its relationship to the environment and our ability to build healthy, sustainable communities for the future ought to be bloody scared about this clause. They ought to be asking serious questions about why it was slipped into such a large bill, why suddenly this transportation issue with all these powers was slipped in here. Why isn't it a standalone bill? Why aren't we having a debate solely on the question of public transportation and who will make decisions about the future, of what it ought to be and the form it ought to take and who controls it and for what purpose? For the public good as the top priority, or other considerations as a top priority and public consideration only something that comes afterwards?


It's interesting to note that the who does what to whom committee endorsed the community transportation action plan that our government brought about, which was a completely different direction. It talked about coordination of public transportation by giving responsibility for the planning back to communities. As I understand it, they endorsed that on July 2. They said that was the way to go. But again, this government doesn't want to listen to anybody or anything that talks about an agenda that's different from their own.

At the end of the day, what do we have? We have a huge bill that makes a lot of changes to the way our local governments are structured and who controls them and how they're shaped and who makes those decisions, and gives more control for financial planning and management, for using foreign markets etc to put bonds on, things of this nature. All those things are good. Municipal councils, certainly in the larger areas, have the technical expertise, and computers and other things have made it easier, so it's no longer a question of Queen's Park having to provide all the expertise necessary because municipal councils either couldn't or wouldn't use it.

We know that the upside of local councils is that they're the closest to the people and they feel the issues strongest. On the downside, they're also the ones who can feel the strongest pressure on a day-to-day basis, because the members don't leave and go to another city, like we do here in Queen's Park, or further yet at the national level, where you're off to the nation's capital and you're not facing people day after day after day and hearing the pressure. That is sometimes not good in many cases, certainly around some zoning issues, which is why we took such great exception to many of your changes to land use planning, your using the bumper sticker phrases that "Smaller government is always better" and "The government that's the closest to the people is always the one that's right."

Well, that's not always the case, and many times it has been Queen's Park and the Ministry of the Environment, other ministries and, yes, even the OMB that have stepped in and brought the kind of principled decision-making to important things like land use that need to be the priorities and not the immediate pressures that are there.

I admit quite openly that as an alderman I've been on both sides of those kinds of issues. Such is the nature of municipal politics. Those of us who have been there know it is a somewhat different creature from what we have in the parliamentary system, which is structured far more along the lines of parties -- although we certainly see a lot of that at the municipal level also.

In closing, I want to emphasize the fact that our caucus has a great deal of difficulty with what's happening in section 79 for a whole host of reasons, most importantly the issue of public transit and who really will be well served and who will guarantee that the public interest is the priority if it's one of the minister's cronies or one of the Premier's cronies who is appointed to be the new emperor of public transportation in all our communities. Hell, they don't even have to come from the community that's mentioned. You could have somebody take over, have absolute power over the public transportation system in Hamilton-Wentworth, who has never even been there.

There's nothing in here -- now, the parliamentary assistant may say, "There are going to be regulations." I don't know. I'm curious to hear what his answers are to all this and I'll be listening very intently. But certainly your intent is to provide the minister with those kinds of powers. If that wasn't your intent, will the parliamentary assistant today, on behalf of his minister and the government, make a commitment that you will narrow the power you're giving the minister, or at the very least narrow the power you're giving all these authorities and entities and people that you're about to do with section 79 as a part of Bill 86?

I want to tell you, parliamentary assistant, there are an awful lot of people who care about public transit, who care about the environment, who care about decent wages, decent working conditions, and your whole agenda around privatization. I say to you very directly that all of those things come to play in section 79. This government has to answer for section 79 today and to the end of this term, just as they have to under Bill 26 as they're shutting down hospitals. We worry you'll be shutting down public transportation systems, and that's equally unacceptable.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments? The member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: I think it goes that way first, but it's up to you.

I thought the speech was a good one. I want to say that. The member brought out some of the weaknesses of the bill and some of the strengths of the bill. He was very fairminded that way. I'm concerned about some of the definitions he's concerned about, now that he has raised them, particularly the issue related to transportation and what might well happen with the transportation system in any particular city or any municipality, and how that might be used as a lever to pry concessions from people who are seeking to have their employment conditions what they would like to see them be.

I was wondering whether the member simply didn't have time to bring in the issue of the tax cut in his particular presentation and how the government is going to have to borrow $5 billion a year and add that to the provincial debt so it can give a tax cut to the most wealthy in our society. I know the member probably didn't have the time to mention that, but he did mention some of his Conservative friends in Hamilton. I'm wondering what they think of that, because I know some of them don't mind the cutting so much, though now it's starting to hit some of the boards and commissions on which they serve on a volunteer basis. I wonder if he hears them talking about the fact that the government is going to borrow this money. A Conservative government which said the deficit was a real problem has to borrow the money. Therefore, we have bills like this coming forward, where the government is trying to find some savings simply to make up for the tax cut, perhaps cutting some corners that wouldn't be wise.

I also want to compliment the member on not flogging several books during his presentation. One of the previous speakers flogged books and gave the name of the company and the author and so on. It sounds like Peter Gzowski on Morningside when he rises to speak in this House.

Ms Lankin: I also want to congratulate the member for Hamilton Centre for his remarks and his contribution to the debate tonight. I think he raises a really important point as he points to parts of this bill that set out, again, broad powers the minister can take on to himself, and an unwillingness on the part of the government to fetter that by amendment and/or by clear indication of the regulatory scheme that will be set out under this bill.

Sometimes it feels like it's hard to follow this government without a program. Now that they've gone past the initial commitments in the Common Sense Revolution, they don't have a program any more. If you cut through the rhetoric that says this bill's about improving municipal government, if you cut through the rhetoric that says this is about greater autonomy and greater respect for local accountability, and actually cut to the chase in terms of what's in this bill and many others, you'll begin to see a theme that emerges.

If you look at Bill 26, you see very clearly a government that has taken broad, sweeping powers on to itself and refused -- although we tried, I think valiantly, through the course of the very limited public hearings the government would allow on that huge piece of omnibus legislation -- to put any limits on that.

Just look recently at the way in which they forced final closure and vote on the video lottery terminals legislation and refused to put in place any kind of restrictions. Let me tell you, I'm facing a situation in my home community where there may well be a huge mega-teletheatre that is going to be built right beside a brand-new school, a 2,000- to 3,000-seat teletheatre, a 24-hour operation right beside a public school, and I bet you there will be VLTs in that.

Here's another situation in terms of this section 79 and municipal transit -- forced amalgamation; you said you wouldn't force amalgamation -- where you take the powers on to yourself. The theme is clear. It is not democratic; it is anti-democratic.

The Deputy Speaker: The time has expired.


Mr Hardeman: First of all, I'd just like to answer the question on community transportation. It refers to public transit, school buses, health and social service agency vehicles, intercity buses and transportation services for seniors and people with disabilities, all operating at the local level. The community transportation action program was announced by the ministries of transportation and municipal affairs and housing on August 19. It is a joint venture of five Ontario government ministries designed to offer transitional assistance to communities wishing to restructure and coordinate their local transportation services.

I just want to point out that that program would also require the inclusion of some private-sector transportation modes. In fact, there are areas where transportation for the individuals mentioned is purchased from the private sector and it requires legislation to allow those agreements to be worked out, to allow the complete coordination of transportation services within the communities.

The amendments to the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act set out a statutory definition of "community" to allow the Ministry of Transportation and other entities to enter into agreements for the purposes of restructuring and coordinating facilities or providing community transportation. That's the reason for this amendment. It is not to do what the member across the aisle would suggest. That is the sole purpose for that amendment in this legislation.

The Deputy Speaker: I made a mistake and I'll correct it later on. The member for Renfrew North.

Mr Conway: I want to simply agree with the member for Hamilton Centre in his focus around urban transit. There is no question that in communities large and small -- I live in the city of Pembroke, a small urban community of 20,000 in eastern Ontario, and there is a very great deal of concern among the riders of our local Pembroke Transit about what the Harris government policies and funding arrangements are going to mean in terms of the buses that run to that city.

The member for Durham Centre smiles broadly.

Mr Flaherty: That's not what they're talking about.

Mr Conway: They are talking about that, actually. Older people, people who don't have automobiles --

Mr Flaherty: I am talking about McGuinty, and you didn't support him.

Mr Conway: I say to the member from Durham, he would do well to listen to what I am saying as to what people are telling me about that subject. I own a car. I live in a car, so what they do to urban transit in my community really doesn't affect me, but it certainly affects a lot of people. I've been struck in recent weeks by the number of people, older people and people not so old, who've stopped me and said they are concerned about what they are reading in the local paper about the possible demise, the possible termination of our relatively small and I think reasonably efficient Pembroke Transit. That's the first time that's ever occurred.

I see the member for Quinte here. I think he knows of what I speak -- if you live in a place like Belleville or Pembroke -- when a half dozen people in the space of a week or a few days stop and say, "Rollins" or "Conway, I'm concerned about what seems to be in store for urban transit and I'm really concerned that you know that if these buses are undercut or cease operation, that is going to mean a real hardship for my ability to get to work or get to the doctor or get to the grocery store." I thank the member from Hamilton for raising it.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre, you have two minutes.

Mr Galt: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: When the member for Renfrew spoke, you were going to correct it later. I was wondering what your plans were to make the correction later.

The Deputy Speaker: After having thought of the supposed mistake I made, I hadn't made a mistake, because when I called for statements, nobody stood up except the member for St Catharines. So we'll continue the debate.

Mr Galt: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was standing prior to the member for Renfrew.

The Deputy Speaker: There's no point in having an argument. It's over. Do you agree? It's not the procedure. If there's total agreement, we'll listen to you for two minutes. Agreed.

Mr Galt: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for recognizing me and giving me an opportunity to respond in the proper position.

To the member for Hamilton Centre, I was certainly very impressed with his presentation and certainly appreciated his comments about taking the voters lists off the local telephone poles, recognizing the importance of privacy to those who would prefer not to have their identification known and people knowing that they may live single. Anyway, I really appreciated your comments on that.

You made reference to power and more power being given centrally to the provincial government when in fact in this bill, if you look at it, the power is being given to municipalities. We're giving them the opportunity to direct themselves, to be autonomous and to be able to make decisions as to the size of their council, the ward system, who would be elected, how big their councils would be. That is the kind of thing that this bill is giving power to, not so much to the central government, such as the government of Ontario.

Something that wasn't referred to, and I think we should mention it more, happens to be the liability and taking some liability off these municipal councils. We are all familiar with the occasion where the young lad threw the motorbike over the fence and rode it in the park and injured himself and later turned around and sued the municipality because it happened to have a place where he could ride his motorbike, which was fenced off and he wasn't supposed to be there. This is the kind of liability that municipalities should not have to come up against, the nuisance kind of liability that councillors and many volunteers are very concerned about. It's because of some of the court decisions that have been made in the past that have ended up leaving people like councillors in very vulnerable positions that I don't believe they should be left in.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Christopherson: I thank all members for their comments. To the member for St Catharines, you're right: One should never miss any opportunity to talk about the ridiculous tax cut and its cost to all of us. I appreciate his adding that to my comments.

The member for Beaches-Woodbine: Certainly if anyone in this House would understand the difference in the powers that previous ministers of Health have had versus what this government and this minister has given himself, it's the member for Beaches-Woodbine in her time as a Minister of Health and, I would say, one of the most respected and renowned Health ministers the province has ever seen. So I think there's a lot to be learned from her comments.

The member for Renfrew North talks about the importance of public transportation and what it means to the average citizen, which, as I said in my remarks, ought to be the top priority, and doesn't seem to be and won't be under section 79 of Bill 86.

The member for Northumberland says that I was wrong on the question of power, but he missed the whole point. I don't think he even once referred to section 79, which is where I was specifically talking about the issue of powers.

Now I come to the member for Oxford, the parliamentary assistant. I'm somewhat disappointed, Ernie. I asked a number of pointed questions and left myself wide open for you to come straight at me if I was wrong. I didn't hear you do that. The fact of the matter is I'm not sure what the hell you said. You kind of went around and around on me. I said to you that this section creates a new power similar to what we saw in Bill 26 with the Health Services Restructuring Commission. We've seen what they've done in Thunder Bay and in Sudbury and what they're about to do in Toronto and Ottawa and London. God forbid, they're coming into my town in the new year too.

One of the powers you're giving under clause 79 is the ability to restructure what you call "community transportation," so the fact of the matter is that you are trying to take all kinds of power unto yourself and you're going to cut, cut, cut public transportation, just like you cut, cut, cut everything else that matters in this province.

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

Mr Patten: I'm delighted to be here at this hour, participating in this debate. I know there are thousands of people out there who are watching very carefully as to the nature of the discussion.

I have several points that I would like to make that are quite specific to the bill, but I think it's incumbent upon me to also share that there's a general pattern here that causes a number of people to be somewhat worried. I would, however, have a spirit of generosity to say that yes, I believe there are some things in here that can add to some streamlining of ways in which structures can be reorganized to facilitate services or to perform service to people. However, the pattern has been, and this has been more concretely alluded to by numerous members, that any time you look at restructuring, what it ends up to be is a vehicle for the province to cut and find more money for its own needs. We all know what that is; that's of course the tax break.

When I see some of this legislation, I feel we have to scrutinize it and take a very close look at it. The automatic message from the government seems to be that if you streamline, that automatically will lead to more quality. I have yet to see that happen. I haven't seen it related to the environmental concerns of this government as to putting in the Environmental Protection Act a stronger sense of concern about the quality of the environment, and I'll refer to this as I address a few pieces in this legislation. I want to underline that streamlining doesn't necessarily give you quality if you place more pressure -- in this case it's on the municipal governments -- for lack of support from the provincial level for them to do their job.

I see the restructuring as being ways in which they can do further cutbacks, which means they will provide less service that people see as being important, will put pressure on them because you've taken away funds and provided them with a few more windows to find resources to manage their particular budgets, which they must of course do.


I'd like to address a few points in Bill 86, the section that deals with municipal liability and some of the nuisance issues I referred to. I listened very carefully this evening to a number of points that have been raised by opposition members who likewise had been members of local councils or who had legal backgrounds. It seemed to me they at least raised for me cause for concern that this was not going to automatically do away with any sense of liability, but that there would need to be perhaps new definitions. In some cases we may see future squabbles on the basis of standards, but the implication would be that there would be different standards, that there would probably be lower standards, and that there would probably be different standards from municipality to municipality. Therefore, the universality of a sense of a common standard throughout various municipalities would somehow be weakened.

In Bill 86, there is the immunity for damages. I just addressed that point. There was one related to "state of repair that is reasonable in light of all the circumstances, including the road's character and location." This would be a liability that would prevent people being too quick in suing local municipalities.

I don't travel as much in my car as the member for St Catharines or the member for Renfrew North or many of the members who travel a great deal in their cars, but I have noticed a deterioration in the quality of the roadways. It would seem to me that the quality and the level of standards certainly cannot be an improvement. How would it be an improvement? All that's called for here, it seems to me, is that you pass on the responsibility from the province to the local municipality which will now have standards they cannot keep at the moment, in spite of what the Minister of Transportation says.

I relate this back to the theme of quality, which is what I want to point out. I don't see any increased quality in the quality of roadways, maintenance or otherwise, with this bill, but a lowering of standards to allow for less quality roadways.

In the section that has been identified by numerous speakers, and it appears to still be up in the air, the definition of "community transportation," there are some things in this which on the surface appear to be good moves to provide various municipalities to share costs and integrate some of their transportation systems. We have such a system in Ottawa-Carleton. As a matter of fact it's a system that is interprovincial, so I can see the value of some of that.

However, when I see the amendments that are made to the Highway Traffic Act to allow municipalities to set standards, for example on ambulance service, I get a little worried. Not only will there necessarily be variances, which means that people in different parts of Ontario will have unequal service, but it means, I believe, that it's another opportunity to allow a municipality to move its service to the private sector and then be in a position to monitor that.

Of course, with the pressure on it with less resources to deal with, does anyone truly believe that those standards will be at the same level they are now or that they will be improved? I doubt it. If we look at the pattern of what happened with the standards related to the Environmental Protection Act, it was not an improvement. If we look at the pressure and the legislation that was brought forward on labour safety, it was not an improvement. If we look at what's happening in education, the minister talks all the time about testing and testing and testing, but where is the evidence of support to actually increase the standards in the classroom?

I want to speak on this just for one minute. I have received in my office so many letters from parents, not just from my riding but from around Ontario, because I happen to be the education critic. People know the standards and the quality in the classroom have lessened.

In every major piece of legislation, this has taken place. When you look at the pressure on the lower tier, they have already received 40%, 47% cuts, depending. So they have tremendous pressure to find new resources. They will use these new vehicles to cut service. Yes, they may cut the size of their council and they may cut some of the so-called frivolous activity, whatever that is. I don't think that exists any more in many areas; councils seem to be quite accountable to their own people. I want to support in the future but with a caution -- I see that time is running out, but I want to relate a letter that I think was rather poignant to the use of technologies. The letter is from Marjorie Fulton from my riding in Ottawa. She says:

"I write to bring to your attention a concern about amendments to the Municipal Act included in this bill.

"Bill 86 includes some provisions dealing with the accommodation of blind and visually impaired voters in municipal elections. I have some serious concern about these provisions, although legislation is needed to remove obstacles experienced by blind voters."

I was hoping I could read the whole letter, but in the interests of time I will go right to the chase of her points. She says: "Ballots used by blind voters must not be distinguishable for others' ballots during the counting. If a notched ballot is used for a blind voter, the ballots of all voters must be notched."

She refers to Section 42 and I would share this letter with the committee that will be reviewing this legislation, but she says: "Section 42 authorizes councils to conduct elections by electronic or other innovative means. This section must be subject to a mandatory requirement for accommodation of blind voters."

She finishes off by saying: "I am among those blind voters who found it necessary to file a complaint under the Ontario Human Rights Code because of the discretion exercised by the city clerk of Ottawa. I trust that these modifications will be adopted as a means of enabling Ontario's Municipal Act to serve as a model of equity, simplicity and efficiency for other provinces, in meeting the obligations imposed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

I believe Marjorie has a very important point to make for many of our citizens who are in a special needs situation. Just to what degree this bill goes to address that, I hope the committee will listen very carefully.

I see the Speaker looking at me so I will close my remarks by saying yes, it appears there are some elements of this that will streamline efforts and I applaud that. Not all things in all bills, of course, are negative from an opposition point of view. There are some things of great sensitivity. I think many members have raised those issues this afternoon and this evening. I've tried to identify a few myself and I hope that when we get to committee, the members of the committee will seriously take into consideration some of those points.

The Deputy Speaker: It being 12 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.

The House adjourned at 2359.