36th Parliament, 1st Session

L136 - Tue 10 Dec 1996 / Mar 10 Déc 1996





































The House met at 1332.




Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): As I scanned my copy of the Chatham Daily News on Saturday, I noticed the headline "Provincial Bullying Insults Local Leaders."

On December 5, Al Leach, through an area representative, announced that the municipalities in Kent county had until January 2 to come up with a restructuring agreement. If one was not in place by January 2, Leach was going to call in the restructuring commissioner.

This means that the local municipalities have 17 working days to come up with an agreement, 17 days to go over all the options and seek out new ones, 17 days to wade through the scores of figures and opinions. When does the minister choose to give his ultimatum? At the busiest time of year. Anyone who has ever spent time in a municipal office knows how busy it can be during this time of year.

When the minister set this artificial deadline, the Crombie report had not been released and the municipalities still had not had a chance to absorb the report. Time is running out for them. They better get busy. The minister is aching to use the power that he gave himself in Bill 26 last year. He has set an unwieldy deadline so that he would have the opportunity to make an example of these municipalities. He can bully them and he will. Municipalities beware. The minister will get his way.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Mr Speaker, you will be aware that last Wednesday parents across the province joined together in community after community to visit the constituency offices of their members of provincial Parliament. The goal of this was to send a message to the government, in particular to the Minister of Education and Training. That message was that parents in fact are concerned.

Day after day when the minister stands and responds to questions of concern about what's happening in the school system that are raised by our critic, the member for Algoma, and Howard Hampton, the leader of our party, we hear the same response from the Minister of Education and Training, which is: "Everything's fine. We're going to do better for less. These changes that we're making, the cuts, are not affecting the classroom."

Hundreds of parents in the city of Toronto I know were involved and there were many who came to my constituency office. I have letters here they delivered to me, which I'm going to be sending over to the Minister of Education, from parents at Williamson Road Public School, at Earl Haig Public School, at Glen Ames, at Gledhill, at Bowmore, at Gabrielle-Roy -- many. I have quite powerful letters that parents have written with pictures of their children attached in which they talk about their concerns about what's happening in the classroom, the overcrowding, the lack of quality education that their kids are receiving as a result of the cuts of the Harris government.


Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): I'd like to take the opportunity today to congratulate Thornbrae Elementary School, a school in my constituency high atop Hamilton Mountain, on the fantastic success of their swim team. The Thornbrae Thumpers swim team capped off a terrific season by winning the Hamilton elementary school A division girls' championship and the Alex McFarlane trophy for the overall A division championships. The team repeated last year's efforts and has now won three consecutive girls' championships and two overall championships. The team is coached by members of Thornbrae's teaching staff, Mr Doug Ho, Mrs Darlene Smith and Mrs Linda Kruttek.

With the support of generations of Hamilton teachers and physical education administrators within the board, the Hamilton meet is now into its 65th year and has the distinction of being the oldest swim meet for elementary schools in North America.

I would like to name the top three finishers in this year's meet: Billy Kwan, winner of the boy's 25-metre freestyle; Karley McInnis, winner of the girls' 25-metre freestyle; Jennifer Kennedy, girls' 25-metre freestyle; Jamie Smith, Stephanie McKay, Jennifer Kennedy and Courtney Smith, winners of the girls' 100-metre relay; Jamie Smith, once again, for coming in second in the girls' 25-metre freestyle; Courtney Smith, second in the girls' 25-metre freestyle; Stephanie McKay, second in the girls' 25-metre freestyle; Kelly Swan, Heather Gillem, Ashley Grodecki, Katie Pagett, second in the girls' 100-metre relay; Courtney Smith and Jamie Smith, second in the girls' 25-metre backstroke; and last but not least, Billy Kwan, Shawn Napper, Bobby Thompson and Josh Downer, third in the boys' 100-metre relay.

Congratulations to you, your coaches, principal Dave Rogers and all your supporters at Thornbrae.


Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): In the last few days in this House we have witnessed some truly disturbing developments over the resignation of the Minister of Health. Even more disturbing are all of the unanswered questions surrounding this scandal.

I can only describe it as a scandal in the making because what we did not hear from the Deputy Premier the day he answered questions, yesterday, around this matter is that he did not answer who knew what when, and who got what information at what time and how far this extends. How many people have access to sensitive information that they should not have? What breach of confidentiality extends to them? How far does this reach into the Premier's office? Did the Premier and his staff know about this information having been leaked out to others who were not supposed to have this information?

These questions are serious. This matter is serious. This is a matter that every single backbencher on the government side should be keenly aware of. It's a matter that all your constituents will want to know, what in fact you've done to make certain that their sensitive health records were not in the hands of those they should not be in and what illegal acts have been performed --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Lawrence, thank you very much.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): The Harris government is hurting the north yet again if the recommendations in the Crombie report are implemented. Northern unorganized communities will be consolidated into a large, district-wide, single-tier body which would ultimately create a monstrous government.

The Tories talk about creating smaller government; the Crombie report does the exact opposite. It would leave the north with a huge bureaucratic government servicing vast regions. For my riding, this would create a district stretching from the French River to beyond Chapleau. Harris is foisting big government on small towns and giving then neither option nor voice nor choice.

Constituents living in unorganized townships will experience an exorbitant increase in taxes if the districts are allowed to tax like municipalities. Crombie wants to move towards implementing a provincial land system to pay for these services, but what services are these largely remote and very small communities receiving?

The Crombie report will ultimately create an expensive, unworkable and bureaucratic north, this coming from a government that professes to want smaller and less bureaucratic government. Some advice to Mr Crombie: Go north, Mr Crombie. Go north and see for yourself.



Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): Yesterday, at the Hockey Hall of Fame, Don Cherry, Ron McLean, Mayor Hazel McCallion and Fran Rider of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association held a press conference to promote the Women's World Hockey Championship in Kitchener from March 31 to April 6, 1997.

Canada's national women's hockey team has won gold championships in 1990, 1992 and 1994. Women's hockey is now an Olympic sport and the world championship is a prelude to the 1998 Olympics in Japan where we'll go for the gold.

Women's hockey is the fastest-growing sport in Canada. Girls who could only watch their brothers play some 15 years ago now are often better than their brothers.

I urge all members to support women's hockey at the grass-roots or championship level. The 1997 women's world championships will be held in centres all over central and southern Ontario: Hamilton, Mississauga, London, Brampton, North York, and of course Kitchener.

Isn't it justice, finally, that 52% of our population, females, have an opportunity to play our national game, and isn't it great that Canada's women's hockey team continues to be the best in the world.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): In the wake of the so-called stepping aside of the former Minister of Health, let's be clear this doesn't end the matter. This government has shown itself over the last year and a half to be incredible bullies and not interested in the public interest.

May I remind you that the Legislature's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act specifically says that confidential information is not to be released unless there is a request by the individual who is affected, unless there are compelling circumstances affecting the health and safety of an individual and unless the specific information is collected for the purpose of creating a record available to the public. None of those circumstances existed here.

But the government decided that wasn't good enough, and so we have Bill 26, which circumvents the privacy act to give the Minister of Health incredible powers to do as he wishes, to require confidential records, to release them at will. That isn't just a matter for the Ontario Medical Association and the individual doctor involved, and the fact that this government is trying to bully the doctors into a negotiation; it is a matter for every citizen of Ontario to be concerned about because, ladies and gentlemen, it could be your record, it could be my record, it could be our children's records that are used by this minister at will for whatever purpose he so chooses. The government must call an all-party inquiry immediately.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): It has been approximately four months since the coroner's jury into three homeless deaths in Toronto released their recommendations. The members of the jury concluded that future homeless deaths can be prevented with concerted action by the government and the community in partnership.

One key recommendation calls for more affordable housing that is desperately needed. The minister has provided no commitment that he will take up the jury's recommendations. Last Thursday coalition members again went to the minister's office to deliver the same recommendations. Security blocked this peaceful group of homeless people and their advocates.

In early October I asked the minister about his plans to implement the recommendations. He apparently believes that housing has nothing to do with homelessness and passed the question to his colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services.

The government has been cutting funding for housing and community supports from the moment that it came to office in 1995, abandoning homeless children, women and men. More homeless people are dying at an alarming rate.

The coroner's jury gave the government of Ontario and other authorities six months to implement their recommendations. Two thirds of that time has passed. Homeless people are continuing to die because the government refuses to take the practical and effective steps to end homelessness in our communities.


Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): I'm pleased to rise today in honour of International Human Rights Day.

On this day 48 years ago, members of the fledgling United Nations joined together in the spirit of hope and goodwill, and with a belief in the rights of all people to dignity, respect and equality, to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As Ontarians mark the signing of this historic document, we can be proud that its fundamental principles are entrenched in our own Ontario Human Rights Code. Under the code, discrimination is unequivocally against the law of Ontario.

This government believes with deep conviction that discrimination should be addressed decisively and promptly. I'm pleased to report that last May the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the body responsible for enforcing the code, moved ahead to implement the last phase of a major restructuring to improve efficiency and increase front-line support to commission clients. The government points with satisfaction to the appointment of Keith Norton as chief commissioner.

Our commitment to human rights reform is but one component of Ontario's equal opportunity plan. This government's approach to equal opportunity encourages everyone to work as partners to remove barriers to advancement. The Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation recently opened Ontario's new equal opportunity website, another key component to the plan. More than 125 businesses, associations and community groups have joined with us to tap the power of the information highway to support employers and employees in making equal opportunity a reality.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. On Friday a senior aide to your Minister of Health resigned in disgrace when he was caught releasing confidential information about a doctor. Yesterday, your minister resigned over the same issue. He left this House and his ministry before we could ask him some questions. He didn't give us an accounting, and I want to take advantage of your presence here today to ask you a few questions.

Why was the minister's spokesperson collecting confidential information on doctors' billings? Under whose direction did he take this? Did the minister order the collection? What did he do when he was told about the information? Who else in his office knew? Can you clear up these questions for us?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): First of all, let's be clear that what we're talking about here are allegations. While I did get a brief report yesterday morning on the situation, anything that I received in that report does not indicate anything other than an allegation of confidential information. There is no evidence that any confidential information was in the minister's office, was in the hands of Mr James. There is no evidence that anybody requested such information. The minister indicated to me that he did not and is not aware of any of that evidence or any of that information.

What we do know is this: The staff member used whatever information he had very inappropriately and unacceptably, and the minister brought that to the attention of this House and he has resigned. The minister has stepped down so we --

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

Mr McGuinty: There is no issue whatsoever about the inappropriateness of releasing that information. Our questions are related to how that information came into his hands in the first place, and the fact of the matter is Mr James worked in the minister's office. It could hardly be said that the minister's office had no involvement in connection with this.

With each passing day in this murky affair that people are starting to call "Bullygate," it comes more obvious why only a public, all-party inquiry can find out what really happened.


The Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, you don't seem to know, or maybe you know only too well, how limited an investigated by the FOI commissioner will be. His investigation will be conducted entirely in secret, with no media or public scrutiny. A legislative inquiry would take place in public. The commissioner can't subpoena or compel witnesses to testify under oath; a legislative committee can do that. No one can cross-examine a witness behind the closed doors of an FOI investigation, but a legislative inquiry would allow for this. I ask you, will you give us an all-party legislative inquiry?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me first of all state that the only person who has called this affair the word you used is you. What I have heard is "honourable," "unprecedented," "stepped aside." Here is a minister who has done the honourable thing, contrary to the previous two governments whenever any of these issues were raised, and I might add he did so and accepted responsibility, even though there was no allegation and not a shred of evidence anywhere that the minister has done anything himself inappropriate. So let's be clear about what people are saying. They are saying "honourable."

What we have done is we have asked the Information and Privacy Commissioner to conduct a thorough and complete investigation as quickly as possible. I know the OMA asked that I do it -- I don't think that was appropriate -- on the weekend. That report, as you are very well aware, will come we hope quickly. It will come to an all-party committee of the Legislature, the Legislature itself, and I might add, you are a member of this committee. You, sir, will get the report.


Mr McGuinty: If the Premier is convinced that the minister has nothing to hide, then why not agree to the all-party legislative inquiry? Do the minister a favour. He's going to be hanging under a cloud after the result of this commissioner's inquiry. There's always going to be a lingering doubt. Do the minister a favour. Give him the opportunity to come before a legislative committee.

Let's suppose for an instant that Brett James is asked about how he got the information on the doctor, on whose instructions he was acting or who else he might have passed the information on to. Mr James, as you well know, can say, "Sorry, I have no intention whatsoever of responding to those questions." And suppose the commissioner wants to ask the deputy minister what she and her staff knew. Since every information request from the minister goes to the deputy's office on the way down and again on the way up, the deputy can just refuse to meet with him. End of story.

Premier, you've got a chance to show some leadership here. You can refer this to a legislative inquiry and we'll get to the bottom of this affair once and for all, or you can stonewall and you can sweep things under the rug and you can hide --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mr Harris: I have not received any indication from any in the media who observe these things, from any member of the public, to suggest that we are stonewalling. In fact, we have received a lot of compliments on moving quickly, on moving effectively and getting to the facts and that here we have a minister who is not under any cloud at all. In fact, he is receiving a lot of congratulations, calls coming in even from doctors saying, "We can't believe that this guy is that honourable that he would take this step."

You praised the Information and Privacy Commissioner up and down and left and right during Bill 26. I believe the privacy commissioner can quickly report back more effectively and independently than I could. I have no indication that any single person, staff, political or otherwise, will not cooperate. I have asked them all to do so, and so has Rita Burak, my deputy. That will allow us to get a report back from the privacy commissioner. When the all-party committee of this Legislature receives that report, then they can do what they think is appropriate at that time.

The Speaker: New question. Leader of the official opposition.

Mr McGuinty: My second question is to the Premier as well. Premier, I will try to be more specific for you then in terms of some specific requests. I know you want to get to the bottom of this, and so do we. Ministers' offices, and the OHIP office for that matter, keep track of all the paper that comes in and out. Will you release today the minister's office log of their request for OHIP records and OHIP's corresponding logs?

Hon Mr Harris: I don't know whether those records are kept. I don't know what they are. I don't know if they can be released publicly. Maybe you are aware. But I'd be happy to talk to the privacy commissioner and talk to the deputy minister, and if that information can be released, that would be fine. I have no indication that there has been any request for any of that type of information, but the privacy commissioner can look into that, if you like, as well.

Mr McGuinty: I want to assure the Premier that those records are kept in great detail. I will take the Premier's answer as being a yes and look forward to receiving those at the earliest possible opportunity.

Something further: The former minister knew there was trouble on Thursday. He didn't resign until yesterday. That allows plenty of time for the minister's office to be searched and cleaned with a fine-tooth comb. Can you guarantee --


The Speaker: Order, government members. I'd like to hear the question.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, can you guarantee to this House that none of the evidence crucial to a thorough and meaningful investigation was destroyed or tampered with in any way?

Hon Mr Harris: To the best of my knowledge, it certainly was not. That was certainly not the intention. In fact, in the brief conversation I had with the minister there was a desire to make sure that all the information was accessed quickly, publicly, that the privacy commissioner be given every opportunity, because he's very confident that that's in the public interest and it is in his interest as well. So I would suggest quite the contrary is the only evidence that I have from all the parties involved.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, one more specific question for you: Can you assure that all of the information regarding Dr Hughes and any other additional information on doctors or patients that had been stored in the minister's office has been gathered and safely stored and is secure at this time?

Hon Mr Harris: I could refer, I suppose, to the new Minister of Health, but I'm not sure he's had time at this point in time. It would certainly be our intention. But let me be clear: I am not aware that there is anything in the minister's office that has to do with billings of doctors or that has to do with patient records.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): There was last week.

Hon Mr Harris: And there is no evidence to suggest that it was there last week, either. I have no evidence of that. We will ask the privacy commissioner, who has indicated, and I think you have a copy of the letter, that he intends to go in there quickly. I would hope that he is in there today; if not today, as soon as possible, to ensure that. But I have no indication of that. I would hope that is not the case. Certainly given, if you like, the publicity around the inappropriate use of information by this member, I would be very shocked if that is not the case, but we will do everything we can to ensure that it is.


The Speaker: New question. Leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is also for the Premier and it concerns the legal authority of the privacy commissioner. We are told that the following laws may have been breached, and as far as we know, they are not at all within the ambit or within the legal authority of the privacy commissioner to investigate. We have been told that the Independent Health Facilities Act may have been breached, that the Public Hospitals Act may have been breached, that the Ontario health insurance plan act may have been breached. None of these are within the legal authority of the privacy commissioner to investigate.

The privacy commissioner may be a nice guy, he may be a very honourable person in terms of working under the access to information act and the privacy act, but he has no legal authority to look at whether or not these laws have been breached, to what extent they have been breached etc. That is the --

The Speaker: Leader of the third party, come to order, please. Premier

Hon Mr Harris: To the best of my knowledge, there have been no breaches of these statutes. However, if the investigation shows that there is anything more than your allegations or allegations that are out there, unfounded, unproven -- it may prove to be entirely untrue, but if there is any hint and if the privacy commissioner needs any help, I'm sure he will ask me, and we'll give him all the resources, all the help that he needs.

Mr Hampton: This goes to the core of what's going on here. We've already seen in the past few weeks that this government is quite prepared to call the police if someone raises their head in opposition to the government. If someone points out that the government has been less than forthcoming about the family support plan, it's quite prepared to call in the police.

Here, at first blush, we have the Independent Health Facilities Act, which pertains to the confidentiality of individuals' health records, not doctors' billing records; the Public Hospitals Act; the Ontario health insurance plan act. These are all very serious pieces of legislation that affect potentially every person in this province. It's quite clear, all you have to do is read the privacy commissioner's own legislation; he doesn't have legal authority to do anything. Premier, why won't you call an inquiry that would have the legal authority to look at these pieces of legislation and possible breaches of these pieces of legislation?

Hon Mr Harris: As soon as I receive a shred of evidence of any breach of any of those pieces of legislation, then we'll be happy to deal with those appropriately.

Mr Hampton: When it looks as if legislation or laws have been broken, you don't then sit down and say, "Well, we don't have evidence of this at first blush, so we're not going to go and turn our eye to see if there is evidence." If there is a prima facie possibility that these acts, these important laws, have been breached, you put in place the kind of inquiry, you put in place the kind of legal process that will get to the bottom of it. The government hasn't done that. The government has deliberately chosen the privacy commissioner, knowing that he doesn't have the authority to examine and see if any of these acts have been breached.

The whole government process here is designed not to get to the bottom of it. I put my question to the Premier again. These are very important pieces of legislation that pertain to the health records of virtually every person in this province. It seems to me we want and need and must have a process which can examine this. We're asking you for that now.

Hon Mr Harris: Our first priority is the confidentiality of health records, it's the confidentiality of medical records. We have brought in the privacy commissioner to deal with those and to deal with those quickly and to deal with those effectively.

If the privacy commissioner, who will report to this -- I mean, he can report to me tomorrow and suggest that he may need help or the police should be called in. There are all vehicles there. But I would say to you, in this game of what if, to date there's not any evidence to suggest that anybody else needs to be called in. I would ask you, if you have any evidence other than allegations, go ahead, bring it to me. We'll deal with it.

The Speaker: New question. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: What we have is this: We do not have random information; we have very selective information.

The Speaker: Who are you going to?

Mr Hampton: To the Premier. The Ontario Medical Association was very clear yesterday that someone would have to go through medical files with a motive, with a purpose in mind, to select the top one, two, three, four or five billers, that that information is not available on a random basis.

I would say to the Premier that in itself is a very suspicious piece of prima facie evidence and that should tell you it is not good enough just to have a privacy commissioner who doesn't have the authority to order people to appear by means of subpoena, who doesn't have the authority to require evidence under oath, who can't investigate whether the Independent Health Facilities Act has been breached, the Public Hospitals Act has been breached, the Ontario health insurance plan has been breached.

It's obvious, Premier, that the review you've put in place here is completely inadequate. It doesn't have the legal tools. It doesn't have the legislative jurisdiction. What you're trying to do is that you're trying to limit this review. You're not interested in getting at the truth. If you were, you'd have a much broader --

The Speaker: Thank you. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: I think the privacy commissioner will move quickly and I think when we get those facts we'll be dealing with facts instead of innuendo. Now, what I have determined so far, and has been passed on to me, does not support any of the innuendo that anybody sought any information concerning top billers, that any of that information was provided, that anybody had it. However, I think the privacy commissioner will be able to determine that very quickly and very effectively.

Secondly, you're right: He does not have the power to subpoena. What he has is his authority and has been invited in to investigate, and my word that everybody politically will comply and the secretary of cabinet's word that everybody will comply. Now, if there is any problem with any of that, I am sure I will hear about that and we'll deal with it at that time.

Mr Hampton: Let's take the Premier up on his offer here. I want to ask the Premier what steps have been taken in the past five days to ensure that documents have not been destroyed and that information pertaining to this investigation has not been altered. I want to ask the Premier, what did the Minister of Health tell you? Did he offer you any explanation how the information found its way into his office? That's what Mr James said, it's in his office, meaning the Minister of Health's office. What assurances did the former minister give you that his office and the information contained within it are secure and remain secure?

I believe you have to give us answers to those questions, Premier. Otherwise, if you can't answer those questions, what assurance do we have that any of this is going to be handled appropriately? You need to answer those questions now.

Hon Mr Harris: The person most appropriate to give those assurances is the Minister of Health. He has given those to me and I accept that.

Secondly, we have a new Minister of Health who will have to give those assurances from this day forward, and I accept that he will do that, as does the Deputy Minister of Health accept that responsibility, and I give you assurance that is the case. So everything I've heard from those responsible is that is the case. All those steps have been taken and I am satisfied from the minister and the deputy minister and everything I have heard to date that that is the case.

Mr Hampton: I did not hear in that answer at all that, first of all, the Minister of Health's office has been secured. I didn't hear that. I didn't hear that it was secured as of when this information became public last week. I didn't hear that precautions have been taken to ensure that nothing has been destroyed or nothing has been removed. I didn't hear any of that.

We're told here that we're going to have the privacy commissioner who doesn't have the legal tools to ensure that all of these things happen. We're going to have the privacy commissioner who doesn't have any capacity under the Independent Health Facilities Act, the Public Hospitals Act or the Ontario health insurance plan act. This is entirely inadequate. The Premier can't give us any assurances that the office has been secured and the privacy commissioner has no authority himself --

The Speaker: Question.

Mr Hampton: I say to the Premier again, if you are really interested in getting to the bottom of this, if you are really interested in ensuring that the truth emerges, then you should have a public inquiry --

The Speaker: Thank you. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: I have no evidence of any wrongdoing by any member of the political staff or the ministry staff, other than one who inappropriately used information with a reporter for which that staff member has been dismissed. So I have no evidence of that.

I have asked that question and I have been assured that in fact, from the minister's point of view and the minister's office point of view, that is the case.

If you have evidence other than that I'd be happy to consider it but there is not in the public domain today, to the best of my knowledge, any evidence of any of that. In spite of that, here is a minister who did the honourable thing, something unprecedented in this Legislature in a long time, to allow the investigation to proceed. That, I think, should be applauded.


The Speaker: New question.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is also to the Premier. Let us be clear. What we have here is the following: a senior political aide who had information that he ought not to have had, that quite frankly, in the post-Martel world, none of us ought ever to have had, and this senior political aide set out to attack and smear an innocent Ontario citizen who just happened to be taking issue, on policy grounds, with the government of Ontario.

My question to the Premier is this: Can you tell the House today whether or not any of your Premier's office staff had any knowledge of the information that Mr Brett James had and the purposes to which Mr Brett James intended to use that information, namely, calling Jane Coutts at the Globe and Mail? Do you or did any of your Premier's office staff have any information of that kind prior to the story breaking in the Globe late last week?

Hon Mr Harris: First of all, you have made allegations that even Brett James had information he shouldn't have. We don't know that yet. That is an allegation, and we do not know that. We know he used information inappropriately. We don't know what information he had. We don't know where he got it.

I can assure you that in my office, in the Premier's office, to the best of my knowledge in the cabinet office, including so far everything I've heard, none of this information was there, sought for, asked for, nor was there any strategy.

But since we can't be positively sure, we are calling the Information and Privacy Commissioner to find out first what information was there. If it was inappropriate information, how did it get there? These are the answers we need to know, and when we find those answers out, that report will come to the Legislature and we can take whatever action is deemed appropriate.

Mr Conway: Premier, I sat on the Martel inquiry. In fact, I have in my hands the specific testimony given to the legislative committee on February 10, 1992, by the then general manager of OHIP, Dr Robert MacMillan. Dr MacMillan detailed the elaborate protocol surrounding how this kind of confidential doctors' billing information might be made available to a minister's office.

Having sat through that inquiry, having Dr MacMillan's sworn testimony, I can say without any fear of contradiction that the information Brett James had last week was information that no political aide ought to have, and I can certainly tell you that the purposes for which he intended it, namely, an unprovoked attack on a Peterborough doctor, was clearly out of order.

My question to you, Premier, is: Will you tell the House today at precisely what time in the last week you were made aware of the Brett James-Jim Wilson-Dr Hughes affair and by whom you were so advised?

Hon Mr Harris: I want to answer the question. First of all, let a couple of things be said here.

You are assuming and implying something we don't know yet. The Information and Privacy Commissioner will help us answer that, I believe, and then we can all know. But I am telling you that we know this: A member of the minister's staff used information unacceptably, inappropriately, without direction and knowledge of the minister, and for that his resignation has been sought and is there.

Mr Conway: Information that he shouldn't have had and that he could only have had because Jim Wilson asked for it or somebody higher asked for it.

The Speaker: The member for Renfrew North, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Harris: As I indicated, what we do know is that a member of Mr Wilson's staff acted inappropriately, obviously without the authority of the minister, without the knowledge of the minister, and he was dismissed. I'm quite satisfied with that.

What we do need to know is: What actual information did Mr James have? Who else had it if it was inappropriate? How did they get it if it was inappropriate information? I believe the conflict commissioner is the right one to get in there quickly and give us that information.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Conflict commissioner?

Hon Mr Harris: Sorry. The privacy commissioner is the right one to get in there quickly and tell us that.

The Speaker: New question, the leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: I want to read the letter that went from the secretary of cabinet to Mr Wright, the privacy commissioner, to show you how narrow this review is. It says in the third paragraph, "Your reports and comments have assisted the ministry's understanding and compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act."

The Speaker: I need to know who the question is to.

Mr Hampton: To the Premier.

This is only concerned with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. But, Premier, the Health Insurance Act has been breached; we believe the Independent Health Facilities Act and the Public Hospitals Act, all of these laws and their statutory guidelines have been breached, and the Information and Privacy Commissioner has no legal authority to conduct any investigation of this. If you really want to get at the heart, the substance of this, if you want to ensure the integrity of the Health Insurance Act, if you want to ensure the integrity of the disclosure of personal information under the Health Insurance Act, the privacy commissioner doesn't have any legal authority to do it.

I ask you again, what we need here is an inquiry under the Health Insurance Act which will have the legal authority that is necessary. The privacy commissioner doesn't have it and it's clear by your letter of referral that --

The Speaker: Thank you. Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: The privacy commissioner has the authority to go in, to investigate, to interview and to arrive at the facts. What you, sir, are suggesting are not facts.

Mr Hampton: I'll say it again. The letter that was sent by the secretary of cabinet to the privacy commissioner, all it says is, "understanding and compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act." By your own letter of referral you have limited this investigation. It says nothing about the Independent Health Facilities Act, nothing about the Public Hospitals Act, nothing about the Ontario health insurance plan act. By your own letter of referral you have limited this. By the fact that the privacy commissioner doesn't have the power to subpoena, doesn't have the power to take evidence under oath, you have limited this.

Premier, I ask you, are you interested in getting to the bottom of this? In which case we need an inquiry under the Ontario health insurance plan act which can look at how that act has been breached. If you're interested in getting to the truth, it seems to me that's what we need. If you're interested in limiting this, then we're left with the privacy commissioner.

I ask you again, Premier, are you interested in getting to the bottom of this? If you are, you should appoint an inquiry under the Ontario health insurance plan act since that's where the breach of the law is occurring.

Hon Mr Harris: I have every confidence that the privacy commissioner will in fact get to the facts. If in getting to those facts there is any hint, any suspicion by the privacy commissioner that any acts you mentioned have been breached, then we can deal with that. To date, I have not a shred of evidence that any of those acts have been breached.



Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): My question is to the Minister of Labour. About six months ago I asked the minister to bring me an update on the POWA program, the program for older worker adjustment. I have many constituents in my riding who have been waiting for something to be done. We asked the government before, both the minister and I, and now that we're the government, I would like something done about it, because I have some constituents who have been waiting five years. As I say, we asked about six months ago and really nothing's been done since. I would like the minister to bring us an update of what is going on with that program.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I appreciate the genuine concern the member has expressed. He does have many people within his riding who have been waiting.

I just want to remind the member that this is a program for older workers that is funded 70% by the federal government, 30% by the province. Unfortunately when we took office there was a tremendous backlog, and we committed to double funding for the program from $2 million to $4 million. However, we still have a backlog and we're trying to deal with that. What has happened in the meantime is that the federal government notified us that it will be getting out of the program as of March 31, 1997. So now we need to deal with that backlog as a result.

Mr Murdoch: I understand it's a joint federal and provincial program, but what's happening in my riding is that the federal government keeps blaming us. They say we're not coming across with our money. I realize also that they've said they're going to get out of this, so then what are we going to do about it? The bottom line is I have constituents who have expected something and, as I say, some of them have been waiting for five years for this program. What are we going to do about it? It still falls back on us or my constituents, so I'd like to know what's going to happen.

Hon Mrs Witmer: We have been equally as frustrated as your constituents. When the announcement was made by the federal government we asked them to work with us in order that we could eliminate the backlog and provide the appropriate money for the people still owed money. However, I want to tell you that we have not received a response, so on November 21, 1996, I wrote a letter to the minister. We had been making phone calls. I have asked for a time to be set up as to when we can communicate and determine a strategy to deal with the money still owed to the older workers. I have to tell you that as of today we still have absolutely no commitment from the Honourable Pierre Pettigrew that indeed they're willing to meet with us on this issue. So I certainly share your frustration and I can tell you that we have repeatedly tried to communicate and resolve the situation.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier. I want to focus on the conversation you had with the former Minister of Health, and I will just refresh our memory. His right-hand person did something that you yourself say was totally inappropriate: He divulged confidential information about one of the citizens of Ontario designed to threaten that individual.

The former Minister of Health must have launched an immediate investigation. I think the public would have expected, Premier -- you're responsible, it's your minister, your standards, your the person who's in charge -- that the first question you would have asked the minister is: Where in the world did Mr James get that information and does anyone else in the ministry have that information? I'm sure you asked that question, Premier. What did the former Minister of Health tell you when you asked him that question during that conversation?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): It's not entirely clear what information Mr James had. It's not entirely clear whether that information was even inappropriate. What is very clear is that what information he had, he used in a very inappropriate way, an unacceptable way to the government and unacceptable to the minister. So that situation was dealt with.

In my brief conversation with the minister, we agreed that the best way to get to the bottom of this was not to have the minister do it, which is the way former governments might have done it; not to have the Premier do it, which may have been the way former governments tried to do it; but that the best way was to get somebody independent in there as quickly as possible who could give some confidence or give the answers with regard to privacy of information, which is what we're concerned about with health records. For that reason, he opted to step down, which I think was a very honourable thing to do, and we agreed that the privacy commissioner could get in there the quickest and the --

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

Mr Phillips: Premier, you look strange on this. I think the people of Ontario have a right to expect you, the person who appointed that minister -- and I gather this information was available to this individual and that may not be all of the information he had to smear people; the information may very well be still in the minister's office, distributed to many people. I would have thought the first question you would have asked and the assurances you would have got as the Premier responsible to the people of Ontario would have been those two questions: How did this individual get this information, and how can I assure the people of Ontario there aren't others in your office using the same information to smear people?

You should have asked that question, you should have had an answer, and you should give us that answer right now. The privacy commissioner certainly can look at it, but you deserve to tell the people of Ontario the answer to that question: What did the Minister of Health tell you when you had to have asked him that question about how he got that information, and, Premier, can you assure the people of Ontario that this was the only individual who had that information? As Premier, you surely owe us that answer.

Hon Mr Harris: I can assure you of this: The minister indicated he did not have any information that was inappropriate, nor did he authorize any use of any information, appropriate or otherwise, in the way it was used. He gave me that assurance. To the best of his knowledge, he indicated, nobody else in his office did either. I accepted that from the minister.

I accepted as well that the best way to find out whether there was anybody else who had this information and whether the information was inappropriate was not for me to ask the question or for him to ask the question, but for us to both remove ourselves from that -- he by stepping down as minister -- and to appoint and give authorization to the privacy commissioner to go in and ask those questions.


The Speaker: New question.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Premier. Premier, that just is not believable. Surely as the first minister it is your responsibility -- the ministers report to you, as do the deputy ministers -- to find out how Mr James got the information and what involvement the previous minister had in the obtaining of that information.

We've had discussion here today about the testimony before the committee, which says that access to confidential information may be permitted only where there is an official need to know. That's from the sworn testimony before a committee of this House. Official needs to know must come from the minister and from the deputy minister. It is your responsibility as Premier to find out who asked for the information, how it got into Mr James's hands, and who he was authorized to give it to. What did you ask your previous minister and what did he tell you about that?

Hon Mr Harris: You raise an excellent point. It is my responsibility. In order to ensure the integrity of the process, instead of me investigating myself, I removed myself from that and went and sought the privacy commissioner to go in. I thought the privacy commissioner would be considered by you and by the public as more impartial than I might be about my good friend whom I appointed as minister and have a great deal of confidence in, Jim Wilson. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe you would have accepted my word over the privacy commissioner's.

I doubt that, which is why, to get to the bottom of this and to seek the information that is in fact my responsibility, I did something perhaps different than your Premier did, or the Liberal Premier: I went immediately and removed myself; the minister removed himself. We went to the privacy commissioner to get the information.


The Speaker: The member for London North, come to order, please.

Mr Wildman: Premier, that's not acceptable. The buck stops with you. You are the one who is ultimately responsible. You appoint the ministers; you appoint the deputies. It is clear that this information could not have been in Mr James's hands unless it was authorized by someone other than himself, someone in a position of responsibility. You are the person who is responsible. You are the person for determining who has access to this information by the very fact that you appoint the two senior officials: the minister and the deputy minister. The buck stops with you.

It is inconceivable that you did not ask your previous minister if he authorized that this information be made available to the minister's office, and if you didn't ask that question, then you are shirking your own responsibility. Why is it you didn't ask that question and why didn't you get it?

Hon Mr Harris: I did not ask the question because before I could ask it, the minister assured me that was not the case. So I need not have asked the question. I have indicated to you that the minister is not aware of anything, any knowledge; he didn't request any information and he is not in the possession of any information.

I want to say to all of you that you are assuming even that Mr James had confidential information that he shouldn't have had. We do not know that at this point in time.

Mr Wildman: Why didn't you ask?

Hon Mr Harris: I could have asked, and if you would like me to stop all inquiries by independent third parties, if you would like me to ask the conflict commissioner to step aside, let me do it. I'd like to hear you say that. But I felt the conflict commissioner was the fastest independent way to go and ask those questions, and then we can deal here with facts, facts that none of you have and I don't have either.


The Speaker: The member for Renfrew North, come to order, please.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question is for the minister responsible for seniors. More than 20% of the population of the riding of Perth is over 65 years of age. Their concerns are very important to me and I appreciate your efforts in addressing them.

As a government, we can take great pride in the Minister of Health's announcement earlier this year of a vaccine program to combat pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common type of pneumonia to hit seniors. I'm concerned, however, by an article in yesterday's Toronto Star, which said the central stocks of the vaccine have run out. Could the minister please assure the House that this important initiative is proceeding and the needs of seniors are not being neglected, as they have been by former governments.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I'd like to thank the member for his question and assure all Ontario seniors that despite a worldwide shortage of this vaccine, this government is proud that it has met its first-year commitment and it has purchased vaccines for 400,000 Ontarians. The doses have been purchased. We are now preparing to purchase half a million doses in each of the next two years. We are buying as much of this vaccine as can be produced at the time, and we are going to proceed and we are on track with our program as we announced it.

We are pleased that the government of Ontario is taking the national leadership in immunization and health promotion by investing into this program $20 million for the pneumococcal program, $4.5 million for the measles program and our hepatitis B immunization program.

Mr Bert Johnson: It is apparent that the minister is well aware of the problem, and it's good to know that this program is going to continue. However, given the relatively short supply of the vaccine, I was wondering if the minister could tell us what is being done to ensure that those seniors most in need of the vaccine get it first.

Hon Mr Jackson: Those members who read the article in the paper will know that these are being given on a priority basis to persons in long-term-care facilities and chronic care hospitals, that we are then going to have about 80,000 to 90,000 Ontarians who turn 65 each year who will be first in line.

But I must remind members that this is one of the most massive immunization programs undertaken on the continent and that we are the first government in all of Canada that has included this program in its drug benefit plan. I want to remind members that 1.4 million Ontarians will be inoculated, and frankly, in 1993, under the old way of doing business in health care, only 2,080 Ontario residents were immunized under the NDP program. Under the leadership of our Minister of Health, the member for Simcoe West, we are leading the continent in immunizing its citizens, and that's good news for 1.4 million Ontarians.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): My question is to the Premier. In light of everything that we have heard in the last couple of days, can you advise this House whether or not you or any other member of the cabinet has authorized a police investigation to determine whether or not either the invasion of privacy provisions or the breach of trust provisions in the Criminal Code have been violated in this case, and if not, why not?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): No, I know I haven't, and I don't think anybody has called in the OPP to launch that investigation, and I don't have any evidence to suggest that's necessary.

Mr Gerretsen: You may want to take a look at that, Premier, because there are two sections that deal specifically with a situation like this.

I'd like to come back in my supplementary to the commissioner you've asked to investigate this matter. According to section 59 of the act, the commissioner may only do about five things, and that is to comment on proposed legislation, order an institution to cease getting certain kinds of information, do research with respect to particular matters, hold educational programs and receive public representations. There's absolutely nothing in the act, sir, that specifically authorizes him to investigate this kind of an alleged violation. Why did you ask this commissioner to do this, and why don't you allow an all-party committee of this Legislature to look at this matter in its entirety so that we can have a complete look at the entire situation?

Hon Mr Harris: Because to this point in time, there is absolutely nothing to refer to an all-party committee. There have been a few allegations. There's been inappropriate behaviour by a staff member, who has been dismissed. However, because we're not sure of what information, whether it was appropriate, who had it and how it got there, the first thing we have to determine is, was this information inappropriate? The privacy commissioner can tell us that. How was it obtained? Was there a breach of the privacy guidelines that he's there to advise on? He can tell us that. When he reports those facts back to me and to the Legislature, then we can decide what action is appropriate from there.


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

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Premier, you keep trying to miss the point. The point is that it is illegal for someone to even possess this information. That much has been settled around this Legislature and the law of Ontario for at least the last five years. It's illegal for someone -- the minister, anyone on the minister's staff -- to possess this information. That's the issue here.

The fact of the matter is, you keep referring to the privacy commissioner, but you have limited the privacy commissioner by your own letter. You're limiting the privacy commissioner to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. That's not the issue here. The issue here is that under the Ontario health insurance plan act, there is a host of laws and rules that are supposed to be observed. They have nothing to do with the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The Speaker: Question?

Mr Hampton: What we're asking you for is an inquiry to get at the real issue, the fact that the Ontario health insurance plan act as a law was not obeyed. The Information and Privacy Commissioner has nothing to do with that. That's why --

The Speaker: Thank you. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: I would suggest to you, with a great deal of respect, you are making allegations that have no foundation. But the privacy commissioner will be able to tell us whether there is any foundation, whether there is any information that was inappropriate, who had it and who did not. I can assure you, and I've assured all members, that I do not have that information; my staff does not; the minister does not; to the best of his knowledge, the minister's staff does not. The privacy commissioner will be able to tell us that, and then we can deal with appropriate action from there.

Mr Hampton: Here's the conundrum. We've asked the Premier today to come forth with information. We've asked the Premier to tell us whether the office was secure. We've asked the Premier what questions he asked of the Minister of Health. We've asked what questions were asked of Mr James. None of that information comes out here.

The privacy commissioner now, who has a narrow jurisdiction, the information and privacy act only, who has no jurisdiction under the Ontario health insurance plan act -- can't subpoena evidence, can't get evidence under oath, doesn't even have the crime scene, the office of the Minister of Health, secured -- is somehow going to come in and clear this up.

Premier, what you're doing is the equivalent of sending a parking bylaw officer to investigate a hit-and-run. That's the equivalency here. He has none of the legal tools, none of the legal authority. He doesn't have an act to investigate under. If you're interested in securing the health information of the people of Ontario --

The Speaker: Thank you. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: I have answered all the questions. I've indicated the minister has gone above and beyond the call of what any honourable member would do -- set precedents, I might add, in Ontario and in politics in this province, by stepping down and allowing this investigation. I have gone above and beyond to say I will have the privacy commissioner gather the evidence.

You asked about being secure. The member's office is secure. The minister's office is secure. I have been assured by the now minister that all the procedures have been followed in securing the information so the privacy commissioner can get in there according to all the procedures that should be followed, and they've been secure all this week, I can assure you of that. I can't tell you the precise second, but if you'd like to know the precise second, we'll ask the privacy commissioner to give us that information too.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): My question today is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Several constituents of mine in Scarborough Centre have written to me expressing concern about true charitable solicitation from legitimate organizations and many of the telephone charity scams that are currently going on. I recently read that an organization in York region is being investigated by the public trustee's office for this very reason. With the holiday season here and the spirit of giving paramount, my constituents want to know how to ensure they are donating to a true charity.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I thank the member for Scarborough Centre for the question. Actually, it's too bad that Mr Rick Short and his grade 10 history class from Leaside High School, constituents of the honourable member for York East, are no longer here, but it's very timely up to the holidays right now.

It's not uncommon during this season to have a variety of solicitations from various charitable organizations or seeming organizations either by phone or in person. My ministry has been very proactive in getting information out to the consumers so they can make informed choices. We remind people to check these organizations very carefully and ask questions about who benefits out of the charity and what percentage goes to charity.

Legitimate charities are very pleased to answer questions with respect to the funding. We also remind people to be very cautious if they're approached for a donation over the phone and never, never give out your credit card over the phone unless you're positive you know who you're dealing with.

Mr Newman: I'd be happy to share this information with my constituents. I'm sure they would also like to know what to do when they discover that they are being scammed or someone is attempting to swindle them. If they've been scammed or suspect that they have been scammed, is there somewhere they can report this information?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I thank, once again, the member for Scarborough Centre. Phonebusters and the enormous success this organization is having is rooting out this type of telemarketing scam. They have had quite an experience where they've reduced this type of a scam in Ontario by about 40%. This is a cooperative effort in connection with Industry Canada, the RCMP, the OPP and certainly our ministry, and we have had a number of convictions and successes.

Project Phonebusters has been recognized this month for its excellence and success by receiving an Amethyst Award. Anyone who suspects they are being scammed should contact Project Phonebusters. If they would like to, the number is (705) 495-8501. It is very important during this season for us to continue this initiative.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have a question for the Premier. Several times this afternoon, in various responses to questions that have been placed to you, you've said really the question is still to be decided as to whether it's appropriate or not for this particular assistant to have had this information in the first place.

Simply, I'll just ask you, Premier, do you think it's appropriate for a minister's political staff in your government to have sensitive, private information on citizens' income, especially doctors who bill your government for that income?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): It is totally inappropriate, I believe, for a minister's staff to have confidential billing information that is contrary to any act of the Legislature. That's why we're investigating to see if any of the staff, including the one who has resigned, possibly did have any of that kind of information.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Motions? Point of order, the member for Algoma.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order because I know that you will be required to make a ruling on a very important issue around the standing orders later today, and I wanted to put forward some considerable concern that we have so that you will be able to use that information in consideration of your ruling and whether or not the motion that is going to be put --

The Speaker: The member for Algoma, pardon me for a moment, please. I appreciate the fact that you're standing on this point of order. It seems to me it's a point of order for a potential motion that's coming.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): The motion has been tabled.

The Speaker: Oh, I see. It has been tabled. Pardon me.

The member for Algoma, at the time the motion is on the order paper, but as I've just been informed, it could be on the order paper for months. There's nothing that says this has been called.

I say to the member for Algoma, I'm not saying I won't hear your point of order. What I'm saying to the member is, there's an appropriate time to hear your point of order, and I think it's at the time it's called. When the government House leader calls the motion, that's when I'll hear the points of order.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: This is quite a concern I think, and it was something I've mentioned in earlier speeches. It relates to the fact that subscribers to Hansard will no longer be able to receive Hansard from this House. What members of this House say will no longer be available by subscription to people in this province. You will now have to own a computer and be on the Internet to be able to obtain this information. You, as Speaker, may have some interest in this. I'm sorry I didn't raise it yesterday, because I did notice this. I got a notice and it says, "In the interim, Publications Ontario will renew existing subscriptions only until December 31, 1996, and will therefore continue to provide uninterrupted subscription service to December 21, 1996. The existing rate of $68 plus tax will apply" --


The Speaker: Member for St Catharines, let me just say quickly to you before you go on much longer, that particular decision was made by the Board of Internal Economy. Your party has a representative on the Board of Internal Economy, and I suppose the place to bring that particular issue to bear would have been at the Board of Internal Economy.

Mr Bradley: I agree with your ruling on that, Mr Speaker, in a general sense. It's just that it's rather urgent at this time. When I look at this, it's very urgent, and the reason I have a bit of a problem --


Mr Bradley: No, I know the government thinks I'm trying to cause a problem, but I didn't mention this the other day. The problem is --


The Speaker: Order, order. The member for St Catharines is now getting to the problem. What is the problem?

Mr Bradley: I'm wondering if the direction to the Legislative Assembly services was a general direction and not a specific direction and if they have not taken some action that in fact was not authorized by the Board of Internal Economy.

The Speaker: I give my undertaking to the member for St Catharines that I will investigate that vociferously and get back to him at my earliest --


The Speaker: Can I ask the House just to come to order. The member for Wellington and others, I know there are conversations. If you're going to have conversations, please go outside. I'm having difficulty hearing the points of order.

Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I seek your guidance on this. I understand the suggestion that you made to the member for Algoma and our House leader that it might be more appropriate to bring up the point of order at the time that the order paper item is called.

Here's just the dilemma, and perhaps you could give us your advice: To put you on notice and members of the House on notice that at that point in time when the order paper item, the motion with respect to extending sittings and calling the House back early, is put to the House, we will be making arguments that there are items out of order with respect to that motion, some considerable arguments, and at that point in time we would hope that you would actually give consideration to them.

The reason we were going to make the arguments now is so that you could have some time to give consideration to that before the item is called, so that we don't delay the debate if the debate is going to proceed and if it is ruled in order. That's why we were suggesting it. If there is another way of handling it or if we certainly have some undertaking that at that point in time you will give due consideration to the arguments, then fine.

The Speaker: Yes. As a matter of fact, that is the order of business, and at the time, if you stand on a point of order, I will give due consideration to the arguments at that time. I give you my undertaking as well.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the new Minister of Health:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature to this petition, as I agree with it -- another 1,014 names, which brings it to 20,304 who have signed this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the UFCW to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas 55 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 175 who are employed at the Bancroft IGA have been on strike since October 21, 1996, in an attempt to gain a fair and just collective agreement; and

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

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

"Whereas the employer, who is also the immediate past chairman of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, has instituted the use of replacement workers; and

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

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

On behalf of our caucus I add my name to theirs.


Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I have a petition to the government of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, note that the movie Crash now being shown at theatres in Durham region contains material which contravenes the Criminal Code of Canada with respect to the depiction of obscene material. The explicit and gratuitous scenes of violence, linked with sexuality, are dangerous influences to susceptible persons and violate our community standards;

"We therefore request that you enforce the law by refusing to allow this motion picture to be shown in our community."

It's signed by various constituents in Oshawa and Whitby.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I have a petition from the Carleton Roman Catholic Separate School Board and St Francis Xavier Catholic High School in Hammond.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the right of Catholic ratepayers to govern Catholic education in Ontario is 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."

I've added my signature to the petition.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which 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 so the government can help 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 20 constituents in the riding of Sudbury East. I agree with the petitioners and I have signed it as well.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I'd like to present a petition on behalf of constituents of the riding of Bruce.

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas the government's objective for fisheries on Lake Huron is to manage the aquatic resources of Lake Huron to ensure the long-term sustainability of a healthy ecosystem; and

"Whereas the attainment of this objective is based on the preservation and restoration of habitat and the control of exploitation of fish populations; and

"Whereas dedicated conservationists and the Ministry of Natural Resources have worked hard for many decades towards the achievement of this goal; and

"Whereas the fishery on Lake Huron rebounded from the demise that occurred several decades ago to a relatively health fishery, producing millions of dollars annually to the Ontario economy; and

"Whereas the rehabilitation and management of this important fishery is in jeopardy due to the uncontrolled aboriginal commercial fishing; and

"Whereas negotiations to resolve this issue have been largely ineffective;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"That the Ontario government immediately resolve the fisheries management crisis on Lake Huron and ensure conservation of the fisheries."

I've affixed my name to the top.



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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Sultan Industrial Road is the most important and widely used transportation link for our community and people from both within and outside our community use the road; and

"Whereas the Sultan Industrial Road is very poorly maintained, which makes it extremely dangerous to use at any time of the year;

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

"That the Harris government immediately upgrade the Sultan Industrial Road to provincial standards."

I support the petition and I have signed my name to it.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I have a petition that was signed by 27 parents and students. It was delivered, along with 62 letters, to the Premier and the Minister of Education and Training. The petition reads as follows:

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


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition from a good number of my constituents in places like Summer Beaver, Kingfisher Lake, Muskrat Dam Lake, Sioux Lookout, Lac Seul, Wunnummin Lake and Big Trout Lake and it reads:

"We, the undersigned, strongly protest any plans to privatize TVOntario. The privatization of TVOntario would jeopardize Wawatay radio network's native language programming and Wahsa distance education services because both depend on TVOntario's distribution system."

I have attached my name to that petition as well.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the members of CUPE Local 1287 in the Niagara region that was forwarded to me by Brian Hodgkins. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have 500 more names to add to petitions for the Barrhaven high schools. The petition 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 in their community, wasting both time and money;

"Whereas St Pius X and St Paul's 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."

I have affixed my signature thereto.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is a petition in response to Bill 84.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is unfair;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is discriminatory;

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

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 requires extensive changes;

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

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

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

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Petitions? The member for Beaches-Woodbine.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Mr Speaker, I believe the government needs time to consider its orders of the day, and I move adjournment of the House.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Beaches-Woodbine has moved adjournment of the House. Shall the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. It will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1507 to 1537.

The Speaker: Order. The member for Beaches-Woodbine has moved adjournment of the House.

All those in favour, please rise and remain standing.

All those opposed, please rise and remain standing.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 28, the nays are 58.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Petitions? The member for Hamilton Mountain.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: In light of the concern over what we're going to be doing today, I move adjournment of the House.

The Speaker: No, we're in petitions, and you can't move adjournment of the House on a point of order.

The member for Hamilton Mountain.


Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): I move that we now proceed to orders of the day.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The member for Hamilton Mountain has moved that we proceed to orders of the day. Shall the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1539 to 1609.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton Mountain has moved the motion that we proceed to orders of the day.

Will those in favour please rise and remain standing.

Those opposed please rise and remain standing.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 51, the nays are 25.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, government notice of motion number 13.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The new Bill 26.

Hon David Johnson: Give me a break. This is the kind of motion we've had many, many times, and this is a motion that I heard the opposition parties clapping for.

The motion is that, notwithstanding standing order 6(a), the House shall continue to meet commencing Monday, December 16, 1996, until Thursday, December 19, 1996, and that when the House adjourns on Thursday, December 19, 1996, it stand adjourned until Monday, January 13, 1997, which date commences the spring sessional period.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I rise on a point of order because I'm asking you to rule on whether or not this motion contravenes the rules of this House. If you will allow me, I will explain the reasons for that view and ask you to determine whether or not you believe the motion is admissible.

First, I want to make clear, as an aside, that our caucus, and I'm sure all members of the House, are not opposed to sitting next week, nor are we opposed to meeting in January, because obviously, as opposition members, we wish to have more question periods. But the --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): This is obviously going to be a point of order of some interest to all members. It would be very helpful if the heckling were kept down -- I'd like to hear it -- and we can get through it as quickly as we can.

Mr Wildman: Thank you, Speaker. I know I don't have to remind you of your obligation to protect the rights of the minority in this House. I refer you to Hansard of June 25, 1992, in which the member for Etobicoke West, with whom you are quite familiar, stated:

"I suppose one day, the way these rules are going, we may well end up that way, because as we tighten the noose around opposition members and we tighten the noose around government backbenchers to the point that they have fewer and fewer rights and privileges and they have less capacity to represent the people who elected them, they'll eventually become obsolete and all we'll have is three leaders, a big hall, a lot of bureaucrats and no idle conversation when they're talking."

The reason I rise on this point of order is that we have the motion put forward dealing with rule 68, which clearly states that the government cannot introduce in the last eight sessional days new bills for debate. For that reason, I believe this motion more properly should be split into two motions: one motion dealing with the extension of the session next week for one more week, four more sessional days prior to Christmas, and a second motion dealing with what the government wants to have in terms of a session in January. The way the motion is now stated is a clear attempt to circumvent the rule.

Obviously it is consistent with many precedents and with the history of this House for the government from time to time to move motions to extend the sitting of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. In my 21 years in the House I've seen many governments do just that. But this motion is significantly different, because in the second part of the motion the government determines that spring will start early -- very early. In the Legislature, spring will start on January 13, the government has decided.

The reason the government has moved this motion as it is worded is so they can get around the rule, because unlike the statement made by the Premier last week when he said he wanted the government to have the House sit in January so that the Legislative Assembly could deal with restructuring of municipal governance, restructuring perhaps of educational governance in the province -- despite that, the government, as its motion is put forward, is not talking about an extension of the House but rather a spring session beginning in January.

Interjection: Brand-new.

Mr Wildman: A new session. I remind you that we specifically dealt with the issue of introduction of new legislation in the last part of the session in rule changes that were debated in this House and were debated at great length just prior to the passage of those rules. The then third party House leader, the MPP for Parry Sound, spoke in favour of tightening the rules of the House re the passing of bills introduced very late in the scheduled sitting. He expressed satisfaction that the proposed rule changes would produce a restriction on second and third reading of bills introduced late in the session.

It's important to consider that in that debate, the member for Parry Sound, a very experienced legislator, a member of the House who was involved in discussions around rule changes and who has acted as House leader on both sides of the House, said that this rule, as was being proposed and was subsequently passed, applied not just to the last eight days of the normal session, but that the rule continues even if the session is extended. He said that he believed we had "closed a loophole in the standing order." In other words, he understood clearly what the purpose of the rule change was, that a government could not pile up legislation at the end of the session and then simply extend the session and debate new bills.

What we have here is one motion dealing with what we know it to be, an extension of this Legislature. If that's what it really is, then the rule applies, and the only reason this motion is worded as it is is to try and get around that rule and to circumvent that rule. Bills have to be introduced prior to the last eight sessional days even if a sitting is extended. The government cannot get around that rule and must not be allowed to introduce this motion as it is worded in order to circumvent the rule.


Prior to that debate, the member for Parry Sound, who was the House leader for the third party at the time, said, "I don't think any reasonable person would come to the conclusion, `If I can just get past June 25'" -- or in this case December 12 -- "`and have the House come back on June 29'" -- or December 16 -- "`then I can introduce 1,027 pieces of legislation and I'm entitled to get them passed next week because I've found a technical way to breach the rules.' I know that would be the technical argument the government House leader might use, but I would strongly urge you to consider, Mr Speaker, the thinking and the rationale that went into and the intent behind rule 66 in the first place." It was rule 66 at that time.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Who are you quoting here again?

Mr Wildman: This is the member for Parry Sound, the former government House leader and the third party House leader at the time. He said, "Surely if the government has ordered its agenda in a proper fashion, it will have no problem at least having first reading of any bill it intends to pass"; that is, prior to the last eight sessional days. "I can see it, as it finds itself now, not being able to get its legislation passed and therefore extending the sitting of the House. But I don't think that should allow it to abrogate the spirit and intent of rule 66." Now of course it's rule 68.

Those were the words of the current Deputy Premier, who was very critical of an attempt by our government to extend the session to deal with new pieces of legislation and was calling for changes in the rules which would prevent it. Now his own government has devised a stratagem for circumventing the very rule he was defending. For that reason I believe, in line with the words of the member for Parry Sound, this motion should be split into two at the very least. I believe that unless we do that, the government is making a mockery of the rules. It's attempting to relieve itself of the responsibilities it has under standing order 68(b).

I remind you, Speaker, that standing order 68(b) represents a very particular protection for the opposition, for the minority in this House. The order reads as follows: "When the meetings of the House as provided for in...standing order 6(a)(ii) are extended by motion of the House beyond the fourth Thursday in June and the second Thursday in December, no government...bill introduced during the last eight sessional days in June, the last eight sessional days in December or in the extension period shall be called for second reading in the extended period."

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Pretty clear.

Mr Wildman: The rule is indeed very crystal-clear. You can extend the House -- it's certainly within the precedents of the assembly for the government to move a motion to extend the sittings -- but within the time of that extension the government cannot require or request discussion, debate on second reading and third reading, of new legislation either in the eight sessional days at the end or in the extended period.

It's clear that in the first part of this motion we're looking at an extension to December 19, and during that period the government understands, I think, that new pieces of legislation cannot be debated at second reading or third reading. The government can introduce for first reading, but it can't debate second or third reading. In the second part of this motion, the government is saying they're hoping for a January thaw, I guess, that spring starts in January. This isn't an extension of this session, of the fall session. It's going to be a new session, a spring session, despite the fact that the rules are clear as to when the spring session commences under the calendar.

In fact what this government is attempting to allow by moving this motion is to do exactly what the member for Parry Sound said no government should do, that is, to stockpile contentious pieces of legislation until the very end of the session, to bring them in without proper notice for the opposition and without allowing proper time for debate or public consultation right at the end of the session, and then to try and get them through.

Because the government understands that the rule says they can't do it that way any more, they've changed the rule. This motion changes the rule for this instance. The Tory government is doing exactly what other governments in the past have been criticized for by the opposition, and the rule was changed to protect the rights of the opposition and the minority in this House.

In fact, they've discovered the very loophole that the member for Parry Sound thought they had closed. They've called a January session. The January sitting is going to begin the spring session. The Premier can't be fooling anybody. Everybody understands that.

I know the government House leader doesn't like to hear this, but I have just a couple of other comments to make and I'll sit down.

First, I'd like to refer also to rule 42(c), because I believe that, in passing, this motion also contravenes that rule. That rule, as you know, provides for the distribution of opposition days, in effect. It says there will be five opposition days for motions in any scheduled sitting, that is, there will be five opposition days in about a three-month period. But the way this motion is worded, if it is allowed to proceed, the government could call -- I suppose they could call any session an eight-month session in each year. They could call it the spring session or the fall session, whichever they happened to designate it, despite the calendar, and tell the opposition that the opposition is only allowed five days for opposition day motions in an eight-month period, again abrogating the rights of the minority in the House.


The Speaker: Members for Kitchener and Oakwood, please come to order.

Mr Wildman: For that reason, Speaker, I wish you to consider very seriously, first, whether this motion is admissible, whether it is within the orders of the House or whether it contravenes those orders, the specific ones I've referred to and that I've quoted the member for Parry Sound in dealing with.

Second, if you deem the first part to be admissible, whether or not the motion should be split and dealt with as two separate motions, so that we can deal with the extension of the House for four more sessional days prior to the Christmas break in one motion and deal in a second motion with what the government wants to designate as the spring session.

I point this out because there are other options for the government. There are other ways the government could deal with having a session in January. They could of course prorogue the House and call a new session. A second option is that they could simply ask you, Speaker, to call the House back because matters of public business have to be done.

Mr Conway: Urgent and pressing necessity.

Mr Wildman: Yes, that was the term that used to be used.

They have those other options. They don't have to use this strategy which is so obvious. It is so transparent that the government is trying to contravene the rules of the House. And it's not because they haven't been able to get things through. The two very important pieces of legislation the Premier has said he wants dealt with in this extended session haven't even been introduced yet. We haven't seen them yet. So here we are in the last part of the session and we haven't got any legislation that the Premier has said he wants debated. They haven't even introduced them for first reading: municipal restructuring and the educational governance legislation, which comes out of the Who Does What panel.

I recall that it was the Premier himself who said that's why we had to have a session in January, not because of what's on the order paper now, but because we had to deal with what comes out of the Crombie panel. We're well into the last eight days of the session and we haven't even seen the legislation, much less have it introduced for first reading.

This government cannot get around the rules. I again ask you, Speaker, to rule on whether this is admissible and, if part of it is, whether the motion should be split into two.


Hon David Johnson: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Just to respond through the point of order on a couple of points, the House leader for the third party is expressing concern about a process that is being proposed here today. Indeed, if I look back to 1992 -- June 30, 1992, to be specific -- the government at that time, represented by the House leader who just spoke, did in fact amend the standing order to do a similar sort of thing to the degree that the House was adjourned until July 6 and then the House continued to meet from that point. So the House leader from the third party is arguing against a method that his own government has used.

In June 1993, on a second occurrence, again the former government moved an amendment to the standing order to extend the length of the sitting.

Mr Wildman: We're not arguing that you extend. You can extend if you wish. We'll be quite happy to have it extended. The question is whether January 13 is spring.

Hon David Johnson: The member opposite says he's not arguing that. Apparently what the member then is arguing about -- he's not arguing the extension, because certainly the previous government did that on at least two occasions -- is the start of the session.

The start of the session is set in granite and you cannot change the start of the session. However, they changed it. The previous government changed it in 1994. In June 1994 the previous government brought forward a motion to amend the start of the session. The start of the session would normally be the fourth Monday in September, but the government of that time did not want to start, for its own purposes, on the fourth Monday in September, so they changed the starting date. They made the starting date later in that case. That motion was ruled in order and that motion was adopted by the House. They changed the starting date of the session to October 31, over a month later. They changed the date of the starting point.

In our case, in the case of this government, we're not advocating that the session start later, as the previous government argued successfully and was ruled in order. They wanted to start later. We want to start earlier. We want to work. We want to be here to work for the people of Ontario. The previous government wanted to change the starting date so that we would not be in session, so we would not be here in this House working for the people of Ontario. That is the only difference. So the precedent is clearly there on both counts from the previous government, ruled in order.

Finally, I would say there's an accusation perhaps about this government stockpiling legislation, or there is speculation on what may be coming that we're going to introduce and deal with in the next session. Certainly we are going to be here to deal with legislation, but I will say I have attempted to deal openly and honestly with the House leaders of the other two parties in terms of what we have on the order paper today.

What's on the order paper today, by my count, are at least 16 pieces of legislation that we are prepared to deal with this week and next week. We are prepared, if we are allowed by the opposition parties to get to these pieces of legislation -- if the stalling continues, if the ringing of the bells continues, if the long debates which are obviously not required -- if the foot-dragging and all the stalling would cease, we would be happy to be here and, this week and next week, deal with these 16 pieces of legislation. The reason we can't is obviously what's happening here today and what's been happening over the last several days and the ringing of the bells. That's the problem.


The Speaker: Can the member for Hamilton Centre please come to order; and the members for Cochrane North and Oakwood.

Mr Bradley: Mr Speaker, I'll speak on behalf of our caucus on this so you won't have a series of these. I want to indicate my support for the position that this motion is not in order. I know the motivation behind it is so the government can ram more of its legislation through. I understand the government position; I simply disagree with it.

I believe it makes good sense to split the motion because the opposition has already said, indeed encouraged the government, if it wishes to do so, to sit next week to deal with legislation. That is a given and I don't think you'd find any problem with that as a solitary motion. The argument arises when the government wishes, not to extend the motion into January -- in other words, we would be happy to have this particular fall sitting extended into January and February, if the government saw fit. We're agreeable to that. We've suggested that this would be happening in any event to deal with the present legislation on the order paper.

Where argument arises is the government reinterpreting spring to commence on January 13. We know that spring begins March 21 or 22, depending on the circumstances.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): You're trying to legislate when spring will start.

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, either go back to your seat or stop that.

Mr Bradley: We really believe this is a misuse of the rules. I was very influenced by the member for Parry Sound when he was the House leader for the Conservative Party and made an argument against this. Clearly, the purpose of the rules we have in effect now -- and I won't be repetitious -- is to ensure that the government doesn't stack all of its legislation, particularly controversial and important legislation, to near the end of the session and then wish to have it expedited quickly. If the government has important legislation, it should bring it in early in the session and call it for passage on a priority that the government determines. That is what they are not doing.

I too recall the intervention by the member for Etobicoke West in June 1992 -- I thought it a very perceptive and persuasive intervention at the time -- pointing out the problems in the use of this rule. Rule 68, as you know, says the that government cannot introduce new legislation for debate within the last eight days of a session on the parliamentary calendar. It can introduce it of course on first reading but cannot deal with second and third reading. That's sensible. I think there's been a consensus in this House with the three political parties that this was sensible.

We think that if the government wishes to bring forward a motion, it should bring forward one motion to extend the sitting into next week and a second motion to continue the fall session of the Legislature in January and February. When it wishes to prorogue or when it wishes to have an intersession for the purpose of public hearings and other hearings, it can do so.

That's important. You would recognize, as an eminent parliamentarian, Mr Speaker, that it is essential that we have this opportunity for an intersession. What the government wants to do, so I can explain it to you in very plain terms, is rush through its controversial legislation. You see, if it were simply to extend its fall session, the intersession normally might be found in February or perhaps March, and then the final stages -- that is, third reading or any other committee work that had to be done in the House -- would take place, we will say, in April, May and June.


What the government wishes to do, however, is to have a full spring session, push everything up as far as it can and then complete everything by the end of June if it can -- items that in their new legislation would normally be completed in the fall; that is, there would be a full and frank debate of the new legislation that they wish to bring forward, let's say, in April and May and June, then in the summer intersession there would be public hearings across the province to get the input I think all of us need to make legislation good legislation, then in the fall session that would be completed.

Clearly the agenda of the government is to bypass that normal procedure. They are moving up the date. The government House leader mentions moving back the date. I contend that that's substantially different than moving up the date. I believe there's a compelling reason for you, as the Speaker of this Legislature, as a person who understands the rules of this Legislature, to make a ruling that this motion, first, is out of order and, second, any motion of this kind should be split so that there is appropriate debate on both.

In fact, to be accommodating, may I tell you, I would be happy to give unanimous consent to a combined motion which removed the words "spring session" to help accommodate the government's desire to allow for a sitting next week and to come back in the fall session. I think that's a very fair suggestion. I know a fairminded government House leader would respond quickly to that, and I think favourably to that, if it were not the agenda of the Premier and others to simply move everything up so they can ram all the controversial legislation through by June of this year.

If that's the agenda, then I know the government House leader will not agree with me. If that isn't the agenda, I know he will quickly acquiesce to what is a very sensible suggestion on my part.

The Speaker: Briefly, before I recognize the member for Dovercourt, I've heard the points of order and they were raised rather well and I certainly think I have the very good understanding of exactly where all members are on this issue. I'm not going to rule, obviously, points of order out of order, but I would ask, if you are standing subsequent to the first three, that you offer the information up front and whatever new information that you feel would provide me with more information. I don't want to cut off your opportunity but, by the same token, I don't want to create a situation where everyone will stand up and just repeat the same comments.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Mr Speaker, I will take your request and respect it because I want to go beyond some of the arguments that have been made and not repeat what has been said. I certainly see that what the government House leader is trying to do here and what the government is trying to do is essentially to usurp the rules as we have them. As you know, Speaker, the rules set very clearly the calendar that we have. It's something that has now been in the rules for some time, which didn't exist before, so any change from that calendar has to be looked at, I suggest to you, as carefully as needed in order to accept any changes or any deviations from that calendar.

What the government House leader is trying to do here in putting forward this motion is not only, as has been pointed out, to usurp the normal process of the calendar. They are not simply trying to extend the sittings, which again, as has been said, and I won't belabour this point, we would have no trouble accepting; they are trying in effect to create a new session, and that is essentially a significant change in the rules. Within that, you, as Speaker, have to take very seriously the impact that change in the rules has on the rights of the minority, which we in the opposition in this House have the privilege to represent.

I want to suggest to you, sir, that if you look at the rules as they are written, and mention has been made of 68(b) and I want to come back to that, again not to repeat the points that have been made but to say to you that, as I read the motion that's in front of us, the last phrase in particular, "which date commences the spring sessional period," I would make two points to you further to what has been said to you, both of which go to the heart of saying that, even if you accept the motion as it is, even if you do not split it as has been suggested by the previous speakers, I would suggest to you, sir, this motion does not do what the government House leader wants to do, which is to create a new session.

That is because, first of all, there is a reference here to the spring sessional period. This is going to sound overly technical, but we are dealing here with technicalities. There is no reference in the rules to a spring sessional period. I suggest to you, you can't create something with a simple motion of this kind. There is a definition in the rules of two time periods during which the House sits. It's not called a spring period or a fall period; that's the jargon we use, but the rules don't define them other than through specific dates on the calendar.

Second, there is no reference in this motion in front of us to usurping or changing what's set out in rule 68(b). So I suggest to you, sir, that if you find that you cannot support the request to split these motions, you also have to find that in fact 68(b) has not been changed by this motion and that in fact the rights of the minority to be able -- the government would not have the right to call for second reading legislation that they have not to this point introduced. They could continue to deal with what's on the order paper.

Again, we've suggested that we have no objection if the government wants to continue to deal with the legislation that they have properly introduced within the time lines and deal with that in whatever time extensions are necessary, and then if we deal with new legislation -- they could introduce, certainly, new legislation; it just could not be called for second reading. I think if you read the rules strictly, as I believe you have to do, the first rule that we have in the rule book says that we are to be guided by the rules as they are written, and only when there is some ambiguity in the rules do you need to then go to legislative precedent.

I would suggest to you, sir, that even if you don't accept the argument that has been made around the splitting of the motions, you should not allow the government to do what it's trying to do here, which is to create a new session for the purpose of having legislation that they have not yet introduced taken on to the second reading stage, because they have not addressed that specifically as they need to in this motion and they have not therefore gotten around the requirement in 68(b).

The Speaker: I think what I shall do is recess for 20 minutes. I'll come back in 20 minutes with my decision.

The House recessed from 1648 to 1708.

The Speaker: Order. I've reviewed your comments specifically and I've got a few comments of my own.

First and foremost, the Speaker cannot split a motion; it's not within the power of the Speaker, nor can he accept a motion. In fact, a split is not within the purview of the Speaker.

Second, this motion is in order. We've had many motions in the past that have stood down standing orders, and literally in the back there were dozens and dozens of examples of motions that have stood down standing orders. All that you have asked for in opposition in your points of order is debatable. This is a substantive motion, it is debatable and it is amendable, so all that you ask at the time you may in fact debate and amend in your comments with respect to the motion.

Finally, and I think this is the most important of all, the House is supreme. The Legislature itself can change sessional periods, it can make changes to the standing orders. The House is always supreme. These are guidelines, and if a motion is in order and the House votes on it, it can change the standing orders at any time. We must remember that, because we've often in past governments, and in examples that I've seen, seen all parties and all governments change standing orders or stand down standing orders for specific reasons.

So the motion is in order. It is also a substantive motion. It is debatable and it is amendable. Government House leader.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Thanks a lot.

The Speaker: Order, the member for Hamilton Centre. I heard your comments and I heard your comments previously. I do take exception to them. I get the impression, from hearing you the first time, hearing your comments the first time and now this time, that there's some concern on your part that I am not acting impartially. I want to say to all members, particularly the opposition members and the member for Hamilton Centre specifically, I am acting impartially. I take great exception to anyone suggesting otherwise and I ask that you keep those comments to yourself, not just that comment but the comments that I heard previously. Thank you. Government House leader.

Hon David Johnson: Mr Speaker, perhaps we have debated enough the introduction to this motion, and this motion is clearly here because we do have pieces of legislation.

We have, as I indicated earlier, some 16 pieces of legislation on the agenda right now. It was the hope of this government that we would get to those pieces of legislation before Christmas. Many of the pieces of legislation are legislation that would cut through red tape and that would encourage economic growth, investment and jobs in Ontario. That indeed was the agenda of this government on assuming office in June 1995.

Many of the pieces of legislation have been on the agenda for some considerable period of time, yet we have not been able to get them to the House because there has been considerable debate around each and every motion and each and every piece of legislation. I think we would all agree in our inner souls that some of the debate has been a little bit beyond the bounds of reasonableness and in fact we could accomplish a great deal more if we set our minds to it.

In that spirit, I will acquiesce to the fact that the government is here to deal with this legislation today, tomorrow, Thursday, next week and, yes, we will be coming back in January. Perhaps this is a sad commentary that we get into a great debate on technicalities about how the government and the members of this House as a whole should come back to work in this Legislature to put through pieces of legislation for the benefit of the people of Ontario. Why do we worry about all the little technicalities? If we all applaud the fact that we should be back here and debating legislation and working for the people --

Mr Pouliot: How naïve can you be?

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please. The member for Lake Nipigon, come to order.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Kingston and The Islands, come to order.

Hon David Johnson: -- why do we need a great amount of time on a motion like this?

I would much prefer, you know, if the other two parties would say: "Look, House leader, sit down. We won't debate this. We will let this go through and we will get down to debating some of the other pieces of legislation." I'd sit down right at this moment if I could have that undertaking, but obviously it isn't going to happen. We're going to talk about a simple motion to extend the sitting to bring us back in January of next year to deal with legislation.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): It's not simple. That's the whole point.

Hon David Johnson: The member opposite I enjoy very much, but his government had a different kind of agenda and I guess in their last year they didn't have a great deal of legislation, as my colleague is indicating, so they shortened the time frame. We have the opposite problem. We have to work double time, as my colleague is saying. I think the people of Ontario would say: "Go to it. Deal with that legislation. Get rid of those rules and regulations which are impeding the business community, which are slowing down economic growth." We want Ontario to be prosperous, we want to deal with the issues in the province.

I hope very much over the next week and a half, as we sit through the extended session before Christmas, that we will be able to get to Bill 52. It's a bill out of the Ministry of Natural Resources, an aggregate and petroleum resources statute. It allows the ministry to develop compliance partnerships whereby the industry --

Mr Gerretsen: You gave this speech last week.

Hon David Johnson: It wasn't a bad speech, was it? -- whereby the industry will be accountable for day-to-day site inspections and monitoring. So it puts more onus on the industry so that they can manage their own industry and encourage economic development.

Then we have an environmental approvals bill to repeal the Ontario Waste Management Corp. I hope we can get around to dealing with that. We have a whole lot of red tape bills. A bill out of the Attorney General; a bill out of citizenship and culture; one out of consumer and commercial relations to eliminate redundant procedures, for example. Aren't we all in favour of eliminating redundant procedures?


Hon David Johnson: Good. I'm going to hold you to that then. When we come to that bill, let's get it through. Let's get it through in a timely fashion. This will be a Christmas present for the people of Ontario. What do you say?

We have economic development. I'll get to that in a minute. Economic development: eliminating the red tape for the operation of tourist agencies. We represent a broad cross-section, we represent all of Ontario here, and there are many sections of Ontario where the tourism business is very important, I'm sure we would all agree.

Mr Wildman: It doesn't have to be a spring session to debate those. We can just extend the session.

Hon David Johnson: I'm sure the House leader of the third party would say, "We need to get that bill through."

From the Ministry of Health, removing barriers that hinder businesses and the institutional sector from competition. From the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, another red tape bill. We have a number of these bills that are really not complicated bills. I think all members of the House would have to agree that they're not --

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): We don't like where they came from.

Hon David Johnson: Well, you may not like the source where they came from. We are different political parties, I agree. I'm sorry, I don't make any apologies for that, I can't change that. In our heart of hearts I think -- and I'm looking to some of the people, particularly in the official opposition, who may have come from the business sector, and the member of the third party as well. Surely we want to encourage job creation in the private sector.

Bill 82, the family support in arrears, we will be dealing with that. Bill 84 we dealt with yesterday, spoke to at great length. One thing about Bill 84, which involves fire protection and prevention in Ontario, I don't have any doubt there will be amendments to Bill 84. Do any of us have any doubt there will be amendments to Bill 84? Do any of us have any doubt that we will --

Mr Gerretsen: I have serious doubts. Just wait until the firefighters come along.

Hon David Johnson: Yes, there will be amendments. Sure. There will be voices. There will be those who will speak to Bill 84. We want to hear them.

Mr Bradley: When?

Hon David Johnson: When?

Mr Bradley: When is the intersession?

Hon David Johnson: The House leader for the opposition party says, "When?" I would say to the House leader from the opposition, if we could get second reading of this bill, we would then get it out for public hearings.

Mr Bradley: When?

Hon David Johnson: When would that be? Obviously that would be next year. Some of the hearings would be here in Toronto, some of the hearings would be across the province. Probably, I would say it's quite possible that in the month of March we would have some of those hearings. But we need to work together as a House, all parties, to get that out, get second reading, get it out and allow those firefighters to have a say in this bill.

Bill 86, the Better Local Government Act: The member for Wellington today has indicated to me that in his area those involved in local politics are saying we must get this Bill 86 through, because Bill 86 is involved with the municipal election, and the municipal election officially starts on January 1, 1997. This is another one we need to deal with -- and road safety. We've got quite a number --

Mr Bradley: The Tenant Protection Act.

Hon David Johnson: Yes, the member opposite, the House leader for the official opposition, asked about the Tenant Protection Act, another bill that will have a great deal of public input. We welcome the public input. The procedure would be to have second reading now, get it out there, and let the public all across the province have a say.

Is my time expiring?


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Are you filibustering again?

Hon David Johnson: Sit there, relax. I won't be long. I want us to get finished with this quickly, and then let's get on with debating another bill. What do you say we debate the environment bill this afternoon? Let's finish this and debate Bill 57, the environment bill.

Mr Pouliot: Stop playing games, Johnson. Get on with it.

Hon David Johnson: I guess that means no, Madam Speaker.

Coming back on January 13 is unusual. It is unusual. Mostly the House doesn't come back until March, but we have, we feel, a great deal to accomplish. This government, through the Who Does What process, has asked that panel to look at various services, particularly within the municipal sector: How can we make municipal government more efficient and more effective with the interface between the province and the municipalities? What can we do to make it more accountable, more simple, more cost-effective?

For years the municipalities have been saying, "Let one level of government deliver the service," whatever service it is, whether it's welfare or roads or transit or whatever it is. "Let the same level of government pay for it and let that level of government be accountable. In that fashion you will certainly get the best value for the taxpayer's dollar." I hope, as our legislation comes through, that that's what will be reflected. I think that's what we're trying to accomplish in a broad way, and there will be pieces of legislation which will come through which will attempt to make the provincial-municipal relationship more accountable, more simple, more cost-effective.

This government was elected, I believe, on that sort of platform, with those sorts of promises, and we are attempting to deliver. I think in the heart of hearts of all the members of this House we all agree that this is the kind of thing. Certainly I know, Madam Speaker, the government that you represented between 1990 and 1995 -- so capably, I might say -- was involved in the disentanglement process and spent years studying disentanglement, which tried to do exactly the same thing with the municipalities. Unfortunately, I think it was because of the social contract, or the expenditure control program maybe, when that was introduced in 1993, I think it was, that the municipalities got a little angry. As a result --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): You're understating it.

Hon David Johnson: -- got angry, got really angry, got very upset. They weren't too spot on, I don't think, at that point, so the whole disentanglement process collapsed. I think, particularly for the members from the third party, you may recognize in the process we're going through some of the key elements that you went through back in perhaps the early 1990s. You may say, "Well, this is the kind of approach that we really need to simplify and make more accountable."

So yes, we will be coming back in January. We will be working hard for the people of Ontario. I think I'll sit down at this point and hopefully encourage all members to have their say. But this is a basic procedure. This is the kind of procedure which has been introduced in many fashions in the past, so normally we wouldn't debate this for hours and hours. Normally this would be dealt with fairly quickly. Can we agree to do that today, and can we agree to get on with some of these pieces of legislation that are needed here in Ontario?

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Conway: I want to rise to speak to government notice of motion number 13, standing in the name of the leader of the government in the assembly, Mr Johnson, the minister of everything. He's an interesting and impressive fellow, the minister of everything. I was watching him --

Mr Pouliot: Not for long.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Conway: By the way, I thought that was a good debate on the efficacy of the motion. I will say no more about that, but I think the opinions have been canvassed.

I was watching the government House leader. He reminded me, interestingly, of two Liberals. The first is Pierre Trudeau.

Mr Laughren: All rolled into one.

Mr Conway: No, no. Just hear me out. Watching Dave Johnson in the midst of all of this parliamentary mire sort of reminds me of Pierre Trudeau in Parliament. They were both sort of Cartesians, this one more than Trudeau, Johnson more than Trudeau.

Mr Bradley: What is a Cartesian?

Mr Conway: Check the dictionary, but mathematical in their instinct and method, I guess I would say.

You could just see the government House leader awash in all of this arcane parliamentary whatever that we inherited from Westminster and --

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): He's lost for words.

Mr Conway: Well, no. But he also reminded me of another famous Liberal, Clarence Decatur Howe: "I've got a pipeline to build, so, John Diefenbaker and Stanley Knowles, get out of my way." There is not a government House leader around who doesn't feel that instinct. Few, I know, would be so felicitous in the expression of the government imperative as our friend from Don Mills, and that again is to his particular credit.

He's got a terrible job, and I say to his colleagues, I hope you comfort him through what is going to be an even more difficult festive season, because governments represent the executive responsibility and the decision-making aspect of our system. One of the memories I have is that there were very few people in the executive and administrative branch who either knew about or cared about this thing called Parliament. What is it? A bunch of overpaid, underoccupied flannelmouths who just have nothing else to do besides make speeches.


Mr Conway: Did the minister of highways say, "You're right on that"? If he did, he'd represent a clear majority of people I've met in the executive branch, irrespective of the political stripe of the government. This government House leader is not wrong in observing some of the precedents.

I was interested in the Speaker's ruling, because of course it talks about the supremacy of Parliament. That is correct political science, but it is substantially irrelevant in a majority Parliament, whether that majority Parliament be Tory, Liberal or New Democrat, and we've seen in the last 15 years lots of evidence to prove that point.

The supremacy in a majority Parliament now resides in the government caucus, and to a very real extent that reality has reduced this place to such an extent that some of the elegant, gilt-edged political science that informs some of the Speaker's rulings is just that. It is just that, gilt-edged irrelevance, because anybody who knows anything knows that all that means is that the government House leader or, more likely, the chief government whip decides what Parliament wants and what Parliament is going to get, particularly at voting time.

I say to my friends the members for Nickel Belt and Algoma, as a couple of the few people who now remember a pure minority environment situation -- you have to go back to 1975 to 1981, but particularly 1975 to 1977, to really say that we had a pure minority Parliament situation. I'll tell you, when you've got a minority Parliament, you understand that it is a different reality. That is as it should be, I suppose, but I guess I would simply say to whomever I ought to say this, spare me the lecture about, "Parliament will decide." That was Mackenzie King's great crutch, "Parliament will decide," which meant, "I, Mackenzie King, together with Jack Pickersgill and a few other mandarins, will bloody well decide what is going to happen here, and I'm going to serve it up on a platter, and the Gordon Graydons and the George Drews of the world are going to digest this whether they like it or not."

We have a motion that, as the members for St Catharines and Algoma observed in their points of order, does a number of things that clearly speak to the government's agenda. The government has important business to do. That cannot be denied. It was interesting to me that the government House leader held up a sheet of paper with various and sundry bills from the rewrite of the fire protection act, to the better government act, to the Fewer Politicians Act, to the environmental re-regulation act.


Those are all important pieces of legislation, and that's before we get the handicraft of Paul Godfrey, author of the Who Does What legislation. When Paul gets finished writing that package of legislative initiatives, we are really going to be seized of something important, significant, tax-impacting and revolutionary.

Al Leach and Dave Crombie can take the noon balloon to Rangoon, but Paul Godfrey, like Dave Johnson, has a railroad to run, and when Paul gets that schedule finalized -- it shouldn't be much longer now before the real minister responsible for disentanglement and Who Does What, Paul Godfrey, publisher of the independent, dispassionate, evenhanded Toronto Sun -- when Paul finishes his work, we really will have a legislative agenda that will look like a Christmas tree.

I say to the government House leader that you have, as my friend from Algoma has observed, with this apparently innocent motion recalibrated springtime. I don't imagine there is anyone in Leaside or Lake Nipigon or Lanark who would be disappointed to know that it is within the power of Dave Johnson to bring spring forward by a full two months.

So there be no confusion, again I like that sort of boy scout innocence of the government House leader, "Quoi? Moi? Incroyable."

Mr Bradley: It betrays a slyness not known to --

Mr Conway: I don't know that the member for Don Mills is sly. I don't know that this would be a fair thing to observe, but this motion has some very happy consequences. For example --

Mr Bradley: I use that word in a complimentary way.

Mr Conway: One House leader talking about another has to be complimentary.

It's going to be very interesting. The House leader for the third party didn't observe this, but whenever we get to an intersession we are going to be a very busy group of people, and that is as it should be. But there is a third party here with 15 or 16 members, depending on how and where you count the current member for Lake Nipigon.

I don't imagine now that we will break much before the end of February, early March. I would have to think, for some of the reasons advanced by the government House leader, if you're going to restructure Hastings county and recalibrate who pays what for school taxes up in Harry Danford's world, you are going to have to pass some very important legislation that, trust me, in Gilmour and St Ola is going to get people's attention, and before it's passed, those good folks up at Limerick Lake, Harry, are going to expect to get a chance to come to Kingston or Belleville to speak their piece.

You've got a lot to do, and that intersession, whenever it comes, is going to be one very busy and exciting time for all and sundry.

The members from Sarnia and Lambton and I are this week seized of the hospital business. Some of you are going to join this parade in a little more formal way in a very short time. I tell you, and I have great respect for the members from Sarnia and Lambton, because --

Mr Laughren: He speaks his mind.

Mr Conway: Listen, I've been reading the Sudbury papers, and as I speak tonight my constituents, particularly in and around the Pembroke area, are upset, and increasingly so, because we have as part of our executive government -- remember Bill 26? You create a commission, you give them unprecedented powers, you send them out under the aegis of the very respected Dr Duncan Sinclair and you say: "Well, we've got to take this out of politics. We can't let the Palladinis and the Fishers and the Conways and the Wildmans make these decisions. No, we'll take this out of politics and we will send George Lund and Maureen Law and people of such esteem into Petrolia and Pembroke and Sudbury and Thunder Bay, and yes, soon in Ottawa, London, Toronto, Hamilton, and we will, in a dispassionate, antiseptic way, make these decisions."

Well, I'm going to tell you, that's the debate that's exciting my community today. This Harris government commission came into Pembroke last week and said: "We're taking over 40% of your hospital budget out of this city on a permanent basis. We are going to take $14 million out of the Pembroke hospital budget on an annual basis for years to come. And by the way, 300 health care and hospital workers in the city of Pembroke are going to lose their jobs." That's what people in my community are talking about.

What opportunity do I have before Christmas to talk about that in this place? I'm going to use a little bit of this time this afternoon to speak to it. Those are the kinds of issues. Are we going to be allowed by the government House leader and by the chief government whip and certainly by the Minister of Health to have any kind of formal, legislative debate around what's going on in our communities on, I would submit, the single most important and sensitive issue facing the nation, namely, the future of hospital services?

Let me be the first to say, I do not argue for the status quo. There has to be change. There's been a lot of change over the last number of years. If this was a parliamentary place worth its salt and its reputation, I think we'd be having a little more of that debate in these weeks and months, but because of this growing tendency towards executive government, "Get it out of politics," -- the whole idea is so laughable.

The member for Sarnia is here. The member from Petrolia is not far away. They would want to join with me. I'm sure you're finding a lot of satisfaction when you pick up the phone, Mr Boushy, and tell the hundreds of people who must be calling your office in Sarnia: "Oh well, you know that's beyond me. That's beyond politics. That's all about the commission." "Do I see the commission on the ballot? No. I don't think I voted for Maureen Law or Duncan Sinclair. I think I voted for Boushy or Conway or Beaubien or Wilson."

My point in raising some of these issues is: What are we? What have we become? We've always been one of the most executive-centred, executive-dominated parliamentary places in the British Commonwealth. Again, I like to say to Ontario Tories, God, is there a more classic example of what we might all aspire to than the British Conservative Party? Talk about a feisty independent outfit -- there's one. Can you imagine, as I've said to you on a few occasions recently, a government caucus in this place bringing down one of the most famous and successful prime ministers in this century in Britain? Could you imagine the current member for Nepean standing up and staring down Mike Harris in the way the Thatcher caucus not only stared her down, but rolled her out of 10 Downing Street. It would be inconceivable.

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): A tragedy.

Mr Conway: He says a tragedy, and that may be just exactly what he believes. I have to believe it is what he believes. This place is apparently a rubber stamp for whatever it is the current executive decides.

At the risk of being a bit mischievous, I say to be my NDP friends, I remember a few years ago a lot of very good people were elected in 1990 and many of them just thought this was a plebiscitarian place. They said: "We won the election in September 1990" -- and they did in quite splendid fashion -- "we won a mandate to do whatever we choose over the next five years, and your job is to sit there, be reasonably compliant, mind your Ps and Qs and we'll debate this five years hence." That was the view of a number of people.

There are undoubtedly Liberals who have been here, certainly I'm sure in the period 1987 to 1990, who I know had similar views. The only problem with that is that that's not the way our system was intended to work. Maybe we ought to change it, and we certainly have been changing it.

Oppositions in our system have a responsibility to delay and to scrutinize. They have a responsibility to behave themselves as well, I might add. There comes a point in time when any government House leader has the right and, I would submit, the obligation, to move the business along.


I was interested last night to hear some pretty lively debates, none more lively than the debate offered by the member for Hamilton Centre on the fireman's act, as I will call it. It was a good debate. I sat here most of the night till midnight, and a number of people got up. The redoubtable member from Humber intervened with a very passionate defence of government policy, I thought very effectively. He did more with two minutes than I've ever been able to do with two minutes in my 21 years. He was good. I thought the member for Hamilton Centre was classic, and a number of other people engaged in the debate. But I think to a neutral observer it was quite clear that, as in most matters, the debate was about interests. It was --

Mr Laughren: How about the member from Bedrock?

Mr Conway: Oh please, I say to the member for Nickel Belt. I do not want to tease or excite any enthusiasms in Rexdale.

But the debate was all about interests. It seemed to me that the government took the view, not surprisingly for either a government or a Conservative point of view, that management, as represented by the fire chiefs, had the more commendable position on hours of work and who was inside the bargaining unit and other related issues. A number of New Democrats and Liberals seemed to be more concerned about the perspective of people in that bargaining unit. I don't want to get into that debate, but it was clear, I think, to anyone who paid any attention that it was a debate about interests, and the interests were and are in some respects in that issue, as in most issues that come before us, sharply divided, if not confrontational or contradictory. We have to recognize that.

Offering up some bromide about how we should all make cute little speeches and just be sociable is quite nice, but remember what Parliament is: Parliament is a place where you bring a bunch of often highly charged, very controversial issues and try to work out a resolution. That's why we have the rules that we've got. While some things are trivial and pass on the nod, a lot of things -- and certainly a lot of things that we are going to be dealing with in the coming weeks and months -- are going to be some of the most controversial things that this Legislature has faced in a long time. I don't fault the government for that.

I'm one of those oppositionists over here who keeps saying -- I go home on the weekend, and the teachers are anxious and the nurses are anxious and the public servants are anxious and the reeves are anxious and the firemen are anxious.


Mr Conway: Oh, they are always anxious about my coming home.

The people who depend on hospitals are concerned, the parents of school age kids are concerned, and there's a point when I think, "This is starting to sound familiar." In the words of the former, late member for Ottawa South, Dalton McGuinty Sr -- I think this story is well known; I'll tell it even if it isn't. I remember the day he walked into our caucus, some time about 1989 and said something like, "What is this," meaning the Peterson government of the day, "Operation Alienation?" Quite frankly, Dalton McGuinty Sr was right. We were on our way to alienating a lot of people.

I know this government would learn from our mistakes, and nowhere more so than when they get into the megacity and when they get into restructuring. Did you read John Barber in the Globe and Mail today? Boy, does that bring back memories. The late and sainted James N. Allan -- I remember Jimmy Allan talking about, "My God, if I had ever known what those whiz kids up in Bill Davis's office had in mind for the on-the-ground changes in Haldimand-Norfolk, I would have fought a different kind of battle." But by the time the heather was afire, it was too late, and as I said the other night, one of the ablest parliamentarians that ever came to this place and one of the truly great people here was just swept aside in a tide that was rolling pretty strongly.

So 20 years later, when people -- you know when Paul Godfrey says: "Give it to me. I'll show you how to do it. I'll correct the mistakes that people like Jim Fleck" -- Floyd, help me -- "and the other whiz kid make." Oh, the former Deputy Minister of Energy, Malcolm Rowan. I mean, boy, they'd all been to the Harvard Business School. That Lorne Henderson, what did he know? I don't know that Lorne had even been to high school. They'd all been to the Harvard Business School.

Mr Laughren: Not to mention Hughie Segal.

Mr Conway: And Hughie Segal. Well, Hughie was like a heavier version of George Stephanopoulos. Hughie was working the spin 24 hours a day and was not sure at the end of a week which side he had been on in the beginning of the week on some of these issues.

But we are faced with a situation where the government wants to proceed with a lot of work, and that is as it should be. As my father would say, if he were here: "You people are paid for 12 months of the year. Surely it's not too much to expect that you work for at least 11 months and whatever time you have to set aside for statutory holidays and a reasonable holiday schedule."

I say, bring it on. You get me that Paul Godfrey package of municipal reforms, and I hope you ram it down my throat, because I have a feeling that Paul Godfrey isn't going to be any better at this than his predecessors and that by the time you figure it out, Al Leach truly will be sailing someplace in the Caribbean and Al Palladini may be collecting tolls on a personal basis up on Highway 407. But that's your right, and nobody can quarrel with that.

I think an opposition has a right, and the public out there has a right, to expect a reasonable opportunity to have some knowledge of what's on the agenda, what it actually means. As a former government House leader I was always struck by how many people in the know couldn't even distinguish, for a lot of good reasons, I suppose, between a government bill and the Laughren private member's bill on Thursday morning, or how many people, after we'd advertised what I thought was an appropriate length of time, knew hardly anything about what the government was intending.

I think we have an obligation to proceed in an orderly fashion, allowing enough time for the Legislature to do its work, which is to receive the government initiatives, analyse, amend, challenge, digest, take them out to the standing committees in communities -- not every community, obviously, but a reasonable number in eastern, southwestern and midnorthern and northern Ontario -- so that people affected by all this can have some awareness and some opportunity to have their say.

I spent a couple of days this summer, and I've been around here a long time, filling in on the famous VLT committee in Sudbury. I was astonished after all these years how much -- I was astonished by just how good the process was. A woman came down from Kapuskasing, I think, and was she good. She was just talking about their organizations and what these VLTs -- I don't want to get into the specifics, but I tell you, as a legislator she made an enormous impact on me and on my thoughts around a policy that I don't profess to understand nearly as well as my friend from St Catharines or our critic from Leamington.

The motion is one that invites us to cooperate with the government's business. I'm certainly willing to do that. I look at the motion, and clearly it makes provision for a spring session to begin in January. That has some very significant technical fallout both for the assembly and the public at large, because at some point you have to ask yourself the question. Presumably there's going to be some kind of intersession; presumably during that intersession the Paul Godfrey municipal reform, some of the things the government House leader was talking about, are going to go out for some response. Some of this stuff has a very tight time line. I understand that. The Godfrey reforms are going to be absolutely critical, and it's already December 10.

I'm not so sure that some sober second thought and some very careful Conservative movement on some of this stuff isn't good public policy. As an opposition politician it may be very good politics for me to rush the thing through as quickly as it appears to be going.


I simply raise some of those issues because I think they're real issues, and it does not serve the assembly well or the public well to have some not particularly good legislation passing into law. Some of you may remember -- here again, have we got anybody from the NDP? -- we had a package of bills in the previous Parliament around consent to treatment. I remember getting a package of amendments that was just stupendous. I didn't know a great deal about the particulars of the policy but I knew one thing: When I saw that number of amendments, it was quite clear that the initial proposals, however well intentioned, were very preliminary. I had to wonder, even with all these changes. When you see that kind of legislation being amended so dramatically and quickly and people, whether they agree with the policy or not, tell you, "I'm warning you, this is trouble on the ground," in Halton Hills or wherever, I think we as legislators have an obligation to pay some attention to that.

There has been a fair bit of that in recent years, because governments have ministerial assistants, they've got assistant deputy ministers and their primary concern is to win the policy fight at cabinet. Get that Minister of Transportation in there. Palladini doesn't have to worry about Conway and Bradley. He has to really worry, and his officials know this, about beating back that awful Minister of Finance and his pal the president of the treasury board, fighting back the endless assaults of the Minister of Environment and Energy, who has all these nasty questions about whether or not these are good, meritorious things. That's what the minister of highways has to worry about.

So in our system, when the minister of highways gets through all that, he can be excused, and of the whole lot in the department he's probably -- I just picked that department. I believe it to be true in almost all departments. The House: "Listen, we've got a majority government? We do. Turnbull, how many votes have we got, 82? What have Bradley and Wildman got? I think they've got maybe 41 or 42." You know, Bill Davis's math notwithstanding, I think that's still twice as many, so call the vote and shove it down their throats. The legislative process is truly, if not an afterthought, so secondary as to be scarcely visible on this horizon.

Mr Bradley: What happens when they find out about it in Virgil?

Mr Conway: Oh, in Virgil. There's a good car dealership in Virgil, as I recall. I don't know whether it's still there.

I come back to some other points I want to make this afternoon. There's a whole lot of business that concerns our constituents that we're not spending any time with. I repeat: The issue in my community that is far and away the most important issue today is what happened to our hospitals last week. That's what people want to talk about. If they tune on the television tonight, that's what they expect their member of Parliament -- I suspect that's what they want the member for Sarnia to be talking about, and he has been talking about it. I know there's a difference between being in a government caucus and being an unrestricted oppositionist, but people in the community, whether that community is Willowdale or Sarnia or Pembroke or St Catharines or Woodbridge, are concerned about: Is the hospital open? Is the doctor available? Are my kids able to go to a good educational program?

Let's talk about hospitals. Boushy and Beaubien and I are not giving -- there's going to be little if anything in here to talk about this hospital closure commission and the criteria by which it's operating. We just accept it, as a Legislature, because a year ago in the great hubbub of the Bill 26 debate -- there was lots of fine print there. The fine print is now becoming headline news in places like Petrolia and Pembroke and Sarnia. I'll use the Pembroke example: "They're going to what? They're going to take the active treatment beds down from 142 to 87? They're going to close a century-old hospital?" One of the big areas of saving in my community is $2.5 million annually out of the chronic care budget.

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): You make it sound as though everything is fine. They keep spending money.

Mr Conway: You see, I say to my friend from Brock, everything is not fine, but I'm not going to be provocative by reminding the House about what Mr Harris said in the leaders' debate and what he both said and/or implied, in a wonderfully political fashion, "Not a penny out of health care." How would you like to be in Petrolia and think, "I voted for Beaubien," or in Pembroke, "I voted for the Conservative candidate," and I thought, "Not a penny out of health care"? A reasonable person might conclude that that wasn't going to mean a 40% reduction on a permanent basis to the hospital funding in the community.

Mr Froese: We're talking about reinvestment.

Interjection: Oh, yeah, you're not going to reinvest it all.

Mr Conway: No, to be fair, the member from Brock says, "We're going to reinvest." I look again at the Pembroke proposal of last week, the preliminary report from the Sinclair commission. When you calculate the reinvestment, and they talk about a reinvestment, they're going to take out approximately $15 million annually and they're going to reinvest about $2 million annually. So, the net loss on an annual basis, after the reinvestment is calculated, is in the order of $13 million.

Mr Bradley: That goes to pay for the tax cut.

Mr Conway: My point is that there are --

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Those rich guys again, eh?

Mr Bradley: A tax cut for the rich, you're right.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The members for Etobicoke-Humber and St Catharines, come to order.

Mr Conway: I'm trying to imagine what this looks like to the citizen in downtown Pembroke or in downtown Sarnia. I want to say, on behalf of the members for Sarnia and Lambton, and I've been here longer than most of you and I should by now have developed a fairly tough hide and I've been through some -- but there's nothing quite like going to the arena to meet the 800 or 1,000 people who want to know why you've closed their hospital.

I have observed across the aisle the last few weeks, has anybody talked to Frank Miller? I know he's yesterday's man, and I've made light of the fact that Frank went around closing hospitals and people like Larry Grossman came behind him, particularly in Toronto, and opened them. I know it's a heroic new day and it's a revolutionary new mandate and you're not the kind of spineless milquetoasts that those Davis Tories were; you're real men and women.

Mr Ford: Spineless milquetoasts.

Mr Conway: Surely that's what I mean, because I can just hear it, the Thatcherites over there like the member for Nepean: "Bill Davis is Ted Heath. I want a real man. Give me Margaret Thatcher." That's political spine. That's the willingness to see it through to the bitter end.

I think the member for Bruce may be agreeing with my assessment of things. You know, I say to the member for Bruce I read the Bruce press.

Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): So do I.

Mr Conway: She well ought to read the Bruce press, because I'll tell you, up in Kincardine -- I'm just looking at the energy account. I think this revolution has slightly less appeal and slightly more concern for the member for Bruce in downtown Kincardine and Southhampton than it might in that government caucus room downstairs --

Mrs Fisher: No, it doesn't.

Mr Conway: -- where together, buttressed by the members from Brampton and Nepean and, God forbid, Scarborough-Canadian Tire, she gets her spine strengthened with high-octane David Frum conservatism. But it's not clear to me that that gasoline product sells as well or goes as far on Main Street, Bruce county. We shall see what we shall see.

But these are the issues, the hospital closures, what they mean to young, middle-aged and, particularly, older people. In Renfrew county today, I can assure you the number one issue is, how is it possible that we can live with $14 million less on an annual basis in a community, if you take the surrounding service area, of about 40,000? That is an astonishing reduction, with an enormous impact on not just the remaining hospital and institutional sector but on the home care and other community services. That's what they want to know that there is some debate about. They hope that there is some appeal to and appeal from some of the very rigorous judgements that have been handed down on a preliminary basis by the Sinclair commission.


But again, we're not dealing with any of that because of course in Bill 26 we delegated that responsibility out to a government-appointed and a ministerially controlled commission, and we did so ostensibly because we wanted to take it out of politics, out of this place.

My friend the judge from Ottawa-Rideau smiles appropriately and knowingly. You've got to like the judge, because the judge is where he's always been, which is in politics. And no shrinking violet is the judge. Do you want to know what the judge thinks? You ask the judge and he'll tell you in bold print. I suspect the Ottawa press will be full of the judge by about the third or fourth week of January, because my sources tell me that what the hospital surgery in Pembroke announced on a preliminary basis last week is as nothing compared to what will happen in old Bytown and environs within the next couple of months.

I want, in the remaining moments, to talk a little bit about an issue that is also health-related and that is on my mind this week, and this is not going to surprise members. I'm going to do so because the substantive motion before me, dealing with the business of the government, the business of the assembly, allows me probably the best opportunity I'm going to have in the next few weeks to deal with this matter of, I believe, urgent and pressing necessity, and that is the circumstances surrounding the departure earlier this week of the member for Simcoe West from his departmental responsibility as the Minister of Health.

I'm not a happy person about this. I can't believe there's anybody in the chamber who's particularly happy about what we've seen this week. Part of the reason why I am not willing to let this go, for the moment at least, is that I know Jim Wilson. I've watched Jim Wilson operate for the past number of years. He is not a foolish man. Jim Wilson may be a hot-tempered fellow, I admit that, but I've watched him since his arrival here in 1990. He is very hardworking, knowledgeable about the issues, somebody who has certainly soaked up the chemistry of this place, its successes and its sorrows.

This Brett James, who is in the news -- I was checking the old government directories from four or five years ago. It's very interesting. Brett James is no neophyte either. He's been around here for four or five years. The book on Brett James is that he is a very diligent, effective, hardworking, well-respected person, not just within the old Tory caucus but, talking to some people not associated with the government caucus, someone who had a good reputation around Queen's Park Circle.

So it is against that backdrop that I want to spend a few moments this afternoon reviewing what has happened to date. I don't want to beat an old horse, and I know some people think that I might be about to do that. I am one of the few people left around here who sat through the entire Martel inquiry. I'm not here to abuse any of our colleagues, but there were two things -- well, I say that seriously because if you've ever been in government, if you've ever been in a position of responsibility, let me tell you, a lot of things can happen that can really embarrass you and that can sometimes end your career.

Darcy McKeough walked out of here with a resignation one day that he didn't plan, and it was the most inadvertent thing that could have happened. In a very honourable way he got up and he walked out of here. Boy, he didn't plan it and it was accidental. When you see that happen to somebody, you become very careful.

But the thing I remember, and why I am absolutely unwilling to be as tolerant as I might otherwise be in this matter, is what I lived through as perhaps a too-naïve, 16-year veteran of the assembly at the time of that so-called Martel incident. I remember I just was absolutely flabbergasted at a couple of things in that. The thing I will always remember, those of us who were on, I think, the committee as a whole or some of us on the steering committee actually saw the document that came out of OHIP about Dr Donahue in Sudbury.

Just to summarize briefly what was happening, and Bud may have to help me here, it was in the summer-fall of 1991. The Rae government had taken office and was facing a number of difficult situations. There were some actions taken with respect to the payment of physicians. Was it the early days of the cap on physicians' fees? It was not popular and there were a number of doctors, many in the community, certainly in Sudbury, who decided to fight back in the good, expected, democratic way.

One of the key players in the Sudbury area leading the charge against the Rae government health care initiative was a Dr Donahue. Never heard of the man before, got to know a lot about him in the space of the winter of 1991-92.

Mr Wildman: There's an Anglo-Irish cabal in Sudbury of doctors.

Mr Conway: I'm not going to get into that, but there was, suffice it to say, a very active group of physicians in Sudbury who were really upset about what the Rae-Laughren government were doing. Frances Lankin, I think, was the minister -- well, think about it. An NDP stronghold like Sudbury, it's no surprise that would happen. Anyway, Dr Donahue led the charge, or was active in the charge, against some of these government initiatives.

The great irony -- again I thought of Mackenzie King the other day, for some bizarre reason, because I was looking at the records and we rose here on Monday, five years to the hour of that moment on Monday, December 9, 1991, when Mike Harris stood in his place to tell the Legislature about a conversation he had just had with Evelyn Dodds. Evelyn Dodds is, like, real special. If you've ever been a public official dealing with the Lakehead, you've met Evelyn Dodds. She is a very vigorous, vociferous, colourful individual, served on school board, on city council and has had some very clear and active and good involvement with Progressive Conservative politics in the Lakehead.

Very briefly, what happened in that case was that Evelyn Dodds was at some kind of cocktail reception on the Thursday night previous. We're now talking about December 5 or 6, 1991, in Thunder Bay. She came upon the Minister of Northern Development, Ms Martel, and they apparently had a discussion. During that discussion the Minister of Northern Development was alleged by Ms Dodds to have said some rather disparaging things about this Dr Donahue.

As I remember it, and I'm just recalling it -- I could get into the material, but I won't -- it was something along the lines of Martel saying to Dodds: "If you knew what I knew about Dr Donahue, you'd be very careful about taking his side in this. I know a fair bit about Dr Donahue, and there may be some trouble there at OHIP and there may be charges pending, or about to be laid." And some other things.

That was a Thursday night. On Friday, as it happens, Ms Dodds, who I think worked as a manager in a medical office at the time in Thunder Bay, happened to be in Toronto, and I think it was the next day or the day after, she happened to meet some senior people at the Ministry of Health. She informed them what the minister had said about Dr Donahue, and how would she know that? It quickly became a debate in here about, was there any evidence to suggest that a cabinet minister knew something about the confidential medical and billing records of an Ontario physician?


An inquiry was struck by the Legislature, ably headed by Steven Offer, former member for Mississauga North, and, on that committee the current minister of justice and the current Minister of Finance and the current Minister of Agriculture were either full-time or part-time members. I was there for almost all of it.

We were never to establish that Minister Martel had in her possession confidential medical information from OHIP, but what the committee did find out -- and this was the part that just astonished me -- was that there had been sent from the OHIP office in Kingston an extraordinary memo of two or three pages. It was clear that the memo was requisitioned by somebody important in the office of the Minister of Health. It was something along the lines of, "Obviously, somebody wants to know or needs to know something about Dr Donahue."

There arrived shortly thereafter a memo: "You want to know about Dr Donahue? We'll tell you some things about Dr Donahue." I'm telling you, in three pages there was quite a story. Whether it was true, I don't know. It certainly came from OHIP and it contained the most unbelievably precise numbers and editorial comment about practices that I could have ever imagined. The difficulty for the then Minister of Northern Development was that you didn't have to be Einstein to make a connection between that memo and some of the things that were being said.

Bob MacMillan, who was then the general manager of OHIP -- good guy, Bob MacMillan, in my experience, former president of the OMA, former assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Health as well, a smart guy, well connected -- was horrified that this had happened. I was astonished by the way the memo was written by a guy I went to Queen's University with. I'm not exactly naïve, but I didn't think even then, after all of the years in government and opposition, that anybody would ever put this kind of stuff on paper and send it to a minister's office, but it apparently happened.

The upshot of all of that was that there were solemn promises, honourably given and certainly asked for, around a new protocol so that this would never happen again, for obvious reasons, and we all believed it. I certainly believed it, and I believed it just from the point of view of self-protection and preservation.

Evelyn Gigantes got in trouble here for having something in her briefing book that she should never have had because when you're a minister, as my friend from Woodbridge will tell you, you're so busy fighting off the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Environment and Energy and all the rest, you can't always be sure that you're not going to say something. So if you shouldn't have it for public use, don't put it in a briefing book. Ms Gigantes regrettably had it in a briefing book and quite inadvertently spit it out and it was over for her. She was gone.

But this Martel affair was infinitely more serious because it was quite evident that somebody in high office had asked for some very sensitive information around the confidential billing records and medical practices of a physician who was out there doing battle with the Ontario government, and that information had gotten into the political realm.

It may or may not have been seen by the Minister of Northern Development, but certainly some things were said in the public domain about Dr Donahue by that minister that if you had seen that memo, as I did, and heard the utterances associated with the Minister of Northern Development, a reasonable person would have to believe that there could very well have been something more than accidental here. But after the Martel incident, OHIP, the then Minister of Health, the Deputy Minister of Health and everybody around the place promised properly and solemnly and repeatedly that this would not happen again.

Now we get to last Saturday. What do we have? By the way --

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): Whatever comes to mind.

Mr Conway: Well, I'm glad there's some levity on the other side because let me tell you, this is one of the most serious issues that any Parliament anywhere could face. If it is Dr Donahue's medical records yesterday and it is Dr Hughes's OHIP billings today, what guarantee do we have that it won't be Jim Flaherty's tax returns tomorrow?

That's what the public is concerned about. People ask me, "Oh, well, just be trusting." I'm going to digress for a moment. I was reading the New York Times the other day and there's a very interesting revelation. The member for Durham Centre might be interested in this. There are two White House counsel who have left the Clinton administration -- you may have seen the story -- and they have left because they are concerned that their seniors, their superiors through the fall of 1996 have been telling something other than the whole truth about what went on between Bill Clinton and the Indonesian money.

These are two lawyers inside the White House who have basically said, according to the New York Times, that their superiors were telling something substantially less than the whole truth about what went on. The official line from the Clinton-Gore campaign was that they met a couple of times and only for social, "Hi, how are you?" These White House lawyers have now publicly stated, as that New York Times article or editorial made plain, these people who clearly are in a position to know have said there was more to it than that on at least one occasion.

The President of the United States met these Indonesian bankers to talk about American trade policy in southeast Asia. If that's true, I gather that's a criminal offence. But for the moment we know that two lawyers working in the White House have left because they are concerned that their superiors did not on a continuous basis tell the whole truth.

Governments, for whatever reason, and executives who are on the battlefront every day facing a whole range of pressures and challenges, have their own requirements, and one of the jobs that we have as a Legislature is to hold the executive to account for what they've done. So I say I can't imagine a more serious issue than the use by any government of confidential information against an individual in a public debate.

What do I know? I have the Saturday Globe and Mail, and the Saturday Globe and Mail tells me basically the following: That last -- I think it was Wednesday -- a specialist coalition that is battling the Ontario government about health policy and health funding sends out a notice that they're going to have a press conference later in the week to deal with this.

After that notice went out and before the press conference was held, a senior political aide, Brett James, well experienced and well regarded, phones Jane Coutts, the health reporter at the Globe and Mail. She's not in, she can't take the call, but he leaves a message. Jane Coutts goes to the press conference of the specialist coalition, a prominent member of which is a Dr Hughes from Peterborough, a person I do not know.

After the press conference, there is another call from Brett James to Jane Coutts -- I believe it's Jane Coutts, certainly a reporter at the Globe and Mail. My information is it is one and the same person, but that's --

Mr Froese: Is it true he called? You don't know that.

Mr Conway: You see, I shouldn't admit this, but let me be candid. Dr Hughes's lawyer is an old friend of mine. His name is Paul French. Jim, you'll know Paul French. I knew Paul French through his uncle. His uncle was the late Arthur Edward Martin Maloney, QC. I'm going to tell you, it is a lucky thing for Jim Wilson and Brett James that Arthur Maloney isn't around to take this kind of a case, because Maloney would go ballistic at something as invidious as this, as insidious as this.


What have we got? Again, unless the Globe report and the Globe editors took leave of their senses, we've got from the story on the Saturday front page direct quotes telling us that the minister's senior political aide called the Globe and Mail reporter for the express purpose of informing her before the press conference that this Dr Hughes from Peterborough is, to quote Mr James, "the number one OHIP biller in Ontario, and you, reporter, might just like to ask that doctor that question when he starts to make himself available for questions at this press conference."

The article couldn't be plainer. When I've talked to Paul French, as I have about the article and the story, he has not indicated to me that it is substantially or in any way inaccurate. I'm sure lawyers opposite will say, "and you don't expect that he will." My point is, we know two things as far as I'm concerned.


Mr Conway: That Mr French has an active practice, some of which deals with the Catholic community, I say to Mr Flaherty, should be no surprise, given his Maloney connections or his French connections.

But I say very seriously, we know two things, and a reasonable person I think can make some conclusions. If it had not been for 1991-92, then I think there would have to be some greater latitude. To use an analogy, you can have no sympathy for politicians, whether they're in cabinet but especially if they're in cabinet or as private members, for the old habit of phoning judges or calling the cops. It used to be done pretty commonly, apparently. When I came here, it was surprising how many members, not all of one stripe, I might add, said: "Well, you know, Harry's a good fellow. He got into a little bit of trouble with the cops. There were extenuating circumstances. I know the superintendent. I may make just a little call."

Then we had, of course, evidence that lawyer-politician ministers, André Ouellet in 1976, Jean Charest, George Kerr -- a wonderful fellow, a lawyer, a former member from Halton, a former Solicitor General -- we had a federal and a provincial example in the mid-1970s of lawyer-politician ministers phoning judges, and it was pretty clearly indicated after that, that was verboten and there was a clear precedent around which later-day politicians and ministers had to organize themselves and adjust their behaviour.

We had had the precedent in 1991, and it was very clear what was in place. Bob MacMillan talked to the committee in 1992 about the new protocol, particularly around confidential and sensitive information. I ask the House, is there anybody here who believes that a ministerial assistant or a minister of the crown would need to know or would have, in the post-Martel world, information that specifically indicated that Dr X was the number one biller in OHIP? I've got to tell the member for Durham East, not so. That, and the president of the Ontario Medical Association was outside these doors today and he made it plain that is information the doctors rightly believe to be confidential and in the possession of OHIP only, and presumably under certain conditions to certain review committees, I suppose, if they request it for some specialized purpose.

Is there anybody who believes that a ministerial assistant would have that information, which is not commonly available and is illegal in the possession of most of us? We're not talking about day one of the political universe; we are talking about just a few years after people like Jim Wilson and Brett James knew keenly and personally and precisely what had happened in the Martel-Donahue affair.

But there's more to the story because not only did Brett James have information that he ought not to have had, that according to the protocols OHIP made very clear to us some years ago could only be accessed at the highest levels if the minister or the deputy had requested specifically --

Mr Bradley: They're the only people who can get it.

Mr Conway: They're the only people who could get it. So we know, and I believe, that Brett James only had what Jim Wilson at some point had requested. I am simply taking the mountain of evidence and the sworn testimony and the solemn promises to this assembly of just a few years ago, given by very honourable, able people, and matching it to the current situation.

This is astonishing. The government says, "I don't know what he had." All I know is this: that last week, before a press conference that clearly was going to rattle the chain of the Ministry of Health and the minister, the senior political aide phoned a health reporter at the national newspaper and said, "Have I got some information that you might find useful in tomorrow's press conference."

Mr Froese: Were you there?

Mr Bradley: Intimidation.

Mr Conway: Well, I'm quite happy to call Jane Coutts to the bar of this House and to call Brett James with her and say, "Did you make it up?" I mean, this is no trifle. This is a second major offence where confidential information was taken out of OHIP, brought into a minister's office, and that's only the half of it. The worst half of it as far as I'm concerned is then what was intended as an end use, and it is absolutely clear that one of the end uses to which Mr James intended this information was to smear Dr Hughes.

Mr Bradley: They're enemies.


Mr Conway: Absolutely. You know, the member from Brock is quite able to get up and engage in this debate and tell me that my assumptions are completely erroneous and whimsical. You've got the president of the OMA, you've got Dr Hughes, you've got a number of people saying, "We believe and we were told that who bills what and how much to OHIP is not public information. It is confidential.

Mr Froese: You're making assumptions.

Mr Conway: Again, I have too much respect for the member from Brock. Let us look at what happened here. I tell you that Brett James and Jim Wilson are no longer with us because they clearly understand now what they ought to have understood before that call was made late last week. Much has been said. Yes, I personally applaud the fact that the minister, caught in this attack, has surrendered the seals of office, but I want to tell the House that I don't believe that to be the end of the matter.

I'm not out for his scalp, but I was promised a few things a few years ago about this kind of transgression and how it would not and could not happen again, to the expressed and extreme disadvantage of a citizen of this province who gives us, under certain conditions, highly confidential information about himself and, in this case, his business and professional practice. He gives that to Her Majesty's Ontario government on the understanding that it will be safeguarded and will not be used against him in a prejudicial manner, and that solemn trust we have made as governments and legislators has been broken, in this case to Dr Hughes, as it appears to have been broken in a previous case involving Dr Donahue.


This is not a trifle because the use -- it's not just the use, it's the instinct that suggests: "We're under attack. We've got people out there who don't like what we're doing, so let's find out if there's something we can get in files we have, or have access to, and use that information in a way that will shut these detractors of our government up."

That is my concern here for the second time in five years. I simply cannot and will not believe the rather lame defences that are being offered, though I've got to ask you, what is the first minister to do? Is he to admit what I believe has happened?

Mr Froese: What's that got to do with the motion?

Mr Conway: It has a lot to do with the motion, because if, as I believe, we have lost a minister of the crown because that minister and his agents were engaged in a premeditated smear campaign, against an Ontario citizen, with confidential medical information that they ought not to have either had or used in that fashion, then I can't imagine a more serious business for this or any other assembly.


Mr Wildman: And you don't want the evidence, if there is any.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): You're not fair. There is no evidence of that.

Mr Bradley: The message is clear: Don't disagree with these people or they will find something on you.

Mr Conway: You know, the member for Durham Centre says I'm not fair. What about Dr Hughes? He can't come here, and thousands of other people like Dr Hughes.

The motion is a substantive motion that deals with the government agenda. I don't expect the intake of 1995 to have my concern, because in fairness to the two members from the peninsula who are across the way, the members for St Catharines-Brock and Niagara Falls, they didn't sit, like some of us, for hours and weeks and months in that hearing.

I was there and I saw the thing from beginning to end and I received promises. I was very impressed by the concern indicated by the then minister, the then deputy and the then general manager of OHIP. Imagine that just a few years later we have almost exactly the same scenario: somebody, in this case another doctor, deciding to challenge the now government headed by Mike Harris, and I ask the House to think about it again. What do you think a group of people sitting around a coffee shop in Whitby or Peterborough or Etobicoke or Pembroke would think of what seems to be admitted on all sides?

Last Wednesday a press notice from this specialists' coalition for a press conference I think Friday morning -- after the notice went out but before the press conference was held, a senior assistant to the Minister of Health phoned the national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, and left a message. The message was not returned before the press conference. The press conference was held. After the press conference another call or another contact from Mr Brett James, and we have -- let me just read some of the story. This is from the Globe and Mail, December 7, 1996: "Minister's Aide Out of Job after using OHIP Billing Data; Brett James Identified MD as Province's Highest Paid, by Jane Coutts, health policy reporter.

"Toronto -- A key aide to Health Minister Jim Wilson left his job yesterday after he revealed confidential information about a leader of Ontario's doctors to the Globe and Mail. Mr Wilson's executive assistant said Brett James is `no longer in the employ of the minister' after telling a Globe reporter to ask William Hughes, vice-chairman of the Specialist Coalition of Ontario, about his billings to the OHIP plan."

Now again, we will have a hearing and I am not satisfied that the privacy commissioner is the person, but this is one of our finest media and we have a front-page story which reports that -- let me just read that again: Brett James, according to this Globe and Mail account on Saturday morning, called a Globe reporter, suggesting that the Globe reporter ask Dr William Hughes about his billings to OHIP. "He said," meaning Brett James said, "Dr Hughes, a cardiologist in Peterborough, was Ontario's `number one' biller, charging more to OHIP than any other doctor in the province."

It couldn't be clearer. This ministerial assistant knew, or believed he knew, that Dr William Hughes was the number one biller to OHIP in the province. As people like Ms Lankin and Ms Caplan have said, as former ministers of health, that is not information that is routinely in the possession of either the Minister of Health and/or any of his or her assistants. After the Martel affair and the protocols that are in place, the only way that kind of information comes into the possession of the minister is after a very specific ministerial request for that information.

I do not think it is any kind of quantum leap or any kind of partisan unfairness to restate that Brett James could only have had that information if Jim Wilson, his minister and his boss, had specifically requested it.

Mr Bradley: That's the only way you can get it. You can't get it any other way.

Mr Conway: You can't get it any other way. Then, of course, the article goes on:

"The departure of Mr James reflects the delicate state of relations between the health ministry and the province's doctors. News of Mr James's revelation about Dr Hughes might have disrupted negotiations over doctors' pay when many expect a deal to be reached this weekend."

Quoting Catherine Steele, Catherine Steele being Jim Wilson's then-executive assistant, the article says: "We wouldn't want his," meaning Brett James, "conduct or behaviour to be seen as reflective of our view of physicians in any way, because it's not."

Then the article goes on: "Mr James revealed the information in a phone call after a news conference which was organized by the specialist coalition and led by Dr Hughes on Thursday." The press conference was on Thursday.

Mr James revealed the information, namely that Dr Hughes was, in the view and knowledge of the minister's assistant, Mr James, the number one OHIP biller, after the specialist coalition had held a press conference, at which press conference Dr Hughes was front and centre in leading the charge against the Harris government.

Reading the article: "At the conference, the coalition called for a province-wide shutdown of specialists' offices this coming Friday. Asked yesterday how he knew Dr Hughes was the top biller in Ontario, Mr Brett James said, `I guess I saw a piece of paper.' He added," did Mr James, "`My whole problem, quite frankly, is I love that little piece of information, but there's only one place it could come from.' Asked if he meant from OHIP's files, he said," that is, Brett James said, "yes."


Well, there you have it. To me, after the Martel affair, it couldn't be clearer: He shouldn't have had it, he shouldn't have asked for it, and most repugnant, what did he plan to do with the information? He had a very specific plan, as the Globe and Mail article makes plain. He was busy phoning the Globe, wanting to tell reporters who were going to that press conference, "Here's some information about Dr Hughes and you should ask him about it as he bellyaches about government funding of medical, health and hospital programs."

I've gone this long without getting into it, but this is right out of the Richard Nixon White House. This is about an enemies list, this is about getting even, this is about using confidential government information for the express purpose of attacking, undermining, threatening and smearing citizens who happen to take public issue with government policy. Because it has happened now for the second time in five years, involving the most confidential of OHIP, medical and physicians' information, this House ought to be in an uproar about it. That the minister has gone and that Mr James has gone for me is just the beginning, not the end of this story.

I have a lot of respect for Tom Wright, the information commissioner. He's a good fellow. He's served the assembly well. But I'm telling you he is not the person, given, as my colleague from Kingston and as the member and leader of the New Democratic Party and as the leader of the Liberal party enumerated at some length in today's question time, he is not, by dint of his mandate, competent to get to the bottom of this, and to the bottom of this we must get if we expect doctors and citizens generally to feel comfortable, that this kind of sensitive and confidential information can continue to be given to her Majesty's Ontario government in the knowledge that it is not going to be used in such an adversarial and in such a prejudicial way against individuals in the course of sometimes active public debate.

For any of you who have served on a local roads board or a local council or on any kind of body where you have access to information about people who might appear before you, you must understand, I'm sure you do, the kind of temptation to want to throw this back in the face of some adversary. Human beings are only human; human nature is only human nature; temptation is irresistible.

When I read The New York Times laceration editorially at the Clinton White House, I felt that the Times was absolutely right to be attacking their man. They supported Clinton in the election, but they recognized --

Mr Flaherty: You didn't support Bob Dole. I know you didn't.

Mr Conway: No, I say to my lawyer friend from Whitby, don't distract me. He more than anybody ought to be concerned about this.

Mr Flaherty: Maybe he supported Ross Perot.

Mr Conway: Well, you know, I was reading something the other day about the Pentagon papers, and we wonder why our trade is diminished. We wonder why political currency is not what it once was. This place is organized on the quaint, mid-19th century Victorian notion that we're all honourable men and women. I tell you, honourable men and women, hopefully not just in the Victorian era or the Edwardian era but also in the last 20th century, I hope we are honourable to a point that we understand that what happened here is repugnant in the extreme, and that because it is not for the first time in this decade, that it has happened again, we should be doubly outraged.

Speaking for myself, I now have to believe that what I was told five years ago by ministers, deputies and senior people at OHIP was not worth as much as the face value of the currency on which it was offered. I'm rather disappointed by that. Twice in five years I am forced, as a member of the Legislature -- talk about going home? I expect to go home this weekend and meet some of my good friends, who are very active Conservatives, who are distinguished members of the medical profession, and I expect them to be in a white rage over this. They were in a rage over what happened to Donahue, and I, for one, said: "You're right to be upset. This, I don't believe, will happen again," not just because there are new protocols but that all of us, and certainly all of us who were here in 1991-92, and that certainly includes Jim Wilson -- it probably includes Brett James. If he wasn't here in 1991-92, he was certainly here a few short months or a year later. But we now have a seasoned veteran of the Conservative caucus, a hardworking guy who knows what he's about, out the door because we have had a second incident where an Ontario doctor was attacked by political assistance, and I believe that James could only have had what Jim Wilson had or had asked for.

You get into this business about a doctrine of deniability. Ronald Reagan actually pulled it off in Iran Contra: "You know, there was an activity in the basement of the White House. I knew that Ollie North was around and he was down there." There were some things going on, apparently, and Congress and a couple of special prosecutors spent many a year. That Canadian-born Lawrence Walsh enraged a lot of Republicans with his, in the end, unsuccessful effort to link the basement activity to the Oval Office responsibility. But I've got to tell you, if you look at American public opinion, there aren't too many people who didn't believe that the people who bear the responsibility in the executive office did not know or ought to have known what was going on underneath their very feet and on their watch.

You see, our doctrine of ministerial responsibility is one where there is perhaps an old-fashioned notion that if you've got assistants running around, doing the kinds of things that Brett James was doing, then that's your responsibility.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): He resigned?

Mr Conway: Of course he resigned, because in my view a smear campaign against an innocent Ontario citizen was uncovered. You bet you he resigned. He did it lickety-split. But that doesn't answer all the questions. How is it possible that this could have been going on in the first place? Who else was involved? I want to know. I tell you, one thing I remember from that Martel inquiry is that OHIP keeps very specific logs and records about who asked for what, on what account, on what day, to whom did OHIP send the information. I want those logs. I want a detailed accounting of who asked for what, who got what, and I expect that Mr Wright is going to have that and at some point that's going to be shared with this House. I tell you I learned a couple of other ancillary things from the Martel inquiry and I was astonished at what kind of paper trail modern technology can now produce. Those facts, records alone, are the stuff that would bring Perry Mason back from the grave.

Just because Wilson is gone, just because Brett James is gone, that does not absolve this Legislature from giving an accounting to the Ontario public and most especially to those innocent citizens who have yet again seen hard evidence that if you want to fight this city hall, you better gird your loins and get the best hockey equipment that money can buy, because this government is quite prepared to fight back with all instruments at its disposal, including the most sensitive medical information, that the Marquis of Queensberry rules do not apply.


Again, the chronology here is in some ways even more damning than it was in the Martel case. A notice went out last week. "We, the specialist coalition, are going to have a press conference." After the notice went out, before the press conference was held, a call was made from Brett James to the Globe and Mail, a message left, no conversation. The press conference is held, another contact from Brett James to the Globe and Mail, I presume Jane Coutts but certainly a Globe reporter, and what does the Globe report?

Ah, the minister's aide has some information that he just thought a good reporter might want to know about some kind of carping doctor at a press conference where the issue was the current operating mandate and attitude of the Minister of Health. That information was, this guy, Dr Hughes from Peterborough, I can tell you, is the leading, number one biller to OHIP, and when asked by that Globe reporter, "Where did you get that information?" he confessed that it came from OHIP, as it only could have come from OHIP.

Mr Bradley: And there's only one way to get it from OHIP.

Mr Conway: And there's only one way to get it from OHIP in the post-Martel world, and that is to have the minister specifically requisition it. I suspect there is more, that they not only had the billing numbers for Dr Hughes, but given this mentality and this admitted evidence from Brett James, I suspect that what the government was amassing was: "What other doctors are out there giving us a hard time? What other doctors are we negotiating about? Pull up their numbers and let's just see what we've got."

Not only do I believe there is reason to believe that the minister's office, Jim Wilson's office, called up the billing numbers, the billing volumes, the billing totals of Dr Hughes, but I believe there is reason to believe that they had in their possession for purposes of attacking people who were attacking them in the public domain or people who they were negotiating with -- I have every reason to believe there is reason to believe that they had billings of more doctors than just Dr Hughes.

These are serious issues that go to the core of what we're about. I know the national newspaper quotes Junius every day, telling us that we ought not to submit to arbitrary measures from the chief magistrate. What could be more arbitrary? What could be more damning and more unsettling than a chief magistrate who calls up this kind of confidential information? It's for these reasons that I believe that the inquiry, so-called, headed by the privacy commissioner, is inadequate, that it must be replaced by either a legislative inquiry or an inquiry under the health insurance legislation.

Because I believe so seriously in the gravity of the transgression here, for the second time we've seen a smear campaign using confidential OHIP information against an innocent Ontario citizen, I move that Mr Johnson's motion be amended by deleting all the words after "1997" in the fourth line of the motion and replacing them with the words "which date resumes the fall sessional period of 1996."

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Mr Conway has moved that the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after "1997" in the fourth line of the motion and replacing them with the words "which date resumes the fall sessional period of 1996."

Further debate?

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I rise to deal with the motion and the amendment put by my friend from Renfrew North, and I would say at the outset that we don't necessarily disagree with his amendment -- frankly, we agree that spring does not begin in January -- but we don't believe that there need to be any words after the date "1997" in the motion, and I will be explaining that as we go through.

I have a number of things I want to put on the table as we deal with the amendment put by the government House leader. Essentially what we have in this motion is a government House leader who is acting in a way that is similar to many other government House leaders in the past in that we have a government that has left to the very end some of its most difficult and controversial legislation and now is looking for a way of trying to get it through. In that sense, the member for Don Mills is acting in a similar way to many other government House leaders in the past.

But what is different in this particular case is that we have rules that clearly prevent the government from introducing at first reading, and then proceeding to second and third readings, new legislation in the last eight days. I don't think the government House leader dealt very well with that issue in his presentation, either in his intervention during the discussion around the points of order or in his leadoff in the debate on the motion.

The government House leader said that we really have a lot of work to do -- essentially that's what he said -- and that we've got to get things through. I know that's a problem for government House leaders. That has been a problem for every government House leader I've seen in this place, except perhaps I suppose the government House leader who was in the last part of the previous two governments, in the last sessions, because, particularly under the Peterson government in the last part, just before they called the election, they didn't really have a lot to do.

But in the early parts of mandates, governments generally have a lot to do. Governments generally have a lot to do in the first part of a mandate; sometimes they have too much to do. Inevitably we find that we get close to the end of the session and they haven't covered very much or at least they don't think they've covered enough, so they try to find ways to get things done.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): Seven days on the third reading of Bill 75. Seven days.

Mr Wildman: The member across the way says, "Seven days on the third reading of Bill 75." It may come as a big surprise to the member, but the government House leader didn't have to call Bill 75 on any of those days. He could have dealt with other things, but he chose to call Bill 75 because he wanted the House to debate Bill 75, so the House debated Bill 75. If the government House leader had other priorities that could have been dealt with, he could have called other things, but he chose not to because he wanted the government to debate Bill 75. He made a basic mistake. He didn't think the opposition could carry the debate that long. Well, he was wrong.

Mr Flaherty: You could talk a long time.

Mr Wildman: That's what this is about. This is a Parliament -- "parler."

As I said in my intervention on whether this motion was admissible and whether it was in order, our caucus, as I think is true of all the members of the House, is not opposed to meeting next week, nor are we opposed to meeting in January.

We recognize that the government has a long list of bills on the order paper that haven't been debated or haven't been completed, and if the government feels that these are of such importance that they must be gotten through and we can't get them through this week, then perhaps we should extend the session. We don't have any problem with that. But I say clearly that our caucus will not support a motion that gives this government a blank cheque to make any changes it wants to municipal services and educational governance without proper consultation and notice. That's what's wrong with this motion.

The government House leader gave us this long wish list -- it's sort of a Christmas list -- of what he would like to get through this session. We got this list a couple of weeks ago, finally. We'd been trying to get the list from the government House leader for a long time. For three months, we'd been asking the government House leader: "You've got all this long list of bills. What do you really need before Christmas?" The government House leader wasn't able to give us that.

Mr Flaherty: All of the above.

Mr Wildman: The member says, "All of the above." In fact, that's basically what he said, "Yes, we want it all." It was unbelievable. He had enough on that list to take two sessions, not one, and he somehow wanted to get it through. I think he finally realized that he couldn't get it through and so we started talking about an extension of the session. All right. Fine. If you want to extend the session, we'll consider that.

Finally, we've got a list now where the government House leader has told us, "Of all of the bills and pieces of legislation that are on the order paper, these are what we need by Christmas," keeping in mind that this is now December 10th. This is the list: They want third reading on Bill 61, third reading on Bill 63, Bill 65, Bill 66, Bill 67, Bill 68 and Bill 69. That's not the full list; that's just the first item: eight bills for third reading. These are what are referred to as the red tape bills. For whatever reason, the government House leader hasn't even called these bills for third reading. If he really wants them, why hasn't he called them? What have we been doing for all these weeks? If he really wanted these bills, he could have called them, debated them, but he didn't.

We indicated that on at least one of those bills we had a major problem. There were amendments, and at one time it looked like the government was going to be having to move an amendment on one of those bills, so that meant we have to have committee and we had to deal with it.

At one time, the government said, "We'd like to bundle these bills"; that is, put them altogether and deal with them as one item. As I understand it, to bundle them would require unanimous consent, which is a problem for the government House leader. You'd have to have unanimous consent.

Mr Flaherty: How big a problem is that?

Mr Wildman: It might be a problem. There might be some member in the outer reaches of this place who might say no. That's perhaps why the government House leader did not call the so-called red tape bills, because if he wanted, as the member indicated a moment ago, all of the above, he had nothing to trade, and that's unfortunately -- or fortunately -- the way things work around here. If you want to get unanimous consent for something, you've got to give the members of the opposition parties something, to say: "Okay, fine. In order to get unanimous consent, we'll agree to do something on another matter." If you have to get all of the above, it's impossible to have that kind of negotiation and discussion.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): We had unanimous agreement on the red tape bill, five minutes' debate each.

Mr Wildman: You do? When?

Mr Baird: We did for second reading.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order. The member for Nepean, please.

Mr Wildman: We don't have unanimous consent to bundle these bills.

Mr Baird: This was before, earlier.

Mr Wildman: We never had unanimous consent to bundle the bills. We indicated that we didn't think there was going to have to be long debate on all of these bills but that we had an amendment to one of the bills. We never agreed to bundle them. We agreed that we didn't need to have long debate but we could debate each separate bill.

Mr Baird: For five minutes.

Mr Wildman: The government wanted to bundle them, though, put them all together.

Mr Baird: Had unanimous consent not to.

Mr Wildman: No, we never had unanimous consent to. The member keeps saying we had unanimous consent to bundle the bills. We never did.

What else is on this list? All of these so-called red tape bills were item number one. The second item is Bill 52, the aggregates bill, where we said there would have to be committee of the whole debate, and we had a very expeditious and short debate in committee of the whole on December 5. There was an amendment we wanted to put forward and we dealt with it, but the government House leader hasn't called it again for third reading.

Bill 57, the environmental approvals bill; supposedly, according to the government House leader, a non-controversial bill. It was called for second reading on September 25 and there was debate for three days starting September 25. Since September 30, this bill has not been called. It hasn't been debated because the government House leader hasn't called it. We did proceed with Bill 81, which the government said it had to get through, and finally we got an agreement that made it possible that we would have hearings, so we held hearings across the province, as well as in Toronto. The bill finally passed third reading on December 4. The government did get one of the bills it said it had to have before Christmas.

Then we have Bill 82, about which there's been tremendous controversy, not because of particularly what is in that bill, although there are problems in the bill, but because of the utter, complete mess that the Attorney General has made of the family support plan, because of his determination, as part of the government's agenda to get the money out, to close the regional offices and lay off 290 staff, set up one centralized operation with a 1-800 number and move all the files to that operation. Now we find that a program that has had problems over the years is even worse, much worse than it ever was, because there was no proper transition provided for by the Attorney General because he was in such a rush to get the money out.

We have a situation where ex-spouses, in many cases fathers, who are responsible and under court order to pay are paying and have been paying so that their children can be supported, but what's happening now is that the money is being deducted from their cheques but it's never getting to their kids and their ex-spouses.

In response to the questions that have been raised repeatedly by my colleagues in this House, the Attorney General just repeats a mantra saying, "We've had lots of problems. We're fixing it and everything's fine," instead of admitting that he's goofed, that he's messed it up and that a lot of people are suffering because of that. Kids are suffering, kids are going to have bleak Christmases because of his blundering, and he won't admit it. In my experience, you have to admit mistakes before you can start to rectify them.

What kind of response do we get from the Attorney General? My colleagues the members for Welland-Thorold and Sudbury East went to the Downsview office, the infamous office that this minister set up. They went with a video camera just to see what was exactly happening there, since the minister kept saying: "Everything's fine. We're catching up. We're getting things set up. People are being trained. Things are on the move." What was his response? As soon as he found out that two members of this House, carrying out their responsibilities as representatives of the people of Ontario, wanting to find out what was happening with the family support plan and why there were so many problems there, as soon as he found out that they had gone to that office and had entered the office, accompanied by a security guard, with a video camera and discovered all these boxes of files that had not been uncrated, that had just been sitting there ever since the regional offices had been closed, what did he do?


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I don't know. What did he do?

Mr Wildman: Well, I think he called the cops and said that a criminal investigation should be initiated. Then many of us in this House heard an interjection by the Attorney General, the chief law officer of the crown for this province, in which he alleged that a break-in had occurred, and that is very, very serious.

I think he erred in calling a police investigation in the first place. I think he acted in a fit of pique because he'd been caught. But he compounded that error by suggesting that a criminal act had taken place even before the police had had a chance to investigate and find out if indeed any criminal activity had occurred. Here we have the Attorney General prejudging a police investigation, the Attorney General initiating a police investigation into a matter that relates to government activity for which he is responsible, and then alleging before that investigation can start and get under way that a criminal activity had taken place.

I don't think it was a surprise -- it shouldn't have been a surprise -- to the government House leader that when he suggested we call Bill 82 on changes to the family support plan, we said to him, "We want to have a more adequate response from the Attorney General on the problems in the plan, and also a clear investigation of what the Attorney General said, what he meant, and what the ramifications are for his position as the chief law officer of the crown because of the statements he made in this House or appears to have made in this House as interjections."

It seems the government House leader was somewhat taken aback by that: "Why would you want to discuss those issues rather than the issues just in the bill itself?" as if somehow they weren't related to one another. As a House leader for an opposition party, I would have been derelict in my duty if I hadn't notified the government House leader that this would not be a short and quick debate on Bill 82. I did, and when the matter came before the House, in fact there was extensive debate. It was called on November 20 and it went on for six days, ending on November 28.

At the time the bill was brought before the House, the government House leader and other members in the Conservative caucus accused the opposition of trying to hold this bill up. They were saying that the measures in the bill that would make it easier, as the minister claims, to enforce support payments were being held up because of the opposition.

Well, the fact is that it was over 40 days from the time the bill was introduced for first reading till it was finally called by the government House leader for second reading. If the government House leader had wanted to get that piece of legislation through, he could have called it much earlier, but he chose not to. Apparently, he chose not to because we were indicating that it was going to take a significant debate and he wanted us somehow to expedite that debate, despite the fact that there are provisions in Bill 82 which are most objectionable.

One of those provisions is that if you have a long-standing case of non-enforcement, where support payments have not been made for a long time and there are significant arrears, it can just be decided that these arrears are not collectible and the case is closed, as if the court order was somehow no longer applicable.

I suppose the government House leader thought that by leaving Bill 82 till later in the session, he could somehow persuade or force the opposition to expedite the debate despite the transgressions of the minister responsible, despite his mistakes and the unholy mess he's made of the whole program. Well, that's not the way it works.

And now we come to Bill 86, which is a bill that deals with many municipal reforms. That bill wasn't called for second reading till December 2. The government House leader and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing have both said that this bill had to get through before the end of the calendar year -- in other words, it had to be passed by Christmas -- because it dealt with provisions related to the municipal elections in the fall; that since, under the legislation, candidates can register as of January 1, these provisions should be in place and be in law by January 1 so that everybody would understand the new rules and would know how the game was going to be played.

I may be naïve, but if a piece of legislation is required by January 1, as the government House leader and the minister have claimed, why wasn't it called until December 2 for second reading? Forgive me for being a little sceptical of the government's claims about their priority and the necessity of getting things through. If something has to be passed before the end of the December, before Christmas and, according to the calendar of the House, before December 12 for third reading, why is second reading called only on December 2?

Then we have the Minister of Transportation over there, who has a piece of legislation, Bill 92, on road safety. I know the Minister of Transportation is very concerned and wants to get this bill through. We've been told by the government House leader a lot of times that this bill must be debated for third reading before the end of the session. I know you'll find this hard to believe, but this bill, Bill 92, hasn't even been called yet.

I don't know why the government House leader hasn't listened to his colleague the Minister of Transportation. On the other hand, I guess the Minister of Transportation has been unsuccessful in persuading the government House leader to call this piece of legislation for debate on second reading. If we really need it before the end of the December, and the calendar says the cutoff is December 12, and we want it not only for second reading but third reading, passed into law by December 12, why is it that on December 10 it still hasn't been called?


Then we have Bill 95, another one. I'm reading, as you know, Mr Speaker, from the government House leader's wish list, the government's wish list; what it wants before Christmas. Bill 95 was the so-called Boxing Day shopping bill. We were told that this has to be passed not only at second reading but third reading by the end of the session so that it will be in place prior to Boxing Day, December 26. Well, the bill wasn't called until December 5, and it was even suggested by the government House leader that maybe we could do second and third reading in the same day. From our standpoint, we didn't even need this legislation: The court has already struck down the legislation that prohibited shopping on December 26, so there was no need to have the legislation. But if the government really wanted to have it and wanted it passed for third reading prior to December 12, why wasn't it called before December 5 for second reading?

As I said, this government House leader finds himself in the bind that many government House leaders find themselves in: They have a long list which is too long, which they must have, and it doesn't get passed as quickly as they would like and the rules are seen as somehow an impediment to getting the government's agenda through. So the government House leader then says: "We've got to do something. We've got to bring in a motion to change the rules, to extend the House sitting."

As I've said, if the government wishes to extend the House sitting to deal with these third readings, fine. We're happy to come back next week; we like to have question periods. We're quite happy to come back in January to have more question periods, to continue the fall session and to pass these matters on the government's wish list, on the order paper, that haven't been passed yet.

But I haven't finished the whole list. I just read the 14 or 15 bills that the government wanted for third reading. There are some other bills they've said had to be completed second reading before December 12.

Bill 84, the fire services bill, was called for second reading on December 9. Keeping in mind that the government knows the calendar runs until December 12, it was called for second reading on December 9, two days before the end. Did the government really expect it was going to be passed second reading by December 12?

Bill 96, which deals with rent control, which the government euphemistically calls the Tenant Protection Act when everybody knows it's anything but tenant protection -- the government House leader says the government needs second reading on Bill 96 prior to the end of the fall session. Bill 96 hasn't even been called yet for second reading. It's December 10.

There's Bill 99, which deals with the Workers' Compensation Board. This bill, besides just changing the name, in fact takes away protections from workers, takes away benefits, robs injured workers, some of the most vulnerable people in our society, of the benefits that help them to put bread on the table and clothes on their own backs and the backs of their families and a roof over their heads. This is a very controversial piece of legislation, one we are diametrically opposed to, just as we are opposed to the changes in Bill 96, which will essentially end rent control in this province.

I understand that the government wants to do these things and we're opposed to them. We have a difference of opinion, a significant difference of opinion. But Bill 99, the workers' compensation bill, hasn't been called yet for second reading, and yet it's on the government House leader's wish list for what has to be done by December 12. This is December 10; it hasn't been called yet. One of the members across the way said, "There's a reason that these pieces of legislation haven't been dealt with, and that's because the opposition debated Bill 75." We did debate Bill 75 because, again, we had a major difference of opinion. Bill 75 was the VLTs bill, the video lottery terminals bill. We debated it at length, and we told the government we were going to debate it at length, because we were opposed to it and we felt that the arguments against that legislation should be put on the floor of this House and should be debated.

I remind the members of the government caucus that the opposition House leaders, the opposition parties, do not determine what will be called; the government House leader determines what will be called. It was his call. He called Bill 75 all of those days and we debated it. Why didn't he call Bill 99 or Bill 96 or Bill 84? I submit to you that the reason he didn't call these pieces of legislation was because he was trying to stack them, he was trying to stockpile them till the end of the session, hoping that the opposition, as well as the government backbenchers, would get tired, that we would be at the end of the session and everybody would be looking forward to getting home for Christmas. And then we would suddenly find a rush in the Christmas spirit to pass these pieces of legislation even though we have major problems with these pieces of legislation.

As I said, this government House leader is acting like many government House leaders I have seen over the years. I've seen this movie before.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): You played in it once.

Mr Wildman: Certainly, and so have you.

Mr Conway: But not nearly as well as you.

Mr Wildman: Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats, and now Conservatives again -- in the years I have been here, every Christmas this seems to happen, almost every one. Not every one; I can remember a couple where we ended early; that was quite amazing. But most times it happens every Christmas. We've got this long list on the order paper that hasn't been completed because we haven't been debating them. They haven't been called, for whatever reason, and then the government House leader comes to the opposition House leaders and says: "Wait a minute now. We've got all of this stuff here, all of these pieces of legislation. We've got to get them through. Can't we make some accommodations here? What are you prepared to debate quickly?"

Mr Conway: Do you remember when I brought you back December 27?

Mr Wildman: Oh, do I remember. That was a situation where we sat between Christmas and New Year's.

Mr Conway: You got paid.

Mr Wildman: Yes, we did. We got paid. Some would suggest that we might have gotten paid even if we hadn't sat, but that's --

Mr Conway: "Free trade or bust," we said. It was a bust.

Mr Wildman: That was quite an experience. Yes, we did. We sat, we debated, we were quite willing to do the government's business. Some of us thought it was a little unreasonable to be sitting between Christmas and New Year's, but we were here and we debated the legislation.

We're not opposed to extending debates. As I've said, I've seen this movie before. We're not opposed to extending sittings. We made it clear some weeks ago, as a matter of fact, to the government House leader that if he wanted to sit to December 19, fine. We also made it clear that if he wanted to come back in the winter, to extend the session to deal with the long list that he said they must have, that the government needed, we'd be happy to. That remains our position. We're pleased to do that.

As I said, in this sense this is a rerun of an old movie. However, there is one difference, a major difference in this particular situation, and that is that the motion before us doesn't just talk about an extension of a session. It doesn't say that we're going to sit until December 19 and then come back on January 13 to continue the debates on these pieces of legislation that the government says it must have that are on the order paper. No, it says that spring is going to come in January.


Mr Conway: A happy thought.

Mr Wildman: It is a happy thought. For those of us who can't afford to go south in the winter, to have an omnipotent government that can change the weather and can suggest that spring will arrive in the middle of January is a happy thought.

Why is it that this motion says that the spring session will begin on January 13? We all know it has to do with a statement made by the Premier in this House last week. Keeping in mind that this is like many other situations that we've seen in the past -- the government has a long list that it has stockpiled, a long list of legislation it has stockpiled till the end of the session -- the different wrinkle here is that the Premier made a statement last week in which he said, "Not only are we interested in dealing with what's already on the order paper" -- in fact, he didn't even mention that -- "there are two major pieces of legislation" -- perhaps more pieces of legislation, but two major initiatives of the government -- "that are coming forward that we must deal with. We must restructure municipal government." The Crombie commission, the who does what to whom for how long for how much panel, was going to be reporting at the end of last week and coming out of that report was going to be legislation and initiatives of the government that must be dealt with, and for that reason he was suggesting that the Legislature be called back in January.

It's interesting, when you analyse the Premier's statement, however, that he seemed to be talking about an extension of this session. He said that the session would have to continue after a short break for the Christmas-New Year holiday. I don't know what happened, but I guess somebody twigged and said: "Wait a minute. If we just extend the session, then we can't introduce new pieces of legislation for second and third reading debate. We can only introduce them for first reading. We won't be able to get them through." So the government House leader's office went to work and said, "How can we circumvent the rule that says that in the last eight session days the government cannot introduce new pieces of legislation and then have them debated at second and third reading?" Because that rule applies to extensions of the session as well. So they came up with this novel proposal to move the spring equinox, to decide that they would simply designate this session in January as the spring session.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Equinox -- I've forgotten what that means.

Mr Conway: The opposite of solstice, Margaret.

Mr Wildman: Isn't it interesting that usually the equinox is some length of time away from the solstice, and we are just about at the solstice now, towards the end of next week.

Mr Conway: Like Bernie Ostry is the solstice and you, Margaret, are the equinox. It's kind of like that.

Mr Wildman: I won't touch that one.

So here we are. For three months, I and the House leader for the official opposition have been asking the government House leader to show us the government's agenda on these two initiatives, because we knew they were coming. We understood that the government was intending to move on municipal governance and education governance in this province, so we've said repeatedly over three months to the government House leader: "Tell us what you're going to do. Give us an indication of what the legislation is going to say and what your timetable is. When do you have to have it passed? What provision is going to be made for public input? What provision is going to be made for hearings across the province on whatever you're bringing forward, and then we can talk about the House agenda" -- not the government agenda, but the House agenda as it relates to that government agenda.

The government House leader has consistently stonewalled. He's stonewalled either because he didn't know what the government was going to bring forward and didn't know what kind of provision was going to be made for public input, or he did know and he just didn't want to share it with us. I don't know which is the case. The member for Don Mills is an honourable man. He tells me, "Look, I can't tell you because the legislation hasn't even been prepared yet."

If that's the case, what's the rush? It hasn't even been prepared yet. The Premier said the legislation would be introduced next week, anticipating an extension of the fall session. If it hasn't been prepared yet, hasn't gone through cabinet, it's going to be tough to get it -- I guess you could get it for first reading next week, but I suspect it may not be introduced until January, or at least parts of it will not be introduced until January. That, of course, is what produced the problem for the government. If they're not going to have it until January for first reading, they had to get around the rule, they had to circumvent the rule some way, and that's why spring is starting mid-January.

I'm just wondering what the Minister of Finance had to say about this in discussions in cabinet. I wonder if he contributed advice to the government House leader, I wonder if he suggested that this was the way to do it, because it certainly is not in tune with the comments the member for Parry Sound made in this House in June 1992, when he advocated a tightening of the rules around passing a bill introduced very late in a scheduled sitting and indicated that there should be restrictions on second and third consideration of bills introduced late in the session and that that applied to a session that was extended, to the extended period as well. I guess that was then and this is now.


Mr Laughren: Are you going to call a quorum, Margaret?

Mr Wildman: We have a deal: no quorums.

Mrs Marland: No, I'm just counting out treats to leave you with.

Mr Wildman: Merry Christmas, Margaret.

My view is that the government got themselves into this fix and I guess they have decided to get themselves out through this motion. But let's not pretend it was somebody else's doing; it was the government's own doing. They are the authors of their own misfortune, if that's what it is. But somehow -- forgive me for being sceptical -- I think this was what was intended all along. I really do think this was intended all along. Despite the fact that the now Minister of Finance said in 1992 that there was a loophole in the rule that needed to be closed and he thought we had finally closed it with the rule changes, the government House leader and his minions found another loophole, and now they're trying to drive the legislation through it. With the majority they have in this House, I guess they will be successful and spring will begin in January.

I'd like to spend some time now talking about what we might anticipate we're going to be discussing in January. Before I do that, though, I want to talk about something else that happened last Thursday, the day the Premier made his statement in the House, or at least that apparently began last Thursday; that is, the shenanigans in the Minister of Health's office.

This is part of the government's agenda, of course. They intended to have a settlement with the doctors in Ontario so they could move further on the restructuring, because this is going to be very controversial. I suspect that's why, as I said, this was intended all along. They wanted to settle the questions with the doctors before they ran into problems with the municipal officials in the province and with the education community because of their restructuring plans. Their plans have gone somewhat awry, and I suspect that may be why people in the minister's office felt frustrated and felt they had to take some sort of action to try and move things along, although I think what they proposed or what they appear to have decided to do had the exact opposite effect.

I won't go through the whole thing again; it's been the subject of debate in the question period and my friend from Renfrew North talked about it in detail in his presentation, but I will make a couple of comments.

It is clear to me and I think to most members of this House that Mr James could not have acted on his own. That is clear. It is completely impossible to conceive of a situation where an executive assistant in the Minister of Health's office, on his own, could obtain the information that Mr James apparently had and then gave to the Globe and Mail. It's been stated clearly in this House that this kind of information can only be requested by the highest authority, that it must come from the OHIP office and go all the way up to the deputy minister and be authorized by the deputy minister before going to the minister, that the request must come from the highest official, that is, the minister or, I suspect, perhaps even higher.

Now we have a situation where the executive assistant resigned and now the minister has "stepped aside," and we have the Premier stand in this House saying that he has asked the Information and Privacy Commissioner to investigate.

It is again inconceivable to me, as a member of this House who has served both in opposition and in government, that a Premier would not investigate a situation and ask directly of his minister: "What did you know? What was your involvement? When did you know it? How did this happen?" But we have the Premier of this government saying: "I decided not to ask those questions. I decided to have an independent commissioner look into this." That's just not believable, frankly. It just isn't believable.

The fact is that if this information came from OHIP and arrived in the minister's office, it must have been requested by someone in authority to do that, and in my view, that must have been the minister. An investigation by the privacy commissioner is not going to find that out. That's why it is our view that there must be a committee of this House mandated to investigate this situation and find out how widespread the problem is, to ask: How do we deal with security of OHIP information, of health care records? How do we ensure that this never happens again? Who besides Dr Hughes may have been involved; that is, whose records may have been requested and provided? These are questions that will not be answered, I believe, by the privacy commissioner, and they must be answered.

There are a couple of other things that should be answered. I want to make clear that this matter will be a matter of controversy in this House until we get a proper inquiry or a committee mandated to investigate it. I understand that the current Minister of Health, the government House leader, has stated to the press that the minister's office has been secured since Monday, which obviously begs the question: What happened between Friday and Monday? What was in the minister's office? Is it still there or has evidence been tampered with, destroyed or removed? I don't believe the privacy commissioner's investigation will answer those questions.

This is a very, very serious situation. A minister who is a competent minister, I believe, a minister who is engaged in a program with which I don't agree but who is, I think, a hard-working person, has resigned. But the government must understand that the issue does not rest there. Obviously, we must know what the minister knew, if he knew, and when he knew it; what the information was being used for and why it was requested. Was, as some have suggested, a smear campaign being proposed by people within the minister's office against doctors with whom they had disagreements? These questions must be answered, and it's not acceptable for the Premier to stand in this House or to talk to the press and the public and say, "Well, I asked the minister and he said he didn't know anything," and that's it. Frankly, all that does is raise more questions than it answers.

These matters will be the subject of debate in this House, I think ongoing until the government understands that there must be a proper investigation. These matters must be canvassed, and canvassed widely, in a way that we will get the truth and we will understand what is happening and what has happened and ensure that it never happens again.

You can't just send the minister into the penalty box, have him serve his time there, have a very restricted investigation and then bring him back on the ice in some other capacity. That will not resolve the matter.

I'd like to deal with what we apparently are going to be discussing in January if the government has its way and this motion passes and we pretend that the spring session has begun and the government can move beyond first reading of whatever legislation it's bringing in.


The government has said that we must act on the Who Does What panel recommendations for restructuring in this province, major restructuring which is going to be very controversial. This panel has been set up by the government from backroom political operatives. They're contemplating massive changes to local government in Ontario. They haven't held any public hearings, they haven't commissioned studies which are available to the public, they've provided no implementation details and they've produced no reliable numbers that back up their recommendations.

Despite what the Premier said, it appears that the government is ready to ignore some of the recommendations of this handpicked panel and isn't particularly interested in a lot of public consultation about what is going to be the shape of municipal government and education governance in this province. This is a government that seems to be prepared to ignore everybody's advice, and in this case even the advice of its friends.

We in the opposition know that the basis of this restructuring is the need of this government to obtain another $3 billion in cuts in expenditures by the provincial government. That's what the Premier and the Minister of Finance have indicated. In order to pay for the tax scheme proposed by this government, there have to be even wider and deeper cuts than we've seen already. One of the ways of finding it, it appears, is to restructure municipal government and educational government in this province and determine changes in what they do and what the province does as a way of downloading a lot of expenses to the local governments and cutting provincial expenditures.

I'd like to deal specifically, because it's an area of my particular interest, with educational governance for a moment. The Who Does What panel said that it was recommending taking $4.5 billion of education costs from the local level and putting them at the provincial tax base. This is not something we would oppose. Governments throughout the years have argued over how we should finance education in Ontario, and it's been suggested -- it's certainly been our position as a party -- that we should be moving away from the local property tax as a way of financing education in Ontario.

If the government is going to move on this proposal, this means that out of the total of $13 billion spent on education in Ontario, $4.5 billion, which is currently raised from the local property tax, will have to be provided by the provincial government from its revenues. It appears that the way the government is going to justify this change is by saying that municipalities will be responsible for hard services. In other words, those costs will be transferred to the municipality, things like roads, water and sewer, and so on.

But if you add up all of the expenditures on those hard services currently, you find a $2-billion shortfall. All that indicates to me is that the government is going to cut a good portion of that, that while the provincial government is going to take over the full responsibility for financing education, it is not going to replace the total $4.5 billion currently raised from the local property taxes. There's a $2-billion shortfall and we may see cuts in education of that magnitude over and above what we've already seen.

It's true that not all of those cuts may come from education; they may come from other services that the government is taking over in exchange for the municipalities taking over hard services such as social services and so on, but we're going to see major cuts to education. The minister has said that we can expect another $1 billion in cuts. This is over and beyond the $400 million that the provincial government has already taken out of elementary and secondary education in Ontario.

We've debated at length in this House, and will continue to debate, the issue of the government's promises to the people of Ontario. When serving as the third party leader, the now Premier of the province made it clear that any cuts that his party was going to propose to education would not adversely affect classroom education in Ontario. We have the minister stand repeatedly in this House and say, "There haven't been any cuts to classroom education. Classroom education has not been adversely affected by the $400 million already cut out," which, annualized, works out to about $1 billion cut out of the provincial funding for education. The minister has also emphatically stated that special education has not been hurt, that there hasn't been any curtailing of special education in this province. He said that repeatedly in this House.

I would refer you, Speaker, to two letters I've just recently received from people who are certainly not supporters of our party. The first one I would like to refer to is from the Prescott-Russell County Board of Education, an area that I know you, Speaker, have significant interest in and are familiar with.

This is a letter signed by A. Anderson, the chair of the board, and F. Todd, the chair of the special education advisory committee of that board. I'll read just a portion:

"The special education advisory committee of the Prescott-Russell County Board of Education has directed that we advise you" -- meaning the Minister of Education -- "of our deep dissatisfaction regarding the continued enormous reductions to educational funding....

"You must be aware, however, that every dollar reduction in grants does indeed affect all students, as already overcrowded classrooms must accommodate additional numbers.

"The unconscionable recent cuts by your government are impacting very strongly on our most vulnerable and needy students. Our special needs students are being targeted by reduced funding and will have services reduced as their needs cannot be met."

This is a letter to a minister who has continually stated that special education in this province has not been hurt by the government's cuts.

The letter also points out what the law requires boards to provide special education to special needs students.

"Reductions by your government to school boards in general, but the effects on special education students in particular, are unacceptable.

"We have had reductions to programs and services where students in all areas of exceptionality have been affected, eg:

"Reduced services: most of the support to occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy.

"Reduced programs: ...(b) in-class resource support for learning-disabled, speech-language and developmentally delayed students reduced by 60%; (c) self-contained class time for learning-disabled students reduced by 40%....

"Because of the cuts to the three previous programs, our resource withdrawal time per student who need support in behavioral, learning disabled, speech therapy, autism, physical, multiple developmentally handicapped and gifted areas have been reduced by approximately 38%."

"(e) personal care programs delivered to physically, developmentally and multiple handicapped students also drastically reduced.

"Our schools are adversely affected as we have higher numbers in our regular classes with more needy students integrated with less support.

"Time for crisis prevention work is non-existent.

"If your government is truly concerned with the youngest clients you are supposed to serve, you will reconsider your grants especially to special education.

"Tell us, Mr Snobelen, what you see for the future of Ontario students, especially exceptional children. What is your vision for them? We need realistic answers now.

"Please -- no further cuts. Do not destroy further the educational system which has often been the envy of other societies."

That is from the county board of education in Prescott-Russell.


I have another letter, this time from the North Shore District Roman Catholic Separate School Board, which is headquartered in Blind River. This is from Lillian Hildebrandt, the chair of the special education advisory committee of the North Shore District Roman Catholic Separate School Board. It says, in part:

"The special education advisory committee of the North Shore District Roman Catholic Separate School Board is responding to your recent reduction of funds for school boards as it has resulted in cuts to programs and services to exceptional students.

"The number of children in need in our area from 1993 to 1996 has not changed, however, we have lost special education teachers and we have seen a reduction in teacher aides. Speech/language services, psychological assessments, and in-school diagnostic assessments have all been postponed until January in order to review the budgets. In addition, our special education consultant has been cut from full-time to part-time....

"[T]his reduction in funds is obviously affecting classrooms and children. You have recently stated that your government's objective is to achieve quality education through a more efficient and cost-effective system, and that you will ensure that all children in Ontario have equal access through greater equity in the funding of our schools.

"In order to ensure that children in our province are receiving special education and services in a fair and equitable manner, we have the following recommendations:

"(1) That your ministry outline quality indicators and provincial standards for special education.

"(2) That dedicated funding for special education be provided to boards so that the needs of students will be met in accordance with the Education Act....

"In order to ensure a healthy society in the future, it would be risky to remove funding from students that are in great need of support in the educational system."

How can a minister of the crown responsible for education of youth in this province stand here in the House and state that special education has not been adversely affected, that there have been no cuts -- those were the words he used -- to special education, when we have the very people who are responsible for delivering special education to special needs students in this province writing to the minister and stating clearly that the cuts that the provincial government has made in education funding have resulted in cuts to special education and that children with special needs are not having their needs met?

It is particularly galling to me, as one of many members of this House who are concerned about the needs of our kids, to have the minister most responsible for meeting those educational needs stand here and completely misrepresent the situation. This is a minister who said he wanted to create a crisis. Well, I can tell you he's creating a crisis. Because of the cuts in funding, and the further cuts in funding he's proposing to make, kids who need special help are not getting it.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Perhaps the member for Algoma would help me in bringing the debate within the motion or the amendment of the motion.

Mr Wildman: I'm sure the Speaker is fully aware that this motion and the amendment deal with the government's agenda. I said at the beginning that I was dealing with the amendment and the main motion, and I will continue to do so. I've said very clearly throughout the debate, Speaker -- I know you weren't here earlier, so you won't know this -- that the government did not need to move this motion, and the amendment that has been put by my friend the member for Renfrew North I think is not necessary either. We don't have to tell the world that we're extending the fall session; that's exactly what we are doing. But this government is pretending that it's a spring session. That's what this motion is about, that's what the amendment is about, and the reason we're sitting next week and then coming back in January is not only to complete the agenda of the government that is already on the order paper but to deal with changes to education governance in the province and to municipal governance. I'm sure you're aware of that. That's what I'm dealing with. The Premier, of course, made that clear to this House in his statement last Thursday.

It was interesting too that the Premier has mused recently that kids are not getting adequate exercise in this province, and he's right, particularly secondary school students. Many of them are not participating in physical activity in a way that will ensure their physical health, and this is affecting their whole being and their ability to achieve well, both physically and mentally, in school. Having said that, I wonder then why it is that the proposals for changes in education that we're going to see in this so-called spring session will deal with secondary school reform and one of those reforms, one of the proposed reforms by the Minister of Education and Training, is that physical education in secondary school will no longer be compulsory. Surely that is contradictory to the Premier's own position that students need to have adequate physical training and exercise, but that's apparently one of the things that we're headed for going into this so-called spring session that begins on January 13.

We know we're headed for major cuts. We've had a government that has ruled by trial balloon for the last three months, a government that has issued veiled threats about what is coming with regard to educational reform and municipal reform, and now we have the Premier state in this House that these are the two major issues, two major initiatives, that must be dealt with in the January so-called spring session.

What are those threats? One of the threats that has come forward is that there are going to be significantly fewer school boards in the province. We might see enormous regional boards established as part of this restructuring. The Crombie commission said that boards should, where possible, mirror regional governments. What this is going to mean in northern Ontario I'm not sure, but the Crombie commission has already said as well that there should be district governments in northern Ontario and that even unorganized areas would somehow be incorporated in these kinds of municipal governments.

As I've said, we've seen with the cuts to education already special education being decimated in this province, we've seen larger classrooms, we've seen programs cancelled; apparently physical education may be one of them, but we've seen music programs cancelled, we've seen art programs cancelled, we've seen guidance services curtailed, we've seen remedial classes curtailed, resource programs curtailed as well.


And now we have proposals by the government, apparently, to transfer some of the roles, some of the activities, some of the responsibilities of school boards in this province to the municipalities, whatever shape the municipalities will take after they have been restructured. Things like administration, maintenance of schools, busing and so on might be the responsibility of municipalities, but we haven't seen the legislation yet. We may see some of it next week, if the House sits next week, if this motion passes, but we haven't seen it yet. Yet we have a Premier and a government House leader who say, "We must have it."

If we must have it, why hasn't it even been introduced for first reading yet? Why is it that we have to have it passed in the spring session? Why can't it be done in a more orderly fashion to ensure proper public input, that all the interested parties in the municipal sector, in the education community have fair input and a say, and then that we pass it in an orderly fashion as we would normally pass it, in the fall finally? Why couldn't we act that way? I suspect it's because the government is concerned that that might give people time to properly analyse what is being proposed and to organize to oppose it, so the government would like to ram this through and make the $3 billion in savings that it wants.

Other proposals have been mused about by the minister, and certain other members of the government back bench have also talked about this: They've mused at times about having the private sector take over the maintenance and operation of schools, that we might have lease-back arrangements with the private sector, that we may bring profit into the operation of our schools.

We've had proposals for charter schools -- I know there's a proposal out there in Ottawa for a French-language charter school -- and the minister has suggested that might be part of his education reform. In our view, charter schools are simply little more than private schools at public expense. We believe we've had developed in this province a strong public education system of which we should be proud, a system that can be and should be improved to make it possible to better serve the students going into the 21st century, but we shouldn't be attacking the system and tearing it down and restructuring it in such a way that it isn't going to be able to properly serve the needs of students.

The government is now talking about taking another $600 million to $1 billion out the education system. The government is talking about changing the collective bargaining system for teachers as part of this restructuring. The government is suggesting that something is wrong with Bill 100, that it hasn't worked, even though 97% of the agreements have been negotiated without any kind of disruption, either lockout or strike, in the last 20 years that Bill 100 has been in place.

The Minister of Education and Training appointed one of his friends, a Mr Paroian, to go out and hold hearings. He got very upset because not only did teachers' federations say to him, "We don't need to change Bill 100," but so too did boards of education across Ontario. So what happened? Mr Paroian at one point said, in response to a suggestion that if the system ain't broke, you don't need to fix it, that his motto was, "If the system ain't broke, break it."

That's what this government is about. That's why we're going to be coming back in January: to break the education system. It's clearly in line with the Minister of Education and Training's view that we must create a crisis -- "We must invent a crisis," is the term he used -- in order to make radical change in the system. We've got a secondary school reform proposal out there that may result in major changes which will make it more difficult for students to meet their potential and be prepared for the work world or for post-secondary education.

This is all of a piece, all part of the problem the government House leader has had. He's got a long wish list, enough for more than one session, that he wants to get through by December 12. It is now December 10. It can't be done. We indicated, as did the official opposition, that if he really needed this wish list passed -- a long list of bills for third reading, a number of other very controversial bills for second reading that are already on the order paper -- we'd be willing to extend the session to December 19 and even to come back in January. We made that clear.

But we also have a government that has decided to introduce, along with some of the controversial matters already before the House, new legislation, legislation that is going to restructure municipalities and municipal government, municipal responsibilities across this province, that is going to restructure educational governance and the way we operate our public education system in this province.

In order to introduce those pieces of legislation resulting from the Crombie panel's work, this government has decided that spring will start in January; and that not only will these pieces of legislation be introduced for first reading so that people can look at them and we can have proper consultation and input, but they must be debated for second and third reading in this session and passed. Rather than doing it in an orderly fashion, having the intersession with hearings in the summer and finally passing it next fall, the government has determined it must be passed. But they intentionally did not bring it forward until the end. They haven't even brought it forward yet. We still haven't seen the legislation.

The amendment put forward by my friend from Renfrew North would say that we're not talking about a spring session in January, that we're prepared to come back in January but it will be the resumption of the fall session. I understand that and I suppose I could support that amendment. But frankly, I don't think we have to have a motion of this House telling us that it is not spring in January. I don't really think we need to have a motion of the House trying to tell us that it's fall in January either. It's winter, and we're having a session in the winter which is an extension of the fall session. The opposition is prepared to cooperate in that, but we're not prepared to cooperate with the government in trying to purposely circumvent the rule by pretending it's spring in January.

We've got a long list on the order paper. We're prepared to come back next week to debate whatever the government wants to call off that list, and we're prepared to come back in January and debate those matters in January and February to get them passed because the government says its agenda requires them to be passed. We are not prepared to cooperate with this government in circumventing the rule, in ramming through major structural changes to municipalities and education in the province, without proper consultation and a thoughtful, considered approach to changes that will have major ramifications for many years to come right across this province. We won't cooperate.

We also are most concerned about what has happened or appears to have happened in the Minister of Health's office and in the security of OHIP records. We believe there must be a proper inquiry into that to determine how widespread the problem is, how we can ensure that there is proper security of personal information, medical records, OHIP information. We believe there should be an inquiry or a committee of this House to properly deal with that and have the powers to investigate whatever contraventions of the law may have taken place, to determine how widespread the problem is, who knew what when and why, and what was done with this information. Those are matters that we'll be debating next week, if we come back, if this motion passes, and that we will be debating in January if this motion passes.


As I said, I don't really think we need an amendment to tell us that it isn't spring in January. I don't think we need to have an amendment that tells us we are resuming the fall session. I could support that amendment put forward by my friend from Renfrew North, but in the interests of being sensible, using common sense, to coin a phrase, and to understand what time of year we're actually in, I am prepared to suggest that we should be amending the amendment and to make it clear that what we as an opposition are prepared to do is to extend this session to deal with the matters that are before us.

If the government wishes to introduce new pieces of legislation, if the government wishes to bring forward for first reading legislation that pertains to municipal restructuring and to educational government's restructuring, so be it. It will make it possible for the public debate to begin, for people to analyse what this government is proposing and to be able to make their decisions on that basis. But we do not accept and will not accept that it is proper for this government to debate those matters at second reading and at third reading and to ram them through without proper consultation and consideration.

As I said at the outset, the government House leader has found himself in a situation which is reminiscent of situations that government House leaders from all parties, all governments, have found themselves in. They've got a long list, a list that is far too long, that they want by Christmas. Essentially, they want it by December 12, and it's now December 10.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): You never did this.

Mr Wildman: No, I said this is common. I said it's reminiscent of all governments. I never said we didn't do it. I said all governments have found themselves in this situation. I'm being quite frank. All governments have found themselves in this situation, all government House leaders have found themselves in this situation. It is quite common in the history of this place to have the government decide to extend the session. It's quite acceptable to us to have the government extend the session, quite acceptable. We're prepared to be here next week. We'd be happy to have question period and deal with the issues of public importance in the House. We're quite happy to come back in January, recognizing that it is an extension of the session we are now in, to try to complete the work that the government House leader believes must be completed.

But we are not prepared to move beyond that and to ram through legislation that is going to have major ramifications for municipal governance and educational governance in this province.

For that reason, I move that the amendment to the motion be amended by striking out all of the words after "1997" in the motion.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Wildman has moved that the amendment to the motion be amended by striking out all the words after "1997." I have some reservations about the amendment to the motion, but in the spirit of this evening, I suggest that the debate continue. The Chair recognizes the member for York Mills.

Mr Turnbull: This motion is a routine motion and as such is fully debatable, and that's indeed what we're doing at this time. The motion was brought forward to the House leaders for the opposition parties some one and a half weeks ago and they were made aware of the fact that we were going to do it like this.

The Premier announced earlier this month, on December 4, that he wanted to bring the House back on January 13 -- we will sit through March -- and that was going to be an early start to the spring session. I was delighted at the time that the opposition agreed this was a good idea, to have the House sitting.

This debate at this stage has degenerated into a discussion about: Is it an extension of the fall sitting or is the beginning of the spring sitting? My good friend the member for Algoma has suggested it's in fact winter, a very sage comment on his part. The taxpayers frankly don't give a tinker's for the idea that we're arguing about what we call the session.

Let's be very clear about this: What the government is doing is bringing forward bills to do with the Who Does What committees which have been considering ways of implementing the agenda we put forward to the people some one year before the last election. That agenda, which was known as an agenda for people, was in fact something which was arrived at by discussion with the citizens of the whole of this province over some three-year period. I was a part of those discussions. We went to every conceivable part of the province and spoke in a lot of church halls, a lot of school halls --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Every chamber of commerce in the province.

Mr Turnbull: Yes indeed, we did speak to chambers of commerce. I would suggest to the member for St Catharines that perhaps your government didn't take any notice of chambers of commerce, but indeed our government does want to make sure that this becomes the most prosperous part of Canada and in fact North America. The whole thrust of creating jobs, a vital part of it, is to make sure that we are listening to the desires of all people, including those who are represented by the chamber of commerce.

This election commitment was very clear. I can go back and show the member for St Catharines debates and discussions and parts of the document, the Common Sense Revolution, which speak to the fact that we would eliminate duplication and waste in government. Nobody can be under any illusions as to the fact that we spoke about the need for this. Indeed it wasn't our idea, it was the idea of the good people of Ontario who met in those church basements and school halls and told us about their concerns; concerns which I may say were certainly reflective of concerns that developed from the actions of the last government, a government which managed to reduce the number of jobs in this province by 10,000 in its five years in office.

Let's be very, very clear about this. This was a world recession and I'm not suggesting that it was a happy time to be a government. I am not for one minute suggesting that any government would have had an easy time of it, so let's put that on the record. However, you can exacerbate a situation by doing all the wrong things, and that is indeed what the last government did.

We made a commitment in the election that we were going to cut out unnecessary duplication and we were going to make government slim and receptive to what people can afford and need. That's what we're doing at this moment.


We've seen this debate head off in various directions. I listened very carefully to the debate from the member for Algoma. He made reference to the fact that not only do they not want to come and sit in January if this is called a spring session -- which would allow us to bring forward new legislation, legislation which, had we brought it forward this fall, I have absolutely every conviction they would be saying: "Oh, you've pushed it forward too quickly. How can you possibly do that? Maybe you should put it off for another day." To all those people who say, "Maybe you're hurrying too much," I would say probably not.

I suspect that the very people who criticize us for hurrying and for the fact that we will have to cut some more dollars out of the budget to get a balanced budget within this mandate will be the selfsame people who in the next election will be saying, "Oh, you've increased the provincial debt." That's absolutely correct. Had we immediately moved and cut off that excessive spending that the previous government and in fact the government before it got into, we wouldn't have to take such drastic action today. If we had continued on the same trajectory of the budget from 1985, just inflation-adjusted, we would have had a fully balanced budget.

Usually the cry that comes from the Liberals is, "We were the only government that in 20 years had a balanced budget." Let's just speak to that issue before we even get it. We now know from the Provincial Auditor that it wasn't quite as it seemed. But in addition to that, the particular year they did achieve, according to their own numbers, a balanced budget was the year they had budgeted for a deficit of $550 million. But by some incredible luck, the economy was very hot throughout Canada and they got an unusual transfer from Ottawa of $888 million. On that basis, one would assume they would not have had a deficit but a very large $300-million or $400-million surplus, but in fact they had a surplus of only about $100 million. This clearly shows that unless they'd been bailed out by that unusual payment, they would have been even deeper in debt. So this patina of good management they try to put forward in all their statements is just patently wrong.

There was also discussion in the debate of the fact that the New Democratic Party would like something other than having the Information and Privacy Commissioner investigating the circumstances under which a very unfortunate statement was made to the press by a staff member, who was immediately dismissed.


Mr Turnbull: They're saying, "How can you possibly have the commissioner investigate this?" I'll remind you, since it hasn't been mentioned here yet, that when Ms Gigantes mentioned the name of a patient -- which was an equally serious situation -- and resigned, much in the same way as the former Minister of Health resigned, then it was investigated at the behest of the NDP government by guess who, folks? Yes, the Information and Privacy Commissioner. So in both cases the Minister of Health resigned and in both cases we've got the Information and Privacy Commissioner investigating. Big difference, though: Of course, with the NDP it was the minister who spoke the information, and in this case it was a staffer who has been dismissed from his job.

Mr Conway: With malice aforethought, you smeared a doctor.

Mr Turnbull: I hear from my good friend the member for Renfrew North that with malice aforethought we smeared the doctor. So this member of the Legislature is acting as judge, jury and hangman on this particular issue. I thought they at least stood for some process, but apparently not. I understand that my good friend across the floor may be a little bit antsy because he backed the wrong horse in a recent race, but this quite simply is ridiculous. The man who uttered the words has lost his job. Are we suggesting that somehow he planned to lose his job? That's utterly preposterous. As well as that, the minister has stepped aside. He's done the honourable thing and he did it at the first possible moment that the Legislature sat after this event occurred, unlike many of the events --


Mr Turnbull: I see my friends across the floor have woken up a little bit to this debate.

Mr Conway: Richard Nixon resigned, but he still needed a pardon.

Mr Turnbull: My friend from Renfrew North is saying Richard Nixon resigned and he needed a pardon. Are we for one moment suggesting that a minister who immediately steps aside is in some way mixed up with something, whereas you have a President who in fact was hounded out of office, and rightly so, because of criminal activities that not a right-hand person but a whole host of people were involved with? It is utterly preposterous, the comparison that is being made.

Here we have an amendment being made to this routine motion that in fact we cannot call this a spring session but we should call it a fall session. My friend, by the time we're in January, I assure you it ain't fall. You may make the argument it ain't spring either, but that's the way the legislative calendar works. What we are doing is bringing forward the spring session to start early because we have a lot of work to do, unlike the NDP, who in the last year in government hardly brought the Legislature together. They never had to face the opposition at question period each day because they were hiding from the public. Here is an opportunity for you to ask questions each and every day that the Legislature sits, and we welcome that. The NDP did not stand up to that test because they were scared to bring the Legislature back. There were all kinds of issues which needed to be debated, but we were denied the opportunity to debate them.

So we are bringing the Legislature forward from its normal beginning around March 17 to the middle of January, and in this way we will be able to bring forward bills which, yes, we could have brought forward this fall, but we believed that they deserved more consideration, that we get all of the i's dotted and the t's crossed. No doubt our friends across the floor will at some point be suggesting they don't like the punctuation. That's fine, and you are doing your job as opposition as you should do, but the idea that there is something inherently wrong with the process of starting the legislative year a little earlier than usual and making the legislators come back and be answerable each day in question period is utterly preposterous.


Therefore, I am fully in favour of this motion. I think the two amendments that have been put forward are rather silly and of a nature that the taxpayers certainly wouldn't understand. They're interested in us getting on with the job. Whether people agree with our agenda or not is a different matter, but the fact is we were given a mandate based upon a program to eliminate duplication and waste, and that is precisely what the exercise in January will be all about in bringing in the Who Does What legislation.

Mr Bradley: I'm absolutely astounded at the intervention of the chief government whip. My friend the member for Renfrew North says that we get this all the time when there's a vacancy in the cabinet: There are those who endeavour to rise to the occasion and to defend the totally indefensible in the hope that the Premier might well be watching this from wherever the Conservative Party is in celebration this evening or perhaps will watch the replay at some future time. I wish the member well in that endeavour, but not in passing this resolution.

This resolution looks benign. The government will endeavour to persuade the people of this province, those who might care, or members of the news media that it is routine in that it simply allows for the Legislature to sit. But on the other hand they put a spin on it that says it's not routine and that the Premier wants this new working session.

The fact is, the government is forced into this by the fact that it did not bring forth its legislation in a timely fashion at the beginning of this particular session, the fall session. Instead, it waited till well into the session before it started to bring in legislation and even at this point in time does not have some of its major legislation ready. That is fine with us. We recognize that in some cases it's going to take a little longer to be able to prepare legislation. That's why we think it would be appropriate for the government to delay the presentation of that legislation until the normal spring session of the Legislative Assembly.

The public should realize that the government is back to the tricks that it was pulling over Bill 26. This is the thick bill everybody in the province will remember. We in the opposition and some in the news media referred to this as the bully bill, in that it modified, it amended, it changed and deleted -- in other words, it affected in some way -- some 47 different acts of the Ontario Legislature. They threw everything but the kitchen sink into this piece of legislation and tried to ram it through before Christmas.

That is a pattern the government developed, trying to bully its way through the Legislature and past some of its opponents in the province. And yet what I'm hearing from people in the community is that the government is moving far too quickly and far too drastically except to suit only the right-wing zealots within the community, who are a distinct minority. But what I call regular conservatives, people who are cautious in their approach, people who are careful in their approach, are asking why it is that this government, which seems to have a number of zealots in it --

Mr Conway: Thatcherites bent on a poll tax.

Mr Bradley: As the member for Renfrew North appropriately notes, Thatcherites almost all, wanting to push through legislation which is going to make drastic changes in the province.

Now, people are not averse to change. People are not averse to looking at existing structures and saying, "Can we make them better?" People are certainly not averse to looking for efficiency: value for the dollar spent, value for the dollar invested by government, those dollars being the dollars owned by taxpayers in this province. But they are concerned that the government is moving very quickly, very drastically, and not looking carefully at the ramifications of their actions; in other words, bringing forward the bills so quickly, getting their ideas up from New Jersey and Mississippi and Alabama and wherever else they get these ideas, the Republican platform, and wanting to implement them quickly in a province that doesn't fit that way. The government whip smiles. He knows what I am saying is true, I'm sure.

We were astonished this week to discover that the government is once again endeavouring to bully or intimidate some of its opponents. In this case, an individual who was a very high official, a key aide to the Minister of Health, his name is Mr Brett James, resigned. He resigned because he had phoned a reporter to tell that reporter that he had information on the billing of Dr Bill Hughes. It was alleged that Dr Hughes has the highest billing in the province, as though that's supposed to mean something. I don't know what it's supposed to mean. It may be he's an extremely productive and active member of the medical profession. But that isn't the point. I notice that some people want to get sidetracked on the issue of whether doctors' billings should be public or not. That is not the point. That is a debate for another day.

The point is, why did this person in the minister's office obtain this information, and why was this person in the minister's office, a very close aide to the minister, prepared to share that with the news media? The reason was intimidation; the reason was trying to damage the reputation of the person who dared to be in conflict with the government or to disagree with the government. I believe that in a democracy, or indeed anywhere, but particularly in a democracy, it's extremely important that we counter arguments with other arguments; that indeed if the position of the government cannot be sustained by the logical arguments that are presented to defend that position, the government should not then embark upon smear campaigns, trying to discredit those who would be critical.

This is extremely serious, when any government gets into this. This is not the first government that's ever engaged in this; it's happened before. We would hope it wouldn't happen again. The member for Renfrew North made reference to a hearing previously involving Ms Martel, the member for Sudbury East. At that time, there was a very extensive committee hearing of this Legislature and we were assured, as a Legislature that there would be very careful controls put on the release of information from the Ontario health insurance plan from the Ministry of Health. I know I felt assured, and I knew they had learned from that instance that it was essential to do so, and yet this has been violated. One cannot draw any conclusion other than the fact that it was done to discredit someone who dared to differ in his views from the government.

In addition to this, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, there is only one way, judging from that committee hearing, that information can be obtained, and that is that the minister may request that or someone very high in the minister's office, perhaps a deputy minister. But I don't know how a political office -- because remember, we're not talking about the civil service, we're talking about the political office, the political aides to the Minister of Health, and that becomes extremely dangerous when that happens.

Think of it this way: how any person in this province who dared to differ with a government -- not necessarily this government -- would feel if that person had a psychiatric record, for instance, and perhaps that psychiatric problem had been a number of years ago. What would that person feel if that person thought, "I would like to criticize the government, but perhaps somebody in that government will reveal a psychiatric record from many years ago"? That person would feel restrained; that person would feel intimidated. That's why it's important to counter with arguments.

If the Minister of Health or any of his political assistants differs with members of the Ontario Medical Association, they should differ on policy, they should differ on legislative measures, they should differ on regulations, they should differ on ideas; they should not utilize smear campaigns or intimidation to change people's minds. I think you have to be up front with them.

I was speaking with an individual I know in St Catharines by the name of Mel Lyon, who lives on Kilbourne Crescent in St Catharines. Mel is the kind of person who would want to confront someone else up front, no sneaky, behind-the-scenes "I'll smear you." He's the kind of person who's typical of most Ontarians, who would say: "If you have an argument, present the argument directly to me. Don't go behind my back. Don't use some other method to try to discredit me." I think most people in this province would agree with Mel and others who would have that opinion.


The opposition has justifiably called for a committee hearing, that is, a committee of the Ontario Legislature, including representatives of all three political parties and appropriate staff, to have a hearing into this matter, because it has political implications. It is no surprise to me that the Premier chose to send it to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The reason for that is that's the narrowest possible investigation that anyone can have, first of all, and second, it's all behind closed doors. The public does not have access to it. The news media do not have access to it. Other members of the Legislature do not have access to it. That simply isn't satisfactory.

If the Premier has nothing to hide, if the minister has nothing to hide, I'm sure that they would both be pleased to have this before a committee of the Legislature. The government members have a majority on this committee. It would be out in the open. Members could testify. Members could be brought before the committee to testify, and I presume could do so under oath and could be subpoenaed with a Speaker's warrant to appear before a committee. That cannot be done in the case of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The perception the public is going to have is that the government is using its 82 bristles, that is, its 82 members, to sweep this matter under the rug. That is simply not satisfactory.

Notwithstanding the answers of the Premier in this House to the Leader of the Opposition, Dalton McGuinty, to the leader of the third party and to other members who have questioned him, clearly the public, who are objective, including of course the president of the Ontario Medical Association, would believe that a parliamentary or, as we call it, a legislative committee investigation would be most appropriate. That's aboveboard, that's in public, that's for all to see and for all to testify. The government has chosen so far to stonewall, if I may use that terminology, instead of proceeding with that committee.

I'm concerned that the government has moved this motion and is going to proceed with this motion, which in effect is going to change the rules in midstream. I was somewhat alarmed when I heard the Speaker say earlier today, and he was simply reflecting a viewpoint which I suppose has been presented to him, that the Legislature changes rules from time to time and can do so at any time. I agree that it can be done at any time, but the ordinary procedure is that it will be done with the consent of all three parties, recognized parties, in this Legislature, that is, representing the overwhelming majority of members in this Legislature. When that happens, I think that kind of consensus is acceptable and that we can see modifications to accommodate certain matters that come before this House. But this is being done unilaterally by the government.

This is a government we have told as an opposition that we wish to see the House continue to sit, if necessary, closer to the period of Christmas, even though that's outside the parliamentary calendar. We're not opposing that. We in fact think it's a good idea. It gives us more question periods. It makes the government more accountable.

We also have no objection to the House returning to session on January 13 of this year -- that makes sense -- to take the legislation in the carry-over period, that is, the fall session, and complete that legislation. I understand that, and I think that's very reasonable.

What we object to is the government getting around a rule by declaring a new session, a spring session -- I always thought spring began about March 21 or 22 -- which would begin January 13. The purpose is so the government can get around the rule which prohibits it from introducing important legislation without consent during the last eight sitting days of the Legislature either before Christmas or before summer.

The intersession period of time is an important one. That is when the Legislature is not sitting. Committees of the Legislature travel across the province to get input from people in Hastings-Peterborough or in Sarnia or in Nickel Belt. I know the people of Chelmsford appreciated the opportunity to go to Sudbury, for instance. The people of Mitchell, Ontario, and Monkton have appreciated the opportunity to go to Stratford or to London to make presentations.

The Acting Speaker: Brunner.

Mr Bradley: Brunner as well, as the Speaker mentions, and all of those places.

Mr Conway: Fullarton.

Mr Bradley: And Fullarton. All these places are very important, and we've got to have that. This is going to alter that particular timing and make it more difficult to have that kind of input from people such as members of the fire department, who are very concerned about a bill, I think it's Bill 84, that is before this Legislature for consideration.

I'm concerned that the House does continue to sit. The reason I want the House to sit is because I want to deal with matters of great importance. I want to deal with the proposed hospital closings around the province. On Thursday of this week, the local hospital restructuring commission will be presenting a report. That report is going to be based upon the fact that the Ontario government said, "We've got to see some restructuring changes." In fact, what's been happening in my community over the years is restructuring. There has been rationalization of the services available through the three major hospitals and the major rehabilitation centre that exist within the boundaries of our city. That has taken place. There have been some moves to effect efficiencies. They haven't always been popular, but those moves have been made.

Now the government is demanding that further drastic changes be made, even though I notice -- I was just looking through some notes I had, Mr Speaker, that you would be interested in. I watched the debate of the three leaders in the last election, and a lot of people I talk to who are friends of mine, people I know, who were inclined to be somewhat sympathetic to the Conservative government were so because they thought there would be some cuts, but there was a promise that one area wouldn't be touched, an area vital to everyone: health care. In response to a very direct question from Robert Fisher, the eminent journalist with Global TV, during the leaders' debate on whether his promise to protect health care meant he would not close hospitals, Mr Harris answered, "Well, certainly I can guarantee you that it's not my plan to close hospitals." That will be a surprise to a number of people in this province, because in community after community after community there's a great fear that hospitals are going to be closed.

I was looking at some clippings from the St Catharines Standard today, my local newspaper, which is now under the control, unfortunately, of Conrad Black, but it is a very good newspaper. It had some people demonstrating outside of Hotel Dieu Hospital, concerned that their jobs would disappear, that the hospital could be in jeopardy. On Thursday morning, we're going to see that report come down.

People who just a few years ago would never have suggested that hospitals should close or that there should be a drastic reduction in health care services in our community are suddenly silent. Why are they silent? It ties in a bit to the situation with the Minister of Health and his resignation. It ties into intimidation. The same people who during previous administrations expressed the view that the health care system might well collapse if there was not a 10% increase in funding in a particular fiscal year have today turned tail and run -- not because they want to; let me assure you of that. They are people who are genuinely concerned about our health care system, but they're intimidated, because some believe that if one hospital speaks up that will be the hospital that will be closed, or that if another institution happens to object it will be cut back drastically.

That is why I'm concerned. In our community people are going to be making decisions based on what I call crackpot realism, crackpot realism in that it is realistic, because the government has removed $38 million in hospital funding from our area, $38 million cut out of the hospital budgets in our area. They're going to say in effect, "If the government is going to cut off our leg at the hip, maybe if I cut off the leg at the knee, they'll let us away with just that much." And that's what's happening. We're having people make recommendations that are nonsense in various communities in this province, that are destroying the health care system that's there, because they're getting less money.


I hope our local commission doesn't do that. They have gone around the Niagara Peninsula, done a good job, I think, in many ways of at least looking at the various needs we have in the Niagara Peninsula, assessing them, consulting people, and I think that's a good thing to be doing. I have no objection to that. You will never hear me object to that. What you will hear me object to is people who will make recommendations based on the fact that the government's going to cut $38 million out of their budget.

I think they have to be honest and up front. They have to say: "This is what we need in the Niagara region. We're not going to look at the dollars and cents at this moment. These are our needs, and then we will look at the fiscal part of it as well," because you can't exclude that, "but here are our needs." My fear is that everybody is looking at it based on the fact that we have to have a $38-million cut in funding to hospitals in our area. I don't accept that and I never will accept it, and I'm going to be standing shoulder to shoulder with those hospitals that are adversely impacted by any decisions of this government and I don't care what anybody else is going to do about it. I think it's important. I think it's something where there's a consensus.

I listen to people today tell me that they have had relatives who have sat in the hallway for one or two or three days because there are not acute care beds available for them to be used. I hear people who were in hospital 10 years ago say that the care available in a hospital today is not as extensive and not of as high a quality as it was 10 years ago -- not because the staff don't want it to be; they're run ragged. The staff is run ragged. The nurses in those hospitals, the orderlies, the nurses' aides, the RNAs, all the people who work in the hospital, are absolutely run ragged now. They're overworked and they have a difficult time looking after patients. They do their very best and they're kind to the people, they're understanding, they make them feel good, but they don't have the resources to carry out the responsibilities.

Don't tell me, anybody in this province, don't tell me that the care you can get in hospitals today is as comprehensive and as extensive as it was. Look at all the nurses they're firing out the door at places like the Toronto General Hospital -- it's now called the Toronto Hospital -- and just multiply that across the province. It's crackpot realism to say that somehow you're getting better service. When I hear people say, "We're going to have more than 200 fewer people working at our hospital but we're going to give you better service," I'm sorry, that is not going to happen. Why talk nonsense? It's not going to happen.

Let's have people be up front. Let's have people be honest and say, "We can't deliver that quality of care if you're going to cut us back this much," instead of running and hiding from this government, though I understand why they would feel intimidated. Well, I'm not going to be intimidated by that and I won't engage in crackpot realism as I see it happening in so many communities. You've scared the health councils, you've scared the local restructuring commissions, you've scared hospital administrators and hospital boards and so on by suggesting indirectly and implying that if they don't cut back drastically themselves you'll send in the provincial hospital closing commission, as I call it, and impose that. And remember that under Bill 26 -- and you wondered why we objected to this -- it's very difficult, or impossible, to appeal the decision of the hospital closing commission under Dr Sinclair.

That's why we will need this House in session, and I hope all members from the Niagara region will be joining me in the fight to maintain high-quality health care services. I hope as well that they will recognize that the reason we're taking $38 million out of hospitals in Niagara, as they are in Sarnia and Peterborough and other places, is because they have to finance an idiotic tax cut.

Idiotic is what it is. No longer can anybody justify it. The only people who will do it now are the Premier and the Treasurer and people who are told to. Everybody understands now what the cost of this tax cut, which most benefits the very rich, is to this province.

I'm hearing people say to me today: "You know, I was intrigued. A 30% income tax cut really sounded good to me. I'd love to have that disposable money. I'd like to buy a new fridge or buy some new clothes or something or have some entertainment." But when you explain to them the cuts in the health care system, in the education system, in the social safety net for people, in transportation, in so many areas of the province, when you mention that, they say: "Why don't you postpone it? Why don't you wait till you balance your budget?"

They understand that you have to borrow the money, that when you have the full tax cut implemented -- that is, the 30% income tax implemented -- it will cost you close to $5 billion a year that you'll have to borrow. In other words, you'll get the credit card out and say, "I don't have the money now but I'm going to use this credit card so I can give people an income tax decrease." I suppose if I were a huge corporation president making millions of dollars a year, or hundreds of thousands, I would be getting a lot of money back and I maybe could buy my own health care or other services.

But to the overwhelming majority of people in this province, they like what we have in Ontario. They're proud of what governments of different political stripes have done, whether it's the Robarts or Davis or Peterson or Rae government. Some of the things we've had in this province that have been added upon and have been expanded and improved, they like that. That's something uniquely Canadian, to have those quality services available to us.

Yes, it costs us a little more and, yes, I'm as cranky as anybody else about paying taxes from time to time. We all look at the paycheque or go to the store and pay taxes and so on and become annoyed. But then you look around and you see what we have in this province, the quality of life we have built for people, the social safety net, and you contrast that with the United States, where you have an increasing polarization, an increasingly wide gulf between the rich and the poor, where those who have money can get, can buy, can put themselves in subdivisions surrounded by walls with a guard at the gate, while the people at the lower end of the income scale are forced to fend for themselves without the services provided in terms of public services. And then you see the government going on to other ill-advised measures.

The government House leader wondered why some of the legislation takes a long time. Let me tell the members of this Legislature and the people of this province why it took so long to pass the bill on video lottery terminals. Video lottery terminals, or electronic slot machines, are called the crack cocaine of gambling. That's because you have an instant hit, an instant win, and they're so alluring, they're so seducing, they're so addictive. The government is not going to put them simply in casinos. Everybody in this House knows that I am not a fan of any kind of government gambling, but at least in the casinos -- and we have three in this province now -- and at least in the racetracks they're in a controlled environment. But the real agenda is to put them in every bar, in every restaurant, on every street, in every neighbourhood in Ontario. And why is that? That's again because of the tax cut. They've got to get the money somewhere else, so they're treading into the deep, dark, murky waters of video lottery terminals. Other jurisdictions that have them are now sorry they have them.

I saw a program on TVO a couple of weeks ago, an excellent program.

Mr Wildman: They're going to privatize it.

Mr Bradley: They're going to privatize TVO, unfortunately, and they shouldn't be privatizing the LCBO. I won't have time to talk about that, but I've asked a few questions in the House on that.

I want to go back to what they've done. They interviewed people. The governor of Louisiana had advice for the Premier of Ontario, "Don't do it, don't get into these video lottery terminals," because people become addicted, they lose the paycheque, they start stealing, the family suffers. How many times do we have to see these people on television baring their souls before we recognize that the government isn't doing what's right, it's doing what's expedient? A government surely has a moral and ethical obligation to avoid earning money from the avails of activities which are damaging to people, as much as that is possible, because I recognize that we don't live in a perfect world.


In addition to this, because I have a minute or so, I want to be able to debate such things as the LCBO. I happen to think the Liquor Control Board of Ontario should be retained as it is. It provides high-quality service and good, clean stores. It has a quality product because it's tested time and again, and it keeps as many kids as possible from getting the booze in these places. Anybody who's going to tell me we're going to be better off with private liquor stores should go to Niagara Falls, New York, or anywhere in New York state and have a look at it, and you will see that is not true.

My colleague moved an amendment which would delete from the motion of the government a reference to this being a spring session and would simply state that the motion should say we will come back on January 13 to complete the business of the fall 1996 session. After that, the government can have its way. It can start a new session and we will be prepared to debate the legislation for as long as is necessary in this House.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I just want to beg the indulgence of the House and to inform you that the amendment to the amendment which I moved, I intend to withdraw. I've been persuaded by the higher intelligence of the member for Perth. We will be introducing a subsequent amendment to the amendment by one of my colleagues.

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

Mr Laughren: I am not sure I will be able to sustain myself for the full 30 minutes, but I shall make an effort to make some small contribution to the debate.

It's been said that people on this side of the House are not opposed to part of the motion that's been put by the government House leader, Mr Johnson, and that's true: We're not opposed to sitting the extra week this fall through till December 19, as opposed to the regular scheduled date of December 12. But what's got us puzzled is the way in which the government has decided to advance the spring session to January 13.

There have been a lot of comments made about the government cancelling the winter and moving directly into spring. That's fine for the government House leader, but I know that by January 13, when I drive my little car to the Sudbury airport to be picked up, I leave it idling on the Monday when I take it there; otherwise it won't start on the Friday when I get there to pick it up. Spring won't come early to the part of the province where I live.

Mr Conway: Not even in Shining Tree?

Mr Laughren: Not even in Shining Tree.

All of us are prepared to work through that session. There was a time in this Legislature when it sat for 13 consecutive months without any intersession in that period, so it's not unheard of for sessions to be extended. I would only put this small warning to you and ask you to draw upon the wisdom of Mark Twain, who said one time that when the Legislature is in session, no man, woman or child is safe. So I put that warning to you, that when you extend the legislative session, there are certain problems attached to it.

I think if I was a Tory, I would be concerned about all these extra sittings. Can you imagine how many extra question periods that's going to be for your ministers to attempt to deal with the opposition and for backbenchers then to have to go back home and explain the answers their cabinet ministers have given to the opposition? It's going to be an interesting time.

Mr Wildman: The member for Sarnia is able to do that.

Mr Laughren: The member for Sarnia has shown remarkable independence and courage, although I must say I don't think any of us had any idea of how much power he had. One day he lashes out at the Minister of Health and almost the next day the Minister of Health resigns. One can draw certain conclusions from that, and I don't want to be unfair to the member for Sarnia because I know he himself wouldn't cover himself with glory in this matter, but I think most of us understand that he is a very important member of that caucus.

The part of the motion from the government House leader that has offended us is the part that clearly is designed to circumvent the rules of this place, and that's so they can introduce new legislation when we come back in January. It's been said more eloquently by others, but I can tell you that is the part that's got us offended. We are not objecting to the extended sittings of this place. If we weren't sitting in the assembly, we'd be sitting at committee meetings somewhere in the province anyway. So that part doesn't bother us. But I think it should be clear to the government members that it's this rather transparent circumvention of the standing orders that's got the members over here upset. I don't think it's fair to the public at large either.

When I think of how little consultation has been engaged in by this government, my mind goes back to what would have happened if, when the New Democrats were in government between 1990 and 1995, we had brought in Bill 40, the labour legislation, with as little consultation as you're engaging in, even though what you're doing is going to affect more people's lives in the province of Ontario than our labour legislation would in 100 years. You would not have accepted that for one minute. You would have ground this place to a halt. We did lots and lots and lots of consultation; some would say too much. But I can tell you, I would rather err on that side than what you people are doing with some very fundamental changes in this province. Whether it's restructuring municipal structures or whether it's reforming the educational system, you are not engaging in any serious consultation whatsoever.

Probably the two most blatant examples are the Crombie committee, or, as my friend from Renfrew North calls it --

Mr Conway: The Godfrey committee.

Mr Laughren: The Paul Godfrey committee. He may be more right than wrong in that regard. But that lack of consultation really is awful. It is unheard of in this province that a government would turn over to unelected people, appointed people, all with the same ideology and mindset as the government -- no attempt to bring in any differing views. Oh, no. That wouldn't give you what you want. To turn over those important decisions to a body like that is completely unacceptable in a democratic society.

We know what you're doing. You did the same thing with the hospital commission, and there you really did it up in spades. The thought that you can duck on hospital closings by sending it out to a committee headed up by Dr Sinclair is outrageous.

Mr Conway: Let's not forget George Lund.

Mr Laughren: In my own community, the member who was appointed to that commission is George Lund. I happen to like George Lund, but he's a very well- known Tory. As a matter of fact, he sought the Tory nomination in Sudbury and was defeated by none other than Jim Gordon for the nomination.

Mr Conway: No, no.

Mr Laughren: Yes. There in itself lies a story, but not for tonight.

Mr Conway: If George Lund lost the contest to Jim Gordon, he'd have a story to tell.

Mr Laughren: He'd have a story to tell.

I know what they're trying to do. The government is saying among themselves, I'm sure, "We've got to drive our agenda now in the first half of our mandate, because in the second half of the mandate we're going to put this province to sleep." I'm sure that's their intention, and they're prepared to take all sorts of criticism for the next year. That's why they have to get this legislation through now. Otherwise you could say: "What's the big hurry? What's the problem? Why are you jamming the municipal structures, the educational structure, the hospitals?" It all has to be done so fast.

There's obviously another reason. One reason, of course, is getting all of this done in the first half of their mandate so that they can cruise in the second half and take on an aura of Bill Davis Torydom in the second half of the mandate. I don't think it'll work, because by that time you will have impacted on people to the extent that they will never forget nor forgive.

The other reason, of course, is the famous tax cut. You've simply got to find the savings to pay for that tax cut, because it's going to be -- I think somebody figured it out -- about $12 billion in your mandate. All of that is borrowed money, because you're not running a surplus, you're not running a balanced budget, so anything you give up on the revenue side, you've got to borrow to replace. You've got to. That's very simple, elementary arithmetic. So you've got a problem now. You've got to jam it because you want it done in the first half of your mandate and you've got to jam it because you've got to pay for that tax cut. If you don't do that, you've broken the most fundamental commitment that your leader made in the last provincial election, and that was the tax cut.


I know you all thought it was so easy. I can remember getting bad news day after day after day on the revenue side when we were in office. The then leader of the third party, Mr Harris, would yell across the floor, "You don't have a revenue problem; you've got an expenditure problem." He said that over and over again. It was the Tory mantra between 1990 and 1995. "All we've got in this province is an expenditure problem, no revenue problem." No sympathy with us when we were battling the federal government with its reductions in transfer payments to us: "Stop your whining," he would say. He would use those words. "Stop your whining. You don't have a revenue problem; you've got an expenditure problem."

It was all so easy, all so simple, until you come to office. Then suddenly you realize it isn't as simple as you thought it was. But are you thoughtful enough as a government to understand that and 'fess up to that? Oh, no. There's a lot of testosterone flowing over there, I can tell you, Madam Speaker. Whether you recognize it or not, it's there. They're not going to back down for a minute. The gauntlet's been thrown down and they are going to challenge everybody in the province. Why else would they be making so many strange friends out there in the province?

So it's not as simple as they thought it was going to be. I think of the commitment, for example -- and I remember thinking about this when I heard the then leader of the third party, Mr Harris, talk about how they were going to cut the income tax by 30%. Income tax is by far the biggest income source for the province, about $13 billion a year. Cut that by 30%; it's very simple arithmetic. They were going to do that and not touch health care and not reduce any classroom spending. If you believe you can give a 30% income tax cut and not affect classroom education and not reduce health care spending, you tell me where you get the money. Where do you get that kind of money? It simply cannot be done. You can of course do any one of those things: You can protect health care, you can protect classroom education and you can effect the tax cut. Now you're going to do all that while reducing the deficit.

Perhaps the government members need to understand -- and I don't want to get into a debate on what the former government's plans were, but if you look at the published material, we were going to eliminate the deficit a year before you were. So who has the commitment to deficit reduction in this place? You know why it's going to take you an extra year to get the budget balanced? You know why, don't you? It's because of the tax cut. That's why it's going to take you a year longer than it would have taken us to reduce the deficit to zero and get into a balanced position, assuming, of course, that the economy remains healthy.

I really do shake my head sometimes about what the government is trying to do. I'm not surprised they are finding suddenly that the water is becoming pretty choppy, because it isn't as simple as they all thought it was going to be.

The decision by the government that it's got the answers and that they consist of restructuring in our most important sectors -- for example, in the health care sector and the municipal sector -- really makes me wonder who's running the shop over there. Is it an elected person who's calling the shots on the amalgamation of municipalities? Is it an elected person who's calling the shots on the closure of hospitals? I don't think so. I don't think there are very many elected people -- certainly none who have been around a while -- who would think it's as simple as those people think it is. They really think that all you have to do is reduce here, reduce there, amalgamate here, amalgamate there, and you'll get the savings you're after, and that if you're determined enough you can make it happen.

I think it was -- perhaps I'll get help from the member for Renfrew North -- Ronald Reagan or the people around him who once said that if you have power and don't use it that constitutes an abuse of power.

Mr Conway: Sounds about right.

Mr Laughren: It sounds about right for Reagan and the people around him.

I sometimes think of this government and this Premier and the people around him; I don't think it's the backbenchers who are clamouring for more hospital closures, who are clamouring for municipal amalgamation all across the province and who are calling for systematic change in our classrooms. Some of them are because some of them are true believers in the message from Newt Gingrich and Mike Harris. I can tell you that it takes a while but the time will come when you'll start to question what the leadership around your party is attempting to do.

Another example of where they're attempting to move in too hasty a way is on the whole issue of privatization. I spent some time, when my leader asked me to take on the task of being a critic for privatization, thinking about this and talking to people about it. As a matter of fact, there's a press conference tomorrow dealing with the LCBO and its privatization. It's as though the government has decided: "Privatization is good. Public sector is bad. Therefore, why do we need to consult? Let's just privatize. Surely everybody thinks like we do. Privatization is better than the public sector."

You don't need to delve into this very deeply, but I would encourage the members opposite to think about this and do some reading about it. If you look at the water agency as an example and what happened in the UK when they privatized the water and sewage systems over there, it has made a dramatic difference in the delivery of water. Rates have gone up very dramatically. Now the largest single source of pollution into the rivers in the UK is the private sector water and sewage suppliers.

If you look at the example of privatized liquor, you can look at the United States model. They certainly have lots that you could look at. If you want the kind of liquor distribution system that they have in the United States, there are lots of models there you can look to and emulate. Personally, I've travelled in the States lots, and it's very convenient to be able to stop -- I'm a camper myself -- and before you set up camp go to the local store and pick up a small bottle of single malt or a case of beer or whatever. It's very convenient.

Mr Conway: For medicinal purposes only.

Mr Laughren: For medicinal purposes only, because you never know who you're going to run into who might get sick. The next camper, for example.

Mr Wildman: Part of the American distribution system involves Saturday night specials.

Mr Laughren: That's right. What stores get stuck up more than liquor stores, I wonder?

Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that you need to spend more time on consulting with what the good people in this province really want. I know that this government has thrown away the rule book that was written by Bill Davis, I understand that, and he's held in great disrepute by this new Tory gang. But I think you might learn something from the way in which he and his predecessors kept your party in power for 42 consecutive years. I'm not suggesting that you should learn enough from them that you would stay in power for 42 years -- God help us all -- but simply that he knew how to consult. They knew how to consult. They consulted with people on a very regular basis and they didn't turn everything over to the backroom boys.


I was looking at the educational system in particular, at a survey that was done of the school boards in the province. I notice that there could be some boards missing from this, but when I thought of the commitment of the government that there would be no cuts to classroom education, I asked, is it true that there's that much saving? They took $400 million out in 1996 and there's a lot more to come, about $600 million more to come. Can you really take that much out without affecting the classroom? If you can, then who would object very much to it? Not me. But this is what's happened in the school boards so far: 46 public boards report cuts in elementary teacher positions, not because of declining enrolment; 39 public boards report cuts in secondary teacher positions, and that's a result of the $400 million; 25 public boards -- and I suspect it's more than this -- have decided to cancel JK effective September 1996, have already cancelled it. Of course, as these cuts start clicking in optional programs such as junior kindergarten are gone. If that's not affecting the classroom, then I don't know what is. Any expert in education will tell you how important JK is.

There have been a number of comments made this evening by members of the official opposition about this party and some of our problems in the past. I can remember -- and I stand to be corrected by the member for Renfrew North or the member for Kingston and The Islands, if I'm wrong -- that the Liberal Party opposed mandatory JK when we brought it in. I think that's correct.

Mr Conway: Yes, it is. You're right.

Mr Laughren: So when I hear them talk now about -- anyway, I don't want to dwell on that any more than I want to dwell -- even though the Liberal members have talked about the Martel affair and so forth ad nauseam today --


Mr Laughren: Oh, there weren't too many speakers who didn't refer to that. I don't want to talk about Patti Starr because I don't think that would be appropriate.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Why did you bring it up?

Mr Laughren: But I don't think there was any cabinet minister who resigned over the Patti Starr affair, was there?

Mr Conway: Several were discontinued in Her Majesty's service.

Mr Laughren: That's true. Anyway, I'd just like to point out that when you throw stones in this place you'd better think twice before you do so.

I want to get back to cuts in education. I don't know how I got diverted. It must have been because the member for Kingston and The Islands was bothering me.

Mr Wildman: These are only the public boards. It doesn't take in the separate boards.

Mr Laughren: This is only the public boards, that's correct. These are some programs that have been cancelled. At the elementary level, public school boards have reduced or eliminated elementary programs as follows: library resource, 9. Do you think that doesn't affect the classroom? Special ed, the kids who need the help the most, 27 boards have reduced their programs. Guidance, 4; music, 8; phys ed, 3. It goes on and on.

Other programs, such as consultants and coordinators: Those don't happen right in the classroom. At the same time they do have to make sure that teachers are doing their job.

Educational support personnel, 6 boards; noonhour supervisors, 18; teacher educational assistants, 15. It goes on and on.

The argument that classrooms are not being affected by the $400 million cut with $600 million more to come -- I mean, there's more to come than has been implemented already, so you can imagine.

At some point you're going to have to, as a government, back down from that commitment that health care spending will be maintained and educational spending will be maintained as it impacts on the classroom. I can understand you wanting to consolidate and bring some rationalization to the hospitals. I agree with that, and I've said so publicly in my own community. That doesn't mean, however, that when you rationalize and consolidate hospitals you don't have an obligation to put those savings back into the community. Since you're not going to be reducing health care anyway, when you save money in a community why can't you then put it back into that community in the form of community-based home care and also the new capital dollars that are required?

There was a commitment made by the minister last week, as a result of the opposition in Thunder Bay he was running into, that the province will pay 70% of the hospital capital spending required because of the Health Services Restructuring Commission reports and the local will pay 30%. So they are doing that, putting money back on the capital side.

Mr Conway: Floyd, you know the game is taking the money out of Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie and putting it into Newmarket.

Mr Laughren: If they're taking it out of Sudbury and they're taking it out of Pembroke, where are they putting it? It's either going to help pay for their tax cut or, if it's staying in the health care system, which the minister keeps saying, where is it going? It's not going to other places in northern Ontario. It's not going to other places in eastern Ontario. Wait till they get to Ottawa. I can hardly wait till the commission reports in Ottawa, followed by Toronto of course.

The money is not staying in the local community, it's coming down to southern Ontario. If you want to further alienate the feeling of geographical disparities in this province, just keep it up, because there's no understanding or belief in the part of the province I come from that you're doing this fairly. I think you're being treated fairly by the local folks. In my own community, they are being very fair about the need to rationalize the hospital system. Nobody's being particularly foolish about that. There are some of course, but you have done nothing to allay their fears about those savings.

It's about $40 million a year in savings in the system in Sudbury by closing two hospitals. The total amount of new capital required is about $80 million. So in two years you've paid for that. What happens to the $40 million a year after that in savings? There has been absolutely no commitment to labour adjustment programs. How in the world do you expect to sell this to anybody? The people who work in the system, the people who live with the system, the patients, the people who for years have paid for it at the local level, how do you expect support from them when you refuse to reinvestment the savings in a local community?

What really has people scratching their heads in bewilderment is that you say you're not going to reduce health care spending. If you're not going to reduce health care spending but you're going to effect all these savings at the local level, where do those savings go? They're not supposed to go out of the health care system. They're staying in the health care system, to give you the benefit of the doubt, so where are they going? Well, it doesn't appear to be at the local level.

If I could go back and begin to conclude my remarks, there are a number of things that are bothering the opposition. One is the way in which you are circumventing the rules. It's very transparent what's going on, and the opposition resents that very much. There's no reason you couldn't extend the sitting, if you want to go beyond December 19 into January, and deal with the backlog that now exists, legislation that's already been introduced. There would be no objections from the opposition. We'll agree to do that. We already have. The government House leader knows that's the case.

If you want to proceed with those other pieces of legislation which we haven't even seen yet -- the educational reconfigurations, the municipal amalgamations -- if you want to proceed with those and anything else, then why are you panicking? What is the incredible rush to do this? It's not because we don't want to sit in January and February. That's fine. We have no objections to that whatsoever. But why don't you say, "Let's tidy up the legislation that's there now," and then move on in the spring -- as soon as you want in the spring -- to the new legislation?

Mr Conway: You sound like you want to put the revolution in a supermarket cart.

Mr Laughren: Well, I want to tell you, what they are trying to do is much too transparent for my liking. I'd have much more respect for you if I thought there was a game plan here other than simply trying to rush it all through in the first half of your mandate, and secondly, to get those savings to help pay for the tax cut as quickly as possible, because you know and I know that the wheels can fall off your fiscal plan very, very quickly.

I was embarrassed for your Minister of Finance a couple of weeks ago when he was to announce where the next $3 billion in cuts was to come from. He already said he was going to do it. Then suddenly he said he didn't want to go to the finance and economic affairs committee of this House, didn't want to make an appearance there. The next day suddenly he's told: "We haven't got it for you, Minister. We can't give you the numbers." Then he had to go to the finance committee. It was an embarrassment. I felt sorry for him sitting there absorbing this scorn from the members of the opposition and the media. I can tell you, in a funny kind of way, I know how he felt, having been through not exactly the same situation but ones not too dissimilar.

At the same time, that's of your making. You created this. You made this bed and I now I hope you're all comfortable lying in it, because it never was as simple as you thought it was going to be. But the arrogance of the simplicity -- I couldn't believe how arrogant the Tories were when they were over here and saying, "Just do it." They kept telling us, "You're so incompetent." "You're so incompetent," they kept saying. Well, I would like to play back some of those reels today as I see the wheels on the Tory machine starting to wobble. Admittedly it's really the first time since they were elected a year and a half ago that it's starting to look like it could fall apart.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Well, Bill 26 was pretty good.

Mr Laughren: Bill 26 was interesting.

Mr Conway: Everybody gets a free year.

Mr Laughren: Everybody gets a free year. Now suddenly what seemed so simple is not so simple. Quite frankly, if you hadn't been so arrogant about how simple you thought it was and how stupid and incompetent we all were in government, I might have some sympathy for you, but I have absolutely none because you've asked for it. You thought it was easy to do. All right, if it's so easy to do, why are you not doing it? It must be nice to be a Tory and go back home to your constituency weekend after weekend. And guess what, folks? It's going to get even more interesting.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I feel I should wear my Tory blue tie tonight. I'm quite proud to represent our party, discussing the motion tonight and the amendment.

I would like to start off by saying something that neither the "Old Democratic Party" nor the "New Liberal Party" have nerve enough to say, and that is, whether they are for it or against it. We hear them flopping from one side to the other. We hear them saying they don't mind coming back on January 13 but they're going to be against the motion we have prepared that will bring us back then. They say: "We would like to sit here all next week but we'll vote against the motion that says we will sit here. So we can say one thing and we can do another."

I came here to Toronto a year and a half ago because I had something I wanted to do: I wanted to lower taxes, I wanted less government spending, I wanted to remove barriers to growth, I wanted to do better for less and I wanted a balanced budget.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Perhaps the member for Perth could indicate how his comments relate to the amendment.

The Speaker: To the member for Algoma: I've been in the chair during this debate and I think that could have been applied to all the speakers regarding this particular motion. I will say that if we're now going to start applying this particular motion to individual members, it would seem patently unfair. I would ask the member for Perth to continue.

Mr Bert Johnson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Above all, I want to be fair. I want to be reasonable. I want the people out there to know just how fair and reasonable I am.

The Speaker: Well, I will find out. Just go with the member for Algoma.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was just bringing the member to the amendment because when he was presiding he felt that I should be brought to the amendment.

The Speaker: That's not a point of order, but that's a point of interest.

Mr Bert Johnson: That is interesting. There are a lot of interesting things being said here tonight and I guess one of the biggest would be that if we believed what we heard across the aisle from the Old Democratic Party and the New Liberal Party, we would believe we had an agreement. Mind you, through the years we've had quite a few agreements, but in the last year and a half we've had a lot of agreements that have been broken.

The people on that side of the House would like us to fail. They would like us to break our agreement. They would like us to break our trust with the people of Ontario. Why? Because at some point, yes, there will be another election, and what better thing for me to campaign on than the five things we've said we will do and for us to fail, and what better thing for the Old Democratic Party and the New Liberal Party to campaign on than "The government can't do what it said it was going to do." Well, surprise, surprise, we're going to do it. We're going to do it not because of you; we're going to do it in spite of you.

Mr Wildman: Boy, this is profound.

Mr Bert Johnson: Yes, it is, and it could have been said before. But if you want to be profound, tell me about integrity in government, tell me about the Jim Wilsons, tell me about the other people in government and how they took the honourable approach to the difficulty that they saw in front of them, and tell me how the previous two governments handled those sensitive situations. Tell me how now we're being told that we should look forward to small business creating jobs and creating economic activity that will benefit everybody in the province. Tell me how in the last five years the Old Democratic Party paid off the Buzz Hargroves, the Gord Wilsons and paid up their dues on that. Then what did they do? They laughed in their face and said, "We can even throw it in the social contract."

I was down listening very carefully, attentively, to the former Treasurer of this province telling us how he was going to balance the budget one year sooner than we were.

Mr Laughren: It's true.

Mr Bert Johnson: Yes, but if you were going to do that, why didn't you do it in the five years that you had from 1990 to 1995, and why didn't you start that process when you and the New Liberal Party governed the province from 1985 to 1987?

I do appreciate some of the speakers from across the way. I do appreciate the lessons in history that I get from a renowned member of this Legislature like the member for Renfrew North and his buddy the House leader from the official opposition the member for St Catharines. They are quality speakers. They can get up and speak an hour and a half, if that's the time limit, or they can get up and do the 30 minutes, and they can do it exactly 29 minutes and 59 seconds, and they can fill that in and I enjoy it. I enjoy it because I learn something about history from them.

Unfortunately, those lessons about history aren't what we need in this province. We have to look forward. We have to look forward to things that are better. We want to look forward to job creation. We want to look forward to economic activity. We want something that is secure and prosperous for our children.

We are talking about the motion and the amendment to it because we are in the financial difficulty that we are today. It is passing amusing to hear the experienced members from across the way talk about services in Brunner and Fullarton and places like that. The Willows and the people who live in those communities would be very interested to know why at this late date, after 10 years in the wilderness, now all of a sudden we're interested in the very important communities in my riding; why, for instance, after borrowing, taxing and spending for the last 10 years, all of a sudden we get interested in saying: "Oh, yes, we could have balanced the books. Just give us another four years."

Mr Wildman: Why are you borrowing $12 billion for a tax cut?

Mr Bert Johnson: Oh, yes, we can borrow money for the tax cut, but then are we borrowing it for education, are we borrowing it for health or are we borrowing it for the tax cut? Tell me about the borrowed money on the tax cut. Tell me about the $10 billion that you borrowed last year and the year before and every year before that. For five years, $10 billion, and you want us over here not to take a look at the future and something better that we are supposed to do.

Mr Laughren: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It was actually $12 billion one year.

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

Mr Bert Johnson: To the former Treasurer of this province, a person I have a great deal of respect for, not only for what he says but how he says it, I don't have a lot of respect for people who do one thing and say another. I realize that he is embarrassed by his former leadership and his former party. I'm sure that he tried his best to balance the books and tried to do a good job but he was overruled in cabinet. He was told to toe the party line, and he wasn't allowed to use the good judgement that I have seen him use sometimes.


We're discussing a motion before us tonight and amendments to it. I am definitely in favour of the motion and against the amendments. The reason why I'm in favour of this motion is because I was sent to Toronto to try to improve things for the people in Perth. One of the problems is that we do things a little bit backwards. The people of Perth know that, but there are a lot of people down here in this Legislature, particularly across the way, who don't.

For instance, I was asked over the weekend why, if this Legislature feels it's so important to meet an extra six hours, we would extend that at the end of the day; why we would take the sitting day, from 1:30 to 6, and then extend if from 6 till 12; why the heck wouldn't we do it like the good people in Perth do? If they had more work to do, they'd get up and do it in the morning. My suggestion from the people in my riding is, why don't we get up and start at 7:30 in the morning?


Mr Bert Johnson: I hear clapping from both the people in the opposition over there that they think that would be a good idea.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I do believe the member moved a motion, which I would be supportive of.

The Speaker: I don't think he moved a motion.


The Speaker: Order. In the vernacular of the member for Perth, it wasn't a motion. Please, would you give the member for Perth some opportunity to finish his comments. It would be very helpful.

Mr Bert Johnson: There are some other good ideas that we have in Perth, and I want to tell you about a few of them because we've been doing a whole lot of studying in this province. We've been studying the greater Toronto area by Golden. We've got the greater Toronto area task force. We've got the Ontario School Board Reduction Task Force final report. We've got the Macdonald report. We've got reports, but one of the reports we don't see so much about is this report, the report that shows the -- because I don't want to make a demonstration; I don't want to show --

The Speaker: Member for Perth, that's right, that's a prop.

Mr Bert Johnson: I wouldn't want to take advantage of my position.

The Speaker: Well, then put it away. Thank you very much.

Mr Bert Johnson: Mr Speaker, you're entirely right to draw me to order and ask me to do that. I want to say, without equivocation or mental reservation of any kind, that I'm sorry I got emotional and showed that, because there are members across the way, both of them, both the ones in the New Liberal Party and the Old Democratic Party, who forget that there was an election last June, a year ago. I think they have every right to suggest --

Mr Bradley: Mr Speaker, a very brief point of order for my friend from Perth, and the point of order is this: I'd just like to ask him if he has the permission of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation to use that map in this Legislature.

The Speaker: Order. Not a point of order.

Mr Bert Johnson: Mr Speaker, this is not question period, and I'd be all too pleased to answer the inquiries. I'm sure the member for St Catharines has other things on his mind, and I wouldn't mind answering any of them at any time, but in actual fact, if I don't have their permission, then I'm truly sorry and I apologize. Without evasion, equivocation, mental reservation of any kind, I apologize. I did pay for it, and I think that gives me some right. I think that gives me some right to borrow it.

But I do have a little bit of criticism, I guess, for those who want us to do nothing and they want us to fail. They don't want hardworking people of Ontario to keep some of their own tax money. They would like to call us simple and stupid. If letting people keep some of their tax money in this province is simple and stupid, then I guess I'd like to be part of that crowd, because two years ago, we were told that there was no such thing as common sense. We reinvented the term. We went into the election and the people of Ontario told us, "Things have been so bad that we would like to think things are better, and we're willing to take a chance."

I'm here to tell you and both the people over there in the opposition that I'm here to do the best job I can. Part of that job is getting up and speaking my mind, and I don't apologize to anyone for sticking up here in this Legislature for the fine people who live in the county of Perth, those same people who live in Brunner, those same people who live in Fullarton and Gowanstown.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Don't go to Listowel tonight.

Mr Bert Johnson: I'll go back to Listowel tonight and I'll go back to Listowel any other time. There are a lot of fine people in Listowel, and anybody who would sit across in the opposition and try to denigrate the people of the town of Listowel shouldn't be here.

Mr Len Wood: They don't like you and they don't like Mike Harris.

Mr Bert Johnson: If they don't like me --

The Speaker: Order. Member for Perth, just a moment please. Member for Cochrane North, I appreciate obviously this speech is causing you some concern.

Mr Len Wood: He's my friend. All my family's in Listowel.

The Speaker: I appreciate that he's your friend, and if he's your friend, maybe we can just treat him with a little bit more decorum.

Mr Bert Johnson: Mr Speaker, I'm just about done. I want to tell both those people in the New Liberal Party and the Old Democratic Party that yes, I think the people of Perth deserve the very best. I'm working towards it and I'm practising, and I think I'm better this year than I was last year, and I think I'll be better next year. I want to make sure that I send the message to the people of Perth and to the people sitting across the way that I'm here to do the absolute best job that I can, in spite of those people across the way who would like to see us fall down, bloody our nose and fail, because the people of Ontario and the people of Perth deserve that from us.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I've enjoyed the attention that I should have been given across the way.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gerretsen: It's always a joy to listen to the member for Perth because he speaks with such passion about the things that he believes in, especially at this time of the night. He speaks with an extra passion that we can all understand and relate to. Unfortunately, he's wrong about a number of issues.

The first issue that I want to address tonight is the fact that we're dealing here with a motion that basically --

Mr Bert Johnson: On a point of order: Mr Speaker, I thought this was debate, and I didn't know there were responses to my speech.

The Speaker: There's not. It's debate.

Mr Bert Johnson: I'm sorry. I really thought the member for Kingston and the Islands --

The Speaker: Member for Perth, will all due respect, I appreciate --

Mr Len Wood: Come on, Speaker. Watch out when St Mary's people get a hold of you, Bert. They're going to string you up on a rope over that hospital --

The Speaker: The member for Cochrane North, please come to order.

Mr Len Wood: Well, they're mad about the hospital.

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane North, I don't want a discussion.

Mr Len Wood: He won't defend the hospital Mike Harris wants to shut down.

Mr Wildman: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I'm sure all members would agree to give unanimous consent to allow the member for Perth to speak twice in this debate if he wishes to continue in debate.

The Speaker: The member for Algoma is seeking unanimous consent to allow the member for Perth to speak again.



The Speaker: No. Member for Perth, it doesn't matter. I heard a no.

Mr Gerretsen: I've certainly learned my lesson to never congratulate the member for Perth on a speech again, because obviously it was not appreciated in the vein that it was given. I'm sorry, but I will never congratulate you again. Actually, that was one of the best speeches you've ever given in this House, and I take it all back. I will not say another nice thing about you.

But this motion deals with whether new sittings in effect should start on January 13 or whether the sittings that are currently going on should be extended. It seems to me only logical, as a new member, that since we have so many bills that have been presented in this House over the last three to four months, we extend the sitting and simply deal with all the matters that have been brought forward by the government so far, rather than starting brand-new sittings of the Legislature. That's what this motion is really all about, but it has given us an opportunity to talk about some of the other issues that are the underlying issues of what this government is all about.

I heard the member for Nickel Belt speak earlier about the difference between this Conservative government and a Conservative government of Bill Davis back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Let me just at the outset say that I dealt with that government. As the mayor of my city at the time, I had an opportunity to deal with them on a number of different issues over a number of different years, and the major difference between that government and the current government dealt mainly with the attitude in which they approached issues. If there's one thing that the Conservatives that were in power for over 40 years had back in the 1970s and early 1980s, it was the fact that they were not arrogant. They were totally different from this Conservative government.

Today we're dealing with a Conservative government that is basically ideologically bound and driven. They basically believe that they have an agenda to follow, and regardless of whether it makes any sense, regardless of whether they have to roll over the opposition from to time to time, as we saw with Bill 26, as we've seen with a number of other bills over the last year or so, it's an arrogant attitude that they're bringing to the whole process.

I think the resignation of the Minister of Health yesterday was a perfect example. It was a perfect example because basically what we're talking about is the integrity of the government, and from the questions and answers that have been given over the last two days, I still don't think the government gets what the real issue is here. The real issue, even though it's important, is not so much what actually happened in that particular case or incident; the real issue is how the people of Ontario feel that information that they've given to government in various ways -- and in this particular situation we're talking about health information, about their own health -- is being handled by the government and by those people who work for the government. That's the real issue and that's the real concern of the people of Ontario.

I think that the uncertainty or the lack of acknowledgement by, yesterday, the Deputy Premier and, today, the Premier of setting up an all-party commission to look into that matter shows, to my way of thinking, the lack of concern that the government has about this. We've heard for two days now the notion that the Information and Privacy Commissioner can look into this matter, and I've taken some time today to see exactly, according the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the powers that the commissioner has to deal with those kinds of situations.

As I indicated earlier today, the powers and duties of the commissioner are set out in one particular section, which states that the commissioner has the right and the obligation and he may offer comment on the privacy protection implications of proposed legislation and schemes and proposed programs that come before the House. He can also order certain institutions or the heads of those institutions to cease the collection practices of certain information that may have been gathered by that particular agency. He may also authorize the collection of personal information otherwise than directly from the individual; in other words, he can authorize it to be gathered from other people and organizations. He can do some research to make sure the purposes of the act are carried out. He also has the right to conduct public education programs and information sessions to make the public aware of the freedom of information and protection of privacy matters contained in the act. And he can receive representations and consultations from the public.

But nowhere in the act does it actually say that the privacy commissioner has the right to investigate a particular matter such as, in this particular case, whether or not the comment by Mr Brett James was actually made or, more to the point, how he got the information. We had the Premier tell us today that it is his information that the minister never had that information. Then the question is, how did this individual who worked for the minister get that information?

That's the real concern that people in Ontario have. There are certain bits of information that the government has, in this particular case health information, that people regard as sacred, that people simply do not want to have divulged to other individuals. The real question here is, how did this individual, who according to the information that we got here today did not have the consent of the Minister of Health or the Deputy Minister of Health, get that information? That's the issue. I think only an all-encompassing commission, an all-encompassing bipartisan body, a bipartisan inquiry, an all-parliamentary committee can in effect investigate that.

There's the other issue as well, and that is that although the commissioner does have the right to call certain witnesses to come before him or her, he doesn't have any authority to compel those people to actually give evidence. He also doesn't have any authority to in effect subpoena evidence. I think that is a shortcoming if the individual is to do his proper job. It's not so much this particular case, what happened in it; it's more of a situation as to whether or not the people of Ontario can have any confidence and trust in a system in which they are basically sharing their medical information, through their doctors, with the government.

I suppose that nowadays, particularly with the great emphasis on computerization etc, there is a greater fear among people at all times: Is it possible for somebody in the Ministry of Health, or indeed in any ministry, to simply push a button and get information out of people, and what kind of use is being made of the information that is available? That is really sort of the syndrome of 1984 revisited some 12 years later.

That's the real issue. It shows, to my way of thinking, an arrogance by the government not to allow that kind of process to take place. It would seem to me that the best way for the government to deal with a situation like that is to formulate an all-party committee -- we're all equally elected here; we're all equally elected in our own particular ridings and our own particular constituencies -- so that we can look into these matters.

The second issue I want to deal with and which again deals with this whole notion of arrogance or the whole notion of how we now seem to be doing things in Ontario is restructuring. I know that one of the reasons we're being called back in the middle of January is to deal with the whole future of Toronto -- the greater Toronto area, Metro Toronto -- and whether there will be one megacity or whether there will be a number of different cities in this area.

This brings to mind the restructuring that's taken place in my own particular riding. I've raised this matter in the House on a number of occasions, but I would like to give a little bit of a dissertation as to what really happened in this case so that the people out there and you, Mr Speaker, can have a better idea as to how the restructuring in Lennox and Addington and Frontenac county and the city of Kingston was handled.


Back in early May there was a meeting held at the county courthouse in Napanee. It was attended by over 200 municipal politicians from both counties and from the city of Kingston, together with the three MPPs -- myself, Mr Fox and Mr Vankoughnet -- together with the minister. At that time, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing indicated that he wanted these two counties and the city to restructure. He felt basically that there were too many forms of local government in the two counties, which I think number something like 40, and he wanted something done whereby in effect they were made into more manageable units and better administrative units. He indicated at that time that he only wanted one restructuring plan brought forward by both counties and the city of Kingston.

The gentleman who was appointed to assist in that was Mr Gardner Church, who is a very well known individual and certainly a very qualified individual to look into these matters.

Mr Conway: Very well known.

Mr Gerretsen: Very well known. I first had the opportunity to meet him some 15 years ago when there was some discussion as to whether or not the city of Kingston should amalgamate a number of townships around it at that point in time. In any event, he started the process, and within about two weeks after that, the county of Lennox and Addington decided to walk away from the process. They basically said: "We no longer want to be part of this process. We're going to conduct our own study." They did come up with a plan, one which basically eliminated or reduced the 20 different townships and the town of Napanee into about four or five townships. The same process took place under the direction of Mr Gardner Church for the city of Kingston and the county of Frontenac.

Mr Laughren: There's that name again.

Mr Gerretsen: Yes, there's that name again. In any event, both counties came up with a restructuring plan, each one of them independently arrived at. The county of Frontenac and city of Kingston plan included the proviso that it ask the minister to set up a commission to determine the western boundary of the new urban area of the city of Kingston. It was intended to take in Ernestown township as well, since that's a fairly urbanized area, particularly around the area of Amherstview.

That was brought forward. It's interesting that the minister, at his annual speech at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario held in late August of this year, pointed to the Kingston area and the county of Frontenac and the county of Lennox and Addington as a model of how restructuring could take place. He'd forgotten one thing, and that one thing was this: He had said he wanted one plan for that whole area, and in effect two plans were brought forward.

It was interesting that after he lauded the plan in front of the 1,500 or so delegates who attended the AMO conference, he then had a meeting with the city of Kingston delegation and the county of Frontenac delegation that I had an opportunity to be part of as well. A meeting that was supposed to last 15 minutes lasted about two hours because the county of Frontenac people made no bones about the fact that they wanted the minister to set up a restructuring commission to deal with the western boundary. They felt that if he were going to endorse the Lennox and Addington plan and the county of Frontenac plan separately, in effect he would reward the Lennox and Addington people for walking away from the table some two or three months earlier.

Rather than taking the honourable way out -- and here's where we get back to this question of trust: Do you trust in what your minister says to you? The minister at one time had stated that he only wanted one plan. A group of people walk away, do their own plan etc. Now we get back to the question of trust. The minister basically said, "I'm sorry, but I am going to endorse both plans."

You can well imagine the feelings particularly of the township of Kingston and the township of Pittsburgh people, who had reluctantly joined the restructuring process as it relates to the city of Kingston. They felt totally betrayed. There were a number of editorials about that, and I've raised this in the House earlier. They felt the minister had not lived up to his word. He had said he wanted one plan. People walked away from the table, and all of a sudden the people who stayed at the table got what they thought was the raw end of the deal.

To make a long story short, the minister did indicate at that point of time, and I was at that meeting as well, that yes, he would set up a restructuring commission to deal with the western boundary and that it would look at the Amherstview or Ernestown area. Later on, as we all heard about a month or so ago, he decided not to go ahead with that. The net result of it is that there's a whole group of politicians in the Kingston area, particularly those people from the two townships, who went into this process on the understanding that they had to cooperate because the minister only wanted one plan and who now feel that if they had walked away from the table, they would be a heck of a lot better off than they were before.

It's very interesting that right on this day, today, the headline in our local paper, the Kingston Whig-Standard, is that Pittsburgh votes for a referendum. They no longer want part of the amalgamation deal. They no longer want part of the restructuring plan. As a matter of fact, the reeve and the deputy reeve -- let me get this right. No, I stand corrected on that. They no longer want part of it; they want to send this whole plan to a referendum, which is to be held, according to the newspaper article, some time in April of this year.

What I'm saying with all this is that if a government wants to have the trust of the people -- whether we're talking about local politicians or whether we're talking about the people in the health care system or whether we're talking about people as to how they're going to deal with our health care records etc, people want to be able to rely on it. Once that trust and confidence is gone, people really don't know what to think. They lose their confidence and trust in the system. As we all know, once that is lost, once people have lost trust and confidence in the political system, it's going to take an awfully long time to bring that back.

I'm just using that as an example because here was a situation that was hailed in front of about 1,500 people less than three or four months ago as being the miracle solution to municipal restructuring. As it turned out, it is not that at all, because basically they feel the minister reneged on his word to set up a commission to deal with the urban situation in the Kingston area.

The other thing I have really been amazed at, and it's been mentioned a number of times, deals with the whole attitude of the government towards the issue of fiscal responsibility. I think "Conservative" to most people out there means we're talking about a fiscally responsible group of people, people who don't want to waste taxpayers' money, people who are going to be a little bit tougher maybe than the other parties around. Certainly when they say something, they mean it.

It's always been my belief that the whole issue of a tax cut -- or, the way I like to refer to it, the tax scheme -- just doesn't make any sense at all. Here we have a party that during the election campaign and well before that and ever since then has been campaigning on the notion that they are fiscally responsible. They are the people who are going to do something about the horrible debt situation we have in this province and they're going to completely rid us of the horrible mess that the NDP left us in when they basically had a deficit of $10 billion per year for five years.

Let's be perfectly frank and honest: Those days, the early 1990s, weren't the best of economic times. I think any government that had been in power in those days would have had some really difficult times. To completely blame the past government for its economic woes etc certainly, to my way of thinking, is not totally correct, because they were tougher times. For a government that talks about fiscal responsibility to in effect allow the public debt of this province to increase by a further $20 billion over the next four to five years, which just happens to equate to the amount of the tax cut or the tax scheme that they're giving to the well-to-do in this province over that period of time, to my way of thinking and to a lot of people I've spoken to over the last year and a half or two years, is completely and totally irresponsible.


If they had not introduced a tax cut, quite frankly, I think it would be very difficult for the opposition to take issue with an awful lot of the cuts that are happening. I think we may individually not like certain cuts and we may have thought that in certain areas it was foolhardy to actually implement those cuts. I always think the best example of that is the halfway houses. I think that came through about a year and a half ago or a year and two months ago.

Anybody who knows anything about criminal law and rehabilitation realizes that people who have spent any time in a criminal institution, if you want to have a greater degree of surety that those people are not going to commit a crime again, you've got to give them some skills, and the way you give them some life skills, some learning skills, is usually in a halfway house setting so that they can be reintegrated into society. It's in society, after all, that they failed the first time or they wouldn't be incarcerated in the first place.

We also know that to keep a person in a halfway house is less than half the cost of keeping a person in a penal institution. I still recall sitting here in total amazement about a year and two months ago when in effect they cut out all the halfway houses, closed them all down and basically said if you get sentenced to a provincial institution, you spend X number of months or up to two years there and then you're just let out on the street and hopefully you don't do it again etc. I haven't seen any statistics, but I can almost assure you, from all the statistics I've ever seen from other jurisdictions over the last 25 years, if you do not give people some sort of retraining, some sort of rehab, their likelihood of committing crimes again is a lot higher than if you do give them some rehab.

So that cut didn't make any sense from a financial viewpoint, because in effect it costs more money to keep people in jail than to put them in a halfway house, and it didn't make any sense from a social viewpoint either, because presumably people are going to be involved in a lot more recidivism as a result of them not having any kind of rehab to start off with. That's the one that always sort of sticks out in my mind as making no sense at all.

The other one, quite frankly, that didn't make any sense at all was the 20% cut in the social welfare payments. It always used to amaze me that a lot of the corner store operators right after that cut was implemented would stop me on the street and say, "Look, business isn't as good as it used to be," because a lot of the people in neighbourhoods where there was a large incidence of welfare simply weren't spending as much.

The ones that really used to get me were the small landlords, many of whom before the election used to tell me, "You know, John, you've got it all wrong. You're with the wrong party," you're this, that or the other thing. "We've got to get tough with the people on welfare," and this, that and the other thing. They were the same people, some three or four months later, after the welfare cut was actually implemented, who used to stop me on the street and say: "My gosh, you know the people on welfare? They're not paying their rent any more. You've got to help me. You've got to do something about it." I used to tell them, "If you couldn't figure out that if somebody gets $900 instead of $1,100 per month and if they were spending $600 on rent etc, when push comes to shove, they're going to spend it on food and on clothing for their children rather than on rent, then you're pretty shortsighted."

Of course, it's that kind of thing, because those 20% dollars that were being expended in the social welfare system were dollars that were going right back into the community in services and in payments to small merchants etc. Those dollars stayed right there. Of course, once those payments were no longer made to the people on welfare, quite frankly, those dollars were removed from that community, and as a result, the whole community suffered, including the merchants etc.

The other issue, in just winding up and in dealing with this motion, deals with this whole issue of the economic statement that the Deputy Premier was going to present to us some two or three weeks ago. The scenario that led up to that I think was very, very interesting. First, we were told there was going to be a full economic statement, and then we heard rumblings that the government was having trouble in finding additional cuts as to where it was going to find another $3 billion. Then it was downgraded to an economic statement and then finally, I guess, a statement was made to one of the committees, it may have been the finance committee, I'm not quite sure, by the Deputy Premier.

I guess the irony of that is that here most people believe that they have elected a government that is fiscally responsible. That's what they think, or that's what they thought when they elected them. Now all of a sudden it turns out that within a year and a half of being elected they can't make their books balance, but they still want to adhere to this ridiculous notion of a tax cut, a tax cut, as we all know, that's only going to benefit people who make $100,000 or more. What is it? -- $4.5 billion of the $5-billion tax cut is going to go to people who make $100,000 or more. Yet somehow they have the people of Ontario believing --

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): You don't benefit, eh, John?

Mr Gerretsen: I'm glad to see the Minister of Transportation here. By the way, we'd like to thank you for all the work that you've done on the highways this year, because I will admit the Tories are right back to where they were when they were in power for those 40 years. They always knew that if you just keep paving roads, people will keep voting for you. That minister over there has got that one all figured out. It's true it is only one minor issue, and he's going to run out of money sooner or later, I'm sure. But in any event, they can't find the $3 billion. Well, I can tell you where to find it.

Mr Bradley: The tax cut.

Mr Gerretsen: The tax cut. Our House leader is always correct. Forget about the tax cut. If you didn't have this idiotic tax cut, then in effect, about half of the cutting and slashing you're doing in a lot of programs that are hurting an awful lot of people out there, then we wouldn't be in the mess that we're in.

I'm almost convinced in my own mind that the government, and I would say wrongly, has decided to cut off the bottom third of the people in the economic scale. They decided these people are not going to support us any more, so let's just forget about them. It's very sad because I think that traditionally we have a system here in Ontario, where once a government is elected, it tries to represent all the people and it tries to in its laws make sure that it's equitable to everyone.

I would urge the government members who are present here, and we can see they're slowly filtering back into the House, to vote against this motion and do the right thing and do the honourable thing, and that is to extend the sittings and not hold new sittings.

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

Mr Bisson: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.


Mr Bisson: Thank you very much, member for Cochrane North.

I want to take this opportunity in the 30 minutes that I have to try to, as succinctly as I can, put forward to the House and put forward especially to the House leader of the government side what is really going on here and what this debate is all about.

The government has come before this House and has tabled a motion that we are now debating. This particular motion deals with, and I will read, "That, notwithstanding standing order 6(a), the House shall continue to meet commencing Monday, December 16, 1996, until Thursday, December 19, 1996, and that when the House adjourns on Thursday, December 19, 1996, it stand adjourned until Monday, January 13, 1997, which date commences the spring sessional period."


I want to put out there for those people who are watching that the New Democratic caucus and the Liberal caucus are not opposed to the government calling the House back for a week after this week. We should have finished on Thursday, but the House is being asked to come back next week. We are not opposed, as an NDP caucus or the Liberal opposition caucus, to coming back and sitting, for that matter, until next year, and after January. That's not what's at debate over here.

Mr Len Wood: Jim Wilson and Mike Harris attacking the doctors of this province.

Mr Bisson: Thank you, Len. What is not at debate here is the idea of us coming back to the House in order to debate bills. What we do object to is that the government, by this motion, is trying to circumvent the rules of the House.

The rules of the House are quite clear: The government can only debate in the last two sessional weeks before the end of the sitting the business it has before the House at that time. What the government is trying to do here by way of this motion is to slip into the House -- and I use the word "slip" for exactly what it is -- a number of bills that are going to deal with very far-sweeping powers that the ministers are going to give themselves to be able to restructure the province of Ontario to their image. We say as an opposition party, as the New Democratic Party of Ontario, we don't want the government to do it in the way that it's going forward.

First of all, we don't agree with the direction they're going. We don't believe the government should have the right to unilaterally change what the city of Metropolitan Toronto should look like. We believe the people within that community should have their say. We don't believe the government should unilaterally move on how school board funding will happen and restructure school boards without any kind of local input. We believe the people affected should have their say. What the government is trying to do by way of this motion is take away the say of the people of Ontario.

We have presently before us -- and I just took a look at Orders and Notices -- a number of bills at second and third reading. The government is trying to make us believe they need to have this extra time so they're able to deal with the bills they have before the House now. I would say to the government, if that's all you want to do, if you want to deal with those bills that are presently in Orders and Notices, deal with bills at second and third reading, I'm more than prepared to sit here now. I'm more than prepared to sit here next week. I'm prepared to sit here through Christmas. I'm prepared to sit here until next spring. I haven't got a problem with that.

The government has bills before the House. Those bills have been legally brought to the House according to the standing orders, have been tabled and have been put before us for debate as per the rules and as per the spirit of the rules, as they're allowed to under the standing orders of the Legislature. I haven't got a problem with that. I'm prepared to debate Bill 52, Bill 57, Bill 61, Bill 63, and the list goes on. But I'm not prepared to allow the government to slip a number of bills into all of these that are going to deal with restructuring the municipalities of this province without having the people have their say. That's what the issue is here.

I would also say that the ruling we had earlier from the Speaker, Mr Stockwell, is quite interesting, and I understand what he's saying. Technically, I guess he's right, but when the points of order were raised by the House leader of the third party, Mr Wildman, and Mr Bradley, the House leader of the official opposition, the Speaker came back and said in effect, "The House can decide for itself when it's going to break the rules." That's what the Speaker came back and said. He said, "As long as the House agrees, they can do whatever they want." No matter what the standing orders are in this Legislature about how this House operates, if the government, which has a majority, comes to this House with a motion and says, for example: "We're not going to have question period any more. We're not going to have petitions any more -- "

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Don't give them any ideas.

Mr Bisson: Well, not give them any ideas. You're probably right.

The government would be able to come into this House, table a motion here before us, have the motion debated, which they would win because they have a majority, break the rules of the House, break the rules of the standing orders, do what the heck they want, and the opposition couldn't do anything about it.

That is why we are opposing what this government is doing under this motion. We say, yes, we agree that the Conservative government won an election in 1995. The Conservative government got a majority in the House and the Conservative government has the right to govern, but they have to rule and they have to govern according to the standing orders and according to the constitution that rules Ontario and this Legislature. What we are vehemently opposed to is that the government is trying to rule in such a way that disregards what the traditions of the House are and disregards in effect what the standing orders of this Legislature are. That's what we oppose. That's why we are saying to the government that is not acceptable.

I'm prepared, as I said before, to debate all of the various bills that are now in Orders and Notices -- no problem. The government's going to say: "Well, we don't have enough business to keep us going for the amount of time that is spelled out in the motion that's been put before us now. If we were to try to debate the bills that are in Orders and Notices at second and third reading, we would run out of business and we would not have anything else to do until the spring sitting is supposed to start," at which point they could introduce, according to the standing orders, those draconian bills they want to bring before this House to tell the city of Toronto what it's going to look like six months from now or a year from now when they get this legislation through and the next municipal election happens.

But I say if you look closely at Orders and Notices and take a look at the number of bills they have at second and third reading, it would take anywhere between 46 to 60 sessional days just to deal with what's now presently within Orders and Notices. If you do the math on that, it works out that, in effect, you don't have enough weeks between now and next spring when the sessional sitting starts to be able to deal with everything that's in Orders and Notices, and these I believe are bills the government wants to pass.

I think the government wants to pass all its red tape bills. I would imagine that's why they introduced them. I would imagine the government wants to pass Bill 84, which I wish they didn't, the bill in regard to fire prevention services. I would imagine the government wants to pass Bill 92, an act to promote road safety. I would imagine they want to pass Bill 96, An Act to Consolidate and Revise the Law with respect to Residential Tenancies, where they're scrapping rent control. I imagine there are a lot of bills they'd like to debate.

All of these bills are major pieces of legislation. It's not like these bills are going to come into the House, there's going to be one day of debate and they're going to be gone. Can you imagine in the Legislature of Ontario the government of Ontario coming to this House and saying, "We're going to scrap rent control and you're going to have a one-day debate"? Just on that particular bill alone, there are going to be at least three days' debate at second reading and at least three days' debate at third reading, for six sessional days.

They want to bring a bill before us that's going to scrap the Workers' Compensation Board and change it into something that's good for employers and bad for injured workers. I would imagine again there's going to be at least three sessional days of debate at second reading and another three days of debate at third reading, the point being the government does not have enough sessional time as it is with the motion that's been brought before the House to deal with those bills that are presently in Orders and Notices.

Then the government has the gall to come into this House and say, "We have a motion to extend the sitting so we can bring new business into the House." My God, if the government is so incompetent that they're not able to deal with what they presently have in Orders and Notices, why are they bringing more legislation into the House? Wait until the spring. That's all they have to do.

What this motion is all about is circumventing the rules as they stand in the Legislature, as they treat how legislation is allowed to be brought into the House. I don't argue that the government has the right to govern. I don't argue that the government of the day will have its way. I understand that. That's not the point here. The point is that every government up to this point, under the leadership of Bob Rae, under the leadership of David Peterson, under the leadership of Bill Davis and every other Premier before, has ruled the Legislature according to the standing orders.

What this government is saying is much in keeping with what they did with Bill 26, where they tried to bring an omnibus bill into this House that changed over 50 laws in Ontario. They had the gall a year ago today -- Mr Speaker, you would remember -- to bring Bill 26 into this House and say, "We are going to slip this bill into the House" when all the opposition members were in a lockup over a mini-budget statement that was going on at the time. The government tried to slip into the House an omnibus bill, Bill 26, that in effect changed over 50 laws within Ontario. If it hadn't been for the opposition obstructing the House at this time last year, Bill 26 -- although the government got a version of its Bill 26 passed -- would have been passed in its entirety as it was printed back then. I tell you, if the government had got the bill as it was back then, there would have been parts in Bill 26 that would have been extremely dictatorial that the government would have had.


For example, the Minister of Health would have had the right to go and get medical information about clients who are presently within the OHIP system and would have been able to keep that information in his office and use it as he or she saw fit. Those are the rules they were trying to change under Bill 26. We know just recently what happened; surprise, surprise, exactly that happened. The government tried to make that law happen under Bill 26. Because the opposition obstructed the House last fall, we didn't give them the ability to take that kind of power.

We find out that the government, in effect, under the leadership of Mr Wilson in the Ministry of Health, not more than a week ago did exactly that. The minister had to have ordered, along with the deputy minister, his officials to get information from OHIP in regard to the billings of certain doctors in the province, got that information, brought it into his office and then was going to use that information in order to discredit doctors as part of a communications strategy to discredit the doctors of this province.

How does that relate to this? It relates directly back to what the government did last year. It tried, as they are now, to slip something into the House that gives it the ability to consolidate power on to themselves and on to the cabinet office. If it hadn't been for the obstruction of the opposition last fall, the NDP and the Liberal Party coming together and obstructing the House, the government would have slipped in Bill 26 and there would have been absolutely nothing that the public could have done about it. The public could not have seen what the government was about to do, and when it was done the public couldn't have said anything about it.

So, we obstructed the House. We said, "No, we're not going to allow the government to run roughshod over the entire Legislature as it sees fit." We have a responsibility, Her Majesty's loyal opposition, to make sure that the government is kept accountable, and that's exactly what we did.

Now a year later, on the very day a year later that the government tried to slip in Bill 26 and it took the members of this Legislature in the opposition a sit-in in the House until the very next morning to force the government to move off its agenda, we find them, on the anniversary of Bill 26, trying to do the same kind of thing. They have said, "We are going to pass a motion in this House that allows us to do what we want as a government, and we will circumvent the rules as they exist within the standing orders."

Again, for people who have just tuned in or for members who haven't had the opportunity because they were in and out of the House at the beginning when I started to speak, it's fairly clear what the government is doing. The government is saying there are certain pieces of legislation that it wishes to debate in the new year. The problem is that they can't bring that legislation into the House because of the way the standing orders work. The government, because of its incompetence, was not able to put together its legislation in time. They would have to have brought that legislation into the House about a week ago to have it on the orders and notices paper so that we could have debated it.

Because the government couldn't get its act together, because the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Minister of Education and Training and others who are going to have huge bills come into this House in the winter session weren't able to get their stuff together, they were not able to get their bills into the House or, quite frankly, they didn't want the bills coming into the House because they didn't want the public over the Christmas break to take a look at them, because they're pretty draconian pieces of legislation, let me tell you.

We're going to be giving the government of this province, after those bills are in the House and after they get third reading, the power to restructure entire communities without the communities having their say. We're going to give the Minister of Education and Training the right to restructure entire school board districts without the community having its say. We're going to give the Minister of Education and Training the right to reorganize education financing without the public having its say. These people have the gall to say they're here to represent the taxpayers of the province? Come on. I know you can't believe that the government is allowed to get away with this.

What they're trying to do here, simply, is to say: "Okay, we are going to hoodwink the public, we are going to hoodwink the Legislature and we are going to wait until the new session, or the extension of the session in January, and we will come in and we will introduce those bills when we're ready. We will drop them into the House like storm troopers, and then we will pass them through the House as quickly as we can so the public cannot have their say."

I say the government cannot do that. There are standing orders in this House and they are there for a reason. We have learned through an evolving process of the British parliamentary system that we follow here, which for some 300 years has been evolving -- actually longer than that -- that there are standing orders in this Legislature that say the government has a certain process it needs to go through in order to pass legislation in this province, as it exists in other commonwealths where the British parliamentary system exists. This government is saying, "I'm going to give a boot to the standing orders, I'm going to give a boot to the traditions of the province of Ontario in the Dominion of Canada, and I am going to do what I see fit because my name is Mike Harris, I won the election, and I can do what the heck I want and nobody can say anything about it." I say that's wrong. Does the government have the right to govern? Yes. But they need to do it according to the standing orders.

Specifically in regard to the bills that the government wants to bring before us in the new year, why are they doing this? Why is the government coming in with legislation that's going to allow an entire restructuring of how municipality, school board and education financing is put in place? It's quite simple. The government's got a financial mess on its hands. The government, because it has decided it's going to give people a tax break which is going to cost on an annualized basis at the end of five years $5 billion worth of revenue, is having to go out and scramble to find the dollars to pay for the tax break.

The people in this House, the members of the New Democratic Party, are saying to the government: Listen, it is one thing to try to balance the budget. Ourselves as New Democrats, the Liberals in opposition and the government all agree with the direction that we need to balance the budget. Nobody argues that. In fact, the NDP government of Bob Rae had a plan where over a period of five years we would have balanced the budget. But the difference and where we part company with the government is that we weren't going to do that in addition to giving a tax break.

What sound business operator would say in a time of financial difficulty, "I'm going to not only reduce expenses of my business, but I'm going to pay the shareholders a dividend," or, worse still, "I'm going to give away revenue that I'm now getting because I don't need it any more," and give away part of its revenue? That's what this government is doing. They're trying to find a way. They're scrambling within the ministries to find a way to pay for their tax break.

The government has to reduce $8 billion worth of government expenditure to balance the present provincial budget. In addition to the $8 billion, they've got to find another $2 billion to $2.5 billion to offset what the federal Liberal government is cutting in transfer payments to the province. So we're now at $10.5 billion. Then in addition to $10.5 billion, the combination of the present deficit and the $2.5 billion from the federal government, the provincial government of Ontario, the Mike Harris government, has to go and cut $5 billion in order to pay for the tax break. This is what this is about.

So what are they doing? They're bringing legislation into the House by stealth, by breaking the rules, by the sheer majority they have on the other side, and saying: "To heck with it. We're going to break the rules and we're going to introduce legislation in this House that's going to do the following." They're going to restructure according to their vision of what the metropolitan city of Toronto governance structure should be, never mind what the referendum said at the last municipal election. There was a referendum question placed by I believe Metro where they decided --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Toronto.

Mr Bisson: It was Toronto actually -- where they decided what they would like to see in regard to what kind of governance they should have in the city. The Mike Harris government campaigned in the last election saying: "We believe in local government. We believe the people should have their say by way of referenda." Well, what happened?

Mr Marchese: That was then.

Mr Bisson: That was then; this is now. It's another flip-flop. The government is saying, "Hey, not only do we no longer believe in local government," but the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is saying, "I believe in one supergovernment in the city of Toronto," in the entire area of Metro: quite, quite contrary to the position of the Tory caucus prior to the last election.

Then the government has the gall to bring to this House, and has in committee right now, a work that is going on to develop referendum legislation in this province. The leader of the NDP, Howard Hampton, said: "At the very least, if you're going to put the boots to the city of Toronto, let the people of the city of Toronto, let the people of North York and the other boroughs have their say about how the municipality should be restructured. Have a referendum." What did the government say? "No, no. Can't have a referendum. That wouldn't be a good idea. That wouldn't work." That's what he says.


Mr Bradley: When it's convenient, they want a referendum.

Mr Bisson: Exactly. The government says, "We're going to have a referendum when it's convenient for us." That's what they're saying. "We're not going to have a referendum because a referendum should be called in this case to give the people of the city of Toronto their opportunity to have their say." Here the government is trying to have it both ways. They're trying to say, "We believe in referendums when it suits us, but when it suits the people of the city of Toronto or it suits people other than Tory acolytes, we're not going to have a referendum."

We here in this House from the NDP caucus are saying to the government tonight: We will fight you on this one and we will fight you all the way, because you don't have the right, sir, Mr Premier; you don't have the right, sir, Mr Municipal Affairs; you don't have the right, Mr Minister of Education, to run roughshod over the democracy of the province of Ontario. And I dare you -- I shouldn't dare you, because you're doing it, but I say shame to you. You don't have the right to do that. You have the right to govern because the people have given you the right under an election, but you have to do it according to the standing orders and you have to do it according to the Constitution of Canada.

You are, by way of this motion, saying, "To hell with the rules." The motion basically says the government will do what it wants when it comes to the standing orders about how legislation is introduced in this House. Then the Speaker comes into this House -- the other Speaker, Speaker Stockwell -- and says: "Well, technically the government's right. It has the right by majority to do what it wants as a Legislature. The Legislature can choose to break the rules."

Mr Speaker, the Legislature, the government of the province of Ontario, should live by the rules. It doesn't have the right, in my view, to come in and to do what it wants by way of what I would call jackboot tactics to the people of Ontario. They should have --

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Pardon me. I don't consider that parliamentary. I don't think that's acceptable and I would ask you to withdraw.

Mr Bisson: "Jackboot tactics"? All right, I withdraw. I'm not going to argue. I think I've made the point. The government is using tactics that are extremely heavy-handed, tactics that I believe are contrary to the traditions of the Legislature, strategies that I believe are contrary to the intent of how a British parliamentary system should work, and it's saying it's going to do what it wants. I say to the government, you're wrong. You shouldn't be doing that.

We have legislation that is now before the House. We should deal with the legislation that's on the Orders and Notices paper. We should do so not only this week; we should do it next week. As far as I'm concerned, we can keep on debating and we can keep this legislation in until you want. I don't care. You have the right to have us sit here through Christmas all the way until June. That's not the issue. I don't mind that. In fact, I look forward to the question periods that are going to be ensuing. I look forward to having the ability to come in and ask the ministers and the Premier questions and keep them accountable for what they're doing. But I certainly am not in favour of your basically running over the rules of this Legislature and saying, "We're going to do what we want," because the people of Ontario somehow, you feel, support what you're doing.

I don't believe they support your utilizing heavy-handed tactics in this House. In fact, I remember the polling that was going on last year around Bill 26. The people of Ontario were astounded and aghast at the tactics used by this government. People of the province in 1995 were saying around Bill 26: "We don't agree with the Mike Harris government, which is using heavy-handed tactics to get its agenda through. We agree that the government has the right to govern, but it should govern according to the rules and not just do what it wants." And that's exactly what's going on.

It's very much in keeping with this government. The one thing that really amazes me with this government is how they're in a complete state of denial. Every time members of the opposition stand up and ask the government a question, be it the Premier or the Minister of Education or whoever it might be, they always blame somebody else: "Oh, no, no, that's not true. That's not happening. No, no, it's somebody else." They're never accountable for the things that are going wrong in the province, but the minute there's a little bit of good news, they're out there saying: "It's all us. We did it. We're smart. We're great. We're doing a great job."

The buck stops here. You're the government and you have to be held accountable. Yes, you can take credit when things go right, but you also have to accept responsibility when things go wrong.

A good example of that is what we are seeing now with at least two ministers of the crown. We have on the one hand the former Minister of Health, who we now know has ordered, through the OHIP office, documents and billing information in regard to certain doctors in Ontario; got that information, had it sent in to his office and that information was going to be used as part of a communications strategy to smear doctors as they are trying to negotiate an agreement with the province.

How do we know that? Because the individual the Premier keeps on saying has been fired, the staffer within the Ministry of Health, as much as said that he had the information. The Premier is trying to deny that any information exists but we know exactly what happened because, in their own words, the government -- and the aide of the Minister of Health called up the Globe and Mail, left a message on the voice mail; called the Globe and Mail reporter after and said, "I've got some information here you might be interested in." That's pretty direct. That means to say you've got the information.

The Minister of Health then refuses to resign until the House comes back so that they can have an opportunity to rifle through their files to make sure there's nothing in there that could be found, and then comes into the House and says, "Oh, I step aside while an investigation is going on."

Well, we already know what's going on in that account. They've cleaned the offices of the Minister of Health so that the information that would have been damning to the Minister of Health is gone, more than likely.

The second point is, they appoint the privacy commissioner. The Premier of Ontario says, "I'm going to let the privacy commissioner do the investigation."

Mr Bradley: I think the shredder motors are burnt out.

Mr Bisson: Oh, the shredder motors got burnt out, Jim, the first night; I can assure you of that. What happened is that the minute the Premier of Ontario says the privacy commissioner is the one who's going to do the investigation -- and we know that the privacy commissioner doesn't have the authority to do the kind of investigation that needs to be done. He cannot subpoena witnesses. Nobody is forced to have to speak to the privacy commissioner. If the person says, "No, I'm not going to talk to you," there's nothing the privacy commissioner can do about it because he doesn't have the right to subpoena, and nobody has the right to cross-examine the people who are brought before the inquiry in front of the privacy commissioner.

We are saying as an opposition New Democratic Party and our leader, Howard Hampton, is saying there needs to be a full public inquiry or, at the very least, there needs to be a legislative standing committee that has the ability to do exactly that to get to the bottom of this and to make sure that the information we believe was at the Ministry of Health office -- that we can look into those matters.

Mr Len Wood: They're breaking the law.

Mr Bisson: Exactly. The member for Cochrane North says they're breaking the law. Of course they're breaking the law. It's an indictable offence. The information that was at the office of the Minister of Health is information that he couldn't have, as it was illegal. There are laws that protect the information of people and people's billings that even the Minister of Health can't have. In the form that he had it, in fact he was breaking the law, which becomes, I would imagine, an indictable offence. It means to say that criminal charges could be laid. This is a very serious matter.

On the other hand, you've got the Attorney General, who in his own way has his own little smear campaign going on about members of this Legislature, mainly the member for Sudbury East and the member for Welland-Thorold because they tried to hold him accountable to the mess he caused by messing up the family support plan system.

I say again, in the last minute I want to make it perfectly clear: The NDP caucus is not opposed to the House sittings being extended. We're prepared to stay here now and we're prepared to stay through Christmas until spring, if need be. That's not the issue. Don't get that wrong. What we are opposed to is that the government, by way of this motion, is in effect breaking the rules of the Legislature in saying that the government, by the weight of its sheer majority, will break the rules of the Legislature and it will introduce bills into this House that normally would not have the authority to be here under the existing standing orders.

We say to the government, as members of the New Democratic caucus, you don't have the right to do that. You were elected, you have the right to govern, but you have to govern according to the rules of this House. That's the very least that you owe the people of Ontario. When you don't do that, the members of the opposition will keep you accountable, because if we don't, who in heck will?

With that, Mr Speaker, I would to thank you very much for having this opportunity for debate.


Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): As I understand this motion, the opposition objects to bringing the spring session into January, and I say that most people would be pleased to see spring in January.

There are two areas that I would like to address and one of them is regarding the remarks made by the member for Algoma, who indicated that we were in a rush to get to the Who Does What recommendations in education because we were out to destroy the education system, or words to that effect.

The fact of the matter is that the Who Does What people have made various recommendations on education finance. I didn't know this myself, but apparently everybody in politics has known for a long time that there are serious problems with education finance in Ontario and those have existed for a long time.

For example in 1985, the report of the Commission on the Financing of Elementary and Secondary Education in Ontario, the Macdonald report, recommended that there needed to be a pooling of commercial and industrial tax revenue, with equal distribution of grants on a per pupil basis. That recommendation was in 1985. Since that time we've had a Conservative government, we've had a Liberal government and we've had an NDP government, and none of those governments has acted on it. They just haven't had the courage to do so, because obviously there are people who are interested in protecting the status quo.

I'm referring to a document sent to me by a Dr Cynthia Armstrong, which is a submission given to me because I'm conducting the secondary school reform and I'll be presenting a paper next month. This is a document designed not to destroy the education system but to improve on it and strengthen it. This is not something written by the government or by a Conservative supporter; this is written by a constituent.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): She's one of the biggest Tory supporters in Essex South.

Mr Skarica: She's from Essex South, that's true, as one of the members indicated.

She made a submission as follows:

"Arguments put forth by assessment-rich boards calling for an increase in provincial funding to assessment-poor boards, rather than equalization, are self-serving and unrealistic in light of the current financial deficit that this province faces. It is well known that education spending in Ontario supersedes that of most other industrialized nations in the world. Our problem is not lack of funds, but rather unfair distribution of the funds available."

That problem has been evident in our educational system for a long time, but no government has had the courage to tackle that problem up to this point. This government, finally, is taking steps to remedy a longstanding problem that no other government has had the courage to correct.

There's one other area I'd like to address, and that's regarding, again, the Who Does What recommendations.

Mr Len Wood: Who does what to whom and when, and how much is it going to cost?

Mr Skarica: Who Does What is going to do something to me, and I don't like it.

One recommendation of Who Does What in my area, Hamilton-Wentworth, is that the government implement as quickly as possible a supercity deal signed by four of six municipalities. I'm surprised that members of the opposition haven't referred to this document, because it refers to a $30-million tax cut, and everybody who's been sitting in this Legislature for the last year and half knows that you hate tax cuts. I haven't heard any criticism of this $30-million tax cut by the NDP or Liberal members, and one of each is in Hamilton.

What's interesting about the $30-million tax cut proposed in this document is that there are no details of how it's going to be done. It excludes, for example, transition costs and other changes, whatever that means. My understanding of mergers, whether they're done by corporations or governments, is that you take accountants and lawyers and you look at what you're going to do, if you're doing to do it responsibly, and determine what the costs and the consequences are. Nothing like that has been done in this situation. There's no legal analysis of this document; there's no accounting analysis of this document. In fact, there's no accounting or costing of any kind.

This is one of the most irresponsible actions, in my opinion, ever taken by anybody. It's incredible that you could suggest changes of this scale, probably the biggest in the history of Hamilton-Wentworth, and not have a single piece of paper outlining how much they are going to cost. Even though it's about to be one of the most irresponsible decisions ever made by anybody, we haven't heard a shred of criticism by the opposition.

Not only have the opposition members not attacked this deal, this $30-million tax cut, but they've endorsed it, and the reason they've endorsed it is quite simple: It creates big government and thereby creates big costs. That's what they like. That's what they're familiar with.

What's also interesting about this -- again nobody from the opposition has mentioned it or even looked at it, and we've heard catcalls and heckling here about private deals, private goings-on at the Ministry of Health and what's going on and so on -- is that the whole genesis of this deal is a backroom deal. This was done totally in private, contrary to section 55 of the Municipal Act, contrary to Minister Leach's own guidelines. The municipal mayors and regional councillors got together and spent a night in a hotel, and at the end of the day, at 4:30 in the morning -- it seems a lot of things in the political arena are being done at 4:30 in the morning nowadays, when no one is watching -- this document came forward about this supercity deal. The only expensing I have seen, that the public has seen, is a $700 bill for booze that was submitted to the regional government. That is the only expensing of any kind the public has seen as a result --

Mr Laughren: Is it Etobicoke or Hamilton you're talking about?

Mr Skarica: It's in Hamilton.

What's also disturbing is that the three suburban mayors who signed, and one of them is in my riding -- two didn't and they're in my riding -- are now indicating to the press and to me and to anyone else that the reason they signed it wasn't because it was a good deal or because they felt this was the best thing to do or because they liked tax cuts or big government; they're all saying in the press and elsewhere that they felt there was a gun pointed to their heads, that they had no choice but to sign this. They were told by the regional chairman, Terry Cooke, and the so-called mediator, Gardner Church, that if they didn't sign this, something worse was going to be imposed by the government.

Mr Conway: What could be worse than Gardner Church?

Mr Skarica: Good question. The truth of the matter is that when the Who Does What committee came out, I was looking in the document: "What's worse? Is the gun going to go off? Are there knives going to be thrown at these people?" In fact, when I looked at the document, every other alternative that was proposed by the Who Does What, except for the one they signed, was better.

Mr Conway: Are you talking about Kingston or Hamilton?

Mr Skarica: I'm talking about Hamilton.

Mr Conway: Because Al Leach has given birth to twins in Kingston. It sounds like a perfect match for what's going on in Hamilton-Wentworth.

Mr Skarica: I'm glad I'm getting support from the opposition for my submission here to the Legislature. It's the first time I've heard anything.

The great hallmark of the supercity deal, if you look at it, for those who have read it -- I question whether some of the people who signed it have read it very carefully -- is that it asks more questions than it gives answers.

For example, the whole purpose of this document was to save money, yet shortly thereafter, when people asked: "Where's the costing? Where's the accounting?" there was no accounting, there was no costing, there were no expenses except for that $700 booze bill. Many of the people who signed it started retreating and saying, "It's not about cost, it's about reducing politicians." Then I look at the document, and Hamilton has 16 councillors, and in the supercity deal how many councillors do they have? Anybody want to guess?

Mr Laughren: More than 16.

Mr Skarica: No, 16 plus a community council. There are not fewer politicians, there's at least the same number.

If you look at the document, aside from all the other criticisms, the hallmark of it is that it's poorly drafted, it doesn't answer anything. I suggest that nobody has criticized it here because the opposition doesn't mind poor drafting. For example, the amendment by the NDP to the Liberal amendment on this motion had the same effect as the Conservatives' original motion, and now the NDP has withdrawn it. I can only assume from this that the NDP does not oppose the supercity deal, because it's as poorly drafted as their own motion today.

Mrs Pupatello: I am pleased to speak this evening on the motion the government has brought forward to change the sessions of the House, and a good evening to our Minister of Transportation as well. What I was not looking forward to at the beginning of this week was having to finish our work this Thursday, because there are so many issues our party is anxious to discuss here in the House during question period and during debate that I was loath to have to give up until next year.

When you come from an area like I do, in Windsor-Sandwich, there are issues that are not just simmering now, they're boiling hot. The member for Sarnia will know well what I'm speaking of because he is finding the same in his own riding of Sarnia, and I'm talking of course of the health issues.


Today, when we hear the beginning of the motion that we're going to be extended to the end of next week, I'll say hurrah, because we are anxious to be here. Our own House leader has already issued us our e-mail and our directive that we are to be here and cancel all plans for next week. In fact, if we need to be here until the 24th, nay, the morning of the 25th, so be it. We would prefer to be here because we have issues that we feel are highly relevant to where we come from. In fact, we intend to speak for members like the member for Sarnia, because the member for Sarnia clearly is more uncomfortable than I would be in speaking out against government policy. Kudos, sometimes, for those who have dared to speak at least to their local media about things that are happening at home, even though, when they come here to the House, they don't have the same opportunities that we have to speak up, and we should.

The latter part of the motion the government has brought forward today is of great concern. The VLT is simply another issue. I was quite disappointed that I, the member of the House who has had a casino in the middle of her riding for two years, who should have had an opportunity to speak on the VLT bill, didn't have an opportunity to speak on it. What did this government do at the time? The government brought closure. The government did not want to hear what the member for Windsor-Sandwich had to say about VLTs and their negative impact on a casino industry that is simply beginning in Ontario.

Had anyone spoken to casino experts across the country, even here in Ontario? I'm sure they didn't. We certainly didn't hear from them. I'm certain the government didn't forward any of that kind of information that was relevant. The government has had a history of having to quieten down the opposition, and we refuse to accept that.

The motion we're debating today is about going to next week, which we applaud because we're anxious to do so, but secondly, they want to begin the spring session in the middle of January. We fully expect to be here in January. Our House leader is determined to whip us into shape as opposition members, but we knew we would be here at the beginning of January. We don't have any problem with that.

The hook is that the House leader of the government party chose his words very carefully and decided to say that calling it a new session allows the government to bring forward new bills. He is also intending, as the government House leader, to have those bills completed by the end of that session in March. That tells us that in a mere two months he is going to bring forward bills of such magnitude that we will not have the ability to get proper representation where we come from, to have appropriate debate here in this House. To that I say, why is the government so intent on using those types of words to allow for a new session, to try to rush through bills? Perhaps they know what we're going to be saying in some instances and they don't want to hear.

The other theory I have specific to the Minister of Transportation is that in calling mid-January a spring session, he might figure he will get away with less of an invoice on salt use, because he's trying to get away from even having a winter session, and that certainly is not going to happen. In fact, if we check the records to date, or at least the almanac, they're probably going to use more salt than ever, which brings me to an interesting point. I need to digress for a moment and I hope the Speaker will indulge me.

With the passing of bills in the past, when we talk about a tax cut -- I'm referring to one of the members from Hamilton who spoke just before me on what people really want in terms of a tax cut; do they want a tax cut? When we talk about salt I think of the tax cut, and I'll tell you why: Because the Premier is so intent on bringing forward a tax cut, the government needs to borrow billions of dollars to finance it, and in so doing they have made massive cuts to their transfer partners, a critical one being municipalities, and have also decided to privatize many areas, like highway maintenance, and the southwest area, my area, has been the prime target, which they've decided to make their pilot project.

What does that mean, now that they've privatized the highways down there? Let me tell you what it means to townships in Essex county. Where they used to spend $900 per township, payable to the Ministry of Transportation -- which is probably not enough money; it should have been higher -- for salt service so that during a storm, if we had it, the Ministry of Transportation would get out there all over Essex county and throw salt, now, under this new scheme --

Mr Crozier: "They should pack salt."

Mrs Pupatello: Or pack salt, as the member for Essex South knows well, being from my county.

Let me tell you what we get in Essex county. The municipalities will be due for a bill from the private company that has overtaken the maintenance of highways for salt coverage, during storms, of $20,000 a year. Maybe $900 wasn't enough, but a $20,000 bill per municipality in my county, payable to a private company? Why? Because this government has selected to slash the funding to municipalities, one of the most significant transfer partners in the province. Why? To finance the tax cut. And now you know why, when I think of the tax cut, I think of salt -- not because I happen to have the largest salt mine in the middle of my riding. All of us have heard of Windsor salt. You probably find it on your table most nights. That comes from the riding of Windsor-Sandwich.

The greatest disappointment of all, for those who have been Conservative supporters, is that now, after a mere year and a half of a Conservative government that is simply called "Conservative" and is truly Reform, we are seeing implications of their policy: a tax cut that would dare to finance itself by borrowing money and incurring more debt. What does a $20,000 salt bill mean for people, municipalities, townships, LaSalle, Maidstone, any township in my county? The town of LaSalle has 20,000 people in it. That in effect works out to $1 a head a year just for salt. My House leader agrees. This is unconscionable. Did we know this is what it was going to mean? No. Were they clear about that?

Today I want to talk about this motion before us. Why are we going to come back in January? If the government were smart, they would get the heck out of the House because they can't take the heat here. We're bringing out far too many issues that are relevant. They want to come back only for a reason: to introduce new legislation that we are not going to have near the opportunity to discuss in full. I want to know the ramifications of every bill that comes into this House. I want to know the full implication for my riding of Windsor-Sandwich, or my future riding of Windsor West. I want to know what it's going to be. They have in a very clever, devious way, used wording that allows it to be called a new session, totally inappropriately.

What causes us the most consternation of all is that this evening we have had a ruling from the Speaker. After he took some 20 minutes to deliberate, he came back to the House to determine whether the bill was in order. This is what he said:

"Finally, and I think this is the most important of all, the House is supreme," and we agree. "The Legislature itself can change sessional periods, it can make changes to the standing orders." We watched this happen under an NDP government, which was most difficult for the other parties at the time, and all we can say is that was then and this is now. "These are guidelines, and if a motion is in fact in order and the House votes on it, they can change the standing orders at any time. We must remember that, because we've often in past governments, and in examples that I've seen, seen all parties and all governments change standing orders or stand down standing orders for specific reasons."

The specific reason in this case is because the government does not want to allow an opposition party, namely, the Ontario Liberal Party, to find very good reasons why there will need to be amendments to bills that are brought forward here, and the government is bound to give us the time to look for those reasons because that's our job. For the Speaker to come back to the House today and say that because they have the power to do it, that motion stands and is in order -- I say to the Speaker there is more history in this House that is relevant than what he chooses to call being in order, that what is more relevant is that there is a history here called democracy and that we need to have the opportunity to act as her loyal opposition. We have to have a due process and an allowable amount of time that lets us go back to our constituents and to key leaders in our communities, that allows us to see whether in fact public hearings are required, the results of those hearings, to say, "Are we making the right decisions?"


Granted, we're in the minority, and yes, there's a majority government, but regardless of that, the government, we want to hope, wants to do the right thing, and because of that, it needs to hear from her loyal opposition, and that's us. If the government members didn't understand, what may seem to be just semantics in the slight change of a word, in the slight change of the name of the session, in fact is highly relevant to us and to most people in Ontario. If you've really got nothing to hide, you've got no problem taking the time to hear us out, and that includes the time to speak appropriately, with enough time to get the right kind of information.

The Minister of Transportation is well known for wanting to hear. All I can say to the ministers here tonight is, give us the time. This motion must change; there must be amendments.

Mr Conway: I thought you would have said, "Give us the salt." I want to hear more about the salt.

Mrs Pupatello: I wouldn't mind speaking more about the salt. It's actually quite astonishing to think that townships in Essex county will be paying $20,000 more. Most of our townships don't have the reserves. At least they had some reserves, some of them, last year. What we're finding in our research so far, during a Conservative reign in Ontario, is that the municipalities couldn't reconfigure themselves or re-engineer themselves, call it what you will, fast enough for the massive cuts to transfers they were getting. What they were forced to do in the first year was to use up their reserves. We're into the second year now. Those reserves are no longer available. Now we're starting to see the kinds of changes that the government never expected but that we said would happen.

During the hearings on Bill 26, I talked about the potential in Bill 26 to put up a toll booth on the E.C. Rowe Expressway. In fact, that is now possible because of Bill 26. The minister perhaps has not driven the E.C. Rowe Expressway in Windsor-Sandwich, but I will tell you that you can come from Tecumseh at the one end and go to LaSalle at the other. If the city of Windsor was that cash-strapped, it could put up a toll booth.

Hon Mr Palladini: I agreed to come.

Mrs Pupatello: Now the minister wants to discuss this. Let's discuss with the Minister of Transportation exactly what we've been trying to tell him for some time. He has decided, in his wisdom, to make a road transfer for the town of LaSalle. In this road transfer, he's decided to give us a road that, in its current condition, is not even up to standard, the minister's standard. So, we brought the good people of LaSalle here to Queen's Park. We met with the minister. We showed him photos, we showed him pictures, we've invited him to come to LaSalle. Come to Windsor. The door is always open. We've said, "You have not given us the funding required to even upgrade the roads to the standards the minister himself wants Ontario to follow." He's taken that under advisement, and we are expecting a decision soon.

I believe what I had asked the minister for actually was a decision before Christmas, because in fact if the minister is going to be fair and transfer roads, at least transfer the roads to allow us to get to standard. The town of LaSalle has 20,000 people in it. It's the fastest-growing town in Canada by housing starts. Surely, you are not going to make the people of LaSalle suffer. There are some good Conservatives in LaSalle, too, so if not, do it for political reasons, but for God's sake you need to do it because this clearly needs to be revisited.

Mr Crozier: What about the 10% for the casino, too?

Mrs Pupatello: Yes, we should talk about the casino some time, because for some strange reason I was not allowed to speak to Bill 75. Here we have a slot machine bill. Where in the province is Bill 75 going to have the greatest impact but in my riding? In the heart of the riding of Windsor-Sandwich, the people of Ontario would find the longest-standing casino in Ontario. Two years we've been under operation. We have poured millions of dollars into the coffers of Ontario, but this government has selected to introduce slot machines, 20,000 of them.

The only good thing about the bill is that the raceway in Windsor, another controlled environment that does gamble, is going to be allowed to have slot machines. But there's no other protection in that bill they passed, and we have yet to see what those ramifications will be, but we will see them soon.

But here we have a government that is so haphazard, jumping all over the place, sort of like patchwork, just, I suppose, like the work the Minister of Transportation does on the roads, a little bit of asphalt there, a little bit of asphalt there, but eventually it starts to crumble again. All I can say is that the introduction of slot machines in Ontario at the same time that you choose to open --


Mrs Pupatello: Every bar and every restaurant now is going to have that available to them.

You just made a grand opening in Niagara Falls. You just opened a new casino in Niagara Falls. You've got the casino in Orillia. Why, when you are trying to get a casino industry up and running in the province of Ontario, would you dilute the gambling industry by introducing slot machines? From a business perspective, it makes absolutely no sense.

The fact that I was not allowed to address those concerns during the discussion on Bill 75 is ample reason and ample example for the people in this House to understand that the motion that is before us today gives me that same kind of shortness of time as a member of Her Majesty's loyal opposition. The people of Windsor-Sandwich deserve that kind of representation. The people across the way need to understand that we do have some very valid concerns. We're not going to oppose everything just for the sake. We've got very good, sound evidence why you need to amend and why you need to discard sometimes, but surely the government members are so interested in the public good that they would want us to have that opportunity. What I say now is that the motion before us today does not allow us that opportunity.

Mr Bradley: What about the obstetricians?

Mrs Pupatello: We can't get away from my discussion in the short time I have left to talk about the health care system in Windsor-Sandwich. Why I'm so anxious to be here until Christmas and why I responded quite well to the e-mail from our House leader that said, "Look, cancel plans for the next three months; you're here in the House," and I say that's fine by me, is that we had a revelation over the weekend, and that revelation concerned health, and that certainly culminated in the resignation of the health minister.

This is not anything that's personal. I think on an individual basis this individual has worked long and hard in the portfolio that he's been given. I will say that he did come to this job with no vision, and I must be consistent on this. The health minister had no vision for health care in Ontario, and in particular for my riding of Windsor-Sandwich, which is very similar to other regions in Ontario that are not surrounding teaching centres, because those are the areas that have traditionally been underfunded in health.

What happened when the health minister resigned? He has thrown the whole state -- if there was anything in a particular array, it is now in disarray. We have meetings that have been postponed. Everything has been put on hold. That may not mean much to people who come from Metro or the GTA, who have been funded at a higher level per capita than the people from Windsor-Sandwich, but let me tell you what it means to me and the people where I come from.

We have been underfunded for many years. Yes, we've had a specialist deficiency in terms of medical care for some time. Now we have a case where we have so few obstetricians, much like the member for Sarnia is experiencing, with women who are pregnant -- I have women on our list in our constituency office who are in their seven month now, sixth month, who have yet to see an obstetrician -- this is a very serious matter. I defy any member to stand in this House and tell me something that is more relevant and more important to quality of life, just to our persons, than a baby being born. There isn't anything. Here we have women who are frightened. We have tried to organize their care through the United States, much against my will, I can tell you. I don't want our women going to the United States, not when we have an exceptional level of service in Windsor, but that's the point.

This minister has, from the moment he arrived, caused such dissension among the groups that he needs to work with, since he arrived in that ministry, that he alone must bear the fact that we now are in negotiations that have not yet been settled with the Ontario Medical Association. That minister, the same minister who resigned this week, is the same minister who has brought all this to bear on the Conservative government and the Premier, Mike Harris. Let me tell you what my local paper said about all of this.


Mr Bradley: What paper is that?

Mrs Pupatello: That's the Windsor Star. We have a columnist, Gord Henderson. I suppose to call him controversial might be an understatement. In any event, he had a very quiet discussion with some local Conservatives and his take on the whole situation with the health minister having resigned --

Mr Conway: Is it true that the Conservatives in Windsor-Sandwich are protected only by the game laws?

Mrs Pupatello: Yes, that is true, member. The government is hearing loud and clear from its own grassroots that this dispute is inflicting political damage that could have devastating long-term consequences. Now, this is Gord Henderson speaking to local Conservative activists in my county.

Mr Crozier: Both of them.

Mrs Pupatello: No, there are actually more than two. He says, "Fix the problem fast before it's too late." That frantic message was recently conveyed to Wilson in a letter from the Essex South Progressive Conservative Association. I wonder if it's that same Cynthia Armstrong that the member previous spoke about. When we're going to bring in those kinds of examples, I think it's important to also say who is speaking and for whom because that is highly relevant in today's discussion.

"Fix the problem fast before it's too late." That was the message from local Conservatives to Wilson, to the Conservative government, because they have seen it crumble. The wheels are going flying off this car and, really, what direction are we going in? This minister has come up with umpteen examples of what maybe he's going to do in Windsor-Sandwich or in Essex county to fix the problem for pregnant women. "Oh, we're going to send them to the States. They can just pop across the river." Remember that? That was absurd. He didn't talk about potential immigration issues, customs issues. He didn't talk about potential visitors' visas required by women who have landed immigrant status.

Then to make matters worse, he got himself caught in a scrum outside, and what was his answer at the time? "We're going to open a clinic and it's going to be open within 30 to 60 days." Do you know how many days ago that was? Almost 60 days ago. We are nowhere closer to a clinic in Windsor than we were before he mentioned it. Now all of a sudden, he's got a brainstorm. That clinic has been on the books in the Windsor area since 1993. This is nothing new.

The people in Windsor have known what the issues are and have been looking for government to show leadership for some time. So I highly resent the ex-Minister of Health trying to come to the table with all of these things, and now he's ex-minister and he's gone. What has that left us? This is most unfortunate. You've appointed the House leader, the Management Board Chair. You've thrown the health ministry on this man, and it's an impossibility for him to handle. The problems in Essex county alone are more than most ministers can bear on that side of the House.

So he decided to talk for some time about rationalizing health services. All of a sudden, about a month ago, the light went on. About a month ago, the light went on and a concept that was born in England somewhere in the early 1900s that talked about a comprehensive health organization all of a sudden is starting to make sense. If the minister had returned our phone calls when he was first made minister, last week, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, we would have told him that the people in Essex county have known for a long time that we need an integrated health system. That's what we need.

The minister was scheduled to meet with health leaders in Windsor on December 17. Now he's the ex-minister. Is your Management Board Chair prepared to continue that dialogue? We still don't have a clinic for prenatal care. We don't have women popping across the river because it's quite difficult to get them there, and instead we're mired in a quagmire of bureaucratic red tape to get their applications processed so they'll have pre-approval for OHIP to get them to an American doctor.

Just this past weekend on CBC in Windsor, what did they show us? They showed Windsor people, families, parents, going, finally, in their sixth or seventh month, to Detroit, to Hutzel Hospital, Henry Ford Hospital, to get care at a cost, my friends, of five, sometimes six, times the cost of that same service here in Windsor.

Mr Bradley: What did the doctors say in Detroit?

Mrs Pupatello: The doctors in Detroit, when they saw them, said, "I can't believe these people have not been seen by an obstetrician." These people have to have appropriate prenatal care. It's actually to the point where women's health care is being compromised. This is unacceptable. Do I want to be in the House until Christmas? Absolutely. Do we want to be here in January? Absolutely. Can this government possibly afford to bring forward new legislation not to give us a chance? Absolutely not, and that becomes the whole discussion.

We have too many things to talk about that are highly relevant today, and the health ministry is but one, although it's a major one. It's the ministry that expends the most. Governments continue to claim here that they're spending more. Well, if the government had a plan for health care, that might seem reasonable.

Let's make a quick summary of the ex-health minister and his legacy in Ontario to date. Let's look at his legacy. He cut $1.3 billion to hospitals. He gave himself new powers during Bill 26. He has made the situation between the Ontario Medical Association and the ministry the most impossible to get over, so much so that at one point even my Essex county medical association president in Windsor, who is typically a very reasonable individual, said, "As a sensible, calm and reasonable physician who has attempted to guide his medical community through unstable times, always focusing on achievable goals, attempting to avoid rhetoric, I, Ian McLeod, MD, have finally become appalled and even incensed at the recent puerile behaviour of your government." So we want to talk about the timeliness of the minister's resignation.

Mr Len Wood: He was fired by Mike Harris.

Mrs Pupatello: Yes, indeed, he was fired. He has also done it himself.

This is Gord Henderson in the Windsor paper, "How timely of Wilson to do the honourable thing and clear the way for the government's most capable minister, Management Board Chairman Dave Johnson, to take over negotiations at this critical state." How timely. The Conservative people in my community have said months ago it's time this minister went. How absolutely timely that he chose to resign.

There is far more to this than a simple leak of information and it's certainly far more than what some of the people wanted to start to discuss. "Doctors' OHIP Billings Should Be Public," written in the Toronto Star. Hello, hello. All I want to say is, let us not get carried away on to another topic. If that is a topic that should be discussed, it will and at another time. It is simply irrelevant in this discussion.

All I can say is that I welcome the opportunity to be here till Christmas. I welcome the opportunity to be here in January. This government cannot afford to send health care off the rails, and if it's off the rails, all four are off the rails, and unfortunately for Ontario and for our citizens, especially those in the Essex county area, the areas like Sarnia, two wheels are already off the rails. The government can't afford the introduction of new legislation because if they did it, they would do it as they have done most things in the past: they did too much and they did it too fast. The government cannot afford the same mistake.

Mr Marchese: I just want to remind people it's 11:35 and I'm happy to be present, awake, alert and eager to join in this debate and the motion that has been introduced by Minister Johnson from Don Mills.

I want to talk to the people who are still awake and watching and hopefully eager to follow this discussion; I want to tell them why this motion is before us. I want to say off the bat, this is about more Tory malfeasance, and it's about to happen in the next month.

This is the kind of discussion that probably has gone on in the Tory caucus in the last little while. Mike Harris probably went to caucus in the last week or two -- I'm just waiting for the Speaker. I'm sure there's a ruling coming. Did the word "malfeasance" bother anybody?

Hon Mr Palladini: Rosario, don't use those big words. Come on, talk like College Street.

Mr Marchese: All right. I think I can move on. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to continue.

I can just imagine the discussion that probably went on in caucus. Mike Harris probably went and said: "Boys, we're having some tough times. We've got to hang on. I know you guys are tired. We've been through a lot already, but if we can just hang on for the next couple of months, our agenda will be pushed through. We will be able to effectively pass all the things that we wanted and the people will enjoy it and like it, but we need to do it in the next three months. It has to be done. We cannot afford to push our agenda beyond next June because if it continues beyond next June," Mike said, "we have a big problem on our hands. Boys, I know you're tired and you're going to be awfully tired when you come back, but it's got to be done. It has to be done. So enjoy the couple of days you're going to have from the 24th or so until January 3, because when we come back, there are a whole lot of things we've got to get done.

"The good thing about this strategy," Mike said to you and all of the caucus members, "is that we will bamboozle the whole public. They won't know where to run. There are going to be so many bills, they won't know which bill to defend and/or attack, because we will present the whole bundle, the whole stockpiling of bills, all at once. They will be so divided they won't notice that we have stockpiled so many bills that will hurt the public, but at the end we will have achieved what we want. And in the following two years, we will be able to simply coast without having to introduce anything that people will notice, that people will attack us for."


This is what this motion is all about. That is why these fine Tories have said and continue to say, "We want to come back and work." We all want to work here. I haven't heard one member saying we don't want to work. Every member in this House wants to work. I'm just providing a reason, for those of you who are still awake, why it is that the Tories want to eagerly come back here on January 13 to work, that is, they know their agenda has to be completed by next June or they are in political trouble if the agenda is pushed beyond that date. They can't afford to push some of these measures, such as amalgamation of Metropolitan Toronto, of all the cities into one megacity, beyond next January.

There are going to be tax changes. We're going to have market value assessment again. They've been able to push that off for some time for a reason. The reason we don't have it yet is because they don't quite know what to do. They have been told by a number of experts in the field that market value assessment is too complicated to bring in in the time they want, so they're scrambling. The experts from British Columbia have said, "You don't have the resources to do it." No other private sector person has taken either the bait or the contract, because they know they don't have the resources to do an effective job, so they're buying some time. They've pushed it off. But market value is coming and a lot of people will be hurt, especially if it's not done effectively. Even if they do it as effectively as they can, there will be a lot of people who will be hurt by it. But that's coming, and education reform is coming.

All of these reforms, so-called, are coming to service the income tax cut. It has to come and these matters have to be dealt with because they need cash and they need it right away. The measures they're about to introduce, of which we know nothing, because they won't tell us what they're going to introduce -- we have a fairly good idea but they won't tell us -- are there and need to be introduced in January so they can service the tax cut. They have a cash problem. They know that and the whole world seems to know that. I want to get on to a few other things and come back to the income tax cut, if I have some time.

The member for Don Mills said, "We need to introduce these 16 bills because we want to encourage jobs."

Mr Turnbull: York Mills.

Mr Len Wood: That's the government whip.

Mr Marchese: Yes. York Mills is you, David. I'm talking about the member for Don Mills. I wasn't talking about you.

"We want to encourage jobs. We want to encourage economic growth." That's what the member says. How these bills are going to help economic growth or encourage jobs is beyond me. He speaks the nice language about jobs, makes it appear that by saying it, these bills deal with jobs, but there is nothing in those bills that will create jobs in fact. Remember, this is the government that said if you elect them, they're going to create 725,000 or 740,000 jobs. We were going to prosper with the Tories. That's a favourite word of Mulroney, by the way, and the Tories provincially here use it as well. We will prosper with them. The jobs will simply roll like a snowball rolling down a mountain. But we haven't seen these jobs. We haven't seen them.

Mr Turnbull: Yes, we have.

Mr Marchese: The member for York Mills says, "Yes, we have." He quite proudly says, as members over there have said from time to time, "We have created 125,000 jobs." They say it proudly. They fail to make a different kind of connection, and that is, unemployment is at 10%. In Ontario, it's 9.3%, 9.4% -- very close to 10% -- higher than at any other period in our history.

Mr Len Wood: In the north, 15%.

Mr Marchese: In the north it's probably higher, of course. So this member says, "We have created 125,000 jobs." He says that proudly. But unemployment is very high, youth unemployment is very high, wages are coming down in this prosperous province that this member and this minister were speaking about and to. The jobs they're promising are not coming.

Mr Len Wood: We're worse off now than we were before.

Mr Marchese: We are worse off now than we were before, and the member for York Mills keeps on saying, "Yes, they are." Unemployment has gone up and it's getting higher. How he can speak proudly of that record is beyond me. We would have had prosperity by now. It's a year and a half into their mandate. Prosperity should have been rolling from the early start of this government. It's not coming.

There are a few things that worry the public. The public has a better sense of the reality we're trying to deal with than the nonsense that is spoken about by the government members. I have a few articles here that speak to the cruelty, the reality that we are experiencing here in Ontario under this government that speaks about prosperity.

The Acting Speaker: I just want to remind the member that we are now debating the amendment to the motion; not the motion, the amendment.

Mr Marchese: I am speaking to the amendment and to the main motion as well, at the same time. They are all interconnected.

I want to refer to a number of articles that have appeared in the last couple of months that speak to the reality that we have in Ontario.

"Need for Hostels Soaring." "Metro's shelters for homeless men are experiencing unprecedented demand. This month 1,300 men are occupying shelters nightly, an increase of more than 20% over this time last year. `All of our shelters are overburdened,' one of the administrators from the Metro government says, `and people are desperate.'"

That's a reality a lot of people are experiencing out there that we need to speak to. People are forgetting the homeless out there. As people speak about prosperity and as people talk about needing to pass these 16 bills and other bills that will be presented later to encourage jobs, they're not here. They're not coming. The number of homeless have been increasing and are increasing steadily under this government. They're smug, and the member for Don Mills says happily, "The job numbers are growing."

What is growing, member for Don Mills, are the homeless who require more shelters. That's what's growing under your leadership and your stewardship of this province. Under your stewardship, member for Don Mills, the number of poor seniors is on the rise, a study warns. Under your fine stewardship, the number of poor seniors is on the rise, and the member talks about this prosperous Ontario we have here. They talk proudly about all the jobs they are creating, and these bills and other bills they want to introduce as part of the motion are going to create jobs.


The number of poor seniors is on the rise under the wonderful, wise stewardship of this government. Under the wise stewardship of this government, child poverty is increasing. Children living in poverty make up as much as 4.3% of our population. We have seniors who are increasingly becoming poor. We have children's poverty increasing in this province and in this country. We have need for hostels because more and more people are on the streets. We are furthermore, through your cutbacks, creating a very terrible and desperate reality out there. Because of the cuts to social assistance, emergency shelters and legal aid, women are being forced to choose between their personal safety and feeding their children. Women are losing their basic right to security and personal safety.

The results of a survey on women's shelters across the province contain many personal accounts of the impact of the government cuts on the lives of women and their children. Emergency shelters have been cut by 5% and there have also been cuts to crisis telephone lines and counselling programs. Second-stage housing programs have lost the funding for all of their support and counselling programs. As a result, these services and programs have faced greater difficulty trying to provide safety and support for victims of abuse. In addition to the cuts to women's shelters, the 22% cut to social assistance has put victims of abuse and their children in poverty. That's the reality people are probably worried about and thinking about. You are not speaking to that reality; that is why we are speaking to this reality.

People are worried about jobs. Your government is chopping 15,000 jobs directly from this province and indirectly municipalities are firing people now every year. They started last year and they're starting again. They are firing people. Why? Because you've reduced benefits to municipalities by 43%. When you do that, the reality the municipalities have is to cut people. People will lose their jobs. To you fine people over there on the other side they are numbers, because you speak of them as percentages, but these are real humans with families, with children. Poverty is increasing for all of the groups that I've mentioned, but generally it's increasing.

People are worried about their housing. We don't have a sense yet of what your government intends to do with public housing, with non-profit housing, with cooperative housing. People are worried about that. They have experienced cuts to the housing programs and they are worried they will experience more cuts as time goes on. We don't know how they will be governed. We don't know whether you're going to shed your responsibility and give them to municipalities or some other third body. We don't know what you're doing. We don't know what you're thinking around this area, but people are worried. Why? Because their shelter is their home and when people speak about their home they get worried about what you might do to it and to them. But you haven't told us what you're planning.

Minister Leach evidently had announced some advisory group to come together to talk about what to do with public, non-profit and cooperative housing, but we don't have a sense yet of where he is moving to. People are worried. They're anxious. They don't know what you're going to do to them.

They're worried about rent controls. I was at a meeting tonight in Minister Saunderson's riding. They were worried about the removal of rent controls. Your decontrol has worried them a great deal. Why? They know that while you say the marketplace should take care of rents and that rent control should therefore be removed, they worry because they have a sense that regulations will protect them. I have to tell you, member for York Mills, they said at this meeting tonight they are very, very angry about what your government is going to do and your Minister Saunderson from that riding is not going to survive in the next election. You smile cheerfully at that, but that's going to be the reality some of you will face in your ridings. Why? Because you are affecting their livelihood and you are affecting their homes.

They're worried about what you're doing with health. They're worried about your telling the public on the one hand, "We're not going to cut health," and on the other, while you're in government, you cut $1.3 billion. They're worried about that. They're worried in Metropolitan Toronto that 15 hospitals are likely to close. That has them worried. Why? Because these are basic things that people need -- basic, basic things.

This government cheerfully walks through their agenda saying: "Ah, we're on the right track. People like what we're doing." But you're wrong. They don't like what you're doing. They're very worried. On the Workers' Compensation Board you are going to be cutting their benefits. People will receive 85% of what they now earn if they get injured as opposed to 90%, and you happily announce that on the backs of injured workers, people who lose their means to earn a living, and you cheerfully talk about that as if somehow you're doing a great thing for injured workers. It is astounding, the courage and the fortitude that these members have to go after the injured worker. They do it cheerfully. But the injured worker loses his or her ability to earn a decent living from now on, once they get injured.

I am talking about so many aspects of our cultural, social and economic life that people are worried about. In education --

Mr Len Wood: You cut off one leg and then you throw them in the junk pile.

Mr Marchese: Len, in education, people are worried.

Mr Len Wood: Education is terrible. Not one penny out of classroom education.

Mr Marchese: Yes, they said they were not going to touch one penny, and they did, they are. They're cutting millions. And you know what they're doing? They want to privatize some of the services in the schools. They are destabilizing, with their announcements, with their pronouncements, the educational system. They are demoralizing the teachers whom they praise from time to time and criticize at other times. They are panicking trustees across this big province of ours and, most of all, they're confusing parents.

They're confusing parents with a booklet like this, which they give them two little months to respond to. Complicated stuff, as a former teacher, I have to tell you. Some of you are brilliant on the other side, and of course you absorbed this stuff in no time and were able to assess what's within it and to say yes or no to some of the stuff. But I tell you, a lot of parents, well-educated, have a problem with this document. Some is not clear, some requires a great deal of time and discussion, but they give them two little months to deal with a very complicated document. But beyond this, what this is all about, this is a mask, because this is not going to change the educational system very much. It will not improve it, as some of you think. But it is a mask to get to some other real problems that they want to get to. Because what they want to get to is to take $2 billion out of education. They say $1 billion; I argue $2 billion. We have the parliamentary assistant, who came to one of the meetings I was at, and the real agenda was not this. He had another slide-show presentation, which he presented with a great deal of

pride, and he talked about where the billions of dollars were and where they need to be cut.

As we talk about all these things, about education and everything else, what we have is brokers raking it in, bankers raking it in, record profits. The member for York Mills smiles at that. Brokers are raking it in, bankers are making record profits, and they smile.

Mr Len Wood: And kids are dying. People are dying on the streets because of Mike Harris.

Mr Marchese: Women are receiving less and less by way of --

The Acting Speaker: Order. I'd ask the member for Cochrane North to withdraw that.

Mr Len Wood: I withdraw it, but people have died on the streets because of the --

The Acting Speaker: No, you have to withdraw unequivocally. I'd like to give the member every opportunity.

Mr Len Wood: I'll withdraw.


The Acting Speaker: There are two of us standing and one of us is out of order, and it's not me. It being almost 12 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 2400.