36th Parliament, 1st Session

L139 - Mon 16 Dec 1996 / Lun 16 Déc 1996
















































The House met at 1334.




Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): My statement is addressed to the Minister of Education. I was invited on November 11 by the Prescott and Russell English Catholic school board to take part in a forum where parents from different schools voiced their concerns.

Parents in my riding are very worried about the future of education. They are worried about their children's future. Parents and teachers want to know how your massive cuts will affect them, they want to know what will be the consequences of school board amalgamation, and they certainly want to know what will be the effect on the classroom.

I have here a dozen testimonials of real-life situations where student education is being compromised with grade 3 classes of 41 students, where school boards cannot afford to bring in more teachers, where good educational programs are being slashed and so on. I have here parents' testimonials on a videocassette they have produced. They have asked me to present all of this to the Minister of Education, and I hope the minister will take the time to listen to what they have to say and hopefully make the right decision in order to address the concerns of the parents of the Prescott and Russell English Catholic school board.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Today I want to share with members of the Legislature the wonderful success of the Let's Talk Science program which began at the University of Western Ontario under the leadership of Dr Bonnie Schmidt.

Let's Talk Science is an award-winning science education outreach program which trains volunteer university students and professional scientists to lead elementary and secondary students through hands-on activities and interactive experiments in classrooms and in after-school clubs. The purpose is to make science accessible, exciting and fun and to encourage students to see themselves in the role of scientists.

Started with only 10 volunteers, the program now has 11 full-time and part-time staff members and 300 volunteers who coordinate five different programs for students from age 3 through young adulthood. Supported initially by the Lawson Foundation, which gave a two-year startup grant, the program has been so successful that it has won new partners. On December 5, the program received a $1-million grant from DuPont Canada to enable the program to become national in scope. Lynn Williams, manager of public affairs for DuPont Canada, described Let's Talk Science as a crucial program aimed at getting people into science and research so that we can remain competitive in the knowledge economy.

Bravo to Dr Schmidt, to the University of Western Ontario, to all the corporate sponsors and to all the volunteers for creating and carrying out a program which has been declared a national success story.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending an unusual festival of holiday lights ceremony in Campbellford. In addition to its seasonal display, the town unveiled a 20-foot-high sculpture in lights of the new Canadian $2 coin. The sculpture celebrates the polar bear side of the coin in the form of hundreds of gold and silver lights reflecting in the Trent River. It is truly spectacular to see and it shows that even a base metal "doubloonie" can have a silver lining.

The coin sculpture will become a permanent feature in the town's Old Mill Park. It has a special significance for the town of Campbellford and for one resident in particular, Brent Townsend. Mr Townsend is the talented Ontario artist who won the competition to create a polar bear design for the $2 coin. I extend sincere congratulations to my constituent for his award-winning work. His artistic skill has assured him a place in Canadian numismatic history.

I also extend my congratulations to the town of Campbellford, the town's public works crew and the chair of the $2 coin display project, Lillian Turner. In celebrating Mr Townsend's design, these imaginative people have also created a new and lovely attraction for their town.

I would urge the public and all members of this House to put the Campbellford toonie display on their must-see list for 1997.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): This past weekend a full-page ad appeared in the Toronto Star calling on Premier Harris not to privatize TVOntario. The ad featured 254 names of leading Canadians from the world of arts and literature, film, labour, health care and business, all opposed to the privatization of Ontario's educational channel.

The intent of this ad, which is right here, placed by the Canadian Independent Film Caucus, was to draw the attention of all members of this House to the broad support TVO has across the province.

From my part of the province, Elinor Barr, a well-known writer, added her name to the impressive list, as did Margaret Phillips, owner of the Northern Woman's Bookstore in Thunder Bay, and Bruce Hyer and Margaret Wanlin, two more caring individuals from my community.

They all want me to hold it up, Mr Speaker.


What we are all trying to say is that TVO is indeed this province's cultural treasure and that it belongs to all of us, whether we are from a first nations community in northern Ontario or from the heart of downtown Toronto. It is becoming more clear every day that the majority of the people in this province are proud of TVO and they want to keep supporting it because of what it gives us and how it sends a message around the world about our people and our province.

Not everything can be reduced to dollars and cents. Some things are precious to a people's sense of who they are. TVOntario gives us that sense of who we are and it proudly belongs to all of us. Let's keep it this way. I call on everyone in the province who cares about TVO to contact their MPP today and let their voice be heard.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. The member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I don't know, Mr Speaker; it looked like a prop to me.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Rumours are abounding in this Legislature and in this fine city of ours that this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow, the Minister of Municipal Affairs will be bringing forward a piece of legislation that will end the structure of local governance as we know it in the cities that make up Metro Toronto and will create one large -- as it's been referred to -- megacity.

We have to wonder where the advice is coming from, where the motivation is coming from. All the studies that have been done, and the minister's right to say that this question has been studied many times, the Golden report, the Crombie report, all suggest that the problems that exist are in the coordination of services and equity in property taxation across the GTA. So if the problem is across the GTA, it's hard to understand how Metro amalgamation could be the answer.

We see now that the minister, because we've been asking for the studies that prove his case, has gone out and hired consultants, and you all know that with consultants, if you want a certain answer, you can get the consultants who will provide that answer, and I am quite sure we will see this week those reports coming forward from the consultants suggesting that there is money to be saved.

But again we must ask, who did they consult with? We see today that the fire chiefs in cities within Metro have said they haven't been consulted about amalgamation and that it will be worse in terms of delivery of services. Once again the government moves ahead without talking to the people involved.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): Two weeks ago I introduced Bill 100 to this Legislature. This bill, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to Impaired Driving Offences, passed first reading on November 26.

The bill would impound vehicles and snowmobiles for 90 days if the operator blows over 0.08 blood alcohol content or fails to provide a breath sample. The impounding would coincide with the administrative licence suspension. For repeat offenders, the penalty is more severe. On the second and subsequent offences, the vehicle is auctioned, similar to fishing and hunting violations.

Hunting and fishing violations result in equipment and vehicles being seized and auctioned off on the first occurrence. Surely repeat impaired offenders represent a more serious and potentially catastrophic violation than catching a fish out of season.

Forty-seven per cent of all vehicle fatalities are caused by impaired drivers. Nearly two people per day die in Ontario as a result of impaired driving. The human misery and suffering is incalculable. I've seen victims who have been maimed by these senseless acts. I've talked to victims' families who regularly relive the horror and grief.

Similar legislation exists in Manitoba and British Columbia. Impaired convictions have dropped 30% in those provinces. Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports this bill. Christmas and New Year's is a time of festivities and celebrations. I introduced my bill to let the celebrators know that an impaired driver is a potential killer, a killer and maimer of people, a killer of hopes, dreams, goals and fulfilment. Please don't drink and drive.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I have had a number of calls from constituents in my riding whose children attend Cardinal Newman high school. It's a unique situation where you have a high school that has two campuses, approximately 10 kilometres apart.

It is a high school that has 24 portables and it has almost 1,500 students. It has been a difficult situation for the past 10 years with these schools, with this type of distance, where students have had to go back and forth and often spend more of their day travelling between two schools than sitting in classrooms.

It's an issue where the previous government and the government before that had committed capital funding to ensure there's a new school on one site. I know my colleague from Wentworth East as well has been involved in trying to convince the minister that this funding be freed up, and I urge the government to as soon as possible announce and free up the funding for Cardinal Newman secondary school in the city of Hamilton and the city of Stoney Creek.

These are unbearable circumstances where we have 24 portables, where we have a school where children have to travel 10 kilometres in between classrooms. It's probably the most unique situation in the province of Ontario where one school has two sites 10 kilometres apart. We cannot continue to tolerate this. I know parents who have called me in my riding, where many of the feeder schools into Cardinal Newman work, find this a very difficult, unacceptable situation. The students, parents and teachers must be commended for the great job they have done under these very difficult circumstances over the years.

I ask this government and this minister to please immediately announce the funding free-up for Cardinal Newman secondary school.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Although the Harris government has taken away some pay equity rights and is planning more attacks on the principle of equal pay for women, the fact is that pay equity law is still on the books of this province.

For example, under the pay equity plan at the Lakehead Association for Community Living in Thunder Bay, the employees are entitled by law to increases that total $85,000 for 1995 and $170,000 for the current year. The workers and the employer agree on these figures. The problem is that the Minister of Community and Social Services is refusing to pay the money that is owed.

When is this government going to start respecting the law of Ontario and pay what these women are entitled to? The fact is that the Lakehead Association for Community Living entered into a five-year agreement on pay equity back in 1993. What this government is doing is shameful. They're lowering the standard of living and pay for all workers just to cover their wacky tax scheme. Where's the respect for the law and where's the principle of pay equity for women in this province? When will these workers get the pay they are entitled to?

I see that the Minister of Community and Social Services is here and I would ask her today to see to it that these women get the money they're owed.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I wish to inform all members of this House about an innovative workplace safety program occurring in my riding called the Greater Peterborough Safe Community Incentive Program. Many local stakeholders have joined efforts to create the Greater Peterborough Safe Communities Coalition to work with the Workers' Compensation Board to promote and improve workplace safety.

This incentive program has been designed to help businesses with up to $90,000 in annual WCB assessments to promote workplace health and safety. When a company registers with the safe community program, it will become part of a community group experience rating plan. This group will be eligible for 75% of any savings in its accident costs due to enhanced health and safety programs: Good for business, good for workers.

As of last Friday, there have been approximately 42 local companies willing to take part in this program. I am pleased that the program is now in its final approval stage, and we anticipate it up and running very soon.

This type of local initiative is a positive approach. Let me congratulate the local chamber of commerce, various levels of government, workers' groups, health professionals, and all other participants for their efforts in making our places of work safer.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I am pleased to rise today to inform the House of a tentative interim agreement reached yesterday between the government and the Ontario Medical Association.

Above all else, yesterday's tentative agreement represents a win for Ontario patients by ensuring their access to physicians' services and putting an end to any uncertainty that may exist. Acceptance of the agreement is contingent upon physicians' resumption of normal practice.

Contained in the agreement is a new proposal to address the long-standing problem of attracting physicians to areas where they are needed. This new proposal responds directly to concerns brought forward by the Ontario Medical Association by offering financial incentives to attract new physicians to underserviced areas and disincentives to practise in overserviced areas.


The tentative agreement also works to protect the delivery of medical services by reducing the recovery on payments to physicians from 10% to 2.9% and provides financial assistance for malpractice insurance, as recommended by Chief Justice Dubin. The agreement also simplifies payment levels or thresholds for physicians and calls for the establishment of an independent commission to reassess the fees paid to doctors for their services.

In announcing a tentative agreement, I want to recognize the efforts and commitment of the former Minister of Health, the member for Simcoe West, Jim Wilson. Without Mr Wilson's months of hard work and dedication an agreement would not have been possible.

This agreement represents a successful first step towards a comprehensive deal with Ontario's physicians and clearly demonstrates our ability to work together to put patients first and ensure that patients have access to medical services.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): The goal of our caucus is always to do whatever we can to ensure that patients have access to the care they need when they need it. While I've listened very carefully to the minister's statement today, I'm not at all certain that this is a win for patients. He has not told us, for example, whether this will mean delisting of services or deinsuring of services. He has not told us what this is going to do overall to their policy of caps and thresholds and clawbacks and holdbacks. Those caps and clawbacks and thresholds and holdbacks have angered and frustrated physicians across this province, and I fear that the morale problem that exists may not be resolved by the minister's statement today.

I hope that the Canadian Medical Protective Association problem, which was created by the former Minister of Health, is finally resolved. I'm waiting to see what Mr Dubin recommends and suggests, because we have always believed that the former minister acted in bad faith when it came to the malpractice insurance payments for doctors in this province.

People are beginning to realize the cost of your policies, but unlike you, they also know that the former minister was a barrier to achieving any kind of good-faith agreement, because in order to reach an agreement you have to have good-faith negotiations. The former minister insulted and bullied the doctors of this province and they were rightly angered by the treatment.

What I'm hearing from people across this province, and quietly from members of the Conservative back bench, is that they are concerned about hospitals being closed in their ridings. They are concerned, as we are, that nurses are being laid off as a result of the government's policies. They know that user fees hurt those people who can least afford to pay them, and user fees are a reality of the Harris government. They also know that there are very significant cuts in service and emergency care across this province.

That is a concern to us and it should be a concern to the government, because what people are telling me and my colleagues is that they would rather have their cherished health care, they would rather have their nurses on duty in their hospitals and providing care and services in their communities, they would rather have access and the security of access to services they need when they are sick and they need them, they would rather have those things than the unhealthy 30% tax cut which the Harris government is bringing forward and which they know is resulting in enormous cuts to health care in this province. It is resulting in hospitals closing, it is resulting in people not having access to the care they need when they need it, and it is resulting in huge morale problems of the people who are providing the care in every community of this province.

The appointment of a new Minister of Health gives this government the opportunity to change its course, but as I listened to the minister's statement today, I fear they have not changed that course and that what they will continue to do is to delist, deinsure, see that nurses receive pink slips and are laid off, close hospitals and create the kind of insecurity and uncertainty that is very unhealthy in the province.

I would ask the minister to intervene and stop the $1.3-billion cut to our hospitals. I would ask him to ensure that 15,000 nurses are not laid off. I would ask him to ensure that hospitals are not closed and that communities are not left vulnerable as a result of their actions. I would ask the new minister to stop the out-of-control, unaccountable Health Services Restructuring Commission, which is devastating community after community in this province. I would ask him to restore the loss of quality, accessible health care so that the people of this province can once again have some security that when they get sick, care will be there for them when they need it.

The minister says this is just the beginning of a new negotiation. I would say to him, unless he changes course, it is in fact the end.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): While we're all pleased in the province that this crisis has come to an end for the time being, I think it's important that we review what's happened over the last several months.

This whole process has been handled in an incredibly incompetent manner. We started off the process months ago with cuts that the government unilaterally announced in order to achieve its tax cut, and that was the whole purpose of the cuts. We also saw that there were very significant reactions from the doctors. The doctors revolted, stopped taking new patients, and the minister said in the House in the spring and last winter, "Don't worry, we have contingency plans." As it turned out, the contingency plans were, "Send patients to the US" and "Patients won't have any access to the health care system."

The whole process has been marked by confrontation. The previous minister and the government have confronted and asked for a war with the doctors, and that's what we got. It finally resulted in a crisis being developed, and then what happened? Then the government all of a sudden said, "Okay, we'll sit down and we'll negotiate." Then it took the government three or four weeks to even get its negotiating committee together. Then there was a tentative agreement, and what happened to the last tentative agreement? The Minister of Health of the day decided to intervene in the agreement, in the ratification process. He spoke out, he criticized doctors, just as he had in the spring. He called them greedy, told them, "Accept this agreement or we'll unilaterally impose the agreement," and the doctors said, "Enough of this. We're not going to deal," and they rejected the agreement.

The minister even tried to go to the College of Physicians and Surgeons and get that non-partisan, arm's-length body to intervene and do the government's dirty work, and they said: "We'll have none of this. We're not going to destroy our credibility because the minister wants to use us for political purposes." We had more withdrawal of services. Then a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of the negotiation process, what did we have? The ultimate: The minister's staff leaked billing information in a blatant attempt to bully the doctors of this province into doing it their way or taking the highway.

Now what do we see? Because the government finally saw that this was hurting them, hurting their popularity, hurting them with the public and that people were very concerned, the government, instead of trying to find long-term solutions, sat down at the negotiating table and basically gave the doctors a lot of things that do not resolve long-term problems that our health care system continues to face.

I would have thought that at the very least we could expect the Minister of Health today to come in here and say, "Here's the agreement," give a bit of an explanation of the agreement but also present to the Legislature a costing. This is supposed to be a government that says they do business in a business-like way. How much is this agreement going to cost the taxpayers? Where's the money going to come from?

The critic for the Liberal Party says it may come from delisting of items. I would suggest the people up in Sudbury today are saying that's where it's coming from: $40 million out of Sudbury today is part of the final announcement from the restructuring commission. There is $1.3 billion being cut in hospitals, with thousands of nurses and other health care workers being laid off. Those low-income health care workers are paying for this agreement today, an agreement that the minister won't even tell us how much it will cost, but we know it's in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, and this is simply an interim agreement.


We've got hospital closures, we've got nurse layoffs, we've got health care layoffs, we've got a system that is still in crisis, and the only thing we've got is a tentative agreement that the government says is going to resolve the problem of underserviced areas in the province. The fact of the matter is, if you take a look at the agreement, it will not solve the problem of underserviced communities. There's an attempt to use some incentives and some penalties, but if you take a look at it, it won't work.

There needs to some fundamental reform of the health care system. We need to move towards having an integrated health care system. We need to move towards a system that recognizes all the health care professionals and uses them to their maximum. We need to have a health care system that moves more radically away from the fee-for-service system in this province and moves to a system that uses capitation and salary and other mechanisms that will adequately compensate doctors but will also recognize that there are other professionals who need to be compensated. You can't compensate doctors at the expense of patients and hospitals and nurses.

This is a failure. The process has been a failure, and the minister didn't give all the goods in the House today.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health. It appears you've reached a deal with Ontario's doctors. Our concern is what it's going to cost patients. The last time your government had a tentative deal with Ontario's doctors, your predecessor was willing to force patients to contribute to the deal through over $50 million in new user fees and delisted services. Can you tell us how much this deal is going to cost Ontario patients, and more specifically, what medical services currently covered by OHIP will you force them to pay for?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): There are no current services covered by OHIP which are forced to be paid by the people of Ontario through this deal. This deal is one, though, I will assure the Leader of the Opposition, that does increase access to health services for the people of Ontario. Particularly in northern Ontario and many other parts of Ontario, we do not have a sufficient supply of doctors. This deal will recognize that problem by providing about $45 million worth of incentives in a general sense to guide doctors into underserviced areas, and at the same time there's what is called a differential which in a sense penalizes new doctors from going into overserviced areas.

Mr McGuinty: I want to bring to the public's attention some of the fine print found in this deal. In that fine print, the government's going to create a new commission and the role of that commission will be to revise the schedule of benefits. In other words, what we're talking about here is looking at delisting services. What this means is that there are medical treatments covered by OHIP today which we're going to have to pay for tomorrow.

People are already concerned that they're going to have to start paying for things like annual physicals. They're fearful that they'll not have access to services currently covered by OHIP. Minister, I want to give you an opportunity to allay those fears. Can you guarantee that your deal with the doctors will not force patients to pay for a single service currently covered by OHIP? Yes or no.

Hon David Johnson: Clearly, this deal does not force anybody to pay for any services, but this deal does allow for ongoing discussions with the physicians. As we've heard from the critic from the official opposition, there needs to be discussions with doctors. We're pursuing that and the Ontario Medical Association has made it very clear that those kind of discussions are needed. We have committed, through the Ontario Medical Association, through the government, to looking at ways to make the health care system more effective, to look at ways to reduce costs at the same time as we're allocating costs for underserviced areas, for example. So the net benefit from this contract, from this deal, will be better access to more services across Ontario, more equally distributed, yet it will recognize the needs of the physicians in Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: We can take it from this that we are definitely looking at delisting services and new user fees. What we're going to see is another manifestation of this government's breaking of its key election promise of no new user fees for health care in Ontario.

Minister, you're treading down, and you should know this, a very dangerous path. You're bringing us one step closer to substandard, two-tier, American-style health care. I want to ask you again, can you stand in your place and guarantee to the people of Ontario that you will honour your election commitment of no new user fees, that they will not have to pay out of pocket for any medical services currently covered? Can you guarantee that to the people of Ontario today?

Hon David Johnson: I'll give you the same guarantee we gave during -- as a matter of fact, before the election, during the election, after the election, that this government will adhere to the principles of the Canada Health Act. We have promised that. We have lived up to that.

Another promise I'll give to the Leader of the Opposition is the promise that we will protect the health care envelope. Indeed, before the election we indicated that we would protect the $17.4 billion, that we would protect the Canada Health Act. Today we find a government that remains committed to that. We have not only protected the health care envelope, we are spending $17.7 billion, $300 million more, even in the face of a reduction from Ottawa, from the federal Liberal government, of $2 billion in health care, even in the face of that reduction. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition would care to talk to his colleagues in Ottawa, having reduced $2 billion. Even in the face of that, we live up to --

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

New question, leader of the official opposition.

Mr McGuinty: I guess we better get ready. Here they come, user fees and delisted services, a new part of health care in Ontario.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Deputy Premier. I want to ask you about your government's plans to amalgamate Metro municipalities. By any objective measure this is a fundamental change that's going to have a profound impact on the lives of the people living in Metro for at least the next 50 years. It's going to directly affect the services they receive, their schools, their taxes, their sense of community and their quality of life.

Three and a half months ago, your government issued a report that stated, "Certain questions of public policy are so fundamental that they should be decided using referenda." Given the kind of change you're talking about, given that by any objective measure this is a most fundamental change, why will you not allow the people a say through a referendum on this very important issue?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): To the leader of the official opposition, he is indeed correct when he says that this is a very important issue with respect to Metro. The reality is that there have been numerous studies done on municipal government, and Metro municipal government in particular, over the last number of years. The time for action has long since passed. It is time you had a government at Queen's Park with the initiative to proceed to do what's in the best interests of the residents of Metro in the long term.

Mr McGuinty: I guess from the government's perspective you hold a referendum if you're going to get the answer you want, but if you're not going to get the answer you want, then you don't hold the referendum.

No one really believes the amalgamation is going to save money. Let me tell you what your friends at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation say: "The perceived savings are far less than the higher costs which would be associated with a megacity government."

There's no doubt about it, there are some very real concerns out there about your amalgamation and that in particular it's going to lead to higher property taxes. Minister, I want to give you this opportunity to allay those concerns. Will you add a provision to your legislation to guarantee that property taxes will not increase as a result of your amalgamation?


Hon Mr Eves: As he well knows, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has asked a very respected consulting firm, KPMG, to study the potential savings by having one level of government as opposed to several levels in Metropolitan Toronto. He has deliberately asked their numbers to be conservative, their approach to be cautious and prudent, as indeed we have tried to take that same approach with our fiscal situation in Ontario. We expect that report due back shortly, and I am sure that when that report is submitted it will be there for all to see what an independent consulting firm thinks of potential savings in this area.

Mr McGuinty: That's a very interesting study. I think it's rather unique in the annals of government studies. It's the first time we've ever given a consultant the conclusion and asked them to come up with the evidence that would support it.

In the last election Mike Harris pledged that a referendum must be held before raising taxes. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says your plan to amalgamate the municipalities in Metro is going to do exactly that. It's going to raise property taxes. Given that this is a fundamental change in the way people in Metro are governed, given that this was no part of the Common Sense Revolution -- in fact, as I recall, you promised the opposite -- and given that this will result in some people paying higher property taxes in Metro, I ask you again: Will you allow a referendum on your megacity before you ram this through?

Hon Mr Eves: Our government is about fewer politicians, less government, ending waste and duplication in the system, and we are confident that this will lead to savings for the taxpayer.

With respect to the issue of a referendum, you might want to read what your colleague the member for Hamilton East, Dominic Agostino, and Hamilton Centre member David Christopherson have to say about referendums: "Referendums are not useful in sorting out municipal restructuring. The danger is that you could end up where you govern by referendum all the time. That becomes costly and time-consuming." Their remarks, not mine.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Deputy Premier. Your Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has been going on about how amalgamation will save money by merging fire departments and other services in the new megacity, and he's been boasting that your KPMG study will show $850 million in savings. But we also see Toronto Fire Chief Peter Ferguson saying that he hasn't been consulted on the megacity and neither, for that matter, have other fire chiefs in Metro. You haven't asked them how to save money and deliver service to make our homes and businesses safer, and the chiefs are worried, and they should be worried, that amalgamation will mean fire services will be reduced.

My question to you is this: How can your KPMG study have any credibility if the people who are carrying out the study won't talk to the people who actually put out the fires and deliver the other services in Metropolitan Toronto?

Hon Mr Eves: As the honourable member well knows, we don't have the results of the KPMG study, and I presume --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): But you know how much money is going to be saved.

Hon Mr Eves: No, I have no knowledge of how much money that will save whatsoever. The results of the study will speak for itself. The results of the study, I say to the member for Beaches-Woodbine, will speak for itself.

Surely we want to do something that is in the best interests of taxpayers, and fewer politicians and less waste and duplication in the system surely is going to lead to savings for the taxpayers not only in the province of Ontario but indeed in Metro as well.

Mr Silipo: The Deputy Premier says they want to do what's in the best interests of taxpayers, but I find it really interesting that they continue to refuse to talk to those same taxpayers. Is this another continuing case of Big Brother knows best and therefore you're just going to tell people what is going to go on, without talking at all to the people of the province who are affected by these changes and the people who are delivering these services?

Let's come back to the question of fire services. Toronto Fire Chief Ferguson says that Toronto needs specialized fire services because of the number of tall buildings in the downtown core, the number of tunnels in the core and the number of old buildings. The East York chief says if you're going to save $40 million, there's only one way to save it. That's 700 bodies, 700 firefighters gone.

You say you're not going to reduce fire services; we'll see all that's going to come out in the study. The people who put out the fire are afraid that that's exactly what you're going to do.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question.

Mr Silipo: I just want to ask you, what gives you and what gives the people at KPMG the right to say that you know better than they do whether fire services should be reduced as a way for you to carry out your agenda?

Hon Mr Eves: As the honourable member well knows, this entire issue of Metro governance will be going to committee. There will be an opportunity for the public in Ontario and indeed Metro to have input. They will have the opportunity to come and let their points of view be known. At the end of the day, that is how this process has worked in this House for many decades. As I said earlier in a response to a question by the leader of the official opposition, there have been over 60 studies in this area with respect to municipal governance. It's about time that action was taken.

Mr Silipo: There have been lots of studies; we don't disagree with that. The problem is you haven't followed any of those studies. We don't have any faith in you saying, "We'll bring a piece of legislation, we'll put it in front of committee and we'll listen to what people have to say." Your track record shows you don't hear what people say.

Are you telling me now that if people come before this legislative committee and tell you to a person that they are opposed, as they will tell you, to this megacity concept, that you're prepared to withdraw that proposal? Are you prepared to say that today? If not, why are you afraid to do in this case what you are so strong in promoting in other cases and put the issue to a referendum, as we have been saying and as 75% of the people in Metropolitan Toronto have been saying? Why won't you do that?

Hon Mr Eves: First of all, there will be every opportunity, as I said in my previous answer, for public input, for people to come to committee and let their points of view be known.

With respect to amalgamation of fire services, the member will well know, being a resident of Metro Toronto, at one point in time there were many different police services in Metropolitan Toronto. They were amalgamated. Did police service go down because there's now one Metropolitan Toronto Police department? That rationale surely does not hold any water.

With respect to referendums, I'd refer the member to the remarks I made in my answer to the leader of the official opposition. He might want to talk to the member for Hamilton Centre and see what he thinks about referendums in this issue.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): My question is to the Minister of Health. Today the Health Services Restructuring Commission made its final announcement in Sudbury regarding health care in Sudbury and northeastern Ontario. The decision says there will be a net of $41 million taken out of Sudbury and northeastern Ontario for health care. At the same time, there is nothing specific about your government's commitment to community services, which are going to be absolutely essential because the hospital stays will be shorter and there will be more demands on the community, because that's not part of the commission's mandate.

Minister, people in that community are worried about the job loss and the gaps that are going to exist in the health care system. What is your government's commitment to community services?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): To the member for Windsor-Riverside, the report, as he mentioned, has just been delivered and I have just recently received that report. I'm studying it.

I think the report recognizes a couple of situations that the community has brought to the attention of the restructuring commission, and I'm delighted to see that it has. There are additional acute care beds, for example, additional mental health beds, additional operating rooms. In terms of the commitments, you can rest assured that this government will be looking at this issue over the next couple of weeks and, as we did in the case of Thunder Bay, there will be announcements in Sudbury early in the new year with regard to capital and with regard to reinvestment.


Mr Cooke: You haven't made any commitments to community services in Thunder Bay. You've made a commitment on capital, and that's it. The people in that community are concerned are well.

The CEO for the commission, Mr Mark Rochon, said today that the commission hasn't looked at community-based services. They do not know if the current provision of community care is sufficient to meet current needs or future needs. They do not know what the future needs will be, not only in Sudbury but in the entire region. They haven't put together the data. That's not part of their mandate.

You've just said that you're going to make an announcement within the next couple of weeks. What studies have you carried out in order to properly document the need for community services in that community and northeastern Ontario so that there won't be gaps, so that patients won't be out of hospitals more quickly with no services to go into? What are those services? What are those studies that you've carried out so that there aren't those gaps? Or are all these cuts simply to fund today the doctors' agreement and your tax cut?

Hon David Johnson: The announcements today in fact emanate from the government of the member for Windsor-Riverside. The member for Windsor-Riverside will know that a couple of years ago his government, then in place, put together some $26 million to fund the district health council reports, one of which is the one we're talking about from Sudbury. Those reports are coming in, indeed most of them came in to him and the previous government, in terms of restructuring. His government was committed to restructuring, to using moneys more wisely, more effectively, to reinvest, and that's exactly what this government is going to do. We are simply following up, and wisely so, I would say, on the initiatives of the NDP government.

In the case of community care, for example, the government has announced, province-wide, $170 million in community care investment across the province. In the case of Sudbury in particular, the report having just been issued today, I will say a prudent course would be to look at that report --

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

Mr Cooke: I'm glad the minister sees the wisdom of the commitments our government made to health care. Therefore, I would like to ask him, will he repeat the commitment our government made, that is, that every dollar saved through hospital restructuring will be reinvested in the community where the savings are achieved? Will you repeat that commitment today?

Hon David Johnson: The commitment of this government is well known, well known from before the election, during the election and after the election. In fact, we have committed to protecting the health care envelope, the $17.4 billion. Notwithstanding a reduction from the federal Liberal government, the health care envelope of $17.4 billion will be protected. You can bet that at the end of the day, before the next election, there will be at least $17.4 billion invested in all health care in the province. And one more thing you can count on: The system will be restructured and it will be a better system delivering better services to the people of the province.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Health also. As your Health Services Restructuring Commission brought down its final axe on Sudbury, it was with great sadness that the people of Sudbury had to sit and watch as your government strips away the life and essence of health care in our community, leaving only a hollow shell where there once was a vibrant, reliable and accessible set of health care facilities.

In the Common Sense Revolution, you and your government promised that there would be no reduction to health care spending, not one cent. Let me tell you, the people of Sudbury are not going to be at all mistaken about that broken promise, as $40.7 million is taken out of the health care system in our community. You said not one penny; I'm telling you that's over four billion pennies.

My question to you is this: Where is the $40.7 million going? It's leaving Sudbury. Where is it going?

Hon David Johnson: I think I can understand the position of the member for Sudbury, him being where he is, but I would remind him that, for example, the head of Memorial Hospital emergency ward said, and this apparently was in the Sudbury Star of October 1: "Personally, I think this is a victory for the patients of Sudbury and northeastern Ontario. Someone has finally had the courage to bring common sense, some economic sensibility to a rather chaotic situation. In my view, the patients are going to be the winners in this."

Clearly, there are those in the health care system who understand the need to restructure, in Sudbury and right across the province. People know that at $17.4 billion, which we've agreed to protect, and this year in fact $17.7 billion, there is enough money in the system. What we have to do now is determine, with the assistance of the restructuring commission and experts, how do we use that effectively? That's what we're doing in Sudbury.

Mr Bartolucci: Let's not talk about one or two quotes, because I can get you hundreds of quotes from all over northeastern Ontario about the disaster you're causing, your havoc, that your health care direction is all wrong.

Let's talk about your figures, your directions and your recommendations. You exclude any dollars for a labour adjustment policy. Minister, your appointee to the commission, George Lund, said this morning that he estimates about 500 jobs will be lost due to restructuring. Furthermore, your Health Services Restructuring Commission has decreased the size of the system by 226 acute care beds and 197 beds in total, yet you make no mention of additional moneys for either repatriated or transitional care beds.

My question is twofold: What do you tell these 500 highly qualified health care providers who are about to be axed? Second, have you and your ministry calculated how many Sudburians and northeastern Ontario residents will have to travel south for treatment?

Hon David Johnson: I'm glad that the restructuring commission has had the opportunity to discuss its recommendations with the people of Sudbury and has amended its recommendations, has in fact added acute care beds, has added mental health beds, has added nine neo-natal intensive care beds. They have responded.

I think the situation is obvious, that all members of this House -- for example, the member's own leader, the Leader of the Opposition, is quoted as saying: "I would have as an overriding objective the improvement of our health care system, an integrated, universally accessible health care system. A component of that might be hospital closures."

Clearly, we all recognize the need to restructure to make the system more effective, and I believe that's what the restructuring commission has done in Sudbury.


The Speaker: Member for Sudbury, you've got to come to order, please.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Education and Training with regard to the tabled report of the Advisory Panel on Future Directions for Postsecondary Education. The panel recognizes in its first recommendation "the current serious inadequacies in total financial resources available to post-secondary education." Its second recommendation is that the provincial government's support for universities and colleges in Ontario should be comparable to the average for other Canadian provinces and be reasonably in line with government support of major public university and college systems in the United States.

My question is quite simple. What is the minister's response? Is he prepared to accept the recommendation and provide the resources to the post-secondary system -- colleges and universities -- required to make it comparable to the United States and comparable to the average in Canada?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member opposite for the question. Yes, in fact we have received the report on time from the Advisory Panel on Future Directions for Postsecondary Education. Dr Smith and his panel have consulted with people right across the province who have a concern for post-secondary education. They presented us with some 18 thoughtful recommendations. I think they've addressed the questions we put to them and I'm very pleased to receive that report. I have not yet read the report in full. I will do so in the immediate future and we will be responding to all their recommendations, including the recommendation alluded to by the member opposite.

I understand that the financing of post-secondary education in this province has been a subject of concern for many years. In fact, Ontario has been about 10th out of 10 provinces in terms of its funding as measured in the terms put by the member opposite. However, it's important to note that in this sector this government will commit $3 billion this year in total support, including support for students, which has been enhanced this year. We will digest this report and look at all those recommendations.


Mr Wildman: I guess I was hoping for too much. When the minister said yes, I thought he was just saying yes to the recommendation; unfortunately he was saying, yes, he'd received the report.

The minister says he's going to consider these recommendations. I want to draw his attention particularly to recommendation number 2, where the chair of the panel, Dr Smith, says, "The goal should be achieved by arresting reductions in government grants now." Arresting the reduction: While the minister says this has been a problem of long standing, I would point out that Dr Smith says, and said at the press conference, that colleges and universities in Ontario are about $480 million short of the average of other provinces in grants from this government. Recognizing that the minister and his government have cut $430 million in funding to post-secondary education, that means all but $50 million of this is a result of this government. Is the minister prepared to restore the average, the $430 million he took out of --

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

Hon Mr Snobelen: I know it strikes the member opposite, as he would say, as passing strange that a government would bother to read the report before responding to it, but that in fact is our posture.

I would point out to the member opposite again that there are many measures of support for that post-secondary sector in Ontario. Included in that are, additional, about $200 million in student supports directly that this government will be putting out over the next year, and of course a $100-million commitment to match private sector funding for an Ontario student opportunity fund.

So the funding for post-secondary comes from a variety of sources, and most important is the funding for our students. We will take this recommendation by the advisory panel seriously, as we will all 18 recommendations, and we will respond to them quickly because we believe the post-secondary sector in Ontario is important to the future of Ontario.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. As you know, in 1965 Robert and Signe McMichael made a historic contribution to our cultural life by donating to the crown their fine collection of Tom Thomson and Group of Seven paintings along with the works of other selected artists. Over the past 30 years, the McMichael Canadian collection has provided us with a window on ourselves and our beautiful land, as seen through the eyes of our finest artists.

A recent court decision has essentially said that the terms and conditions of the 1965 agreement between the McMichaels and the province should continue to be honoured in full. The minister has indicated her intention to appeal this decision to a higher court. Will the minister explain to the House why she is appealing this decision?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you, to the member for Wellington. The government is appealing the judge's decision because it essentially made the operations of the gallery unworkable. In other words, there were ongoing disputes with respect to new acquisitions and what the role of the trustees would be and what the viability of the gallery itself would be.

The government, I believe, has a responsibility to the public and to the many donors, including Michael and Signe McMichael, to ensure that the McMichael Canadian art gallery is effectively managed.

Mr Arnott: I want to thank the minister for this explanation and add in reply that in the opinion of many people, the public interest will be served very well if this issue could be resolved through reasonable discussion rather than litigation. Will the minister today indicate her willingness to meet and work with the McMichaels to find a resolution to this matter?

Hon Ms Mushinski: Again, to the honourable member for Wellington, we do believe that a resolution to the issues surrounding the McMichael Canadian Art Collection can best be found through direct discussions with Mr McMichael. Indeed, Mr McMichael has indicated a willingness to join with us and work with us towards that goal.

On CBC television this past Thursday, Mr McMichael was quoted as stating, "I hope things will be resolved with a series of meetings," and I am delighted as they are willing to discuss this further.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): My question is for the Minister of Health. At the leaders' debate during the last election, Mike Harris said, "Well, certainly I can guarantee you that it is not my plan to close hospitals." That's what the now Premier said then. Minister, do you intend to honour the Premier's promise?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I think it's pretty clear that this government has lived up to its promises: its promises to protect health care; its promises to protect at least $17.4 billion, indeed $17.7 billion this year; its promise to protect the principles of the Canada Health Act, which we have done and which we remain committed to; and its promise to look at all aspects of government to make sure they're more efficient and deliver better services to the people of Ontario at reduced cost, except in the case of health care, where there will be at least as much money invested.

Mrs Caplan: The Minister of Health will know that the Premier was very clear when he said, "Well, certainly I can guarantee you that it is not my plan to close hospitals." That was his quote and that's what he said. Therefore, Minister, you should be ashamed of that answer.

If it is the case that you proceed to close hospitals after what your Premier said, then I believe your Premier must resign because he also said very clearly in that election campaign that he would resign if he did not keep his promises, and his promises to the community hospitals were very, very clear.

The Conservative member for Lambton knows how important local hospitals are. Tomorrow he's sponsoring three busloads of people from Petrolia who are coming to the Legislature to remind the Premier of his promise. They're going to tell you that they want their local community hospital to remain open to provide care, especially urgent emergency care. We support and share their concerns.

Minister, what do you say --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member from Oriole, thank you.


The Speaker: Come to order, please. When I stand, you must come to order. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: What I would say to the people of Ontario is that we remain committed to the health care envelope. There will be at least $17.4 billion. We remain committed to spending that money effectively and wisely. We remain committed to the principles of the Canada Health Act, as we said we would.

On the other hand, if we look back in time to 1989, the government represented by the member opposite froze long-term-care beds, for example, in the province. Consequently, we've had no new long-term-care beds. This government is sitting down with the associations involved with long-term care and is trying to solve that problem.

Indeed, over the last several years, since the late 1980s, the number of beds in hospitals has been reduced first by the Liberal government, next by the NDP government, without addressing the capital structure. We are working with local communities to invest wisely so that our hospital care will be better, and we're doing that by protecting the health care budget.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Attorney General. My office confirmed this morning, Minister, that Manpower temporary agency booked a boardroom at the Sheraton Centre last week for three days, where they set up a phone bank to work on the family support plan. This cost the taxpayers of Ontario $1.25 per local call plus long-distance calls, which added up to a total of $14,000.

Not only have you created chaos by shutting down the regional offices and laying off 290 experienced staff, with the result that thousands of women and children have not received their support, but now your efforts at damage control are costing the taxpayers of Ontario more unnecessary dollars. In addition to the severance costs and the costs to discharge regional office leases, the family support plan now pours money into phone companies, private hotels and private temporary agencies, but women and children still don't get their payments.

Is it now your ministry's practice to conduct government business outside of the already-paid-for government offices using temporary, untrained help from private agencies?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): What I can tell the member is that in the first week of December 1996, $15.8 million was sent to families. In the first week of December 1995 under the old plan, only $11.8 million was sent out. We are endeavouring to ensure that cheques that have perpetually come into the plan month after month in wrong fashion are going to be corrected by employers and income sources who are sending money in. We are endeavouring to move this plan closer to electronic banking so that we no longer have to deal with sorting cheques by hand and delaying payments to women and children.

Mrs Boyd: Minister, time and again we've raised case after case of women and children who were receiving regular payments from the plan until you closed the regional offices and laid off those staff. You repeatedly tell this Legislature that the problems with the transition have been fixed, but it's not the case.

On Friday, your assistant deputy minister of business improvement, ironically enough, Angela Longo, admitted to the Globe and Mail and National Action Committee representatives -- I'm quoting from the Globe and Mail -- that "many families are in dire financial straits as a result of paralysis within the family support plan, which funnels support payments from non-custodial parents to children. `We're in the process of making the program the best we can'.... `That'll take several months. We're in the middle of the process.'" She would not give any estimate of when the new plan would be fully operational or when families whose payments have been stalled can expect to get their money.

Minister, how can you stand here and ramble off figures about how many cheques you've mailed and how many calls the plan answered when your own assistant deputy minister cannot guarantee to women and children that they'll receive the support payments which have been deducted and submitted by --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Attorney General.

Hon Mr Harnick: In fact, the amount of money that the plan is now paying out exceeds the amount of money that has ever been sent out by this plan before.

The other thing is that for a long time this plan has been allowed to operate when three out of four people who have orders with the plan were not getting the money they were entitled to, if they were getting anything at all. We have taken steps to correct those problems. We are also taking steps to answer what the auditor has said has been a problem with the technology in the plan, technology that is not adequate enough to get cheques out. We're correcting that and all of the other problems they left to us with a plan that didn't work.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question. The member for Nepean.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Come on: a real question, John. Put a real question.

The Speaker: Well, let's just wait and see.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I always ask real questions, Mr Speaker.

My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I was reading a column this morning in the Toronto Star, as I read every morning. This column talked about an inspirational story about a single mother getting off welfare. The column attributes her success story to job counselling, child care and training programs. This seems to make very good sense to me and to people in my constituency. Could the minister tell this House what she and her ministry are doing to make sure this happens to others across the province of Ontario?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd like to thank my honourable colleague for the question. It's always gratifying and I think very encouraging for people to hear about individuals or families who through dint of hard work and use of supports manage to get their family off the welfare system and into paid employment.

I think the column quite rightly points out the very valuable role, in doing that, that job supports like counselling and child care can make in terms of making that happen. That's one of the reasons why our work-for-welfare program, Ontario Works, has job supports like counselling, has child care support, has those other kinds of training things that are very necessary and very important for those families trying to get off welfare.

Mr Baird: Could the minister provide any early indications, with the whole host of welfare reforms that the government has undertaken, that this approach that she and the ministry are taking with Ontario Works will be effective in the province?

Hon Mrs Ecker: As the members opposite will know, we have had over 200,000 fewer people trapped on welfare in the last year in the province. The vast majority of them have been going into paid employment, have been leaving welfare for employment-related reasons, according to the independent research that we did.

We're also hearing some very encouraging stories from the municipalities that are involved in workfare. As a matter of fact, I did an interview the other day with a reporter who had been interviewing people who are participating in workfare who were very pleased with the service they were getting and quite optimistic about their prospects.

Finally, I think it's worth noting that Shirley Hoy, in a report to the Metro human services committee, recently talked about a report that the US General Accounting Office had done which said that the most successful welfare-to-work programs offered participants an expanded mix of education, training, employment services and increased child care assistance while mandating some form of client participation.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm going to address my question to the Minister of Community and Social Services because I think it fits within her purview. I know she'll pass it to somebody else if it doesn't.

Lucy Blais of the National Council of Welfare was talking about a report that was released today by the National Council of Welfare on video lottery terminals, those one-armed bandits or electronic slot machines that you want to put in every bar, in every restaurant, on every street in every neighbourhood in Ontario. Ms Blais of the National Council of Welfare has stated that it is their opinion after much study that any video lottery terminals, electronic slot machines, should be placed only in controlled gambling places such as casinos; in other words, where there's a controlled gambling place in existence.

Do you agree with her? If you do, will you inform the Premier so that you're not putting them in every bar and every restaurant in every neighbourhood in Ontario?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I think those are very valid points and I'm sure my colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations would like to answer them.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Thanks for the opportunity to answer the question. As everyone knows right now, Ontario will be introducing video lottery terminals. They'll be the lowest per capita number of machines in the country. We will be the ninth province in the country to be entering into this initiative.

I'd like to point out what the province of Ontario is doing. We're going to be dedicating about $9 million to dealing with problem gambling for education, for prevention and for a number of other initiatives. I might point out that in prior governments, when the casinos were introduced by the NDP government, they did allocate $1 million to go to problem gambling, but when the Liberal government introduced roving casinos and Monte Carlos, they allocated no money.

Mr Bradley: To the minister, the reason, of course, that you are having to increase this is you're increasing the problem a thousandfold. In Manitoba, 92% of addicted gamblers seeking help from the Manitoba Addiction Research Foundation said that VLTs, video lottery terminals or electronic slot machines, were the problem for their addiction.


Minister, recognizing that this preys upon the most vulnerable people in our society, the most desperate, the most addicted, because it's the most alluring and seducing kind of gambling, will you now come to your senses and will you give a commitment to this House that you will not allow electronic slot machines, VLTs, into bars and restaurants and neighbourhoods in this province?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: What I might point out to the honourable member is that the Addiction Research Foundation report that was issued last fall indicated that in Ontario approximately 1% to 2% of the population would have gambling problems.

I might indicate as well that Dr Room, the vice-president of the Addiction Research Foundation, said that the 2% of the gross revenues that the province will be allocating to problem gambling will certainly mean that the government could build some treatment centres for people with gambling addictions. They indicated clearly that this is money that could deal with people who need the facilities now, but they certainly say there is some light at the end of the tunnel because of our allocation of around $9 million each year.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Attorney General and it concerns the victim/witness program. Lately you've been making announcements of some new programs being set up, and we know that when we introduced the surcharge to fund those programs Sault Ste Marie was on the top of that list to get a program. When can Sault Ste Marie expect to get a victim/witness program for its community.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Certainly we are looking at expanding this program to as many centres as we possibly can, and as funds become available those expansions will be entered into. The member is quite right. This is a very important program; it's a program that assists witnesses going through a court process that's very difficult for them. We want to ensure that the program can be in as many centres across the province as we possibly can manage, and we will be looking at continuously expanding this program as funds become available.

Mr Martin: That's interesting, Minister. My supplementary is around the criteria you will use to make those decisions. You will know that Sault Ste Marie has had a number of very high-profile and complicated cases lately, over the last few years, and yet just recently you announced a program for North Bay. We know that this government is very anxious to assist the Premier's own jurisdiction, given that they're going to lose 22,000 jobs in that area. You have already, as a government, moved offices in education, agriculture, OPP and fire over there. Are you going to base the decision around where the next victim/witness program is located on need as opposed to political expedience?

Hon Mr Harnick: The decisions about expansion of this program have been made by people in the Ministry of the Attorney General who are quite aware of the demand for the program. On that basis, they've determined where the program should be.

I might tell you that we've doubled the size of the program from 13 to 26 centres, something that should have been done a long time ago and could have been done a long time ago if the resolve to do it had been there.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. I have had many town hall meetings in my riding of Durham East on the subject of education. Parents want their children to have training and education that will allow them to be competitive in the world today. However, international tests have recently shown that our students' results are below the best in the world. In fact, recent results rank Ontario students last within Canada and only achieving the international average.

Minister, we're paying the most for education. Could you tell me what action you're taking to ensure that our students have the best, affordable, highest-quality education?


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Durham East for the question and also for the concern about the achievement of our students here in Ontario. I know that the member for Durham East, as do all my other colleagues -- unlike the members opposite, apparently, from their comments a few moments ago -- measures the success of our school system and the results of our students not in the amount of money spent. Surely we are number one in spending. Unfortunately, we're not number one in student achievement.

Our government has addressed how we can have the excellent teachers and the excellent students we have in Ontario achieve better. We believe that a big part of the answer is to have rigorous and demanding curriculum that focuses our resources, focuses our teachers and our students on the basics, on reading and writing, spelling and grammar, math, science, geography and Canadian history. And we must have, we absolutely must have, very clear standards that are measurable in every single grade.

Mr O'Toole: I support fully the idea of having measurable outcomes. How will parents know what these standards are supposed to be? How are they supposed to know what they're achieving and how will they hold the educational system itself accountable for achieving these standards?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Our ministry has recently, in our pledge to parents, given an outline of the kind of exact standards we would like to have students achieve right across the province, including that after grade 6 every child in the province should be able to use simple, compound and complex sentences to organize a paragraph, and as an example of the requirements after grade 9, every student should be able to plot a graph that represents y = 2x + 1. Those are the kinds of standards we believe parents should know about.

In addition, we will have standard province-wide tests for students in the province and we will have very clear report cards for students and for their parents. In addition to that -- and I'm very proud of this -- we will also ask parents and taxpayers to rate the Ministry of Education and give the Ministry of Education a report card every year. That's a first step towards accountability in our system.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. I think the minister knows that we are not the biggest spenders in Canada on a per pupil basis. We're probably about sixth, and after next year we'll probably be 10th, as we are with colleges and universities.

I'd like to point out -- and I'm sure you will be aware of this -- that the number one concern in Ontario is jobs. Over the last 18 months we have heard little from you regarding training needs for Ontarians.

We now hear that the province is considering a proposal to hand over apprenticeship training to the college system. Minister, what consultations have you had with the stakeholders in the training in the apprenticeship area?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Ottawa Centre for the question. Just to help him out with the preamble, it depends, in how much Ontario spends relative to other provinces, whether you include all the costs or not. I'd invite the member opposite to join us in a brief on that some day, if he'd like to get the full facts.

As far as jobs are concerned, my colleagues have announced on several occasions our proud record in job creation in this province. That's something I'm proud of as part of this government. Second, I was pleased to stand in this House last year and announce an increase in the number of jobs for students in the province, I think another proud piece of our record as a government.

As far as apprenticeship is concerned, this is something very near and dear to my heart personally. I know a lot about the apprenticeship programs in the province; I've had direct contact with apprentices, and I can assure the member opposite that before we do reforms to apprenticeship which are necessary and needed in this province, we will do broad-based consultations.

Mr Patten: The industry at the moment conducts about 40% of all the training in Ontario in apprenticeship training, yet there have been no discussions with the industry or the training institutes or anyone involved in the training field among the trades and the industries. Will you assure the House that when you proceed to change the apprenticeship training program, you will consult all trades, all industries affected in Ontario in terms of the delivery training services needed? They are the bodies that know best what kinds of training needs to take place within the industries.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm pleased to report to the member opposite that no one needs to inform me of the importance of that skill development in the province, the importance to our future, and also the situation our apprentices find themselves in. I of course have some personal knowledge in that area. When we do the necessary reforms to the apprenticeship program in Ontario we will consult broadly with apprentices, with the industries, with the employers, and see what exactly is needed and how the province can support the development of those necessary skills.

I know the member opposite and his colleagues join us in being very happy that in fact -- unfortunately, in Canada youth employment has gone down, but over the last year in Ontario youth employment has gone up.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. Ontario Hydro is selling off part of the R.L. Hearn generating plant, which is located in my riding. Ontario Hydro refuses to tell us who is buying it and for what purpose. Minister, I would like you to tell us today, first of all, did this site go up for tender before it's sold off, and if not, why not?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): I believe Ontario Hydro is trying to improve its financial situation. This particular site is surplus to their needs and therefore they have put it up for sale. You'll have to refer to the chairman of Hydro with regard to the details of it. I'll take it on notice and come back to you with an answer on the specific details that are public.

Ms Churley: I'd say to the minister that residents in my community are very concerned, for good reason. They're concerned about the possibility of hospital waste being burned there. They're concerned about solid waste incineration down the road. They cannot get any answers from Ontario Hydro. You are accountable, and I want you to tell me whether or not this went out to tender. We would like, at the very least, to have information as to who the interested party is. Why can't the community get that very basic information?

Hon Mr Sterling: There have been no indications with regard to what the use of the Hearn generation station might be in the future. They would of course have to follow any environmental rules, they would have to follow any zoning bylaws of the city, they would have to follow all of the other rules with regard to the future use. Your citizens should be as protected as they would with regard to any other private property that people would be selling in the province of Ontario.

As I said before, I would be most pleased to take this on notice and try to fill the member in on additional details as I can receive them from Ontario Hydro on this matter.


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

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Question period is over. There will be a deferred vote; a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1502 to 1507.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr Shea has moved third reading of Bill 86. All those in favour of the motion will rise one at a time.


Agostino, Dominic

Galt, Doug

Patten, Richard

Arnott, Ted

Gerretsen, John

Phillips, Gerry

Baird, John R.

Gilchrist, Steve

Preston, Peter

Barrett, Toby

Grandmaître, Bernard

Pupatello, Sandra

Bartolucci, Rick

Gravelle, Michael

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Bassett, Isabel

Grimmett, Bill

Ross, Lillian

Beaubien, Marcel

Guzzo, Garry J.

Runciman, Robert W.

Bradley, James J.

Hardeman, Ernie

Ruprecht, Tony

Brown, Jim

Harnick, Charles

Sampson, Rob

Brown, Michael A.

Hastings, John

Saunderson, William

Caplan, Elinor

Hoy, Pat

Sergio, Mario

Carr, Gary

Jackson, Cameron

Shea, Derwyn

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, Bert

Sheehan, Frank

Clement, Tony

Johnson, David

Smith, Bruce

Crozier, Bruce

Jordan, W. Leo

Snobelen, John

Cunningham, Dianne

Kells, Morley

Spina, Joseph

Curling, Alvin

Kennedy, Gerard

Sterling, Norman W.

Danford, Harry

Klees, Frank

Stewart, R. Gary

DeFaria, Carl

Kwinter, Monte

Tascona, Joseph N.

Doyle, Ed

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tilson, David

Duncan, Dwight

Maves, Bart

Tsubouchi, David H.

Ecker, Janet

McGuinty, Dalton

Turnbull, David

Elliott, Brenda

Munro, Julia

Vankoughnet, Bill

Eves, Ernie L.

Mushinski, Marilyn

Villeneuve, Noble

Flaherty, Jim

Newman, Dan

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Ford, Douglas B.

North, Peter

Witmer, Elizabeth

Fox, Gary

O'Toole, John

Wood, Bob

Froese, Tom

Palladini, Al

Young, Terence H.

The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will rise one at a time.


Bisson, Gilles

Cooke, David S.

Pouliot, Gilles

Boyd, Marion

Lankin, Frances

Silipo, Tony

Christopherson, David

Marchese, Rosario

Wildman, Bud

Churley, Marilyn

Martin, Tony

Wood, Len

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 84; the nays are 12.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to bring to your attention, and also to the attention of new Minister of Health who is here in this House, that order paper questions, to which commitment had been made would be answered by December 12, have not yet been answered.

They are order paper questions number 662 through 669. I had been told that all of those would be answered either December 6 or December 12. I point out to the minister that today is the 16th. It's important that these be answered and I ask that he undertake to get these answered as quickly as possible.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Your point has been made, and I hope that the minister will take note.



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

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

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is unfair;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is discriminatory;

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

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 requires extensive changes;

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

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

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


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have further petitions from firefighters at Station 111 in Mississauga, CAW Local 4580 in Brantford, Stratford and District Labour Council, OPSEU Local 365 at Trent University and IAMLL 863 in Burlington.

"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, illness and death caused by work;

"Therefore, 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;

"And 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 Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): I have a petition.

"We, the concerned citizens and taxpayers of rural Lambton county, object to the notice of intention to issue directions to Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital by the Health Services Restructuring Commission.

"By depriving us of a full-service hospital and taking away all of our acute care beds, this places our lives at risk and denies us the same opportunities for health care as other citizens within the county. Our hospital must continue to provide rural primary care, including acute services and 24-hour emergency care to our taxpayers and voters. We must maintain essential services in our community."

I'll sign my signature to the petition.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned residents of Windsor and Essex county, Ontario, draw the attention of the Legislative Assembly to the following:

"Whereas children are our most important resource and are Ontario's future;

"Whereas the Ontario Child Health Study (1988) indicated that at any given time, 18% of children and adolescents require mental health services;

"Whereas recent research studies have proven the positive results and cost-effectiveness of mental health treatment for children and adolescents;

"Whereas the 95 children's mental health centres in Ontario serve over 85,000 children and their families each year by providing quality programs to address urgent and serious problems; and

"Whereas the cost of providing treatment to children in the 95 centres across the province is less than the cost of running one large urban teaching hospital or school board;

"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislative Assembly to continue to invest significant resources in children's mental health programs. Our future depends on it. Give children's mental health centres a mandate to continue their work with children and families through appropriate legislation."

I'm pleased to affix my signature along with the hundreds of others from people in my community.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition in Chinese, Vietnamese and English all about cuts to education from people in my riding. It reads:

"Stop the cuts to education. This petition protests the nearly $1 billion the government plans to cut from Ontario school budgets by November 1996. We call upon Premier Mike Harris and Education Minister John Snobelen to guarantee adequate funding for our schools so that our kids get the benefit of a quality education."

I affix my signature to the petition.


Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): On behalf of many of the residents in Hastings-Peterborough:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

"Grants to ensure that all Ontarians have equalized access to library materials and services; coordination of resource-sharing programs such as interlibrary loan and Internet access; policy to ensure the future of the network of Ontario public libraries; provincial assistance directly to libraries at the service level, for example, through Southern Ontario Library Service and Ontario Library Service North; legislation that maintains the autonomy of public library boards."

I affix my signature.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition signed by a number of people from St Catharines. It reads as follows:

"To the government of Ontario:

"Since the Hotel Dieu Hospital has played and continues to play a vital role in the delivery of health care services in St Catharines and the Niagara region;

"Since Hotel Dieu has modified its role over the years as part of a rationalization of medical services in St Catharines and has assumed the position of a regional health care facility in such areas as kidney dialysis and oncology;

"Since the Niagara region is experiencing underfunding in the health care field and requires more medical services and not fewer services;

"Since Niagara residents are required at present to travel outside of the Niagara region to receive many specialized services that could be provided in city hospitals and thereby not require local patients to make difficult and inconvenient trips down our highways to other centres;

"Since the Niagara hospital restructuring committee used a Toronto consulting firm to develop its recommendations and was forced to take into account a cut of $40 million in funding for Niagara hospitals when carrying out its study;

"Since the population of the Niagara region is older than that in most areas of the province and more elderly people tend to require more hospital services;

"We, the undersigned, request that the government of Ontario keep the election commitment of Premier Mike Harris not to close hospitals in our province, and we call upon the Premier to reject any recommendation to close Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines."

I affix my signature to this petition, as I'm in complete agreement with it.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas we are opposed to the opening of retail establishments on Boxing Day, December 26, 1996, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"To reconsider any changes to the laws that now cover the closure of retail establishments on Boxing Day."

There are many pages, with 25 signatures each, and I'm affixing my signature.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep getting petitions against the $2 user fee levied against our senior citizens in this province. The petition reads:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has started to charge seniors and social assistance recipients a $2 user fee for each prescription; and

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

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

"Whereas the current Ontario Minister of Health" -- at that point it was Jim Wilson, because that's what the petition says -- "promised as an opposition MPP in a July 5, 1993, letter to Ontario pharmacists that his party would not endorse legislation that will punish patients to the detriment of health care in Ontario;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge the government to repeal this user fee plan, because the tax-saving user fee concept is not fair, is not sensitive, nor is it accessible to low-income or fixed-income seniors; and lest we forget, our province's seniors have paid their dues by collectively contributing to the social, economic, moral and political fabric of Canada."

I have signed my name to this petition.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by approximately 150 residents of Blind River, Spanish and Elliot Lake, including all of the students of the North Shore Board of Education's adult education centre, regarding the cuts to adult education. It reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas lifelong learning is essential, not an option, for present and future success in this information age;

"Whereas this government has severely cut its secondary school funding for the education of its citizens who are 21 years of age and older;

"We ask that this age discrimination be stopped. We ask for equal access to education for all citizens of this province, as it was before this government came to power. We request restoration of full funding for all students at the secondary school level based on their need of further knowledge and skills, not on their age."

I add my signature to the petition.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have a petition, and thousands are coming in, with regard to the rent control situation here.

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to these petitions.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from CUPE, Local 5, in my home town of Hamilton:

"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;

"Therefore, 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; and

"Further, we, the undersigned, demand that the 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 continue to support these petitions.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): This petition is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I have a petition from over 550 high school students. The petition is to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the 1,400-hectare ancient forest landscape, known as the Owain Lake region of Temagami, contains the third-largest known remaining old-growth red and white pine ecosystem in eastern North America; and

"Whereas this type of ecological representation is indigenous to and currently lacking in the Temagami site district; and

"Whereas old-growth white pine exists in less than 1% of its former geographical range and therefore would be defined as an endangered ecosystem; and

"Whereas we represent young citizens of Ontario and wish to have this region intact for the rest of our lives;

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

"That the Ontario government rescind all permits for logging and mining in the Temagami region and that the remaining old-growth red and white pine in the Owain Lake district be set aside for protection as a wilderness conservation area."


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the Windsor regional hospital workers at 1995 Lens Avenue in Windsor.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs.




Mr Carr, on behalf of Mr Runciman, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 95, An Act to permit shopping on Boxing Day by amending the Retail Business Holidays Act and the Employment Standards Act / Projet de loi 95, Loi visant à permettre l'ouverture des magasins le lendemain de Noël en modifiant la Loi sur les jours fériés dans le commerce de détail et la Loi sur les normes d'emploi.

Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): This legislation is urgently required to ensure that retailers will be free to open on December 26. Bill 95 removes December 26 from the list of holiday closing dates under the Retail Business Holidays Act and amends the Employment Standards Act to allow opening on Boxing Day. Employees choosing to work on Boxing Day will be paid a premium as of December 26.

Bill 95 also amends provisions of the Retail Business Holidays Act concerning commercial leases. This amendment allows retailers to decide whether or not to open on December 26. This legislation will permit Ontarians to conduct business on what is often the biggest shopping day of the year, and police resources can be diverted to the priorities of fighting crime.

Bill 95 will increase available work hours and employment opportunities for Ontario's retail workers. This will especially benefit part-time workers who often seek extra hours during this holiday season.

I had the opportunity, in opposition a few years ago, of dealing with the Sunday shopping bill. I spent a great deal of time going across this province; we spent about four weeks going across northern Ontario in dealing with this bill. It has been my opportunity to spend some time talking to various people across this province on the issues relating to the Retail Business Holidays Act. Bill 95 eliminates inconsistent enforcement of the Retail Business Holidays Act. It responds to consumer demands for increased shopping opportunities and allows all retailers in Ontario to legally conduct business on Boxing Day.

Retailers are anxiously awaiting the passage of this legislation. Nance MacDonald, the general manager of Square One shopping centre in Mississauga -- we either have a spelling error or she spells it that way, and I apologize if it is not -- was quoted in Saturday's Toronto Star as saying: "Everyone is geared up and ready to go.... I wouldn't be surprised if most retailers open on Boxing Day no matter what." It is clear that we must take action now to ensure a level playing field for all retailers and end the confusion once and for all on this important shopping day.

I encourage all members of the Legislature to pass this legislation. As we all know, the time is winding down as we go for the Christmas holidays, and it's imperative that this be dealt with prior to Boxing Day.

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

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): It's unlikely that I'll have an opportunity to participate fully in this debate, so I'm going to take two minutes to comment on the opening remarks from the government.

One of the concerns I've had is that we have seen many merchants in this province opening illegally on Boxing Day, and we know how stressed policing resources are and how difficult it has been to enforce that ban. I've always said it's not a good idea to encourage law-breaking. Society must support the laws of the land, or we are all guilty of creating a kind of society where lawlessness and law-breakers are accepted. I think that's wrong. I happen to believe that if you have a law it should be respected.

In bringing forward this law, while some people have real concerns about the impact of allowing wide-open shopping on Boxing Day, my own view is that we should not be using our policing resources to try and crack down on a law that clearly nobody respects. While I have enormous respect for the law and I believe society should respect the law, because we have seen over the course of time a desire by many in our society to have the traditional Boxing Day sales, I am willing to accept the government's legislation that will change the law and permit Boxing Day shopping and Boxing Day sales.

I wanted to get that on the record. I wanted to be very clear. I understand and share the concerns of those who don't like it, but I believe in respect for the law and I hope that this will be a positive change in Ontario.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): In the two minutes I have to respond I want to tell the parliamentary assistant that in our community there is some support by mall owners. Mall owners are in favour of this legislation. They think it's good stuff. I can tell you that Mr Braganolo, the manager of Timmins Square, and the other manager at the 101 Mall are in favour of opening on Boxing Day, but the owners of businesses in the downtown area of Timmins, the owners of businesses at Timmins Square and other employers are actually opposed to this.

The dilemma we find ourselves in is that it doesn't matter if this legislation is passed or not passed, businesses will open come Boxing Day, as the law we have now on the books is not going to stand up in the courts. It's a bit of a funny situation we find ourselves in: We're rushing to pass legislation that in any event, whether it passes or doesn't pass, it doesn't make a lot of difference because in the end the stores are going to be open on Boxing Day one way or another.

I just want to make sure that the government knows that not every business owner in this province is in support of this legislation. I can tell you, when I went to Timmins Square, both last Saturday and the Saturday before, went through the square and went through the downtown, the one issue --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): You're doing a lot of Christmas shopping, aren't you?

Mr Bisson: I didn't get a lot of Christmas shopping done, because the store owners and the store managers and the workers were constantly coming out of their stores to talk to me about this legislation. They felt it was enough that they remained open all the other days in the year and that to be open Boxing Day didn't make a lot of sense for them, but they were worried that the legislation might mean, if it was passed, that they would have to open.

I pointed out to them that under section 6 of the law, in effect the owner of the retail business has the right to choose not to. But I would imagine that in the end, the big companies such as Laing, the people who run Timmins Square, and Mr Braganolo will have their day and it will be, unfortunately, another example where the big do well and the little guy gets it in the ear once again.

Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I'd like to reply briefly to the member for Oakville South's brief presentation this afternoon. He serves, of course, as the parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General and does an outstanding job in that capacity as well as representing his constituents. I sit beside him and I can tell him this privately, but I want to inform the whole House of how I truly feel at this late hour, this late hour in the afternoon close to Christmas.

Certainly this bill is something that many retailers, especially the larger retailers, have been looking for for quite some time. Of course we've seen what happens on Boxing Day on Yonge Street whereby many of the businesses are opening illegally. This is something, I suppose, in response to a reality that, unfortunately perhaps, is happening in our society today.

I recall when we discussed Sunday shopping some time ago, my colleague Mr Carr and I actually disagreed. I felt at the time that Sunday shopping was not in our best interests and that we should try to discourage wide-open Sunday shopping. At that time, that was not the view of the majority in the House, so the bill passed and now we have wide-open Sunday shopping. That still to some extent saddens me, but it's a reality I recognize.

Again, I would like to commend the member for Oakville South for his fine presentation this afternoon and look forward to his concluding comments.

Mr Gerretsen: I too wanted to make a couple of very brief comments on this bill. Let me first of all say that I think it's too bad in our society that we have to pass a bill like this to basically legitimize a situation which, as has already been indicated, is difficult to enforce nowadays. I certainly concur with the notion that our police should be involved in fighting crime in the cities and municipalities of Ontario rather than fighting merchants who want to stay open on a particular day.

The sad part about it, however, is the fact that people spend anywhere from two weeks to two months getting ready for Christmas and doing all their shopping, getting the tree decorated, getting everything else done, and what does it basically boil down to? We've come to a point in our society where we're talking about 24 hours when there's actually peace in the sense that all the stores aren't open etc, and we have to pass a law now that will legitimize the situation so that people can stay open on Boxing Day as well. I suppose in a perfect world you would try to get concurrence from all the different shop owners, large or small, throughout this province whereby they would all agree to stay closed for a couple of days; that way, nobody could suggest that while they're closed and somebody else is open, the other store owner is making the money and somebody being left out.

It's too bad that our Christmas season in effect has come down to only one day of rest, namely, Christmas Day. I will be reluctantly voting in favour of this as well because I do believe our police should be involved in fighting crime rather than whether a provincial bylaw of this nature has been violated.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Are you going to give us your views on the megacity now?

Mr Gerretsen: No, we'll give you the views on the megacity sometime later on.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Oakville South, you have two minutes.

Mr Carr: I'm pleased to wrap up. I appreciate the comments from the member for Oriole and her participation, as well as the member for Cochrane South, my good friend the member for Wellington, and the member for Kingston and The Islands.

I know on these issues there is often difference of opinion between all members of the House, of all parties, on what should be done and there's often some compromise made in what people believe should be done. I think this particular issue is something probably even more non-partisan -- there are probably some members of our caucus who disagree with certain aspects.


My friend from Wellington alluded to some of the discussions we had in the past. I know that as I went around the province on the Sunday shopping legislation there was a great deal of difference of opinion. The former parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General, the member for Durham East, Gord Mills -- I can call him by his name, I guess, now. We got to know each other and there was a tremendous amount of difference of opinion even within their caucus. But I appreciate that all the members have attempted to try to make their views known. I honestly and truly believe that this piece of legislation has come forward in this time, in this place, in this day. We all remember what has happened over the last little while. The big debate is going to be whether the police are going to be out and charge the retailers on Boxing Day. I think we've grown past that as a society.

To all members who participated, I want to thank you for your efforts. Hopefully, by some of the indication here today, I believe the bill will probably pass. It will end a lot of the confusion. Regardless of what we do, we need to end the confusion for our police services across the province, which up until this point have been very confused about what to do. I'm pleased that we will have some agreement, and hopefully this bill will pass today so that we can end confusion. Again, I thank the members for Oriole, Cochrane South, Wellington and Kingston and The Islands for their participation. Good luck to all of us.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): When I begin, I would like to get the unanimous consent of the House -- this is difficult; the table will assist me with this, I'm sure -- to split the remainder of time to be spent on this bill between the Liberal Party and the NDP, which would be, if you wanted to say it, the three hours. It won't be three hours -- quite obviously, it's not going to be anywhere near that -- but it's just so that the Liberals can have their speakers in one block and the NDP their speakers in one block. I don't anticipate that they will be lengthy.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Just ask for unanimous consent to split your leadoff time among multiple speakers.

Mr Bradley: They say I should ask for unanimous consent to split the leadoff time between myself and Mr Curling and Mr Gerretsen.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it agreed? Agreed.

Mr Bradley: I'm the person who gets to speak against this first of all. Because I'm the House leader, I get to speak first out of the three people.

This is almost like a private members' hour this afternoon because I'm sure, as the member for Oakville South has said, there are many opinions on this particular piece of legislation. Some would engage in crackpot realism, my favourite saying now; that is, they are prepared to accept something because everybody says that that's the way it is today in 1996. I don't engage in that. I like to argue on the merits. Just because people are breaking the law, I don't accept the fact personally, and I speak only personally on this, that therefore we should always change the law.

It reminds me of video lottery terminals. I happen to believe that in this case the government made a case, if I might draw an analogy, for video lottery terminals by saying that there were some illegal video lottery terminals or electronic slot machines out there. What I said was that that's similar to saying that since there are a lot of banks being robbed, the government should get into the bank-robbing business. That wouldn't make any sense. Or that since people are selling crack cocaine, somehow the government should get into that business. I don't accept that.

I personally am opposed to opening stores on Boxing Day and will in the next few minutes list some of the reasons why I believe this is ill-advised legislation, even though with a government majority it will go through and I'm sure there are even people on this side of the House who would take a different view than I do.

First of all, you have to look at those who are most vulnerable, and those are the people who must work in these stores. I know that as part of this bill there is legislation providing that those who do not wish to work will be protected. That just isn't going to work in a practical sense. It is easier perhaps in the very large stores, the ones, by the way, which are most eager to be open, the Wal-Marts of this world and other very large stores, than it is in medium-sized or smaller stores, where you might have five or six or seven employees. If none of the people want to work on Boxing Day when they're asked, you can be sure that some of those people are going to have to work.

I think you've also made provision in this legislation, if my memory is correct, to pay time and a half for people who will work that day, or some premium at least for people who work that day, and that alleviates a bit of the concern.

But I think what is of most concern to workers is that this is one chance they get to be with family. Very often the only time we get to see some of our relatives is at Christmastime or at funerals or weddings. For a lot of people the family does gather together at a household or two during the Christmas period of time. Where there's a younger man and wife, they may want to go to one set of grandparents for one Christmas dinner, if I can call it that, and to another set of grandparents for a second Christmas dinner. So one of those happens to be on Boxing Day and one of those on Christmas Day. This does not permit that to happen if people are owner-operators of stores or if they are workers in the stores.

First of all, I believe we are depriving people who work in the retail stores of this province an opportunity to be home with their families and friends for two days in a row. That doesn't exist other times, if you think of it, because the stores are now open seven days a week normally. I'm not saying everybody who works in the retail sector works the full seven days a week, but the stores are open seven days a week and those who are part-time workers might well be in the position of having to work seven days a week. This becomes even more important now that we have, in my view unwisely, opened the major retail outlets on Sundays. That means these people have very few holidays, and this is one time to get together.

Second are the owners. It is contended that everybody in the retail business is eager to be out there and open. That's not the case. Some are, and I will concede some are, but many are not. Often you'll get a number of stores in a mall or in a shopping centre where the people are family owners or small owners. They would prefer to be closed on Boxing Day, but if you're going to open up Boxing Day to others, they are going to have to open up because of competition or because it is a rule of the mall or a rule of the shopping centre.

Again, I know the government has placed a provision in this legislation which says that despite the lease, a person may stay closed. Well, just as the person who won't work on Boxing Day may not curry much favour with the employer, those stores which choose to close on Boxing Day may not curry much favour with the owner of the shopping centre who wants all stores open. When it comes up to lease time, that may be one of the factors considered in the renewal of the lease. I'm not saying it necessarily is going to result in a person not being able to stay in that mall or shopping centre, but that is a possibility that arises as a result of this legislation.

Someone just made a point around the circle -- I think it was the member for Kingston and The Islands, or perhaps someone else. One of the members stated, "Well, don't you understand that all the stores are open before Christmas?" In fact, they are. They're open often until 9 and 10 o'clock at night -- seven days a week they're open in this case -- and at least five of those seven days, and perhaps six of those seven days, the stores are open a very long period of time, including the Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores, which are open as well.

By opening it up on this day, you are compelling owners of stores as well as employees of stores to work on a day they do not wish to work. I just don't think it's necessary to feed this mania for shopping till you drop on Boxing Day. The same goods are going to be available the day after Boxing Day if you want to go shopping, and they may be available the next weekend, except, as some of the members opposite say, some of the half-priced stuff. I assure you that there's some half-priced stuff over there available now, and there will be for some period of time after the Christmas break.

So I don't think it's necessary. There will be people who say: "You're simply not living in 1996. This might have been realistic 10 or 20 years ago." Well, I think there are certain values that shouldn't disappear just because the calendar changes.

I would prefer as well not to be discussing this piece of legislation this afternoon, but rather to be discussing the closing of the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines, because we've had an announcement from our local restructuring commission that while we are opening stores on Boxing Day, we are closing hospitals for seven days a week, 365 days a year, if the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines is closed as a result of a recommendation of a local restructuring committee which is predicating its recommendation on the fact that the government is going to provide about $40 million less in operating funds to local hospitals.


That's what I would prefer to be talking about, or I'd prefer to be talking about, in the retail sector, the non-privatization of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, which I think should stay as it is in government hands. It's modernized and it is up to date. I'm not saying it should be open Boxing Day either. I would prefer it and other retail stores to be closed on Boxing Day.

I look at this issue and say it is not a priority issue. There are some people who are putting pressure on the government, some people who are breaking laws, so the government says, "If they're breaking the laws, we're going to take the police off that and put them on something else." I know it has taken some police officers away from giving tickets to cars parked illegally, and that is a good revenue producer, and I know there may be the odd person who is exceeding the speed limit who will now perhaps be called to account by police officers -- again, an ability to collect some funds as well for the government.

But I happen to think this legislation is not necessary. I look across at the people who sit on the government benches. If you look through some of their campaign literature, they ran on a family values platform. If we want to talk about family values, we want families to be able to gather together for at least one period of the year, getting together to visit, to reacquaint with one another, if you will, in some cases, because they are long distances away, and simply to enjoy a very special season.

As a result of this legislation, that is not going to happen and when we come to the time to vote for this, I will be using my voice to vote against this by saying nay when the Speaker calls for ayes and nays.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this bill, Bill 95, and to see it as the typical way this government has behaved, at the last minute ramming things through so people don't have an opportunity to discuss this, but it is a pattern of this government for consultation and bringing the issue to the people properly so they can know what impact legislation can have on them. It's a way of life and we almost want to sometimes even disobey the procedures to get the point across.

Let me just mention a couple of things that I feel have been of issue to the people of this province. They had felt somehow that the economy -- this government spoke so highly of getting the economy working again, as they would say -- would more or less have been creating jobs, but they are so intimidated now about spending their money. They don't know where the next bread is coming from, where the next salary is coming from because they are laying off faster than jobs can be created.

Yet they come into the House and brag about the fact that some jobs have been created. They walk into this House almost daily with glee in their eyes. Every Christmas it seems to me that when they say Santa Claus is here, Mike Harris's Santa Claus has come, it's about cutting jobs. Many people can't provide for their homes and their family because of the loss of jobs.

Here we are, and we're going to say, "Maybe we should open Boxing Day." This very creative government is saying it creates jobs. It's an opportunity, of course, for those who feel it's another opportunity to earn some money to put bread on the table. Yes, it's a very special time of the year for some people who feel that Christmas is a time that the whole family can get together, but many families, however, are hesitant in even getting together. They can't put a turkey on the table. They are scared if you say "Mike Harris" they'll get indigestion. If it's a Progressive Conservative they'll get indigestion, because that is the party that has created havoc among the people of Ontario, people who are in such fear. That's why the word "bully," that's why the words "no consultations whatsoever are happening," and people are not happy in that regard.

Debating whether or not we should be shopping on Boxing Day, whether or not it will create jobs -- we know it doesn't create any jobs. It doesn't create jobs one bit. What is the enemy of any jobs is this government. This government has somehow felt that what it should be doing is passing the money over to big business and hoping that somehow big business will then redistribute the wealth. That will not happen.

This government of course wants to amend the Employment Standards Act. You see how they behave towards unions. They feel that unions are an impediment to any kind of democratic representation. As a matter of fact, it's more democratic having a union so that people can have their say in the workplace, but they are making sure those things are out of the way so they can act as a dictator, as a bully, and one has no consultation whatsoever.

We saw of course some of the things we could be discussing at length: having the people have a say about their city and how their city should be run, what is the size of the city, this megacity that this government wants to introduce without any consultation at all, which is going to have a great impact on people's lives. It is sad to even watch some of the members of the government side or the back bench who want to say something, want to participate, but can't because they've been given orders not to say anything unless they are in agreement with the government.

You can read in the papers from time to time who is making the comments. Those who are hoping to get into cabinet are saying that it's the right direction for the government; those who have given up hope altogether of getting into cabinet are musing, sometimes much louder than one would expect, that it is the wrong way in which to go. The reason for that is that they have no say and they are feeling very much muzzled and want a way of expression. They were elected by the people to come here to speak on their behalf. The people of this province are extremely disappointed that their voices are not being heard by the elected members of the House here. It is sad that democracy has reached that stage.

That is why even to come here to talk about Boxing Day and whether it creates jobs, they would like to have their say that it does not create any jobs. To brag how many jobs it creates in that line will not in any way make this economy better. People are using it as a bridge somehow to get a few more dollars to put on the table, regardless of whether it's Christmas, Boxing Day or any day, so they can feed their families -- a sad day itself, very, very sad.

On the other hand, I personally support shopping on that day, the 26th, and I see nothing wrong in having these stores open. Not at all. But I think that proper laws and legislation should be in place to protect these people, whether they want to work or not. They are days of pause, of course, and I think good legislation should be in place. But we don't have the opportunity at all to debate and discuss this at length or to tell the Legislature what the people are saying out there.

So we bring it at the last moment to ram this thing through, as typical as any legislation we have, without any discussion. I will of course support this, because I feel it's rather insignificant to have a long debate on it. Those are my views on shopping on Boxing Day.

I hope the government will get on in creating jobs for the people who are not working and not realizing that Boxing Day is the avenue for this. I hope that given the proper time and the proper topics, we can get down to it. We end our session here this week, and when we come back in January I'm looking forward to speaking about things that are of more concern.


People are losing their homes because of legislation that this government is putting in place. We'll be introducing legislation to wipe out rent control protecting people's homes. Those are the issues one wants to discuss. But now they're getting cold feet about doing that. I was prepared, of course, to have that kind of debate in this House today so people will know whether they have a home or not later on, or whether this government is selling off their home to the biggest bidder. They're so hungry for money, they would even sell the subways. Later on they'll be selling the streets. They're selling anything that doesn't move, just to fund their wild little dreams of a strategy of balancing budgets and giving to their friends. Sure, they will sell anything that's in the way, as you will see. Later on I wouldn't know whether I'm in the city or where I am, because every name will have been changed, selling it off to the biggest bidder.

These are some of the things we should be discussing here today, and not talking about whether we have Boxing Day and Sunday shopping.

Mr Gerretsen: Let me first of all say that I completely concur with my colleague from Scarborough North that what we really should be talking about is this massive tax cut that's going to be implemented on January 1.


Mr Gerretsen: My friends across the way are laughing about this, but I think if you were one of the people being affected by the services that are no longer available to you, particularly in the social services area, as the result of this $5-billion tax cut, 90% of which is going to people who make $100,000 or more, your attitude would be quite a bit different than that.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): It's in the red book, John, right here.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Lambton.

Mr Gerretsen: I think we should also be talking about the megacity project. What's this all about? You talk about an anti-democratic move that's being put on by the government; I can't think of one that's more anti-democratic than that, because basically less representation means there will be less of a democratic influence on people's lives and on the public institutions that we all hold so dearly in this province.

But I want to talk about this bill today, and we all know who's driving this bill. This bill is basically being driven by the mall owners, because they in very different ways can put pressure on shop owners to open that day. As has already been stated by the member for St Catharines earlier, certainly it's one factor, if a merchant were not to open on Boxing Day or on a day when the mall says you've got to be open, that will be taken into account by the mall owner, large or small, when that lease comes up for renewal. I think for anybody to deny that is just denying the obvious.

I think the people who really don't want this to happen are many of the smaller store owners. I had an opportunity over the weekend to meet with a number of these people at some social gatherings and I was amazed that in each and every small store operation which is owned by a family or by one particular individual, all of these people are against having this law enacted. They realize the value of Christmas and they want to spend time with their families, which has basically been reduced to a 24-hour time period now, just Christmas Day itself. Even though we take up to two months preparing ourselves for this day, we can't even take two days off when we close our consumer society and say: "Look, let's forget about it. We'll start our Boxing Day sales on December 27." I'm sure that if all of the store owners, large or small, agreed with that principle and if some people weren't disobeying the law as has happened particularly here in the city of Toronto over the years, then the amount of dollars that will be spent by the consumers will be exactly the same as what's currently being expended even with the opening of Boxing Day.

Most of the small store owners simply do not like this law, but as a result of competitive pressures that they will be under if this law is passed, obviously they feel they will have to open as well. That's just the law of competition, that if your competitors open down the street or across the street from you and you don't take advantage of that particular situation, you're going to lose as a result thereof.

The other people we have to be concerned about are the employees of these small store owners. In many cases we're talking about anywhere from three to five people who may be working in these smaller operations. It's very easy in law to say that no one can force these people to work, but from a practical viewpoint, what is the small store owner going to do and what is the employee going to do? Quite often the employee feels a certain allegiance to the store owner. There are situations where they have worked for these small-time owners and operators for a great many years, and if the store owner feels the pressure that they have to be open because of competition, obviously the employee is going to feel the same kind of pressure. It's all right for the law to say, "You don't have to work," but I'm quite sure that those employees who are conscientious about their jobs will feel a lot of pressure to show up for work that day. I think we're doing those people a disservice as well by opening on Boxing Day.

I don't think it's a question that people want to go out and shop on that day. Yes, a certain number of people, and you get them in every society, whether it's 5% or 10%, feel this tremendous urge the day after Christmas to buy every piece of Christmas wrapping that hasn't been bought the day before at probably one tenth of the cost or what have you, and yes, there are people who want to immediately shop, but the vast majority of the people, I would say, don't have that same urge and are prepared to wait the extra day.

As has already been stated by one of the other speakers, it creates no jobs. This notion that being open one extra day somehow has a job creation aspect to it I think is a total fallacy. There are only so many consumer dollars to go around in society in any given year, and whether you're open one day more or less, the same number of dollars are going to be expended during that period of time.

As I indicated before, I think this is a backward step. I think it is correct to say, and I accept what the member for Oakville South said earlier, that our police forces ought to be involved in fighting real crime rather than being involved with these kinds of bylaw violations or provincial law violations, and certainly the fact that once this law is in effect they will be able to fight real crime is of some concern, but I think this is a backward step. As I indicated before, it's something the government feels it has to do at this point in time, but I would think the major benefactors of this are the large mall owners and the large supermarkets and superstores that are out there currently.

Mr Bradley: What's it got to do with the tax cut?

Mr Gerretsen: As I indicated before the member for St Catharines came back into the chamber, we should be talking about the tax cut, because we're talking about $5 billion going back to people, money we don't have. That's why the government has to borrow that extra money. According to their own figures, Mr Speaker, and I'm sure you've studied this document as well, the last financial statement, according to the government's own figures, the public debt of the province of Ontario will be going up from $100 billion to $120 billion to do only one thing: to give a $5-billion tax cut to the well-to-do in this province, when 90% of that tax cut goes to people who make $100,000 or more.

Thank you very much for allowing me this opportunity to speak on Bill 95.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments and questions?

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to respond to some of the comments made by the member for Kingston and The Islands. One of the things he identified, quite correctly, in terms of what the member for Oakville South said is that it is a fallacy to say this would create jobs. It doesn't. If they work on that particular day and people shop on that particular day, it means they're not going to shop the next day, so it all balances out. It's not an extra day of shopping. It quite correctly needs to be said that there will not be any more jobs.

I also want to talk about and share the worries that so many of these workers have when they are forced to work yet another holiday. Managers who work for very little money in so many of these retail stores are saying and have said to me that it's yet one more opportunity taken out of their lives where they have two consecutive days to rest. We are taking more days from those workers on which to rest that they're not getting at the moment.


With respect to students working in some of these retail stores, the protection that they speak about that will be in place to protect them, I think that is largely either not going to be there or, if it is in law, that somehow it will say, "We will protect the workers," it won't be there. Students are frightened to fight back. When the managers say, "You've got to come and work," students are frightened to say, "No, it's against the law for you to force me to be here on that day." Students will not fight back because they're frightened, they're young, they're vulnerable. They worry about getting some of the hours at the moment to work on the rest of those days. If they're told they're going to be there that day, they will not cite the law that says, "You can't make me." In fear, they're going to say, "Okay." As much as they speak of the protections, I'm not sure whether they'll be there.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's interesting to listen to the member for Kingston and The Islands with his usual collection of irrelevancies in terms of not debating the bill which is before us, an amendment to the legislation dealing with Boxing Day. He makes bald-headed statements such as, "There won't be any jobs created." If there aren't any jobs being created, he obviously would accept a second absolutely illogical conclusion: that there's no job retention, because even if you were open, those people wouldn't work that day because there's no protection from the law for these young people.

He also makes comments about the tax reduction, which is good news, that's going to hit on January 7, the 7.5% tax relief, when he knows full well his Liberal, Grit brethren in New Brunswick are even conceding that they're taking a targeted minuscule tax reduction to help the citizens of that province. I thought that sort of stuff would be against all Liberal ideology across the way, even if they had any. We find that it shifts like the sands in the Sahara from day to day.

But the big thing that is most surprising is that since he likes to argue logically that there aren't any jobs going to be created and that there won't be any job retention, he must come out in favour then of higher, increased taxes because that would be more helpful to the economy today than the reverse.

With those comments I'm sure we're going to hear back from him as to whether he is or isn't for the Boxing Day relief. Let's really hear from him in those specific terms rather than the tax reduction, which he has probably, I suspect, taken as an indication in his own personal income tax --

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm very tempted, actually, to respond to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, but I'll save it for the member for Kingston and The Islands to respond to his rather bizarre comments, whether they were irrelevant or not, and anyway having reference to what the member for Kingston and The Islands said.

I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to also speak for a very short time and comment about the Boxing Day act. It's really quite unfortunate that we are being put in this position because of the fact that we obviously don't want to have our police officers across the province working in terms of chasing down people who are opening stores when they shouldn't be.

It's unfortunate that we're put in this position because certainly in Thunder Bay I've had the opportunity in the last week or so to talk to a number of merchants as well, and the feeling very strongly is that indeed all the business that could be done on December 26, that great busy day that it will be, could certainly be done on the 27th. I got a call from a store -- and they told me they don't mind me telling -- the Power Centre. I said, "Gee, what about the opportunities you'll have to have a big business day on the 26th?" They said: "We will do that business on the 27th. We don't need it. We will do exactly that business on the 27th or the 28th. We will not add anything to our market share by opening on the 26th." Sadly enough, they have 30 employees. They will be forced to open, as so many other stores will, and unfortunately people will not have the opportunity to have that extra day off that so many people want to have.

I think previously many of the small store owners and the corner stores would open on the 26th, and be able to, and they gave the people, those small business owners, the opportunity to have a day when their market share was a little bit larger. Those are gone so it's really part of this integration of that corner store mentality which we're watching happen in the province.

I recognize the purpose behind this. I think it's very sad. I certainly have said so publicly myself in my riding and wanted to have this opportunity to speak on behalf of some of the people in Thunder Bay and the Port Arthur riding.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I also appreciate the opportunity to participate this afternoon and to congratulate the members previous for the excellent comments they put on the record and to suggest, as they have, that for most people in the province this is not really a big deal any more. Shopping, not shopping, what does it matter to most people, except if you happen to be that big mall owner who wants to make more money, who wants by way of greed to suck a few more bucks out of the pockets of some of the smaller retailers in the stores who don't stand to make a whole lot, just to be inconvenienced, or if you happen to be the worker who has to come out to work on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.


Mr Martin: Exactly. You don't have your job, you get laid off if you don't come.

The really sinister part of this whole piece of legislation is how it fits into the larger agenda of this government. Just before Christmas, they come with this carrot, this present that they're going to give everybody. After all these years of squabbling and trying to come to terms with the question of Boxing Day shopping, "We're going to deliver," they say, saying nothing about the fact that in other instances across the board, every day we go on, they are destroying the small business sector of this province, taking away money from people that they would spend in all of the small stores in all of the small communities across this province. Sault Ste Marie, Manitouwadge, Timmins, Kingston -- all the communities are being hurt big time by the decisions this government is making to take money out of the pockets of both workers and the poor in our communities who would be spending it almost immediately to buy presents and gifts and to have food on the table for their families at Christmas.

To suggest for a second that somehow this is what they should be focusing on when in fact what they should be focusing on is the economy of this province, creating jobs and helping people, is really shameful.

Mr Bradley: In reply, I appreciate the remarks that have been offered by each of the members and I was pleased that at least one of them mentioned the tax cut because it allows me to respond to the tax cut. I thank the member for Rexdale for doing that.

What people in this province have to understand is that this government, the people opposite, actually believes it might make some additional tax money on that day. Well, it won't because it would have that on subsequent days in any event. What they have to do is they have to make up for the tax cut. They are borrowing $5 billion a year against the wise counsel of the Dominion Bond Rating Service, against the wise counsel of most small-c conservative-minded economists in this province, against the advice of many of their own members, including my friend the member for Wellington who spoke publicly on this, and the members for Lakeshore and Grey-Owen Sound, and I believe even the present Speaker, spoke about this. I'm glad that was raised by the member because I think he's right: This is tied into this bill. They're desperate to get money any way they can.

They are bringing in video slot machines in every bar, in every restaurant, on every street in every neighbourhood in Ontario. They are cutting hospitals in St Catharines. They want to close the Hotel Dieu Hospital. They want to close the Port Colborne hospital and the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital. Why is all this being done? It's all tied into the tax cut, because we have to have a tax cut which will benefit the richest people in our province to the greatest extent. Therefore, I say that most people in this province would prefer that you not predicate all of your policies on a tax cut which is largely going to benefit the most wealthy and privileged people in our society.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak today about the Boxing Day bill, and I'm glad that my colleagues in this House have pointed out the hypocrisy that surrounds this whole situation. Let us be very clear: This bill is going to pass and it is not necessary. Because of court cases that have already happened, it's our position that in fact there is no confusion about this law. This is a piece of propaganda, a payoff to the good friends of the Conservative government, the big corporations like Wal-Mart, Eaton's, Sears, all those big businesses that have been pushing to have Boxing Day shopping.


It's quite absurd because we know from the experience of Sunday shopping that there are so many dollars to go around and that increasing the number of days within which those dollars are spent does not increase the retail sales of the province. We have proof of that in this province. These same arguments were brought forward around Sunday shopping, that people would get more jobs, that somehow there would be more retail spending, and exactly the opposite happened. What we saw was indeed the fallacy that is involved in this whole situation.

There are many people in this province who currently work on holidays like Boxing Day and Christmas Day, but they are mostly essential workers and they are mostly workers who are working in a situation where their employers, whether they are public employees, or private employees as they are in some cases, recognize that they are essential employees and deal with them in a way that compensates them for having to work those extra times. There are efforts, for example, in hospitals, where staff have to work over the Christmas period of time, that they get a block of days off over New Year's and vice versa. That happens in those large businesses and in those kinds of service industries. That has become a custom for us.

It's true that many people say Boxing Day has no religious significance, and I suppose if you don't celebrate St Stephen's Day, as my friend from Algoma pointed out, as a saint day, that would be true, but Boxing Day became a symbol of the importance of a time of year when we as a community decided that people should have a block of time to spend together with their families. I agree with the member for St Catharines that it is indeed passing strange that the government that has put so much emphasis on so-called family values has become an apologist for this excuse to destroy the ability of many hundreds of families in this province to enjoy two days together.

Let's look at who these workers are. They are workers who, from mid-November right through until Christmas Day, are expected to work seven days a week for extended hours of time to accommodate us as shoppers. We know that although in large businesses they may get some time off to compensate them for working some of those long hours, that's not true in small retail outlets, and it's particularly not true for those who are either owner-operators of small businesses or managers of small stores. Because they cannot insist that their employees work on Sunday or now, with this law, on Boxing Day, they very often have to work themselves.

What we are seeing among many small business people is a huge feeling in regard to everyone else, especially their big competitors, the big businesses that really are the backbone of this Conservative government, that really are the focus of all its attention, that this is just another excuse for those big businesses to be able to take them over, and that needs to be named.

We certainly have seen it happen that there is a very strong drive on the part particularly of large multinational retail operations to have bigger and bigger outlets so that the economy of scale can drive down wages, drive down prices and drive small competitors out of business. We've seen it again and again. We see the struggle that's going on in communities where a large operator like Wal-Mart has suddenly parked itself on the edge of town and we see what is happening to the overall economic health of community-owned businesses. That's a reality. It's a reality that no one can deny.

What we see here is a move that is supported primarily by those large retail operations, knowing very well that they will be the ones who will gain in the long run because small businesses who decide not to open may lose a bit of their competitive edge. That was what all the lobbying was about on Sunday shopping, and it's no different in this case.

Those businesses that make a determination that their families and their employees' families and their ability to have at least two days -- is this too much to ask, two consecutive days off once a year? Those businesses do that at their peril. It is really extremely important for us to understand that and to understand that by acceding to the very strong lobbying efforts of the large commercial retailers that is the end effect. I think it's a shame that we are folding to that.

Several members have said, "If there were closures on December 26, wouldn't Boxing Day simply move to December 27 as a sale day?" That in fact is what has happened in many municipalities. The same dollars just get spent on a different day. Quite frankly, if all the advertising, all the hype from those large retailers had not built in people's minds some sense that Boxing Day, December 26, not a substitute day, was the important day, we wouldn't even have this kind of pressure.

This is a manufactured desire, and one of the most serious things is that it is not even recognized as a manufactured desire. If we in our communities really believed that every family in our community should have an opportunity, where at all possible, to enjoy at least a two-day block of time, that's what we would be promoting in the ads, that's what the government would be saying. The government wouldn't be using the propaganda machine that's at their behest to increase this view of people that they must shop on the day after Christmas. They could take quite the opposite view and they could listen to some of their members who have tried to talk about family values, have tried to talk about community values, have tried to talk about the importance of people having a block of time together. They could have done that.

Instead they buy into the whole hype of the big retailers, just the way the Minister of Culture has, who's looked up in amazement and said: "What? You couldn't do that at the same price on the day after the 26th." She fell into the trap. All it is is a huge commercialization trap. The prices would be the same, the goods would be same, and all that would have happened would be that people would have had more time off at a particularly important point in the year. It is absolutely absurd for us to believe this hype and believe this malarkey about how important it is.

The government argues that the majority of people want holiday shopping and want to shop on that day. I've said very clearly and I believe very clearly that that's a manufactured want. Of course the majority who don't have to work on that day want the stores open so they can go there. It gives them something to do. What does that say about our community when we talk about our families not having anything to do if they can't go shopping? It really tells you what kind of hype people are believing.

Maybe the majority of people would like to reinstate or start all sorts of other things. We have a government that wants to completely change the government of the area of Toronto, but it doesn't want a referendum because it knows that the majority of people in the Metro area do not want a megacity. They don't want to have a referendum on that. It all depends on what side of the question people sit.


It is absolutely absurd for this government to say that this one day is so important to the economic health of this province. It's absolutely absurd. Clearly we know that the number of dollars to go around did not change when additional days were added on Sundays, we know that did not happen, so the reality of this is that it is simply a manufactured issue.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): It does for my kid; it does for my family. When they're working their way through school, they need that time.

Mrs Boyd: Mr Speaker, I wish you would control the House.

Mr Gerretsen: The minister is totally out of control. She shows no culture over there, that's for sure.

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

Mrs Boyd: Mr Speaker, that's also absurd, for you to call the member for Kingston and the Islands to order when the full cause of the disturbance was not on this side of the House.

The reality we face in this province is that this is a government that is captive to the large commercial operations, a captive of big business. It's big business that wants to open on December 26, not small retailers. We have petition after petition after petition, and have presented those in this place, from small retailers and their customers saying that they should not be open. It is just an example of how this government caves in to big business all the time and knows that its friends are the ones who will gain from its policies.

I find it offensive when the government claims that there will suddenly be more jobs to go around because it indicates to me that they do not understand the reality of part-time retail work in this province. First of all, the people who are likely to have to work more hours are people who are already working long hours, and those are the managers of retail businesses. When they are in a small operation, they need to be there. The reality is that they can be forced to work because no one else is there. The reality is that whether they complain or not, they will not have their jobs.

But for all these part-time people the government talks about, for students, whom I think the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale tried to talk about, the reality for those people is that they seldom get enough hours in a week to begin with. They want to work more hours, that's true, and the government is quite right that people who are in part-time work mostly want to work more hours. But the reality is that if they refuse to work on a day when they don't want to work, the company cuts their hours as punishment and there's no way under the law to get back at the company at all because they are on flex hours. One week they may work six hours, another week they may work 12, and it's impossible for them to prove that they've been punished for refusing to work on a Sunday or on Boxing Day. That is the reality we face in this province on part-time workers.

Besides which, as managers have pointed out again and again, are you going to have your least experienced people working on the busiest day of the year? Because of this manufactured desire for people to shop on December 26, it is a busy retail day. Are you going to hire, as the member from Oakville suggested, people who have never worked for you before, the inexperienced, the untrained, to work on the busiest day of the year? Of course you're not. It's absolute nonsense. What you are going to do as a retailer is to do everything in your power to influence those who have experience and have the training to be there on the floor that day.

When we see the kinds of cuts in labour standards inspectors available from the Ministry of Labour, the fact that this law supposedly gives people the opportunity to complain to the employment standards branch about being forced to work gives very little comfort. There are very few inspectors; they get multitudes of serious complaints, and by the time they even inspect on any of those complaints, the time is long gone. We will find that people have either lost their jobs or have been forced to work. The day will have gone by and we will not see those people having any possible recourse at that time.

What's more, of course, the Employment Standards Act is under complete review, every part of it, so when the government stands up and says, "Oh, we've protected these people under the Employment Standards Act," we have to ask ourselves, is that going to be true at the end of the day? On December 26, 1996, it's true that piece may be in the Employment Standards Act, but we have absolutely no guarantee that it will be there once this government continues its draconian erosion of employment rights within this province. We have no reason to think that is anything but an empty promise, given the efforts of the Minister of Labour to erode long-standing labour standards that workers have enjoyed in this province through changes to the Employment Standards Act.

When we look at the whole issue of why we are doing this, there is only one answer, and that answer is to curry favour with those who support the Conservative government in this province. It is the only answer. It will not improve our economy; we know that's not the case. It is not going to suddenly create a whole lot of new jobs. That is not the case. The most offensive thing of all is it will not create a huge increase in public safety and the pursuit of crime by our law enforcement officers. The worst nonsense spoken about this bill is the nonsense that says that because people defy the law and the police have to enforce it, therefore we ought not to have the law because we take the police away from other things.

One of my colleagues said: "What does that mean? Does that mean that any place where there's a law broken, we should change that law so that the police don't have to enforce it?" Our friend the Minister of Transportation suggested that. He thought it would be a great idea to raise the speed limit to 120 kilometres an hour because so many people were breaking it when it was 100 kilometres an hour and it cost all this to enforce the speed limits. It is absolute nonsense. It's a very slippery slope when a government suggests, "We're going to change a law because it's too much trouble for the police to enforce that law."

What this goes back to is the issue of values. It goes back to whether this government believes in its own rhetoric about the maintenance of communities and the maintenance of families or whether it doesn't. The reality is, the reason they get so exercised about this is that it shows them for the hypocrites that they are. The reality is that it is extremely offensive for a government to talk about maintaining those community values and then turn around and say that the one day in the year when people could have two days together when they work in the retail business, they now no longer will have. It is important that they recognize that this exposes entirely their willingness to cave in to the wishes of large retail corporations, of big business yet again.

It is important for us to recognize that what is going to be gained out of this whole issue is very little. I know that the way policing works, it is not going to make a huge difference in most of our communities whether or not the police have to go and enforce this law. The police have always been able to set priorities, to triage the kinds of requests that come in, and I don't think there's a police force in this province that has found its ability to deal with crime and other serious incidents at all affected by its requirement to enforce the law around no shopping on December 26. I don't believe it. They complain about it, but I know the government would be extraordinarily hard pressed to find any community where there was any serious effect on its ability to police itself because of the enforcement of the Boxing Day shopping law.


When we use the excuse that it is too much trouble for a police force to enforce a law and therefore we change a law, we have to be very clear about what we're saying, because there are many laws in our community that the police are less fond of than others. There are many areas of the Criminal Code, of our Provincial Offences Act and many other areas where the police suggest consistently that they ought not to be involved in the enforcement of those things.

I worry that this is not just an erosion of the issue of community values around giving people working in retail two days a year that they can count on to have off so they can spend them with their families and friends. This has implications that I think are quite serious. I think we are all being used in an effort by the government to pay off some of its big friends by bringing this through.

It's also quite clear that the courts have said this is an unenforceable law, and in our view the grandstanding by this government was not necessary. By doing this, by hyping this up -- we see in the paper the minister saying that the opposition is going to hold up this law, raising the stakes, getting everybody all excited, and the reality is that it was never the position of the opposition parties. Some are for it and some are against it. The reality is that unfortunately the way the law has been interpreted, this is the way of the future for Ontario. Only the government's making a stronger law to protect the ability of people working in retail, to have two days off together a year, could have dealt with the issue. That's not what this government decided to do.

We are talking here today about a bill that will pass -- we all recognize that -- but that causes really great anxiety in many communities. We need to watch very carefully, and I know that independent retailers will be watching very carefully, to see what the effect is on their competitiveness if they have the courage to stay closed. Many of them will, and they will be watching to see whether that affects their competitiveness, whether it affects the way people's shopping behaviour changes in their communities. The only problem is that once the floodgates are open, it's almost impossible to go back.

We're making a decision in this province not just for now but probably for a very long time. It will affect a lot of individual workers, families and communities. But more than that, I suspect in the long run we will find it has affected the ability of small retailers to maintain their competitiveness, just as we saw with Sunday shopping. The small, little edge some of those neighbourhood stores had will be eroded, and we will see this mad lemming dash out to the malls on December 26, which will indeed affect and erode the ability of smaller retailers, particularly in downtown areas, to hold that competitive edge, particularly if they close, as many of them will feel they have to.

We certainly know that the government is determined to do this. We know, with the way the law has been interpreted, that it can be excused on the grounds of trying to clarify the law. But we all need to be aware as we pass this act today that it is a meaningful and lasting thing we do and one that many of us will regret for a long time.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'd like to commend the member for London Centre for her excellent presentation.

I'd like to bring you up to date, especially the government members, on what the Sudbury city council did last Tuesday at their city council meeting. In a notice of motion filed by a councillor for ward 4, Jim Ilnitski -- some of you on the other side of the House will know Jim Ilnitski, because he's been a long-time Tory organizer in Sudbury, a long-time Tory advocate and one who normally espouses the virtues of the Tory government. In this instance, he decided to file a notice of motion opposing the direction this government is taking with regard to these laws. And do you know what, members of the House, especially the government side? Everyone on city council decided to support Councillor Jim Ilnitski, the former Tory advocate for all Tory policies. They decided to a man to support this, and that includes the mayor of the city of Sudbury, Jim Gordon, a former Tory cabinet minister. He decided he would support this, because they understand, all of city council understands, the importance of allowing retail workers two days in a row off a year.

They voted against opening on Boxing Day. They voted against implementing the faulty agenda of this government. They understand that retail workers in the community of Sudbury are very important, they understand the importance of providing those workers with a minimal two days off a year, so Jim Gordon and Jim Ilnitski and the rest of the city council voted to say no to Boxing Day openings.

Ms Lankin: I'm pleased to be able to respond to my colleague's comments. I have myself come to believe that this legislation is in a sense inevitable, as Sunday shopping legislation seemed to be. It seemed that the reflection of public values has in fact been taken by court decisions and by the very action of people continuing to shop on Sundays and to shop on Boxing Day and essentially insisting themselves on having access to that retail market.

I have found that a shame. I'm a bit nostalgic, in a sense, for the days when there was a common pause day, when there was the sense of a slower pace around holidays. But I did vote for our government's legislation on Sunday shopping, because it was a government decision that had been taken and because there were a large number of supporters for that legislation in my own constituency in Beaches-Woodbine, particularly along Queen Street, which is a tourist area, an area where a lot of people come to visit on Sundays, and there was a lot of support for having the stores open. I reflected that in my vote. But on a personal level, I found it sad, I found it a shame, marking a changing of our ways which is unfortunate. I don't blame the government, however, for at this point in time acceding to what the courts have said. I think it's unfortunate and we can't turn the clock back.

What I do worry about profoundly, however, are the effects in terms of families where there are individuals who will be forced to work. While the legislation contains a provision that says no one can be forced to work, that's not the real world out there, particularly in the retail sector, where large parts of the retail sector are not unionized, where people are not aware of their rights, let alone feeling confident in exercising their rights. With proposed upcoming changes to the Employment Standards Act, I worry significantly about those people. I think they're the losers in this. But in general it's just a sad day.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I think the member for London Centre made a very good point in terms of saying the reason why this bill is before us is because the government is trying to keep their big friends happy. In other words, this is going to be a big reward for the mega-malls, the Yorkdales, the Square Ones, the huge shops that cover up all kinds of real estate and make huge profits. Those are the people who are going to be happy with this bill. It's a bill that basically should be called the Andrew Galota bill, sort of like a low blow to the little person right across Ontario, and I'm sure they're using Galota as their, perhaps, spin doctor on this.

I would say that this government has always said it worried about small business, smaller is better, but as you know now, there is a complete 180-degree turn. This is now the mega-Tories. The mega-Tories are interested in megacities, mega-malls, mega-profits, and that's what this bill will do --

Mr Gerretsen: Don't call them Tories; they're Reformers.

Mr Colle: Mega-Reformers -- at the expense of small retailers who could at least scrape by and make a reasonable living. Now they're going to be forced to compete with the mega-malls, and they won't compete.

This government has not listened to the mom-and-pop storekeepers, to the little haberdashery, dry goods. They're a thing of the past. They don't care about Main Street, Ontario. They care about mega-Ontario. They want to make this into an impersonal, mega-type province where little people, little stores and little profits are not part of mega-Mike's mega-Ontario. That's what this bill is all about. It's a mega-mistake.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I too listened intently to the remarks and messages on this eve of Christmas. Member for London Centre, right again. Mr Colle says mega-Tory. It's a mega-Reform-a-Tory, and we can go on and on.

Jesus Christ chased the merchants out of the temple. Go to the marketplace on Boxing Day and see that the merchants have returned bigger and more than ever. They won't leave us alone.

This party would have a stock certificate in a child's stocking. A gift certificate would have the form of casino coins in the child's stocking, and a series of derivatives. For the very little one -- they want to start them up right -- they would have a small gold wafer, because when you're that young, not everyone can afford the whole 400 ounces. To amuse the cousins and all members of the family, there would be not a game of Monopoly but a money game.

They talk about family values. Let's make no mistake: The family that shops together? What have they done to family values? They've taken 21.6% out of the pockets and the mouths of the most vulnerable, ensuring that people will not have a Christmas, never mind Boxing Day. The middle class is under a state of siege. Pac-Man is moving up the food chain. You have a state and a degree of anxiety never seen in last decades, and they have the audacity and the gall to talk to us about small businesses providing a few jobs and fewer jobettes. It's the big guy getting bigger, squeezing the small entrepreneur out.

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

Mrs Boyd: One can see that there certainly is a lot of passion that's engaged in this whole question. I guess the passion rests wherever the people are, so we find real passion to expand shopping to December 26 and real passion against it, on both sides, and we are faced with that in all of our communities.

I think that what we are seeing, as my colleague the member for Beaches-Woodbine suggested, is that there has been a huge shift in what the general population believes ought to happen in terms of retailing rules and what the courts are interpreting in terms of what is appropriate to our laws, and we do have to face that.

But I certainly agree with my colleague from Oakwood that this is, if not exactly a fight among Goliaths, certainly a situation where there is an interest involved for a large group of people who are very much involved in big business, for the mall owners, for the chain owners, for the ones who can afford to have the kind of competitive edge through this kind of thing, and a very different view on the part of the Davids, if we like, the smaller retailers who have very few resources with which to add another day to their calendar. When we're talking about this, we have to remember that we're talking about real people who work extraordinarily hard during November and December on behalf of all those customers they serve and who have looked forward to having a definite time -- two days together -- that they could spend resting. They are the people who are going to be most affected by this bill.

The Acting Speaker: Are there other honourable members who wish to participate in this debate? If not, I recognize the parliamentary assistant.

Mr Carr: I'll be brief so that we can move on. I want to thank all the members. I must say, in listening to the opposition, I now long for the days in opposition when you were able to have some time to speak. I remember those days fondly and the opportunity to speak on many occasions. For those members who weren't here, actually we could speak even longer in those days; there were no restrictions. We used to go on for four and even sometimes five hours in some of those speeches. It was a great opportunity to get some things on the record.

I must say that it probably is indicative of some of the discussions that went on in the caucuses as they discussed what to do with this. When the Sunday shopping bill passed a few years ago, I thought that would be the end of the discussions on some of these issues, but having served here six years, a lot of the debates continue on. A lot of the arguments that were well made by all the members are still valid today, a lot of the concerns that we went through as we spent, as I mentioned earlier, about four weeks going across all of Ontario on this bill. A lot of the points being made are just as valid today. The concerns that some of the members of the New Democratic Party have are many of the valid concerns they had when that bill came through. There were some tough decisions and many dissenting opinions during that period of time. But I must say, all members have brought a great deal to this debate. I'm pleased to wrap up this discussion, although I don't think we ever really will wrap up a lot of the discussions about when we will and when we will not shop in the province of Ontario.

Mr Bisson: That's not the same Gary Carr I remember.

Mr Carr: Yes, it's not the same Gary Carr as in the past. We firmly believe that this piece of legislation is needed at this time, and regardless of what transpires, I honestly believe that we need to deal with it during this period so we can end the uncertainty. Even if some of the members are opposed to it, as they may be for valid, legitimate reasons, I feel we should deal with it during this period of time so that we end the uncertainty, one way or the other. I can tell you a lot of what the retailers are saying to me, and a lot of the confusion. A lot of people are saying: "One way or the other, let's make it fair for each of them. If it's going to be closed, let's make sure they're all closed. Let's be very strong about that. If it's going to be open, let's be open."

One of the things over the whole Sunday shopping debate as well that created a lot of the uncertainty was the fact that there was unevenness across the province. There were certain retailers that did and did not open. Regardless of how you feel, I think everybody on both sides of the issue believes it should be solved prior to Boxing Day this year. Hopefully we've done that. I will enjoy the continued debate as we go forward. I thank all the members for the discussion and hopefully the members will give their support to this piece of legislation because I believe it will be good for Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Carr has moved third reading of Bill 95. Is it the wish of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

The motion is carried.

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.



Mr Palladini moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 92, An Act to promote road safety by implementing a safety rating system for commercial carriers and other measures to encourage compliance with and improve enforcement of Ontario's road safety laws and to amend various Acts administered by or affecting the Ministry of Transportation / Projet de loi 92, Loi visant à promouvoir la sécurité routière par la mise en oeuvre d'un programme de cotes de sécurité pour les véhicules de transport utilitaires et d'autres mesures conçues pour favoriser l'observation et améliorer l'application des lois de l'Ontario portant sur la sécurité routière et modifiant diverses lois dont l'application relève du ministère des Transports ou qui le concernent.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I have some opening remarks but I also believe that we have unanimous consent from the opposition members to split up whatever additional time is remaining. My remarks are going to be brief.

I rise today to move second reading of the road safety bill, which will enable us to identify and get unsafe trucks and operators off our roads. Over a year ago we introduced our action plan for road safety. That has become the blueprint for the measures we plan on taking. From the very start of our planning process we agreed that to improve road safety, we had to look at the driving habits of all with a focus on three areas: enhancing enforcement, preventing drinking and driving and improving safety in the trucking industry.

The ministry is continuously working to improve all areas of road safety. In this bill, however, we are targeting unsafe truck drivers and operators. I'm pleased to say we are continuing to build on our plan that has, to date, implemented such actions as enforcing axle weight restrictions on dump trucks, something that had not been done for the past seven years. We have also increased fines for safety offences. Ontario now has the highest minimum fines in the country, and the maximum has also been increased 10 times, up to $20,000.

We are also pilot-testing a mobile inspection station in all parts of Ontario so that bad operators cannot escape attention by using back roads. We have also developed a partnership with the Ontario Trucking Association for the delivery of the mandatory training of air brake and wheel installers. As of November, Ontario has 4,000 wheel installers who have been properly trained to make sure that the installation of wheels is done in a safe way. These are just a few actions we have already taken.

Now we are to proceed with more measures from our plan. Our bottom line is that we believe all drivers and operators must be held accountable and responsible, be it for the way they drive or the condition of their vehicle. We need legislation in place that takes well-intentioned talk and puts it into action that will result in the saving of lives. That is why our focus today is on removing unsafe trucks and operators from our roads faster.

This government takes road safety seriously. Other jurisdictions are sitting up and taking notice of our actions. We have support from the public. Equally important, the truck and bus industries are behind us in this legislation as well, but they have asked us for one condition: that legislation be fair and apply equally to all. Our belief is that better, not more, regulation is the answer to increasing truck safety on our roads. For this reason, this legislation focuses on four areas: better and more efficient monitoring, earlier intervention, increased deterrents and incentives for operators. We are poised and ready to act.

At this time I'd like to outline what these measures are about. This legislation introduces a carrier safety rating system. As the name suggests, this system will grade carriers on a regular basis, providing potential customers with a true picture of a carrier's safety performance. We will be looking to our partners from places like the trucking and insurance industries for their input and advice on modification to the existing CVOR system and the development of the new safety rating program.

Once we have the details ironed out at a national level and our system is in place, the results of a carrier safety rating profile will be made available to the public. This means that for anyone doing business with a carrier -- schools, insurance companies and other clients -- these customers will be in a position to know how good the carriers are, and just as important, who the bad ones are. This will give companies with a good track record a strong, competitive edge over those who don't.

We will continue to put pressure on truck owners, operators and drivers. Our message to those people is, "If you are not in the business of safety, you shouldn't be in business." One way to apply these pressures is by giving the registrar of motor vehicles more authority to take faster action by identifying unsafe carriers earlier. In the very near future, unsafe trucking companies will no longer be able to shift their operation from one company to another to avoid being put out of business. The registrar will also have the authority to deny a CVOR. By doing so, the registrar is telling bus or truck operators under sanction or pending sanction that they won't be able to get around the system any longer by setting up a new company under a new name.

I'm pleased to say that this right to refuse has the support of both the truck and bus industry, which share our concerns about sham operators. The registrar will also be able to exercise authority sooner by taking swift and sure action against a company for cause, such as a catastrophic collision, and against those with an unacceptable number of on-road safety violations. If companies choose not to comply, they will be immediately removed from our roads.

We are looking to develop a policy that gets unsafe trucks off our roads sooner rather than later. Right now we can pull the carrier's permit, we can pull the carrier's CVOR, we can take off the carrier's licence plates, but with this legislation we'll be able to keep the plates for a specified period of time. It will be obvious to enforcement officers at a glance that a truck without plates has no business being on the road.

This legislation will also allow us to monitor fleet sizes and distances travelled more closely. As a company becomes more successful and grows or decreases in size, it is essential that the Ministry of Transportation knows just how many vehicles are in a fleet as MTO bases its monitoring system on fleet size. We want to take swifter actions when we see a company's safety track record starting to slide. We will be stepping in faster to take action against a company that has a disproportionate number of violations with regard to its overall fleet size or mileage travelled each year.

Another area we are pursuing is increasing efficiencies by streamlining our own systems, by allowing one or two members of the Licence Suspension Appeal Board to rule on an uncomplicated appeal. We are reducing the amount of time it takes to get an appeal scheduled. We are also making better use of the board's resources.

The more complicated appeals will continue to be heard by three board members. Our plans call for improvements to the way we deliver sanction notices. We will add couriers and fax transmissions as new means of delivering sanction notices. This will get the notice of the affected carrier much faster.

As another way of streamlining our internal systems, we are looking to change the Highway Traffic Act so that a trucking offence can be tried anywhere in the route the truck has travelled within the province, from its starting point to its final destination. This new legislation allows enforcement officers to determine the jurisdiction where the charge should be laid. This will save both time and travel costs for anyone involved.

We are also making some minor changes in various sections of the Highway Traffic Act and other statutes.

I close with one final message, and this is it: Until the out-of-town service rate is zero, we will continue to crack down on unsafe trucks and drivers to make sure Ontario's roads are safe.


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

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): In terms of Bill 92, it is An Act to promote road safety by implementing a safety rating system for commercial carriers and other measures to encourage compliance with and improve enforcement of Ontario's road safety laws.

The first part of it is certainly quite laudable. In other words, the CVOR of vehicles, the commercial vehicle operator record, is now going to be monitored and we're going to be better able to monitor the bad operators. I commend the minister for this attempt to keep a record of operators who are driving unsafe rigs etc. I think there are some legitimate attempts to deal with the reality of trucking and trucking safety in the province and the minister's bill is a step in that direction.

The area the minister is entering into is an area that needs a lot of attention, and I certainly think he is trying his best to do that with this bill. The only thing I'm concerned about is that I just want to keep the minister on record and I want to keep pushing the minister to do more. I think he's going to try to do more and I hope he will try to do more in the months to come because he himself knows there's a lot to be done. I'll just remind him that on Friday there was another flying truck wheel that flew off a truck on Highway 11 up near Huntsville. Luckily, it just missed a motorist but it could have been fatal.

The problems are still out there on our roads and we should remind people that there are some very serious and frightening statistics about what's happening on highways. We know, for instance, that 600 Canadians die in accidents involving big trucks every year and thousands more are injured. So 600 people die on Canadian highways. Then in terms of the cost of this, not only in human tragedy and accidents, it costs the Canadian economy $450 million a year for these accidents. That's the cost.

Also, the staggering thing is that there's a one-in-three chance that the big rig that's bearing down on you from behind probably has a mechanical defect; that is, one out of every three trucks probably has a mechanical defect, according to the inspections they've been doing on these trucks, and should be out of service. That is the reality of what's happening out there.

One of the things I'm worried about is that, if you recall, in August of this year, for instance, there was a very tragic accident where a truck ran into a home in North York and killed a mother doing her laundry in that home. That was on August 26 of this year and nothing's been done since then. I know at the time the police officer said there was going to be a report in two weeks. Here we are, four months later, and there's been no police report and no charges laid. We haven't got any information about that tragic accident where a truck ploughed right into a townhouse and killed a mother of two children. I find that really unacceptable, that four months later the government, the police, no one has taken any action on that tragic accident. The family finally had to resort to suing the truck firm for $21 million, and is suing the government. That is something that needs attention and isn't addressed in this bill.

I would also like to mention that I know earlier this year the minister was asked and said he was going to implement demerit points against unsafe trucks and unsafe driving habits by truckers. We've been waiting for the last year for this legislation. It's not part of this legislation. I think that is a necessary initiative to send a serious message to unsafe operators and truckers that they will lose demerit points if they operate unsafe vehicles. Although we were promised demerit points against unsafe operators, they have not come about yet.

Also, the fines: I know there is a lot of talk about high fines, but the critical thing in fines -- the OPP are saying that these fines are still a joke, that you can have the maximum levels raised but the key thing is the minimums. The minimums have to be higher. The minimums cannot be $400. The minimums for unsafe trucks should be $2,000, $3,000, $4,000. That will send a strong message. Right now, we have maximums but, as you know, it's up to the judicial processes and usually their fines are a joke.

I'll read you an editorial from Graham Fletcher in the Globe and Mail in November 1996 in which he says:

"First, the fine should have been increased to a hefty minimum, not a maximum. The ministry writes the legislation, but it is the judicial system that interprets it. Until such time as the minimum fine is large enough, many operators will still view most fines as part of doing business." This is from the Globe and Mail, talking about the necessity of having high minimum fines to send a message.

You can have maximum fines of $50,000, but what good is it if they are never brought to bear by the judicial system? It's always the minimum fines; they are not anywhere near the maximum fines and are really a licence for many of these unsafe trucking firms to continue operating with impunity.

I'd like to read for you a letter I received today. The gentleman writing me asked that his name not be included because he's afraid of the repercussions. This is a trucker who works for a trucking firm in Ontario, or did work for one. I'll just read you portions of this letter. It's dated December 11, 1996:

"The trucking industry concerns me because that's how I make my living and I am not proud of what it has become. Backroom politics play a big part in influencing regulation decisions.

"Most companies have increased their fleets over the last five years. Trucking companies have put greed and profit over safety. They don't want to put money into training and education of their drivers or money into maintenance."

The trucker goes on to say: "A total disregard for regulation and maintenance has forced insurance companies to increase their premiums. All this just doesn't make good business sense.

"I don't see any drivers having their say. Mr Palladini and Mr Bradley of the Ontario Trucking Association just don't get it. Getting your picture taken together does not solve the problems. Strong enforcement against companies who are not in compliance will work. If you can take someone's licence for 90 days for drinking, but you cannot take unsafe trucking companies off the road, who have 500 convictions, Mike Harris and Palladini have no common sense."

That's one of the things we've advocated. If a truck is unsafe, there should be an automatic suspension right on the highway. Why do they continue to operate? Just as there's an administrative suspension for drunk drivers, if that unsafe truck is found to have no brakes, suspend the licence of that truck company immediately. Don't let it go on killing people.

This trucker goes on to say:

"A company's CVOR," which is what this bill is about, "is a licence handed out by the government, so therefore it is a privilege, just as my driver's licence is a privilege. I have to obey the Highway Traffic Act or I would not have a job. Why do companies have special status when they have one truck or 100 trucks?"

"In closing, I have enclosed a copy of a CVOR of a company that has continued to ignore safety rules for years. They even fired me as an employee because I was chairman of our safety committee."

Here's this company, and he's sent me the list of its hundreds of violations. He becomes chair of the safety committee, and what do they do to this poor trucker? They fire him. That's what's going on in Ontario.

"They also fired my safety supervisor because they did not want to comply with safety. Their CVOR still continues to grow, even after two audits by MTO. Who in the Mike Harris government do they know?" the trucker says.

"What a joke. I lost a full-time job for standing up for what I believed in. Please, sir, keep my name confidential. This is far from over. This company should not be allowed on the road. I believe that owners have a responsibility of due diligence, to do everything reasonable to protect their workers and the public when it comes to health and safety. Thank you for taking time to hear my concerns."


This is an ordinary trucker writing out of fear of losing his job, because when he became chairman of the safety committee this is what happened. His company's got a record of violations as long as my arm. When he blows the whistle, he's fired. We can't have this continue in Ontario if we're going to deal with this serious problem of truck safety. We have to encourage truckers like this gentleman who wrote me to set up safety committees, to do more to encourage safety in the workplace. We shouldn't have companies going around firing and threatening truckers who want to do more for safety.

Up until now there's very little encouragement, it seems, just threats from these companies, for people who want to do something about safety. I've talked to truckers. They say, "If I dare question the safety of this truck, they'll tell me I'll lose my job, and if I make trouble for the trucking company I'll lose my job, and you know how hard jobs are to come by."

Certainly there are some very good trucking companies that don't have that attitude, but in this province there are too many trucking firms that are abusing their drivers, abusing their mechanics and saying: "Push that truck out on the road, and so what if we pay a Mickey Mouse fine? Let's get that truck on the road. They won't find the brakes that are not working. They won't find the bald tires. Get out there and get that money on the highway." That is the attitude that still prevails in this province, sad to say.

The other thing that's concerning is that this is a ministry that says it's going to do more for safety. I wonder who's going to ensure safety in this province when this ministry has just fired, for instance, 705 safety inspectors for road construction. How many internal people whose job it was to monitor safety are gone? I think they're going to fire 3,000 MTO workers. How is the ministry going to function? How is the ministry going to ensure safety when there's nobody left to mind the store? Of the 40 safety inspection stations in the greater Toronto area, about 50% are going to be closed down; they're going from 40 to 22. How can you have more inspection if you're going to close down about 50% of the safety inspection stations? In fact, there's not even going to be anybody working there if they keep firing people the way they are.

You also wonder how they're ever going to have enough people to go after the violators, the unsafe trucks. Earlier this year there was a spill on the QEW and the QEW was shut down. There was a $500,000 cleanup required as a result of this spill by a truck. They were supposed to have an investigation. No word from the investigation on who's going to pay for that cleanup and closing down the QEW for most of the day. These are the things that are still going on on our highways. With fewer inspectors, fewer inspection stations, fewer MTO staff, who is going to be watching the roads for people in Ontario?

Another very important thing in terms of truck safety in this province is that firms that have unsafe records, like this firm with the violations the courageous trucker sent me, are still getting government contracts. Why should a firm with 500 violations and unsafe vehicles still get government contracts? That's what's been happening. These firms that have records as long as my arm are still getting contracts with the government. How can you tell private industry to do a thing right when government is rewarding these unsafe firms with government contracts? This cannot continue. The government must put an immediate prohibition on any government contract with any company that has a record of unsafe practices. They still hold these government contracts. This is not acceptable.

Also in terms of what's happening, it's interesting to note, on the highway they call the killer highway, 403, there are no inspection stations. Also, on Highway 407 there are no inspection stations planned. How are you going to encourage safety if there are no inspection standards on those two highways? I should mention that even though the OPP officers mentioned a month ago that they were worried about the safety on Highway 407, the independent safety review of that highway still has not started. A month later, no action has been taken on putting on a safety audit inspection of the proposed new Highway 407.

It's supposed to open up the end of the of the month. Who knows when it'll open now, but they still haven't appointed an independent safety person or persons to review that highway. They should take the advice of someone like the coroner from Mississauga, Coroner Flynn from Mississauga, who inspected highway accidents on Highway 403. Why not bring the coroner in to look at 407? He could tell you what's wrong with it. Bring the OPP officers to the forefront, ask them what they think is wrong with it. No action has been taken. They wouldn't dare bring in a coroner like Flynn, because he's too tough on highway standards. He knows how the highways work.

What will they do? They haven't done anything yet. They haven't appointed a safety auditor on 407, even though the OPP has said that highway is unsafe and they're worried about it. Why is the minister dragging his feet on Highway 407? Why are there no inspection stations on 407 or 403? Why are they closing down half the inspection stations across this province at a time --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): For the tax cut.

Mr Colle: Yes, it must be all to pay for the darn tax cut. This whole province is going down the drain because of this madness over this tax cut, cutting back on safety, cutting back on inspections, firing people before Christmas. What else is next as this province just decimates everything that's been built up over the years?

I should mention, in a Toronto Star editorial in September of this year it was stated very clearly, "Truck traffic is important to our economy," so we can't take it lightly. "Trucks haul...70% of the land freight in Ontario, including 90% of consumer products and foodstuffs and more than three quarters of Ontario's trade with the US." In other words, trucks are an increasing reality on our roads. We can't ignore the reality that it's increasing.

The Star editorial goes on to say, "Provincial politicians should spare motorists the photo opportunities, theatrics and publicity of two-day blitzes." What we need are constant blitzes, daily blitzes on our highways, not just blitzes for photo ops once every two months. "What motorists need is ongoing, year-round inspection of rigs, huge fines," not the measly little fines we have now, the Mickey Mouse fines that the OPP call a joke, "and a policy of zero tolerance for chronic offenders."

The chronic offenders are all out there on the highway, going to court, appealing. They're still out there. These violators are still on our highways. They can play the bureaucratic game for months and years. Some of these offenders go back to 1992, 1993. They're still on our highways, even though they run into people and run into trucks and run into homes. You can't take them off the road. Sad to say, this Bill 92 is just one little step. The minister has been promising big steps, big crackdowns. We've seen nothing but slaps on the wrists, because these firms are in it for pure profit and they threaten their workers. They say, "Take that truck out or else you'll lose your job."


These are the things that are still very much a shortcoming of this bill. Something has to be done, more than just platitudes, for the safety of motorists. The integrity of our highways is at stake here. Again, this bill just goes in a very small step. We need some giant steps to wipe out a giant problem that endangers all motorists. Especially at this time of the year, when people are on our highways they should not be forced to also endanger themselves with these unsafe vehicles. The road conditions are bad enough, because they've cut back on road safety and snow clearance and the inspectors on our highways.

Mr Bradley: I have a few words to offer on this particular legislation, which I think is a step in the right direction, but certainly a very small step in the right direction, in terms of truck safety on the highway.

For those of us who are on the highway a lot -- and I travel between St Catharines and Toronto -- I can tell you that the volume of truck traffic has increased tremendously over a period of time to such an extent now that many drivers who are unsure of themselves on major highways are very reluctant to venture out on to those highways, particularly in the peak times in terms of traffic flow and in bad weather.

We have wanted to see for some period of time some changes which would help truck safety. You have to remember that the overwhelming majority of operators of trucks themselves -- those are the vehicle drivers and those who own the trucks -- want to see safety on the highway because they themselves are affected directly by it. But there are people who are not prepared to spend the necessary funds on the maintenance of their vehicles. They're not prepared to have the appropriately trained drivers and the appropriate rules for their drivers. As a result, we see some accidents happening.

As the member for Oakwood has indicated, it is necessary to have more than simply blitzes that take place, blitzes that are often known to the truckers in a very short period of time. We need a constant vigil in this regard.

By the way, another aspect of this that should be addressed is the aspect of the vehicle emissions from trucks. Some of them have an awful effluent, I guess you'd call it, coming from their pipes that has to be contaminating the atmosphere out there and causing great problems for us. I think that's a new initiative the government should be involved in. I don't know why it would drag its feet on that, because it's something around which there would be a consensus.

We have to remember that these vehicles are very large, so when they are speeding during a snowstorm or a major rainstorm and throwing either snow or slush or rain on to vehicles beside them, there is a real danger, particularly when the water or the slush is accumulating on the roadway. For this reason, it's essential that they follow appropriate safety rules that will not intimidate other drivers and that they not tailgate vehicles ahead. There's nothing more horrifying for many drivers than looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing right behind them a huge truck bearing down at the speed limit. Again, most truckers, most drivers, want to avoid this situation. Most of them are safety-conscious people who help out other drivers when they're in trouble. So it's essential that we get the bad drivers off the road and the bad vehicles off the road. This bill goes somewhat in that direction but certainly takes only a minor step.

One of the other things I see that perhaps is not such a good idea is that there are new definitions to prohibit devices that detect non-radar speed-measuring equipment, like laser speed guns, and there may be some who would not look forward to that. I happen to believe that at least for car drivers in the province, the main problem is not speed -- I realize if you stop them, you make some money on the side of the road -- but rather bad drivers. That goes for both those who are operating large vehicles and those who are operating cars in the province.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have some 20 or 25 minutes to put forward points of view that our caucus, the NDP caucus, have on this particular bill, and also those concerns of the people in the trucking industry who contacted us over the period that this bill has been before us in the House.

Let me just say in starting out that it's unfortunate there is often not enough time taken in debating bills and taking a look at bills in order to figure out ways, if there's a problem within the bill, to amend it so that the bill could be made whole and could be made stronger, and second, that we can actually have some real debate in this Legislature and real debate and ideas through the committee process in order to make the system work.

I think this is an example of how sometimes, in the name of trying to rush legislation through the House, we find ourselves putting a bill in where the intent is good, where what the government wants to do with the legislation is a step in the right direction, but it's creating another set of problems because the legislation really hasn't had the proper time, in my view, for people in industry and people interested in this issue to take a look at it and see where the problems lie. I'm just going to try to outline some of them.

For people to understand what this bill is about, it does a couple of things. It is an attempt on the part of the Ministry of Transportation to put in place a CVOR system by which you have a safety rating system for trucks for the ministry to monitor. What happens now is that once you have a problem with trucks, it's sometimes difficult for the Ministry of Transportation to stop the truck or the truck operator from operating in the event of unsafe situations that the trucking company might have.

What this legislation does is actually a good idea. It puts in place a carrier safety rating system where if the particular corporate entity which owns these trucks surpasses a certain magic number, then the CVOR, the licence that allows them to operate those trucks in the province of Ontario, will be removed. That in itself is a good idea. It's a step in the right direction.

But again, as I say, I think there are some problems in how this legislation has been drafted and we don't have enough time to really debate this bill so that we can look at how we can make this bill better.

The other thing the bill does which is interesting is that the Ministry of Transportation is handing over its power to deal with this issue to the registrar of motor vehicles. It will become the registrar's responsibility to deal with the carrier safety rating system, and not the Ministry of Transportation's itself. The powers that are being transferred over to the registrar are very far-sweeping, and I'd like to get into some of those in a little bit of detail.

Let me get into some of the details of this bill. One of the things that industry has brought to my attention is that there is a particular section in this act -- I believe it's subsection 17(3) -- that basically says if you're a trucking firm and you are in a situation where your company has been caught for unsafe conditions and the carrier safety rating system says, "Oops, you should no longer operate because you're no longer safe," it will be illegal to transfer your CVOR over to somebody who is related to you.

It's interesting because I think this is going to be challenged in the courts. If you read that particular section, it does put restrictions on how you can transfer it to other individuals. If you go through it, it says, "The registrar may refuse to issue a CVOR certificate to an applicant if the applicant is related to a person whose CVOR certificate has been cancelled," and it goes on to give a couple of other situations. I would just say there may be a problem in the future. If the scenario is that you can transfer it over to somebody who is not related to you versus somebody who is related to you, you're probably going to end up in the courts, with this legislation being challenged by the part of those involved in the industry.

I do recognize that what the government is trying to do here is to block the transferring of the CVOR where, for example, the company is found to be unsafe and all that happens is the company changes names and operates under somebody else's name altogether. If that's what the government is trying to do, I support that particular move. But the way this legislation is written, I think you'll probably end up with a situation where some of the operators might bring you to court in regard to that section. The way it has been written I think is a little bit bizarre to say the least.

The other part in here that is somewhat troubling is that subsection (5) says, "The registrar may issue a CVOR certificate subject to any terms and conditions set out in the regulations that the registrar considers appropriate," and then it goes on to say in section 17.1 "in accordance with the regulations."


I would say two things to that. First of all, we're giving a lot of powers to the registrar. The registrar in the end is going to be the individual who's going to have all the power and that registrar will have the ability to determine what the rating system will be, as set out in the regulations, but also other issues related to it. The registrar could end up having quite a bit of power. It seems to me that one of the things we're not doing in this bill is putting enough checks and balances in to give both the trucking industry and others the opportunity to appeal decisions made by the registrar. If you go on into subsections 17.1(5), (6), (7), (8) and (9), there are a number of sections that talk about appealing a decision of the registrar.

What the bill does -- I'm just going to go through it quickly. Like I say, I've got about 15 minutes to go through this and I'm trying to put what should be an hour-and-a-half speech into about five minutes. I'll try to put it together as best I can.

Subsection (6) says: "Despite the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, the registrar shall consider the matter under subsection (5) by means of a written hearing unless the registrar agrees to an oral or electronic hearing."

That means the registrar will be able to refuse, because of this legislation, despite the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, to hear the operator at a formal hearing. I believe that the government, through the registrar, has to be stricter when it comes to unsafe trucks. I do believe, however, that the operators need to have their day in court. If they have done something wrong or not done something wrong and they've been accused, they need to have the right to go before a hearings officer to put forward their case to make sure that all the facts of the matter are taken into account so they can defend themselves in the event that their CVOR is being removed.

What you're doing under subsection (6) is saying that the registrar is the one who's going to decide what that hearing should be. If the registrar says, "Send me a letter. I don't want you appearing before me. Don't bother to come knocking at my door, I just want your letter," there's nothing that the person who operates the truck or the company is going to be able to do about it. I think that's a real problem, because I've learned as an MPP as I think other members have learned, and in my work before this, that often oral submissions at hearings are very useful. People at times are not able to put down in writing as clearly what they can say, for all kinds of reasons.

People in the trucking industry are no different from anybody else. There are some people who can express themselves quite well or have the finances to hire somebody to express their views well on paper so that their points of view will be properly put to the hearings officer or to the registrar through this process, but there are others who won't be able to and they may not get justice under this particular part of the act.

I would have hoped that we would have the time through the committee process to deal with that a little better. Yes, I believe the government should be stricter, but I also believe that the operator and the truck driver need the opportunity to defend themselves in the event that their CVOR is being lifted, because that means you're not going to be able to operate your company, you're not going to be able to work. It seems to me that people should have at least the opportunity to go before the registrar and put their case before them.

It goes on to say, "The registrar and the operator whose safety rating is under dispute are the only parties to the hearing and, unless they otherwise agree, the hearing shall be closed to the public." Again, the onus is very much on the registrar. The public, in the case of an accident, let's say, where something tragic may have happened -- maybe there are people within the community, maybe other interested parties; it may be somebody from a municipal council or maybe the person's family wants to be there to hear what happens so they can hear at first hand what goes on at that hearing. The registrar is going to have the ability to say, "No, I don't want anybody there; there's only going to be me and the other person, and that's it," if he or she allows the hearing to go forward.

Again, I think that's a bit tragic. I understand that on the one hand you don't want to be getting into the public domain the private matters of the operator. But if we have a safety rating system that the public, through the government, is putting in place to protect the public, it seems to me those matters should be able to be heard before the public. I don't believe doing that stuff behind closed doors is the way it should be done. I think doing things out in the open is always the best way to do it so that people can feel good about public accountability, and doing it behind closed doors is really not lending to the accountability process. Now, I understand why that's in the bill. I'm just saying there are some problems with it and I wish we had had an opportunity to deal with that.

The other thing here that troubles me is under section 8. It says, "The safety rating assigned by the registrar is final and binding and there is no appeal therefrom." You could end up in a situation where an infraction happens. For example, it will be possible that if the CVOR is not within the cab of the truck, you will lose points, your rating system will suffer because of that. It could be that's just enough to meet the threshold for the CVOR for the company to be pulled, and in a case like that, maybe there was something that happened that's legitimate that the CVOR certificate was not in the truck. It could technically happen that that's enough to remove the CVOR for the entire company.

I guess what I would say is that we're not giving the operators, it seems to me in my view, the ability to be able -- well, the minister shakes his head. I'm arguing the other side of this so that we're clear. We need to give the operators the ability to have their say in court. I don't believe the operators should be given all the power that they need to be able --

Hon Mr Palladini: You can't speak out of both sides of your mouth, Gilles.

Mr Bisson: No, no, just listen to what I say here. I don't believe the --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Talk about that.

Mr Bisson: Imagine the minister --

Mr Gerretsen: He's talking like that? That's unbelievable.

Mr Bisson: Oh, my lord. I can't believe he's the Minister of Transportation. Come on.

The point I'm saying is that I believe you have to have clear rules, the rules have to be tough, and they have to be very direct about what it is the government wants to accomplish and that we want to accomplish, which is safer roads. But the rules, it seems to me, and the powers that we're giving to the registrar are very real, they're very broad, and all I'm saying is that you need to have a process in order for the operator to have their day in court. That's all I'm saying. Because they will not, under this act, be able to --

Hon Mr Palladini: Three years later.

Mr Bisson: Well, listen -- I'm not going to get into a debate with the minister. I made the point. He doesn't believe in that. That's fine. That's his decision. I thought it was an oversight, but it's obviously not an oversight, it's where the government wants to go.

I just say, in the end people have to have their day in court. People have to have the right to appeal a decision of the registrar. That process should be quick. The government tries to do that in this legislation by making sure that if there is a hearing and the registrar agrees to one, it would happen within 30 or 35 days, but I'm saying that's not good enough. There has to be the guarantee that the operator can get his day in court, that he or she is able to go as an operator before the registrar, and I would prefer an independent hearing on that particular case.

The other point that I wanted to make here is that one of the things they're trying to clean up in this legislation, which is actually a good thing -- I give the government some credit for this -- is what has been a problem within the Ministry of Transportation for a long time, and that is, when operators change addresses, they're often not bringing that information forthwith to the ministry. We're making it a requirement under this act that, "Every holder of a CVOR certificate shall notify the registrar within 15 days after any changes in the holder's name or address or, where applicable, the persons constituting the officer, director or partners of the holder has been made."

What we're trying to do is make sure that the operators take their responsibility, and if there's any change about their addresses or fax numbers or whatever it might be, that information be given within 15 days to the registrar. I say that's good. That's been a long-standing problem and I take my hat off. This is something that needed to be done for a long time and I'm glad the government is going that way.

The other part of this act that I find -- this is a bit of a bizarre one here. The government, on the one hand, says they want to be tough, they want to make the trucking industry safer, but if you take a look at what happens with the fines, the fines, it seems to me, are fairly minimal considering what the fines are in other acts when it comes to contraventions of the act.

I remember last week we were having a debate here in the House on the family responsibility act. There's a provision within it that says that if a person is in contravention of the order, they can get a fine of up to $10,000. In this particular case it says, "Every person who contravenes or fails to comply with the terms or conditions of the CVOR certificate issued to the person is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $2,000."

It seems to me that the whole idea here is that if you're trying to make the trucking industry safer, there has to be a financial disincentive from running unsafe trucks, and it seems to me that $2,000 doesn't really go far enough to be able to address that.

I understand where the government is coming from. The government is on the side of big business. They don't want to upset their friends too heavily, so they're keeping those fines fairly low. I think that they should be higher, but that is the decision that the government is making, and I would say probably not the right one. I really wonder if it's going to have a detrimental effect on truck safety.


The other part of this is interesting, subsection 6(3) of the bill, where it goes on to say, "providing for the reciprocal recognition of safety ratings, safety records and similar records of territories, other provinces and states of the United States of America." What they're saying here, I take it -- and I would look to the minister for clarification on this later, because I happened to catch that and I just wanted to make sure I understood it -- what it seems to say is that if a truck is coming into Ontario from the United States carrying goods and leaving again, we would judge it by the rules from its jurisdiction, not the rules here in Ontario.

If that's the case -- and I would look for some clarification on that -- that's unfair. It seems to me that you want to put everybody on the same level playing field. You don't want to have trucking operators operating out of Manitoba, Quebec or the northern states, wherever, with regulations that are less than Ontario's and Ontario firms having to keep a much higher standard to operate within the province while people coming from outside Ontario have the ability to come in and compete with rules and regulations that are a lot laxer. It seems to me that it puts the Ontario trucking industry at a bit of a disadvantage with other regulations. I would hope that the rules are the same for anyone: If you come into Ontario and you're going to transport goods, you have to meet our rules. I would hope that's what that section says. I wonder if that's really what we're getting at.

I would in the last couple of minutes I have here just put on the record a couple of things. One of the things is that there's a figure that my Liberal friend here, the opposition critic, used and I think it's one that needs to be repeated: 70% of all of the goods that are transported within Ontario are transported by trucks. It seems to me what we're trying to do by way of this regulation is to come around and fix a problem that doesn't need to be as bad as it is if we adopt other policies to transport goods. It seems to me that over the years we have disfavoured rail service in Ontario and in Canada by not providing the proper amount of support from provincial and federal governments to operate viable train services to transport goods around our province and through our country. What we've done is disinvested in rail services, to the point that it has become much more necessary for trucking operators to transport goods within our jurisdictions. The problem with that is that it adds to the traffic we have on our highways, which adds to the safety issues before us.

What I would say is that I don't expect the government to go out and try to pass a law to have everything shipped by rail. That would be impractical. The trucking industry and trucks play a very important role. But one of the things we should turn our attention to is that we should try, with partnerships between the private sector and provincial, municipal and federal governments, where possible, to encourage the use of rail services so that we can take some of the truck traffic off our highways.

I can tell you, as a person who drives the Highway 11 corridor almost on a weekly basis from Timmins to Toronto and back again, if not every week, every two weeks, the number of trucks on our highways is very high. It adds a lot of problems. One of them is the issue of safety. When you're out on the highway and you're driving at night and you're passing that first transport truck on what you think is a clear stretch of highway and you get past the first one and you find out there are three more lined up ahead of it, it's a pretty unsafe situation. The trucks often don't give you the opportunity to pull back in again. One of the reasons that happens is because most of our goods are transported by trucks.


Mr Gerretsen: What's he mumbling about? He's just mumbling, that fellow.

Mr Bisson: The Tories are just amazing.

The other thing is that with truck traffic there's a lot of wear and tear on our highways. It seems to me that one of the things we should also be trying to do is reduce truck traffic off our highways in order to maintain our highway infrastructure at a better level and keep it longer. If you take a look at the rutting that happens on our highways across the province by the sheer volume and weight of trucks driving up and down our highways, it's really taking a toll on the highways in Ontario, and who has to pay for that? It's not the trucking industry, and that's the point I'm making here: It's you and I, the taxpayers. We're the ones who give the Ministry of Transportation, through our tax dollars, the dollars to go out and reinvest in rebuilding our highways.

It seems to me that one of the things the government should be doing, and it's something our government had started to do, is taking a look at strategies of how, where appropriate, we're able to use rail services in Ontario more efficiently in order to diminish the use of trucks, especially on those longer hauls.

It always boggles the mind that, for example, we have the Ontario Northland Railway, which is owned and operated by the province of Ontario, that has not had the support from the government it needs to be able to look at how it can develop a market niche that would pick up truck trailers in Toronto or wherever and transport some of them up north to Timmins, Cochrane or wherever it might be, as a way of being able to get in on some business. It would reduce the amount of truck traffic on highways and, if properly supported, might be a good commercial operation for the Ontario Northland Railway, at the same time maybe proving cheaper for the people who need to pay for the transportation of those goods.

I don't expect the government to do it in this legislation because it's not the place, but I would expect the government to take a look at how we're better able to use rail service in Ontario.

The other thing I would say to the Minister of Transportation is that I watched with interest as he made his comments on this particular bill and talked about how this is better, and not more regulation. Minister, no matter how you cut it, this is more regulation. The minister tries to stand here and put a good face on it because his is the government that is opposed to regulation. His is the government that's trying to deregulate everything under the sun. What we're finding out through this bill is that the government is finally coming to the realization that the province of Ontario has a responsibility to make highway safety a paramount issue in Ontario, and one of the ways you make highways safer is to regulate the use of trucks. Therefore, the government is regulating the trucking industry to a higher degree than it is regulated now, and no matter how the government wants to spin it, it can't hide behind this mask that regulation is bad.

I applaud the government for this. I think they're right. There is a place for regulation and the government needs to play a heavier role and has to play a much more important role in how we regulate the trucking industry, so that our highways can be safer and people can feel a lot safer when they see that 18-wheeler coming down the highway, that the wheels aren't going to fly off as they have been lately and people possibly get killed as we've seen with a number of citizens in Ontario.

I would also say to the minister that there's a recognition not only within the province by the Conservative government that we need to increase regulation and truck safety; the city of Vaughan itself has passed a bylaw that does a lot of what you're talking about here through the regulation of the trucking industry within its own boundaries because they recognize there's a huge problem in deregulating the trucking industry such as was done by the previous Conservative government in Ottawa where they moved to deregulate the trucking industry overall.

I hope the Minister of Transportation would learn from this process, through Bill 92, that deregulation might not be the right way to go when it comes to bus deregulation. The government is deregulating the busing industry, a piece of legislation we expect to come before this House probably some time in 1997. I think the government is starting to recognize that deregulating things may not necessarily be the right way to go. The government has a responsibility, and that responsibility is to make sure there are rules within our society about how people and companies operate, not to take advantage of us and to operate in a safer manner.

With that, it being almost 6 of the clock, Mr Speaker, I ask for the end of the debate.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Mr Palladini has moved second reading of Bill 92.

Shall the motion carry? Carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Agreed.

It now being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1759.