36th Parliament, 1st Session

l132 - Tue 3 Dec 1996 / Mar 3 Déc 1996

















































The House met at 1332.




Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): For the past year and a half we have fought vigorously against government that seems to be on a rampage as they slash or eliminate programs, remove important regional offices from the north and download financial responsibility to municipalities and the private sector in a headlong rush to find ways to pay for their foolish tax scheme.

In northern Ontario we've been forced to watch as the so-called advocate for our region, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, continues to find ways to force our cash-strapped municipalities or just individual taxpayers to take over responsibility and the financing for programs that clearly belong to the province.

The latest is that the minister now wants municipalities and other stakeholders to start paying for our forest fire protection. We know from a leaked Price Waterhouse document that the minister wants these stakeholders to pay for 40% of the cost previously funded by the province, a very substantial sum if you look at the over $150 million spent in 1995.

We all know that the Minister of Finance will be announcing very soon the massive transfer payment cuts to the public sector, including municipalities. How could he then expect them to find $40 to $50 million more a year to pay for forest firefighting? But more importantly, where is the Minister of Northern Development when these issues are being discussed? We see him in the north when he wants to announce a program or two, and we're glad to see him. But, Minister, you seem to avoid us when you're taking things away. Stop playing games. Be honest with us and give us a chance to make some decisions on our own.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): As the public hearings on Bill 82 begin today, two important points must be raised with respect to the process. Firstly, the government did have the time to have full public hearings on these important matters. It's a shame that presenters from outside of Toronto have to come to this city when the justice committee could well have gone to those communities to hear those folks there.

It's ridiculous as well to devote only two and a half days to a public discussion of matters which will affect thousands and thousands of recipients and payors. The government has held out the false hope that if we pass this bill tomorrow, many, many recipients will immediately receive their arrears.

The fact is that Downsview is not up and running, the fact is that staff have only recently been hired, and the fact is that the technology needed to carry out the enforcement has not even been purchased by the government yet, much less been put in place and the people trained on it. It will be months before any of the enforcement activities can go into effect, and it's unconscionable for this government to conveniently neglect to tell recipients that.

Secondly, I question whether or not the government has any intention of amending Bill 82 despite the serious concerns the NDP raised regarding collection of fees, privatization, the ability of the director to write off arrears and the opting-out provision. Last Friday my office received a memo from the family support plan describing the new intake sheets they're now going to use. At the bottom of the action sheet, the FSP staff are to check off the reason for the inquiry: late payment, arrears, enforcement or opting out. It's clear the Attorney General has already made up his mind. He's not going to change the opting-out provision. I certainly hope he's not going to do that on all the other serious concerns --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you very much.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): Last week the federal auditor issued a report that recommended slashing the Trent-Severn waterway's operating season and closing this section of the waterway. This recommendation would be devastating to tourist operators and businesses in the Peterborough area.

The waterway extends 386 kilometres from Trenton to Port Severn on Georgian Bay, and runs directly through my riding. It consists of 44 locks, two hydraulic lifts and 125 dams. The Rideau and Trent-Severn systems generate approximately $45 million in tourist dollars annually. The auditor's recommendations are shortsighted and would represent a significant economic loss to the community and to the province.

The Honourable Sheila Copps indicated, and I quote, "Reducing service on the waterway would be a mistake," and feels they would not act on the recommendations. I call on the minister and the federal government to live up to that commitment. The waterway is too important to our community.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): As has been the case of late, we've been discussing the issue of prenatal care and obstetrical care for women in Essex county. Today is no different.

Our minister is on record. He's been talking about opening up a prenatal clinic, something he believed he could do within 30 to 60 days. To date, nothing has been done. He talked about rostering of doctors' service, a rationalization of doctors' service in Essex county. To date, nothing has been done. He spoke of designation of an underserviced area for Essex county. To date, nothing has been done.

Our minister simply talks, and the minister has done nothing. I will tell you that his behaviour is more likened to a juggler in a circus than that he could possibly be a minister of the crown for the Ministry of Health. Which is the answer under? Under which cup do you find the ball? Will we have rostering? Will we have rationalized service? Will we have a prenatal clinic? Will we be designated as an underserviced area?

The latest volley of all that he chooses to throw is that yesterday he said our local clinic is on hold, and why? It's on hold because our local people have put it on hold. Here's the reality. Our local people submitted a proposal; the ministry so far has rejected it. I will remind the Minister of Health that during the committee of estimates on health, the minister specifically said, "There will be new funds." May I remind the Minister of his responsibility to women and children in Essex county.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): The picture is slowly coming into focus. The economic plan for this province is congealing and the result is not very pleasant. Small businesses are going bankrupt at a record rate and unemployment is up.

In my own community of Sault Ste Marie we have a perfect example, actually two of them, of the way this government is intending to work and operate. The Ontario Lottery Corp, one of the most important industrial pieces in my city, is now on the selling block. We're looking at the loss of maybe 300 to 350 jobs and all that means to Sault Ste Marie. We are now short in Sault Ste Marie two of our most corporately responsible citizens. Provigo won the battle of the Loeb. Two entrepreneurs in my community who have invested all of their time and energy and the resources they had in a business they thought they would be able to eventually turn over to their kids are now without that business. They are now not able to do that which they do best in my community.

This government talks about free enterprise and the marketplace as being the be-all and end-all of what we need to do to get government out of the face of business, to let business do its thing. Well, the instance of the Loeb franchisee battle with Provigo, that big corporation out of Montreal, and the fact that this province is now short 22 of its most successful entrepreneurs is an example of how this picture is becoming more and more troubling for all of us.



Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I rise today to share a good-news story from my riding. Last week, the Hobart Food Equipment Group of Canada celebrated a milestone achievement in workplace safety: one million hours in four years without a disabling accident. That in itself is impressive, but that's not all. During the celebration open house I spoke with the plant manager, who shared some encouraging news. Hobart provides a classic example of the recently unveiled Market Ontario initiative, with one small addition. The theme should read, "Grey-Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada: The Future's Right Here."

Hobart is a growing and competitive equipment manufacturer located in Owen Sound. Since the enactment of the North American free trade agreement, the operation has grown by leaps and bounds. Its export mandate has expanded worldwide, with approximately 95% of the production going to the United States and offshore, including Japan, China and Germany. Employment at the plant has grown by 115 jobs -- two added just last week -- and payroll has doubled in the last two years alone.

As Hobart draws much of its labour locally and purchases many supplies and services in the Grey-Owen Sound area, the spinoffs from its continued growth and expansion are good news for the community, and in turn good news for the province of Ontario.

My congratulations to the staff and management of Hobart Food Equipment Group of Canada, and best wishes for another million hours of accident-free production and continued expansion.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): Members of this House may have been listening in to CITY-TV's on-line news magazine over the noonhour. They happened to be discussing Wheel-Trans cuts. They conducted a poll on whether the public would forgo their tax cut if it meant saving Wheel-Trans for those who need it. It was not surprising that 72% of those answering adamantly replied with an overwhelming yes: 306 citizens clearly feel it's not fair to fund the Tory tax cuts on the backs of seniors and the disabled.

I wish to remind this House that it was just last month that the minister responsible for seniors stood in this House and stated that his central guiding principles are seniors' dignity, independence, participation, fairness and security.

I call upon the government to listen to what their obsession with cutting has accomplished. Cutting Wheel-Trans has taken away seniors' and the disabled's dignity by making them feel insignificant. Cutting Wheel-Trans means their independence is gone. Cutting Wheel-Trans means seniors and the disabled participate only within the confines of their homes. Cutting Wheel-Trans in fact shows what fairness and security for seniors and the disabled means to this government. As one caller to CITY-TV asked today, "How sick do I have to be to get Wheel-Trans service restored?"


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): It's with sadness yet pride that I use this opportunity to pay tribute to a Crowlander and a Wellander, Mike Perenack, who passed away on November 30, 1996, but a few days ago.

He was certainly one of the key and important people in the development of volunteerism and in service at the municipal and township level. He had been elected as a member of the Crowland township council, had served as its deputy reeve and reeve, and then served as Welland's mayor for four terms beginning in 1961. Although he ran as a Liberal candidate in 1963, he was unsuccessful, but his passion for the community and for politics remained with him throughout his life.

I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Perenack but a couple of months ago in September when he was honoured by the city of Welland as one of the recipients of Welland's 50th anniversary volunteer recognition awards: a firefighter, a worker, a volunteer in recreation and someone who was incredibly committed to his community, to his family, and to all those whose lives he touched.

I've known Mike Perenack since I was a kid, and he had become clearly a fixture in Welland and Crowland politics. We want to express regrets to his wife, to his son, to his daughters-in-law and to his grandchildren. He will be missed but his contribution will be long remembered.


Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): December 3 marks the official observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons. The International Day of Disabled Persons was first proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly. Since July 1995 our government has undertaken several initiatives to improve living conditions for disabled people. We have reinvested $170 million in community-based health services to help people with disabilities and seniors live independently in their own homes.

Incentive funding levels will be maintained for colleges and universities to assist them in meeting their obligations to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities.

The government's workplace disability component includes assistance for employees and employers with respect to barrier removal for persons with disabilities, an access fund to provide access and job accommodation for persons with disabilities, and a shift to consumer-focused job approaches for job accommodation programs.

In housing, we remain committed to an Ontario building code that emphasizes full accessibility for disabled people.

In addition, under social services, people with disabilities and seniors will be moved off welfare on to an Ontario guaranteed support plan that meets their needs, respects their dignity and continues to protect their benefits.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, I have questions both for the Minister of Environment and Energy and the Minister of Community and Social Services, and neither is present at this time. I'm wondering if I should stand them down or whether they'll be making a presence.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: We're supposed to have all the ministers -- we are given a list of ministers. Here comes the minister now. Thank you.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Today I want to address the very real danger which countless women and children are forced to face every day as a result of violence in the home.

In response to a question put to you on November 19 about women in abusive situations, you stated: "The biggest threat to the women in this province...is the debt this government inherited from those across. That is the biggest threat."

I want to ask you, Minister, what do you think would be more dangerous to you, the provincial debt or living with a violent abuser?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Thank you very much for the question. Excuse me for being slightly out of breath. I ran in the door to be here for this question.

What I was referring to was the fact that as the interest on that debt has eaten up our ability to pay for social programs they all value, that is why there is a threat to all those people who are on the receiving end of programs. Women are in very difficult circumstances out there. That's why we are trying to protect the 97 shelters, the 100 counselling programs, all those services that are there for women in such circumstances. We want to protect that funding. We want to make sure those services are there for those people, because they do desperately need it.

Mr McGuinty: We on this side of the House are sick and tired of all of the ministers there trying to act like the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Environment's job is to advocate on behalf of the environment. This minister's job is to advocate on behalf of the poor and children and downtrodden women. She's not doing that. She's standing up there and making a statement as if she's the Minister of Finance.

I want to raise a specific item with you. The Redwood Shelter in Toronto's west end is one of the most successful and cost-effective shelters in Metro. It provides a safe haven and supports women and children forced to flee abusive situations. The Redwood Shelter is in danger of closing but they have found a way to keep it open. They've been very creative. Metro has agreed to kick in $40,000. The shelter itself has come up with $50,000. All they need is $50,000 from you and the centre is going to be able to stay open and keep women and children from their abusive partners.

Minister, will you now prove that protecting women and children is far more important than fighting the debt? I'm not asking this of you as finance minister. Will you provide this one-time financial assistance to keep the doors of the Redwood Shelter open?

Hon Mrs Ecker: With all due respect, I don't believe we need lectures about caring for women who are in these circumstances. We are spending $11 million extra on capital funding for women's shelters, because we know there is a need. Unfortunately, for reasons I am not aware of, the Redwood Shelter did not request the capital money for that allotment, so we fully spent that money on other shelters.

I appreciate the need that is there for the Redwood Shelter, and that is one reason why we are continuing to pay the hostal per diem rates to support Metro Toronto, which shares this responsibility with us. We're paying something like $4.5 million for those shelters in Metro because we believe that they are a necessary component and a necessary support for those women.


Mr McGuinty: That lends no comfort of any kind whatsoever to the women and children presently residing at the Redwood Shelter. Minister, the difference between you and me is that when I hear that a shelter for women whose lives are at risk is closing, I want to help; you sit on your hands and do nothing.

Just to provide us with an interesting contrast, not so long ago this government spent $130,000 on newspaper ads to tell us what we already knew. We can come up with $130,000 for Ontario newspapers, but we can't come up with $50,000 for 30 women and children living in a centre away from an abusive situation.

Minister, you've cut legal aid, you've cut affordable housing, you've bungled family support and you now are ignoring the grave concerns of women at the Redwood Shelter. When are you and your government going to end this attack on women and children in this province? Will you now agree to come up with $50,000 for this shelter?

Hon Mrs Ecker: As I said, we came up with $11 million for capital spending for shelters because of the need. Unfortunately, this shelter did not get its application in. I do not know why. We had money available for capital funding. We are also continuing $4.5 million for the services out there. We are continuing to pay for those per diems for those hostels because those women need those shelters. We are well aware of the need and I believe that we are meeting our responsibilities as we try to address that very important need.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, we were expecting the Minister of Environment to be here this afternoon for a question. Usually they're here at the beginning of question period.

The Speaker: Do you want me to stand it down?

Mr Bradley: Can you be of any assistance to us at all? How would we deal with this matter?

The Speaker: Sure, I can be of a lot of assistance. I can stand the question down. New question, third party.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I wanted to ask this question of the Premier, but I'll be forced to ask it of the Minister of Finance. I'm sure the Minister of Finance is aware of the financial crisis at Canadian Airlines International. Almost 4,000 Ontario residents work for Canadian Airlines and, more than that, thousands of other jobs depend on Canadian Airlines here in Ontario.

The British Columbia government has contributed $12 million to repositioning the airline, and the Alberta government has now announced that it is prepared to contribute $8 million annually to help reposition the airline. Ontario has nearly twice as many Canadian Airlines employees as does Alberta. Can the Minister of Finance tell us, will the Ontario government get involved in the effort to reposition Canadian Airlines and to preserve over 4,000 Ontario jobs?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): I don't believe the solution to the Canadian Airlines dilemma relies upon further government involvement. I believe that there is a deal there to be had. I understand that the only union that hasn't agreed is undergoing negotiations with Canadian and the other partners.

Mr Hampton: What's interesting here is that the federal government is now involved. The six unions and the government of British Columbia and the government of Alberta are talking with the federal government about what kinds of contributions the federal government could make. I want to remind you that Canadian Airlines pumps close to $1 billion a year into the Ontario economy in terms of wages, salaries, supplier costs, and other spending. If this airline crashes, it will have a real impact on Ontario's economy.

I'm going to ask you again, Minister: Everybody else in Canada, the unions, the employees, the government of British Columbia, the government of Alberta, and now the government of Canada, is involved in preserving these jobs. When are you going to get involved to preserve the over 4,000 jobs that are involved here in Ontario?

Hon Mr Eves: I believe that there is a deal there to be had with the facts and the information on the table now. I would point out to the honourable member that in the province of Alberta fuel tax was five cents a litre. As their concession to this particular dilemma or problem, they have reduced their fuel taxes to 2.5 cents a litre, exactly what the tax is in the province of Ontario already.

Mr Hampton: Earlier this year the Premier was very happy to show up at de Havilland Aircraft and try to take credit for some of the work that had been done by a government that I was part of to reposition de Havilland so that it would continue to contribute jobs in Ontario and would continue to contribute to a productive Ontario economy.

Minister, Ontario's fuel tax is 2.7 cents. As you noted, even the Conservative government in Alberta has come to the table and has found a way to contribute to protect those jobs. The impact in Ontario, as I said, is over 4,000 jobs; it's over $1 billion a year contributed to our economy. Why won't you go to the table? Why won't you be part of an overall effort in Canada on the part of unions and governments and employees to help reposition and save these 4,000 jobs in Ontario?

Hon Mr Eves: To the honourable member: (a) To the best of my knowledge, they haven't asked for assistance, and (b) when Canadian Airlines did ask your government for assistance in 1993, you declined that assistance. We happen to believe that the facts are on the table now to permit all concerned parties to come to an amicable solution for the benefit of all parties.

Mr Hampton: I want to say to the Minister of Finance: Your government received a letter over two weeks ago, and you are misinformed, sir. When we were government, we helped to facilitate restructuring that helped to preserve those jobs, and you should do the same.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. As you know, you have all of your corporate friends deciding the future of municipal government in Toronto. We found out that 75% of the people want a referendum on your proposal for a megacity in Metro Toronto. Will you hold a referendum? Will you involve the people of Toronto in the decision around what kind of government Metro Toronto will have?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): To the leader of the third party, it's pretty difficult to have a referendum when you wouldn't know what the question would be. I could list 15 questions that you could ask on governance in Metropolitan Toronto. Do you want one city? Do you want four cities? Do you want six cities? Do you want a two-tiered level of government? You'd have to have a referendum to try and determine what the question would be.

Mr Hampton: It appears that the government's position is that it's okay for corporate hacks who contribute money to the Conservative Party to sit on a committee and decide how four million people are going to be governed. That's okay by you. The people of Toronto, the people of the Metro Toronto area, simply want a role. They want a part in the decision-making about how their services are going to be handled. That's all they're asking for.

There were thousands of people at the meeting last night at Toronto city hall, a thousand people in North York. People are asking you, Minister. They want a part in democracy. They want to have a role in deciding how they are going to be governed. Will you give them the referendum that they're asking for?


Hon Mr Leach: I'll be sure to pass on to Hazel McCallion and Bill Bell that the leader of the third party considers them to be corporate hacks. We've got 15 people on that panel, from all walks of life, and it's pretty insulting for the leader of the third party to put them in that category.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Put the question, Minister. Let the people decide.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, member for Lake Nipigon.

Hon Mr Leach: A referendum is good for a yes or no question. This is not a yes or no question. There are numerous questions that could be put on the ballot, even --


The Speaker: Order. Minister, did you finish your response? Final supplementary.

Mr Hampton: Minister, it's your government that has the discussion paper out there now on referenda. It's your government that's saying referenda would be a good thing in Ontario. This is simply that 75% of the people in the largest city in all of Canada want a referendum on how their city is going to be governed. Yes, you could simply ask them: Do they want a megacity or not? Do they want to be ruled by nameless, faceless bureaucrats or not? I'm asking you, why don't you put the question? Why don't you sit down with the mayors and discuss what that referendum question might be like? Why don't you let 75% of the people in Toronto participate in the question of how they're going to be governed?

Hon Mr Leach: An appropriate referendum question might be, "Are you satisfied with the status quo?" I know what the answer to that would be. No one is satisfied, including the mayors who have put their position forward. And by the way, their report built the best case I've ever seen for a single city. A referendum is just not appropriate for questions of this nature.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. It seems to me that one of the most fundamental and essential services a government can provide is to ensure that the people of this province are provided with clean and safe drinking water. Minister, can you tell me what makes you want to wash your hands of the responsibility of providing clean and healthy drinking water here in the province? Can you tell me why on earth you're considering selling Ontario's drinking water to the highest bidder?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): Let me say this to the Leader of the Opposition, that 75% of the water plants and sewage plants across this province are presently owned by the municipalities. In effect, the province has the mortgage on the other 25%. It's the intention of this government to turn over that additional 25% of sewage and water plants to the rightful owners: the municipalities.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Downloading.

Hon Mr Sterling: No, the owners.

Mr McGuinty: If this is a change in the policy, that's coming as news to us, Minister. You've indicated in the past that you intend to proceed with privatization.

Ensuring that clean drinking water is available is one of the fundamental responsibilities of your government. Let's raise another issue: The auditor says you aren't doing your job to inspect the water, and your only answer, unless you've changed your mind here now, is to sell it off to people who are going to care more about -- and this is quite natural -- making money than providing safe drinking water.

It's clear that you've already made up your mind on this. You don't care that drinking water is an essential service. You don't care that other jurisdictions have shown that privatizing can be a tremendous flop. Will you stop what you're doing with respect to anything for drinking water and allow for full public hearings on the future of Ontario's drinking water supply before you made any decisions?

Hon Mr Sterling: Let me say it again: There is no intention by the province of Ontario to do anything other than return or give the ownership of the sewage --

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): Downloading.

Hon Mr Sterling: It's not downloading. They're the rightful owners. The municipalities want to own these particular plants. We are going to turn those plants over to them and they will be making the decisions as to what they might do with regard to the operation of those plants.

I will, as the Minister of Environment, continue to regulate and continue to assure the people of Ontario that there is a clean drinking water supply for each and every member of the Ontario public. That is the duty of the Ontario provincial government: to set tough regulations and see that those regulations are enforced. In fact, they can concentrate their efforts on making regulations, inspection and enforcement, as they should, not with regard to the operation, which is clearly a municipal responsibility, a responsibility they are much better able to do than the provincial government. It's simple.

Mr McGuinty: You'd like us to think it is simple, but it's not. You're cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from your own ministry budget. You're not going to have the people power and you're not going to have the facilities to regulate what you're trying to do.

Minister, I'll give you an opportunity now, because I want to get to the bottom of this. Can you provide us with every assurance here and now that there will be no privatization ventures with respect to Ontario water? Can you provide us with that assurance right now so we can put it out of our minds and stop worrying about it?

Hon Mr Sterling: I will assure the member that we will turn over the ownership of each and every sewage plant, each and every water plant to their rightful owners: the municipal governments of this province. That, in my view, has nothing to do with privatization. There is no plan to privatize one sewer, one water plant in this province. It is the responsibility of those particular municipalities to deal with providing their individual residents with water, with sewage service, as it has been in the past. It will be my responsibility, this government's responsibility, to ensure that that water is clean for those residents to drink, and we will keep that enforcement. We will ensure that that enforcement is right.

The whole notion of privatizing this came from the opposition. It did not come from the government benches.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have a question today for the Attorney General. Yesterday your government released a report that recommends abolishing the special investigations unit, the SIU, a civilian agency that oversees Ontario's police, in favour of a new body that would come under the Solicitor General's ministry instead of your own.

Essentially, this report, which is the culmination of only a six-week study, would put police officers back in charge of investigating other police officers. There are many community concerns about this, as you know, and this was the original reason for creating the SIU to begin with. Minister, why is your government so committed to destroying the notion of civilian oversight of Ontario policing?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): The report that Mr McLeod prepared does not recommend abolishing the SIU. What that report recommends is that the SIU be a separate and independent police investigative agency, separate from any existing police force. It recommends that the head of the SIU be an investigative person as opposed to a crown attorney, as has been the tradition in the past. Certainly we're reviewing those recommendations. We've made no decisions about that, and we're looking at it.

Mr Ramsay: That unit would still come under the jurisdiction of the Solicitor General, who is the top cop of the province. I think, as a lawyer, you would appreciate that for justice to be done it also must be perceived to be done, and that's why we feel very strongly about this. This was a narrow, six-week study, announced with very short notice. Members of affected communities were not on the review panel and were only given six business days' notice to prepare and submit their reports to that review committee. Minister, you can hardly suggest that this was a broad-based, open consultation process.

As you know, the SIU doesn't only deal with matters that require an apology; it is frequently required to investigate beatings, shootings and other allegations of excessive force by police. These are very serious matters, yet on the basis of almost no community consultation you're going to allow police to investigate themselves.

Attorney General, will you give us your guarantee today that you will not transfer responsibility for investigating complaints against the police to the Solicitor General?

Hon Mr Harnick: Certainly the proposal in Mr McLeod's report did not indicate any fundamental change in the role of the SIU. It recommended that the SIU be within the jurisdiction of the Solicitor General. That recommendation has been made. We're going to consider those recommendations; we've made no decisions yet. I can tell you that the Solicitor General is interested in having people comment on the report. He wants to get people's feedback about what the report says, and that's what's going to happen.



Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): This morning I attended a press conference by the Ontario Municipal Water Association, the folks who own the water systems in this province, by and large, as the minister has indicated. I don't think these are the kinds of folks who tend to overreact to Tory pronouncements. They received word, as a matter of fact, from the minister in his public pronouncements that the Ontario Clean Water Agency was on the block and a prime candidate for privatization. They are very worried about the quality of water in Ontario.

I ask the minister: Why are you going along with the government plan to put the squeeze on municipalities to the extent that in many cases they will have no choice but to sell off their water supply? That's what's got them worried. Why are you doing this?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): With regard to the restructuring of municipalities with regard to resources, that does not come within the mandate of the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The Minister of Environment and Energy is there to try to ensure that there is clean water and adequate sewage for each and every community across the province. That is why we are looking at such tools as OCWA and their competitors, which include municipal employees who operate different municipal and sewage plants across the province and the private sector.

In terms of the operating wing of OCWA, the people who operate the plants, we believe there is no reason why the government should be involved with OCWA as an operating agency. Therefore we believe that in a competitive atmosphere the municipalities, the taxpayers, the residents, will get a better break.

Mr Laughren: That sounds a lot like privatization to me. I wonder if the minister could give us assurances that before he makes this kind of move, whether or not he calls it privatization, he will give assurances to the people of this province that there will be -- this is what the municipal water association folks are after -- public hearings across this province so people can judge for themselves what the minister has in mind, to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to the water supply in this province as happened to the water supply in Great Britain when they privatized it there. Would you give us those assurances for public hearings before you take any such steps?

Hon Mr Sterling: First, I've met with the Ontario Municipal Water Association and made it clear to them that the intention of the government was to devolve those assets back to the municipalities. They were satisfied with it and that seemed to be their prime concern.

To be able to do this, because of the nature of those assets, because many of those assets serve not one municipality, not two, but many municipalities, I believe that if we were to go ahead with this particular plan legislation would be required; therefore, this Legislature would have the opportunity to debate this bill and it would be the choice of the Legislature whether there would have been committee hearings and public hearings.

I suspect that would be the case and I would be anxious that would be the case. I can assure the member that through the legislative process there will be some form of public hearing.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. In the last budget the finance minister outlined plans for a student opportunity fund where the province would match, dollar for dollar, any donations made to assist Ontario students with the cost of their education at a post-secondary institution. Could you please report to the House the status of this program and the deadline for contributions?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the honourable member for the question. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to report to the House that the government last May established the Ontario student opportunity trust fund. It's a method of the government in helping to encourage the private sector, individuals and institutions to support the most needy students in our province. In fact, the government will match dollar for dollar contributions made by the private sector and individuals. The trust fund will be used to help students who have the academic criteria to gain entry but who have, for various reasons, severe financial constraints.

We hope to match up to $100 million in funds, creating $200 million in trust funds across the province. The reports I've had to date are very encouraging. A number of individuals and corporations across the province are very interested in making this opportunity available to students. In fact, some $25 million has been raised, and the campaign will be on until March 1997.

Mrs Ross: One of the reasons for the question was so that I could highlight something that's happening in my riding of Hamilton West. McMaster University recently announced that it has raised $1.6 million for its McSOF fund. This will double the amount McMaster has in its current assistance program for needy students. I'd like to read to you a quotation from Dr Peter George of McMaster University. He's the president there. He writes:

"Your government's decision to announce the establishment of the student opportunity fund matching grants program is proving to have signal impacts on the willingness of private sector donors to contribute to McSOF. I want again to thank you for introducing such an innovative and farsighted program."

Minister, could you please tell me and other members how other public institutions are doing with this program?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Of course, McMaster is justifiably proud of its record in fund-raising and the support it's had from its community for this program. York University has raised $8.5 million; the University of Toronto, $9.5 million; Queen's University, $1.2 million; and this program is just beginning. Colleges and universities across this province are beginning their fund-raising campaigns. I would encourage individuals and institutions, those private sector concerns that are interested in supporting the most needy students in the province, to get on the bandwagon to support their local institution and let the province match, dollar for dollar, their contribution in this exciting fund.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. Parenthetically, you may have seen the TV program on the student who couldn't afford to get a loan and was living in a van. You might want to reflect upon that.

Related to my question, just before the last election the Royal Commission on Learning released its report For the Love of Learning. All three parties virtually welcomed overwhelmingly the recommendations that were made. Despite the fact that your party has endorsed the recommendations, you have taken the policy of education in exactly the opposite direction in terms of what the commission had reported. For instance, the commission recommended more early childhood education; instead, you cut junior kindergarten. One of the authors, a co-chair, has written to you protesting your continued suggestions that your policies reflect the commission's recommendations. Minister, they do not.

You can't implement half a recommendation and have it reflect what the recommendation was in terms of impact. When will you begin to implement the policies that are reflected in that commission, which are represented from the general public, students, parents and teachers?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the member opposite for the question. It's a good one. I believe that the royal commission -- it cost about $3 million to produce its report -- was not mandated to examine education governance or education spending, so this government has been left to deal with those two critical issues. Of course the recommendations of the royal commission have to be taken in context, looked at in view of funding and governance and the other issues it did not address.

That said, I've been pleased, and I know our government has been pleased, to move forward on some of the recommendations of the royal commission, including the establishment of the College of Teachers, which we're justifiably proud of, the Education Quality and Accountability Office and other measures, including the reduction of our five-year secondary school program to a four-year program as recommended by the past two royal commissions.


We're also justifiably proud of keeping our promise to the people of Ontario and restoring junior kindergarten to a local choice. If the honourable member hasn't heard this from people across the province, there are people who are concerned about putting four-year-olds --

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

Mr Patten: The minister talks about taking the commission in context. I'd like to read a few passages in the letter from the co-chair of that commission:

"Your activities as education minister so grossly violate the spirit and purpose of our report that even when you formally adopt one of our recommendations, it's done in a way that distorts our intention and undermines the value of the proposal. I call on you to stop misrepresenting the work of our commission."

"Let's set the record straight, Mr Minister. Every part of this is diametrically opposed to what we recommended" -- he refers to some of your implemented policies -- "and you have no right to associate any of it with our report.... So please stop pretending that your destructive work has any relationship to our report. Stop using us to legitimize your actions. Stop misrepresenting our work."

Minister, will you stop taking the commission's work out of context and accept responsibility for your own draconian measures that are hurting students in the educational system in this province?

Hon Mr Snobelen: It'll come as no surprise to the member opposite that the co-chair he makes reference to is politically different from me. He's from a different political party; he has different concerns politically. But I believe the education of our young people in this province is too important for partisan politics. I think improving our school system, having higher standards of student achievement, having a better funding system so there'll be no second-class students and finally moving not only on the recommendations of this royal commission but of the last royal commission to improve our school system so that the achievement of our students will be on a global scale, not where it is currently, is too important for partisan politics. That's the position I've taken from the start of my term in the ministry.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. Earlier this afternoon I participated in a news conference with tenants from St James Town in your riding. Some of the tenants are here in the gallery to hear your answers to my question. They have two messages for you: (1) Stop threatening our health and safety; and (2) don't give bad landlords rent increases. Those were the messages.

Catherine Howard and Dori Landmark say their buildings have had rent freezes put on recently because of bad maintenance: such things as no hot water, no fire extinguishers and elevators working badly. An order prohibiting rent increases, they say, is an important tool to hold bad landlords accountable. You're taking that away.

Minister, how can you look your constituents, who are going to be looking for you as you go out there today, in the face when you are giving their landlord a rent increase and taking away their most effective tool in ensuring their health and safety?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The fact is that we're actually giving more powers to the municipality to enforce building orders. The provincial standards officers are going to be given more power. They're going to have the authority to take experts with them into the facilities to make sure the work is done. We're also increasing the fine for somebody who doesn't comply with the work order, up to $50,000. If we're doing anything, we're improving the situation for tenants.

Mr Marchese: That's not what the tenants said. The tenants said that yours is a tenant attack act, that yours is a landlord protection act. Your act means higher rent and less maintenance. You are downloading your responsibility for maintenance to municipalities, and even they have said this won't work. They told us that during the hearings. We hear that throughout Ontario.

Minister, will you show the courage to hold a public meeting in your riding with these people from St James Town this month so you can explain to them why you are threatening their health and safety while at the same time rewarding landlords? Will you have the courage to have that meeting with them?

Hon Mr Leach: I meet with tenant groups in my riding almost on a weekly basis. Any tenant who wants to --

Mr Marchese: That's not true. You never go down.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. The member for Fort York, that was out of order. I ask that you withdraw it, please.

Mr Marchese: I withdraw that, Mr Speaker.

Hon Mr Leach: Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was telling the member opposite that I meet with tenants on almost a weekly basis. Any tenants' organization or any tenant who wants to meet with me at any time has just to call my constituency office and they can come in and see me at any time.

I should also tell you, though, that this legislation does allow tenants to apply for a rent decrease for poor maintenance. You should try reading it.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): My question is to the minister responsible for seniors. Last week a Canadian Press story ran in a number of newspapers, including the Sudbury Star, about the state of home care across Canada. With our growing number of seniors, many groups which provide health care at home have not been able to keep up with the demand. Caregivers are overworked, and the article quoted one caregiver who regrets not having more time to spend with each patient.

I would ask the minister responsible for seniors to explain what the government is doing to alleviate this very serious problem.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I'd like to thank the member for the question. I too read the article in the Sudbury Star. I am pleased to announce that this government, as part of its reinvestment plan and restructuring health care, has committed $170 million to expand these home care services for seniors and the disabled, and it will improve access for about 80,000 individuals in this province and create capacity for about 4,400 new front-line jobs in long-term care.

But this is just the beginning of a reinvestment. This government has a challenge, because we need to make sure that seniors are spending less time in hospital, because that's where they can receive many infections, in a hospital environment, when they want to spend more time in their home receiving direct care.

Last week I had an opportunity to meet with Dr Evelyn Shapiro for several hours. She was the woman who started the first home care programs in all of Canada. She was here to talk to us and the Older Women's Network about a growing problem we have in this province, and that is with caregivers. Half of the people with dementia in this province are receiving treatment at home, and 80% of their caregivers are women, and they are --

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

Mr Hardeman: I'd like to ask the minister, are there any concrete examples of reinvestment of dollars, and if so, could you share them with the House?

Hon Mr Jackson: I'd be pleased to respond, because we have already approved $30 million worth of the $170 million. I know my colleague opposite, the member for St Catharines, would be pleased that we have put about $800,000 into facilitating independent living for people with AIDS, seniors and people with acquired brain injuries. The member for Kingston and The Islands is quite pleased that we responded with about $200,000 for the Kingston Friendship Homes Community Support Program. The member for Timiskaming will be pleased about some $24,000 to the Kirkland Lake Consumer-Survivor Family Network.

The list goes on and on. The fact is that we have committed about 44 projects and about another 100 of these projects to expand these services. I want to remind the House of one important point, and that is that our reinvestment in long-term care is essential not only to helping those patients, but also to helping the family caregivers who need relief from the exhaustion they are experiencing in caring for a family member at home.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Your ministry obviously has been in the process of working out a new definition as it affects disabled Ontarians. There's a great fear within the disabled community that your new definition is going to exclude many, many individuals who currently receive disability benefits, many individuals who have mental illnesses, many individuals who have chronic illnesses, individuals who may have cancer that's in remission and whose condition may change very quickly. There's a real fear that this change, meant only to lower the benefit level of many of these individuals who will have to go from disability benefits to welfare, is going to impact tens of thousands of Ontarians.

Minister, the question is very simple: Can you assure the House today that not one individual who is currently receiving disability benefits in the province of Ontario will be termed ineligible as a result of your definition change of disability?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd be very glad to give whatever assurances I could to the honourable member when we get final decisions made on a definition. As he probably knows, one of the reasons we're looking at changing the definition is because it very, very badly serves those in the disabled community right now, the way it is. As he mentioned cyclical illnesses, for example, the program is not very helpful for people who have disabilities that might well be better at some times as opposed to others.

There are many reasons why we are developing a new income support program for those who have disabilities. It's why we listened to the disabled community when we started. We've gone back to them. We are continuing to work on the rules, on the program, on the definition to make sure we can meet their needs.

Mr Agostino: You have said absolutely nothing that would reassure an individual today receiving disability benefits that their benefits are not going to be cut off as a result of your changes. I have letters from the Income Maintenance Group representing disabled groups in Ontario; the Canadian Mental Health Association; the Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics; the Access Coalition.

All these groups have expressed the same concern, Minister: that your ministry in its consultation has used the words "severe restrictions and limitations ongoing" as your new definition of disability. It means that if someone who has cancer that may be in remission right now to some degree and who is receiving a disability pension does not fit your new criteria, they would be forced to go back on to welfare and then go through a process of a year or a year and a half, as it's now taking someone, to apply and get on disability benefits.

That clearly is unacceptable. You have not given the assurance that is required and necessary. Again I will ask you. Not later, but today, can you give this House the assurance that every single Ontarian who's receiving disability benefits will be protected once your new definition comes in?

Hon Mrs Ecker: My ability to give assurances on how we fund and support those who are disabled has been extremely hampered by the inability to get the federal government to make a decision as to how it's funding the vocational rehab program. Perhaps the honourable member, who shares the political philosophy of Mr Chrétien and Mr Pettigrew, can be of assistance in this area, because we would like very much for them to extend the funding so that we can continue to provide the supports.

Mr Agostino: You cannot give any assurance, Janet. Cut the crap.

Hon Mrs Ecker: As I said, we are continuing to consult with the disabled community. It's a very important issue. We want to make sure that the income support program for those individuals will support their needs.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Hamilton East, I ask, now the answer's been put, that you withdraw your comment.

Mr Agostino: Which comment?

The Speaker: The one where you told the minister to "cut the crap."

Mr Agostino: I withdraw it if that's unparliamentary.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is for the Attorney General. Last week you and your colleagues in this House went to great lengths to convince the people of Ontario that there were no more problems with family support and that you had everything under control. But on the weekend, the news was full of a computer problem at family support yet again.

Cathy Dunn, who is a constituent in the riding of Ottawa-Rideau and a client of family support, spoke with Maureen in Gary Guzzo's office on Friday, November 29, concerning her family support. She was told in a message left by Maureen at 9:55 am, Friday, November 29, that nothing could be done because the computers at the family support office had been down on Thursday. They were expected to be up again, but they were down on Thursday.

Later that Friday morning, between 11 and noon, Cathy called the family support office herself and got through. She talked to an employee who said they couldn't check her file because the computer system was down. She called the family support office again yesterday and was told that the computer system was down last week and that was why they couldn't help her.

Your aide told everyone that there was no computer problem, that the computer had not crashed. Minister, my question to you is, how do you expect people to believe anything you say about the family support plan?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I'm going to refer this to the Chair of Management Board.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): The reason this has been referred to the Chair of Management Board is that a change was made to the computer system by the computer telecommunications systems people.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Members, the question has been referred; the Chair of Management Board does have the floor. I'd ask you to allow him to make his answer.

Hon David Johnson: The answer again is that a change was made to the computer system over the weekend by the computer telecommunications systems people. Unfortunately, the change was made to one of the computer systems and it impacted on the family support plan computer service. It's one of those inadvertent routine changes that are made to the system to ensure it's up to date. It had an unfortunate impact on the system and brought the system down. The computer people were working on the problem over the last couple of days. The system is now back up and fully operational.

Mrs Boyd: It's good to see that someone has some answers on the family support plan, even if they don't satisfy the clients. The management board chair may want to refer back to the minister for the next question, because we understand today that a constituent in Sudbury East has been calling the automated line for the answers and it either rings busy or she gets a message that it can't process her call. She finally got through to an operator on the 1-800 number, left a fifth message, and a real person called her back and said, "The computers are down." So that means the automated answering machine wasn't.

The same client in Ottawa-Rideau was told by Mr Guzzo's office that she couldn't trust the automated answering machine, she couldn't trust those answers, that she had to keep trying to get through to the plan because the automated answering machine isn't working.

Minister, really, you folks have been trying to tell the world there's no problem with this plan since you closed the regional offices and destroyed it. Would you please tell us what's going on with the automated answering machines?

Hon David Johnson: The Attorney General will answer that part of it.

The Speaker: Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: I can tell you that --


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): This is not the Liberal convention, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: I assure the members that it is in fact in order. Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: I can tell you that the percentage of calls that are being answered in the family support plan today is far in excess of what they ever used to be.

Mr Pouliot: Playing ping-pong.

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

Hon Mr Harnick: I can tell you that nearly 50% of the calls coming in are being returned, which is far in excess of the 6% of calls that were returned under the old family support plan. I can tell you that the automated phone system has been working. Yesterday calls were being responded to within 20 seconds as a result of the automated system and we're returning a far greater percentage of calls than the family support plan was ever able to do when 6% of calls were returned.



Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): My question is for the Solicitor General. When the report by Mr Justice Archie Campbell on police investigations into the crimes committed by Paul Bernardo was released this last July, you said there would be action taken by your ministry. The Campbell report called for better coordination by the police services in combatting serial criminals. This is a matter of great concern and urgency for all Ontarians. What exactly have you done in response to the Campbell report?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I thank the member for Oshawa for the question. As you know, the Ministry of the Solicitor General has already taken steps in response to the Campbell report. This includes the allocation of an additional $5.2 million to the Centre of Forensic Sciences. This move was praised by Justice Campbell and is an item of which this government is particularly proud.

Yesterday at OPP general headquarters in Orillia, OPP Commissioner O'Grady and I were present at the official opening of the provincial violent crime linkage and analysis system, the ViCLAS centre. We were accompanied at this event by Mrs Donna French. ViCLAS reporting is a powerful tool to aid police in early identification and apprehension of serial predators. Our objective is to save lives through early recognition of serial crimes. As an added benefit, this will save valuable police time and resources which can be directed to other areas of law enforcement and prevention.

Mr Ouellette: I understand that ViCLAS has been underutilized in the past and that this was cited by Justice Campbell in his report. Minister, how will you ensure that the ViCLAS system is used to maximum effect, and does this new facility have the support of the Ontario police services?

Hon Mr Runciman: The honourable member is correct with respect to underutilization of ViCLAS, and making better use of the system was one of the key recommendations of the Campbell report. To spearhead the government's commitment in this area, the ministry will pass a regulation under the Police Services Act which will make ViCLAS reporting mandatory for all Ontario police services. The member should know that Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to take this important action in the fight against these terrible crimes.

Senior criminal investigation officers from various Ontario police services as well as the OPP will staff the facility, and their commitment, experience and energy will give all police and all Ontarians a fighting chance against these very serious crimes.

I'm pleased with this important initiative by the policing community. This cooperative effort will bring some of the most experienced minds in Ontario policing to bear on this vital area of crime fighting. Through their efforts, the centre will be fully operational by January 1, 1997.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Let me tell the member for Kingston and The Islands, everybody has the same amount of time to put their question and answer their question. If you heckle me, it doesn't do any difference to the time.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): My question is to the Attorney General. In my constituency offices in Ridgetown and Belle River, my staff have been deluged by family support calls from desperate single parents. A crisis exists for these parents who are trying to feed and clothe their children and keep a roof over their heads.

We have faxed over 40 cases to family support in the last month and have been unable to get responses because we cannot reach any case workers. Last week, 20 pages of our original inquiries were faxed back with cryptic pencilled-over notes and a legend of abbreviations attached. It was completely chicken scratch.

My question to the Attorney General is, how can an elected representative hope to solve these serious problems if we can't understand the family support plan responses?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Last week we were able to respond to 1,075 MPP inquiries, and if the member has some problems with the answers or understanding what the answers are, I would be more than happy to ensure that he meet with the appropriate person to understand that information.

Mr Hoy: Every member has this problem. Everyone is calling our offices on the family support plan. It's not just myself. Attorney General, with Christmas just around the corner, you appear an incompetent Scrooge. My supplementary is simply, when will these people get their money?

Hon Mr Harnick: We were able in the month of November to distribute cheques to over 110,000 people; $34 million in cheques were distributed. There are 200 people who are trained and working in the new Family Responsibility Office. Cheques are being processed within 24 to 36 hours. Under the old plan, this could take up to a week. As I've indicated, we now have a capacity to process 25% more cheques a day than we had before.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Do you think it appropriate at a time of constraint, when workers are having to take concessions, that managers should take a pay increase?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I appreciate the question but I am really not in a position of any knowledge as far as managers' pay increases are concerned. I will certainly get back to the member on that.

Mr Bisson: I do agree that you don't have a lot of knowledge when it comes to a lot of issues around transportation, but I would bring to your attention the following. You would know that GO Transit, through the negotiations they've had recently, went to the ATU local in order to negotiate concessions under collective agreement so that the GO Transit authority was able to offer services to commuters in the 905 area. The union went to the table; the ATU membership negotiated in good faith with management and in those negotiations basically took concessions around benefits to be able to save money for GO Transit and keep in operation.

We learn now recently that GO Transit managers have given themselves an increase of somewhere in the neighbourhood of 4% to 5% in their wages. I ask you, Minister, is this acceptable in your view? Should the managers of GO Transit be taking a 4% to 5% raise at a time when workers are asked to take pay cuts?

Hon Mr Palladini: A question coming from a member who a little while ago wanted to give me lessons on geography. But as far as knowledge of what is going on in the province of Ontario is concerned, I would like to say this: I believe that since this government has taken over in Ontario, I must say that there's a lot more going on in a positive sense, a heck of a lot more than was going on when you were in power.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I have a point of order from the member for Essex-Kent.

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Thank you, Speaker. My point of order actually surrounds your office in some respects. I do have the greatest respect for your office and the role that you play, and your office, in part, is signified by the robes that you wear here in the Legislature. As well, Mr Speaker, all members of this House share the same privileges when they are seated in their place. I want to know, as a relatively new member, whether you believe that it is proper for a Deputy Chair, while seated in his place and wearing the robes of the Deputy Chair, to enter into debate and have exchanges back and forth on issues while dressed as the Deputy Chair of the House.

The Speaker: I'm very tempted to say I'll wait for the supplementary, but I will take that into consideration and maybe meet with you and find out exactly where you're going on that one and I'll respond in the House at a later date.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): That's the kind of answer we get from them.

The Speaker: But I did it within the time constraints; that's the only difference.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It's obvious there was no answer forthcoming from the Minister of Transportation and I'm requesting a late show for Thursday.

The Speaker: You've filed the appropriate --


The Speaker: Order. I realize that it will be a very late show. I don't think it's in order. No, you're not allowed, actually. It's not in order.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I did say to the honourable member that I would take the information that he has just offered and I would get back to him. I did say that I would report back to him.

The Speaker: Okay, that's true. But there is no late show, regardless.




Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent to discharge the order for committee of the whole House for Bills 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68 and 69 and that the bills be ordered for third reading.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Do we have unanimous consent? Agreed? Agreed.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I move that the order of the House dated Thursday, November 28, 1996, with respect to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 82 in the standing committee on adminstration of justice be amended be deleting "5 pm" in the third line and substituting "8 pm" therefor.

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



Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Rent Control Act protects Ontario's 3.3 million tenants and allows for security and stability in their homes and communities; and

"Whereas lifting rent control in Ontario would leave tenants with uncontrollable rent increases and financial instability; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is considering changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act favouring easier and faster evictions by landlords;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to save rent control."

Thousands of these petitions are coming in daily, and I attach my signature to this.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition from parents of children attending Mountain View school in Goulais River in Algoma district to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The parents are expressing concern over changes being made to the education system. They wish to be consulted and feel that they haven't been properly consulted.

They are very particularly concerned about the loss of 50% of their special education, loss of libraries, junior kindergarten, music programs and so on. They are appealing for reconsideration of these future changes to education and the budget cuts.

I submit this petition signed by 35 constituents and I attach my name to it.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I should be giving this petition to my friend Isabel Bassett, because it is about black bears and she has been very concerned, but it comes from my riding.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Why don't you just read the petition?

Mr Murdoch: Peter Shaw sent it to me from my riding. It's a petition to end the spring bear hunt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are 128 signatures here.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the rights of Catholic ratepayers to govern Catholic education in Ontario is constitutionally protected in the British North America Act (1867) and the Constitution Act (1982); and

"Whereas the Minister of Education and Training is reviewing and considering a number of reforms to the education system in Ontario; and

"Whereas a number of these proposed reforms would have a serious negative impact on Catholic education;

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

"We strongly urge that the Minister of Education and Training be requested to reaffirm the government's commitment to the maintenance of Roman Catholic denominational rights ensuring that any reforms will not lessen or abrogate any such rights;

And further, that the minister enter into realistic and meaningful consultation with all education stakeholders that will lead to positive change for students."


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

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative government of Ontario are taking away our voice and democratic rights; and

"Whereas Harris's government intends to cut five northern seats from the Ontario Legislature, thereby reducing the number of seats in the north from 15 to 10; and

"Whereas northerners count on their members of the Ontario Legislature to present their concerns on issues that affect their families and communities, from health care to education; and

"Whereas this will have a direct impact on the people of Markstay, Hagar, Warren, St Charles and Noëlville; and

"Whereas this riding will become part of the riding of Timiskaming-Cochrane, a riding stretching from Noëlville in the south to Cochrane in the north; and

"Whereas Mike Harris and his government have already demonstrated that they are not friends of the north and have introduced a bill that will discriminate against us even further;

"We, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to listen to the voice of northerners and abandon Bill 81."

This is signed by 63 residents in the riding of Sudbury East. I have affixed my signature to it and I agree with them entirely.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition addressed to the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the 1989 Ontario Court of Appeal decision on religion in public schools never implied that spiritual expression should be suppressed; and

"Whereas spirituality in public schools is currently limited to the reading only of multifaith prayers and texts; and

"Whereas the shared celebration of spirituality is an important part of the overall education of students to the multicultural and multifaith character of Canadian society; and

"Whereas local public boards should have the right to determine for themselves how best to incorporate spiritual expression in the daily life of public schools,

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"That the important role of spirituality and its multifaith expression for students be recognized and that local public boards across Ontario be allowed the right to determine how such expression can be included in the daily activities of public schools."

I sign it as well.


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

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

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is unfair;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is discriminatory;

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

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 requires extensive changes;

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

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

I affix my name to it, as I agree with it.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition which is signed by 25 people who live in the Ottawa area. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with the petitioners and I have signed this petition.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario which reads:

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

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

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

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

I respectfully submit this petition on behalf of my constituents who signed it and will affix my name to the corner.



Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): They're coming in by the thousands as we sit here today. I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Rent Control Act protects Ontario's 3.3 million tenants and allows for security and stability in their homes and communities; and

"Whereas lifting rent control in Ontario would leave tenants with uncontrollable rent increases and financial instability; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is considering changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act favouring easier and faster evictions by landlords;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to save rent control."

I affix my signature to these thousands of people who are petitioning the government.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a petition signed by several people from the area of Sudbury to Premier Mike Harris, Minister Al Leach and members of the Ontario Legislature.

"Whereas Mike Harris's Conservative government of Ontario is planning to destroy the present system of rent control;

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative Party made no mention of scrapping rent control during the election campaign of 1995 or in the Common Sense Revolution document;

"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with high tenant populations campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform of protecting the current rent control system;

"Whereas the government has consulted with special interest groups representing landlords and developers while cutting funding to organizations representing the 3.5-million tenants of Ontario;

"Whereas although all renters will suffer, seniors and others on fixed incomes will suffer particular hardship if rent controls are abolished;

"Whereas eliminating rent control will result in skyrocketing rents in Ontario;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislature of Ontario to stop the attack on the 3.5-million tenants in this province."

I've attached my signature to it.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): This is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have another petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Rent Control Act protects 3.3-million tenants and allows for security and stability in their homes and communities; and

"Whereas lifting rent control in Ontario would leave tenants with uncontrollable rent increases and financial instability; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is considering changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act favouring easier and faster eviction by landlords;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to save rent control."


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

"Whereas Mike Harris and John Snobelen promised no cuts to classroom education, and since their election, the Harris government has cut more than $430 million from school board budgets, representing a cut of nearly $1 billion to public education on an annualized basis; and

"Whereas our children have already lost 50% of their special education funding, they've lost their librarians and in some areas their junior kindergartens. Many of them have no music programs left in their schools. Their class sizes have increased enormously. Some are in danger of losing their buses; and

"Whereas parents across Ontario know that most of the changes in education are being made just to cut $1 billion that the government needs to fund its tax cut; and

"Whereas parents know these cuts are affecting the classrooms and quality of education for their children; and

"Whereas parents know that they have not been consulted;

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris stop these cuts to our children's education and their future."

This is signed by 39 constituents in the riding of Sudbury East. I agree with the petition and I have signed it as well.


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

"Whereas the Liberal government of Canada has passed C-68, An Act respecting Firearms and other Weapons; and

"Whereas we welcome real control, and welcome those portions of Bill C-68 which provide tougher penalties for the criminal use of firearms and new offences related to firearms smuggling and trafficking; 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 of 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 affix my name as required.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have another petition from the community of Barrhaven in my constituency, which reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the community of Barrhaven lacks any high schools to educate the large number of students living in this area;

"Whereas Barrhaven is the most rapidly growing community in Ottawa-Carleton;

"Whereas the National Capital Commission's greenbelt severs the community of Barrhaven from Nepean, forcing students to be bused from other communities, wasting both time and money;

"Whereas St Pius X and St Paul high schools in Nepean have 36 portables onsite;

"Whereas the Carleton Roman Catholic Separate School Board has undertaken significant cost-saving measures to help reduce the construction costs of its high schools;

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

"We strongly urge the Minister of Education to recognize the urgent need for a Catholic high school in Barrhaven and provide the funding required to build our school."

Because I'm in agreement, I've affixed my own signature thereto.



Mr David Johnson moved third reading of the following bill:

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.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I ask for unanimous consent that the member for Scarborough East be permitted to speak on this bill. It won't be 90 minutes.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is there unanimous consent? It is agreed. The Chair recognizes the member for Scarborough East.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I appreciate the conundrum, given that the House leader does not have a parliamentary assistant, therefore this is a somewhat unique bill in that regard.

We had the opportunity to travel since the last time we spoke to this bill in the House. The committee held meetings in eastern, western and northern Ontario as well as here in Toronto. I'd like to speak to some of the issues we heard criss-crossing the province, but before I do that, perhaps just a very brief recap of what this bill is all about.

Having proceeded through second reading and committee, we stand poised to enact legislation which fulfils one of the few commitments remaining from the Common Sense Revolution. Our policies have been shaped by commitment, consensus and consultation, not by a knee-jerk reaction to newspaper headlines the night before.

Over and above the philosophical importance of this bill there are a great number of practical benefits that will accrue to taxpayers across this province. I think it's safe to say that in this House, and certainly in committee, there was a broad recognition of at least some of those benefits even from the opposition members.

When our leader first undertook the consultations which ultimately formed the Common Sense Revolution, we had the direct input of thousands of Ontarians in shaping each and every commitment in this document. Over four years in town hall meetings, via questionnaires and at policy conferences, Mike Harris consulted with people across this province, and almost without exception Ontarians voiced concern that government had gotten too big. We were overregulated, we were overtaxed, we were overbureaucratized. Government had become too unwieldy, too self-serving. It had lost touch with its original goals and objectives as it had grown and it had become inefficient in many ways. It had become increasingly difficult for government policies to be translated into action at the local level.


Despite the fact that over the years there has been a significant increase in the number of MPPs, there is no evidence whatsoever on the issue of accountability or in terms of access for the public or in terms of demonstrable need based on workload that those increases were justified. Back in 1955, there were virtually the same number of MPs as MPPs. There were 85 MPs serving in Ottawa from the province of Ontario, and there were 90 MPPs serving in this chamber. Since then the federal government has seen fit to increase by 14 to this date, with a proposal to add another four for the next election, but here in Ontario we added 40 members. Obviously the population increase impacted exactly the same on the workload of both the MPs and MPPs, and I am at a loss to understand why previous governments were so prone to increase cost to the taxpayers by going along with these outrageous increases in the number of members in this chamber.

In addition, years of neglect, years of inequitable growth rates in different regions of this province, and to some extent an unwillingness to tackle the fundamental democratic principle of representation by population had left Ontario with a patchwork of ridings which saw some members elected by literally six times as many voters as some of the other members in this chamber. I personally believe that every person living in Ontario has the right to have their vote count for the same weight as everyone else in this province.

The leader of the third party represents a riding with only 19,000 voters, and yet Minister Palladini represents a riding with 129,000 voters -- six and one quarter times the workload.

In this document we said the belt tightening would start here at Queen's Park. The Common Sense Revolution made it very clear that MPPs were not to be immune from the belt-tightening that had to affect all transfer partners and all the people who were part of the expenses of the provincial government.

I'm very pleased that since our election we've reduced our pay. We've trimmed our budgets as MPPs. All members trimmed their budgets by 27%. We've eliminated the gold-plated pension plan. Now the fourth plank in our platform of personal belt-tightening has reached third reading. This bill will eliminate 27 seats across Ontario, reducing from 130 down to 103.

I, for one, am quite prepared to stand in this House and say that I'm prepared to take on the additional workload, and I believe that the government members share this with me. We're up to the task of handling the responsibilities of representing ridings which will have over 100,000 residents.

We heard during second reading there was even precedent for this move back in 1933, when the government of the day was facing similar extraordinary financial problems. They didn't have a $100-billion debt, but they had the world's worst recession. They reacted by trimming the same 20% that we're proposing to trim in the number of members today. A coincidence perhaps, but I think an apt one.

This takes us back to some of the practical savings we can expect from the bill. Obviously, 27 members and their staff and their offices and their attendant expenses will work out to a saving of about $11 million each and every year.

Over and above that, there are the savings that we will accomplish by cooperating with the federal government in the technical aspects of running elections. Clearly, with identical boundaries, we'll be able to have the same voters' list; we'll be able to have the same mapping of the ridings and the same designation of poll locations. All of those things are estimated to save us an additional $36 million each and every election. Given a four-year average term of office, we're talking about savings of $80 million to the taxpayers as a result of this bill.

That's $80 million that can be put into the sorts of programs the members opposite talk to us about every day and suggest this province needs. But of course they had no way to fund them. This is exactly our answer to how you come up with the resources to deal with the important issues. I submit to you that it's far more important that we have funding for health care and education than to make our workload easier here at Queen's Park.

Just again to start with the background on the bill, there's one final point that must be stressed as an inevitable consequence of this bill: It shows that our government is prepared to lead by example, not just within the context of our dealings with the civil servants but also in terms of our relationship with the subsidiary municipal levels of government.

When you recognize that right here in Metro Toronto alone we have 104 school trustees, we have 112 other elected officials -- a number greater than the total number of MPs who represent all of Ontario -- clearly we have a problem with overgovernment and overrepresentation. It has become abundantly clear to any reasonable taxpayer that the excesses, the unfettered growth in the provincial bureaucracy and governance pale by comparison to what has happened in the municipalities.

It is interesting to note that the support shown to us by all three Toronto newspapers went so far as to suggest that what we are doing demonstrated exactly the sort of leadership that the municipal level of government will have to follow. I am confident in the next few weeks that we'll see the sort of initiatives that will encourage municipal governments to follow our example.

When we were out on the road, we certainly heard a number of differing points of view, and it was indeed a treat to travel to the extremities of the province. It should be noted for the record that this is the first time in 10 years that any committee has travelled during the period that the House is in session. So I want to thank members from all three parties who, over and above their responsibilities in this House from Monday to Thursday, went out Thursday night, Friday and Saturday and travelled the province to listen to the over 100 groups and individuals who made written and oral representations to the committee. I believe their service was above and beyond the call of duty, and I thank all the members, including the opposition members, who travelled with us to the north, to London and to Ottawa.

I guess having had the opportunity now to travel across the province and to listen to those people, as well as to read the newspaper clippings -- virtually every newspaper in this province has had at least one article or one editorial on the subject. I note Diane Francis had an article in the Financial Post headlined "Ontario Politicians Deserve a Medal for Reducing the Size of Their Government." That's quite typical of the reaction.

As I mentioned a minute ago, all three of the Toronto newspapers came out in support, and it's safe to say that almost 100% of the newspapers in this province expressed a similar reaction to the cost-saving initiatives that this bill suggests.

If I may, I'd like to take a few minutes to reiterate the key concerns that we heard outstanding across the province, in the north in particular. There was certainly an expression of concern for what would happen to the rural northern ridings. I make that distinction because in all three stops in the north, we did not have one single representation from an urban northern riding that expressed concern with any aspect of this bill -- not one.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Mayor Poulin, the mayor from Smooth Rock Falls. What a misrepresentation.

Mr Gilchrist: Forgive me, Smooth Rock Falls is a fine town, but I would not call it an urban centre. The reality is, in Sault Ste Marie in particular, almost 50% of the people who showed up spoke in favour of the bill, something I suspect the opposition members found somewhat troubling and perhaps a little confusing.

In fact, down here in Toronto we had a submission from Mr John Sewell. That's the same John Sewell, that well-known friend of the members opposite, and certainly anything but a Conservative supporter, and Mr Sewell spoke very eloquently and at great length that there should not be a bias in favour of any region in this province and that we really should, wherever possible, follow the model of representation by population. I think for the first time there is something that Mr Sewell has stated before committee or in public that I agree with. But he hit the nail right on the head with that representation before the committee.


I can go further and say that there was universal acceptance that there was a need for riding redistribution. In fact, in Timmins, the member for Cochrane North, responding to Ms Bonnie Foster's representation before the committee, said, "I have no problem with the reduction of ridings, only with the process." I agree with him. I think the reality is that the process was the thing that we said after the election would be the one issue that we had to address in the course of fulfilling the promise we made during the Common Sense Revolution, because our commitment to the reduction was unwavering but we had to believe that what the federal, non-partisan boundary commission did --

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Appointed by the Liberals.

Mr Gilchrist: Appointed by the Liberals -- was in fact done in a fair and equitable manner.

Perhaps I can just read very briefly from the report of that committee. "The Commission's Mandate" is the heading.

"In assigning boundaries to electoral districts, the commission must apply the principles established by the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. The act directs the commission to divide Ontario into 103 districts `on the basis that the population of each electoral district in the province shall as close as reasonably possible correspond to the electoral quota for the province.'

"The commission may depart from the quota where necessary or desirable to:

"(i) respect the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province;

"(ii) maintain a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.

"In departing from the quota to respect community of interest and the other enumerated considerations, the commission must make every effort to ensure that, except in extraordinary circumstances, the population set for each electoral district remains within 25%, more or less, of the electoral quota."

I think this really comes to the hub of why we are as committed as we are to this bill. There is no doubt, and every single presenter, every one to whom the question was put, said that if there were a duplicate provincial boundary commission appointed and asked to travel the province, they would make exactly the same submission to the provincial commission that they made or would have made to the federal commission.

The bottom line is that to suggest that we need to waste more taxpayers' money and waste more time to create a second commission and cross-cross the province at who knows what expense to simply elicit the same responses is clearly something that no reasonable taxpayer would support.

I'll go further. I would encourage all members opposite to read the 1994 Report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Ontario, because they detail at great length the submissions that were made to them and how they weighed the various issues -- geography, population, natural barriers -- and came to the conclusions they reached in this report. There were 185 oral representations and 116 written representations heard by the commission. Again, particularly in the north, they detail at great length why they did what they did.

It has to be pointed out as well that this commission was at arm's length from the Liberal government in Ottawa. This was a neutral, non-partisan commission. There was no bias. I am very pleased that the members opposite did not raise when we were on the road the suggestion of gerrymandering. Some of the presenters who did not know the background and how we had arrived at our conclusions did have some concerns, but I can address them very directly by saying our government had no say in the shaping of those boundaries.

In 1994, long before any maps were drawn, but knowing that the federal government had this commission criss-crossing the province, we made it very clear. The people that voted for us, the 2.5 million households that got a copy of the Common Sense Revolution -- and I'd like to believe read that and cast their vote on the basis of the sound judgement that demonstrated by agreeing with the premises in that book -- saw that our commitment, long before there was a map, was to follow the direction of this neutral, non-partisan commission.

The flip side, however, is true for those members sitting in the House today who got elected on June 8, because by that date, 13 months after we made our promise, the shape of the boundaries was clear. It was clear to every member, all three parties, that if the Conservative Party formed the government, we were going to follow through on this commitment and they could expect in the next election, in 1999, to have the boundaries as shown in the federal boundary commission. But they had seven more months, while the commission was at the final review stage, when they could have made representations directly to their MP or to the boundary commission.

We heard in some of the hearings that there were people in this province who did just that. We did not hear from any of the members who are speaking against this bill today, who knew full well -- they all had copies of the Common Sense Revolution -- 17 months ago that this bill would be coming forward. They did not express any concerns to the federal boundary commission, even though they knew we would follow its final decision.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): We couldn't believe you were serious in abdicating your responsibilities like this.

Mr Gilchrist: We're very serious about keeping our promises.

It's also true that almost 50% of the presenters at our stop in London were former NDP members of this House, hardly a representative sample of the community. Quite frankly, if those people were the only persons in southwestern Ontario who opposed the bill, I am neither surprised nor concerned, because their policies and their failure to address important issues such as riding redistribution were repudiated by their own constituents during the election last year.

If I can just leave a final couple of points on the record, those groups that came before us certainly all had legitimate concerns. Many of them and others who spoke, groups such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Taxpayers Coalition of Peel, were all in favour of this bill and its cost savings and its leadership.

Those people who needed some assurance left the committee room having heard from the members on the government side the real story behind this bill. They learned the cost savings. They learned that this was a question of keeping our word, of doing what we said we would do. While I would not go so far as to suggest everyone left satisfied, I think it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people who appeared before us had the majority of their concerns addressed.

Clearly they must have, because our government put this bill through 25 internal reviews, probably the most intensively reviewed and researched bill that's ever been brought forward. Therefore, our government didn't feel inclined to put forward any amendments; neither did the third party, and the Liberal Party had a couple of amendments, which we've dealt with more by motion because their most significant amendment dealt with other issues that will arise after this bill has passed, and we've certainly given our commitment to address all those concerns.

Just to summarize, the key points of this bill are as follows: After years of neglect and the erosion of the principle of representation by population, this government is prepared to make the tough decisions which are needed to right these wrongs. We continue to recognize the unique situation that exists in northern Ontario, and the plan allows two more ridings in the north than would be the case under strict representation by population. That's a 20% differential. The workload for the average rural member in the north is 20% lighter than the average of all the other members in this House. That will address the concerns of geography.

The plan will save money: tens of millions of tax dollars in each term of government after the next election. It shows we're leading by example; it's, "Do as we do." When we talk to municipal governments and school boards, we can show them that we're asking nothing of them we haven't already asked of ourselves.


The final point I'd like to leave for our northern members and something that I think was a useful product of our committee hearings in the north was that we heard at length that over and above the service provided by the MPPs themselves, there are myriad other government resources they can call on. I was most impressed. We were able to visit one of them, the offices of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines in the north. There's one of these in every significant town and city in the north. Everything we heard from the presenters up north was that these offices do a significant portion of the workload that would normally be handled by members here in southern Ontario.

In terms of gathering information and making sure the community is aware of everything from bills to various regulations and being a resource for members to add to their staff, we saw at first hand that the members in the north actually have far greater access to their constituents than would be the case for members such as Mr Hardeman and others representing large rural ridings, certainly Mr Grimmett in the large rural riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay.

It's clear to us that those resources, if utilized wisely, if they embrace modern technology, if they use the 1-800 phone service that's offered to them and isn't even part of their operating budget -- it's over and above that -- if they use this bill as the inspiration to work smarter and to use all the assets at their disposal, to follow the example Mr Miclash has set in the riding of Kenora, where he has volunteers acting as his eyes and ears and his outreach in some of the smaller communities -- not using taxpayers' money to set up a third or a fourth riding office. He has done a laudable job. He is to be applauded for showing that sort of initiative in the north. I would encourage all the members of what will be only four ridings, only four rural ridings that we're talking about here, to follow Mr Miclash's example. He's proven it can be done and I'm sure they will find equally eager volunteers throughout the north to help us address the concerns that we must find cost savings that we can rededicate to more important issues.

With that, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to this bill. It's an important initiative. We genuinely appreciate the input we got across this province. It was very illuminating to members of the committee. I should say that when we were in Dryden we even took the opportunity that, rather than have dinner, members from the government went and toured a pulp and paper mill -- it was the first time for the Avenor mill in Dryden -- just one of the side benefits of being able to travel around the province and see exactly the issues and the concerns of the people in all the ridings.

I encourage all members to support this bill, as it's certainly going to generate a lot of money for the taxpayers and show the kind of leadership that has been long overdue in this House.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): That was an interesting speech. It certainly didn't reflect the views that I heard in Dryden or in Sault Ste Marie. The issue that concerns most northerners is the fact that we are losing five seats of our 15. Fully one third of the seats in northern Ontario are to disappear, which means that the percentage here of representation will be severely diminished vis-à-vis the rest of the province.

There will now be, if you can believe this, 10 members across all of northern Ontario: 90% of the land mass of this province will be represented by 10 members. Of those 10 members, only five are rural members, so essentially what you have is five rural members representing 90% of all of Ontario. Given the fact that under the redistribution the federal seats went from 11 to 10, not 15 to 10, I think you can understand why northerners believe this government is intentionally attempting to shut the north out.

During the election, I read the Common Sense Revolution. As a matter of fact, it had television ads that said they're going to reduce your representation in the rural ridings by half. And do you know what? There wasn't a Conservative elected except in North Bay. I think they got the message. I think northerners understood what you were saying; I think northerners still understood what you're saying. And I think the members who were touring pulp and paper mills for the first time, which is commendable, should understand that the people of the north won't stand for this.

Mr Wildman: The member for Scarborough East continues to discount geography. While all of us recognize that there must be redistribution to try to mirror population and to have representation by population, he continues to discount geography. He makes the point that the leader of the New Democratic Party represents a very small population and ignores the fact that with this redistribution the new riding will be one third of the whole land mass of Ontario.

The member also says that while he didn't think that everyone left satisfied, he felt that most of their concerns had been addressed at the committee hearings in northern Ontario. I just received today a letter from a constituent of mine from Desbarats, Mr Ed Sadowski, and I'll read a portion of it into the record:

"I also want to formally lodge a complaint with you on the treatment I received from the government committee members. MPPs Gilchrist and Young of the committee failed to understand that my complaint was with the process; that the government policy of trying to expedite their legislation without regard to citizens' concerns is undemocratic and, in my opinion, unconstitutional...."

Further, he says: "The Premier of this province states that he wants to consult with citizens of this province. Yet when I accept his invitation, my access to important information is restricted. When I point out these problems to committee members, I am verbally chastised for doing so. The government members only offer asinine explanations which are totally unrelated to what is being discussed.... These arrogant and insulting statements coming from the government members clearly show total disrespect by the government to the citizens of this province and it calls into question the Premier's true intentions regarding the process of public consultation with the citizens of this province."

That explains clearly the feelings that northerners had as a result of the government members' attitudes on this committee. They weren't really interested in hearing what the people had to say. They were only forced into public consultation because of the opposition in this House and they didn't intend to respond one way or the other to the representations made by northerners.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to respond to the comments made by the member for Scarborough East. I know the extent he's gone to, to do the research and share that with you today. I know he's reported to a number of members of caucus regularly. I've learned from him to appreciate, first of all, the principle of delivering on our promise and our commitment of smaller government, but also doing it in a fair and reasonable way. I like the choice of terms he uses when we look to our federal counterparts, the members we should work with regardless of the party, to service the people in our ridings.

It's very important that we in the rural ridings now I believe are adequately represented. In fact, my riding, Durham East, I would classify as about 60% rural and 40% urban. My riding actually gets a bit smaller, because it's by the representation.

I believe when you look at the total number of members being reduced by that percentage, the benefit is to the people of Ontario as well. The cost here at Queen's Park, maintaining a constituency office, the staff and duplication that's grown over the years -- we have to lead by example. That's fundamental. We're asking other municipalities to combine and merge, we're asking hospitals to combine and merge, and I think we have to lead by example.

When a constituent calls my office, frequently they don't know whether the issue they're calling on is municipal, federal or provincial. Each one of us should be there to help them to solve that problem, so we're going to have to work in partnership to eliminate waste and duplication both in the constituency offices and indeed here at Queen's Park.

I want to thank the member for Scarborough East for sharing the insights he's picked up and developed over the last while. He's done a spectacular job, and we all owe it to him.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I always find it instructive listening to the member for Scarborough East when I want to know what the Reform Party is thinking or what the notes are from the Premier's office, because I detect that when the member speaks.

I want to say to him, the issue is not redistribution. I think he knows that. Everyone has to accept redistribution. It has to be done, based on the new census each time. That's not the issue.

Your real motive in this is to appeal to that group of people you've convinced that elected representatives are the real problem and not others in government. If only we saw significant reduction in the Premier's complement. I don't just mean the people in the Premier's office but the others they hide in other budgets, because that is what's happening. What is happening now is that you are transferring more and more power to unelected people and you're diminishing the power of individuals who are elected, people the general electorate can get at, can influence.

In the Niagara Peninsula, for instance, we go down to four seats. My friend the member for St Catharines-Brock loses his seat, for instance, and I think he is a person who's working diligently for the people in that constituency and must be very concerned about that.

We have to remember as well that what you are doing is significantly reducing and diminishing government resources. While the member says that there are other agencies of government to serve people other than MPPs, what's happening is that he is significantly reducing it -- witness what's happening with the family support plan -- so the workload for constituency offices and staff is increasing very significantly. That's one of the problems I have.

I don't think we should increase the number of seats in this Legislature. I think that's out, and everybody would agree with that. My problem is the motivation of this government and what they're not taking into consideration.

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

Mr Gilchrist: Thank you for the comments from my colleagues on both sides of the House. I would like to touch very briefly on a couple of the issues they've raised, first off, the issue of who wins and who loses in the north, because that's the way it was phrased. Quite frankly, Metro Toronto is the region that loses the most seats, not the north. Eastern Ontario loses just as many seats as the north and eastern Ontario has a far greater population. Metro Toronto, of course, has twice the population of the whole north, in fact almost three times the population of the north.

The proposal absolutely addresses the concerns for the urban-rural and the rural ridings. Populations vary from the low seventies to over 110,000. That differential is in the bill, it is addressed by the federal boundary commission. The suggestion that we should go beyond 22% below the average to address in four ridings these geographical concerns I don't think is acceptable.

There exists the technology today for the members to be accessible to all their constituents. In what will be the new riding of Kenora-Rainy River, we were told there are 50 first nations communities; 49 of them are hooked up to fax service. There is the technology in the north.

The bottom line is that this is a promotion, if anything. The member for St Catharines suggests that this is somehow meant to disparage the work done by elected officials. It's just the opposite. It is a reflection that we can and we should and we will work harder and smarter and better. We can do better. We're going to restore confidence in this chamber, confidence in our province, and this sort of demonstration of leadership is exactly what's called for after 10 long years of waste and mismanagement.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Could I ask for unanimous consent to share my 90 minutes with my colleagues Mr Grandmaître and Mr Patten?

The Acting Speaker: Agreed? It is agreed.

Mr Curling: I have looked forward very much to this day, when I would be addressing the House on this very, very important bill which this government has called the Fewer Politicians Act. They are shameless in their approach to this. They're shameless in their approach, to say that what we're trying to do is to put a demise on democracy, that the politicians here should be less until we reduce them to a point of view where there will be none. As a matter of fact, when they have completed diminishing the representatives of the people through the democratic process, I presume the next step, which they have started already is to privatize everything. As they appointed a minister of privatization, the next step I'm sure is to start privatizing the politicians.

I wanted to speak, before I get into the meat of the bill, a bit about democracy. It's a rather painful situation, when we look at this government today and the way they approach things, the bully tactics with which they bring forward any kind of legislation. First they want no discussion. As a matter of fact, they are worse than that. They will introduce legislation and then tell their whip to tell the members, "Don't bother to read it; just vote for it."

You will recall that when this government introduced Bill 26, the members on the government side, not our side, hadn't even have the opportunity to read it, because they're saying, "Politicians are obsolete." There is a group of individuals in the back room who are spitting out little words, and you can see each day, as they stand in this House, that they are slipped little pieces of paper with what to say. Therefore they have nothing to say, yet the people who have elected them gave them a lot to say, to bring forward to this House their concerns. Then they brought in this omnibus bill, Bill 26, and just rammed it through and said: "Listen, don't even bother to read it. Just vote for it and let's proceed. Let's change the law. Let's take away all the democratic rights that are being exercised in here and let us make sure we amass power on to a few."

We saw when that power was amassed to the few. Let's take one example, the Minister of Health and the way he has bungled up the health act, the way he has appointed himself as Dr Wilson, giving out prescriptions now and saying who should go to the doctor and when they should go. You saw the situation when one of my colleagues here raised a question of not getting any care from a doctor. He immediately stood up, Dr Wilson, and got another doctor to look after that individual.

Now tell me something: Is that the kind of government you want? Of course that's what they want. They want to amass power on to a few sometimes, as we see, rather incompetent individuals, and they've become incompetent because they have taken on this massive role of representing all people and knowing it all, and we saw that in the Minister of Health.

Let me speak about the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing as he stumbles through his portfolio, as he goes about giving away and selling off all non-profit housing, taking away a protection that has been fought for by thousands of people in this province to make sure they have decent, affordable housing. What has he done? He felt he should then sell it off to the private sector. How appalling, but again consistent, and you are right: It is in your Common Sense Revolution.

One of the things we cannot believe is that you have declared war on the poor. You said it: "This is a Common Sense Revolution. I will declare war on the poor. I will first cancel democracy. I will amass power on to a few and we will just have you who were elected clapping when I say to clap and you will speak as I give you the notes to read." Some of the ministers at times miss their lines when they're giving answers -- embarrassing to the process where people tell them how they want to be governed. Maybe they have forgotten what democracy is all about. It is by the people for the people, and they have elected these individuals to come here to represent their case.

What has happened? They have appointed themselves and gathered a few to carry on this dictatorial attitude, this bully approach to things.


People have died to have this concept today where we can come inside the House of Parliament, bring the concerns we have from all people in the north, south and in Metro, which differ as we go around, and say, "Here are the concerns." But no, what has been done is that they decided to eliminate as many politicians as they can, take away most of the things we were able to give them and make sure that people have decent and affordable, especially housing, give it to the private sector and tell the private sector: "Now you can redistribute it the way you want. As a matter of fact, I will even give you more power," as one of the pieces of legislation states here. "I will give you more power, and that power is to raise the rent whenever you want it. If those tenants ever dare to move, I will give you the right to raise the rent to whatever you want. But if they are there, of course, we will not raise the rent any further."

Can you imagine? Let me give you an example. Someone is paying $500 in rent for a one-room accommodation, decent and affordable, but the landlord himself or herself would feel, "You know, I could get $700 for this unit." So they move. Somehow pressure is placed on those individuals to move, because as soon as they move, landlords have the privilege and the right, given by this government, to raise the rent to whatever price they want, raise it to $700 a month, regardless of income, raise it. Then what happens? That person's disposable income has been directed in a way that they have to pay more for rent and less for food, so they have to take that option.

This undemocratic bully government, which in its common sense has declared war on the poor, said it's much more convenient if we could have fewer politicians. If you listened carefully you'd understand the consistency and relevance of it all. Furthermore, you have reduced it to a few ministers who, I was telling you, are quite incompetent. You aimed to pass most of the responsibility we have to protect the disabled, the discouraged and all those the government should be protecting to the private sector. Of course, the bottom line is money.

The consistency in this Bill 81, as you can hear the government say, is money, "We must save money" -- nothing about representation, not one bit about representation -- "We must save money." Let's not forget that the ridings of some members in the north, like Mr Miclash's, will be twice the size -- 700 kilometres from one point to the other to see one of his constituents. Can you imagine that someone has to travel 700 kilometres to --


Mr Curling: They say that's fine, that there's nothing wrong with that. Mike Harris and the Conservatives decide that technology is advanced and that they should put a telephone in place. Let me speak about that kind of connection too, but this 1-800 number gets lost. That's what you're trying to do. If you phone those numbers you don't get through. Each time it is telling you, "The 1-800 got lost; no one is getting through." The situation is that they don't care if those people who have fought for the democratic right to have representation in this House are not in contact with their members of Parliament.

I for one don't believe in reducing the representation of this House to less than what we have. Of course, if we can be more efficient I think we should. Today's society is quite a bit more complex than it was I would say 25 years ago. Issues are more complex. It's hard to get through to the bureaucracy.

Today you can't even get your family benefits payment because one of the ministers, the Attorney General, has decided that technology will take over, and most of those benefits, as we know, are sitting in some private sector place that is supposed to redistribute these cheques and can't get them out.

Then he said, "Why don't we pass the bill so we can be more efficient?" and all this. In the meantime thousands of people are going hungry, thousands of people are losing their homes, thousands of people are not sending their kids to school because the cheques are wrapped up in some boxes. Then he said that passing legislation would solve all these problems. He has no concern for the issue: the immediate concern of those constituents.

No wonder he has no concern. This government has no concern that a member in the north will have to travel 700 kilometres to see that constituent, or worse yet, that constituent, who has gone through Mr Miclash, would have to come 700 kilometres to see that member.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Or Mr Hampton representing that riding.

Mr Curling: Of course. In the meantime, as my colleague has reminded me, we don't have a member there. But this government would say: "We could save money. Just eliminate the democratic rights of that individual, Mr Hampton, who represents that riding." They said: "Oh, no, we just wanted one. It's no concern of this individual. This individual himself can do that."

As you know, Mr Miclash, my colleague, has a pilot's licence, because he already has a very large riding and he has to be flying his plane from one area to the other to serve his constituents.

But democracy is not a part of this government, not one bit at all, because the bottom line is money. If we can save some money on the backs of the poor -- it's consistent. This government is extremely consistent. I'm not surprised at all. They have declared war on the poor. It's evident. When they won that election, the first act they produced here was to make sure we reduced the poorest individuals, those who are on benefits. Pull them in, beat them up, take away their money and send them back out.

Mr Pouliot: By regulation, before we even convened.

Mr Curling: My golly, yes. Is that not a bully tactic? And you agree with me, I know you do, Mr Speaker, and so do many of the members, about what is so appalling in all of this. While I know you'd love to speak out and they haven't given you a voice in that seat there, it's worse yet. Many of those backbenchers there would love to speak out, but the note they got from the cabinet office said: "Here is the spin you must do. Don't speak about that."

He said, "Thousands are coming to my constituency, appealing and screaming at me because they can't pay their rent." What did the minister say? "Go and negotiate with your landlord." "Because they have cut $200 a month" -- they said -- "I have no food, I can't pay my rent." The minister said: "Go and negotiate with your landlord. Go and negotiate with the grocers and see what they can do for you." He said, "As a matter of fact, I'll draft up a menu for you, what you should eat."

The audacity of this government, telling people what to eat because it has declared war on the poor. They have declared war on the poor. As a matter of fact, maybe the other grocery distribution place would say, "If you have so little money, what are you going to buy?" They have to buy far less nutritional food or maybe they don't buy any food at all. So the lineups at the food banks are longer, because this government seems to say, "We will declare war not only on the poor, but on democracy, and that is why we appointed a minister of privatization."

I'm going to make a prediction here, Mr Speaker, and you can check with me just after the election: All those members in the front bench who are ministers won't be here and they won't want to be here. By the time they're finished privatizing everything, they'll be working for those corporations, getting bigger money. They don't care. They will sell off what they can sell off here, and then the poor will have to be struggling, coming to the table, hoping that something will fall off those tables when they make the big profit. When they see that the big corporations make money, what will the corporations do? They will pass it right back on to the poor. It doesn't work.

Let us go to the banks. The banks are making tremendous amounts of profit, greater than at any time. I haven't seen my bill at the bank reduced. Every time I use the bank, they nail me with a fee. If that is the case, if the corporations are making larger profits, we should have benefited from it. They're all out there waiting. You know where they're waiting for some of that profit to be redistributed? At the food banks, because this government has declared war on the poor.

They are a bully government and they will get it. I hope, no matter what they do, they cannot destroy democracy. My father and many other fathers and some of the members here fought in wars for this kind of stuff, to make sure that when you collect our money you redistribute it to the people who need it. But no, they're behaving like the poor have no right to that money, that the people have no right to this money. The fact is that it is their money.

Furthermore, even when they want to make their voice heard now, you've taken away their voice. They have declared war on the poor, because the fact is that access to any justice, access to any representation is gone. It has even become further away from them, because we have less and a longer road to travel.


Let's not talk about money. Let's talk about democracy. Let's talk about representation. Let's talk about people who need their rights to be heard. Let's talk about people who would love to go to school and send their kids to school and want to know how this complex bureaucracy works. They've said, "We have no one." We would not only reduce the representation here, we would also go around and kill off the cities. We're going to call it megacity, reducing representation. Where are the people going to go? To the private sector, which, as I said, will have to be looking at the bottom line?

I asked the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism if he felt the government should be run like a business, and he said yes. I further asked him if business is supposed to be making a profit. He said yes. I further asked him, "Should government be making a profit?" He said yes. I said, "Ha, so in fact on the backs of the poor."

The fact is their whole idea is to privatize the entire government and maybe we'll go away, to disarm all representation here, to disarm the people who have the right to speak on behalf of the people. If I have to go back to the undemocratic way, in the way that this government has behaved -- you saw it on Bill 26. When I rise to speak on a bill that I've introduced, they say I cannot speak. People have elected me to come here to bring their concerns, to respond to their draconian way, or sometimes very good legislation that has been produced. They're telling me no, I cannot speak. There goes democracy.

My father went to war, to the First World War, lied about his age at 14, because he was sold the fact of democracy and representation, that all people would share in the great wealth of this world and no one should dictate and bully them because there's representation. My poor father, God bless his soul now -- he died -- would feel that he had fought in vain. I would tell him today that we have a government here that has decided, "We shall take away those rights and we shall give them to the private sector as we privatize many of the facilities and the access to it all."

I can see one day transportation will be privatized, but we have no right to fight for that. I was living in the great riding of Scarborough, and along Huntingwood they were going to introduce a bus to drive by. Some of the people rejected it. All those who had access rejected it. They didn't want a bus on their street. When we asked them why, they said, "Most of us have cars, so we don't need a bus to be driving along here."

We represented and fought for it, and the bus came along that street for those who didn't have cars, those who have to get up in the morning at 5 o'clock to get to work at 8 o'clock through the bus system. They have to go to work and their kids have to go to school. They don't have that kind of transportation. But if the government didn't have a hand in it -- one of the reasons they wanted to turn it down too was that the TTC said it wasn't cost-effective. But the fact is, can you ask the individual who has to go to work and earn, of course, not as exorbitant an amount of money to buy a car? How are they going to get to work? Again, because we have the democratic process and we feel --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There should be a quorum in this House, I believe.

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

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

The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Scarborough North.

Mr Curling: I had hoped that my colleagues would have been here, especially on the government side, because I really believe very strongly that this is extremely important. I passionately believe in what I am saying and I believe in democracy, and I believed that the members here would have been in attendance to hear. But I know that the people in this province, and I hope that as I speak to them -- this government is not concerned one bit about the people. As a matter of fact, they wish the people would just go away so they can get a chance to govern. They had hoped that their constituents would not come around and that is why they are putting in a telephone line, in order to call.

One of these days, Mr Speaker, I would ask you to call some of those government areas where they've put phones in. They will tell you, especially those on family benefits, that there are only certain times in which you may call, and those windows of opportunity to call those places are so small that it's always busy. As soon as the time is up, you get a recording telling you that "Our hours are from 9 o'clock to 10:30. You may call back tomorrow." People take days off just to call those offices. Sometimes they can't just get through because this government has downsized its own bureaucracy in such a way that people are not getting any more service. The Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism has said to me that we have to run it like a business, and of course we must make a profit. Of course, the less we serve people, the more money we make; the more we cut them off, the more money we make.

If we reduce the number of those people on welfare by kicking them off welfare and they want to go somewhere -- because they're all a bunch of lazy people who don't want to work. No matter what the statistics and no matter what the survey has shown, that people do not stay on welfare, I have not had one person who has come to me in my office on welfare who was saying, "I'm so happy to be on welfare, I want to stick around on it forever." They all come to me, because many of them are quite highly qualified, unable to get a job.

As the member for Scarborough Centre states, what does this have to do with it? That's the problem. They don't understand the relationship, the fact that representation means accessibility. You must be able to come to your representative, but when they eliminate them, you have nowhere to go.

When this government has appointed itself in a manner that it is not accessible, where are the people to go? I am not too concerned about those who earn a high income and are able to purchase their access or purchase their representation through lawyers and so on. I'm not too concerned about that, because they will get that access. But the people who are poor and the people who are struggling in this terrible economy that we have today can't even reach their representatives.

This government is talking about, "We're going to save money" -- save money and destroy lives, save money and destroy the democratic process. As I said, people like my father, and many fathers and mothers, fought in the wars so that we'd have proper representation, because we're a society that looks after each other. That's a civil society. Even animals take care of some of the disabled and those who cannot fend for themselves. But somehow we have lost our sight, we have lost our way. I know I could go on for hours about my feeling towards this approach of this government which has declared war on the poor.


We have a bill they put forward. They have a majority and they will put it forward, and we will vote against it and we shall lose because they have more numbers there and they have been given instructions just to say it one way. As a matter of fact, I give credit to my good friend Mr Murdoch who has come out openly and said that this is a wrong way in which to go, that less representation is not a way to go. I was looking for the quotation that he had stated here, but I applaud him. I applaud him for what he has done and I applaud him for speaking out and not just following the rules and the little briefing notes given to them by the cabinet office or by the minister who is responsible for this legislation.

They had hearings, and I heard the member for Scarborough East say how happy he was to go to the north. He went to dinner and visited an industrial site, and he was happy about that. I'm glad he did, and I hope he continues to go there to understand the north and to understand that people in the north also need representation.

While the committee was up there and the hearing was on, many of the members, especially those of my party, made amendments to this legislation, to the general government committee. Sandra Pupatello, Mario Sergio, Bernard Grandmaître and Mike Gravelle made amendments to the legislation to say, "Since you insist on having this legislation, maybe there are certain things you should be addressing."

You know, although they get accustomed to looking sympathetic when you speak to them -- the Conservative caucus, that is -- they defeated every amendment. Not one amendment did they take, and they say they are listening. Not only are they not listening to the people for whom they're reducing access to their representatives by reducing the number of people here, but they are also making sure they're not listening to the opposition who were giving some amendments which could have helped the situation.

We talk about the new election financing limits that should be addressed because some members will take on more, and I want to tell you, I speak from experience in the sense that when I was elected, the population of Scarborough North was then 220,000 people. Yes, it is quite a large population, and I was spending many, many hours listening to my constituents. It has been reduced to a smaller area, but the fact is I know what it is to those constituents there who are concerned that they want access to their members, and today we're going to have fewer members here. I say this is a wrong direction in which the government is going.

My speech will not change them, but I hope my comments to the people in Ontario will say that yes, it is obvious now that this Conservative government, this Mike Harris crew has declared war on those who are unable to fight for their rights, who are dependent on them to redistribute the wealth, who will find out that no, they're going to privatize everything, give it to the private sector. Furthermore, they've reduced the representation, making it much harder. They will say when there's a new election, this democratic process, that they will throw the crew of them out and say, "That's not what we want." But knowing this crew, they will try their best maybe to cancel elections, since you have declared war on the poor --

Mr Baird: Oh, come on. Cancel elections?

Mr Curling: And they will try it. It sounds farfetched, doesn't it?

I remember going around and debating the discussion paper on housing, and there was a presentation, as a matter of fact, on the discussion paper. Some of the landlords were asking if we could put a law in place to get rid of rent control but make sure that no other government could change it. The audacity of those folks, to think there could be a law that could not be reversed; in other words, what we dictate here will never be changed. The beauty of living in a democratic society is that where there are laws that are not working, we can change them, and they even suggested that.

So that kind of war that you've declared on people -- I remember too when certain individuals of the same persuasion, of the Conservative Party, by the name of Brian Mulroney, came in and were pushing people around and tampered with the seniors of this country. A little old lady who made a difference stood up and said: "We will get you. I'll never forget you." They armed themselves in the best way they can. They armed themselves, these seniors, at the polls and they threw him out, bathwater, baby and the whole shebang of them, threw them all out, because they said they had that power of democracy, of the vote, that X that was not placed against any of the Mulroney crew. As we go for the next election, maybe a long time -- and I say to the people, democracy is slow. I must be patient about all this. We must be patient that the people will see the light.


The Deputy Speaker: There should be no debate on the floor. Order, please.

Mr Curling: As I speak like this, I should really say this to you too: I'm not talking about every single individual over there. There are some individuals over there, colleagues whom I have spoken to outside of committees, outside of the House, who are compassionate, who have families, who are concerned. I'm going to take this last couple of minutes to appeal to those, to appeal to the heart and the soul of them when they came out here with the intention to be the representatives of the people: Don't take those bully strategies. Be yourself. Consider it and say: "This is a democracy. This is representation. Why are we destroying it?"

Speak up. Throw away those notes that the cabinet office sent to you or the minister sent. Throw them away. Speak with your heart and speak about your concerns. You have life experience about representation. We know, and you also know, that there are others who are less than you who are struggling and they need that representation. Reducing that representation is not an attack on those who can afford fair representation at a higher level, but to reduce the representation at the lower level of individuals who really have no one else sometimes to turn to, because they see this huge bureaucracy.

I think that before 1985 there were very few people who came into this august place, few people who have ever come into this building. They were intimidated by all the individuals here who look so important and they didn't feel that this place belonged to them. They were intimidated because they feel that what happens here, they can't change.

But as you can see, the writing is more on the wall. The writing itself is done by people outside who are demonstrating and saying, "We are watching you and we feel a part of this democracy, which we will change." So change as you can in your legislation, because if the people don't like it, they will do with you just like they did with Brian Mulroney -- threw him out. When Mulroney was thrown out -- as a matter of fact, he didn't even run in that election. What they did was the next best thing. Whatever was a Tory, whatever was a Conservative -- because they did not stand up for their own individual principles; they stood up for what the cabinet office gave them to say -- they threw them all out. Not impossible. Only two people got elected over this great massive land and this great country to tell you that the people spoke out and they spoke out very loudly.

I'm not appealing to the government to change their mind, because they won't. I'm going to appeal to the people outside there to go to every one of their members, catch them when you can --

Mr Pouliot: If you can.

Mr Curling: If you can. But you will at the next election when you turf all of these bullies out.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?


The Deputy Speaker: No, no. The time was divided equally. Therefore, Monsieur le député d'Ottawa-Est.

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I don't know how long I'll be speaking -- as long as my voice holds up.

Mr Wildman: Take as long as you need.

Mr Grandmaître: Good, thank you. I realize, after a long convention, that we are still celebrating on this side the victory of our leader, Mr McGuinty.

But today we don't feel so good about this bill, Bill 81. We realize that redistribution is very important in this province and all of us on this side support redistribution for a number of reasons and, I want to tell you from the start, not for the same reasons as the members of the government.


We listened very carefully to Mr Gilchrist, the member for Scarborough East, who said they were doing this to save money, and money was the object. To reduce the number of politicians at the provincial level and use the same voters' lists, I realize we will be saving dollars.

But there is more to representation than dollars. I received my political baptism at the municipal level --

Interjection: In 1901.

Mr Grandmaître: Not in 1901, but some years ago, and I want to tell you how important it is to be close to your people. That's why it's called local government, because you live locally and you know what's happening in your riding.

What this legislation will do is divide and conquer by reducing the number of politicians, especially in northern Ontario, when you look at northern Ontario and eastern Ontario. But I want to give you an example of what will be happening in northern Ontario. Northern Ontario will be losing 33"% of their seats. At the present time they have 15 seats, and they will lose five. Northern Ontario represents 87% of the total land mass in the province of Ontario. So imagine: The leader of the third party from Rainy River will have a riding the size of PEI. I'm told that the riding of my friend from Lake Nipigon will be larger than Germany. And this government thinks -- you know, "Let people come to you." But, better than that, we were told in committee: "No, don't worry. With our technology today, people can use cell phones, people can use voice box." But I think the people of Ontario have a right to speak to a human being, to their representative, not by phone. They should be visited in their constituency office. The fact that we're using the federal electoral map -- now the members of the government are saying, "Hey, this is great." This is the first time that I've heard the members of the government saying the federal government has done something right. This is the first time they're approving what the federal government has done.

I say first of all that we needed redistribution in the province of Ontario, but I would have preferred a made-in-Ontario model of redistribution. But no, they're saying that because we'll be able to use the same voters' list we will save a bundle of money. I realize that we have to change our model of representation. It's unacceptable to have a riding where there are only 19,000 people versus another one, the riding of the Minister of Transportation, where they have 123,000 people. I realize that these discrepancies have to be resolved.

In eastern Ontario we'll be losing 22.7% of our members -- from 22 to 17 seats. I can say that in Ottawa-Carleton we're not dearly affected. We're only losing one riding, and that's Ottawa-Rideau. Ottawa-Rideau at the present time is being held by Mr Guzzo, so we won't be losing much in Ottawa-Carleton.

Mr Pouliot: Tell us about getting baptised.

Mr Grandmaître: That's right.

The government is saying, "Let's get the number of MPPs down and we can save money." Well, maybe we can save money, but no wonder people are cynical about politicians -- for the simple reason that we're getting away from them. We're running away from our taxpayers, our constituents. This is totally wrong. To say that northern Ontario doesn't mind -- I listened very carefully to the speech by the honourable member for Scarborough East, who said that people in northern Ontario don't mind. I have a copy of the Sudbury Star and the headline is very simple: "Cutting MPPs an Affront to Democracy." That's what it's all about.

This government is planning to reduce, diminish, abolish municipalities. Look at what they're doing in Metro. They're thinking of amalgamating six municipalities into a supercity with less representation. They're doing this to save dollars, because eventually our municipalities in the province of Ontario will not receive conditional or unconditional grants. Our transfer payments are diminishing, our number of hospitals, our number of schools. School boards will be disappearing.

Again, what this government is trying to do is to take control. They want to manage this province. Forget about municipalities, hospitals, schools; they want to manage at the cabinet table everything that moves or makes dust in Ontario. I find this insulting for the simple reason that we're all taxpayers and we all have our duty as elected representatives to represent the thoughts and the ideas of our constituents.

Le projet de loi 81 va démolir le gouvernement, non seulement le gouvernement municipal, mais le gouvernement de l'Ontario, en diminuant le nombre de représentants de 130 à 103 et avec d'autres changements à venir, parce que la loi indique qu'à chaque occasion que le gouvernement fédéral va faire des changements à sa carte électorale, l'Ontario doit, dans les 12 mois qui suivent, faire les mêmes changements.


Je le répète : j'aurais préféré une carte électorale pensée qui aurait représenté les gens de l'Ontario. En fusionnant deux ou trois comtés, je suis sûr qu'en plus de la confusion que nous allons avoir avec le même nombre qu'a le district électoral fédéral, on va en apporter davantage. Les gens sont confus présentement, et je crois que c'est une insulte aux payeurs de taxes de l'Ontario.

Il y a beaucoup plus que faire des épargnes en Ontario, et je crois que les gouvernements, que ce soit un gouvernement municipal, provincial ou fédéral, doivent faire des compressions budgétaires. On ne peut pas continuer de dépenser les argents qu'on n'a pas. Par contre, en diminuant la représentation, je le répète, c'est une insulte pour la simple raison que surtout les personnes âgées, qui ne connaissent pas la complexité de nos gouvernements aux trois paliers, vont devenir les grands perdants.

Tantôt, le député de Scarborough-Est disait que le grand Toronto était affecté. Je voudrais simplement lui dire que dans Metro Toronto, la diminution est de 30 à 22 représentants, ce qui représente 26 %. Je crois que le nord et l'est de l'Ontario seront durement affectés. Ils sont les grands perdants de cette législation.

Le public -- les électeurs, les payeurs de taxes en Ontario -- ont droit à cette représentation-là. On ne peut pas couper les liens de communication, même avec toute la technologie d'aujourd'hui. Je crois que les gens ont de la difficulté à comprendre notre système, et on devrait rendre notre système, dû au fait que c'est eux qui paient pour ce système-là, plus accessible.

Je reviens à la carte électorale fédérale. Je voudrais simplement rappeler à la mémoire du gouvernement que les députés de l'Ontario ne jouiront pas du même budget. Au fédéral, leur budget est plus élevé par député qu'en Ontario. Au fédéral, on a simplement à demander permission d'ouvrir un deuxième ou troisième bureau de circonscription, comme dans Prescott et Russell et autres comtés qui sont immenses. Lorsqu'on parle à ces députés d'Ottawa, on se fait dire : «Oui, c'est vrai ; notre territoire est trop grand. On ne peut pas vraiment desservir notre population.»

This piece of legislation is an insult to the taxpayers of Ontario. Yes, we will save money but, as my colleague the member for Scarborough North indicated, democracy is put aside, because if you cannot communicate easily enough with your government -- provincial, municipal or federal -- then democracy is being attacked.

We will be voting against this bill for a number of reasons. We think that this government will save dollars in order to pay for a 30% income tax cut is very unfair. It shouldn't be a money matter. It should be a people's matter. It's very important that the government realizes that it's making a serious mistake.

I didn't have the opportunity to follow the committee when it was travelling through northern Ontario, but I can tell you that I've read every deputation, and I was sort of disappointed. When we went through clause-by-clause of this bill I introduced seven amendments and not one word came from the members of the government.

Mr Wildman: The member for Scarborough East said there weren't any amendments put forward in committee.

Mr Grandmaître: I introduced seven amendments.

Mr Wildman: How could he have said that, then?

Mr Grandmaître: Maybe the member for Scarborough East said that no amendments were introduced, but I want to remind the members of this House that I introduced seven amendments, the Liberal Party introduced seven amendments, and not one word from the members. Their minds were made up. I know the members of the government will tell me, "Look, it was in the Common Sense Revolution." I realize it was in the Common Sense Revolution but I thought they would use more common sense and consult the members of this House, consult the people of Ontario and come to a reasonable understanding. I think that reducing or diminishing the number of MPPs is necessary, but we're cutting it too fine. Reducing our numbers by 27 members is not good government. It's simply not good government.

Ayant dit mes pensées, maintenant que ma gorge commence à être un peu sèche, je veux dire que nous n'avons pas l'intention d'appuyer ce projet de loi, parce qu'il ne représente pas vraiment la population. La carte électorale ne donne pas accès du grand public à nos députés.

Je serais prêt à demander au gouvernement de réévaluer sa position et de repenser l'effet, l'impact que cette redistribution va avoir sur les payeurs de taxes de l'Ontario, surtout sur les personnes âgées qui ont de la difficulté à comprendre la complexité du gouvernement.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I am truly pleased to be able to address this bill, Bill 81, the Fewer Politicians Act. I know the members on the government side continue to say that this is really to save a lot of money. I'd like to address that point a little later on.

It seems to me it really was a package that sold well at campaign time. I applaud the government for its communication strategy during the election. It obviously sold. It hit a certain note with many people that had to do with thinking that governments were spendthrifts, that politicians needed to be reined in and that these were not necessarily honourable people. But I must say that this bill really talks about, and should be named, Less Representation in Ontario Act. That's what the act should be.

The purview, of course, is different when you look at trying to equate provincial ridings with the federal ridings, just necessarily by virtue of the different functions the federal government has versus those of the provincial government. We will end up with fewer elected representatives, who will be representing more people than before, with fewer resources.


If that adds up to having better representation in the province, I will be very surprised. I suspect that three or four years down the track, following the next election if this goes through, and I suspect that it probably will, we will receive numerous complaints from people that they are having difficulty contacting or have lost touch with or are not as connected as they used to be to their provincial politicians.

A number of members have made reference to the situation as it is now, and I think those thousands of people who are listening and watching us at home should know that, at the moment, Ontario representation in terms of its proportion and its ratio to federal members is the lowest in Canada. At the moment it's that. We have 130 members to 99 members.

Given that, throughout the provinces and territories of Canada we also have the highest percentage of representation of numbers in Ontario, and I would like to cite a few examples. We will end up with 103 representatives for the province and 103 representatives for the federal government, and we will be representing more people.

For example, the model for the present government in terms of actions to save money is often referred to Mr Klein's in Alberta. Let's take a look at the federal ridings in Alberta. There are 26 federal ridings in Alberta, which represent on average 105,000 people. What's the provincial representation? The provincial representation is 83, more than three times the number of federal MPs in that province, and this is a province that's proud to say it's frugal, it is streamlined, it is efficient. These provincial representatives also represent an average of 33,000, versus Ontario at the moment, which represents an average of 85,000.

So if you equate the number in Ontario with the same number of representatives that are represented in Alberta provincially, we would have somewhere around 390 members in Ontario if we adopted the same ratio as they do in Alberta. In BC, 32 federal members, 75 provincial members; in all of Manitoba, 14 MPs, 57 MPPs; in New Brunswick, 10 MPs, 55 provincial representatives; in Newfoundland, seven MPs, 52 MPPs.

I won't go on because the proportions are similar in most of the other provinces, other than Quebec, which has 75 MPs and 125 MPPs, placing Ontario first in its representation in terms of the lowest ratio of MPPs to MPs.

We will have some ridings that will be bigger than most European countries. Will this give us better representation? I suggest not, unless we develop superpeople with superskills, superenergy, supercars, superbudgets and supercommunication devices to be able to listen to what people have to say and the message they would like to carry to the government or to the Legislature here at Queen's Park.

What effect this has of course, and this has been identified by a number of speakers, is that it will mean a centralization of power at Queen's Park. It will mean that the urban ridings and the suburban ridings will carry the day. It will mean that parts of Ontario will lose representation, and those are of course the rural areas. Much of that is in the north, some of it is in eastern Ontario; and some of it is in southwestern Ontario as well.

I know it's a sexy thing at campaign time, and it obviously worked at that time. At first blush it sounded good, but as communities begin to look at this and see what it means, they have second thoughts.

The reductions are supposed to save something in the nature of $1 million a year. I would be most interested to know how that was calculated. I would like to see the basis of that particular estimate. Let's, for the moment, look at saying that this saving, at first blush, is true. It represents something in the neighbourhood of less than 1% of the budget.

But of course this was a symbolic gesture. This is one of the few professions that denigrates itself, it seems to me, by saying "fewer politicians," appealing to those who have a cynical view of politicians. I don't share that view. I tend to think that members who are elected are honourable. From time to time you wonder how some people got here, but they were elected by their constituents. They have a responsibility and if they don't do a good job, then they tend not to last very long.

But when we look at less money, I wonder if in that estimate they calculated the communications costs that will inevitably be increased; the increase in the necessity of people to use faxes; the increase in people using long distance; the increase in people travelling; the increase in the members in certain territories having to use their cars to travel greater distances, using up time. What is efficiency? Does it make sense for someone to take an extra two hours more than what it does now to travel to see the same people, and if that happens frequently, has that been costed?

No, I don't think the real reason is to save that much money, because I don't think there really will be that much money saved. I think it was part of a very clever package that preached cutting nasty politicians and welfare abusers and less government. I'm not disagreeing with each item in and of itself, but that package was essentially anti-government, and it worked. Now some people have some second thoughts.

As was pointed out earlier by the member for Scarborough East, there was an informal committee that was formed by the government to address the implementation issues of Ontario's political parties. The committee was formed to implement the 103 members, not to consider whether or not this was a good policy -- that was a given; this was in the communication literature of the Progressive Conservative Party -- and so Liberals were represented, NDP members were represented.

The member for Halton Centre was represented by Mitch Patten. I want you to know there is no relationship. As far as I know, there is no relationship. There may be somewhere in the genealogy of my past, some connection somewhere. But I want you to know there's no relationship. If there were, I certainly would have spent a lot more time talking to Mitch Patten about what he said and how he participated on that commitment. The NDP was represented by Tony Silipo, but many of the concerns that were raised, as reported back to us, were not addressed by the government in this bill.


When we look at the area of the federal government -- and of course the federal government's electoral commission delineated and set the new boundaries -- does it mean it's perfect for us at the provincial level? I would like to hear the argument that yes, it's exactly the same, because if it is -- anybody in management today or in organizational development will tell you that your form follows function. If that organizational precept is true, would you not agree therefore that the federal government has a certain set of functions and responsibilities? There are some concurrent powers and there's a little bit of overlap from time to time, but by and large, there is a difference in the roles and responsibilities and functions between the federal government and the provincial government, and I say necessarily so.

I'd like to give an example of this. Let's take the city I come from, the city of Ottawa. We have a city council with 16 councillors and a mayor, 17 members. We have four ridings within the city limits of Ottawa. It would be like saying: "Listen, why don't we just have four councillors, one for each of the ridings? We could save a lot of money. Forget about the 17 members. That's wastage."

Well, you can imagine what would happen. The citizens would be screaming, the councillors would be screaming, everyone. Why? Because the detailed concerns of the councillors at the local municipal level are numerous and they are different from what we have to deal with. It's recognized by everyone. If I were to propose such a scheme, I would imagine that people would think I had flipped my lid. I know some of you think that perhaps may be true, but people would think that if I made such a proposal. They'd think: "That's a crazy idea. How can you be so insensitive to cut back a huge city of this size and have only four councillors to represent all the detailed concerns?" It would be quite obvious.

But of course, as you get into the other two jurisdictions, it's a little bit more fuzzy as to who does what to whom. It's a little difficult, unless you're a student of politics or you have a great interest in politics, to look at the whole variety of different functions and different responsibilities held between the federal and the provincial ridings. The dynamic is truly different between the federal and provincial functions and responsibilities, as it is between the provincial and the municipal level of government.

Many members have talked about this and I look forward to hearing more. I find it interesting that in northern Ontario -- this is also true in eastern Ontario where we will lose five ridings, five members. In northern Ontario they will lose five members. In such an enormous land mass it's absolutely incredible that you'll have five members in this Legislature, roughly a little less than 5% of the members, representing 90% of the land mass of this jurisdiction.

When you think of that and what it means, it's not only the distances. It has to be. We know there are differences between communities and among communities. We know there are differences from small towns to larger towns to hamlets and settlements and reserves and different constructs and makeups of our people. I will be very, very interested to hear some of the northern members describe the increase in what they have to do, because I know what they have to do at the moment.

Mr Wildman: The member for Scarborough East says you only have to work half as hard as he does.

Mr Patten: Yes, a good point. The member for Algoma makes a point. He said one of the members, from Scarborough East, earlier said, "Just because of representation, others will have to work less to do that." That perhaps wasn't said seriously or it was a cynical comment, because in Scarborough East the land mass is probably 5% or a tenth of the size of some of the northern ridings.

It would be an interesting simulation game to have some of the urban members spend a day. We all are obliged to learn about the total jurisdiction, not just our own area. Maybe we should link up some of the government members with some of the members from the north and follow them for a day, as we often do when we're invited to follow students for a day in the educational system. We always learn something; we truly do. I've done that and I know members on all sides of the House have done the same. Perhaps the northern members would come forward with an invite to other members to follow them in their ridings for a day and see what they have to deal with. I believe you would have a much greater appreciation for the elements, for the difficulties, the obstacles of making contact with the people you are attempting to represent. That's perhaps an idea that may come forward.

I represent the riding of Ottawa Centre. There will be an expansion in my riding from 85,000 to 107,000 people. That's fine; I take on the new challenge. I don't find that that would be unduly impossible. It'll be more difficult. I hope the resources proportionately, though, will be available, as they are at the federal level, especially for communications for us to stay in touch with and communicate with our constituents.

I could walk around my riding probably in about 12 hours, but I suspect that in the riding of Rainy River, going from north to south, it would probably take 12 hours to drive from one end of the riding to another. It boggles my mind that we can have such a differential in the land mass. It's not only just the number of people you represent: Where do they live? How many offices do you need to have? Do you have long distance within your own riding? Imagine that.

We know that Ontario tends to be urban-dominated, but I want to show some sensitivity to my colleagues, and I don't care what party they come from. It will be very, very difficult and more trying for them just to meet and spend some time with the people they are trying to represent.

There's another dimension that is important. I know that in the rhetoric from the government they will say that Elections Canada will have done a good job. Perhaps they have -- I won't dispute that -- but they've done a good job for federal ridings. But in some cases, let's say they are wrong. Let's say we discover that we don't quite like the constructs. Are there amendments in the bill that will allow the province of Ontario to say: "Generally we like this, but do you know what? We're more knowledgeable about how it works in terms of our jurisdiction, the functions and responsibilities we have." Just as a safety valve, we should put something in that bill that provides us with the opportunity to make some minor adjustments to some of the riding areas because they don't honour geographic, historic or cultural makeups that are important to people, not just people who draw a map, not just people who are thinking about someone else but they haven't been there.


I'd like to refer, to illustrate my point, to the representations that were made by some reeves and councillors in the riding of S-D-G, Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): And East Grenville.

Mr Patten: And East Grenville. This was up in Ottawa when the committee was on hearings. I found it very instructive to have representatives. I know some of these members were not there on political lines. I know they weren't there on political lines because they were against the bill and I knew they were Conservative. I know they weren't there on political lines, so let's put that aside, and I'm not making this statement on political lines. I'm attempting to make the case that you need to have in that bill some flexibility. We always must have some flexibility in any bill because we know one size does not fit all and we know that we try something at first, and the second time we go to do it, we've usually learned a little something from the first experience and we change what we go about doing. Therefore, I would like to cite an example.

This was a presentation that was made by a reeve from that particular riding. They go on to explain it in their brief and I will not read the whole brief, but I would like to refer to a few comments that will give you the flavour of what happens with boundaries. I need not give backdrops on creating boundaries and how they can cause divisions when they're done insensitively. You just have to look at the insensitivity of the Europeans in Africa today and see much of the bloodshed because they divided tribes, they divided clans and they divided peoples up arbitrarily with no sensitivity whatsoever. Now, that's an extreme example. I don't relate it to here, but I say it's important to have a flexible mechanism so that as we learn from our experiences, we're able to say, "Hey, that's not working; we know we can do a better job," and we can make an adjustment to boundary lines because it means something to the people who live in that particular area.

What did these people have to say? They said, "The city of Cornwall and the township of Charlottenburgh, which are part of Glengarry, also represent one seat. All persons would be equally served if Cornwall and Charlottenburgh were to join with S-D-G. Not only would we be joining with an area that has been politically, historically and culturally linked since the first settlers landed on the banks of the St Lawrence River in what came to be Upper Canada in the early 1700s, but this new form of provincial riding would also reduce the number of seats in the Legislature by one.... This would thus provide a more cost-effective government." They're making a very positive suggestion.

"Removing Glengarry from the united counties achieves no profitable goal for the province, the county or the people. The people of Glengarry share many interests with their neighbours in the counties to the west. There's a natural communication" between these peoples.

"Therefore, why should we just adopt a federal boundary that has little relevance to us politically, culturally and historically?...

"To take Glengarry away from its rightful place in the united counties is irresponsible. The natural flow of life in Glengarry is east and west, not north and south. For over 200 years the development of Glengarry has been tied up with the development of Cornwall, Stormont and Dundas. We have established beneficial working partnerships in education, finance, sports, agriculture, health care with our sister counties that have taken years to become successful. We can't afford to lose them.

"The winter of 1908 marked the defeat of the last Glengarry separation movement." Hear this: The last Glengarry separation movement, 1908. It was defeated. "Ninety years ago Glengarrians fought to prevent its separation from the united counties" -- that's how deeply these people feel about this -- "and today we are here to ask you to join with Glengarrians to oppose another separation movement."

"Glengarry, as part of the three united counties, has been part of our grandparents' heritage, our parents' heritage and our heritage. Let it continue to be a part of our children's heritage."

They say "thank you," and they made that representation. A number of the members were there in Ottawa. Frankly I was touched and I think most of the members who were on that committee felt something as well. It pointed out that there was obviously a need to amend the bill, and there were some suggestions along those lines. As a matter of fact, they made a good fiscal argument. They said, "If you do it another way, you can even save money, more money than you think, and still provide for the integrity of our historical communities and our united counties."

Mr Speaker, you will know that these are people from United Loyalist stock. These are not wimpy people. These are very strong individuals who care about their part of eastern Ontario. They are great Ontarians and they are great Canadians, and they believe deeply in what they do and they celebrate what they do. But they care for their geography. All of a sudden someone says, "You're going to be divided up," and they say: "That's going to affect us and how we can relate to our neighbours. We'll have to go to two MPPs rather than one. We're going to be cut off from other areas that may not get a grant for a certain facility, but now we've got one that does and one that doesn't, etc. We'll lose a degree of universality and a degree of being considered as part of a logical, natural community that has gone back a long way." These people fought for it almost 90 years ago, fought against such a boundary change.

In the submission they also propose quite specifically some changes, and I would be happy to share this. As a matter of fact, I believe the committee has this particular presentation. My understanding is it has not considered some of the amendments, but given the possibility and the concern that I know the member from that area has, the agriculture minister, who has concerns about this, maybe there will be some second thought, because these people do care.

What is there to be gained by imposing something, and people are unhappy and distraught, versus allowing ourselves to show a little bit of flexibility, not just accepting something holus-bolus? What does it take on our part? Does it really take very much? Is it not prudent to adopt an amendment that will show that we are big enough, that we are wise enough, to adopt a managerial style that will say: "Let's try it. If it doesn't work, we're prepared to make amendments"? Why? Because we are legislators. We are elected by you. We're there to try and make what makes sense -- you use the term "common sense." This seems to me to be good common sense, and I don't say that in any pejorative manner. I say that as it makes good common sense.

Let me read to you the recommendation. These people thought this through. This was not an ill-considered, lightly taken issue, as I think I've perhaps illustrated. I hope you feel the same way. They say: "The title of the act, Bill 81, includes wording that is too wide and too restrictive having regard to the obligation of the province to safeguard the integrity of the provincial jurisdiction. The wording, as presently constituted, involves abdication of the province of Ontario government's right and duty of self-determination."

You see how proud these people are? They know what it means to drive your own truck or to drive your own team or to drive your own community. These are very proud people. So they see through this.

"The effect of the legislation is to submit the province of Ontario to being manipulated and...dictated to by the federal government." We know no one likes that. We hear every province, with great sensitivity, make these comments in relation to the federal government very often, although not so often recently, I will acknowledge that; not so often recently, because I believe there is more sensitivity. But any big government can make mistakes. My case is we should show that we at least have the vehicles and the mechanisms for some flexibility.


The gentleman goes on to say: "There is no mechanism within Bill 81 to protect the province from federal manipulation. There is no consultation process...whereby the province can exercise a right of veto with respect to riding boundaries, and this constitutes a foolhardy abdication of Ontario's right of self-determination."

We're not talking about separatist movements as we may hear about them outside of Ontario. We're not listening to the Bloc québécois or the Parti québécois. What we're talking about here is a very proud people in eastern Ontario who care. I think they have a good point. They suggest the word "identical" in the title should be deleted and replaced by the word "similar" -- that's all -- "similar to those of their federal counterparts to the extent that it suits the Legislature of the province of Ontario." So the title would now read: An Act to reduce the number of members of the Legislative Assembly by making the number and boundaries of provincial electoral districts similar to those of their federal counterparts to the extent that it suits the Legislature of the province of Ontario and to make consequential amendments to statutes concerning electoral representation.

I think that's brilliant, I really do. It shows that they took the time and they took the care to do this. It makes inimitable sense to me; I think it does to most people. I'm sure it does to the member from the area. What is it asking for? Show some sensitivity, show some flexibility as you go about implementing legislation.

It then goes on to say: "Of course, the specific sections of the act would have to be amended" -- that's what we're asking -- "to provide for the ability of the province to deviate from strict compliance with proposed federal riding boundaries where it makes sense to do so....The guiding factor would have to be enhancing provincial savings by use of the federal poll enumeration figures and names. The cost of extrapolating the figures and adapting them to those ridings in need of provincial recognition as significantly different from the federal boundaries would be...minimal and certainly...an appropriate...expenditure in safeguarding provincial integrity in matters of self-government and the election of the members of the Ontario Legislature."

My reference was because I was personally very impressed with the group that came before the committee in Ottawa. They had done their homework. They were saying: "Look, we're one small area of this great land mass of Ontario, but we want you to acknowledge us as having some integrity. Our communities are a part of a living history. We are part of institutions that go east and west, not north and south."

There may be other situations that are similar to Glengarry throughout the province. I know there most likely are. Would it not therefore be prudent for us to implement that one amendment that would provide and assure the integrity of the jurisdiction of Ontario related to electoral boundaries, with the wisdom to implement electoral boundaries on the basis of what we know about the people we are attempting to serve?

With that, I hope I have made a point of showing that we should be more flexible and that perhaps there still is time to see some amendments come forward in the interests of representing the people we serve.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments?

Mr Wildman: I'd like to congratulate the three MPPs from the Liberal caucus who have made this presentation on this bill. I particularly want to highlight the position that was put forward that the very title of this legislation denigrates the role of MPPs in our democratic system and suggests that the members of this assembly and other people who run for elected office in Ontario, whether they're successful or not, are somehow less than honourable and don't really carry out a worthwhile contribution to our democratic process. I think that's most unfortunate and I do congratulate the Liberal members who have pointed that out.

I also specifically want to respond to the concerns raised by the people from Glengarry. I remember that in 1992 the member for the united counties brought forward a private member's bill in which he argued that rural ridings should be given special preference, that there should be a consideration that ensured that rural ridings were not too large and we made certain that rural residents were represented in this assembly. Frankly, I'm most disappointed that the member who is now responsible for rural Ontario as the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has not participated in this debate and defended the rural ridings in this province. The fact is that of the 27 ridings being eliminated in this bill, the vast majority are rural ridings, and I think that should be pointed out.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I too want to comment on the remarks of my colleagues from Scarborough North, Ottawa East and Ottawa Centre. I was very well aware of the excellent presentation that was made by the folks from S-D-G & East Grenville. Yes, I was very proud to change the name of the riding from strictly Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry in 1992 to include some 12,000 people who came in from the eastern section of Grenville county. They were very much, and still are, a part of that riding, and will remain until this bill passes and indeed when the next election call comes forth.

To say that we're going to try and make everyone happy in this is impossible. An act to reduce the number of politicians has to be very important and looked at seriously, because there has been tremendous overspending in this province over the past 10 years. The fact that Glengarry county is being broken up is certainly, in my estimation, very unfortunate and indeed a sad situation. However, the county of Glengarry already is broken up because the township of Charlottenburgh belongs to the riding of Cornwall. It's always been an area, when you're sitting with New York state on one side and the province of Quebec on the other, to try and adjust the numbers, and it's never easy.

Speaker, you will appreciate the fact that in opposition it's pretty easy to come forth with some easy solution. In government, it's never easy to try and keep everyone happy. In opposition --


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: The private member's bill that I brought forth and was passed did exactly what it was supposed to: recognize the people who are being represented.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'd like to commend my three colleagues from Scarborough North, Ottawa East and Ottawa South for their excellent presentations. I think they've defined and outlined for the assembly what democracy really is, the importance of flexibility, and the importance of having an open mind and being willing to accept amendments to make something better.

What disturbs me most about this legislation is its very premise. It's based on the popular view, I guess, that we have too many politicians, who don't represent us, who only create more problems. I take exception to that, because it's very important for us to understand that representative democracy cannot operate without politicians. We also have to remember, and I wish the government would remember, that politicians come from the people, they are elected by the people, and they are to represent of the views of the people.

When you cut too thinly, you're not getting democracy at its best. We'll still have democracy, there's no question about that, we'll still have representative democracy, there's no question about that, but the level of true representation in a true democratic environment will not be present. If that's the intent of the government, then I feel sorry for the government and I'm sure the people of Ontario will be cheated by the government -- maybe inadvertently, but they would be cheated by the government because of the premise they're basing this change on.

I would hope that the government would reconsider its position. I would hope that for the people of Ontario.

Mr Bisson: I appreciated the comments of I think the member for Ottawa Centre -- it might have been Ottawa East -- about the now Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, who had a very different opinion in 1992 when he brought before the Legislature a motion that basically said that when we go out and redistribute ridings in the future -- because that's a normal thing we do in this place every 10 years -- special consideration be given to rural ridings.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Who said that?

Mr Bisson: It was the member for Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry who said that. I want to remind members, because his motion was quite good in 1992 and I'm wondering what's happened between 1992 and 1996. His motion read:

"That, in the opinion of this House, when the next commission for the purpose of redistribution of Ontario electoral districts is established, the commission should be instructed to take into consideration the varying conditions, circumstances and requirements regarding representation as between rural and urban electoral districts."

If you go through this document, which I don't have the time to do in one minute, it puts forward a number of arguments about why the government, as he instructed back then in 1992, should first of all do redistribution through a boundaries commission, something his government is not doing, and second, that the geographic considerations and population base be taken into consideration when doing redistribution so that rural ridings are not put at a disadvantage and rural Ontario is not put at a disadvantage when it comes to the number of members from rural Ontario representing those constituents here at the Legislature.

Maybe one of the members commenting -- I think it was the member for Ottawa East -- could bring to this House what he thinks might have happened to the member, now Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, between 1992 and 1996, for having flip-flopped in his position from opposition to government.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Ottawa Centre, you can sum up.

Mr Patten: I appreciate the comments of the members for S-D-G & East Grenville, Sudbury, Cochrane South and Algoma. They all identified areas of import. I find it fascinating to continue to hear the references that are made to the rich historical past we have in this Legislature and how we can help remind members of what they said, perhaps not two months ago but sometimes three, four, five, six, seven, eight years ago. That's always something to remember, because times change and issues change and roles change, but it seems to me that the principles are important to remember.

The member for S-D-G & East Grenville was promoting the idea that we can't please everybody all the time. That perhaps is true. However, I would suggest that that is our goal, that we do try to please everybody. In an instance like this, when you're talking about a simple amendment, with very tidy wordage to go into the bill, it seems to me it would be wise for the government to take that into consideration.

They will pay the price if they show insensitivity, as any government will. I suspect it's not only in this part of Ontario where this perhaps is occurring. I know the member for Grey-Owen Sound has some reservations about the boundaries that affect his particular riding, and hopefully they will listen to him and others who have similar concerns.

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

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Thank you for this opportunity to finally get in on the debate of this particular bill. People here in the Legislature would know, but maybe people watching at home do not know that we are now in the final days of third reading of this bill. In two legislative debate days' time the government will have the mandate, by sheer majority of that side of the House, to redistribute all the ridings in Ontario to be coterminous with the federal boundaries, and the government is having us believe that this is a good thing.

The government has decided through its manifesto, the Common Sense Revolution, dreamed up over a couple of nights over beers at the Bradgate Arms when they ran in the last election, that it would be a good thing to make some promises that went to the notion of being opposed to the idea of government and to the idea of what governments are all about. So they put in the Common Sense Revolution this particular promise, as they call it, to make the ridings coterminous so that when this is done the federal and provincial ridings will look the same.

I would like, first of all, to set out that I am opposed to this legislation and I will set out through this debate why I'm opposed to it. The other caveat I would like to say up front: Should there be redistribution? Of course there should be redistribution. Redistribution happens every 10 years. It is a natural evolution, and ridings get changed according to the demographics of ridings in Ontario. What is this government doing? It is doing nothing of the sort. It is trying to play to a notion that governments are bad, politicians are evil and that if we get rid of government and politicians our lives will be better. This legislation is all about playing into the theme the Tory government is trying to play on.

Before I wade into that I have to go back to this. I remember that back in 1992 the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry at the time, now the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, coming to this Legislature and presenting us with a private bill that said to the then NDP government of Bob Rae that we needed to protect rural Ontario from losing representation at Queen's Park. I will read what the motion said:

"That, in the opinion of this House, when the next commission for the purpose of redistribution of Ontario electoral districts is established, the commission should be instructed to take into consideration the varying conditions, circumstances and requirements regarding representation as between rural and urban electoral districts, and the increase in geographic area of rural ridings after the redistribution of the 1970s and the 1980s, with the intention of creating three classifications of constituencies" -- this really, I think, encapsulated what we should be doing, what those classifications be -- "urban, urban-rural, and rural, so as to limit the geographic area of rural ridings, and to a lesser degree that of urban-rural ridings, as well as the number of organized municipalities which members must represent."

What the then member, now Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, was alluding to was that if you allow ridings in rural Ontario and northern Ontario to become so vast, a member will not be able to represent those constituents in the manner he or she would like to, as is afforded members living in urban areas. The member then recognized that there was a difference between a rural riding and an urban riding.

I come from a mixed rural-urban riding in northern Ontario. I can tell you from personal experiences, as can other members on all sides of the House who represent similar ridings, that life in those ridings and the work we do as MPPs are very different from what a member will do in an urban setting such as Toronto, Hamilton or Windsor. We often, for example, are the only office that people can come to when they have a problem with government, whatever the government might be.

If you live in the city of Toronto and you have a problem with your government, there is a multitude of offices that members of the public can go to to try to get their concerns addressed. There are government offices of various ministries, there are government agency offices, plus there are multitudes of MPPs' offices within that particular community. But if you're living in Chapleau or Timmins or Hearst or wherever it might be in a smaller community, there are not a lot of places you can go when you have a problem.

One of the things we do as members is that we service our constituents in a very different way from urban ridings. We deal a lot with the everyday problems constituents have. People come to our offices for everything, from help with economic development -- I can tell you, as a member of a government that was active in economic development, under the Bob Rae NDP government, my office over that five-year period on an almost daily basis was dealing with proponents of projects in the industrial sector, in the resource sector and within the commercial sector as well.

We often were the only avenue people had when trying to get projects off the ground and trying to get the issues explained to bureaucrats or trying to get issues before the government. We were sometimes the only way they were able to do that.

I can tell you personal examples. For example, in the town of Iroquois Falls, Abitibi wanted to invest some $150 million in a TMP plant. We played, in my office, a very large role. We weren't the ones who made the investment happen by its own; of course Abitibi wanted to do this as well. But we played a very large role in making the connection between the players at Abitibi and the government of Ontario and the various ministries that were affected, like MNR.

When Mallette granite, as an example, wanted to build a brand-new granite plant in a community just outside Iroquois Falls, by Porquis Junction, they came to my office. That's basically the work we did. Working with the then local mayor in the town of Iroquois Falls, we connected them to all the various funding mechanisms that were available through the provincial government back then. But also we played a very important role in them being able to deal with a sort of a one-window approach in the permitting process and application process they had to do for various items.

We also dealt with private sector issues with that particular project. We also, as members in local constituencies such as that, deal with day-to-day problems, probably in a very different way than you would, let's say, in Toronto. I don't mean this as a rant against members who represent constituents in Toronto, because Toronto is Toronto and Timmins is Timmins. But I'll give you an example of what you get on a Friday morning and a Saturday morning when you do constituency appointments. You get people who are coming in with all kinds of different problems, and sometimes those problems are pretty severe.

I had one gentleman in my office, I believe about two weeks ago, on a Friday or a Thursday. I think it was constituency week in fact. He's unfortunately becoming much more typical of people coming into my constituency office. The constituent walked into the office, wanted to meet with his MPP, would not deal with anybody else, didn't want to deal with the bureaucrats at the Ministry of Community and Social Services, didn't want to deal with the people working at the city of Timmins, didn't even want to deal with my staff; he wanted to deal with me personally, for whatever reason, right or wrong.

When I finally got an opportunity to meet him, about 10 or 15 minutes after he got into my office, he started to tell me the story he was going through. Because of circumstance, the individual lost his job working in a particular company in the city of Timmins, and because of the changes of criteria to the GWA and FBA -- in other words, the welfare and family benefits -- made by this government, he was not able to qualify for welfare benefits.

This guy couldn't get unemployment insurance. The federal Liberals had cut off his ability to get unemployment insurance because they will not, under certain circumstances, pay UI, and your government followed suit and did the same thing as the federal Liberals. So this man was in a situation where he was out of his home, had been out of his home since the month of August, was basically without any source of income. Where he was living, and this is a pretty scary thought in a place like Timmins, was literally in a tent in the bush in the month of November.


Mr Bisson: The member opposite says, "What's the point?" The point I'm making is that this particular individual had nowhere to go. He didn't know where to go to get assistance. It's a fairly tragic story.

Basically, I had to do a lot of work getting on the phone trying to deal with the city of Timmins people and with other people to get this guy emergency assistance. If that individual hadn't got to me, it is quite likely that person would not be alive today, because he was suicidal.

The point I'm getting at is that we in the north and we in other communities across northern and rural Ontario play a very direct role within our communities. When you come with your parliamentary committee to places like Timmins, and your members, like the member for Scarborough East, make comments about whether you can somehow run MPPs' offices more efficiently by making the ridings five times the size they are now, making them difficult to service in regard to what they are now by taking advantage of telecommunications, fax machines, modems and the rest -- they don't realize that we do a lot of work directly with constituents who would not get to us by way of a fax, modem or any other electronic means.

I say to the government members that I understand your zeal to fulfil what is an ideological principle, that you don't believe there should be government to the extent there is now and that there should be fewer politicians, but there's a cost to doing that. The cost is that the average person on the street, and people out there who need to get access to their elected representatives, will have less of an ability to do so once this legislation is passed. I say to the members opposite that it is definitely a problem you need to address.

I want to turn to a comment that was made before the standing committee in London by Mr Kimble Sutherland, a former member of this Legislature, when he presented and made a couple of points that I think are important to this debate. He talks about, and I quote:

"Representative democracy cannot operate without politicians. Politicians come from the people to represent the people and make decisions on their behalf. The ongoing denigration of politicians in a representative democracy is a denigration of democracy itself."

What he's getting at here, and what I was trying to say at the beginning, is that there's a notion on the part of the government that if you get rid of politicians, you're somehow going to cure the problem. Let me tell you that is not going to happen.

You will be moving the power from the hands of elected representatives in Ontario to the hands of a very few within the Premier's office and nameless, faceless bureaucrats in the city of Toronto who will end up making decisions that should be made by the elected representatives of this province.

I don't know see how you're giving a great service to the people of this province in moving away from a system, where we have decided over a period of time that we should have elected representatives, to represent us within the goings-on of government and moving to the system you're proposing. I think it is dangerous and that in the end you're undermining the very values of what democracy is all about. That is not going to serve us well in the long run.

We have developed, over the years, a system of democracy that we are all proud of. The very tenet of democracy is to make sure we have elected representatives, who come for their own reasons, based on ideological beliefs and wanting to serve their community, to go to an elected body such as the Legislature of Ontario and represent the people of their constituency. The moment you move away from that and say, "Well, somehow we're going to get better government by having fewer MPPs and less government," you're moving to a system that I think we fought hard not to get into, a system of dictatorship. To make our democracy work, you have to have elected representatives there as watchdogs, people who are not worried about looking over their shoulder to see if their supervisor is going to be making bad comments or having repercussions in the event that the system itself breaks down and doesn't serve the constituent.

One thing we can do as elected representatives, because we have only one boss, the people at the electoral polls every five years, to get re-elected is to speak out on behalf of those individuals. Having fewer of us is going to mean that's a problem.

Un point de cette législation que le gouvernement a fallu déclarer comme problème, c'est la question de ce que ça veut dire pour la communauté francophone de l'Ontario. On sait en Ontario qu'il était toujours très difficile, en tant que francophones, d'être élus en nombre ici à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario. On est chanceux dans un Parlement si on a une dizaine de membres de la communauté francophone qui peuvent venir ici à la Législature pour parler pour leur communauté et qui sont capables d'oeuvrer pour avancer les questions qui sont importantes à la communauté francophone de l'Ontario.

Mais étant donné la manière dont le gouvernement fait le changement faisant affaire avec ce projet de loi, il va devenir plus difficile pour les francophones d'être élus, parce que les comtés qui sont les plus affectés par les changements que le gouvernement propose dans cette législation sont justement les comtés dans le nord-est de l'Ontario où la population francophone est très grande, et aussi dans les comtés de l'est de l'Ontario où les francophones se trouvent en majorité dans beaucoup de circonscriptions.

Par exemple, dans les circonscriptions de Cochrane-Sud et Cochrane-Nord, ces deux communautés, on se trouve pas mal majoritairement francophones. Il y a toujours la possibilité d'élire des francophones dans ces deux comtés-là parce que les francophones ont plus l'habilité de se présenter dans ces comtés-là et d'être acceptés par les électeurs.


En allant avec un comté, comme ils vont faire avec Cochrane-Nord et Cochrane-Sud, quand ils vont avoir le nouveau comté de Timmins-James Bay, ça veut dire qu'on va avoir un seul comté au lieu de deux où on a la chance de gagner comme francophones. On peut dire la même chose pour le comté de Sudbury-Est et pour le comté de Nickel Belt. En diminuant les comtés dans le nord-est de l'Ontario au nombre que vous dites, ça veut dire qu'il va y avoir trois comtés de moins dans notre communauté du nord-est de l'Ontario pour les francophones d'avoir la chance de se faire élire.

Est-ce que ça veut dire que seulement des francophones ont besoin d'être élus ? Non, ce n'est pas la position que je prends. Je dis que c'est important que les francophones aient la chance de se présenter, qu'on puisse venir ici, qu'on puisse parler de la part de la communauté francophone et avoir l'habilité en nombre de tous les coins de la Chambre, conservateur, NPD, libéral, d'être capable de faire en sorte qu'on obtienne les services et milite pour les francophones et qu'ils vont avoir l'habilité aussi d'épanouir les services pour la communauté. Avec moins de députés, ça va devenir plus un problème. Je dis aux membres du gouvernement que c'est quelque chose dont vous avez besoin de prendre soin.

One of the things that needs to be said is that the government has the right to do redistribution, and that's not the argument here. I would say to the government simply this: If you want to change the boundaries and reduce the number of MPPs in Ontario, that's one thing. But traditionally, and also for good, legal reasons, we have done this process through a boundaries commission, and in its history approximately every 10 years the province has gone through a redistribution process by looking at the demographics of the areas within it, giving terms of reference to a boundaries commission to take a look at, in a fairly detailed way, what the new ridings should look like in the province.

In the past, in 1982 and I think prior to that in 1972, the boundaries commission was given terms of reference to take a look at those issues, to see what would be the best way to draw the boundaries and get good representation for the people of this province at the Legislature. What was important in 1973 and 1983, the most recent times this was done, the government of Ontario, then a Conservative government, said, "When you're doing this, there are a couple of things we want you to keep in mind."

The first thing they said was that we need to give terms of reference to the boundaries commission and that they should include that, when redistributing ridings, we need to look at the questions of community and diversity of interest, means of communication, topographical features, what the population trends are, the varying of rural electoral districts, existing boundaries of municipalities or wards and special geographic considerations. All those considerations were taken into account when the commission went out and did its work.

They would come back to the Legislature, through the cabinet, and make a recommendation about what the new boundaries should look like in the end. Only after that fairly exhaustive process did we have legislation that we as legislators had looked at, that we as members had an opportunity to debate the details of. Then we would go out and do our own public hearings to make sure that the people of Ontario had an opportunity to look at the final result. Only after all that was there a final debate in the Legislature of Ontario.

The difference in what the province is doing here today is that they're basically saying: "We are moving, we are doing it. We are not going to take a look at any terms of reference. We are not going to listen to anybody's points of view other than those people who we believe have the same point of view as us. We're doing it because the federal government boundaries make sense." There's no opportunity for communities anywhere in Ontario to really have their say about what this means to them, and I say to the government that's wrong. There hasn't been, to my knowledge, an attempt by any provincial or federal government in Canada to move the way you have, to redesign all the boundaries within a particular area by a simple act of the Legislature or of the Parliament of Canada. It has always been done through a boundaries commission. In fact, in Ontario when we have gone through the boundaries commission process, the terms of reference also spoke to the issue of population densities.

For an example, in northern Ontario it was always agreed -- and it was the Bill Davis government the last time it was done. They said there are 15 seats in northeastern Ontario and those 15 seats must remain to give northern Ontarians an ability to have a voice at Queen's Park. It was done for a very good reason. If you look strictly at population levels within northern Ontario, an argument could possibly be made that we need less representation. But in reality you have to take geographic terms into consideration, as well as a need to have a sufficient ratio of MPPs at Queen's Park from the north, no matter what the political party, to represent the people of northern Ontario and to speak on their behalf.

But the government is not doing this in this legislation. They're saying: "We're going to go in and we're going to take five seats from northern Ontario. If you don't like it, too bad; that's just what we're going to do." I say to the government that that's wrong. That's not what we should be doing. We should be trying to do this in a way that makes some sense, to bring a bit of common sense to the process. But the government is not doing that. They are moving to a way of doing things that's quite heavy-handed.

In fact, at the committee hearings in the city of Timmins, which I had the honour of being able to go to, I listened to many presentations by the people who came there, only to be argued with by members of the government side. The member from Scarborough East -- I was surprised. Members of the community would come and present, and the minute there was a presentation that was opposed to what the government was doing, there was a combative attitude towards what those people were saying.

I don't expect the government to like what people say against them or the negative things they say about some of their policies. I was a member of a government and I understand that it is not a very comfortable feeling. But the difference is that governments in the past, our government and the Liberal government before that and the Bill Davis government even before that, always understood that people have the right to come and make their views known and that we as legislators should have respect and listen to what they have to say, not be combative with them about their particular point of view.

I was very shocked. Presenter after presenter who came before our committee and who had an opinion different from the government was badgered in questions by the member for Scarborough East and -- I forget the riding -- one of the other Conservative members as well. The same apparently happened in the community of Sault Ste Marie, from what I'm told.

I just say to the government members that people who come before a committee to present from our communities are not seasoned politicians, as we are; they're very intimidated by the process. It should be our responsibility to have the respect to hear what they have to say and give them the opportunity to express their views, and to politely thank them for coming out and giving us their views. If you're opposed and you have a question, you do that in a respectful way, but you don't beat them up.

I was really taken aback by that. People in my community had gone there and presented, and some of them were quite taken aback by what some of the members had to say, in regard to the combative attitude they took towards them. Sure, it's not easy for the government members to listen to how people in a constituency feel negative about their policies, but they have the right to give you that opinion, and second, you need to listen. Only by listening are we able to make legislation better and make government work better.

That is the crux of what this is all about. I want to say to the government that the real issue here, to me, is not reducing the number of politicians and it will make Queen's Park work better. Reducing the amount of MPPs at Queen's Park by 27 will only reduce the number by 27 and will save you money, apparently, in the neighbourhood of $10 million, if you believe the government figures. If that's the only goal you have for doing this, then I guess you've got some motive for doing it. But if you're doing this, as you purport it to be, to deal with parliamentary reform and give members more of an opportunity to participate in debate and to be able to make the House work better, reducing members by 27 ain't going to do nothing. It's not going to do anything to make this place work better.

If you really want to get to the issue of how this Legislature works and you're truly serious as members about making this House work better for individual MPPs so that people can have confidence in our political system, we should be talking about real parliamentary reform. I say to you as a New Democrat and I say to you proudly as a member of the New Democratic Party that I would be more than pleased to engage in such a debate with the members of the government, because I have had the opportunity, unlike many of you on the other side, to sit on both sides of this House. I understand how frustrating it often is for a backbencher member of the government to --



Mr Bisson: Well, it is. Come on. I understand what it is for backbenchers in a government to feel powerless in regard to what the centre is saying, the Premier's office. I also understand, from the perspective of being a member in the opposition, how frustrating it is to see a government act by sheer majority, knowing at times that you're not able to affect in a positive way, as you see it, the legislation coming before us.

What we're really missing here, if the government were serious, is that what we should be trying to tackle is a way to increase the confidence of the people of our province in the political process. As much as this government wants to speak against politicians and the political process, it is this political process and our system of government that has given us a standard of living we have today. If it wasn't for the democracy we have today and our legislative democracy as we know it, the standard of living in the province of Ontario and the standard of living in this country would not be what we enjoy today.

We have, through Parliament and the Legislature, enacted numerous pieces of legislation to give people rights, to level the playing field in the economy so that people could participate within the economy and reap the benefits of it. Governments, because of the system of parliamentary democracy we have, have also been able to play a very important role in making our economy work. But what has happened over a period of time is that people have, because of the kind of language this government uses -- and I say you're really purporting this -- lost confidence in politicians and lost confidence in the system of democracy we have today. That doesn't serve us well. That doesn't serve our province well and it doesn't serve this Legislature well.

What the government should be doing is trying to attack that particular issue: How do we restore the confidence in the people of Ontario towards our political process? And how do we give people within our constituency a voice so that when they like or dislike what a government is doing, they know they can have some effect on the outcome of what the government policies are? If the government were to come before the House today or tomorrow or whenever it might be and say, "Yes, we are going to do this," I can tell you the New Democratic caucus would be there with you. We'd be working along with the government to find ways of making this Legislature work better.

I understand, through rumours, as I hear them through the halls of this Legislature, that the government is contemplating rule changes in the Legislature.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): Rumour changes?

Mr Bisson: Rule changes; the standing orders. I'll tell you, we're spinning our wheels here. We're not really dealing with the real issue. You're going to deal with rule changes to limit the ability of members of the opposition and members of the back bench to get into debate and speak out on behalf of their constituents. I don't see that as being particularly useful.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): You talk about rule changes. Who changed the rules more than anybody? You did. At least we can only speak for an hour and a half.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Grey-Owen Sound, come to order, please.

Mr Bisson: I can give you firsthand advice, because I was a member of a government that did rule changes. To tell you the truth, some of those rules I wish we hadn't done. I don't have any problem in saying that.

I say again that if the government is serious about making changes to restore confidence, I would be there with you. And what can we do? There are a number of things we can do. A good example is the way we push legislation through this Legislature. It's really preposterous, it's really nuts when you think about it. If a cabinet minister of the province of Ontario --

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): We can look at it.

Mr Bisson: Exactly. I know you agree.

The way it works now, the Minister of Municipal Affairs says, according to the Premier's office or whatever the inner cabinet says, "We want to pass legislation that will change the structure of the city of Toronto, the city of York and all those other communities and make it a Metro city." What will happen is that the minister will come in, he will draft a bill through legislative counsel within the ministry and within the Legislature itself, and present a bill here almost as a fait accompli. We know, as members of this Legislature, that it's never done right in the first place. There are always all kinds of problems.

The point is that then the government is put on the defensive automatically. The minute the government comes in and introduces a bill, it has to defend it. They can't stand there and criticize their own legislation because they might be seen as being weak. I say that's wrong. I think the sign of a strong government is a government that can say: "Maybe we got it wrong. Maybe the way that we looked at it was a bit off. Maybe Joe Public or Jane Public has a good suggestion about how to make this legislation better, and maybe even a member of the opposition or member of the back bench of the government has a great idea." I know, for example, that within the government benches some very learned members of the backbench had worked at municipal levels of government as planners --

Mr Baird: Name them.

Mr Bisson: I'm not going to name the members. There aren't enough of you. I was stretching it there a bit, all right?

The point I'm making is that there is expertise in this Legislature as you see nowhere else. We have a cross-section of people who sit in this Legislature representing ridings who have all kinds of expertise, all kinds of experience and all kinds of abilities they can bring to making legislation better.

But what happens? The government introduces a bill -- and I don't care if it's Conservative, NDP or Liberal. It's the same story, right? They come in and they say, "I'm the Minister of Municipal Affairs and I would like to table this piece of legislation." The minute the bill drops on the centre table of the House, the government has to defend it and the opposition has to oppose it. It is nuts. It is absolutely nuts. Why don't we call a spade a spade?

Wouldn't we be better off talking in this Legislature about how we can change that process of introducing legislation so that the government maybe, as a possible suggestion, would come to the Legislature and say, "We, the cabinet of Ontario, through our Minister of Municipal Affairs, think we can save money if we were to restructure the city of Toronto, and we have a predisposed view that we should have one level called Metro," whatever it might be. "But here's some of the ideas we have. Here are some of the principles we have. Here are some of the numbers we have that back our argument, and we are tabling this for the clerks so a legislative committee can deal with drafting legislation based on some common sense for a change." Why don't we do that?

And then, members of the Legislature, I'll tell you what would happen: We would be fighting our way out that door to get to the committee so that we can speak out on behalf of our communities and on behalf of our parties. We would be adding constructively, I believe, to making legislation better because the government wouldn't have to defend the legislation and the opposition wouldn't necessarily have to oppose the legislation. The government and the opposition members could go to the legislative committee and bring forward points of view, engage in good clean debate, bring forward people able to present on all sides of the issue so we can get a good hearing about what good legislation would be on a particular issue.

It's not perfect. Listen, I don't pretend for a second that it would be a perfect system. But the beauty of it is that I think if we were to do that, many times legislation would come back into the Legislature that would be supported by all three parties. What a bonus that would be. The government would be able to, along with the opposition, come back to the Legislature and say, Madam Speaker -- oh, very nice to see you in the chair, Margaret, very nice. I should explain that to viewers back home, but it's a long story and I don't want to get into it.

Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing, Madam Speaker, if the committee was then to come back to the Legislature and say, "We report from this particular committee a piece of legislation that has been worked on by all three parties of the Legislature and this is what we believe should be done," whatever the proper wording should be. And then we get --

Mr Murdoch: That's why we have private members' hour.

Mr Bisson: Exactly, and I'll come to that in a second. You're right. The member for Grey-Owen Sound is 100% right. You are right-wing, there's no question about that. You're certainly not left, I can tell you that.

The point is that we would come back to the Legislature and we would have a much better product in the end. Members of the Legislature who didn't participate at the committee would then have an opportunity to debate the bill fully at second reading, again at third reading, and possibly committee, if it had to go back, and you might have, after that, a Legislature that works a little bit better. And you know what? The government still would get its way. The government in the end would still have the majority in the House to do what it wants, but it would be more forced to work with members of the opposition and all members in the House to make the legislation work better.

The member for Grey-Owen Sound raises the point, and I agree with him, that that's what happens normally at private members' hour. One of the only times during the weekly sittings that the Legislature works in a half-decent way, as far as I'm concerned, is private members' hour. A member stands, he or she in her place and says, "I have a bill," as you did, Madam Speaker, with drunk driving. You brought a bill into this Legislature to deal with fines and other issues in regard to drunk driving because you had a genuine concern, and it's a issue that we know in this Legislature you have felt strongly about for many years. I'm sure you were lobbied by many people and you met with many constituents, stakeholders. Are they special interest groups? But that's another thing.

In the end, you brought your bill here and the members of the Legislature debated it. You don't often get into partisan debate at private members' hour; that's not the intent. The intent is to deal with the bill and move the bill on. I can remember a private member's bill that the minister responsible for women's issues, Mrs Cunningham, brought when we were in government. There are all kinds of good ideas that come by.

Why don't we do that? That's one of the reasons I have a real problem supporting what you're doing under the Fewer Politicians Act. The Fewer Politicians Act will do absolutely nothing to make this place work better. If it does anything -- well, I don't think it'll make it work worse. It wouldn't be fair to say that. But it won't make it work better. I think it's a bit of a draw. The downside is that people will have less access to their MPPs.


The other issue we could be taking a look at, as well as changing the committee structure and giving committees more power, is, why don't we get into a debate about proportional representation? I know that's a very bold step for the province of Ontario to take, if we should ever decide to go to proportional representation. The members in this House know this, but I don't think members of the public know: I'm not talking rep by pop -- that's a different thing altogether -- but moving to a system of proportional representation such as exists in places like Germany, now in New Zealand and other countries that have long understood that in a system of Parliament such as we have with multiple parties, it is always conceivable, in fact most of the time it happens, that a government gets elected with less than 50% of the vote. I was a member of a government that had 34% or 36% of the popular support in the election of 1990. We had 34% or 36% of the support of the people of the province and we got to form a majority government? There's something wrong.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It doesn't make sense.

Mr Bisson: It doesn't make sense. You're members of a government that was supported by 42% of the people of Ontario. That's better than 36% but it's not 50%. Why do we have this system where we say that as long as you have more MPPs on this side of the House, you're automatically the government? It doesn't necessarily mean that you got a majority of votes in the province. Why don't we look at what they've gone in New Zealand? Members are always fond of talking about the Internet and about telecommunications. Punch up on the Internet what they've done in New Zealand, which started in -- is it starting in 1997 or have they already had their election?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): I'd like to remind the member for Cochrane South to address your remarks through the Chair and try to resist the temptation to respond to comments across the floor.

Mr Bisson: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker

Why don't we as members of this Legislature deal with the question of looking at the possibility of moving to proportional representation? Here's how it works. It's quite simple. Well, it's quite simple but it's a little bit complicated to explain. But how it works is simply this: What happens at the end of the election is that if a party has 38% of the vote, they get 38% of the seats in the Legislature. Let's work our way through the structure to see what would have happened. In the election of 1990, the Bob Rae NDP government would have been formed but they would have been in effect a minority government. We would have had 36% or 38% of the seats in the House and the two opposition parties would have split according to whatever their percentage of the vote was last time. In this case, in 1995 with the Mike Harris government, I believe you won with 42%, Madam Speaker?

Mr Crozier: No, no, they were closer to 38%.

Mr Bisson: The member is saying 38%, the Tories? I thought it was around 40%.

Mr Crozier: I'll go get the figures.

Mr Bisson: Anyway, let's say it's 40%, just for the sake of argument. I've got 60%, but that's --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): It'll be a lot less the next time.

Mr Bisson: What would have happened in the last election of 1995 is that the Harris Conservatives would have formed a government on that side of the House, but the difference is that they would have had approximately 40% of the seats in the Legislature; the Liberals, who had the next amount of votes, would have got about 30% of the seats; and we in the NDP would have had the balance, which was about 22% when the election was done. What that does is that it virtually forces the government to work with the opposition parties, because very seldom would any government be formed with more than 50% of the vote. It would be almost impossible to do in a multiparty system such as we have, with three mainstream parties being represented at the polls.

I put that idea forward because I think it's one of the ways that we're able to deal with the whole question of how we represent people here in the House. Let's explore what would happen under proportional representation.

A controversial bill that our government put forward was the Long-Term Care Act. I remember that members of both the Liberal and the Conservative opposition were very upset when our government moved to introduce long-term-care legislation in Ontario. It would have forced us, as a government, because we wouldn't have had a clear majority of members in the House, to work with either one of the opposition parties or a combination of members in those parties to develop legislation that would have broad enough support to be passed in the Legislature.

Mr Crozier: Sounds like common sense to me.

Mr Bisson: Yes, it sounds like common sense to me. If you take a look at the government, for example, when the government introduced Bill 26, the omnibus bill, last fall at this time the government would never have been able to do that because they would have needed the majority of the people of the House to support it.

What does that do? It does a couple of things. I think that first it tempers the government. It tempers a socialist-ideological government like mine and a right-wing-ideological government like yours. It forces us to look at: "How can we get this through? How can we make this work in some way that'll have enough broad support in the House that we're able to pass the legislation?" That would force the government of the day to work with the opposition parties to find some kind of compromise, and I don't think compromise would be a bad thing.

I think one of the things we're suffering from in our political process today is that over at least the last 10 years, if not longer, the province has been going through this to-ing and fro-ing of governments changing and going through a turmoil. We go from kicking out a right-wing, right-of-centre government under the Tories and move to another right-of-centre government -- maybe some would argue a little bit left -- the Liberal government of David Peterson, we move to the left-wing government of Bob Rae and back to a right-wing government of Mr Harris, and in the meantime the public is caught up in that.

The problem you get I think creates a lot of instability within our society. We need to find some way in our modern democracy today to try to control that ebb and flow to a certain extent so we don't have the vast changes in public policy that I think are hurtful to people. I would say that our government and your government are probably the two most idealistic to ever have formed governments in Ontario. Between our government as a left-wing, left-of-centre party and yours as a fairly right-wing party vast differences in public policies are being changed, and the people are caught up in it. Good, bad or indifferent, liking or disliking right-wing politics has nothing to do with our left-wing politics. The point I make is that the public is the pawn in this. The pawns are the public. They're the ones who are having to pay for our idealistic beliefs and the massive changes in public policy.

I argue that moving to a system of proportional representation would force the government of the day to work with the opposition parties to try to temper its position in regard to workfare in this particular case, the tax break or whatever piece of legislation it is, so that it has broad enough support. What's wrong with that?

Governments are a funny thing, and your government is no different from mine. You're not supposed to divulge what's said at caucus, so I'd better keep that quiet. What I'm trying to get at is that if we can't pass the test of the Legislature in passing legislation through by having people of different ideological beliefs and people of different points of view buy in, how do we expect the public to buy into this stuff? I think it would be fairly difficult.

The government should take a look at bringing forward proportional representation. It's not easy. It would be a departure from what we have today. It would certainly be confusing at the beginning, but if we, as governments and opposition parties, really tried to deal with this in some sort of structured fashion that made sense, I think in the end the public would see the merit of it.

I was surprised when about a month ago I was invited to be the guest speaker at a conference of certified general accountants in my riding. They were in from all over northeastern Ontario. One of the questions they asked me was: "Listen, we went from the NDP government to the Harris Conservative government and possibly back to an NDP government again and we're going through this massive change of public policy. What can we do to deal with that?" When I raised the idea of making changes in how legislative committees work, possibly, or going to proportional representation -- these were right-wing ideologues, most of them, not left-wingers -- they sat there and said: "Jeez, that makes real common sense." Wouldn't that be nice, having a system that works a little bit better? It's a little like the private sector tries to do in some cases.

I say to the government that we should take a look at real parliamentary reform and not do strictly electoral reform that in the end is not going to do anything to make this place work better. I believe there's hardly a member in this Legislature who would disagree with me on that point. The problem is that we're all a little afraid to bring that forward because it's a very large departure from what we do today.


One thing we know on all sides of the House is that we would like to play a stronger role. Members of the government would like to be able to come on behalf of their constituents and say, "Listen, Mike," or whoever it is, "I've got a problem with this; I need to find a way to make this work for my community," and members of the opposition would like to do the same. What's wrong with that? It would only make government, in the end, work a lot better.

If the government is really not doing parliamentary reform, what is it doing? They're doing electoral reform. That's what you're doing here, strictly electoral reform, which is not going to do anything to make this place work better. The government argues that by going to electoral reform it's going to be able to do a couple of things. They say that having larger ridings is going to save the government some money because we'll have fewer MPPs. I wonder how much money we're really going to save.

I'll give you the example of Cochrane South and Cochrane North. In the next provincial election we will have one riding. It'll be called Timmins-James Bay. Presently it is staffed up by two MPPs with their staff. Mr Len Wood in Cochrane North has, I believe, three people on staff in his constituency and I have three people on staff in my constituency. Come next election there's only going to be one of us, which means that people are going to have less access to our offices, because nobody is talking about increasing our budgets at this point. If you do, it's going to end up costing us more money anyway, so what are you saving? That is the point I'm getting at. But from a service perspective, people in our ridings are going to have less of an ability to contact the member to deal with an issue.

The other thing in regard to electoral reform is that I don't think you're taking into account what it means for these communities, and I'll use our ridings as an example. I believe that Mr Len Wood, the member for Cochrane North, and myself, the member for Cochrane South, give good service to our constituents, as did the members before us. One was a Tory and the other one was a Liberal. We believe in doing that because that's the reason we come to these jobs. We care about our communities, we care passionately about issues and we're there in order to be able to advance those issues, represent our constituents and help them along the way.

Come next election you're going to have one member. Here's the problem we're going to have: If the member is elected from the area that is now Cochrane South or the area that is now Cochrane North, he or she will have to have a constituency office somewhere.

Mr Len Wood: But where?

Mr Bisson: Where will it be? That's what the member for Cochrane North says. That's the point.

Mr Len Wood: We'll have both. We'll have Cochrane-Timiskaming and Timmins-James Bay.

Mr Bisson: Exactly. We're going to have very little bit of resources. I don't know how it's going to be done unless the government is prepared to address the idea of finances. All I know is that on the given budget I have as an MPP there is no way you can staff up to the level we do now two constituency offices in Kapuskasing and Timmins, and that's wrong. You can't take an office out of Kapuskasing and out of Timmins. In many cases it's the only access people have to their provincial government. So the government is going to have to increase our budget. Whoever the new member in Timmins-James Bay is going to be, they'd better be prepared to spill in about another $80,000 a year -- actually more than that; they're going to have to put a minimum of $150,000 in the budgets with the new electoral boundaries to make sure we're able to provide service to people in both ends of the constituency.

The other issue is that whoever the member is, from Cochrane North or Cochrane South, travel is going to be much more expensive. The government argues -- listen to the logic here -- that it's going to be less expensive because we'll have fewer MPPs causing fewer expenses. If either I or Mr Wood is the member in the next riding, we've still got to go to Kapuskasing, to Hearst, to Timmins, to Attawapiskat, and to the point that we do now. We're going to end up having to incur expenses anyway. We're still going to have to drive the car, his truck, whoever the member is at the time, up and down the highway to service those constituents. We're still going to have to buy airplane tickets to get up to Attawapiskat or Moosonee or wherever it might be. You're not going to save a whole bunch of money. The government will have some expenses going up.

You say you're doing this to save money. What money are you really saving in the end? The government looks at the numbers from the best possible scenario. They say 27 MPPs plus their staff equals $11 million: money saved. You don't talk about, in that $11 million, having to reinvest back into MPPs' budgets money to service constituencies. In our constituency, which is two that will be down to one, you'll have to increase the MPP's budget for office staff, for constituency offices and telephones and all the things that are needed to run an office and you'll have to increase the budget to be able to deal with driving and transportation in the riding. If you don't, how are you expected to run from Hearst to Kapuskasing to Smooth Rock Falls to Timmins and Attawapiskat? We can't go out there and rent sled dogs. Even they eat dog food. You've got to pay for it somehow. So I say to the members opposite, I say to the government, if you're talking about saving money, in many cases you're not going to save money; it will actually cost more money.

I would argue that by having one MPP you'll probably end up spending a little bit more money in a place like Timmins-James Bay than you would now. Either that or the member doesn't take his or her responsibility and doesn't service those constituencies. That's not what I plan to do and I'm sure that's not what Mr Wood would intend on doing should he or I become the member for that next riding. I say to the members opposite, you can't come here and argue strictly that you're going to save a whole bunch of money by being able to come to this.

The other thing I just want to say from a personal perspective is that members of the government -- not members of the government only; this would be unfair -- members in urban ridings have to understand that in ridings such as ours it is a fairly difficult task to get around and service those ridings. By reducing the amount of MPPs, it's really going to put a fairly large amount of stress on members and their families, because we're going to be required to be away from home quite a bit more than we are now.

I want to quote to you from a presentation that was made by Mr René Fontaine, a previous member for Cochrane North, who came to our committee in Timmins to speak on that particular issue. I just explained that Mr Fontaine was the member for Cochrane North for five years. As a cabinet minister of that particular government, he was required to travel a lot, between his responsibilities as a cabinet minister and as an MPP, within that riding, all of which took a toll. It took a toll on him and it took a toll on his family, and when he heard that the committee was coming to Timmins to talk about making the ridings bigger, he came before us and he said to us a number of things in regard to what he thought that would mean on a personal basis. I just want to repeat this because I think it's worth saying. We're afraid to stand up here and say, "We politicians are humans too and we would like, at the end of the day, to have an opportunity to be with our families, to have supper, to see our children grow, to spend quality time with our spouses, to be members of a family that is somewhat functional."

These jobs, as it is now, are fairly difficult. The demands -- I think all members would agree with me -- on our families for us doing this job are tremendous. We put our spouses in stress, we put our children in stress, because we're always required to be away -- not always, but quite a bit -- because of our jobs. If you represent a riding such as mine or such as Mr Wood's, Mr Martin's or Mr Pouliot's, the time away from our spouses is even greater because of where we live. I have to travel down here. Either I need to drive down on Sunday or I've got to fly out on Monday morning and be gone from my family for four to five days during the week when the Legislature sits, because that's what I'm paid to do. I chose to do this. I'm not complaining, but I expect that the province of Ontario, as any employer, will give me some consideration as a member and say, "Yes, you have the right to expect to have some time with your family." That's what Mr Fontaine spoke to. It's fairly strong language, but none the less it needs to be put on the record. He said:

"I came over here to tell you it's inhuman for this riding the way it's going to be. Inhuman. Immoral on top of that. I'm telling you, a young MPP with family, she won't survive" -- he's referring to the spouse in this particular case -- "it'll be a divorce. We don't sleep home every night and we've got a hard time to sleep home on the weekend when we do come home because on the way through from Cochrane to Smooth Rock Falls to Kap I had to stop in Val Rita for a 50th anniversary."

So possibly he would stay over at night. He'd come home on Saturday night and would end up having to leave the next day at 12. Both he and another MPP, Mr Bill Ferrier, who came before us, who was the member for Cochrane South from 1967 to 1977, talked about the personal points about this. If you're expecting MPPs to have to service larger ridings, it will take a larger toll on those MPPs and their families, and if the Mike Harris government says it doesn't care about families and it doesn't care that it's going to be greater stress on those families, I say shame on Mike Harris, because that's what this is going to do. For the name of what? For saving a few dollars.

The member might shake his head, but the reality is that it's true. If you've got a larger riding, you're going to be drawn away a lot more, and if you're drawn away a lot more, it puts a larger stress on family. As a member who's been around this place for a while, I am privileged to be here. I really enjoy the work I do and I wouldn't want to give it up for anything else. But what I do expect in return, because I get it from my constituents, is the respect to spend some time with my family. My constituents have been excellent about that, because they understand the work I do. But I also expect that respect from the government, and when I see the government moving in the way that it is now to diminish the number of ridings in the name of being able to save a few bucks, listen, in the end it is going to have a personal effect on people.


Another point that I think needs to be made is demystifying what this really means in the grand scheme of things. The government says, "We're going to do this because if we match the boundaries of the federal ridings, things are going to be a heck of a lot better. Boy, it's going to work real good, because we're going to have the same boundaries and everybody's going to know who their MPP is and everybody's going to know who their MP is and we're all going to be able to work better together and it's going to be altogether a much better thing."

On the first point, what we do at the federal level and what we do at the provincial level are different things. It doesn't matter if it's a Liberal who's my federal counterpart in Timmins-Chapleau or in Timiskaming or if it's a New Democrat, because I've had both. We don't deal with federal members as much as people would think we do; that's the reality. I've been there as a member of a government, with members of opposite parties and the same party as mine, and as a member of the opposition. The issues we deal with are completely separate, and I'll tell you, we get a lot more issues to deal with provincially than they do federally.

Our federal members deal with unemployment insurance, Canada pension, passports, immigration. Those are the big issues they deal with. But how often do people need passports? Once in their lifetime. How often do people need to deal with immigration? Probably never, unless they're immigrating to Canada. How often do people need to deal with unemployment insurance? Not as often, thankfully, as we would think.

But provincial members deal with a multitude of issues. We deal with workers' compensation, we deal with problems in the health care system, we deal with the General Welfare Assistance Act, we deal with the Family Benefits Act, we deal with a multitude of issues having to do with how you get a birth certificate; you name it, we do it. There is a much heavier workload. For government members to make a comment, as the member for Scarborough East did, that, "I don't expect it to be any different to the federal member than the provincial member," we don't do the same thing. We have a much larger caseload than federal members do.

The other thing I would like to point out is that we have to also recognize that the federal process for redesigning the boundaries was flawed. I've had this discussion with Mr Thalheimer, a federal member, and I've had this discussion with Mr Serré, the member for Timiskaming, and they themselves recognize, as federal Liberals, that the process we are going to go through with the new boundaries is flawed. They've had their problems being able to get this amended because of the problems they were having in the Senate at the time, but the point is that the way that the boundaries have been redistributed, even under the federal boundaries, doesn't make a lot of sense.

I'll give you an example. In the riding federally that is part of the provincial riding I represent, the community of Iroquois Falls is tied in with the community of Timmins. Under the new boundaries, we lose Iroquois Falls. Iroquois Falls is going to become a part of the riding to the south, which is Timiskaming, and Timmins is going to be folded in with areas from Smooth Rock Falls going north on Highway 11. Members federally have made the point to me that it's nuts to carve Iroquois Falls out of the riding, because Iroquois Falls and Timmins have a link.

People come to Timmins to see doctors, people come to Timmins to be able to deal with government officials, people come to Timmins to go shopping at times. People come to Timmins to buy insurance. They come to Timmins for all kinds of reasons because we're sort of the regional area. To take Iroquois Falls and to tie it in with Kirkland Lake -- people don't go that way unless they're going to Toronto. They don't stop in Kirkland Lake. If you get in your car and you get on Highway 101 and drive south towards Highway 11, you're not driving there to go to Kirkland Lake, by and large; you're going to Toronto.

So why take Iroquois Falls out of the riding? The federal members themselves recognize that it's a problem. Just because the Liberals got it wrong federally, why should Mike Harris allow the federal government to dictate bad boundaries to the province of Ontario? It's ludicrous. Since when did Ontario give away its power to decide what its boundaries are to the federal government? I've never heard of that in any jurisdiction. The federal government got it wrong in the first place.

The second thing you also have to recognize is that the federal government which made the changes to the federal boundaries that we're going to be under come the next election, when it came to Ontario increased the number of seats, not decreased the amount of seats in Ontario. Under the present boundaries federally, we have 99 federal members sitting in the House of Commons for Ontario. Under the new boundaries that will be coming up come the next election federally, we're going to have 103. We've increased the number of MPs in Ontario in regard to the House of Commons. In Ontario, we're doing quite the opposite. We will be the only province in Canada that has an equal amount of MPPs to the amount of MPs.

Every other province in the country -- British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and going east -- has more MPPs than it has federal members for a very good reason: because you need to give representation to the different regions of your provincial jurisdiction because you deal with many more issues, as I said earlier, than the federal government does. But this government is allowing the federal Liberal government of Mr Chrétien to dictate to Ontario what our boundaries should be. I say to our provincial government, they're wrong. We shouldn't absolve our responsibility to do that.

The other thing I say is that if you were to follow that argument all the way through and you were to say, "All right, we should all have coterminous boundaries," should the municipalities have coterminous boundaries with the provincial ridings? Should there be only one mayor for the entire riding of Timmins-James Bay? Should there be no municipalities other than one in the riding? Of course not, because municipalities deal with far more issues than we do in some cases. They're dealing with the everyday issues of has the road been plowed, are the sewers working, is the school yard safe, community policing, fire services etc. We recognize that at the municipal level of government we have smaller geographical boundaries when it comes to municipal wards to be able to represent the people within those communities.

Now, should we have fewer municipal politicians, should we have fewer MPPs or fewer federal MPs? I'm not so sure if we'll get anything of it, but I say to the government, listen, if you want to get into the debate, do it through the process of an electoral boundaries commission; don't do it through the process you're using now. I think you're wrong in doing that. Just because the federal government got it wrong doesn't mean to say that we have to copy the same mistakes. Send it to a boundaries commission and get them to do the job properly.

The other point I would like to make is what it means for northern Ontario. It struck me, it was clear as day as we sat on the legislative committee in Timmins and it was clear as day today as I listened to the member for Scarborough East speak on this bill, that we have a problem in northern Ontario and we've had a problem for years in making sure that the provincial government listens to the people of the north and gives people the opportunity to be able to determine their own way they're going to do things in regard to northern Ontario.

This government is going to be moving to reduce the number of MPPs in the northern part of the province by five, which means we're going to have less ability to be able to have our voices heard here. It also means we're going to have less of an ability to have members in cabinet as governments are elected, because there will be fewer MPPs to choose from. I'll tell you, in northern Ontario we understand far too well the importance of making sure we have strong representation.

I know southern members hate it when northerners come down to Toronto and start talking about what's important in the north, but I think one thing you've learned as government members is that no matter what the political party is, and I will say this, members from northern Ontario play a very strong role in this Legislature because we understand the importance of making sure that our voices are heard, and we play a fairly active role in the Legislature. But diminish our numbers and it will become much more difficult for us to be able to bring that voice to Queen's Park.

We in northern Ontario have argued for years that the provincial government needs to give special consideration to the north for a number of reasons: because of our geography, because of the demographics, because of our economy, because of the culture. We need to get special consideration, as does the city of Toronto, when it comes to legislation here in Ontario, as does Kingston. But by reducing the number of northern MPPs, you're going to do nothing to advance issues in northern Ontario.

I just want to say to you that there was not too long ago, I think some 20 years ago, but maybe not that long, maybe 15 years ago, a very strong movement in the north that was headed up by a man from North Bay by the name of Ed Deibel, who basically tried to head up a movement to separate the north from the south. I don't subscribe to that view. I believe that as northerners we're better off to be part of the family of Ontario and it's better to try to find processes within Ontario to make things work better for us in the north.

But there was a very strong movement 15 years ago on the part of this particular individual to sign people up to a new political party that saw as its mandate to advocate separation of northern Ontario from the province of Ontario. There were a lot of people in the north who supported that. At first I think people looked at it in a bit of a whimsical way, but eventually people started to say: "Yeah, we don't get a fair shake from Queen's Park. We look at the amount of money spent in transportation, and they get far more money than us." Northerners said, "We understand there are more people living in southern Ontario when it comes to population, but the road system in northern Ontario is huge in comparison to the south because of the geography."


People look at the map of Ontario and they never realize something: You look on the one side and you see southern Ontario; then you flip the map over, and you see this thing that's called northern Ontario and it looks about the same size as the south. To give you a perspective, we can take the entire area of southwestern Ontario and fit it into my new riding, from Sarnia all the way up to past Toronto, probably up to Oshawa, and from the Great Lakes working its way up to probably halfway between Barrie and North Bay. You can take all of southern Ontario and fit it into the northeast and lose it, because the north is a very huge place.

People said back then: "Yeah, we're not getting a fair shake. When the government spends money on transportation, it should send a few extra dollars our way in order to be able to upgrade our roads so we have a good road system so we can do commerce, so that we can visit ourselves, we can deal with other communities, we can go see our doctors when we need to when it comes to medical attention." They said: "Listen, we want the government to spend money when it comes to the question of health care. Why should I as a northerner living in Timmins or Attawapiskat" -- or wherever it might be -- "have to always fly to Toronto every time I need some sort of a medical process?"

We argued and we argued, and we fought and we fought. People like Bill Ferrier and Alan Pope and me and others fought to be able to bring medical service to northern Ontario, to where today we have a fairly good system of health care in the north. We have the premier cardiovascular hospital in Sudbury, which the government is going to shut down, but that's another story for another day. The point is that we argued long and hard to be able to advocate special consideration for the north so that we can get the same crack at services as people do in southern Ontario. Finally we started to get people to listen to us.

Bill Davis saw this move that was happening with Mr Deibel out of North Bay and saw this whole move to separate the north from the south. At that time, there were a lot of Tory MPPs in northern Ontario -- Alan Pope and a whole bunch of other people who were northerners; I think you probably had the majority of seats at the time -- and all of a sudden they started saying, "Jeez, if we don't pay attention to northern Ontario we're going to be in deep trouble up there politically." So they started to give us special consideration, and the government started investing, under the Tories, under the Liberals and under the NDP, in our communities to develop better infrastructures, to make sure that we have good health care, to make sure that we have good educational systems.

Eventually that movement died, but it wasn't by accident; it died because government started to pay attention. But I'll tell you, when you go to northern Ontario today I am shocked just how much things have changed in the past year. There's a member, the federal member from Timiskaming, Mr Serré, who was at a rally not too long ago -- I think it was in Temagami -- who just in a speech made a comment about separating the north from the south. Basically, 1,000 people there stood and gave him a standing ovation. They went nuts.

You know what? I got phone calls in my constituency office, and I'm sure that he got some as well, the member from Thunder Bay. We got telephone calls in our constituency offices, people saying: "How do I get one of them cards? How do we separate?" We as northern members said: "Hang on a second. We need to work within the system. We need to make sure that we get Mike Harris to listen to us. Separating the north from the south might not be a good idea." But people are starting to get the idea that maybe that's what we should do.

When government comes forward and says, "We're going to cut winter road maintenance," as you did last year, where we're seeing accidents in northern Ontario increase to the point I've never seen before, road conditions deteriorate; when you see the reduction of expenditures in health care -- I can tell you in the district of Cochrane, the hospitals from Timmins, Matheson going north, we've lost about $4 million in institutional care. The Minister of Health stands in the House and says, "Ah, but we're reinvesting it in community health care." I asked the minister an order paper question, and what did I get back? I said, "How much money have you cut in health care last year in the institutions and hospitals in the Cochrane district, and how much have you reinvested?" Some $4 million was taken out. Do you know how much was reinvested? About $400,000. I'm not a rocket scientist, but it tells me it's going to be more difficult with that direction for people to get services when it comes to health care.

The same can be said about education. I met with the separate school board not too long ago, and I've had discussions with the public school boards as well, about how they're going to adapt to the changes the government is making when it comes to reductions and expenditures. They're cancelling the purchase of computers for the classroom because with the cuts they can't afford to buy them. They're having to reduce the number of staff they need to maintain the facilities, so that facilities are going to start deteriorating with time. Not today, not this minute, but with time they will. They're going to have to reduce the number of teachers; either that or the government's going to have to give them a bill, which I will oppose if it does it, that guts the collective agreements of teachers.

All of this towards trying to eliminate a few dollars to be able to give a few people a tax break, and what do we get in the end? You wonder why people in northern Ontario are mad at this government. I don't think it's a secret; somebody said this earlier in a speech. It's no secret that the Tories didn't elect Conservatives in northern Ontario. I think the north saw what was coming. People picked up the Common Sense Revolution, read it and went, "Not for me."

I've got to tell you this story; it's my favourite story of the last election. I'm not going to use names because it wouldn't be fair. I'm out canvassing and I'm in one of the smaller communities in my riding and I go knocking at the door, right? I knock at the door and the woman says: "Come on in, Gilles. What do you have to say?" I say, "It's election time." I gave her my pitch. She says to me: "Oh, Gilles, no, I can't vote for you. I'm mad at Bob Rae so I'm going to be voting for Mike Harris because he's going to give me a job. I'm on welfare, you see, and I want to get off of welfare. I hear him saying he's going to create workfare and I'm going to get myself a job. So I don't want to have nothing to do with you and the NDP. I'm mad at you and I'm mad Bob Rae." Okay, fine; I leave. About three weeks later I come back running back through that part of the riding again. I noticed there had been a Conservative sign there when I went the first time. I go back and the Conservative sign is gone. So I say, "Gee, what happened?" "Gilles, give me an NDP sign. I just read the Common Sense Revolution." That's what I think a lot of people in northern Ontario finally did; they picked up the Common Sense Revolution and they said: "Look what these guys are going. They're dismantling government."

We understand in northern Ontario that government is not an evil, bad, vile thing; government is actually something positive. If you want to have healthy communities, and you want to have communities that work for people, there has to be an "engagement," as we say in French, by the part of the government to provide those services to the people of the province. If we don't have good government and we don't have good programs, our communities fall apart. We understand that. Do you think the economy of northern Ontario would survive today if it was not for the active involvement on the part of governments provincially and federally, as we know it today?

The economy of northern Ontario was developed, how? If you look at the history, the T and O Railway, which was something that was designed by the provincial government back early on at the beginning of the century with government money, was a tool to do economic development. As they pushed the rail line north, with government dollars, what did we do? We ended up discovering all kinds of resources when it came to mining. We started looking at how we could better exploit the use of our forests. There was economic development out of that.

Once the railroad was in the government said: "We need to build schools because people are going to go work in those places and they want to live there and they want their children to be educated. That costs money and it's not the private sector that's going to do it." Do you think that the mines in Cobalt or Kirkland Lake or Timmins were going to go out and build schools for the good of it, because they wanted to attract employees to their communities? No, government had to do it. That's the role of government. It's not a question of having a little corner school house or a one-room school house with a potbelly stove in the corner where children learn to read all out of the same book. It costs money to run schools. You have to have a facility that lends itself to education, you have to have books, you have to have computers, you have to have trained professionals, all of which are functions of government.

This government would make us believe, as it does through this bill, that government is unimportant: "Get rid of a whole bunch of MPPs. Everything's going to get better." It's not going to get better. Government can play and has to play a positive role in our communities, and we in northern Ontario understand that. I believe that's one of the reasons why consistently since the election (a) you didn't elect any members other than the Premier and (b) you haven't done well in the polls up there. People in the north understand that. They understand that the government can and must play a vital role when it comes to economic development.


My good friend Sylvie Doucette at the Timmins Economic Development Corp -- we are not of the same political party; she is of yours -- but she understands --

Mr Beaubien: A great lady.

Mr Bisson: Yes, she is a great lady. I think Sylvie does a great job.

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Does Alan Pope understand?

Mr Bisson: I'm not going to speak for Alan. I think Alan wouldn't have very nice things to say about you guys.

Anyway, the point I'm getting at is that she understands that economic development doesn't happen on its own. We in the city of Timmins established an economic development office that is funded and run by the city of Timmins through a board. It is government dollars through the municipality that pay for the activity of the economic development corporation of the city of Timmins. Why? Because it's important that we are able to facilitate people to come to our community and to show them what we have to offer to them, to put them in contact with other entrepreneurs in our community, to raise investment, to open the doors and show them where they need to go when it comes to dealing with government. They understand that it takes public dollars quite often to get private sector dollars to be invested in our communities.

I was proud as a member of a government from 1990 to 1995 that saw huge sums of private sector dollar investments in our communities across my riding, almost $1 billion. I'm not kidding. Placer Dome, a $150-million investment -- it turned out to be about $165 million -- the expansion of the waferboard mill at Mallette, a brand-new expansion of an OSB plant; the expansion of the TMP plant in Iroquois Falls at Abitibi-Price; the tertiary treatment plant that we put in place in Iroquois Falls; the Northland Power project that we put in place in Iroquois Falls; the Mallette granite facilities. The list goes on and on.

Those were private sector dollars that came to our community. But they happened how? Not because the government willed it. No, I don't want to delude people into believing that. But the government played, through the economic development offices and through my office, a very key role in being able to facilitate those investments and make those things happen. I would argue that if it wasn't for the activities of people in the economic development office and people like myself through my own constituency office as the provincial member, many of those investments wouldn't have happened.

So when government says, "Government is bad. We should get out of the face of business. We should let business do things on its own," quite frankly a lot of things wouldn't happen. The private sector would not invest to the degree that it invested in northern Ontario because it is a simple fact that geography -- the distances from major markets -- is a difficulty for northern Ontario entrepreneurs to market the goods they produce or the services they sell. Government has to play a role in supporting the infrastructure of making things work. We need to make sure that we have a good airline system so that business people and people who work in their companies are able to travel to and from our communities at a reasonable rate. It is much more expensive now, I would add, with the onset of privatization of airlines.

I said yesterday in another debate that under Air Canada, a publicly owned airline that was federally regulated by the government, we could fly return to Timmins for $180 on a DC-9 jet, and they supplied you the meal. Now we spend $600 on a privately owned carrier, a Dash-8. I like the Dash-8, it's a nice little aircraft, but I'll tell you, I'm used to it. A lot of people I see, when they get on the plane, say: "This is not a jet. Kind of small, isn't it?" It has an effect of scaring off people who may come and invest in our communities.

You have to have a good system of highways so that you can move to and from our communities materials we need for producing and exchanging goods and when it comes to the production and the selling of those materials. You need to have a good system of telecommunications. I'll tell you, the private sector on its own would not develop a system of communications in northeastern Ontario. That's why the government, through the ONTC, invested heavily in long-distance services.

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): What does that have to do with Bill 81?

Mr Bisson: Listen, it wouldn't happen. We don't have the population base in many communities to afford the same kind of services you get in downtown Toronto. Fibre optics wouldn't happen on its own unless government played some role. What I'm saying to the government is that people in northern Ontario understand that government can and must and shall play an important role in helping our communities along, in levelling the playing field, as we may say, between northern and central and southern Ontario so that we could compete on an equal footing.

We also understand in the north that at times government must regulate. One of the things this government is so proud of talking about is the undoing of all of the regulations that exist in the province of Ontario in regard to the environment, in regard to labour and many, many other issues that the government members and the members of the private sector see as a hindrance to investment. But if we don't regulate to a certain extent, you're going to have a free-for-all.

There are all kinds of examples, Madam Speaker, as you well know as the critic for environment for our party, of how the environment has been laid to waste in the name of making a profit. Does it make sense to do that? Sometimes both economically and ecologically it makes no sense. So we must regulate to a certain extent what happens. We must make sure that people take their responsibilities and we must make sure if they don't, we're able to deal with them in some way to be able to bring them under some form of control. But this government says, no, leave it all to the private sector. I say to the government, that's wrong. Government must and shall play an important role when it comes to levelling the playing field and regulating what happens within sectors in the province, so I would like to make that point.

As I say to the members opposite, really what this government is doing is moving on a platform of electoral reform. It is saying, "We are doing this because we don't believe in government, we believe smaller government is better and we believe less government is even better than that." You're moving on this bill by saying if you eliminate MPPs by 27 in Ontario things will be better. Well, I say to you, you're wrong. It is not going to do anything to be able to deal with making this House work better.

As I said earlier, if you were serious about making this House work better, you would deal with the real questions of parliamentary reform, you would deal with how legislative committees work in this Legislature, trying to find a way to make the Legislature work in a little bit less of a non-partisan way, and you have the power to be able to do that, and we would possibly look at moving into a system of proportional representation.

The other thing I say to the government is that if you're going to move forward with this kind of legislation you have, it is a great mistake to do it in the way you have, to just bring a bill into this House. You are basically as a government saying, "I give the power to Jean Chrétien and the federal Liberals in Ottawa to decide what the constituencies shall be in Ontario because I will mirror his boundaries." I don't, for one, accept that the federal government has jurisdiction in deciding what the boundaries should be in the province. If the government wants to change the boundaries, fine, but do it through a boundaries commission. That's the way you've got to do it.

Let people have their say in communities across the province, give it terms of reference, and then bring it back to this House so we can introduce it as legislation so that a bit of common sense comes into play when it comes to this whole issue of redistribution. In that process, if you want to reduce the amount of MPPs, I'd say fine again. But let's do it with a bit of common sense. Don't take communities like Iroquois Falls out of the ridings that are connected to Timmins. It doesn't make any sense. Don't take Matheson out. There's less of a connection with Matheson and Iroquois Falls to Kirkland Lake. It doesn't make any common sense at all. People come this way, people come to Timmins. So I say to the government members, you're wrong.

The other thing is that I've got to clarify for the record a couple of comments the member for Scarborough East made in his comments here on this bill. He had the audacity to stand in this House and say that, as he travelled through northeastern Ontario, northwestern Ontario, not one person came before the committee from an urban centre of northeastern or northwestern Ontario and spoke against the government's bill.

Madam Speaker, I can't say anything unparliamentary on that subject in regard to his comments, but let me tell you, he is sadly mistaken. There are people who came in droves across the north from urban centres, because that's the only place the committee went, and when people came to Timmins, the people who spoke in Timmins at the hearings by a majority, 90% of them, said: "Are you nuts? What are you doing? We don't want you to reduce the amount of seats in northern Ontario by five."

People like Mayor Vic Power, the mayor of the city of Timmins, who represents a fairly large urban centre, I would say --

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): And Timmins is an urban centre.

Mr Bisson: Yes, Timmins is an urban centre. He was opposed. He said, "Don't do this." In fact he went out and fought against the Liberals federally, his own party, to get them to stop doing what they were doing.

Mr Len Wood: Gilchrist thinks he's still working in a Canadian Tire store.

Mr Bisson: I'm going to come to that in a second. The other one was Mr Doody, the chair of the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association, again a representative alderman, a former mayor of the city of Timmins, another urban centre in northern Ontario, who came before you and said, "Don't do this, it's nuts." People from across the community, people from the Social Action Coalition Timmins, Mr Ray Séguin, Mrs Joyce Warren, others who came before this committee and who presented said: "Don't do this. It doesn't make any sense."

When the member for Scarborough East comes into this House and says people in the north thought this was a good thing, he is not representing what he heard at those committees. I think the guy has still got his head stuck in a Canadian Tire store on a price ticket or something, because that's not what people in northeastern Ontario and northwestern Ontario had to say.

The other thing I would say about the member for Scarborough East is that he was, I thought, very combative with presenters who came before the committee, and I think the government members should have a chat with him. I got complaints about how he badgered the witnesses who came before the committee wanting to present in a way that was really unbecoming to a government member. People really felt intimidated by him in regard to how he treated them in his questioning on their presentations, and I think he was wrong.


Mayors from across northeastern Ontario came to the city of Timmins -- the mayor's representative from the town of Hearst, the mayor of Smooth Rock Falls, the mayor of Chapleau, the mayor of the city of Timmins, and I think there was a representative from the community of Cochrane as well -- came before the committee and said: "Don't do this. We don't want you to do it. It doesn't make any sense." The chamber of commerce in the town of Hearst, the chambers of commerce of other northeastern Ontario municipalities said no.

The chamber of commerce of the city of Timmins said yes. I'll at least try to represent their view. But they said there are some problems in the way you're doing it. They said, "We agree with the direction the government is taking, but the ridings will be big and that will represent a problem." They also pointed out that the synergies between communities like Iroquois Falls and Matheson will be lost with redistribution, and they thought it was not a very well-thought-out move to take Iroquois Falls and Matheson out of the riding of Cochrane South.

So I say to the members opposite, when the member for Scarborough East stands in this House and says all those people, the chambers of commerce from across northern Ontario and all the urban municipalities, were supportive, he's wrong.

The other thing he said, and I want to clarify the record, was that the member for Cochrane North was in favour of this legislation. Let me assure you neither the member for Cochrane North nor the member for Cochrane South is going to vote for this legislation, because we both disagree with the intent. We disagree with the loss of representation on the part of the north that this bill will represent to the people of northern Ontario.

We disagree because the ridings will be large and the ridings will be very difficult to service. The riding of Timmins-James Bay will stretch from the city of Timmins, north from Smooth Rock Falls, all the way up past Attawapiskat. That is a large, large area, some 800 miles in length, and we say that it's fairly difficult to service in the way the government expects us to do it with only one member.

We will be voting against this on the basis that we believe government must and should play a positive role in our communities, and by reducing the amount of MPPs, you are doing nothing but taking the power in Ontario away from elected representatives who represent the people of their constituencies and putting it in the hands of the few in the cabinet of Ontario, and worse still, you're going to be putting the power in the hands of nameless, faceless bureaucrats, who will have the power to do things with no public accountability.

The member for Cochrane North and the member for Cochrane South are going to vote against it because we believe this flies in the face of democracy. Democracy is a system that is based on the tenet that we elect representatives to come to the Legislature of Ontario to speak on behalf of the constituents. Reducing the amount of MPPs in Ontario will do nothing to advance the voice of the people, and we say that the government should go back. It should, first of all, withdraw this legislation, and it should come back and introduce a bill that deals with real parliamentary reform, because what's at issue here is that the people of Ontario, and generally in Canada, feel very disfranchised from government and feel very ill about politicians generally.

What we need to do is turn our attention to trying to make our system of Parliament work better. How do we do that? We change the legislative process so that bills are not introduced in the way they are now but are dealt with within a committee structure, so that people across the province and people from all parties are able to have meaningful dialogue and discussion and debate about how to make the bill better so that we can present bills in this House that have the broad support of all parties, not just the government party.

We also say we are going to vote against this on the basis of what it means to northern Ontario, because what you are doing, you are going to be taking away from the voice of the people of Ontario to this Legislature by reducing the amount of MPPs by five. To do what? In order to give a few people in Ontario, some of the wealthiest people in this province, a tax break. I say that's wrong. That's not what government should be all about.

I say, Madam Speaker, in wrapping up, that I will be voting against this legislation, along with the members of the New Democratic caucus, on the basis of what I have outlined in this lead speech today, and I wish that the members of the government would use a bit of common sense on this legislation and would try to take a look at this from the perspective of what a democracy is all about and move away from an ideological perspective that government is bad and that removing politicians from the equation is going to make things better.

With that, Madam Speaker, I would like to thank you very much for this opportunity to have debate. J'attends avec plaisir que dans les prochains jours on va avoir l'opportunité d'écouter plus de monde sur cette question et voir ce que le débat va donner à la fin de la journée faisant affaire avec ce projet de loi.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments? The member for Port Arthur.

Mr Gravelle: I want to compliment the member for Cochrane South on an excellent speech, particularly as he certainly is one of the best people in the House to try and explain to the members across the floor here just what are the realities in the north and what really is the reason why this is happening. If he will indulge me, I would like to refer back as well to the member for Scarborough East -- and the member for Cochrane South made reference to this -- talking about how there was no urban representation in terms of any of the hearings in northern Ontario.

If he wants to insult the north and in my case say that Dryden is not an urban riding, that just shows you how out of touch he is. If that's the case, certainly he obviously wasn't listening very carefully, because there were two groups from Thunder Bay: the Thunder Bay Coalition Against Poverty, which represents the interest groups of people who are economically disadvantaged -- they were there in Dryden expressing their concerns about this in terms of the geography and the realities -- and the Northwestern Ontario Women's Decade Council from Thunder Bay was in Dryden expressing that. Again it's certainly an insult that the member for Scarborough East did not recognize that.

Let me tell you another story about the member for Scarborough East which is fascinating. He made the point in his speech, and he certainly did it as well in Dryden, that this was something that was in the Common Sense Revolution and it was something they indeed promised to do. He was speaking to, almost berating, a representative from the Kenora Board of Education -- I can't recall her name -- and saying, "How would you feel if we made this promise and we broke it?" I must admit I was a bit concerned at the time and I thought, gee, a lot of pressure. She looked him dead in the eye and she said, "Well, you also promised not to cut anything in education," and absolutely sort of broke up the room -- much like they promised not to make any cuts to health care, much like they promised not to bring in any user fees.

The member for Scarborough East looked extremely foolish on a number of occasions. He simply is out of touch with the reality. I also could tell you that many of the Conservative members who were there were very overwhelmed, very impressed by the vast expanses, and I think recognized the need to keep 15 ridings.

The Acting Speaker: I'd like to apologize to the member from the government side. I didn't see him before, so I'm going to move back now.

Mr Murdoch: I understood you couldn't see me because there were too many people in the road. That was all right.

I just would like to say a few things about this bill, and first congratulate the member for going for an hour and a half on this bill. That's almost a record on this bill because I don't think it's one of the most important bills we're going to do in this House, but it's a bill that's going to --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): If you knew anything about northern Ontario, you'd understand.

Mr Murdoch: I do understand about northern Ontario. I do go up to northern Ontario quite a bit, I'd like to inform the members on the other side, and I do understand their concerns because I also have some concerns with the bill, believe it or not. So there you are. I think the unfortunate part is that the boundaries were drawn by the federal people and I don't think they understand how we work in Ontario. That's really unfortunate because they talk about how we have to have representation by population, but that doesn't work all over Canada even. If you look at Prince Edward Island, we have four seats there. I don't know what their population is but it's certainly --

Mr Wildman: About the size of Sudbury.

Mr Murdoch: Yes, about the size of Sudbury. So they've already got away from that. Now we're stuck on this thing that we have to have representation by population, but I think we should be looking at the area we have to travel, and that's where we do get to the north. So I do understand the problems up there and I also understand the problems where we don't look at municipalities.

We can take my riding. I think it's a very good riding now. It's all of Grey county and the city of Owen Sound. I even had a private member's bill. We changed the name of my riding from Grey to Grey-Owen Sound to recognize the city.

Mr Wildman: I supported it.

Mr Murdoch: Yes, that's right. All the members supported it because it made some sense. Now we're at a point that we're going to change the ridings and change a lot of things around. I think the problem is that we're going with the federal ridings and it would have been nicer to have some more input with the federal people to be able to change this.

So I do have some problems with this bill. I agree with the theory behind it that we can do as much work as the MPs can do. I believe our MPPs are every bit as good as the MPs, so we can do that. So the theory is right, but there have been some problems with it.

Mr Len Wood: I'd just like to congratulate my colleague from Cochrane South. He did an excellent job of laying out the concerns that everybody on northern Ontario has concerning this bill. The simple name they put on it, the Fewer Politicians Act, reminds me of when I was a kid, five or six years ago.


Mr Wildman: You were a kid five or six years ago?

Mr Len Wood: Five or six years old, excuse me. You get a few tools and you take your bicycle apart. You tear it all apart like Mike Harris has torn Ontario apart and then you can't put it back together. So you've got to go and see your father or your older brothers and try to put it back together. We see quite clearly here what is happening in Ontario. This is just one piece of legislation that is involved in that. It's health care, it's education, it's an attack on women and children, it's an attack on everybody right around the province in order to save a few dollars so they can give a tax break to the 10% of the wealthiest upper people in the province.

I was pleased to follow the member for Grey-Owen Sound. As far as I can see, he's the only member of the Conservative caucus who is going to stand up and be proud to vote against this legislation, which is flawed. It's based on the federal redistribution. We said in northern Ontario that the federal redistribution of the boundaries was flawed. They based their redistribution on what the feds did in Ontario, and it's flawed as well.

We had the member from Scarborough earlier saying there weren't that many amendments brought in. We took the position during the committee and the clause-by-clause that when the legislation is that badly flawed, there's no consultation and it's a matter of the Conservative caucus ramming its views and ideas down the throats of everybody, no number of amendments brought forward could change legislation that is that badly flawed. I'm hoping that some of the Conservative backbenchers will support us in getting rid of this legislation.

Mr Crozier: I want to compliment the member for Cochrane South on an outstanding leadoff for the third party.

Also, with reference to the comments from the member for Grey-Owen Sound, yes, the feds did draw these boundaries. We from the southwest argued with the feds at the time because, for example, the town of Leamington and the township of Mersea will become part of the Kent riding. There's absolutely no community of interest there. It all goes west to Windsor, so that doesn't make sense. As Sean Conway pointed out in his leadoff, the boundaries as they are now were drawn for the Dominion of Canada. He referred to the Dominion of Ontario, and it's certainly different, because in Canada the smaller areas like PEI have a minimum of four members, whether their population would warrant that or not.

As well, the member for Cochrane South referred to proportional government, and I want to say you were correct in your percentages; I have sent out and gotten them. But they're interesting in this way: In the election in 1995, the government received 44.8% of the vote but got 63% of the members. The NDP got 20% of the vote but got only 13% of the members. The Liberals got 31% of the vote but got only 23% of the members. Back in 1985, the Liberal and Conservatives were virtually the same at 37% of the popular vote, but the Conservatives got 52 seats and the Liberals 48. So proportional representation makes a lot of what the government likes to refer to as common sense. So why not consider that?

Mr Bisson: I want to thank the members for Port Arthur, Cochrane North, Grey-Owen Sound and Essex South for having commented on my speech. I say to the member for Grey-Owen Sound, as I understand that you have difficulty with this bill, that I hope, as the member for Cochrane North pointed out, you will be voting with us in opposition to this bill or at the very least trying to convince the members of your caucus to change their ways, because it will mean it will be a lot more difficult to be able to service those ridings once those ridings become larger.

The other thing is, in regard to the comments from the member for Essex-Kent, the real issue here, and that's what I tried to allude to in my speech, is that the government is not doing what it says it's going to do in this bill. They say they want to move and change government and make government work better. You're not going to make it better by eliminating politicians. The real issue is that you have to go through parliamentary reform. You need to change the way legislative committees work, as one idea. Another thing you can do is that you need to move on a system of proportional representation so that the elections truly represent in this Legislature how many members will sit here, so that if a party is elected with 40% of the vote, it should end up with 40% of the seats. It shouldn't be the way it is particularly at this point.

The last point I would make, on the comments from the member for Cochrane North, is that he understands, as I do, that there's a real big problem in northern Ontario, and the problem is getting worse, in regard to how the north is being treated by this provincial government. Funding to highways and highway maintenance has been cut; schools have been cut as far as funding is concerned; hospitals and municipalities. It has a greater and very direct effect on the people of northern Ontario than this government realizes. As long as they keep on going in this direction they will not get the support of the members from northern Ontario, because we understand, unlike what the government is saying, that government should have, and has, a responsibility for playing an important role in northern Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): It is my pleasure to rise in the House today to join my colleagues in the debate on Bill 81, the Fewer Politicians Act. As a member of the standing committee on general government, I travelled to parts of northern Ontario to hear public presentations on this bill. We heard concerns that the changes to the boundaries are unfair and that they will result in unfair representation to those in rural areas and the north, and also heard concerns on the riding names. It was brought to my attention by the member for Simcoe East that he preferred to stay with the name of Simcoe East, but his riding is going to be changed to Simcoe North. My riding, Simcoe Centre, is going to be changed to Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford.

I have listened carefully to the concerns raised by Ontario residents and I have listened to the arguments of the opposition, and today I rise to show my support for this proposed Bill 81. I show my support for Bill 81 for a number of reasons: It is in the tradition of good government; it is fair to Ontarians because it will provide better representation; it will allow for better coordination between provincial members and their federal counterparts in representing their constituents; it will be easier for MPPs to have the concerns of their riding heard at Queen's Park; and it will pass cost savings on to the taxpayer.

Let me first speak to the issue of tradition. In recent weeks and during the second reading debate of this legislation we heard many arguments from the opposition that reducing the number of MPPs is contrary to the parliamentary traditions of this province. These comments likely relate to the fact that changes introduced in the 1970s saw the number of seats for members of the provincial Legislature grow to be 42% higher than the corresponding number of federal seats. They may also relate to the fact that since 1894 there have been more provincial than federal seats in the province. I do not believe that the status quo needs to be maintained just for the sake of tradition. I'm sure many people agree that change often brings improvement.

We have reached the point where people in Ontario have realized that bigger is not always better and that it is possible to do better for less. Ontario has had for decades governments which have seemed to lose sight of these concepts. Years of Liberal and NDP governments appeared to think it was better to raise taxes and take a bigger chunk of Ontario's workers' paycheques than to grapple with the task of finding ways to provide better service at less cost. These same governments embraced the notion that it was all right to spend billions of dollars more than the government was taking in in revenue rather than accept the challenge of balancing the books. So I suppose that with this sort of tradition in Ontario, it is understandable that these same people oppose legislation that would reduce the number of members in this assembly. This government is committed to upholding tradition, but we are not committed to maintaining the status quo to a point where we can no longer move forward.

Since our election we have celebrated Canada's heritage and crown by restoring the oath to the Queen for our police; we have pledged to make government smaller and more responsible, the way history tells us government is supposed to operate; and we have introduced legislation that will return the number of seats in this assembly to correspond to Ontario's number of seats in the federal parliament.


It is worth remembering that Ontario has not always had so many MPPs. For the first 21 years following Confederation, the number of Ontario MPPs corresponded to the number of federal MPs. In 1933, then Tory Premier George Henry introduced legislation that cut the number of seats from 112 to 90. The leader of the Liberal Party at that time, Mr Harry Nixon, called for those seats to be reduced even further.

We have heard the argument that these new boundaries are unfair to residents in northern and rural communities; that it will become too difficult for MPPs to adequately represent the needs of their constituents; that travel throughout these large northern ridings is too difficult. It would appear that in 1933 the members of the assembly felt they could adapt to these demands, and so have the current federal MPs. They've accepted the changes.

Mr Wildman: How many months did the House sit in 1933? About three months a year.

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

Mr Bisson: Hello, this is 1996.

Mr Tascona: Surely, with today's advanced technology and prioritization of activities, today's MPPs can also adapt.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Tascona: I also support Bill 81 because it is in the tradition of fairness. We know that it is people who are at the heart of democracy, not geography. A look at the map of the new boundaries will tell you that these new ridings in the north are larger, but Bill 81 is fair because it looks at the population of all ridings. The north loses five seats, while the rest of the province will lose 22 seats.

Bill 81 will also treat future population growth fairly, as any changes to federal ridings later on would also be reflected in the provincial boundaries. The decision to move to 103 seats from the current 130 was made after extensive consultations by the federal government. In all, a non-partisan commission held 17 public hearings in 10 cities. If Ontario repeated the process --

Mr Wildman: They went from 99 to 103. They increased their representation.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Algoma, you had your chance, it's his turn.

Mr Wildman: I'm sorry, Mr Speaker. He provoked me.

The Deputy Speaker: I know that you will accept that. Please go ahead.

Mr Tascona: As I was saying, if Ontario repeated this process, it would cost taxpayers an additional $2 million. The people of Ontario told our counterparts in Ottawa that 103 is an acceptable number of seats. We should respect this opinion.

During the election campaign in 1995, this government promised to reduce the number of MPPs. It should be in the tradition of this House to listen to what the people have to say, and this government is maintaining our commitment to honouring our election promises.

It is anticipated, by reducing the number of MPPs, we will save the taxpayers $11 million a year. This government promised to get Ontario's budget balanced by the year 2000-2001, and this initiative is one part of that commitment.

A smaller number of MPPs will also make it easier to have constituents' concerns heard at Queen's Park. Fewer politicians lead to greater efficiency in government, better representation and fewer people working harder to get more for their ridings.


Mr Tascona: In recent years, corporations have asked their employees to do more with less. The Ontario economy has dictated that families and working people will do more with less.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: There's a point of order. Could you please take your seat. I would ask the members for Cochrane North and Cochrane South just to behave accordingly, please. Just remain quiet.

Mrs Marland: I sat in this place for 90 minutes, and no one interrupted the member for Cochrane South, so I appreciate your warning him.

The Deputy Speaker: Do you understand that I am trying to correct that? I know that the members for Cochrane North and Cochrane South will abide by the rules. Thank you. Take your seat.

Mr Wildman: On the same point of order.

The Deputy Speaker: No, that's settled. Take your seat. Thank you. Please go ahead.


The Deputy Speaker: Don't play with the rules.

Mr Tascona: I was with my friends in the north, and we had a very good time listening to the public. I would just have them bear with me so I can make my part in the debate heard.

I see no reason why Ontario's elected representatives can't rise to the same challenge that the private sector and the citizens of this province have had to face. By changing provincial riding boundaries to match federal boundaries, we will be creating a system that is simpler for the voter to understand. The boundaries, names and numbers of provincial ridings will match federal ridings, and I look forward to the cooperation with the federal member in my riding to do better for the citizens.

By making these ridings identical, we will also be making it easier for MPPs to do their jobs. As members of the provincial assembly, it is our job to act as the watchdog of government bureaucracy. It is up to us to support our local governments such as municipalities, school boards, health councils and hospital boards. It is also up to us to work with federal members of Parliament for the betterment of our own constituents. I am sure that as MPPs many of us have encountered the concerns of a resident, organization or municipality within our riding that required the attention of several levels of government and perhaps more than one provincial or federal MP. These proposed changes can only simplify the process which people use to obtain such assistance.

I urge all members of this House to lend their support to Bill 81, an act which will reduce the number of politicians in Ontario, maintain high standards of representation and restore fairness and simplicity to the electoral system.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments? Now is the time. The member for Algoma.

Mr Wildman: I want to apologize, because the member really was provocative. He suggests that somehow geography doesn't count. In fact, what we're really talking about here is not only representation by population, which all of us accept as a principle, but we're also talking about, as the member for Mississauga South has said in the past, effective representation.

If it takes an MPP in an urban riding 15 minutes or half an hour to drive to attend a meeting with constituents and it takes a member in rural Ontario or in northern Ontario four or five or six hours to drive to a similar meeting, then the question is, is it possible to have effective representative? To suggest that geography doesn't count is to ignore the differences between urban Ontario and rural and northern Ontario.

As a party, the Progressive Conservative Party historically in this province has had a long tradition of representing not only the urban part of the province but the rural part of the province. I really have sympathy for the member for Grey-Owen Sound, who seems to be a voice in the wilderness in his caucus. The fact is that there are a lot of residents of rural Ontario and of northern Ontario who expect that they should be able to have the same kind of effective representation as urban residents. To suggest that it doesn't matter if it takes a whole day to drive, two ways, to attend a meeting when it only takes an hour or so return in an urban riding is to ignore the question of effective representation as well as representation by population.

Mrs Marland: I know that in these two-minute Q and As we are really supposed to respond to the previous speaker in the debate, but there always seems to be quite a bit of latitude permitted. On that basis, first of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Simcoe Centre. I would like to say to the member for Algoma, as one of the long-time-serving members of this House, that my impression of how he has represented his constituents has always been that he has very commendably represented his constituents in the riding that he has, where still today, in comparison to my riding in terms of how long it takes to get from one end to the other, there is no comparison at all. I think this argument about the geographic size of ridings is relative, but it's already relative in terms of the challenges the members from those ridings --

Mr Len Wood: Then why are you changing them?

Mrs Marland: I'm not interrupting you, I say to the member for Cochrane North, and I would appreciate the opportunity to speak uninterrupted, or else you're only going to have to listen to me later on this evening.


The members who say this legislation provides an impediment to them in their ability to represent their ridings are putting themselves down. I think they represent their ridings to the best of their ability, as do all members in this place, with commitment and with sincerity.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The member, I know, didn't have enough time to talk about the tax cut and how that's affecting this particular piece of legislation. You see, all the government's legislation is motivated by the fact that it has this bizarre tax scheme which is going to provide a 30% tax cut for the richest people in our society. I think, for instance, of bank presidents and corporation presidents who make hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, who will be able to benefit most from this tax cut. What's happening now is that the government has to scramble and bring in legislation which in other circumstances it might not bring in, because it has to feed the tax cut.

A lot of people in this province now understand that the government has to borrow $5 billion additional per year to give me and others in the province a tax cut. I noticed today, I guess it was on City TV, they had a very scientific call-in poll which said, for instance on Wheel-Trans, that people would be prepared to give up their tax cut so that you could have Wheel-Trans continue. It was about three quarters of the people.

All the government policy, including this bill, is affected by the fact that the government has this tax cut, and it's losing the revenue, so it's doing a couple of things: First, it's borrowing more money, paying interest on that money and adding to the provincial debt; second, the government is making very deep cuts it never contemplated it would have to make; and third, the government is placing video lottery terminals or electronic slot machines in every bar, restaurant and neighbourhood in the province.

Mr Bisson: To the member for Simcoe Centre, you made comments in your speech that it's going to be easier for people in northern Ontario to know who their MPs and MPPs are. Do you think we're stupid? Do you think that people in northern Ontario don't know who their MPs and MPPs are? We are members of smaller communities. I venture to guess that voter recognition of both provincial and federal members in northern Ontario is far superior to what you'll find in the Toronto ridings. That's not an issue in northern Ontario. For the member to make that argument I think is really not understanding what northern Ontario is all about.

The other point the member from Simcoe Centre makes is that in having larger ridings, members will have to become more efficient, and if we were more efficient we'd be able to do our jobs better. I don't know how I'd change the geography in the riding of Timmins-James Bay. The point is that as efficient as I try to get, it is still three hours by road from Timmins to Hearst, given good weather and daylight conditions. As efficiently as I try to drive, as good as I am at trying to be more efficient, I can't get there any faster than three hours. Is the member suggesting that I should speed? Is the member suggesting I should buy a car that does 150 miles an hour so I can get to the meeting in half the time, in an hour and a half? Is the member suggesting I should put my life and that of other people on the highways, on Highway 11, in jeopardy? No. There are only so many things you can do. That's a fact of geography. The reality is that you have vast distances that you have to travel, and as efficient as I try to get, I can't drive any faster than the speed limit or thereabouts. I say to the member that efficiency doesn't cut it.

Lastly I would say, as the member for St Catharines is saying, why don't you come clean? What this legislation is all about is to find dollars to pay for the tax cut that Mike Harris wants to give to people, and on that I say he's wrong.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Simcoe Centre. You have two minutes to reply.

Mr Tascona: I'll try to keep my reply relevant to the debate. We're dealing with Bill 81.

The issue that was raised by the member from Algoma and the member from Cochrane South is: Is it possible to have proper representation? I think that it is possible. I come from one of the largest ridings in the province, Simcoe Centre, which is not only urban but also rural, and it takes me over an hour to get from one point of the riding to the other point.

Mr Wildman: Yours is smaller than ours.

Mr Tascona: Certainly it is smaller than yours, Mr Wildman, but the fact of the matter is that geography and population were taken into account. Certainly you're going to have to prioritize your time. The federal MPs that currently stand didn't complain about this. They think they represent their members the best they can. We didn't hear from any federal problems.

But I will say that I heard from the public in the hearings that if the members don't believe they can properly represent their constituents, maybe they should move over and let someone else do that, and they've basically said that's what they would do.

In terms of the perception that the member for Cochrane South says the public has of politicians, I think what the public wants from politicians is to know where they stand and keep their promises, and that's something this government is doing. During the election we told the public we would reduce the number of politicians, and they voted and supported that. The members across the way would like us to change our minds and not keep our promises.

In closing I'd like to say this: I was in those hearings in the north, and the number of politicians outnumbered the number of the public. What does that say? I think they accepted the changes and I think that members should accept the changes the government is going to make right now. Thank you.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I'll tell them that when I go back home this weekend.


The Deputy Speaker: I hope that the members from Lake Nipigon, Cochrane North and Cochrane South are not asking me to ask you to leave before midnight. I hope you're not asking me that.

Further debate? The member for Oriole.

Mr Bradley: She was on CBC earlier tonight. I saw her. She did a very good job. Mr Clement was on as well.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I thank my colleague, Mr Bradley from St Catharines, for his very kind words.

As we rise today to debate Bill 81, which is entitled the Fewer Politicians Act, I am speaking with a great deal of sadness. I'm sad from a number of perspectives, Mr Speaker, that I think you will understand.

My first sadness is the title of this bill. I entered public life because I believe in public service. I believe in democracy and in the role of elected representatives, politicians, to serve their communities, to listen to them, to bring their message to the legislatures of this land. I feel that the title of this legislation diminishes us all and feeds the cynicism within society which threatens our democracy. I say to the government that you do no good when you send out the message that politicians are not of value and not to be valued by the people they serve.

I hope that the members in the Conservative caucus who hear this, and the people watching this debate, will think very carefully about what society is like without elected representatives to hear them, speak on their behalf and vote in a free and open democratic society. Any piece of legislation that diminishes those who choose to stand and do that difficult job, when they are diminished our freedom and our democracy are diminished. As cynicism is fuelled and increased in our society, those of us who value and cherish the democratic right to elect our politicians have every reason to feel the sadness I feel when I read the title of this bill. That is my first reason to be sad.


My second reason is that the riding of Oriole disappears, the name "Oriole" disappears. I have chosen tonight to read into the record the words of my predecessor, proud member of the Conservative caucus, Solicitor General for the province, who was the first member for Oriole and spoke eloquently about the proud tradition of the name "Oriole." I say to the members of the Conservative caucus how sad and disappointed I am that they refuse to accept an amendment that would have allowed the new riding of Don Valley East to carry the name of "Oriole." Since the entire Oriole community of the Henry Farm exists within the new riding boundaries of Don Valley East, it would be most appropriate for that name to be continued, because it is a proud name in the history of Ontario. Let me read into the record what Mr John Williams, the first member for Oriole, had to say about the name Oriole:

"One of the four new ridings established within the Metropolitan Toronto area was the riding of Oriole of which I am proud to be the representative" -- I share that pride -- "Geographically, the riding was carved entirely out of the original and much larger York Mills riding. Its geographic heart is found at the intersection of the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway and the Don Valley Parkway, within the borough of North York.

"Historically, Oriole was the name of the small, rural mill community which was located at Leslie St and Sheppard Ave. In fact, the community was named after Oriole Lodge, the farmhouse of George S. Henry, the Premier of Ontario from 1930 to 1934. It was called Oriole Lodge because of the numerous Baltimore oriole birds that used to migrate to the area each spring in the early part of this century. The Henry home still stands in all its majestic splendour in the modern Henry Farm subdivision located a block away from this member's home." I'm speaking now of Mr Williams, the member at that time.

"While still a part of the original York Mills riding, the area was capably and admirably represented by the Hon Dalton Bales."

I skip a paragraph because, while my intention here today is not in any way to diminish the representation of Mr Bales, I want to refer to the history of Oriole riding:

"Oriole, the sleepy rural village, has now become the bustling cosmopolitan urban riding of Oriole. The demographics of the riding disclose a population in excess of 75,000 people, the majority of who are Anglo-Saxon, yet infused with a significant number and variety of ethnic groups and cultures."

I'm going to stop at this point because the point has been made. In fact, Oriole has changed. It is no longer the rural small village. However, the intersection of Sheppard and Don Mills, the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway and the 401, the Henry Farm estates and the old Oriole Lodge are still a reality. The only place the name "Oriole" exists today is on the GO station at that intersection of Leslie and Sheppard, where it says "Oriole." The home of the naturalists foundation is not too far away, and there are just a few birds, but I can tell you that Oriole is a proud name. The community chose the name of the Oriole community resource centre as a way of preserving and protecting the proud heritage. I say with some sadness that the Conservative government has chosen to turn its back on a little bit of history in Ontario when they refuse to allow the name "Oriole" to remain and continue on as the name of the riding.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I was going to vote in favour of this bill until I heard this.

Mrs Caplan: The member for Windsor-Riverside makes jest, and he's jesting by saying he was going to support this bill until I made this pitch on behalf of the name "Oriole," and it's not a joke. To the historians of this province, to the people who care about our history, to Mr Williams, a proud Conservative member, to the historical board of the city of North York --

The Deputy Speaker: Address the Chair, please. Please address the Chair. Thank you.

Mrs Caplan: -- the name is an important name. As I rise today to speak to the redistribution bill, Bill 81, it is with some sadness that there will no longer be a member for Oriole because the name "Oriole" will disappear, and that in fact is something to be sad about.

The other thing I am concerned about is some of the content of this bill, because this bill suggests that the federal boundaries are appropriate for the province of Ontario. By this logic, if it is appropriate for Ontario, why would it not be appropriate for all of Canada? I would like to put on the record what would happen if each of the provinces adopted the federal boundaries for their provincial legislatures. It speaks volumes as to the difficulties that I have with this legislation.

The province of British Columbia today has 75 provincial ridings; it has 34 federal ridings. The entire British Columbia Legislature would be 34 members if Bill 81 were imposed on the province of British Columbia. I see the member opposite saying: "No problem with that. That's just fine."

Alberta has 83 provincial seats in its provincial Legislature today; it would have 26, because that is the number of federal seats for the entire province of Alberta. The member opposite says, "That's no problem."

The province of Saskatchewan has 58 members of its provincial Legislature; 14 members of the federal Parliament come from Saskatchewan. Imagine a provincial Legislature with 14 members.

Manitoba is the same. They have 57 provincial ridings; they have 14 federal ridings. Councils of 14 are the norm for our municipalities. Would that work? Maybe it would.

Quebec has 125 provincial members of its Legislature. There are 75 federal seats.

Nova Scotia has 52 members of its provincial Legislature. There are 11 federal seats. Imagine the province of Nova Scotia with a provincial Legislature of 11 members.

New Brunswick, with 55 members of its provincial Legislature, would have 10 if Bill 81 were imposed on it; 10 members of the provincial Legislature if it adopted the federal boundaries.

Prince Edward Island, which is guaranteed by our Constitution a minimum of four, today has a provincial Legislature of 32. Impose Bill 81, they would have four members.

Newfoundland presently has a provincial Legislature of 48. If Bill 81 were imposed on Newfoundland, its entire provincial Legislature would have seven members.

The Yukon would have but one person, one member, and the Northwest Territories two, in its provincial Legislative Assembly.

The reason I'm pointing this out is that while 103 seats and moving to the federal boundaries may sound like a reasonable thing to do, when you consider the implications in every province across this country, you have to wonder what the implications will be in Ontario for representation and whether or not the size of this province, given the geographic differences, the fact that we will have significant reduction in our northern and rural communities -- and in fact Metropolitan Toronto itself will have diminished representation with Bill 81.


There are those who may not care, those who feel that the politicians do not do anything important, those who feel that it would be just fine to have a provincial Legislature of 10 in New Brunswick. But I say to you, democracy is important, community representation and participation is important, and it's important to think about what the impact of Bill 81 is in Ontario, given what the impact would be on the provinces if it were imposed.

I am concerned because Ontario is very large. It is the size of Spain and France put together. It is a huge geographic area. It is relatively sparse in population, with a population of some 11 million people. In this country of 26 million people, Ontario has 11 million of those 26 million to 30 million people. Our north is especially important to our vibrant economy, and the voice of the north has always been accommodated in the provincial Legislature by a reasonable deviation from the rule of representation by population.

I want to go on record as saying loudly and clearly that I support representation by population. Just as the Constitution of this country guarantees minimum representation for the province of Prince Edward Island, so too do I believe that we should have guarantees of minimum representation for important economic regions of this province. I feel that we cannot silence the voice or disenfranchise those areas of the province that are already hampered by distance, by geography and frequently by many of the disadvantages of small population and large distances between their small communities.

I would have preferred a process that led to redistribution such as the ones that have been traditional in this province. Never before has any provincial government in my lifetime or history ever by fiat imposed a specific number or determination on political boundaries and representation. Always there has been a procedure of a commission, where communities could make their representation and have their voice heard, the discussion of what is a reasonable deviation and variation from the average to ensure representation by population. Always was there the opportunity for us to have that thoughtful debate here in the Legislature.

I have excerpts from what the members of the official opposition had to say during those debates, and I have excerpts from what the government members, from what Mr Harris himself, had to say. I think you would be surprised to know that the members of the government who today are supporting and bringing forward Bill 81 raised their voices in concern for rural and northern and small towns and the need to have representation from across this province in a way that would give effect and force to democratic principles and effective representation for those communities.

I'm not going to read all of those debates into the record, but I will suggest to you that in a climate where, frankly, politicians are not too popular, Mr Harris and his Conservative Party during the last election fanned the flames and fuelled the cynicism of the public with a crass political promise to get rid of politicians, and hence this bill called the Fewer Politicians Act.

I believe that in fact we do need to have legislative reform. We have to take a look at changes in our population and changes in distribution. We should have a debate and discussion about what is the appropriate size of our Legislature. But there are some things that are missing from this bill. If the government was really intent on streamlining, it could have included in this bill a proposal, for example, to have one voters list. I mentioned this yesterday. There is no reason why, if we are moving to the federal boundaries, we could not have one voters list. Even if we weren't going to the federal boundaries, but certainly, since we are, there is no need for a separate provincial enumeration. I have spoken with the chief returning officer.

That would save the province $16 million, and I can only ask why that is not included in Bill 81. I believe that is because this is a political document as opposed to a governance and a representative document dealing with our democracy and our Legislature. No thought has gone into the implications and the ramifications of this bill, except for that crass promise to have fewer politicians.

If this government were really interested in electoral boundary change, they would have established a process that would have given communities an opportunity to have their say before the government made their decision, but like so many things that this government has done, its style of doing things is, "We will tell you what we're going to do, we'll let you have your say, and then we're going to do exactly what we wanted to do whether you like it or not."

When you come forward with proposals or changes or amendments, the government refuses to listen. Every single one of the Liberal amendments that was placed at committee to improve this bill was defeated. The amendment to maintain the name "Oriole" was defeated and every other amendment that was proposed to improve the bill was defeated.

That is a government that is not listening and this bill reflects a government that does not value the participation and the representation of people from across this province. They reflect a paternalistic view of the few who believe that they know what is best for you. That is the tradition of conservatism that is typical of the actions and the behaviour of Premier Harris, of his cabinet and of the party in power in Ontario today. They diminish democracy.

They believe that politicians have not the value and the respect of the community and they feed that with Bill 81, instead of showing the kind of leadership I believe they have a responsibility to show, to stand in their places and to say in these difficult and cynical times that there is something to value and to respect in the political representation in this province, whether that representation is on the government side of the House or on the opposition side. That is the essence of our democracy.

Bill 81 is a same reflection of the attitude we saw in Bill 26, that attitude of the accumulation of powers by the government, "We don't have to listen to you, we know best," and I say to the government and I say to the people who are watching this debate, I hope that mood passes quickly or I fear that people will lose hope that they can make a difference in public life. I have not lost hope. I believe public life is about public service. I believe in the value of our democracy. I believe our politicians work hard and deserve respect. I believe it is important that they listen to their constituents and speak on their behalf without fear.


As I take my seat, I am sad. I am sad that the riding of Oriole, the name "Oriole,"will disappear from the legislative history of this province.

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to participate in this debate today. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my constituents in the riding of Oriole and my friends across the province a happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season, a happy, healthy and prosperous 1997, and I hope for a spirit of enthusiasm and optimism because I fear that this kind of legislation that is before us today dampens our enthusiasm for participation in the democratic process.

I conclude my debate on Bill 81.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Cooke: I'd like to thank the member for her comments and just make a couple of comments of my own that she might comment on. I don't disagree with her initial comment that the basic thrust of this piece of legislation is one to put down politicians, which in effect downplays the importance of democracy and the role that people play who get involved in it. I think that is very sad. It's populist politics at its worst, and that's why I have difficulties with this legislation.

In principle, I don't have a big problem with going down to 99 seats and trying to simplify the whole process of having coterminous riding boundaries with the federal boundaries. What I have a problem with is the simplistic approach that this government has taken to it. If you were really going to look at decreasing the number of seats, there are other questions that need to be answered.

What about the budgets for MPPs, especially in northern Ontario where at the same time that you've decreased the number of MPPs you have decreased the budgets for MPPs and their ability to communicate with their constituents? If you want to parallel what's going on at the federal level, then I think there should be an examination of paralleling the ability financially in MPPs' budgets to communicate with their constituents. They're allowed to communicate two or three times a year. We should have been able to maintain that so we can have proper dialogue and people can be kept informed.

The standing orders of the Legislature: I am very concerned that our standing orders in no way, shape or form, when it comes to official party recognition, when it comes to other numbers that actually kick in, numbers in the Legislature do not reflect on a proportional basis the standing rules at the federal level.

Again it's simplistic, and that's what makes it wrong. If you want to do it right, look at the whole picture.

Mr Baird: I listened with great interest to the speech of my colleague the member for Oriole. She spoke of this campaign commitment being a crass promise as if it were dreamed up on the back of a campaign bus or during a faltering campaign, much like the plan that the Liberal Party had to cut taxes. When they took a big dive in the polls in the 1990 election, when they had the members in the third party hot on their heels, they all of a sudden decided they would be reborn tax cutters.

This charge of a crass promise is certainly not the case. It was one we made more than 12 months before the election was even called. It was a promise we made. We realized if we were to dig ourselves out of the hole of debt and excessive government spending and excessive government taxation, we had to lead by example, that the solution to the challenging public policy initiatives would start at the top. It started at the top with the cut in the size of the cabinet. We have fewer parliamentary assistant and we've reduced spending here at Queen's Park by more than 20%. So I don't think it was a crass promise.

With respect to reducing the numbers and then somehow setting up a different system of 103 ridings, I think it flies in the face of what we were told to do. The public told us that they didn't like duplication and overlap. Here's a way where we can use the same boundaries as our federal colleagues, free from gerrymandering, free from any political interference, which I think is very good news indeed. It will save more money for potentially the same returning officer, potentially the same voters list. We're currently in discussions on those issues, which are well worth it.

The final issue is the reputation of parliamentarians and politicians. Too often that reputation has suffered. Certainly it doesn't bear resemblance to my impressions of those I've worked with, but we've got a public relations problem. The public has seen parliamentarians and politicians as trying to prevent themselves from receiving any cuts, and we've got to lead by example to help regain the trust of the people.

Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: We do have some courtesy sometimes in this chamber, and I think one of the courtesies that we normally regard is that when someone has two minutes --


The Deputy Speaker: Thank you for making my job easier. Order. It's not a point of order. Thank you very much.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to commend my colleague from Oriole for her speech and I want to just take that part of her speech that deals with parliamentary nomenclature. She makes a very good point. We will, with the passage of Bill 81, say farewell to the nomenclature of "Oriole." It seems to be almost an apostasy that later-day Conservatives would want to do such injustice to the memory of the former leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario and former Premier of Ontario, George S. Henry. It is interesting, as the member for Oriole observes, that there was a time, and not that long ago, when the Premier of Ontario had an address of rural route 3, Toronto, Oriole Farms, George S. Henry. The name of "Oriole" speaks to that part of our past.

When I look at this bill, it's going to give us the wonderfully antiseptic, androgynous names of Don Valley East, Brampton, Milton, whatever. We are saying goodbye to Oriole. We once had electoral districts in this place with the names of Bracondale and Monck and Cardwell, to name but three; they're all gone. And now we embrace these wonderfully antiseptic suburban names like Don Valley East that will be, of course, written for this sovereign provincial Legislature by the Dominion Parliament up in Bytown.

I say again that it is interesting that in all of this talk about efficiency, I've yet to hear one of the Reform-a-Tories across the way say they're prepared to have Mr Chrétien's returning officers run the next provincial election campaign.

M. Pouliot : Jamais n'aurais-je cru quand, ce jour du début de décembre, un mardi à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario, à 20 h, some 10, almost 12 years ago, when I was favoured through the courtesy, the favour of the electorate of Lake Nipigon, the largest geographic riding in Ontario, and my predecessor and mentor, the former Speaker Mr Jack Stokes, who was elected to this assembly in 1967 by way of redistribution -- never would he or I have thought that on December 3 at 8 o'clock we would begin to say farewell to representation, not to ourselves. Mr Stokes's future, politically speaking, is behind him. He served very well, a legend in the riding of Lake Nipigon. This is only my fourth term. It's unimportant here.

More important are the people in Lake Nipigon, in our vast and magnificent riding, asking you to represent them, and this is what's at stake here: asking you to convey to the government their need, their requirements in terms of health care, by way of workers' compensation, by way of other essential services, information and, at times, assistance.

The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired. The member for Oriole, two minutes.


Mrs Caplan: I'm proud to rise as the member for Oriole in the final days of this debate on Bill 81. I say to the members who spoke during questions and comments that I recognize the importance of redistribution and I think the debate over the size of the Legislature is an important one.

I also hear from the Conservative members that this bill is about saving money. I say to them it is not about saving money. The amount of money you are going to save in this bill -- when all is said and done, you will find you have not saved any money. This is not about saving money. They say it's going to save $11 million, and I say to them it will not.

The single voters list, I have been told, will save $16 million. Why aren't you doing that? Doing away with duplication of returning officers and duplication of enumeration is where the saving comes.

You are going to have to increase the supports for members. You're going to have the same expenses and then some, because members have to represent their ridings. You kid yourself and you kid the people of this province if you are suggesting that this bill is about saving money or that this bill is about deficit or debt. It is not.

This bill diminishes all of us who stand and serve in the Parliament of this province, who choose public life, who believe it is about public service. This bill is not entitled a redistribution bill, this bill is entitled a fewer politicians bill. Let's get the record straight: This bill will concentrate the power in the hands of the cabinet and in the elected few who run the province, and the riding of Oriole will be diminished because of it.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Pouliot: When we're talking about Bill 81, members opposite and our colleagues on the same side, members of the official opposition, will readily acquiesce, for it is a given: So little time and yet so much to say.

But I would be remiss if I did not, first and foremost, voice my appreciation, echo my sincere sentiments vis-à-vis the address from the member for Oriole, the previous speaker. We don't become less or more compatible, but in our context she is about to be told, "No thank you, we don't need you."

Tout ceci a commencé, all this began with the now celebrated, now well-analogued presentation of the member for Renfrew North, not the dean of the House, but very close as the deputy dean, if you would, the second-longest-sitting member in this House.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Mississauga South, the member for Lake Nipigon has the floor.

Mr Pouliot: I don't say the following by way of compliment, but merely by way of observation. Not only do they remove your riding, ask you to leave, but they consistently get involved in interruptions, and I would appreciate demanding the same courtesy that I extend as a representative for Lake Nipigon not to interrupt others when they have the floor and when they are recognized by yourself, sir, with respect.

The member for Renfrew North traced the historic balance, went back to the days of Confederation, with dates and the appropriate database to explain what the situation has been, the consistency, the exceptions, and what the situation would be. Yet because Bill 81 is politically motivated, this has nothing to do with the force of reasoning. This is 90% politics and 10% very thin wrapping of what the Common Sense Revolution gives it. This is politically crass.

I recall so vividly, and you do too, during the last election campaign when the government today was courting, soliciting the favour of the electorate, asking Ontarians to vote for them to replace what had been a good government -- ours -- and another good government, that previous to ours. They had a truck, one of those flatbeds, outside the Legislature with 99 chairs on it. I don't know what it cost them to rent the truck, but people were there taking pictures and it appeared in the Toronto Sun and in other local papers. The expediency was quite apparent.

Then the number of chairs never appeared, because the election took place before it did. They go from 99 to 103, and their raison d'être, their argument, is, "If the feds can do it, we can do it too." They feel somewhat secure in asking the simple question to the taxpayers, the people who pay for all this: "Do you have just enough politicians, too many politicians, or not enough politicians?" So they're quite secure.

What about the history mentioned by our friend Mr Conway, our friend from Renfrew North? What about the guidance? Is it to say that under the proposed changes we would see the Yukon and the Northwest Territories end up with between half and three quarters of a member because they don't have the population, regardless of the immense territory they have to serve? Is it to say that the province of PEI would get fewer than two members?

The riding I represent starts in the first nation community of Mobert, a small community on Highway 17 just northwest of the community of White River. I live in the next community, that of Manitouwadge. It's an Ojibway legend. Translated, it simply means "cave of the great spirit." We're 54 kilometres off the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway. Our small population in our community, in our village, is some 3,300 to 3,400 residents. Our community was founded by virtue of our natural resources, the discovery of what is the now defunct Geco mines, Noranda division. The nearest house, our neighbour, is 100 kilometres, 65 miles, from where we're located. So we're self-reliant, we're resourceful. We have to be. We're independent.

If you were to drive from Manitouwadge to go to the community of Pickle Lake in the riding of Lake Nipigon, one way -- and I wish to have Mr Gravelle take note of this; I think he's already aware -- you would leave Manitouwadge and you would drive to Pickle Lake, in the same riding, 600 miles -- not kilometres, miles. Once you reach Pickle Lake, if you were to fly, because there are no roads there, to northwestern Ontario, to Fort Severn, the northernmost community in the same riding -- and you've been there, Mr Speaker, when you were representing the Ombudsman. I've followed your career. You can relate directly because you've done it: been there, done that -- that's another 600 miles, one way.

We're closer here in Toronto, in this assembly, to Miami, Florida, and Halifax than we are to some parts of our riding. Twenty-six per cent of the overall land mass of the province is nestled in the Canadian Shield between the inner sea of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, and the largest body of water right across beyond the Great Lakes, that of Lake Nipigon, overshadowed by Hudson Bay, the eighth-largest body of water in the world.

Yet we only have 33,000 residents; we're underpopulated. Eighteen per cent of our residents are native Canadians. We have well over 30 communities. The irony is that at the federal level the provincial riding of Lake Nipigon is split four ways federally -- four federal representatives at the same time; one provincial representative. I've searched long and hard to see why they are doing it. They're removing our riding. Is it because it's not large enough? Sure, we don't have 100,000 residents, but we're the size of Germany.


You know, if you were to look at the province of Prince Edward Island, add to it that of New Brunswick, add to it that of Nova Scotia, put them together and multiply by two, you would have the riding of Lake Nipigon, yet someone says, "You have too much representation." There are fully 80 countries in the world that are smaller than the riding of Lake Nipigon, and 45 out of the 50 states are smaller than our riding. You want to know what those countries are? Listen and listen quick.

Albania, smaller than Lake Nipigon; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahamas; Bahrain; Barbados; Bangladesh; let's not forget Belgium; Burundi; Bulgaria; Cambodia; Cape Verde; Costa Rica, smaller than Lake Nipigon; Cuba; Cyprus; Djibouti; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea; Estonia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Greece; Grenada; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Hungary; Iceland; the Republic of Ireland; Israel; Italy; Jamaica; Jordan; Kuwait; Laos; Latvia; Lebanon; Lesotho; Liberia; Liechtenstein -- maybe they can spell that; it's a tax haven. Liechtenstein is way smaller; Bahamas, Grand Cayman Island, they know those; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malawi; Malta; Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean; Nepal, don't forget; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; the Kingdom of Oman, much smaller; Panama; the Philippines; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Rwanda; St Christopher-Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent; San Marino; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Suriname; Swaziland; Switzerland; Syria; Taiwan; Tajikistan; Thailand; Togo -- we're up to T; I won't be too long -- Tonga; Tunisia; Tuvalu; Uganda; the United Kingdom; Uruguay; the Vatican; and Vanuatu.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Not the Vatican.

Mr Pouliot: Yes, the Vatican. There is no last refuge, no sacred trust.

It's been said by the Premier in a moment of pique -- in a moment that he must and shall regret, but among any moments it takes on lesser proportions -- to my friend for Cochrane North, and it was said directly, "Well, you're interested in filling your pockets." I can assure you that it was not the moment of noblesse oblige. It was cheap, completely uncalled for, undignified for the Premier of the largest jurisdiction in the Dominion. I was disappointed. At first I didn't believe it. I went to the comfort and privacy of my small apartment, the small cubicle I occupy, and I played it over and over again. I was appalled and shocked. I got on the phone and I said, "There is no way Premier Harris can say this, accuse politicians of filling their pockets."

This is thrown at my friend here, who spent over 20 years working in a paper mill, who is a person of consequence, although of moderate means. He was talking about representation. He was talking about a small airport in his special part of Ontario. He gets off a difficult flight, at this time of year, and someone says, "Len, what about my compensation?" Len says to his constituent, "It's your back, is it?" And he goes on with his staff, time after time.

This is what this bill will cease to do. That's what it's all about. It's about people who speak Cree or speak Ojicree, who get to know you -- you earn your stripes -- and tell you about the daily problems they experience, and they expect you to be able to articulate them to the best of your ability.

It's about the small entrepreneur, grub and stake, who says, "I'm going to take a chance in your special part of Ontario. I'm in forestry" or "junior gold mining, and I'm going to convince some friends to put their life savings into a venture."

They won't have the same say, because there will be too many problems and too many opportunities to address at the same time. I'm getting some; our office has taken calls. This is a small entrepreneur, a junior mining executive, who just called our office, saying, "Don't mention the name" -- I've got it right here; it's available for the record -- "but just mention, is our investment safe?" It's as simple as that. They were going to create 50 to 60 jobs. Does Bill 81 address that? No. A laughing matter for some, but certainly not if you need a paycheque.

Mr Laughren: Not on this side.

Mr Pouliot: Not at all, not at all.

A small company, another one, it says it's an abbreviation, and they hope to be listed. They want you to go to the Ontario Securities Commission; you can't do that, but there are mechanisms, without getting too involved. Lake Superior Registered Resources: another stock, another possibility for employment. I will hand these over to verify the authenticity to my colleague from Renfrew North, because he may wish to speak about the mining companies I have mentioned.

I have with me, and it tells the tale, the federal electorial district and what will happen now. If the camera could focus here, you would see the immensity of our riding. It's now becoming Thunder Bay-Nipigon. Kenora-Rainy River will be 330,000 square kilometres. Where will it stop?

They say they will save money, and it has been mentioned before that the bottom line is saving dollars. It's important, but you also have to blend the necessity to enact saving at every opportunity with the right to be represented. A few dollars more, a fistful, for their endeavour, their tax cut that will benefit the people who could more afford not to have the tax cut because they're wealthy, they're of consequence. Mr Speaker, what about ordinary people like you and I, or people who don't even make our -- for some; everything is relative -- big salary? It's not that big, but it's certainly sufficient. Politicians live very well, and that's been reconciled; they've taken away some of the post-service benefits that politicians were to enjoy because it was deemed to be too lucrative. I agree that we do have to tighten our belts. There's nothing wrong with that because we're asking of others that they do so also.

But reducing the number of seats from 130 to 103, when the province has increased its population by 700,000 in the last four years, when the federal government increases the number of representatives from 99 to 103, goes against the current. It does not make any sense. We will become the least represented of any jurisdiction in Canada, and it's not fair.


The riding of Lake Nipigon, which is special indeed, one of the special northern ridings, has a special allocation of $7,000 a year more to charter aircrafts because of the size, and two of those ridings are asked to disappear. I understand that you have in some southern ridings 80,000 people plus. We don't have that. But surely you cannot spend the same time driving from one meeting to the other.

Some people across are sending notes and making signs that you can use your cell phone to get in contact with people, that you can use teleconferencing. There is nothing like interfacing, like being there physically to meet with people. We don't have the sophistication of a private channel in every community. Many in our communities don't have sewer and water, and you're asking them to be on the Internet? You're asking people in Kasabonika and Port Severn to become part of the Web and the Internet, to use their cell phone? Well, snap out of it. Government, get real. It does not quite exist there. We have to get there. It gets to minus 40, minus 50.

L'hon Noble Villeneuve (Ministre de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ministre responsable des affaires francophones) : Chez nous aussi.

Mr Pouliot: Yes, yes. I've been to your place. I know where you live. I know when spring starts. So please, BS your friend, but don't go beyond that.

Mr Speaker, sometimes those southerners, those Torontonians, with the highest of respect -- we don't pretend to know all the intricacies that take place in an urban centre, and we would ask that they not cast judgment on the people who supply them with wealth and resources: for them, the people from abroad; for us, the people from a special part of Ontario. While waving our hands and saying, «Je te fais signe d'attendre,» I'm asking you to reconsider Bill 81, not because of the numbers of politicians but because of representation, because of the service that you deserve. There is little rhyme or reason. There is no substance. The argument for doing this is mostly crass. It's political expediency. The veil is thin.

My colleague Rosario Marchese said yesterday it was like a cheap striptease. Although I don't express myself in those tones, suffice that it doesn't belong in the cheapest tombola or vaudeville. It's not even cheap theatre, for at least cheap theatre is free. It is an attempt, systemic and deliberate, at taking away the rights of people to representation.

Vous vous souviendrez d'il y a quelques minutes, et bien sûr je m'en voudrais de conclure, de terminer, sans me souvenir avec toute la sincérité que je puisse commander des 18 années de travail de mon prédécesseur M. Jack Stokes de Schreiber, bien entendu, une communauté qui date depuis plus de 105 ans chez nous. Il a su implanter dans cette circonscription au fil des ans un service, une réputation à sa veille de mon départ et, plus important encore, celle de la représentation chez nous.

Si nous avons une consolation, c'est qu'après 32 ans, notre circonscription aura toujours été desservie par le parti de la conscience sociale, celui du Nouveau Parti démocratique, où le bienfait, le besoin des autres est toujours plus important que les aspirations politiques de certains et certaines.

C'est chez eux qu'on a trouvé, nous, M. Stokes et moi, l'inspiration. Chez eux c'était la beauté de l'âme, le besoin de suffire au quotidien, le service personnel. Pas d'alternative. Monsieur le Ministre, Monsieur le Premier Ministre, attention. Vous êtes en train de détruire systématiquement, délibérément, à cause de votre appétit, de votre soif politique, de vos politiques, de vos pensées, de votre philosophie, 32 ans de service assidu.

In conclusion, it's a sad day when a group of reformists get together. They get driven by expediency to do whatever they feel will work. Our riding has always been, from the beginning. It will soon be time to say good night by virtue of decree -- you, Premier. Thirty-two years of faithful service to the good people of Lake Nipigon. Jack Stokes is here. He's omnipresent. He's very much here. I join him in thanking the confidence of the good people in Lake Nipigon.

I just saw, Mr Speaker -- and they weren't too proud; they began to stoop -- three ministers leave the House. Of course, they're busy elsewhere and yet it's only 8:30. Some of the others show absolutely no remorse.

I see the pain in the pages' faces because some of their ridings are going too. They'll be the last pages representing their ridings. They're in grade 7 and grade 8. They're not coming back. There's no hand-me-down here. If you've got a younger brother or sister, I don't care if they get 100% at school, the highest recommendations, medals from the principal -- you're not going to get it, because it's gone. Not gone to heaven; it's gone to hell. He's responsible and he shows no remorse because he has another agenda. I could say a lot more. It's a sad day.

Jamais, never, did I think in 12 years that I would see in front of my very eyes the deliberate disintegration of what has been, for 27 ridings that are about to disappear, a legacy of first-class service. He's made it that way. He'll have to carry the guilt. He'll have to pay the political price. No matter which way you twist it, it will come back to haunt you.

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I would like to thank the honourable member for Lake Nipigon for his views, but it does remind me of the Shakespearean phrase, "All sound and fury, signifying nothing," because here is a case where we as a government are simply doing what many other governments have done in the course of their mandate, namely, taken a look at the census, reorganized ridings. Some ridings go, some ridings --


The Deputy Speaker: Order. You'll each have a chance. I'll go in rotation.


Mr Clement: The fact of the matter is that there are new ridings being created. This is not simply a destruction of ridings. There will actually be a new riding in my community of Brampton. The honourable member talked about simplicity and how simplistic the government's proposal is. The fact of the matter is that there are some areas that are going to be consolidated because of population shifts or population trends, and there are other areas, because of the higher population that has been the case over the last few years, that are actually adding a riding. So I would simply like to take the honourable member's discussion in this Legislature and perhaps amend what he said to make it much more in accordance with the facts of the case.

It reminds me of another famous Shakespearean line: "To thine own self be true." The fact of the matter is that this is utterly consistent with the message that this government has tried to portray: leading by example, trying to ensure that politicians and the political class that the opposition tries to defend is not exempt from the sorts of changes that are occurring in the rest of society. I think that's a good thing.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I would just like to thank the member for Lake Nipigon for his views. As we know, he's represented a riding in the north for a good many years, and I always look forward to his comments. They follow very much on the heels of the comments of a person who was an MP and an MPP in the Thunder Bay region, and his comments came through loud and clear to us during the hearings in Dryden. Of course I'm referring to Iain Angus. Iain was able to stand before the committee and convince a lot of these members who were on the committee who had never been in the north, had never been to hearings in the north, about what it was like to be both an MP and an MPP in the north and the different duties they would take on. I think Iain did an excellent job.

He also went back to say that we had a Premier who before the election indicated that there wasn't enough of a voice in the north, that northerners weren't making their own decisions, and who made a commitment to the people of northern Ontario in his document A Voice for the North. That was a document that paralleled the Common Sense Revolution, which the people down here were hearing about, but we were reading a different document in the north where the Premier was telling us that we needed more of a voice and we had to make more of our decisions in the north. He very clearly indicated that the Premier was saying one thing up there and maybe a different thing down here and now he's actually fulfilling a commitment that he made that we knew little about during that campaign.

As well, we heard from, as the member for Lake Nipigon has indicated, a good number of people such as the president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, who has indicated to the committee that this is just not a workable solution for northern Ontario and that it should go to a provincial boundaries commission, much the same as the feds went to a federal boundaries commission. I think that is the reason we have to bring back --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The time has expired.

M. Bisson : Aux commentaires du membre de Lac-Nipigon, qui amène les points saillants faisant affaire avec ce qui arrive dans le débat, le point que le membre a fait, je pense que c'est assez clair. C'est qu'il y a certains membres de l'Assemblée, plutôt les membres conservateurs, qui ne comprennent pas la réalité de la géographie de beaucoup des comptés qu'on trouve dans le nord de l'Ontario.

Monsieur le Président, comme vous le savez très bien, parce que vous y avez été vous-même quand monsieur le député l'a dit dans son discours, le comté de Lac-Nipigon, d'un bord à l'autre, si on prend la route, est 1000 milles de long. On entend des membres de l'Assemblée qui disent, «Mais écoute, si tu n'es pas capable de faire l'ouvrage dans ton comté et de trouver des moyens plus efficaces pour répondre aux besoins de tes citoyens, tu ne fais pas ta job.»

Eux autres, ils ne comprennent pas. Ils viennent des comtés où ça prend cinq minutes pour marcher d'un bord à l'autre. Puis là, il arrive un membre comme ça, qui a 1000 milles de géographie qu'il doit traverser pour aller d'un coin de son comté à l'autre, et les membres du gouvernement conservateur ont l'audace de dire qu'il a besoin de trouver des manières plus efficaces pour donner les services aux communautés.

Je pense franchement que ça démontre que le gouvernement ne comprend pas réellement les préoccupations et les problèmes du nord de l'Ontario. Ils ne comprennent pas qu'avec des comtés si grands, il prend beaucoup plus de temps pour se déplacer d'un bord du comté à l'autre pour rencontrer des citoyens.

J'aimerais dire de la tradition de M. Jack Stokes, pareil à M. Pouliot, que l'ouvrage qu'il a fait dans son comté jusqu'à date pour représenter les citoyens était exemplaire. Le député, M. Pouliot de Nipigon, prend toujours l'occasion d'aller d'un bord du comté à l'autre afin de parler à ses citoyens. Je pense qu'il parle avec certitude, et avec la croyance de ses convictions il dit que si tu commences à changer ces comtés-là et à faire dans le nord de l'Ontario 10 comtés de 15, ça va être beaucoup plus difficile.

Le Vice-Président : Monsieur le député de Lac-Nipigon, vous avez deux minutes.

Mr Pouliot: I thank my distinguished colleagues, learned colleagues, for their --

The Deputy Speaker: Sorry, I made a mistake. There is one more. The member for Niagara Falls.

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I commend the member from Stratford -- the member from Nipigon -- on his theatrics. We often lose his content but we all applaud his theatrics in the House.

On was on the road in Ottawa and London and I was also in the hearings on this bill in Toronto, and quite often the members opposite would talk about what a blow to democracy this bill was. Well, in the Niagara region there are over 250 elected politicians for a population of under 400,000 people. There are 30 regional politicians, 100-plus municipal politicians, 70 trustees, six MPPs, four MPs and about 50 Hydro commissioners: well over 250 elected politicians. This bill removes two of those -- hardly what I would call a blow to democracy.

Quite often the members opposite point out PEI as the example we should follow. PEI has a federal member for every 30,000 people. If we followed that as our example here in Ontario, we'd have over 300 MPPs in the House. I think, as we find it ridiculous, most taxpayers would find that ridiculous.

Another thing they quite often talk about is the challenges of geography. When we were in Ottawa, we talked to a demographer who said there are over 11 languages commonly spoken in some ridings; for instance, Scarborough East. This presents a unique challenge. I asked that demographer if that same challenge would be there in the north. He said that it wouldn't. So there are challenges of geography in some places, other challenges in other ridings.

One of the things that most people found most offensive about the current system is that some ridings have six and a half times the voting power of other ridings because they have 19,000 voters compared to 125,000 voters in another riding. That was offensive to the people whose vote counts for six and a half times less than that of the people in the smaller riding.

Mr Bradley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Despite the remarks of the member for Niagara Falls, I think we should extend congratulations to him on the birth of his daughter. He's back in the Legislative Assembly but he hasn't had any sleep the last five nights.

The Deputy Speaker: It's not a point of order, but I think we're all happy to wish you all the best.

The member for Lake Nipigon, you have two minutes.

Mr Pouliot: Allow me, please, to thank my distinguished and admired colleagues from both the Liberals and the Conservatives.

The member for Niagara Falls, let me add my sincere congratulations. You've almost deterred me, sir, to mention to you as you compare your riding to the service that we provide up north: Before you talk the talk, walk the walk. Come with us. Come with us on a small journey.

I have with me what the members for Niagara Falls, the neophytes, the novice and others, were asked to answer when it came to Bill 81. This is a leaked document from the Premier's office.

First: The number of seats and MPPs in the Legislature is being cut from 130 to 103. Why are you firing 27 of your colleagues? "No one is being fired. Each MPP was voted in by their constituents until the next provincial election." Now, that's profound. That's a good deal of wisdom.

Question number two: How much difference is it really going to make? "Twenty-seven fewer MPPs means 27 fewer offices." Profound. Disraeli must be turning.


Question number three: Won't this reduction in seats mean that northern Ontario will be underrepresented? Answer -- Tories, whiz kids: "We are obliged to have representation in the Legislature on area population." It's out of the bag. The bag of snakes has decreed that population will rule out, regardless of what happens.

Question number four: Won't some ridings be too big? "Well, the Liberals and the NDP" --

The Deputy Speaker: The time has expired. Please take your seat.


The Deputy Speaker: Before we continue, I'd like you to recognize in the gallery the former Speaker of the House, David Warner. Nothing has changed. Further debate?

Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I would ask for unanimous consent for the member from Nipigon to have another 30 minutes to give yet another speech.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Agreed. Let him go.

Mrs Marland: Agreed.


The Deputy Speaker: Is it agreed? No.

Mr Bisson: Who said no?

Mr Wildman: Is it agreed or not?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Let it be known that the member for Lake Nipigon said no.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate? I hope that the House will remain quiet. The member for Peterborough.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'm getting tired, getting up and down here. It was renowned, sir. You are renowned.

It is my privilege to speak on Bill 81. Before I speak, I would like to set the stage for why I believe I am qualified to speak to this particular bill. First of all, I spent six days on the road listening to the people of this province. I have also in my former life travelled this province extensively as a sales representative, so I know about distances in the north; I know about the weather in the north.

Mr Laughren: One of those travelling salesman.

Mr Stewart: I was one of those fellows -- and some fine people in northern Ontario as well as the south. Probably most important, I learned to appreciate what a fine airline you have in northern Ontario, Bearskin Airlines. You are most fortunate and privileged to have a fine mode of transportation, as that is, sir.

The contents of Bill 81 should not be a surprise to anyone in this House, or indeed members of the public. On page 8 of the Common Sense Revolution, we stated quite clearly that we would reduce the number of MPPs and we would change the boundaries to reflect the federal boundaries. During the campaign we were told that government was too big, too fat and too costly. We were also told that people were tired of footing the bill for governments that didn't listen or respond to their needs and their concerns.

We all know that adding more politicians, creating more programs and spending more money is not the answer. We need a more efficient and affordable government at all levels, a more accountable and open government. We as MPPs, I believe, are going to have to learn how to work smarter and work better. We must learn to work more efficiently and more effectively. We are asking the taxpayer to change, but we in this House are not ready to change ourselves. I cannot tolerate that type of attitude, when we are asking the people out there to change and we cannot do it.

I say Bill 81, then, lives up to the promise we made prior to the election. For the first time since 1933, the number of politicians at Queen's Park will be reduced. Since 1933, there have not been any changes. I think it's about time that at least it was looked at or considered.

Come the next election, there will be 103 MPPs instead of 130. Fewer MPPs means fewer salaries and fewer staff members. It also means lower overhead and related costs, resulting in $11 million of saving per year. I know that some of our friends here and some of the presenters suggested that $11 million was a drop in the bucket. In the eyes of some of our opposition, $11 million is minimal. I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that the people of this province believe that $11 million is a lot of money, and I would suggest to you that possibly that $11 million could be reinvested in health care and in education. Wouldn't that be good? Wouldn't you agree with that? I think you would, and I think the people outside this building would also agree with that.

By realigning provincial ridings to match the federal boundaries, we are making it easier for voters to know who represents them at each level of government, making government simpler for our constituents. Confusion will be eliminated.

Let me give you a for instance in the riding that I represent. On the west side of my riding there is a village and a township that in the federal elections are in the riding of Victoria-Haliburton. On the east, we have seven municipalities that are in the Hastings-Peterborough riding and yet vote federally in my riding. I can remember going out during the campaign and talking to the people in the northern part of the township of Cavan and suggesting to them that I would like their support and I would like them to vote for me, and they were saying, "Gary, we can't." I said: "Why? Are you of another party?" "No. We want to vote for you, but we have to vote in Victoria-Haliburton." I said: "No, you don't. You are in my riding." So the confusion will be eliminated.

Mr Conway: Lots of Liberals up there in Cavan, as I recall.

Mr Stewart: Yes, but they have changed, and that's the nice part of it. They have seen the light and become Tories.

Bill 81 offers potential for greater savings by reducing duplication and overlap in areas of election staffing, enumeration, mapping and administration; again, savings that we could reinvest in the people of this province. Voters' lists will be used for both federal and provincial elections, and cooperative measures between Elections Ontario and Elections Canada will contribute to a better system.

Speaking of cooperation, I believe that with the same boundaries being looked after by both the MPP and the MP, possibly working together with cooperation, that will be of assistance to the people in those ridings, and I believe that this bill could enable us to compare policy and performance between both levels of government.

Reducing the number of MPPs sends a strong signal that savings will start at the top and that everyone, including politicians, must be part of the solution. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain. It's called leading by example. If we expect the local governments and bureaucrats to do better with less, we politicians should, as well, do much of the same.

During committee hearings, opposition members attempted to insert a political divide between rural and urban Ontario. They were suggesting that if the boundaries got bigger, then only the people from urban centres would be elected.



The Acting Speaker (Mrs Margaret Marland): I ask the member for Fort York and the member for Cochrane North to respect the people who have the floor. At the moment, you do not have the floor and interjections are out of order. Having entered the chamber, I realize the enthusiasm with which you are here, but if you could contain it, it would be appreciated. Thank you.

Mr Stewart: What was suggested was that with the change in the boundaries the rural people would not be able to get elected. All the representatives would centre around the towns, the major centres in those ridings. I suggest to you that that's wrong, and examples of that are exactly what is happening in this House at the moment.

In the Victoria-Haliburton riding, the city of Lindsay is the largest, yet the representative comes from rural Haliburton. Cobourg is the biggest city and town in Northumberland, yet the representative comes from Colborne. In the riding of Prince Edward, Picton is the largest centre, yet the representative comes from the rural part of that riding. Owen Sound, the same type of situation: the representative comes from the rural part of the riding. So I'm trying to suggest that both rural and urban will have the opportunity to have a representative and will work very closely and well together.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Peaceful coexistence.

Mr Stewart: I often think, Madam Speaker, when you get interrupted, it truly means that what you're saying is factual.

We, as MPPs, must work closer with our federal counterparts and indeed our municipal councils. Our goal of serving the taxpayers will be achieved if we can work together.

We also hear that we deal with more issues as MPPs than do MPs. Let me tell you this: The MPs deal with unemployment insurance, old age security, Canada pension. Aren't those things that people deal with every day? In fact we, as MPPs, also deal with the people every day, dealing with social services, family support and indeed WCB. Both levels of government have their own respective issues to deal with, and I believe that if MPs can do it, indeed we can, with the qualified people that we have in this province to serve.

Many people support this bill. Indeed, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce surveyed its members and found overwhelming support for Bill 81.

Mr Marchese: What did they say?

The Acting Speaker: The member for Fort York is out of order.

Mr Stewart: The chamber in Ottawa did much the same thing. Yes, we heard opposition to this bill, indeed we did. We did in London. The first five presenters we heard were against this bill. The first four were ex-MPPs of the previous government. Can you imagine? The fifth was the president of the local Liberal association.

Mr Wildman: Oh, Jeez, how did he get in?

Mr Stewart: Well, you've always been together. Why would you not be together as presenters?


The Acting Speaker: I wouldn't like to have to name you or warn you, but --

Mr Len Wood: I just want to hear about the two --

The Acting Speaker: I say to the member for Cochrane North that it is not appropriate to have continuous interjections. I have asked you once. I've asked the member for Fort York once. I reluctantly would ask the same thing of the member for Algoma. If you do not comply with the standing orders, which do not permit interjections, then you will leave me no alternative.

Mr Stewart: The challenge here is to find other ways to improve representation, not to reject a move to reduce government. Both new and old forms of technology -- and I'm talking about fax machines, telephones, Internet, 800 numbers and the old-fashioned way called writing a letter or holding town hall meetings in many communities -- will help to overcome the distance factor and make sure that the people of the ridings have an opportunity for their say.

In business we have a saying that says, "Plan your work and work your plan." Remember what I said: We must learn to work smarter. The point here is we must stop saying, "This won't work," but rather we must work together to find a real solution in our quest to doing things better.

Rural and urban Ontario are prepared for the implementation of Bill 81. I represent a both urban and rural constituency and I am hearing in my riding that what Bill 81 represents is what should be done.

When I was in the north on the hearings I kept hearing the words, "The north is unique." Indeed the north is unique. It is beautiful, it is scenic, it is friendly, it is hospitable and it's exactly the same as the rest of Ontario. Indeed it is unique in all ways. We were hearing up there that they were representing rural, they were representing urban, they were representing commercial, they were representing industrial, they were representing agriculture, they were representing forestry, they were representing hunters, geologists, fishermen, and I could go on. You know what? Those are all of the types of people that I represent in the riding of Peterborough. So what I'm saying is, we are all unique in this province.

The opposition, as we know, had the usual criticism of this bill but offered no alternatives. I'd like to thank the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for stating during the committee hearings that the opposition is not opposed to redistribution. The member for Cochrane South in Timmins -- and I quote -- he didn't have a problem with the reduction of ridings. Let me personally say thanks to all of the members of the NDP caucus who, while they were on the Bill 81 clause-by-clause, did not once bring forward an amendment to this bill. Ladies and gentlemen, that says it all.

In conclusion, let me say that reducing the size and cost of government is a key part of building an attractive climate for investment and growth in our province. Our government is absolutely committed to creating that kind of growth environment in this province, and it is happening. Every change we've initiated since taking office in June 1995 is steadfastly linked to that goal. While we still have a long way to go and much more work to do to reach our goal of a better Ontario, we are on the right track. The evidence is there: our plan is working.

We were elected to bring real fundamental change to the government of Ontario and that's what we are doing by reducing the number of politicians. Our direction is to continue to provide a real fundamental change that benefits the province and the people of this province.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Gravelle: Certainly I want to comment on the remarks by the member for Peterborough. I must admit we had one concession tonight which is remarkable: The member for Peterborough admitted that some of the cases they deal with are family support problems. We've had a very difficult time getting the members of the government to admit they are dealing with family support problems. That's some progress.


What the member said in terms of amendments and listening to the people and their presentations was also interesting. Certainly our caucus put forward several amendments in clause-by-clause which were rejected rather out of hand by the government side. It made me think in terms of the hearings themselves. We had to endure the member for Scarborough East, actually before the hearings, because before the hearings began in Dryden he went on CBC Radio and said publicly that there would be no changes. In other words, there was absolutely no point to these hearings, which I found very depressing and upsetting.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Insulting.

Mr Gravelle: It was very insulting. May I say, though, that when we and the presenters tried to explain to him the difficulties in terms of travel and distance and how we want to be very connected to our constituents, he said he understood about travel because he had to travel 30 kilometres every day to Queen's Park. It is very sad.

Before wrapping up I want to say something about the previous speaker, the member for Lake Nipigon, my friend and neighbour. His eloquent plea was very special, and I want to praise him. As those of us in northwestern Ontario know, the member for Lake Nipigon is truly a legend in northern Ontario and a man I very much admire and certainly appreciate. All the members of the government would do very well to listen to what he had to say.

Mr Wildman: I listened with interest to the presentation by the member for Peterborough. He talked a lot about the problems of rural as opposed to urban representation and he never mentioned how far across any of these large ridings in southern Ontario are. I wonder if they are as much as 400 miles from one end to the other.

More than that I'm intrigued by his comment that modern technology will make it possible for us to properly represent our ridings. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how I get into a fax machine. I'm trying to figure out how I can fax myself to the next meeting. I'd also like to know from the member how he really believes that geography isn't too important.

Finally, my most important question is, when he raises the question that there weren't amendments provided by the New Democrats, as opposed to the Liberals: Does that mean the member for Scarborough East was incorrect when he said there weren't going to be any changes to this bill? Did we misunderstand him? Was the intent of the Conservatives that they didn't have any ideas of their own on how to change this and they were waiting for ideas to be put forward by the New Democrats so we could amend this bill? Or was it the case that this government had no intention whatever of changing anything in this legislation and simply were going forward as a façade, to pretend they were listening to the people of Ontario when they intended to pass the legislation as originally written, no matter what anybody said to them in the hearings?

Mme Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich) : Je veux dire à notre député de Lac-Nipigon que j'étais très amusée. Did I say that well, Gilles? Oui ? Votre discours, c'était un peu dramatique. Mais au membre après M. le député de Lac-Nipigon je veux dire que vous avez oublié quelques détails. Le cas d'aujourd'hui est une chose très différente. That would be my first phrase en français. Je sais aussi que je dois beaucoup pratiquer, mais un jour je veux faire le discours totalement en français.

What our dear friend across the way in the Conservative Party forgot to mention, and what all members must know, is that the Premier's office has increased its budget for the year 1996-97. To do this in the face of cutting the number of MPPs in this House is simply dishonest, is simply a kind of policy that is dishonest.

We as opposition members have to come clean with the members of the public to make them understand that while the government wants to silence the voice of the elected people in this House, at the same time it increases the number of staff people in the Premier's office, increases the budget somewhere in the vicinity of $1.7 million to $2.6 million. That is a massive increase in a different arm of government, where in fact the control of this government lies, not with these elected officials of the Conservative Party, no, in the whiz kids that we all read about in the Premier's office. That, my friends, is the real agenda of government: Get rid of the elected voice; get rid of the people from the north, decrease their numbers, because their issues are so relevant today. That in fact is the true agenda of government.

Mr Bisson: To the member who just presented his views on this particular bill, I thought his whole speech was passing strange and actually quite amusing in regard to some of the comments he made. I thought what was particularly interesting was to say that unique was all the same. I thought that was a very deep thought and something quite well thought through on the part of the member, to say that when he travelled to northern Ontario, he found the north to be a place that was quite unique, quite the same as the people of Peterborough. I think it just shows that the members don't quite understand what the issues are that are facing northern Ontario and are not able to properly address them from their particular perspective.

The other thing I thought was interesting was that the member said he urged the members of the opposition to lead by example. I would say to the member, I wish you would do the same. You can lead by example by resigning your seat this minute. We'll promise not to call a by-election, and we'll save some money in the interim. So, I would like to see the member lead by example and resign his seat to let us know that he really means what he talks about when he talks about leading by example.

Then he tried to purport that people in northern Ontario who came before the committee did not speak in opposition to this government's proposal, that indeed the only people who spoke against it, by God, were four New Democrats and one Liberal in London. I was in Timmins at the hearings, and virtually almost all of the presenters were vehemently opposed to what your government had proposed. There were only two presentations that were in favour; one from the chamber of commerce, surprise, surprise. It's like you going to the labour council and getting an endorsement. The chamber of commerce from Hearst actually attacked you. So, indeed, people in northern Ontario spoke quite eloquently and quite well and said: "This is preposterous, doesn't make sense. Don't go forward with it."

As for amendments, I think our House leader said why we didn't put forward amendments. The last thing, in regard to new technologies, why don't we invent a transporter? Then they can beam you all out of here.

Mr Stewart: I'm just absolutely elated that the minute I finished speaking about six or seven all wanted to get up at once to take a shot at me. I believe what I said prior, and that is the fact that when you happen to be saying factual things and calling it the way it is, people tend to heckle and carry on that much more.

As far as the chamber of commerce goes that the member for Cochrane South made a comment on, unless the chamber of commerce in Timmins is different from the ones any place else in this province, they represent a major part of the population in these particular areas.

Mr Bisson: I know they do. They're special interest groups just like you.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Member for Cochrane South, come to order.

Mr Stewart: As far as the member for Scarborough East, who supposedly has made some statement that it wasn't going to be changed, I did not hear it. If my colleague from up north -- pardon me, Mr Wildman, I can't remember where you're from; wherever he's from -- made a comment about it, then that is his, because I don't know whether it is factual or not.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Stewart: What I'm saying about modern technology is that there is certainly modern technology in many of the areas in Ontario. But I did make one comment that the old-fashioned way of writing letters -- and many of us, when we want to have authorization to do things on behalf of constituents, what do we do? What do I do? We ask them to sign or give us something in writing to authorize us to do it. Writing letters and that type of communication is certainly not modern, it is not expensive and I can assure you it'll do the job. What I'm saying is that we have to do things differently and smarter, and I do know that the folks from northern Ontario can do just that.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate? A point of privilege, the member for Port Arthur.

Mr Gravelle: Madam Speaker, on a point of privilege: I feel very offended that the member for Peterborough would simply address me as the member for whatever. Obviously, that shows his lack of regard for those of us in the north if he's going to simply treat us in that manner and certainly treat my riding in that manner.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you for your point of privilege. I tend to agree with the member. I would give the member for Peterborough an opportunity to withdraw or apologize for that remark.

Mr Stewart: Madam Speaker, I was not talking about this gentleman at all. I suggested it was Mr Wildman.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Take your seat, please. This might be a good opportunity to remind all members to refer to each other by your ridings. If you don't know, you have the sheet on your desk and you can refer to that to remind you. I would ask the members to come to order. Further debate?

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm very happy finally to be able to rise in my place and to speak on the riding redistribution bill. It's a bill, obviously, that is very important to the people of northern Ontario and my constituents. As many members have said tonight, we did travel on the general government committee, and I had the privilege two Saturdays ago to attend the hearings in Timmins that many of my fellow members have mentioned in the last little while.

To start off, I would just like to address the opening remarks of the member for Peterborough when he said that members in here act as if this was a big surprise, because of course in the Common Sense Revolution they talked about this all the time before the election and of course during the election. That's right. The member for Peterborough is correct about that.

I'd like to point out to the member for Peterborough that not one member from the government side was elected in northern Ontario, and that is one of the reasons why that never happened, because the people of northern Ontario were aware of what this particular political party, the Progressive Conservative Party -- if you can still say it's progressive nowadays. They rejected that outright. I'd just like to remind you, member, they rejected that outright because they understood the diminution of power of northern Ontario in this place, the place that speaks for all Ontarians, would be a result of that reduction. That's exactly why this government is doing that, and that's exactly why we as northerners are fighting that.

I want to make it clear for myself but also on behalf of all the members in the Liberal caucus that we are not per se against riding redistribution. We know that in times of government downsizing, in trying to increase efficiencies in all levels of government, that even the political wing needs to be looked at. We're not against examining redistribution and seeing how we can more effectively in maybe a more cost-effective way represent the people of Ontario. What we thoroughly object to, though, is the holus-bolus acceptance of the federal riding boundaries to represent the representation in this House, the Ontario Legislative Assembly.

The federal government, through long study over the last few years, commenced I believe by the previous federal government and completed by this federal government, had studied, based on the last census, how best Canadians should be represented in their Parliament in Ottawa, the nation's capital. They did their very best, and they came up with a solution. Some MPs may agree with that and some may not, but there seems to be some agreement that for federal representation right across this country, in 10 provinces and two territories, that that's the way it is going to be.

But to then say that that representation on the national level be adopted at the provincial level is really an absurd notion. I'm sure many members in this House, especially during second reading debate, have mentioned that if you were to equate that right across this country, province by province, then the Prince Edward Island Legislature, which is a most beautiful building in Charlottetown, would have four members in it. Of course if Alberta were to do the same, they would have 26 members in the Alberta Legislature.

It is a foolish notion, an absurd notion to say that therefore the Ontario Legislature here at Queen's Park should be made up of the same number of seats, with the same distribution, as our federal House. It just doesn't make sense, and it doesn't make sense not only because of the population of Ontario, but also because of the different types of issues and the frequency and the level of the issues we deal with in the Ontario Legislature compared to our federal Parliament. As many members have said previously in this House, the issues are very distinct from each House.

I would say, and my MP, Ben Serré from Timiskaming, also agrees, that the type of issues the provincial politician deals with primarily, maybe with the exception of the Canada pension plan and unemployment insurance, are much closer to the everyday life of people in this province. We deal with issues that I think involve people on a day-to-day level; I call them the bread-and-butter issues.

Health care, especially today with hospital closings, and in the north, doctor shortages, are vital issues that people care about. In my town of New Liskeard that I live outside of, we are losing a tremendous number of doctors to the United States. This is causing a shortage and many of my constituents in that area do not have a family practitioner. In my riding, a northern riding, people come to my office and ask me to try to help in that situation. I'm sure that if somebody doesn't have a doctor in Mississauga, they just don't think first off to go to their MPP because they don't have a doctor. There really is a difference in the issues we deal with and maybe in northern Ontario, how people deal with those issues and who they go to see to try to have them rectified.

Other issues -- of course, education: another area that's really under pressure from this government. What we're seeing with the cutbacks in education, and especially in large rural areas of northern Ontario with very small school boards with very small provincial grants additionally being squeezed, greater additional pressures to the education system with teachers and teaching assistants being laid off and schools being closed.

Because of the vast distances, the one sort of leader who's perceived to be able to help in those situations is the provincial member of Parliament, and people come to our office, asking us to attend meetings and try to help with these situations.

So health care and education.

Roads are another major concern in northern Ontario. Because of the great distances, we're on the roads a lot. We are on the roads to get to our employment and to visit our families and, of course, with the inclement weather we have in the winter, more than southern Ontario, the condition of the roads, the maintenance of the roads, is even doubly important. It's a sad fact but the traumatic death rate in northeastern Ontario is twice that of the province as a whole. A lot of that can be attributed to the death rate on our highways. That's a sad fact and I wish it wasn't true, but it is and because that becomes a larger concern for people I represent, it's in the provincial domain and they come to the MPP to try to have those situations rectified. We're talking about everyday, bread-and-butter issues that people are involved in and come to the MPP.

Another difference between a northern riding and a southern riding is that we have a lot of the resource extraction industries such as mining and forestry. Unfortunately, even though we have maybe fewer of these accidents today, these industries have heavy rates of industrial accidents, and therefore, we have a much greater caseload of Workers' Compensation Board cases. With some of the reforms over the last few years, some of this has diminished somewhat, but still our caseload is very large. Because of the distances and the infrequency of the visits from the different worker advisers because of the northern distances, the MPP offices are used with great frequency to try to rectify these cases. So we have a heavier workload in those areas.

It's different. You talk to a lot of the MPs and they will admit that the workload is different, not that maybe it's even less but it's different; maybe it's more intense in some cases.

The main argument we've made in northern Ontario is that we feel that in the Ontario Legislature, with a population of almost 11 million people now in Ontario, to keep the representation of MPPs at 15 north of the French River would be ample. In fact, to answer the member for Peterborough who said that at least one opposition party had not moved an amendment, we did move an amendment that we thought was positive, that we weren't going against the whole bill but felt that with redistribution, if you were going to do it this way, at least retain the 15 ridings north of the French River to try to bring some balance.


The reason we asked for that, and I'd like to talk to the people who are watching out there, is that with the redistribution of the seats there's an unequal cutting happening: 33% of the northern ridings are going to be reduced. We're going from 15 down to 10, so we lose five seats. But in southern Ontario or right across the province it's a 20% reduction. So there is a disproportionate reduction in the representation of members from northern Ontario. This is really galling to the citizens of northern Ontario, that once again we have been hit with lack of representation. Our representation is being reduced and northerners see an ever-diminishing voice being expressed in their Legislature in the capital city of Toronto.

It's always been a frustration for northern members of all political parties to know that there are only 15 of us north of the French River and it always has been a real battle in a Legislature of 125 and then 130, 10 years ago, to try to make a mark, to try to make an impression on the Legislature and with the civil servants we work with on a day-to-day basis, that there are special needs and requirements in northern Ontario.

Unfortunately, in the committee hearings as we toured the north, the member for Scarborough East denied that there were any differences in the culture or the people of northern Ontario. He said in fact in Timmins that the only difference he could see between north and south was the weather and that was the only difference between the two.

Mr Conway: What? Repeated?

Mr Ramsay: That's what he said. He repeated it many times. We quite frankly were very much insulted by that. Living in northern Ontario and having actually grown up in southern Ontario, I know that northern Ontario is a very different place from the south. We are not blessed with the wonderful megalopolis that grows out from Toronto through the Golden Horseshoe area, both east and west, the wonderful suburbs where people live with the high industrial and commercial assessment of the municipalities that provide great infrastructure for the peoples who live in the greater Toronto and Golden Horseshoe area.

We live in a very different part of the province where we don't have that wealth. It's ironic because over the years we have generated more wealth for this province than any other part or region of this province, but that wealth, because of the unorganized area of the north, the inability of our municipalities to directly tax that wealth, goes directly to provincial and federal coffers. So the wealth of the north, while it has created jobs and we're very grateful for that, has generated much of the wealth of southern Ontario over the years. We live with that and we accept that and maybe things are going to be changing with all the amalgamations that are being spoken of in northern Ontario.

We're not asking for life any differently up there. We're northerners by choice and I would say the vast majority of northerners love northern Ontario and wouldn't leave as long as there's opportunity. It's lack of opportunity that sometimes forces our citizens and many of our children to leave northern Ontario to seek opportunity and sometimes fame and fortune elsewhere.

One of the areas of this redistribution I want to talk of that the member of Peterborough had related is that he said members of the opposition were pitting urban and rural people against each other in some of the arguments they were using.

To clarify the point that I think the member for Peterborough was trying to make, based on some of the discussion I and other members were having in committee, what we were saying, and the new Cochrane-James Bay riding is a prime example of where this problem is going to be, was that the urban centre will dominate the new region. In the case of the new Cochrane-James Bay riding, Timmins will be the biggest urban centre in that riding, and then along the northern Highway 11 corridor of Smooth Rock Falls and Kapuskasing and Hearst, and then after that basically open territory, the James Bay lowlands up to James Bay; then you get into the native communities along James Bay and Hudson Bay.

Basically from that designation, and one could guess, primarily a member from Timmins will consistently -- of whatever party -- win that particular seat because of the strong population base she or he will come from.

It's going to be very difficult, for example, for native people from the James Bay coast to ever send a representative to this Legislature, because again the main population centre is dominated from Timmins. It's going to be very difficult for, say, a mayor from Hearst, as previous mayors from Hearst have represented the Cochrane North riding, or a mayor from Kapuskasing to travel those distances during an election campaign to raise her profile high enough in order to get the attention and the support of people from, say, Timmins, where most of the votes are going to come from in that riding. So we certainly do worry about that and are very concerned about that domination.

That brings me to the point I'd really like to suggest to this government. While I've said to the government members we are not against riding redistribution, what we would be willing to accept is: let's have a look from an Ontario perspective at this issue. We should embark upon our own commission and study this for our own purposes, if the goal is to try to reduce the number of seats, if that's what you want to do, at least with the goal of representing the people of Ontario in the fairest and best way possible. I think considerations such as I've just mentioned in order to get some representation from some of our native peoples in northern Ontario might be one place we could start when we look at northern representation.

One of the problems we've always had with the alignment of our ridings in northern Ontario that prevents direct native representation is that our riding boundaries run primarily north and south in northern Ontario. What we would need to create, if we had that opportunity to look at this through an Ontario perspective, is some sort of riding running east and west across the very north of our province so that our native communities would be assured that native people could elect a native representative to come down to represent their views at Queen's Park directly.

I know that many of my colleagues who have large aboriginal populations in their ridings do the very best they can to represent the native peoples of northern Ontario, but I'm sure if we put our minds to it we could devise a system, without increasing the number of seats, that would, for example, for this particular group of people, ensure that they have strong representation for the life of this Parliament down here at Queen's Park. I think that would be a noble enterprise and would be a start to redress some of the problems we have with this particular bill.

I guess the reason we ask for this is that the phrase that seems to come up at committee hearing after committee hearing when you travel the province is "community of interest." When you arbitrarily force communities together in artificial boundaries for provincial representation, you don't necessarily have the very best community of interest involved with that riding. There again, the community of interest that was decided upon through compromises by the federal redistribution commission was based on federal representation, based on the issues that federal politicians have to deal with at our capital Parliament in Ottawa. So again, I think we would have to look at what would be the community of interest for the different communities we have in Ontario, based on Ontario issues, based on Ontario representation for the Legislature. So again, it's another reason why I think we should take a look at redistribution from an Ontario perspective and not just accept the federal representation. I think that is very important.

One small matter but one I'd like to address is the new riding that I hope to have the privilege to represent when I run again, if I'm successful in that. Now it is called Timiskaming-Cochrane and part of that name change from Timiskaming stems from the fact that now the riding is going to be extended I suppose about 150 miles north to Cochrane, but it also will extend about the same distance again south of the present boundary -- not quite the same distance south but another maybe 60 miles south of the present boundary. That would include the very big town of Sturgeon Falls, and further south, almost to Georgian Bay, Alban and Noelville.

The people in that south end don't have any name recognition in the new name of the riding. The present name of the Timiskaming riding federally is Timiskaming-French River. The term "French River" denotes the history and the geography of the south area of Timiskaming and west of Lake Nipissing, part of the very famous fur-trading route. The history is there. It denotes the history of the area and how it was developed, but it also denotes the present geography and the identification that people have that they live in the French River-West Nipissing area.


I was talking to my MP over the weekend. Unfortunately he did not have the opportunity to bring forward a name change and thought -- and he's probably right -- it might have been too cumbersome to add a third name to it, but there again, I think that's something maybe on the provincial level. I would like to see some sort of attempt to capture the community at the south end of the new riding there so that they feel a part of it. One way of doing that would be to include the name of the southern part of the new riding in that riding so they have a sense of belonging, because the people of west Nipissing would not have any sort of connection with Cochrane for sure and only some connection with Timiskaming.

The judicial geographic region of Timiskaming actually falls short of the town of Temagami, so the people in west Nipissing really haven't had a close association with the name of Timiskaming and the old geographic boundary of Timiskaming. I hope we would find some remedy so that we can include the west Nipissing-French River people in that name since they are going to be captured by the new riding.

As I said, I was very pleased to be part of the committee hearings in Timmins a couple of Saturdays ago. It was the standing committee on general government and it was Saturday, November 23 that we met there at the La Ronde Cultural Centre in Timmins. I was pleased to be there, and I would like to just go through some of the comments some of the people made as they made representations.

One of the pleasures of travelling on the road is that we get to meet new Ontarians and sometimes get reacquainted with others whom we've met in the past and sometimes get reacquainted with old friends. One of those old friends was the past member for Cochrane North, René Fontaine, who actually drove down from Hearst that morning. I think in earlier testimony that I was going to quote from, he mentioned he had left at 6 o'clock that morning from Hearst to get to Cochrane and then down to Timmins. He went on to talk about the drive he had to take from Hearst to Timmins in order to come to our committee hearings, to give us only a small example of the distance that a member would have to travel, say on a Saturday morning, if he was the elected member and had to attend a meeting there.

He made a very good point and with great passion -- if you know René Fontaine and the passion that he has -- and I'd like to read some of this for you. He gave the personal side of this, which not all members may appreciate because of living in small ridings, or some of those people watching who maybe aren't involved in the job and don't know some of the sacrifices. He said:

"I came over here just to tell you it's inhuman for this riding, the way it's going to be. Inhuman. Immoral on top of that. I'm telling you, a young MPP with family, she won't survive. It'll be a divorce. We don't sleep at home every night, and we've got a hard time to sleep home on the weekend when we come because on the way through from Cochrane to Smooth Rock Falls to Kap I had to stop in Val Rita for a 50th anniversary. Came home on Saturday night all the time at 12. Leave the next afternoon because I have to go on the plane. Sometimes I had to go to Red Lake or Pickle Lake and back to Toronto for a vote on Bill 8 or Bill 31. I did it to the detriment of family, which were older, and my wife. The way they're going to arrange this thing today, that's going to happen all over the place."

It was a very poignant statement the member had made about how physically challenging it is going to be in the future for members to represent some of these new ridings in the north. Mr Fontaine was relating some of the experiences he had there as a member from 1985 to 1990, when he represented the great riding of Cochrane North.

I just want to point out another quote from this Hansard that just shows you how little some members know of our area. This comes from the member for Scarborough East, who had travelled to Timmins. In referring to Mr Fontaine's remarks he said:

"Thank you, Mr Fontaine. I'm intrigued at Mr Wood's comments," because he had made some more comments supporting Mr Fontaine. He said, "The people from this community and from south of here that we had breakfast with said that the four-laning of the highways, not just around here but North Bay south to Toronto" -- I'd like to stop here because there are no four-lane highways just around here when you're speaking in Timmins at all. There are maybe two miles coming into Timmins but there are no real four-lane highways going anywhere other than just to take the commuter traffic to some of the smaller hamlets outside of Timmins. So again there's a misperception about the transportation system of northern Ontario and how easy it might be for us to get around.

Other comments were made that obviously the northern members will have to change how they operate their offices, that they should be getting into more high-tech equipment to communicate with their constituents. I certainly am not against technology and in fact embrace the modern technology, especially in the communications area, where it has facilitated much easier and faster communication than has ever been possible. I'm sure many people would agree that we wonder today how we ever got along without a fax machine and a cell phone. Primarily we've only had those things for about 15 years, and they're tremendous.

But the nature of the work is that it's not always possible to deal with a constituent, say, on a video conference when you want to talk to her about the abusive relationship she's in and her problem is trying to find a shelter she can take her children to so she can find some protection from that abusive spouse. These are not discussions one has over teleconferences, with a technician in Cochrane and a technician in the Haileybury School of Mines, which is a very fine facility in Haileybury very near to my office that I could use, and hopefully, with some increased resources, maybe could even afford.

Somehow, with the disillusionment of the political process and politicians, I think it's doubly important today to keep the physical contact between the politician and constituents as much as possible. I said to many presenters there -- only three were pro the riding realignment -- that in this day of high tech maybe we need a little more high touch, that maybe it is important that with the larger ridings I still get to as many 50th anniversaries and other events in the different communities as I can. By and large, that is the only way you can really stay in contact with your constituents.

People are not angered enough to pick up the phone or to write a letter on everyday issues, but when you bump into them in a social environment, because of the relationship rural northern politicians have with most of their constituents, and knowing a lot of them and their knowing us, they are not hesitant at all, and I welcome that, to bring forward a view. That's exactly the type of representation that people in rural ridings expect and want from their members. I would think that the majority of members with the longest tenure in this place are probably those who have that sort of relationship with their constituents.

The point I'm making is that it's going to be more and more difficult to maintain that one-on-one personal relationship with one's constituents with the very vast distances we have in these new northern ridings. The distance of my riding will probably be at least 400 miles from the south end to the north end, as the crow flies, and a bit longer by road. So it is going to be challenging to service it properly.


I would hope, as obviously, unfortunately, it is going to be a reality, that the Legislative Assembly sees fit to make sure there are adequate resources in the new budgets, with the savings that are going to accrue with these reductions, so that if I was successful next time in the new riding of Timiskaming-Cochrane, I would be able to have some sort of satellite office up in Cochrane, a satellite office in Sturgeon Falls, where maybe even only on a part-time basis there would be some staff, that people could drop in and talk to staff face to face, one on one, about their problems; a place that I could go after leaving here on a Thursday night; to be able to fly to Timmins in this case, get a car and go up to Cochrane, to be able to see some people maybe once a month or once every two months up in Cochrane, to do the same in Sturgeon and the other centres, so that we could have that direct contact.

I think that is very important. My only fear about this redistribution is that northern Ontario is going to have a weaker voice, that it is going to be more difficult, but not impossible, to bring that representation. It might have to be that the hours spent at Queen's Park would have to be reduced in order to spend more time over the larger constituency. I think that is something the successful candidates after the next election are going to have to work out in an agreement, with an accord with their constituents, as to how they want to see themselves represented.

If I am successful, I will certainly do the best I can, but I only wish that the members of the government side would reconsider the redistribution plans they have for northern Ontario and that, for once, in this case they would say that maybe an Ontario solution would be the way to go about this.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I want to make a few comments on the long dissertation by the member for Timiskaming. First of all, I notice that he referred to a former member of the Legislature, M. René Fontaine, who was the member for Cochrane North. I want to say that M. Fontaine was someone who spent a lot of time representing his part of Ontario and was a good representative of Cochrane North and was a very good Minister of Northern Development and Mines. The present Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development and Mines would be wise perhaps to read some of M. Fontaine's speeches and some of the comments that M. Fontaine made. He would I think be much wiser if he were to do that.

I want to also comment that the member for Timiskaming points out that northern Ontario is going to lose considerably in terms of representation if this bill should become law. Not only will northern Ontario lose in terms of representation, but the fact of the matter is, and I think the member for Timiskaming has heard this as well, many people in northern Ontario are starting to ask the question, if the government really doesn't care about us that much, if the government really doesn't think we're that important, then why do we stay so committed and what really is our relationship? In fact, the federal member for Timiskaming has made this comment himself.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time has expired. Further questions or comments?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't believe we have a quorum.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum?

Acting Clerk Assistant (Ms Donna Bryce): Speaker, a quorum is not present.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

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

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments?


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Take your seat for a moment until people get seated. Member for Mississauga South, go ahead.

Mrs Marland: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I appreciate the honour of the member for Algoma, who pointed out that there was an agreement that no quorum would be called this evening. I say to the member for Algoma, thank you for pointing out the agreement between all parties.

I just have difficulty when these members in the opposition think that this legislation has no value to the people of Ontario in terms of the economy of scale when we're talking about saving $11 million. There is a tremendous amount that can be done with $11 million and I don't want to hear the response. I say with respect to the member for Timiskaming that, oh, yes, the $11 million can go to the tax rebate to our friends.

If you read what the Minister of Finance reported to this chamber last Thursday, you will know that because of the tax rebate, we are now in an economic recovery. That tax rebate is contributing to jobs, employment in all sectors in this province, more people employed, more people having money to spend, which in itself creates more jobs. The more people who are working, the more taxes are paid, whether it's income tax, sales tax, any other forms of tax, depending on the product that those people buy.

I simply say to you, I'm amazed that you can brush aside $11 million, which is the saving of this legislation.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr Conway: I want to commend my colleague the member for Timiskaming for a good speech, and particularly for one with a northern perspective. As someone who represents a large rural constituency in eastern Ontario, I can just begin to imagine what it must be like to represent the large rural ridings in northern Ontario, and I'm now not talking about the current constituencies of Cochrane South or Sault Ste Marie, which are in the main urban northern Ontario constituencies.

When I think of what the member for Timiskaming has said about the testimony of the former member for Cochrane North, I remember coming here with the wonderful René Brunelle, who used to talk about living in Moonbeam and being a minister of the crown and local member.

Mrs Marland: Jack Pierce.

Mr Conway: I mean, for people who represent a nice pocket borough in south Peel, it is almost beyond the pale of their experience and imagination to conceive --


Mr Conway: Well, I say to the member from Brampton, it is a qualitatively different experience to be the member for Brampton South than it is to be the member from Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and East Grenville and I will not accept that there is a qualitative similarity.

Mr Clement: We've got 125,000 people in my riding.

Mr Conway: I don't care whether you've got 500,000 people; I am telling you --

Mr Clement: I know you don't care.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Brampton South.

Mr Conway: -- that they are good people, they're important people, but as Harry Danford would tell you, there is a different expectation and, if nothing else, the tyranny of distance that our friend from Moose Creek or, God forbid, somebody from Moonbeam --

Hon Mr Villeneuve: What do you mean "a tyranny?"

Mr Conway: It is a tyranny of distance. I want to make the point that the former federal member from Timiskaming went to his grave running the roads of that federal riding, Bruce Lonsdale. I think of André Fortin, who killed himself in Quebec running around one of the big rural constituencies of Lotbinière, not necessarily a function of --

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

Mr Ramsay: I'd like to thank the member for Rainy River for his comments on my speech and the member for Renfrew North for the same. I'd like to address some of the comments, though, that the member for Mississauga South had addressed. I wish she had listened to my speech, because I'd said to her that I wasn't against redistribution, and I wasn't even against the concept of fewer politicians, because I think all of us in this age have to pull our weight when it comes to this.


The main argument I was making was not worrying about saving money -- I think we need to save money, and I agree with that also -- but that I wanted a made-in-Ontario solution to this particular situation. I don't consider it to be a problem, but it's a situation, and I think we have to do our part and pull our own weight. All I was asking is that we would look at it through an Ontario-designed commission, based on Ontario criteria for how we would want to see the people of Ontario represented in their Legislature in Toronto.


Mr Ramsay: Margaret, you should be paying attention to the substance of this issue, because representation for this Parliament is right. I must say to the member for Mississauga South that I never said their full motivation for this cut was to pay for their tax cut. I never said that. But now that the member has reminded me, I think that is probably just the case, because this government is forgoing $5 billion a year and $11 million would be a great contribution towards that.

It's another cut, though in this case it will be a very popular cut with the majority of people of Ontario. But the people of the north, as I pointed to the member for Peterborough, did not vote for any government member north of the French River, and I think it was primarily because they understood that if the Mike Harris government ever came into being, they would lose a say in their Parliament at Queen's Park.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you, member for Timiskaming.

I apologize. The night is late, and I missed the NDP in rotation for the last comment, okay?

Mr Conway: That can sometimes happen in daytime.

The Acting Speaker: On that note, further debate?

Mr Marchese: I have been part of the hearings on Bill 81. I was in Ottawa and we had the pleasure of listening to many deputants. I have to tell you, I've been against Bill 81 from the very beginning, and I remain convinced to the very end that this is a loony bill that should not be supported.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Oh, Rosario.

Mr Marchese: I will comment on what M. Villeneuve had to say in the past and what he may or may not have said in the present about what he said then. I'll have a few moments to talk about that in due time.

Mr Bradley: Please tell us.

Mr Marchese: I will do that. This bill, called the Fewer Politicians Act, should more appropriately be called the Fewer NDP and Liberal MPPs Act or should be called the More Conservative MPPs Act, or even more appropriately, the How Do We Get Ourselves, Conservative Party, Re-elected Act. That's what this bill is all about under the guise of how we cut government fat or how we cut MPPs.

What this bill does and how the Conservative Party has configured all of this is to find a way to get themselves re-elected. That's what this bill is all about. Conveniently, they talk about how in the process of doing that we're going to save $11 million. It is fascinating how all of that fits in the grand scheme of this Conservative re-election act. By and large, the members that will be lost in the north and in the south will be members of the NDP and Liberals, where they will be competing with each other, and the Tories will smugly and neatly just move in and get re-elected and will be able to, in the end, cause greater damage if they get re-elected to this province than they are already committing at the moment.

This act should be seen for what it is, how to get Conservative MPPs re-elected.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Rosario, you're wrong again.

Mr Marchese: M. Villeneuve says I'm wrong again, but I will comment on his own commentary on this in the past and see how it all fits into this grand scheme of things.

Mr Conway: I like the continental French, Rosario. It's a marvellous flair.

Mr Marchese: The French, yes: M. Villeneuve.

This bill is flawed. That is why we had nothing to introduce by way of amendments in committee. We had nothing to add or to amend because it is fundamentally flawed. Nothing we could say or introduce by way of amendments could make this a better bill, and why even attempt to try to make it better when it is fundamentally a bad bill in the first place? When they say, "The third party had no amendments," it's not because we are happy about what they have done; it's because we are completely dissatisfied with the intent of this particular bill.

This bill is a break from tradition. Since 1962, when we've had to deal with reconstituting the boundaries and/or representation of this province, we've had commissions appointed to do that job, and they were appointed for a purpose: so they could be an arm's-length group of people -- neutral, hopefully; not always, but hopefully they would be neutral -- to advise the government of the day, whatever the government in power, on how to redistribute or whether we should have more members or fewer members. I thought that was a good process. I remain convinced that that is a good process because it removes it from political interference, political involvement.

What has Mike Harris, the Premier of Ontario, done for the very first time? He's broken that tradition, he has broken away from something that I found to be a useful process. He has decided, because Mike Harris is omnipotent and omniscient, that he no longer needs an advisory body to tell him how and what to do, that he can do it himself. Why? Because M. le Premier is omnipotent and omniscient. He needs no advice any longer. He can do it on his own. That's what Mikey is doing. He's decided to take it upon himself politically, to show leadership and to cut away 27 politicians. He doesn't need advice. He doesn't need a referendum. He doesn't need to consult. He doesn't need to talk to people. Mike Harris has decided that this is what is good for Ontario, and thus we have Bill 81.

Is this the way that the people of Ontario want to be led? I don't think so. Do people want to participate on major issues of this kind? I think they do. They don't want to be shut out in the same way that the cities of Toronto, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough and East York are being shut out right now, where the backroom boys and the hirelings and the hired guns are doing the dirty job for the Premier -- in the back room doing the dirty work for the Premier.

They don't want to be led that way. They want to participate. They want hearings on most major changes, and this is a major change. Mike Harris has decided to break away from that tradition. He has decided to tell you what is good for you. So all of a sudden we have 27 politicians who have gone. Why? Because Mike says, "This is good for you."

And what does M. Villeneuve have to say about this, the member from the united counties and East Grenville, what does he have to say? Has anybody heard M. Villeneuve speak on this matter? I heard him; a long time ago I heard him speak on this matter. Many years ago he had a private member's bill where he indicated that it was important not to forget the rural communities, not to forget northern Ontario, reminded us that this province is unique, that we mustn't forget how diverse, how vast this province is. He wanted the government of the day to be reminded about that diversity, that uniqueness, of rural Ontario and northern Ontario.

He urged us in his private member's bill, don't cut back on the representation for rural communities. M. Villeneuve is indicating with his thumbs up, "You're quite correct, Mr Marchese." That's what he's indicating to me right now. What happened, Monsieur Villeneuve? What happened between then and now? You as the minister, you and your friends, Ernie Eves and others who held similar views and supported you then, what happened? Would you say times have changed? Is that it? Times haven't changed? Oh, they have changed dramatically in this province with the leadership of M. Harris and this gang of Reform-minded politicians. Things have changed a great deal and they will continue to change, terminably. In fact, what they will do unto this province will be irretrievably lost. It is irretrievable, and no matter who gets elected, whether they be NDPers or Liberals, we will not be able to repair the damage that this government is exerting on the people of Ontario.



Hon Mr Villeneuve: Oh, Rosario, my heart aches.

Mr Marchese: But, Monsieur Villeneuve, we need to hear from him, and I'm glad this Conservative member is on this side because he shares my views. I have no doubt he shares -- he's disappearing all of a sudden. He's disappearing. You see how quickly they change their views. They come and they go. They come and they go like the views of M. Villeneuve. They came and they left. What was good many years ago is no longer good. Things have changed, although he says nothing has changed. But how could they not? How could you at one point say: "Don't change things for us in rural Ontario. We need the representation we have and it must continue"? How could that be? I want to hear from you, Monsieur Villeneuve. I need to know where you stand. I need to know where you and M. Ernie Eves and the others stand. It's important for your community to know.

Il est très important pour la communauté de savoir votre position et la position de M. Ernie Eves. C'est très important pour moi et pour tout le monde de savoir, parce que vous avez dit il y a longtemps que c'était important. En ce moment, ce n'est plus important ? Ça reste toujours important. Je veux savoir de M. Villeneuve son opinion aujourd'hui de ce qu'il avait dit il y a longtemps et pourquoi son opinion a changé aujourd'hui. Pourquoi ? Expliquez-vous, Monsieur Villeneuve.

L'hon. M. Villeneuve : Jamais.

M. Marchese : «Jamais», dit-il. «Jamais.»

M. Beaubien : Son opinion n'a pas changé.

Mr Marchese: Son opinion a changé. Il dit, «Jamais». Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire, «jamais» ? Son opinion a changé, et c'est important pour lui et pour ses amis de s'expliquer sur le sujet. Je veux le savoir. C'est important pour les électeurs qu'il représente de savoir sa position aujourd'hui, parce que je pense qu'ils ne la connaissent.

Mr Baird: Let's have a vote and he'll get up and show you.

Mr Marchese: No. We don't need his vote now. We need to understand his position today vis-à-vis yesterday. I remember M. Chris Stockwell, when he was here, saying: "No, it's not important what I think. It's important what you think and what you said."

Moving on, because we've had enough of that and M. Villeneuve and his position, he has been effectively muzzled by the Premier. The Premier has said: "Boys, this is what we're going to do. We are going to introduce Bill 81. We're going to cut 27 politicians. Monsieur Villeneuve, it is irrelevant what you said in the past. Monsieur Eves, it is irrelevant what you said and what you supported in the past. What is important is what we do now."

So the boys there have a problem now. They have to deal with the past. They don't quite know how to do it except to stay silent, because that is probably their best defence. Silence is their best defence because should they try to explain themselves out of that position, it'll be awfully confusing to the public. I don't think they would understand it.

So, Mike Harris has said: "Boys, forget that. You go back to your ridings and you defend Bill 81. You go tell them that what we need is fewer politicians, that government is too fat." That's what they say: "The government is too fat, too many politicians. Let us cut them out. So, you go and defend them, and you tell them at the end of the day they're going to save $11 million." They're going to save $11 million; 27 politicians gone.

The north is going to have fewer people to represent it. The north, which has bigger ridings than some countries in Europe, is going to have to represent that same area but a larger area all of a sudden. In those cold winters up there in the north, imagine people having to travel from one place to the other, on sleighs perhaps, I'm not sure; in cars, I'm not sure; on planes, I don't know. How are they going to go and see that member, travelling great distances, bigger than most countries in Europe? They say: "I think we can do a better job. I think that we can do a more effective job by doing it a little more effectively." That's what they say. "I think we can do a more effective job. We just have to learn to do it better." It is farcical, as laughable as this bill.

Mrs Marland: No, it's your acting.

Mr Marchese: No, it's not my acting; it is your bill that is farcical and laughable, because I tell you this: The people of northern Ontario are not laughing as joyously as you are about this, because they know they're losing something out of this. You may be pleasing your Reform-minded constituents who say, "Less politicians, God bless; the fewer the better." You will be pleasing some of your constituents who are Reform-minded, as yourselves, but by and large the majority of the populace in Ontario is not Reform-minded, is not reform in their culture, and they will oppose it because they know that this does not serve them. They will have less accountability, less accessibility to their members, and they know that. For all your acting about, "Oh, I think the members can do a little more effective job, they just have to do it a little better," it's not going to work. It's just not going to work.

So, $11 million in savings, and they say that with pride. One of the members says: "Oh, imagine what you could do with $11 million. You could put it back into the educational system." Do you believe that? That's what he said. They have an income tax cut that will take $5 billion away every year, and then they say, "Oh, but with this $11 million we're going to put it back into the educational system."

Mr Stewart: Are you indicating I'm a liar?

Mr Marchese: They are going to cut approximately, I wager this, $2 billion from the educational system. Then they have the gall to say, "Imagine what we can do with $11 million; we can bring it right back to the educational system," while at the same time taking $2 billion away, because that's what they will take.

They say $1 billion is going to be taken from the educational system, although they will not admit that, but they will take $2 billion away. I estimate $500 million will be taken away from preparation time; not $1 billion but half a billion. They will take away from teachers' salaries who knows how much. In terms of taking away from the commercial and industrial base from major cities in Metro, Ottawa and other places, approximately another $1 billion. They will take $2 billion away from the educational system. Then this member and others have the courage to say, "Oh, but with $11 million just imagine what we could do with that."

They have the gall to give away billions to bankers, bankers who earn $1.5 million, $1.6 million and some of them $1.9 million for cutting away staff, even as a bonus, and they will get $120,000 or $130,000 at the end of that 30% cut; to benefit them. Then this member and others say, "Imagine what we could do with $11 million."


Throwing $5 billion away every year into this bottomless, Tory, wealthy sieve that's going to go to their friends, a bottomless sieve, received by wealthy people whose money is never going to come back into the economy, stealing from the poor of this province to give to their wealthy bankers, and then they argue, "Imagine what we could do with $11 million"? If it weren't so farcical, I'd laugh right now. But it's not a laughable matter.

They add other arguments to this. They say: "Oh, but people are confused between federal and provincial ridings. We're going to make it easier for them, because those poor folk out there sometimes cannot distinguish between a federal and provincial riding. So, we're going to make it easier for them."

Mr Wildman: You don't have enough confidence in the voters.

Mr Marchese: Not only not enough confidence in the voters to understand, but they present it as an argument, as if to convince us and you, the public, that they're doing something that is intelligent. Please, it has nothing to do with common sense. I want to hear from M. Villeneuve, who says we are wasting his precious time, because this loony bill is wasting my time. This loony bill is wasting the people of Ontario's time.

I urge the people of Ontario, particularly those living in the ridings where people like M. Villeneuve, Mr Eves and others who were there in his time live, to write me. I want to know what you think about where they stand. If you think I'm right today, I want you to write him and the Premier, in a letter marked "Private and confidential" so that it gets directly in his hands, so that he will know exactly what you think.

Why do I say this? I say this because if you write a letter to this minister or the Premier and it is not marked "Private and confidential," it will go through the civil service, and by the time the Premier or the minister gets it, they're out of office. Don't send it to the minister without writing on that envelope "Private and confidential." It is urgent that people write to them now, today, on an envelope marked "Private and confidential," so they know your views today, not three years from now when they open that envelope up, but now.

If you are watching this program tonight at this very moment, I urge you to write me or them, "Private and confidential," so that they are the only ones who get to open up that envelope and with their own eyes see what you have to tell them. Do it now. Do it today. Don't wait three years from now, because it will be too late. They need to know.

Mr Gerretsen: You sound like a television preacher.

Mr Marchese: Thank you, John. I have a fan to my right.

This is what this bill is all about. Because of the income tax cut, they have introduced many loony bills in this House. Because of this income tax cut, they are alienating half of the population, at least, in Ontario, and they will alienate the other half in the next year when they continue to introduce many more loony bills of this sort.

This Fewer Politicians Act, I remind you, should be called How Do We Get Ourselves, Tory Caucus Party, Re-elected? In the same way that I talk about this, I remind you about so many other bills they've introduced where, in their own title, they -- I was about to use words that are not acceptable in the House; I'm desperately searching for an appropriate one. Their titles do not speak the truth. It's like the tenant protection package, which leads people to believe that's all about tenants. It has nothing to do with tenants. It is all to do with an attack on tenants. It is all to do with the landlord protection act. Every one of these bills that they present in the House must be seen through a filter that allows people to see the politics behind what they are doing.

The politics behind all this is to please a Reform-minded public that doesn't mind getting rid of 27 politicians, that doesn't mind at all, but I tell you that as you do this you diminish your own role, not just mine but your own role as politicians, and without realizing it we have all been diminished because you've created the impression for the public that we don't need those 27 politicians, that we can do without them. You have created the impression that you are useless politicians here. I almost ask myself, and you should ask yourselves, why are you doing this? Why are you here as politicians if you didn't believe in your function? Did you get yourselves elected so you could cut more politicians? Is that your role as a politician?

I don't think that should be your role. I don't think you meant to be elected to get rid of your own jobs. I don't think you got elected to reduce your own credibility here. I am worried about this because I know that the politicians who will be elected to this House in the next election will have a bigger job on their hands.

They will have a more difficult time to represent their constituents. Others can say, naïvely, "Oh, we can do a more effective job with less," but those of us who work hard in this place know it's very difficult to be able to do a lot more than what we're doing, when constituents come to me in my office worried about their compensation claim, worried about being injured and having to live with less, worried about mental illness and not having the services in their community to deal with that problem, nervous and worried about having fewer and fewer advocates to protect them and help them out, worried about the educational cuts, and I know, having recently had a press conference in my office and people picketing my office, picketing against this government, worried about what those educational cuts will mean to them.

I worry that we will not have the energy to be able to do more, and my staff is a very able, very educated staff and they work very hard. What some of these members are asking my staff to do is to work more than they're already now working, to do the job of representing those constituencies that they have put aside, that they don't give a damn about. They're going to have a difficult time, those members.

I worry about rural communities being represented adequately and I'm worried about northern MPPs being able to do their job effectively. How they could not worry about those constituents is beyond me. I'm also thinking, is it because they elect fewer Conservative members in the north that they seem to care less about the north consequently? Sometimes I really believe that is the motivation behind Bill 81. We are going to have fewer politicians, but it won't be Conservative members that get elected in the north; they're either NDP members or Liberal members. So in my mind, I say, "They probably don't care that those individuals will have to do a hell of a lot more to be able to adequately represent those members because they won't have to be there to worry about that."

This is a flawed bill. This is a loony bill. This is a bill that those members that I have referred to need to speak to. I urge the public to either write to me about what they have said or write to them.


Mr Bradley: I'll write to you.

Mr Marchese: No, I don't want Liberal friends to write to me. I want the constituents of the united counties of East Grenville and others to write to me, but more particularly to write to them and send me a copy so that I know what you're thinking. We urge you to do that, because if you are silent, this government will assume that it is doing the right thing. If you remain passive, this government will trample all over you. This Premier and this government are very, very happy not to consult you on many things, and they call that leadership. They call it leadership to be able to do things without hearing from you and without consulting you. Some have informed me that in order to understand this government, we need to read a few Soviet writers because that will give us a glimpse of the style of governance of this government.


Mr Marchese: Do you think that's far-fetched? I think not. Because the way this government is behaving, the way that it does things in its own draconian way with the iron fist, is clearly reminiscent of many other countries that people link you to. It may be that you don't worry about this, but I tell you this: In six more months, many of you will have a lot to worry about. Write to them on this bill and let them know what you think.

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I'm pleased to speak on the member for Fort York's comments and his speech, I guess both in French and English, and thank him for his impersonation of John Wayne, I think that was? It was John Wayne.

He speaks of talking to constituents. I want to tell him about the constituents of Scarborough Centre and what they have to say about Bill 81, the Fewer Politicians Act. A couple of weeks ago I held a town hall meeting in my riding on this specific issue of redistribution and how it affects the constituents of Scarborough Centre.

Mr Wildman: There was just one fewer politician they want.

Mr Newman: They do, but it's not me, Mr Wildman. At that meeting, which was largely advertised, 140 residents of my riding came out to listen to the chief election officer for Ontario, Mr Warren Bailie, plus the local returning officer, Barry Davidson, to hear what they had to say about it. What came out of the meeting was that they just wanted to be communicated with, and I was doing that. They felt the federal government hadn't done a good job of communicating with them how the federal boundaries had changed, and they wanted a permanent voters list.

Mr Bradley: Where was this meeting?

Mr Newman: The meeting was in Anson Park Public School, Mr Bradley.

The member talks about having the bill called the "Fewer NDP and Liberal Members" bill. Perhaps that may happen, but that won't be because of this bill; that will be because of the record of this government, that we're a government of integrity and a government that sticks to its word. I wonder if the member's comments about the ridings being redistributed had anything to do with what he had to say tonight.

The member mentioned the role of politicians being diminished because of Bill 81. I suggest to him that it was him and his NDP cohorts and their outrageous record of spending and tax hikes that left the public with the impression, and not this government.

The Deputy Speaker: The time has expired. The member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mme Pupatello : J'ai deux choses à dire ce soir : la première, que je suis d'accord avec notre collègue de North York dans son discours.

M. Villeneuve : Sandra, c'est vrai ?

Mme Pupatello : Oui, et je suis très heureuse aussi que notre ministre des Affaires francophones et des Affaires rurales soit ici dans la Chambre. Il veut entrer dans le débat ce soir sur le sujet de la circonscription et des changements que le gouvernement fait aujourd'hui.

Je veux dire aussi que je suis très heureuse que vous soyez ici, Monsieur le Ministre, parce que vous êtes le même ministre qui a dit une chose avant l'élection mais aujourd'hui vous avez fait quelque chose de totalement different. Vous avez changé complètement votre chanson, et aujourd'hui vous chantez une autre chanson.

Par exemple, dans les affaires touchant l'agriculture, vous avez dit que vous aviez un grand support pour les programmes agricoles, mais aujourd'hui, au lieu, vous avez coupé 83 million de dollars dans les programmes d'agriculture. C'est vrai, Monsieur le Président. C'est le même ministre qui a dit à tous les députés dans l'agriculture qu'ils donnent un grand support, et pour les zones rurales vous avez dit la même chose, que vous donnez un grand support. Mais aujourd'hui, vous avez coupé les députés pour les zones rurales. Je ne suis pas d'accord.

That was quite an exhaustive task I just went through. In any event, what I must say at the end of it all and I must repeat again is that the Premier's office in Ontario has increased his budget from some $1.7 million to some $2.6 million at the same time he chooses to cut the elected officials in Ontario.

Mr Wildman: I just wanted to congratulate my friend from Fort York on his presentation. It was very entertaining as well as informative. I think it's significant that he was able to point out that the member for the united counties, who is now the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, M. Villeneuve, was very much an advocate for rural Ontario at one time, and despite the fact that he is now the minister responsible for rural affairs, he seems to have forgotten his loyalty to rural residents and to their need to be properly represented in this assembly.

I think it's significant too that the member for Scarborough Centre got up and said that he had a meeting in his riding and 140 people came. I was just wondering: Was this meeting sponsored by the member? The chief election officer, Warren Bailie, came to this meeting. I am a little concerned about this, to say the least, that somehow the chief election officer would be pulled into a partisan meeting to talk about what is good about this bill that is being presented by the government. Surely it is the responsibility of the chief election officer to remain aloof from partisan politics and from controversy about a bill that is before the House, a bill which is very controversial and which has many, many people in the province concerned. To have a servant of the electorate, a public servant who is supposed to be above politics, involved in such a meeting I think is most inappropriate.

Mrs Marland: I think in fairness it's important to put on the record that the meeting to which the member for Scarborough Centre was referring was a public town hall meeting. It was not a partisan meeting. He sponsored the meeting as the local MPP, and there's quite a difference. It was not a partisan meeting.

Because I wish to comment on the comments made by the member for Fort York, having been elected at the same time as the member for Fort York and both of us having been here now almost 12 years, I would say to that member that I have never seen you more in full flight than this evening. I think that for the Academy Awards I certainly would nominate you for first place. You and I were at the same performance of a play last weekend, and I see now your interest in acting, because your impersonation of various characters during your debate tonight, while entertaining, really doesn't deal with the substance of the bill. The substance of the bill is that this province is going to save $11 million.

The other part of this, of course, is that when we talk about democratic rights, we have 82 seats on this side of the House because we told the public of Ontario 12 months before the election that we were going to reduce the number of members in this House. We are simply fulfilling on a platform that we published in print 12 months before the election. We are fulfilling that promise and the commitment, and on that basis we were elected 82 seats in Ontario, with everyone knowing exactly what we were going to do.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: I thank the members from Scarborough Centre, Windsor-Sandwich, Algoma and Mississauga South for their comments. First, they're quite proud to say, "The federal government has already done this work of the redistribution, so we are conveniently and neatly following in their footsteps." I think it's wrong. The provincial government should take care of its own needs and not say, "The federal government has already done this and we will follow in their footsteps." It's a fundamental mistake. We have our own needs in Ontario we should be worried about and not try to fit into the needs of the federal government in this regard.

Second, this shifts power from MPPs to the Premier's office even more. Power settles snugly in the Premier's office at the moment and it will continue to reside there even more so in the future when the 27 members disappear from this House, because, rest assured, this bill will pass.

Third, if I am a good actor, they are much better actors than I. If they will have convinced you at the end of the day that this is good for you, they will have acted their play much more effectively than me. It remains to be seen whether I am a good actor or whether they have been good actors, and which of us is better at that.

Finally, the income tax cut is making this government do the looniest of things and this bill fits into that loony plan. There is no vision here. Once you've made the lunatic mistake of the income tax cut, everything falls stupidly behind it. This is the wrong bill. We should be defeating it.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate? The member for Durham East.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Thank you. Thank you, my fellow Canadians.

It's certainly a pleasure to participate in this debate on Bill 81 tonight in the late sitting. I really want to be a little more focused than the debate I've heard so far. With all respect to those beleaguered viewers who may be watching tonight, out of respect for them, I know they have heard all the rhetoric and all the various party lines up to this point, so I'll try to stick to the very subject at hand: 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 counterpart and to make consequential amendments to statutes concerning electoral representation.

The Honourable Dave Johnson introduced this bill on October 1, 1996, and since that time members have been expected to go about and consult and learn about the various aspects of this bill. I've done that and my friend from Scarborough Centre has done that. I believe a lot of members have consulted. I've heard very little from my constituents about concerns.

Mr Conway: That's not what the Port Perry Star tells us.


Mr O'Toole: No, no, Durham East is a very loyal riding, and you know that, Mr Conway.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Renfrew North and the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mr O'Toole: Exactly. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

As the member from Mississauga mentioned earlier, we were committed, during the election process, to fewer politicians. In fact, we committed to 99 members, which is the current number of federal members. So this is not new, it's not something the electorate didn't know and didn't vote for. They voted knowing full well --

Mr Wildman: They didn't vote for it in northern Ontario.

Mr O'Toole: Of course they did.

What we've done is that we've respected the hard work that's been done by the federal electoral commission and we're going with 103 members, which is in line with the federal boundaries. There are a lot of efficiencies there for all the people of Ontario. In terms of all the factors Mr Gilchrist spoke of earlier this afternoon, which are on the record, the work has been done to reflect the demographics: The rural aspects, the urban aspects and the geographical considerations have all been well discussed within this debate in the House today.

I think our constituents should first know that the bill will come into effect -- there will be a transition period, but for future elections in this province this act will prevail.

There are a couple of other interesting parts that I thought the viewers might be interested in. The first one is section 3, which may affect just those riding associations that may be watching tonight.

"(3) After the proclamation date, the commission shall register new constituency associations in the register mentioned in subsection 11(2).

"(4) The commission shall register a new constituency association only if its application complies with subsection 11(2)...."

There are 27 fewer ridings, so many of these riding associations have to be collapsed, and when they're collapsed, their coterminous ridings will assume some of their assets or liabilities, and also the new representative will be their elected representative.

It's very important that the riding associations, those people who are members of whatever party in this province, Liberal or, heaven forbid, the NDP, and in fact our party -- of course we're the party that is working towards that organizational thing of always looking to the electorate and doing what they want us to do. They voted us in. Smaller government: That's what people want, and I'm convinced it's the right move.

You have to recognize that the government should lead by example. As we listen to the Sweeney report on education and we listen to the Crombie report on Who Does What, all those particular reports are talking about smaller government, smaller administration. Why wouldn't the government take upon itself a lead role, showing by example?

I always like to bring into the record the history of the debate during the election. I'm holding up a very famous book --

Mr Wildman: Quit living in the past.

Mr O'Toole: It's not the past. Of course, it would have to have Mr Kennedy's picture on here now.

Interjection: Mr McGuinty's.

Mr O'Toole: No. Gee, they almost had it printed. Yes, it's Mr McGuinty now. That's right. Pardon me.

Mr Baird: Mr McGuinty said he was proud of it.

Mr O'Toole: Yes, he was, actually. I'm going to bring to mind a few things. There's a little section here referred to as "Smaller Government Starts at the Top." I found that particular section very interesting. I'm sure Mr Bradley, the member for St Catharines, would be interested in listening to this.

"Everyone agrees that government must become smaller and more efficient." I think that's appropriate. They seem to espouse that mode and I would like to support that. We're basically trying to respond to the people of Ontario through most of the legislation we're doing.

"But under the current NDP government, the number of political staff and spending on questionable advertising campaigns have both increased dramatically." They said it; I'm just reading it. And it's true, because the people were disgusted, upset, threw you out of office. That's history now, but you can learn from history or you're doomed to repeat it.

"A Liberal government will show leadership in getting government spending under control by: cutting the number of political staff." Notice that? They're cutting the staff, not themselves. We're starting with ourselves. How do the members, when they're in the House here till midnight, help their constituents? The staff are probably as important as the members themselves. They were going to start by cutting the staff. That's almost like political patronage. Well, it's clear they weren't elected, so this didn't make any sense anyway.

"Reducing government advertising by $10 million." I could go on, but there are a couple of other things. I think they made some very good points. Much of it was copied. Scrap the MPPs' pensions? We've done it. The only difference between us and them is that we've done it. We promised to do this and we're going to do this.


Mr Bradley: Oh, I wish I could speak on this.

Mr O'Toole: You'll get a chance, Mr Bradley from St Catharines. I'm very interested in what you might have to say.


Mr O'Toole: The argument I've been trying to make -- under great challenge and anxiety, I've been trying to make the argument that many of my constituents call me and the first thing our staff is supposed to do is try to help them. That's the very first thing: try to help them. I believe every member in this House is there to serve. When they call, they really don't know if the responsibility lies with the provincial member or the federal member. In fact, they don't know if it's the regional councillor who has that responsibility. When I looked over some of the divisions of responsibility between the federal level and the provincial level, I think it's important to help the people of Ontario understand that the division of responsibility is covered by the constitutional issues. It's very important.

People know that health care is primarily a provincial jurisdiction, but of course it comes under the Canada Health Act. Education is primarily a provincial jurisdiction, but again it's regulated by transfer payments, especially when it comes to education of new Canadians and retraining the workforce, those people after post-secondary, I suspect. If you look at the ministries we have and the fewer ministers we have, by the way, fewer ministers or ministries than have been around in this province for many years, and then you look at the federal level, what are the main responsibilities for the federal level of government? The federal level of government is basically involved with --


Mr O'Toole: I'm having a lot of trouble here.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I would like to note that the member for Scarborough East is out of order. You can't wear that shirt in the Legislature. But since you're in the visitors' gallery, welcome.

Mr Bradley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm just wondering if that shirt is a shirt from the Cobourg city council.

The Speaker: I believe that's not a point of order.

Mr O'Toole: I'd also like to extend my welcome to the member for Scarborough-Canadian Tire. I was being rudely interrupted, I have to admit, and I thank the Speaker for bringing us all back to focus. Thank you very much for your kind attention.

I was trying to outline the differences in responsibility between the federal level of government and the provincial level of government for those people viewing. Foreign affairs and international issues of course are federal, clearly, but very few constituents call, whether it's a federal MP or an MPP, about a foreign issue. If they call about a passport, of course we help them. If they call about a birth certificate, of course we help them. I'm not certain --

Mrs Pupatello: I don't think you're helping anybody.

Mr O'Toole: Yes, we are. I'd have to differ with the member.

When I look at the other ministries, though, ministries of finance, certainly there's a great deal of cooperation between those two levels, the federal and provincial.


Mr O'Toole: Mr Speaker, they just don't get it. They don't know anything about smaller. They only know bigger and more money. That's the only thing they know.

Again, when you look at the justice system, there is a responsibility for the justice system federally and provincially. Offences less two years generally are provincial in nature and over that is federal.

There's a great deal of cooperation between both levels of government. It's about time we realized there should be more cooperation between the province and the federal government. "Harmonization" is a big word. It's being flaunted around by the federal party. But when I look at other ministries, like environment and labour, why are there two sets of standards, federal and provincial? Why doesn't the federal Liberal government get on board and start to streamline some of the responsibilities and not make everything so political? Why have we got two sets of environmental standards, labour standards, all sorts of issues that make it look complicated for not only the citizens but indeed the businesses of this country, which are foundering over mountains of overregulation and overgovernment and overrestrictive practices?

I was reading an article recently, and I don't have it with me but I will make reference to it, and that is an article comparing Ontario to California, only in population and representation, no other politics involved. Ontario and California are pretty similar in population, but in GDP or the gross value of their economy they're about 13 times larger.

Mr Wildman: No, they aren't. California is twice the population of Ontario.

Mr O'Toole: A hundred times larger. Mr Speaker, could you help me with this?

Mr Wildman: California is twice as large.

Mr O'Toole: They're much larger. How's that?

When you look at the representation, in Ontario we have more representation than California, federal and provincial. We have more members, with our federal and provincial members, than the whole state of California. Their economy could support 10 times the amount of representation.

You look at the Senate --

Mr Wildman: Why is this relevant?

Mr O'Toole: I think it's relevant to say, are we too overrepresented in Canada? That's the question.

Mr Wildman: Why don't you compare it to PEI?

Mr O'Toole: PEI is certainly overrepresented in terms of the federal picture, but that's a constitutional issue.

Mr Wildman: How about Alberta?

Mr Conway: John, how many are in the California state Legislature?

The Speaker: Order, order. First, the member for Durham East, it's best if you direct your comments through the Chair.

Mr Conway: I'm going to the library. I'll be back.

The Speaker: The member for Renfrew North and the member for Algoma, this is a one-way debate and it goes this way to that. If you want to respond, you can.

Mr O'Toole: I know it's late in the evening. I know a lot of people get very cranky, crotchety, and don't pay very good attention. The point I was trying to make is, if you look at the size of government, the comparison to some 595 representing the whole United States, in Canada we have almost as many but about 20% of the population. That's the difference. We're overrepresented at all levels.

I was reading just recently, as part of the David Crombie report, Who Does What, that just in Toronto, for instance, we have 104 school trustees. Imagine that. We only have 130 MPPs for the province. That's just the school trustees. If you add in the local governments and the Metro council, the commissioners, the trustees, there are almost 200-and-some elected politicians in Toronto alone. Don't you get it? We're overrepresented, overgoverned.

Mr Wildman: Why don't you get rid of them all and appoint one dictator?

Mr O'Toole: You're misleading, and that's exactly your strategy, to overreact without thinking. Our plan has been very well thought out, independently of our politics. In fact, we're inheriting the federal boundaries. We're going to have a common electoral list, and it's going to be a useful exercise for the people of Ontario. We're accountable to the people of Ontario. We seem to forget that.

I believe if the federal government was serious about the argument today, they would really look at trying harmonize some of the issues around the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, justice, a whole series of issues that could save this province and this country a lot of waste and duplication. Who's paying for it? There's one taxpayer. I can't believe your inattention to this bill and this deliberate attempt to mislead the people of Ontario.

The Speaker: Member for Durham East, that is out of order. You must withdraw that.

Mr O'Toole: I withdraw that comment. It's not a deliberate attempt. I suspect they're not really responding, in my view, to what our approach is: less government, more effective and more accountable government.

Mr Bradley: I want to comment because I was waiting for the member to mention the fact that the Niagara Peninsula is losing two seats under this, and with all the hospitals you're coming in to close, we'll need as many members as possible to fight that. I know my colleagues the member for Niagara Falls, the member for St Catharines-Brock, the member for Lincoln, the member for Niagara South, all of these members, including myself, will want to fight the hospital closures. If you don't have sufficient clout to do so and numerous voices in this, it's difficult to be able to prevent those closures, closures which I recall no Conservative candidate mentioning in the last election.


Secondly, we need those members as well to ensure that the worker adviser office in Thorold isn't closed, because it serves the entire Niagara Peninsula and provides service to those who have problems with the Workers' Compensation Board but do not have a union with sufficient resources to be able to represent them. Local 119, for instance, in our area has the expertise and the resources to do so, but many people, if they're not organized by a union or are represented by a smaller union, really require the service of this office. We need the members we have in the peninsula now to fight for an appropriate number of people in the labour office to handle the employment standards problems and other problems brought to our attention by both employees and employers.

So when you see all of these issues coming forward, we in the Niagara Peninsula require that kind of service because I know all of my colleagues will want to be doing all of those things that I just mentioned. They'll be right there fighting the closing of those hospitals and fighting the closing of the worker adviser office.

Mr Wildman: I think it's interesting in listening to the comments of the member opposite that he does what many of his colleagues seem to do and that is to confuse the term "government" with the assembly. Obviously, the government, both the executive and the elected representatives, are here in this assembly, but the member is a member not of the government but of the party that supports the government.

I'm a member of a party that is in opposition, and we are elected here to represent the people. So by making smaller this assembly, one is not making smaller government. If the Premier wishes, and I think he has done, to make government smaller, one of the things he does is to make smaller the number of people in cabinet and to make smaller the number of bureaucrats. Apparently he hasn't been very successful at that, because while he has lowered the number of cabinet ministers somewhat and he has lowered the number of bureaucrats in the province, he has increased the political staff of his office.

Be that as it may, the point I'm trying to make is that by making smaller the assembly, one is not making government smaller; one is making the assembly smaller. They are not one and the same thing. What you are doing is making it less possible for the people of the province to have the kind of representation they've had in the past.

You may want to do that. You may say, "We don't need as many representatives." Fine. If that's your position, make that clear, but don't pretend that by making the assembly smaller you're making government smaller, because they are two different things.

Mr Maves: To my colleague from the Niagara region and St Catharines, I spoke earlier about the more than 250 elected politicians that we have down there right now for less than 400,000 people. With this bill, we'll lose two politicians, hardly the end of democracy.

With regard to clout, I think we've done very well, the four elected members from the Tory caucus on this side of the House from the Niagara region. The casino is going to open on Saturday night and there are 6,000 jobs coming to our region just from that alone.

The member for St Catharines-Brock has been very successful in getting some funding for the world rowing championship, for MRI machines and for a new campus for Niagara College, so I don't think clout's going to be any problem through the next election, when the four of us are re-elected.

I want to congratulate the member for Durham East on a good speech. He talked about duplication. The members opposite have been asking all night, why don't we set up our own commission? Why would we set up our own commission to duplicate exactly what the federal commission just did, traverse the province and explain to everyone how they wanted to adjust the boundaries, a neutral commission, have public hearings which were very poorly attended, I might add? Why would we repeat that exact same process and do the exact same thing over and over again? The previous government did that. That was the kind of duplication they were into. The result of that is $8.7 billion worth of debt interest that we have to pay next year.

Also, the member for York East talked about a conspiracy, that this bill is a conspiracy to get us re-elected. Had we hired our own hacks to go out and gerrymander the boundaries so that we would do better in the next election that might have some credence, but the fact of the matter is that we had the federal commission go out, a neutral body, to redraw the boundaries and those are the ones we are dropping. It's paranoia to suggest that this act has anything to do with our trying to gerrymander.

Mr Conway: I apologize for the interjection, but I have had time to go to the library to do a quick check on some of the statistical information that my friend from Port Perry presented. Unlike some others, I like him; there's something about his Irish Hibernian feistiness that is just kind of reminiscent and appealing.

In the course of his remarks he made some reference to American examples. I haven't had a chance to check the entire file, but California -- I don't know, I think the current population of California is something of the order of the population of the Dominion of Canada, something like 28 to 30 million people. Their state legislature has more representation than this Legislature will have after the passage of Bill 81. According to this reference guide, The Book of the States -- happily provided by the reference desk in the library -- the information is that there are 120 members of the California state Legislature.

I was interested just looking at some of the other parallels. One of the smallest states in the American union, Vermont, which has a population one sixtieth the size of --


Mr Conway: Well, it was a point raised by my friend from Port Perry. Vermont has 180 state representatives for a population one sixtieth the size of California.

But maybe more to the point, when I look at the state representation in the Great Lakes Basin, places like -- let's look at them: Ohio, 132 state representatives; New York, 211; Michigan, 148; Illinois, 177. When one looks at those, I think it is more appropriate, if you want to make American comparisons, to look at Ohio, at Illinois, at Michigan. Quite frankly, I think our current numbers, given the 12 or 11 million people in Ontario --

The Speaker: Responses? The member for Durham East.

Mr O'Toole: I thank the members for St Catharines, Algoma, Niagara Falls and Renfrew North. I really appreciate that the fact they responded perhaps implies they listened.

The member for St Catharines mentioned the lack of argument with respect to Niagara hospital closures. I would draw to his attention that Dr Sinclair on the hospital restructuring commission, an independent, arm's-length commission, is an eminent doctor from Queen's University medical school. I'd like him to bring his argument to Dr Sinclair's attention; that's where it should be brought.

The member for Algoma talked about the government and the assembly. It was very instructive. I appreciate your remarks. I intend to learn from them, Mr Wildman, and I mean that. You did make a subtle difference between my use of the word "government," meaning we're the government from the point of view of this side of the House, and the fact the assembly number would be diminished thereby perhaps aggrandizing the government's role, you might say, by having fewer members in the assembly. A point well made.

But the issue of accessibility isn't well made because in today's world, with the electronic era -- I know the northern part of Ontario may be disadvantaged in that area, but certainly telecommunications and other media today make the job a lot different, with computers and technology. I think we have to modernize. The point has been made today. It's time we review it every 10 years.

The member for Niagara Falls I'm pleased to congratulate on the opening of the casino this weekend. That pretty well sums up his comment.

I would say I always learn from that member for Renfrew North. I have the greatest respect for him in the House, but I would disagree with his argument. California, he said -- I take it his words are well researched, academic as he is -- has 30 million people. Well, Ontario has about 10 million. He told us right here that they have 120 members for 30 million. We have --

The Speaker: The member for Durham East, thank you very much. Further debate?


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): My voice may crack from time to time as it has been strained over time this week, and of course I'm very emotional about Bill 81, so my voice may also crack at that time.

I'm pleased to speak on this bill, but I'm not so pleased to speak about the content that's in it. It's disturbing to me that we have to make comments on this bill, favourably called the Fewer Politicians Act. For me, I'm very disturbed by its contents.

It represents a weakening of the voice of rural Ontario, and that is one aspect of the bill I'm most concerned with. When I say "rural Ontario," that would also include northern Ontario, which as we all know has vast expanses of what would be commonly known as rural area. So I'm very concerned about the government's proposal to reduce the size of the Legislature from 130 seats to 103. For me, it represents a lessening of democracy for those people who live out in the areas that will be most affected.

In western Ontario, the representation will drop from 25 seats to 20. This is a 20% decrease in legislative members here at Queen's Park. In northern Ontario, representation will drop from 15 seats to 10 seats, a 33% drop in representation of members travelling here to Queen's Park to represent those people of those areas, those people in the small towns and the vast expanse that is part of our great province.

I know that many people have quoted the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I think it's one of the most remarkable quotes, made on October 17, 1985. He said, "As many of the previous speakers addressing this have mentioned, we do not want to see the rural part of Ontario further underrepresented." That was what the Minister of Agriculture said in 1985, not that long ago. "I personally feel," he went on to say, "because of the location of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and the structure and makeup of rural areas, we must retain the status quo intact. It is a situation that was addressed by a number of my colleagues and I certainly agree with them. Rural Ontario must have more, not less, representation."

That was Noble Villeneuve in 1985. But now he's caught up in this idea, perhaps brought about by his leader, Mike Harris. Mike Harris had something to say about representation of ridings and riding numbers back in December 1985. What did the now Premier say? He said: "What would happen with the new changes? It would split up some of the areas of Springer, Field and Caldwell townships and separate them from the town of Sturgeon Falls and from the town of Cache Bay and from Band 10 of the Nipissing Ojibways. I ask the commission to consider the concerns of these communities. Although the numbers may warrant this change and the proposed ridings may parallel the federal ridings, I ask whether those facts are not offset by the commonality of the communities."

Now we reach a point in time where the current government, a Conservative government, is talking about reducing the number of seats. In Canada, the question of how large the Legislature should be is seen as part of a broader question, and that question is, how should the principle of representation by population, or one person, one vote, be implemented? It's been something that here in Canada, and indeed in Ontario, we have always strived for: the view of one person, one vote.

Quite naturally, it's impossible to do that directly and literally, but we do try throughout our history to have a representative balance that comes close to this ideal.

In answer to this question, politicians have always regarded the issue of the optimum size of the Legislature as one consideration. Therefore, we don't have everyone in the province sitting in this House, but we strive for one person and one vote and we take into account, through our electoral maps which have been modified over and over as the population of Canada and indeed Ontario has grown, to reflect equal representation in light of the geographical and regional character of our many communities.

I guess that's what we're concerned about when we talk about the geographical concerns and the regional character of communities. We have been doing well, I believe, in formulating a representation number for this House, and now we're going to see that reversed. Indeed, we're going to see a reversal of a goal that we all strive for: one person, one vote. Now we're going to back away from that ideal. We're going to back away from that ideal as driven by the Conservative government.

One of the members mentioned gerrymandering. To avoid the charges of gerrymandering that occurred way back in our history, or allegedly occurred, the gerrymandering of boundaries was eliminated by putting in place independent commissions. These commissions were formed with the membership made up of judges, legislative clerks, election officials and academics, just to name a few; people who could see the need to increase the representation of membership in legislatures, who represented the needs of the people as our population grew.

We have a system in place that can decide independently on the redistribution of seats. That redistribution is taken care of by these commissions, both in calculating the number of seats, where the seats should be and what area those seats would represent. We've had this for quite some time.

In the revolution document the government put out during their campaign, they indeed did talk about reducing the number of seats. It's right here in black and white: "We will reduce the number of MPPs, from 130 to 99, simply by using the same boundaries we use to elect federal MPs." True enough. It was in the election document and the government is arguing that the people of Ontario want this change: "We said it in the revolution document."

I really believe the people of Ontario voted for the government based on a promise of a 30% tax cut, coupled with the promise that they would not cut health care and they would not cut education; those two things, in my mind. People, as I went door to door during the campaign, believed in those two issues most wholeheartedly. I don't believe they took time to recognize that by reducing the revenues this government would take in by 30% and then promising no cuts to health care, no cuts to education, which clearly represent the larger ministries and the largest expenditures of this government -- they believed it. They believed you could actually cut revenues by 30% and protect those two ministries. I believe that's why people voted for the Mike Harris government.

Now we're finding that at least on the side of maintaining the levels of health care, education, police and agriculture, the government can't do it. They can't give up 30% of revenues and maintain their commitments not to cut those areas. I believe it was those items, much more so than your promise to reduce the size of the Legislature.


We have a history in this province of increasing the size of the Legislature in order to service the people, in order to represent the people, in order to bring their views here to Queen's Park.

In 1963, this Legislature increased from 98 seats to 108. It wasn't perhaps all that dramatic; 10 more seats were added in 1963.

In 1965, a commission was struck that dealt with the issues of urban and rural seats and they wanted to strike a balance. They wanted to strike a balance in the representation as best they could between the rural and urban seats.

However, it wasn't until 1967 that the Legislature went from 108 seats to 117. The seat recommendations remained largely the same from this commission towards its implementation, but the boundary adjustments were made and there was some variance.

Then again in 1973 a redistribution commission formed by order of the House went on to increase the size of this Legislature from 117 to 125. The increase, as you notice, was never very dramatic. It may have been 10 seats and actually indeed at one time it was only eight; not a dramatic swing, not a dramatic increase, but always something that tried to strive for one person, one vote and a balance between rural and urban settings.

Now we have the reverse and we have an extreme where the government wants to reduce the size of this Legislature by 27 seats. We have never seen an increase of more than 10 seats, on average, yet we're going to decrease the size of this House dramatically.

One thing the commission recommended in 1973 -- and I hope the members opposite hear this -- was that during the redistribution there was a mandate made that at least 15 seats be maintained in the north. Why? They recognized the geographical difference, the commonality of communities, the vast land expanses of ridings, the need to help the people -- not help the politicians, help the people -- have access to an MPP in northern Ontario who would satisfy their needs, and it was mandated, notwithstanding other rules within the commission's boundary setting, that there be 15 seats. Indeed, in 1975 we did adopt 125 seats for this Legislature.

The most recent redistribution commission was formed in 1983. The minister of the day, Tom Wells, a Progressive Conservative, introduced the order in the House and it was he who said there should be a guarantee of 15 seats.

Why do we have 130 seats today? I've explained that somewhat, but the real reason is to accommodate the people of Ontario, always maintaining more seats. From 1971 to 1983 the average population per seat did border very close to about 70,000. It was 68,000, in round numbers, 70,000, 67,500. We always maintained more seats and maintained a similar average population of 67,000 people. However, a cap on the number of seats, coupled with significant growth in urban areas, creates pressures to reduce the number of rural seats. It always has, it always will and it will continue to do so.

Remember that in western Ontario the Harris plan will lose five seats. Rural Ontario already lost two rural seats in 1986 and this bill will further erode that democratic voice.

Between 1971 and 1981, the population grew by 12%, but the commission was directed to increase the Legislature's size by five seats, or only 4%. It's never always perfect, that we have that one person, one vote, but we always try to achieve it as best we can.

When the population increased by 12% but the seats in the House increased by only 4%, it was necessary to reduce the number of rural seats, and that's what we have here again. That's a brief history of the riding redistribution, always increasing the number of seats to meet the growth in population and always staying in around an average population per seat of 67,000, and now we're going to reduce this from 130 to 103.

In this bill it says that we are going to mirror the federal seat arrangements. The question might be asked: Do we really want to follow another level of government's rationale for determining our riding boundaries forever and a day? The Harris government says, "Whatever the federal government does, we'll mirror that." They even said in their commonsense document, "We'll go from 130 seats to 99 by using the federal MPs."

However, it went on to say, "We'll enter into discussion with the federal government to ensure the new boundaries are fairer." There wasn't much talk about that. There wasn't much talk about that here tonight from the government side. I didn't hear anybody say: "We went to the federal government, and we wanted to find out if this was fair. Do your criteria for membership in your Legislature differ from ours? Why do you have a Legislature of that size? How does it pertain to selecting the number of seats and population, geographical differences and commonality of community and the number of provinces in the country?"

I didn't hear that the government opposite went to the federal government and said: "Let's discuss this. We're thinking of going from 130 seats to 99, but we promised in the revolution document that we would talk to you." I haven't heard that you did. I hope to hear that you actually did consult. I'd be interested to know what the federal government told you. What did they tell you about their rationale for seats? What did they tell you? Why?

We have a great country, sea to sea to sea. We have vast expanses of land. We have metropolitan areas. We have small towns. My riding doesn't have a town bigger than 4,500 people. It's 90 miles long. Now the government says, "We need fewer politicians."

We are going to give up the control, apparently, of how we set our seating arrangement by population and by need to the federal government, which no doubt uses a totally different rationale than we would here in Ontario. Ontario MPPs will have the highest average number of individuals represented by their members, at 107,770 people per riding. That's an average population per seat, almost 108,000.

The riding of Essex-Kent, the one that I represent now, has 62,000 people in it. It is indeed a smaller population than many and probably all of the ridings in the metropolitan area here of Toronto. However, recognizing the commonality of communities, recognizing distance, that riding was formulated. But under the Harris plan to reduce MPPs, the riding will change in name, and instead of 62,000 approximately -- that's a round number -- it will increase to 102,000, nearly 40,000 people.


The approximately 108,000 people within a riding here in Ontario, on average, is higher than for MPs and double Quebec. It may require that MPPs will need more staffing and telephone work. I think that's particularly true in the north.

In the revolution document, it is stated that you would reduce the number of seats, you would cut the MPP pension plan and tax-free benefits, and you say that it would save $1.1 million. That's what you said in the revolution document: $1.1 million worth of savings will come from this. But now we hear from the government side that you're going to save $11 million. It went from $1.1 million to $11 million. So, what are you talking about? Did you make an error in your campaign promise, the revolution document or have you made an error in the $11-million savings? Has the government considered in these savings plans that you project any severance for staff? Have you calculated what the same level of service provided today would cost under the new electoral map?

I just want to quote a little bit, as it pertains to the rural aspect of this. In Farm and Country magazine, there was an editorial. It said:

"Northern Ontario is a definite loser, with six fewer seats on the new map. Farmers in Rainy River will now belong to a riding equal to one third the land mass of Ontario."

Later on, it went on to say:

"In other areas, rural areas are joined with urban, effectively silencing the farm voice. Agriculture minister Noble Villeneuve's riding, for instance, will be carved into three, moving him from a strictly rural riding to one including the city of Cornwall."

They have concerns, in that editorial, about the representation for rural seats.

As well, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in its members' digest, the fall issue -- it's current, as is the legislation -- says that rural seats in Ontario in absolute terms will go from 34 to 19 and in percentage terms from 26% to 18%. They're concerned about the reduction of rural seats from 34 to 19. They show a definition of "rural," and I'm not going to describe that, but for those members opposite who want to see a view of what the Ontario Federation of Agriculture thinks of this, they should have a look.

I met with Tony Morris recently, the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and we spoke about outstanding issues that the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs may address; some we believe there's legislation coming soon. When we got through with those issues that have been on the table or that they want on the table, Mr Morris said to me, "I'm concerned about the loss of democracy and the loss of the voice for the rural part of Ontario." Indeed, I do believe he felt that included not only southern Ontario but northern Ontario.

Who else has concerns for the changing of the ridings? Premier Klein has concerns. Premier Klein is concerned about changes in his province, and he wants to review the impact of redistribution on rural ridings in his province. There was a suggestion made that would reduce the rural ridings in his province, and Ralph Klein said: "Maybe we should wait. Maybe we should be concerned about the reduction of the voice for rural ridings." Ralph Klein, I'm led to understand, is the right wing of the Conservative voice in Canada, and yet he has concerns for rural Ontario.

In Bill 81 we see an affront to democracy, an affront to the people and the way we have always projected our wishes to have the Ontario, and indeed Canada, governed. It's a lessening of the rural voice, and the total savings that the government is talking about are questionable. In the revolution document you say, "$1.1 million worth of savings" and today from the government side we're hearing $11 million worth of savings.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture was so concerned about this issue that they attended the hearings at the standing committee on general government. Mr Kelly, the vice-president of that organization, appeared and said, "It would appear from the information we have at this time that the percentage of rural seats is going to drop...and it would seem then that agriculture's voice and rural Ontario's voice is going to be somewhat diminished and somewhat muted if we go ahead with the redistribution in the way we're talking about." He was very concerned and went on to say, "...the `No cuts to agriculture' promise" -- we all remember that one; it was like the one with policing, health care and education -- "continued attention to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs that appears to want to reduce and minimize the number of staff, the number of programs, the ability for information dissemination and transmittal in rural Ontario and agricultural Ontario, at the same time removing the political representation." He was saying: "You're reducing the voice of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. You're making cuts, something you said you wouldn't do."

I believe the first act of the ministry was to cut the fruit land program that was of significant interest to the Niagara region. The ministry is not giving out the information like it did, according to Mr Kelly, and at the same time the government wants to remove political representation. I think there's strong cause for the government to reconsider what it's doing here.

The members opposite say this is something they planned for in their revolution document, that this is something they told the electorate they would do. In the notes that go with Bill 81 it states in the first line, "The bill is intended to achieve savings by reducing the number of Ontario's provincial electoral districts."

It appears that the government is keenly aware that they can't give up 30% of their revenues and maintain any of their promises and they're seeking every way they can to find savings. So what do they do? They say: "Let's cut the number of representatives in this House. We'll save money." This is a money issue with the government. It's not one of democracy, it's not one of strong voices for rural communities, those areas with large expanses of land mass to cover; it's about saving money. It says so. The first line says, "We want to save money." They don't care about the voice of the people in Ontario. They don't care about the rich history we've had.

I wonder too if the Premier, in his misguided notion that he's going to be re-elected, is saying, "If I have a smaller caucus, if I don't have as many politicians around, I'll win again." He's not right in that regard. "I will win again and I'll have a smaller caucus to control. I'll be able to mute those members more easily. There won't be nearly as many of them running around and saying, `The Minister of Health is not doing my area any good.' There won't be people saying, `The reduction of seats is not good.'" There won't be people on his side of the House criticizing his own actions, and that may be another reason: smaller caucus, more control.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments and questions?


Mr Wildman: I want to congratulate the member for Essex South on his presentation. As he was speaking, a couple of things he said really struck home with me. It's interesting, when you observe the Conservative government, which promises they keep and which promises they reject, particularly when one is concerned about rural Ontario. One of the arguments the government has put forward for passing this bill is that they said they were going to do it, they told everybody they were going to do it and so they should do it.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): We're keeping our promise.

Mr Wildman: The member says they're keeping their promises. I also remember that the government, when they were in opposition campaigning, said, "We will not cut the funding for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs." They said that agriculture and the rural community were not getting their fair share. And what was the first thing they did? The member for the united counties and East Grenville stood here as an advocate for agriculture and rural affairs and had to preside over the gutting of that ministry. If it weren't for the farm tax rebate, there wouldn't be any funding in that ministry at all. Rural Ontario is being shortchanged by this government.

Why is it that they must keep this promise, ill advised as it is, but they're quite willing to break the promises they made to rural Ontario and to farmers in this province that they would maintain and enhance the funding for rural Ontario and for agriculture? It seems that they've sort of cherry-picked the promises they made. They keep this promise, meaning less representation for rural Ontario, because it's in line with the less funding they're providing for rural Ontario.

Hon Mr Sterling: I just want to make a few comments. Listen, I have been a supporter of fewer members in this House for a period of eight or nine years. In fact, before the redistribution in 1987, I suggested that this House go to 94 members from the 120 members at that time. What did we do? We increased the number of members from 120 to 130 members.

I want to tell you, I've been here for some 20 years --

Interjection: Oh, too long.

Hon Mr Sterling: Some would say too long, some would say too short, and they may be referring to my physical stature in that case.

Notwithstanding that, I've got to tell you that I don't feel the Legislature is going to be in any way shortchanged in terms of the debate they will have, the committees they will have or the people they will represent. In fact, when I came here in 1977, I represented about 60,000 people; I now represent about 110,000 people. Quite frankly, with the assistance we have received through our constituency offices, I believe I can take care of 110,000 people in terms of their requirements. I have a very efficient constituency office.

I just don't understand why so many people in the opposition want to keep their jobs at all costs. It seems to me that it makes eminent sense of the public to have coincident boundaries with the federal ridings. It's much easier for the people to understand: one federal member, one provincial member, 103 seats. Well, 103 members can contribute as much as 130 members. I believe the public is in favour of this. I don't understand --


The Acting Speaker: The member for Cochrane North will come to order.

Mr Gravelle: I want to thank the member for Essex-Kent for a really terrific speech, one that was particularly meaningful for a member from northern Ontario. He truly did his work in terms of research and telling the members of the House about the history of previous boundary commissions and previous members of the Conservative government in the past who recognized the need to maintain 15 ridings in the north. An important point he made was that the reason they felt 15 ridings should be maintained in the north was for the people, not the politicians. This isn't about politicians keeping their jobs. This is about the people. The ridings belong to the people. The MPPs are simply temporary occupants of those positions. It's really remarkable that he gives us the history and nobody else has been able to do that.

I think it's also important to understand why those of us in the north are very concerned and are really quite frustrated by this government. We've watched for the last year and a half as they've continued to remove offices, programs and policies from the north. They've taken away the family support regional offices. They've closed the environmental lab. There has been a continual process of abandoning the north. We have been sitting here fighting it vigorously and obviously hoping the government will do so.

It's impossible for us to sit here and listen to the government members tell us this has nothing to with less representation, nothing to do with that at all, that the north can handle it, when it's clear they do not have a great understanding at all of what the needs of the people are. The needs of the people in northern Ontario need to be met. They want to be able to spend time with and have access to us. We want to have access to them. This particular bill is one that absolutely confirms that this government truly is continuing in its process of simply abandoning the north.

Mr Len Wood: We've listened to a good presentation from the member for Essex-Kent. He covered a lot of area in his comments as to why people are opposed to this particular redistribution bill. It's a bill that's brought forward by a Conservative caucus. It's not a committee set up from all political parties that would look at the different regions.

We heard some of the committee members who were attacking a lot of the witnesses in Dryden, in Sault Ste Marie, in Timmins, in Ottawa and in London. Some of the people went on TV during the day and said: "It's a waste of time to go through northern Ontario and listen to these presentations because we're not going to make any amendments. We're not going to listen to the people who are making presentations. It's kind of a joke." That was on CBC news when we were in Dryden.

I think Mr Gilchrist still thinks he's working in a Canadian Tire store, because he thinks the government is run like a business. A government is all about representation where the member gets close to the constituents and the constituents know exactly where they can go to get representation. When you eliminate 33% of the representation from northern Ontario, it puts the MPP farther away from the members altogether. It's a disgrace to see that the Conservative caucus is going to ram this bill through the Legislature.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Essex-Kent has two minutes to respond.

Mr Hoy: I appreciate the comments of all members in this regard. I appreciate their concern for the north and rural Ontario. I think, however, that the member for Carleton has missed my main points. Certainly the MPP will do the very best he or she can to meet the people and serve the people. There's no doubt about that. That's not the question and that's not the point. It's the access to the MPP.

I have two riding offices. There may be requirements, particularly for those in the north, to expand it even beyond that. My riding is 90 miles long. The previous member had two riding offices. The one before that had two. The federal member has two offices. It's a requirement. You can't displace people and have them driving 90 miles from one end of the riding to the other and back. That's 180 miles. It's not serving the people well at all, and it's a hardship.

The member also talked about people recognizing their federal MP as opposed to the provincial MPP. This has come up before from other members in the House opposite, that people are confused about their MPP and their MP and the roles they play. Let me tell you, when Brian Mulroney was in power the people knew exactly who the federal member was, and they reduced that government to two seats -- two seats. It was clear to the people.

I go back once again and I say that the explanation notes that come with the bill say this is solely to achieve savings.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here at this time of night and know that we still have another 20 or 25 minutes before the Legislature adjourns for the day. At a time when we're getting very close to Christmas we find out that the Conservative government is going to bring in legislation to reduce the number of politicians in the province.

We know they're having problems. We saw the finance minister apologize last week, saying: "I'm sorry. I can't give the details of all the cuts that are going to happen. We know $3 billion in cuts will have to happen over the next while, but I'm not able to give details of it right now because I want to wait. We're going to spread the pain over a number of days and weeks." And that's probably what's going to happen.

This piece of legislation is strictly a political message that Mike Harris is delivering to the people in Ontario. He campaigned a number of years ago based on the fact that "If I promise a tax cut and if I promise that there will be fewer politicians in the Legislature, maybe we'll get elected into a majority government," and sure, they got elected.

But at that time they were promising 99 members in the Ontario Legislature, then all of a sudden they got a surprise. The Conservative government was thrown out of office in Ottawa and the Liberal government was put in, and they find out that the Liberals in Ottawa are going to increase the representation from 99 to 103. They said, "Surprise! We aren't really promising 99 members of the Ontario Legislature now, because the Liberals under Jean Chrétien are going to raise it to 103. Maybe we should raise it to 103 in Ontario." This is basically what Mike Harris has done in Ontario.

I travelled into three different communities during public hearings, and it was interesting to note that as we were doing that, we had a couple of members doing press conferences. They thought they were doing a wonderful thing. They'd go into Dryden and talk to the CBC news and they'd say, "It's kind of a waste of time to come up into places like Dryden and these places, because we're not really going to listen to anything, we're not going to make any changes, we're not going to make any amendments and we're not going to listen to any amendments coming through." That was on the CBC news. We had Terence Young and we had Gilchrist, who were only too happy to talk to the media and make a joke about the public process that was happening.

This is the first time ever that a political party has decided that they're going to ram through a piece of legislation like this. It was always a matter that you'd set up a committee to go around the province and listen to feedback from the constituents, and as a result of the feedback they'd decide how the boundaries are going to be. In this particular case, you have Mike Harris and Jean Chrétien jumping into bed, and all of a sudden they decide: "There's confusion out there. Some people don't understand who the federal member is and who the provincial member is, so we're going to make the names the same."


Mr Len Wood: We hear heckling from the other side. It wouldn't be the first time that a Conservative and a Liberal jumped into bed together.

Hon Mr Runciman: Hogwash.

Mr Len Wood: We hear the Solicitor General. He's heckling. He should think about the situation at Ipperwash more so than sitting in the Legislature here at about a quarter to 12 at night, because he's got problems. What happened at Ipperwash he has to take responsibility for. You can't flush it off. You can't fluff it off on to somebody else. You are the Solicitor General. You're the top cop in this province. You had a native person who died at Ipperwash --


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask you to ask the member for Cochrane North to speak to the bill. I do not believe he's in order at this point speaking on all these other subjects.

The Acting Speaker: It is a point of order. The member will bring his debate within the bill.

Mr Len Wood: Yes, Mr Speaker, I appreciate your advice.

We're talking about a 30% tax break that is being given to wealthiest 10% of the people in Ontario. You're going to take $11 million out of the representation at Queen's Park. We have no problem with redistribution. We've never had a problem with redistribution. We're saying it should be done in the proper manner. The proper manner is that you have an all-political party and they go out and look at the boundaries and they decide whether it's going to be 130, whether it should be 120, whether it should be 100, whether it should be 75. But for Mike Harris and his Conservative caucus to say, "We made a stupid promise during the campaign; we promised fewer politicians; we promised a 30% tax break; we know we can't deliver on it, but we're going to try," for them to come out and say that they're going to pass this into law now, it doesn't make any sense to me. It doesn't make any sense to a lot of the constituents.

As I said before, I was happy to be able to travel through the province.

Mr Murdoch: Which one was the stupid promise? You said we made one.

Mr Len Wood: I know the member for Owen Sound would like to make some comments on this. He'd like to get up and talk for half an hour, but Mike Harris has told him: "You sit in your seat. We've heard enough comments in the newspapers." We're hoping he's going to vote in favour of destroying this bill, Bill 81, but we know if he does vote with the NDP or with the opposition parties there's a possibility he's going to be removed from parliamentary assistant. That's a problem for him because you're reducing his salary. We're hoping he's going to come on side and not just speak to the media and say that he's unhappy with the fewer politicians legislation. We're hoping he's going to come on side.

We know the government is in trouble right now. We know that for a fact. Other than that, they would not have introduced legislation that will allow up to 35,000 one-armed bandits, the gambling machines that are going to bring in $1 billion dollars.

Mr Bradley: Video slot machines.

Mr Len Wood: The video slot machines. It's desperation on the part of the Conservative caucus that they're bringing that in. They're trying to find ways and means. They promised a balanced budget. They promised a 30% tax break to the wealthiest people in this province. They're scrambling at everything.

I mentioned earlier that when I was a kid, five or six years old, I used to get my dad's tools and I used to take the bicycle apart and I used to play with all kinds of machines. You can tear everything apart. You can spread everything out in the garage, you can spread everything out in the yard. That's exactly what Mike Harris has done: He's torn education apart, he's torn health care apart, he's torn everything apart in the province of Ontario. He's moving at such speed -- the amalgamation of municipalities, user fees, one thing or another, one after another -- and he's looking for money. He's trying to grab money as fast as he can.

As I said, it reminds me of when I was a kid. I can relate to that now with my grandchildren where they tear something apart and they say, "We've got it all apart now but we don't know how to put it back together." That's exactly what Mike Harris has done. We know that in the last election when Brian Mulroney was doing that, he got two seats elected. He only got two members elected.


Mr Speaker, I know you're finding this exciting and we're working on getting through until midnight or 1 o'clock in the morning or whatever you decide, but it's important that people out there know that the fewer politicians -- all it is is words. It's a message out there that $11 million is going to go back to the wealthiest people in Ontario, the 10% upper-income people, and we're not going to be any further ahead.

Mr Baird: You're giving your tax cut back, Len.

Mr Len Wood: We hear the Conservative backbenchers. I know the member for Algoma is listening quite attentively. We hear the Conservative backbenchers and we don't normally hear this kind of heckling at 10 minutes to midnight. They laugh and joke about the large geographical area that has to be represented. We hear that they think it's a joke in the new riding of Timmins-James Bay that people are going to have to travel 740 kilometres from one end of the riding to the other.

Mr Wildman: How far is it to Moosonee?

Mr Len Wood: Well, the only way you can get in there is by train or flying in. You cannot go in there, like a lot of members in the Metropolitan Toronto area can, have a meeting and then ride through four or five different ridings. It's a big area. You can fly for three hours from Kapuskasing to Peawanuck, which is up on the Hudson Bay coast, and have a meeting there. That's probably the only meeting you're going to have during that day, if you're flying with a Twin Otter airplane, and get back to Moosonee and probably have another meeting that night. It's huge.

Then they said: "We don't think you're representing enough people, so on top of that we'll add on the city of Timmins. We'll give you Timmins as a bonus for this particular area." As a result, we end up with the Timmins-James Bay area taking in the county of Cochrane and Cochrane North.

The town of Cochrane is a beautiful town. The mayor of the town of Cochrane said he's a Conservative by choice, but he said, "I cannot stand for Mike Harris and his Conservative caucus slapping everybody in northern Ontario." He's slapping us one after the other. They cut the MNR. They cut the MTO. They cut every service we can have. Now they've privatized. They say, "We're going to privatize the MTO." All that means is that you take a person who's making $23 an hour and you say, "We're going to fire you, but you can have the same job back if you want to go work for a contractor down the street and you can get $10 or $12 an hour."

Mr Bradley: What does René Piché say about this?

Mr Len Wood: René Piché is very upset. René Fontaine, as I'm sure you're aware, is a representative of the chamber of commerce of the town of Hearst. He said the chamber of commerce in the town of Hearst is very upset. They never thought for a minute that they would have a Conservative government that would try to bring in legislation that is not based on the boundaries commission.

Hon Mr Runciman: Is that René Fontaine or René Piché?

Mr Len Wood: I had René Brunelle. René Brunelle was there for 23 years. René Piché was there for five years. He couldn't get elected to dog catcher now if he wanted to. René Fontaine could get re-elected again, but he gave the job to me. He said, "I think you can do a better job, Len." He's very supportive of what we're doing.

I know René Piché always tells me: "Say hello to the Solicitor General, because me and Bob Runciman, we're friends for years. You got re-elected." But René Piché could not get re-elected. I shouldn't talk about him that badly, because he had some illness and I sympathize with him. He's on his way to Florida right now.

It's quite a joke when the spin doctors in the Premier's office say, "If somebody asks you the question out there, `Why are you firing 27 colleagues in the Legislature'? you say, "No one is being fired; each MPP has been voted in a constituency until the next provincial election." They're trying to pretend that nothing is really happening, yet Mike Harris and his cabinet are the ones who are doing it.

When you see Mike Harris try to go to a banquet in North Bay -- and that used to be his home. He's moved out of North Bay now; he's left northern Ontario. He moved to Toronto. He goes back to North Bay and he tries to do a fund-raiser in North Bay, and, lo and behold, they have to bring out 200 policemen. Why? They say: "Mike Harris is coming to town. He's going to be attacked, he's going to be killed. We're going to get 200 policemen out there to protect him." That's the situation. It's terrible.

They say, "Will this reduction mean that northern Ontario will be underrepresented?"

Mr Murdoch: Who said that?

Mr Len Wood: That's the spin doctors in Mike Harris's office who are telling you people what to say. We heard that from two of our colleagues on the other side. They used the exact words. They said: "Northern Ontario is not going to be underrepresented. Even though we're going to take 33% of the representation away, it won't affect northern Ontario. You're going to be farther away from your constituents, but we know that it can be done." The spin doctors are putting everything -- yet we know that this particular legislation is a matter of the Conservative caucus and Mike Harris is passing it on through the cabinet and the caucus and saying, "We've got to ram this legislation through; it's a promise that we made." It's a stupid promise to say that we're going to reduce the number of politicians, we're going to have fewer politicians. At the same time, we're going to give a 30% tax break, which is about $5 billion to $6 billion per year of borrowed money. They're going to take borrowed money to give a tax break to the wealthiest, and yet they cannot continue to have 15 northern members representing northern Ontario.

I don't personally have a problem because in the new riding that's going to be Timmins-James Bay, all we're adding on is a city with a larger population. But for some particular areas, we're going to have a lesser voice at Queen's Park, and it's sad. It's kind of sad and ironic that at this time of night we're still talking about fewer politicians.


Mr Len Wood: I know there's a lot of heckling on the other side, and I was faced with this going through committee hearings. As I said before, for those people who might have been using their remote to flip through the channels, we had Mr Young and Mr Gilchrist in Dryden. They were saying: "Why are we up here? Why aren't we up in Dryden? Why are we going through northern Ontario? Why are we having public hearings? Because we have word that there are not going to be any changes made."

As a result, the NDP caucus did not make any amendments to this legislation, because we felt the legislation was flawed. It was flawed from the beginning. It was a stupid promise that was made during the election campaign, that we're going to have 99 members in the Ontario Legislature. Then all of a sudden, lo and behold, Jean Chrétien said, "We're going to raise it up to 103." Then Mike Harris says, "We'll raise it up to 103."

During the public hearings, there was no sincerity on the part of the Conservative backbenchers. We had as many as eight people on the government side on the committee lined up against us. We were determined that we wanted to hear the public process continue.

I know you're looking at me, Mr Speaker. Is this a good point in time to continue my debate to another day?

The Acting Speaker: Yes. I want to remind you that it's quite parliamentary to refer to members by their ridings or their positions. Now that we are stopped, would you please take your seat.

It being nearly 12 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 2400.