36th Parliament, 1st Session

L142 - Thu 19 Dec 1996 / Jeu 19 Déc 1996






















































The House met at 1331.




Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): The recommendations from the inquest on homelessness were released last summer but this government has not taken any action to address the issue of homelessness in Ontario.

The Toronto Coalition Against Homelessness was thrown out of the Minister of Housing's office when they tried to peacefully deliver a letter to the minister's office because no response had come to a letter dated July 30, 1996. The exchange was videotaped by Vision TV and aired on television. The reception area of the Minister of Housing's office was locked, making it impossible for them to deliver the letter. They were forced to make their presentation in the hallway in front of the elevators.

A member of the minister's staff came out and told the coalition that homelessness was not an area of responsibility of the Minister of Housing but of the Minister of Community and Social Services. When an attempt was made to question the Comsoc minister, she told them homelessness was the responsibility of the Minister of Housing.

The fact is, no one in that government is taking any responsibility for dealing with homelessness. No minister is taking any action on the recommendations on homelessness and no one will even meet with representatives of the homeless. The doors are wide open for developers and landlords, but are locked to tenants, the poor and the most vulnerable.

The Minister of Housing is in such haste to ram through Bill 96, his tenant rejection act. His plan will create more homelessness because once Bill 96 is law it will push rent so high for the poor and the vulnerable that there will no longer be any affordable accommodation.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): In this House yesterday, the Attorney General set up a question from the member for Huron, and he used, I would say for political purposes, a judgement that was made in a London family court concerning the family support plan. He suggested in that statement that the finding of His Honour Judge Vogelsang somehow vindicated the government's actions in terms of closing down the family support plan.

I wanted to correct the impression people may have got. This is an order that is pursuant to a case brought by lawyer Vic Mitro on behalf of seven women, all of whom had been receiving their family support cheques until the minister abruptly closed the regional offices.

This case has been continued until January 21. It is a case of damages against the director of the family support plan. It is a case alleging that it was the actions of the Attorney General in closing down the plan that caused the effect on these women, and the judgement by Mr Justice Vogelsang that one of the people in the case be allowed to withdraw her case from the family support plan was to try to ameliorate the financial effects of the absolute disaster that the Attorney General had caused in her case.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): It's with great pleasure that I rise to address not only the visiting delegation from Manitoba in the east gallery, but the House as well concerning the Ontario Regiment, the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43.

This year the Ontario Regiment celebrated its 130th birthday. That is 130 years of continuous service to Canada. The regiment is one of the oldest continuing regiments in Canada. On September 14, 1866, the Ontario Regiment was officially formed from the independent rifle companies of the then Ontario county.

Today the Ontario Regiment continues to provide personnel for NATO and United Nations peacekeeping operations. Nine members of the Ontario Regiment served in Bosnia in 1995 with the Royal Canadian Dragoons. In 1995, the Ontario Regiment won the Worthington Trophy as the best reserve armoured regiment in Canada.

In October 1996, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43 celebrated its 70th anniversary. Branch 43 currently enjoys a membership of over 2,100 members and is a strong part of Oshawa's community. Branch 43 sponsors over 35 local charities, sports and youth groups.

I would like to thank the Ontario Regiment and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43 for their many years of honourable and faithful service to Canada, the province of Ontario and the city of Oshawa.

Merry Christmas to all and happy holidays. Get well, Josh. And thank you, Mr Speaker, for the good job you're doing.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): On this, the final day of this assembly before we all leave to return to our homes and communities for the Christmas break, I believe it is imperative that each and every one of us in this House, and in particular the current Minister of Health, be mindful of the fear and apprehension that has been handed to senior citizens just in time for Christmas.

Over the past few days, the Minister of Health has had numerous opportunities to allay these fears by ruling out additional user fees and delisted services. Instead, he resorted to partisan shots and finger-pointing.

This is quite a Christmas present the minister has handed to the sick and the elderly. I've been hearing from worried senior constituents on a daily basis. They are becoming all too familiar with the way this government continues to amputate our health care system while expecting our seniors to bear a tremendous burden.

Sophie Zeber is an excellent example of the anger building up among our seniors. She asked me to remind the Minister of Health that the seniors you are targeting have in fact paid the taxes to sustain these programs believing they could depend on them in their old age.

A thought for you, Mr Minister, while you are on your Christmas break: When you grow old along with the rest of society, won't you expect, just like every other Ontarian, that the health care services you will need will be there when you need them?


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On behalf of the Central Algoma Board of Education and the people of the North Shore and St Joseph Island, I want to raise serious concerns about the proposals of the Plummer Memorial Public Hospital for the future of Matthews Memorial Hospital in Richards Landing.

Recent emergency events in the local schools have left us very concerned with the decision to downsize the services and staffing at Matthews Memorial Hospital. Had this plan been in place, one of the Central Algoma students may have died from allergic reaction to an insect sting. Three others would also have been placed in jeopardy with allergic reactions to hepatitis B vaccine inoculations. With only one nurse on duty and no additional support available, this situation could have been deadly.

The one-nurse standard is not acceptable in this rural area. Without the staff and expertise to support and stabilize patients, the death rate is bound to climb with the additional time required to obtain services in Sault Ste Marie and to transport patients that far.

We are also concerned about the impact of lost services in the areas of X-ray, blood tests etc, which will leave many local residents unserviced since the trip to Sault Ste Marie may be impossible, delayed or a great expense to the health care system.

I hope the government will consider a community-based health care model which will have --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.



Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): On behalf of my colleague the member for Brampton South, it gives me great pleasure to bring to the Legislature's attention congratulations to the recent accomplishment of the Brampton firefighters.

On Saturday, December 14, the Brampton firefighters combat challenge A team won the world championship title at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Hotel. The Brampton team beat out approximately 100 teams from around the world. They broke their own world record by two seconds, completing the course with a team time of five minutes, 22 seconds.

I want to congratulate the members of the combat A team: Mark Evans, Gary Wilton, Peter Reid, Rob Wohlfield, Don Rowland and their coach, Doug Comeau.

The physically demanding course, completed in full gear, involved running up four flights of stairs, carrying a high-rise pack, hoisting a 40-pound roll of hose four storeys, pounding a metal beam five feet using an eight-pound hammer, carrying a charged hose 75 feet and dragging a 175-pound dummy 100 feet. It wasn't a member of the opposition.

I also want to thank members of their B team who were also successful and finished in 25th place. The members are: Brent Hastings, Hal Gillett, Ian Dalbec, Ralph Ferrari and Ryan Agard.

On behalf of all of the members of the Legislature, I congratulate the Brampton firefighters for becoming world champs and for disproving the myth that beating the odds in Las Vegas is impossible.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): My statement is for the Attorney General. Minister, yesterday in this House you said that all calls to the family support plan office were being answered and that services had improved since the closing of the regional offices. Well, let me tell you that my staff has called the family support plan office every day this week and we have yet to get a response. Still today, many women from my riding are not getting any money, money that has been collected from their ex-spouses.

The Attorney General refuses to acknowledge that the closure of the regional offices was done too quickly and that the computer system is a complete failure at the present time. What I have here is proof of the complete chaos that presently exists in the family support plan office. I have here three cheques that have been issued by the family support plan office. These cheques are addressed to nobody. Since Prescott and Russell social services could not get through to the family support plan office, they called my office asking my staff whose money that is.

I am asking the Attorney General to admit that the changes to the family support plan have been a complete failure and to reopen the regional offices until the chaotic situation is resolved.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): This past Tuesday, bright and early at 8 o'clock, I attended a love-in at the board of trade where the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced the amalgamation to all of his chums. It was quite exciting to see the sea of blue suits in harmony and homogeneously frothing at the prospect of having this megacity facilitate their development and financial interests. How easy they thought it would be to have easier access to one mega-government while shutting the doors at the same time for regular folks.

It was interesting, the political dichotomy that I observed: demagoguery in Metro and democracy in 905; omnipotence and omniscience in Metro and deference and discussion in Toryland 905; Metro needs Minister Leach's leadership in Metro, but in 905 they need facilitators to guide them; on the referendum, this government believes that it needs referenda on major issues, but in Metro he says, "Oh, we don't need one, and we're trying to convince them that it's a waste of time and it's a waste of money."

Minister, I want to thank you. I want to thank Minister Alzilla for algamating all of the cities in Metro. I have a gift for him. I have some coal here that I want to have him put in his Christmas stocking.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Coal is out of order.


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): On January 1, hardworking Ontarians will receive the second phase of their Ontario personal income tax cut, exactly as promised. Easing the tax burden allows hardworking Ontarians to keep more of their own money and give them choices. They can spend it, save it or invest it. Whatever their choice, they will be helping to create a stronger economy, and a stronger economy means more jobs.

Since the first stage of the tax cut was implemented, Ontario's economy has generated nearly 67% of all the jobs created in Canada. But giving Ontarians a tax break is not the only action that we are taking to promote job creation in this province. On January 1, all businesses will see the first reduction in the employer health tax. By 1999, 88% of all private sector employers will no longer have to file a payroll tax return, exactly as promised.

We promised we would cut personal income tax in Ontario, and we are. We promised we would eliminate the employer health tax on small businesses with payrolls under $400,000, and we are. I am pleased to tell the House today that our plan to get Ontario working again is back on track.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): The spirit of Christmas is oozing forth, I can see.


The Speaker: Member for Fort York, I can't hear you. It doesn't matter.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): In the absence of the Premier, my question is for the Chair of Management Board, or, as senior bureaucrats are now calling him, Santa Claus. Earlier this week, on the eve of Christmas, Mike Harris quietly decided to hand out some Christmas goodies to his senior bureaucrats. That gift will raise the starting salary for a deputy minister by more than $40,000. That gift makes it possible for a deputy minister to make as much as $192,000 a year. That's a 27% pay raise, not bad money if you can get it.

Minister, given the hundreds of thousands of people who will have less food on their plates this Christmas because of your government's cuts, how can you justify these massive raises for Ontario's highest-paid bureaucrats?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): This is a question for referral to the Deputy Premier.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): To the leader of the official opposition, under this plan we are going to actually -- I know this is a thought that may be foreign to your party -- link pay to productivity and to performance. I know that may be a foreign thought over there --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, members.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Your increase is more than what you give welfare moms.

The Speaker: Member for Oriole -- we'll get on it right off the top -- come to order. I want to hear what the minister has to say.


The Speaker: The leader of the third party, as well.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): But it's terrible what he's saying, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: That's for someone else to decide. Minister?

Hon Mr Eves: We are meeting our CSR commitment to increase accountability within the ranks of the senior civil service. At the end of the social contract, as the leader of the official opposition will know, if we had reinstated the old existing pay system we would have cost the Ontario taxpayers $17 million more than under this pay-for-performance system.

Mr McGuinty: It doesn't matter how the minister slices it or dices it, we're talking about a 27% pay raise for the highest-paid bureaucrats in the province. The minister wants to give like Santa but save like Scrooge. Apparently, there's lots of money to give his highest-paid bureaucrats, but he's got no money for kids living in poverty, no money for women who need shelters, who can't get the money for their children's Christmas gifts out of the family support plan. The numbers of people living on the street are at record levels. Food bank use has grown astronomically. The Salvation Army in London tells that the number of requests for Christmas baskets is up by 50% this year.


Minister, this is a question of priorities. What is more important to you, making sure that a child living in poverty can have a full meal at Christmas, making sure there are gifts from Santa under the tree, or giving government employees already making over $140,000 a year a 27% pay raise?

Hon Mr Eves: A study found that people at the deputy minister and assistant deputy minister level were being paid 19% to 25% less than comparable jobs in the broader public sector.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): So what?

Hon Mr Eves: "So what?" the honourable member says.

To the leader of the official opposition, as I said in response to his first question, this will cost the Ontario taxpayer $17 million less than reinstating the old system, which is what they would have done, at the end of the social contract.

Mr McGuinty: What the minister doesn't understand is that it's not a question of want. Who doesn't want a pay raise? It's a question of need. That's what this is all about at the end of the day.

This is going to be based on performance. I guess if it's based on performance, if a deputy minister closes another hospital, you get a pay hike. If you shut down the family support plan, you get a pay hike.

Minister, you've already laid off thousands of people, you're forcing seniors to pay new user fees for their drugs, you have literally taken food from the poor and your cuts to the family support plan are going to ruin Christmas for thousands of kids. Because of your government's cuts, this will not be a merry Christmas for many people in Ontario.

I ask you once again, how is it possible that you don't have any money for the most vulnerable in society but you can afford to give tens of thousands of dollars for each of the highest-paid bureaucrats in the government? How is that possible?

Hon Mr Eves: Since June 1995 we have reduced the number of senior public servants in this province by 11% and there is another 25% yet to be reduced between now and the year 2000; we have reduced the number of deputy ministers from 28 to 21; two thirds of these senior public servants will receive absolutely no pay increase this year at all -- I don't think that's the impression you just left with the Ontario public; and we are saving the Ontario taxpayers $17 million.


The Speaker: I want to tell the member for Hamilton East, you are out of order. You are not in your seat. I will name you next time. I tell the member for Sudbury as well, and also the member for Oriole.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. With each passing day, people are becoming more and more aware that your megacity madness is about three things: mega-taxes, mega-cuts to services and mega-dictatorship by the province. I want to focus on each of those.

Let's talk about mega-cuts in services. In North York, people have their garbage picked up twice a week, snow is removed faster than in other parts of Metro and there's free use of swimming pools. Minister, I want you to stand in your place today and I want you to guarantee the people of North York that after you use your tin-pot dictatorship rules to force them into a megacity, they're going to continue to get twice-a-week garbage pickup, they're going to get fast snow removal and they're going to get free use of swimming pools. I want you to guarantee that.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The Leader of the Opposition again is a little bit mistaken, because the proposals we're bringing in and the new city we're going to create will result in less taxes, better services, better management.

We have an excellent opportunity here, in creating this new city, to set best practice service standards. It's an idea that has sprung up across North America that all major cities are looking at, that we have an ability to set a standard for the delivery of services that is efficient and practical and affordable. We have an opportunity to do this right across the board with the new city. It's a very exciting opportunity that we have.

Mr McGuinty: I'll take that as a no, that he cannot provide that guarantee.

Let's move on. Minister, let's talk about your mega tax hikes. This megacity madness is just another part of your plan, as you well know, to ram through your version of MVA. It's about higher taxes for many homeowners and small shopkeepers in the city of Toronto, in the borough of East York.

Minister, I want you to stand in your place today and guarantee people in the city of Toronto and the borough of East York who live in older neighbourhoods or who own small shops on Queen Street that after your dictatorship forces them into a megacity, they will not have to pay higher taxes. I want that guarantee.

Hon Mr Leach: I don't know how the Leader of the Opposition draws the comparison between amalgamation and tax reform, but what I will tell the Leader of the Opposition is that we're bringing in a tax reform that is going to bring fairness and equity to the totally disgruntled, messed up, terrible tax system that we have now. There are going to be shifts in taxes. There are people who have been paying lower taxes than they should have for the last 20 years. There are also people who are paying more taxes than they should be paying. We're going to bring some fairness and equity to the system that makes sure everybody pays their fair share and no more.

Mr McGuinty: That's strike two: There's no guarantee against tax hikes.

Let's try another one. I want to talk about your dictatorial powers. You put the people of Metro Toronto under trusteeship. Clearly, you're doing this to stifle political opposition.

Minister, the city of Toronto has many tenants who are deeply disturbed about your plans to get rid of rent control. Now, the city of Toronto, as you well know, has been representing its tenants' wishes by fighting your plans. That costs money. Minister, I want you to stand up here today and tell the tenants of Toronto that if they want their council to continue fighting your abandonment of rent controls, your hand-appointed trustees will not prevent them from spending money on this most important cause. I want you to provide that guarantee.

Hon Mr Leach: Under the rules of the trustees, the city of Toronto or any of the municipalities can carry on business as usual. If they had budgeted that money, if they had planned to spend that money, they can continue to spend that money. The trustees are there to ensure that the cities don't take unreasonable positions, such as selling off their assets, for example. But if it's business as usual on any item, the city will be able to continue to do that.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the minister responsible for women's issues. Yesterday, Minister, both you and your Premier said that you would not make any changes to the services for abused women that would put them at greater risk. This morning at 11 am, a large number of women gathered together to send your government a message based on your promises and the Premier's promises made yesterday.

Here's what they had to say: "We believe that the consultant's report was an all-out attack on services provided to abused women and their children across the province. We demand that the government denounce this report, following the Premier's statement that he would not put abused women at risk."

Victoria, a survivor of abuse, said, "This report, in its entirety, harms women, and you must dismiss it and throw it in the garbage." Will you do that, Minister? Will you throw that entire report in the garbage, where it belongs?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): There are certainly no plans to throw a consultant's report in the garbage. I would say that there are plans for people like Victoria and others to respond to the report in any way they wish to respond. We're looking for written submissions in some detail if they want to. This is the very beginning of a consultation to improve the quality of our programs and the mix of programs, to put more emphasis on where people want emphasis and prevention of violence.

I should say that this is just the beginning. This consultant's report will form only one piece of the input that the government is looking for. In response to the leader of the third party, this report is not about cutting services; this report is about making a better mix of services, having some accountability and safety for women in Ontario, and promoting safe communities, a very serious issue that affects all of us.


Mr Hampton: That's about what we expected in terms of a response. Women across the province want the government to throw this report in the garbage. They know it's garbage, they know it's all about more cuts, they know it means more cuts, like cuts to access to legal aid, cuts to pay equity, cuts to employment equity, cuts to counselling services, cuts to transition houses, cuts to public education aimed at ending violence against women, cuts in funding for community agencies, cuts in social assistance. All the supports that abused women have relied on have already been cut by your government. Women know this report is all about more cuts. Women across the province, especially abused women, know what your agenda is. They know it's more cuts, they know it's more of a continuation of what you've already done. They want you to throw that report in the garbage. They want you to live up to what the Premier and you said yesterday, that you will not put women at greater risk. They want you to throw that report in the garbage. Will you do that?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I think that the statements made by the leader of the third party are particularly misleading and harmful to the public of Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): That's particularly out of order. You can't say that.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I withdraw my words that are out of order, Mr Speaker.

It's extremely important that at this time in Ontario we take the lead, as other governments are doing throughout Canada, across North America and even internationally, to take a look at our programs that are there to support women who have been victims of violence. One small piece of information that we have received after a lot of study and a lot of important work by consultants tells us that there are some good things and there are some areas where we should be improving our programs. It's our intent to do that after we look at an analysis across nine ministries.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Some of the women who are here today and others, this morning at a press conference, gave you a very clear message as to what to do with this report: Throw it in the garbage. That's what they had to say to you. You have attempted now to back away from this report. You and the Premier say that nothing you will do will put abused women at risk. I have a memo here from the Kingston area office of the Ministry of Community and Social Services, your government; I'm going to send a copy over to you. The memo is dated October 15, 1996. In the memo to service providers the government's vision is outlined, making no mention of prevention but listing the elements of your vision as community support, meaning not ministry support, accountability, fiscal responsibility, efficiency, rationalization and fairness. The memo changes the role of shelters to "crisis, short-term place and emergency responses." Is this not the implementation of your consultant's report? What exactly does this mean?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I should make it clear to the member that the consultant's report did go through a very strenuous call-for-proposal process, that the consultant is an extremely well-known and responsible person, that in my view this memo has nothing to do with the consultant's report. I'm not aware of the memo. I haven't had a chance to look at the memo. I will of course give it to the Minister of Community and Social Services because it is apparently from one of her offices. We're interested in hearing from all women.

Ms Churley: She has absolutely no shame.

The Speaker: Member for Riverdale, that's out of order. I ask you to withdraw.

Ms Churley: She has absolutely no shame, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: I'm not asking you for your opinion; I'm asking you if you're going to withdraw that comment. I'm sorry, is it withdrawn?

Ms Churley: I've withdrawn the comment.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I don't think that kind of statement is helpful on anyone's behalf. I think we're talking about an extremely important issue here: violence against women. We've been looking for solutions for many years. We don't have all the answers. It's an extremely complicated issue, and I can assure the women here in the gallery that we would very much appreciate hearing from them directly. I would like to hear your points of view and I will listen carefully to you.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My second question is for the Deputy Premier. Could you explain something to people across this province? Your government says there is no money for the family support plan. Your government says that women and children who are legally entitled to support payments must do without, have their power shut off, go to food banks to get food, have their telephone disconnected, that you have no money, yet today you are giving senior civil servants, who already make in the neighbourhood of $150,000, a $40,000 pay increase.

Deputy Premier, can you explain to people why your government has no money for the family support plan, no money for women and children so they can eat and pay their rent and pay for the electricity, but you've got $40,000 additional pay for people who already earn $150,000 a year?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): We are not saying that at all, and you know it. First of all, when you were in government and you were a member of cabinet, there were 28 deputy ministers. There are now 21. Your government instituted the social contract, at the expiry of which they automatically reverted to their old salary under the old plan. That solution would cost Ontario taxpayers $17 million more a year than this plan will.

Mr Hampton: Let me try this a different way. The Deputy Premier wants to say there are fewer deputy ministers, but then he wants to leave out that this government is going to pay consultants $2,500 a day.

I ask the question again. You're going to go out to hire consultants at $2,500 a day. You're going to give deputy ministers a $40,000-a-year pay increase. At the other end of the scale, for the poorest people in this province -- some of them are here today -- you've cut their social assistance by 22%. How do you do that? How do you justify giving some of the highest-paid bureaucrats a 27% pay increase, hiring consultants out of the private sector at $2,500 a day, while you put other people in a position where they can't even afford to pay for food? How do you justify that?

Hon Mr Eves: First of all, if he was not listening to the answer I gave to the leader of the official opposition, he's not telling it exactly the way it is. Two thirds of senior civil servants in the province will receive absolutely zero pay increase this year. That is not what you lead people to believe, that every single one will receive $40,000 more. I'd appreciate it if in your next supplementary you would come clean and admit that two thirds of senior civil servants will receive zero pay increase this year and they will not be reinstated to receive $17 million more of the taxpayers' money, which your plan would have done for them.

We have reduced senior civil servants in the province by some 11% and we will further reduce them by an additional 25%, making 36% fewer civil servants in the province of Ontario by the year 2000.


Mr Hampton: I still haven't heard an answer. This government tries to do an end run: They lay off a few senior civil servants, and then they go out and hire consultants at $2,500 a day, in other words, $25,000 every two weeks.

I want to say again that I haven't heard an explanation here. I have not heard an explanation of how you can cut the family support plan, how you can cut social assistance, how you could cut funding for abused women, how you can cut funding for those people who are in the greatest need, how you can cut funding for the Metropolitan Toronto Association for Community Living, who serve 4,000 disabled clients -- I haven't heard an explanation of how you can cut funding for all those people who are not well-off and yet you've got money for those who are very well-off indeed.

You mentioned something in your story that civil servants are going to get more if they implement your government policies effectively. Is that what it means, Minister: If they're successful in chopping the family support plan, they get more money? If they're successful in hurting --

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

Hon Mr Eves: The leader of the third party apparently is not listening. There are going to be 36% fewer senior civil servants in the province of Ontario by the year --


The Speaker: Order. The member for Welland-Thorold is out of order. Everyone can see you're not in your seat.

Hon Mr Eves: There will be 36% fewer senior civil servants in the province of Ontario by the year 2000 than there were in 1995: 36% fewer. This government, speaking of consultants, has spent far less money on consultants than your government, by far. There is no doubt about that.


Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I'd like to ask you about your new role as emperor of Metro Toronto. Emperor, yesterday you proclaimed that a referendum is too costly.


Mr Cordiano: No, this is serious. Your Premier, Mike Harris, called it -- what did he say? -- a wasteful act of desperation. As part of your army's occupation of Metro Toronto, you've unleashed a propaganda machine to promote your dictatorship. Your army is distributing to households across Metro brochures espousing the virtues of the new order. This is what you're distributing, this brochure; this is the piece. Democracy is too expensive, but propaganda is apparently not. How can you justify the hypocrisy of your government spending $1 million on this government propaganda? How do you do that?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Just to make sure that the record is clear, the cost of the program is $300,000 to get information out to the public, information that the public has been asking for. I wish we had more money to spend on it, but we have cut back drastically on our advertising program. I wish I had a whole lot more money to tell the people of Metropolitan Toronto the facts. We're providing them with that information.

Mr Cordiano: Your Highness, you've made it very clear. You've issued your imperial decree. You've said it's okay in Mike Harris's realm for consultants to be paid $2,600 a day, that that's not a waste for taxpayers; and it's okay for top bureaucrats to get a 27% raise because that's not a waste for taxpayers but entirely justifiable; and it's okay for you to spend a million bucks on this silly brochure that promotes the government, that that's not a waste as far as you're concerned.

It's now clear that the Premier doesn't care about Metro Toronto or its residents. It's up to you, because he's written off Metro Toronto and he's written off the citizens of this great metropolis. It's up to you, Minister. It's your riding. They're your constituents. Will you get off your imaginary throne, come back down to earth and do something about it? Will you stand up and support my private member's resolution for a referendum?

Hon Mr Leach: Again I would like to set the record clear. I want to make sure that the record is very clear. Where the member opposite throws this wild number of $1 million around, he's totally off base. I told him the cost of the program --


Hon Mr Leach: Listen now, very carefully. I'll say it slowly. The cost of the program is $300,000, and that's a small amount to ensure that the citizens of Metropolitan Toronto have the information they need to see what's going to happen, to see the improvements that are going to be there for them when the new city comes into effect.

With respect to the referendum, I don't think I could say it any clearer than the editorial in the Toronto Globe this morning: "The Harris government has the constitutional power, the public responsibility and the political mandate to act. A referendum on the issue is not called for."


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Would the member for Grey-Owen Sound come to order, please.

New question; the member for Dovercourt.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Let's talk about power and let's talk about democracy, namely, your attempt to use your power to stifle democracy in Metropolitan Toronto.

Just two days ago, you said in response to a question I put to you that while you disagreed with a referendum taking place in Metro, you would not use any powers you have to block that referendum from taking place.

Today I read in the Toronto Star something very different. You seem to be indicating that you won't hesitate to use your trusteeship powers, to have the trustees do your dirty work for you and try to block the municipalities from holding the referendum that the councils, one after the other, are voting and have voted that they want to hold.

I think you owe a very clear answer on this. Will you give a guarantee today that you will not use the powers of the trustees, a body that does not yet exist in law, by the way, to block the elected councils from holding a referendum?

Hon Mr Leach: If the cities around Metro want to hold a referendum, that's their prerogative. They can do that. The trustees would not interfere with that.

However, in a meeting with the mayors of all the cities, the Premier of the province and I, we discussed the referendum question. We pointed out the problems with the referendum; we pointed out how it would be ineffective, that the answer would have no consequences, and told them that we would not accept the results of a loaded-question referendum.


Mr Silipo: We will see what consequences the answer to the referendum question will have, because we will see what will happen if this minister and this Premier try to go against the democratic will as expressed by the people of Toronto in a referendum. We will see what happens.

I appreciate at least that the minister today has again said that he will not, directly or indirectly, try to block the referendum. I hope that when you go out in the scrum you will say the same thing and I will not have to read tomorrow a very different answer, as I've been doing for the last little while as you go back and forth on this point.

The other point I want to ask you about is this, because the other day you did not give me a clear answer on this other point: As you try to get the legislation through this place, will you be clear today in ensuring that there will be ample public hearings and that you will not try to ram the legislation through in a way to block the referendum from happening or to have the referendum take place after you've tried to put the legislation through the House? Will you ensure that the hearings are held later on in February, in March, following the referendum that's going to be held in Metropolitan Toronto?

Hon Mr Leach: The member opposite knows that it's the Legislature that controls how legislation is processed. The bill will go to second reading and it will go to committee. There will be ample opportunity for people to have input into the process, as they do with every bill that goes through this Legislature. That's the fair and democratic way, and this is a fair and democratic government.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I would like to remind those who need reminding that the great county of Perth has 8,500 beef cows, it has 13,000 steers and it has 110,300 beef cattle and calves production. The reason I'm reminding both of those parties in opposition of the great county of Perth is that I want to ask the minister: It's my understanding that the Ontario beef producers have access to loan guarantee programs to provide lower cost loans for purchasing beef cattle. I wonder if the minister could elaborate on the purpose of such a program.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I thank my colleague from Perth for the question. Yes, agriculture is important in many counties of Ontario, including Perth county, in spite of what the NDP are saying. They don't realize the importance of food production.


Hon Mr Villeneuve: Well, it sounds like a joke. However, it's the second-most important industry in the province of Ontario.

We have two loan guarantees for our food producers. We have --


Hon Mr Villeneuve: You, quite obviously, do not know the difference. The beef improvement association and the beef cattle protection plan is in place, along with protection for grain producers. We have brought both together so that the beef improvement program, the beef cattle protection program will provide $200 million of guarantee to our beef producers and will provide cheaper food to the consumers of Ontario.

Mr Bert Johnson: I just want to remind some of the members who don't know the difference between a bull and steers and beef that of course the bull makes beef. I wonder, Minister --

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Mr Speaker, what about the hospitals over there?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Cochrane South, this is just not that controversial a question. Let's see if we can get through it. The member for Perth.

Mr Bert Johnson: I wonder if the minister could tell us how these programs have benefited Ontario's beef producers.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: These two programs have been instrumental in helping beef and crop producers compete in a world where it's difficult to compete. There have been no draws against the guarantees on beef and very few on the guarantees against the grain producers.

Low interest rates in Ontario have helped producers to be more competitive, and indeed the government of Ontario is providing additional insurance to make sure they remain competitive in a world where competition is what it's all about. The NDP do not understand that at all.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would ask unanimous consent for the member for Perth to ask a question about hospital closings in his riding, because I am sure it's on his mind.

The Speaker: The member for Cochrane South is seeking unanimous consent to allow the member for Perth to ask a supplementary question on hospital closings.


The Speaker: I heard a "no." New question.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. As you know, the people of Metropolitan Toronto have been put in trusteeship, yet in the rest of the province you are setting up facilitators, you are setting up negotiations, you're giving them a year, five years to do what they have to do. I asked you yesterday why this dictate to the citizens of Toronto. And why would you, in an answer to the member for Lawrence, when he asked you a very straightforward question -- he said to you, "Will you allow the people of Metro Toronto a say in how they're going to be governed?" Your answer was: "Let me think about that for a minute. No."

Is this your attitude towards the taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto? Do you think it's fair to say to them: "Let me think about that for a minute. No"? What do you want to say to the people of Toronto on your attitude?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I truly thank the member for Oakwood for giving me the opportunity to set the record straight. The member for Lawrence asked me yesterday, would I vote in favour of his private member's bill? He said that very clearly and he repeated the question today. On both occasions, I told him that I would not support his private member's bill. That's all there was.

Mr Colle: I think the record is clear. The question again, Mr Minister, was to you, very direct: "Will you allow the people of Metro Toronto a say...?" Your answer, in a very arrogant, dictatorial way, was to write the people off, to write the member for Lawrence off, and to say very smugly and arrogantly: "Wait a minute. No."

Mr Minister, I just wonder, do you know what you're doing? In this legislation, do you know what you're doing? You've set up this trusteeship that is making decisions today and they have no authority under the Municipal Act to make decisions. Whether you know it or not, the act hasn't been passed. Your trusteeship is illegal. It has no authority under law. Under whose law do they have this power? Is it the divine right of kings? Under whose law do they have this power, since the act has not been passed?

Hon Mr Leach: I would like to read back into the record what the member for Lawrence said. He said: "I ask the minister a very simple question: Will you support my private member's resolution calling for a referendum...?" and I said no.

With respect to the trusteeship, this is not the first time this has happened. The last time this took place, where a municipality was directed not to sell assets or do anything improper, and where the act was put in place and made retroactive, was in 1994, put in place by the NDP in the city of Ottawa. This is not some revolutionary, brand-new event; this is something that happens in almost every set of circumstances surrounding a major amalgamation.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Attorney General. A coalition of over 25 community groups was formed in October of this year when your government appointed Rod McLeod to review the civilian oversight of policing in Ontario. The coalition believes that if the McLeod report recommendations are implemented, then Ontario will no longer have access to an independent civilian oversight body to ensure the integrity and accountability of the policing system in the province. In order to ensure a level playing field among the various groups concerned with policing, I am asking you today to agree to consult with those community groups on the McLeod report before amendments to the Police Services Act are introduced. Will you agree to meet and consult with these people before any amendments to the PSA are introduced?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): We have received Mr McLeod's report. We are considering Mr McLeod's report. I know that the Solicitor General has asked interested parties to provide him with their written critiques of the McLeod report. From my point of view, I'd be very interested in seeing that material as well. If people have recommendations to make and didn't avail themselves of the opportunity of speaking to Mr McLeod, we want to hear from them.

Mr Hampton: I got part of an answer; I didn't get the whole thing. The commitment people want is that the Attorney General will meet with them and discuss the recommendations of the report and will consider their views before any amendments to the Police Services Act are introduced.

They also ask another question. It's come to light that the police complaints commissioner himself issued some recommendations on civilian oversight of police. For some reason, the recommendations that came from the police complaints commissioner didn't get into the McLeod report at all.

I want to ask the minister again, will you commit to meeting with this coalition before any Police Services Act amendments are introduced and can you explain why the police complaints commissioner's model for civilian oversight of police was totally left out of the McLeod report?

Hon Mr Harnick: As I indicated in my first answer, I'd be delighted to receive written submissions about any observations they have about the McLeod report. Again, I can say that when a bill is introduced it will proceed through the Legislature, there will be hearings, people will have an opportunity to be heard.

In so far as the second part of your question is concerned, Mr McLeod did his report independently, Mr McLeod heard from those who wished to be heard and I suspect that Mr McLeod didn't agree with the police complaints commissioner's model and elected to accept something other than that.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): My question is for the Minister of Transportation. With any luck, I hope to be driving home this evening. I'll be taking Highway 69 into my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay. As you're aware, Highway 69 is of great importance to the people in my riding. Many of the constituents have been asking me how the construction project's coming along. Can you inform my constituents how that project's coming along?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I'd like to thank the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay for the question. As the member will know, this government is refocusing taxpayers' dollars on rehabilitating our existing network of highways. We've added $140 million to make sure that the job gets done.

I am aware that the section of Highway 69 that runs through the member's riding is a very much travelled highway, particularly in the summertime when approximately 15,000 cars travel that highway on a daily basis. Four-laning obviously will improve safety on this section of the highway, and that has the added benefit of enhancing this economic link, making it more convenient and cost-effective for residents and tourists, as well as commercial traffic. This government will continue to make the necessary investments on a priority basis in our highway infrastructure.

Mr Grimmett: Minister, I wonder if you could advise whether the project is intended to get as far as Mactier, and if so, how soon you expect the four-laning to reach Mactier.

Hon Mr Palladini: Although our priority is fixing what we already have, we have found the dollars to go ahead with a few expansion projects, such as four-laning of Highway 69, based on where the greatest need is. This summer we awarded a $16.5-million contract for four-laning 8.5 kilometres north of Muskoka Road. This project will be completed by 1998. With respect to continuing on Highway 69 through the member's riding, by the year 2001 we will have spent $60 million to complete 25 kilometres of the four-laning. I hope the member finds that very encouraging and that his constituents will be very happy with what this government is doing.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Health. We would like you to tell the House today what your intention is with the underserviced area program for areas around Ontario that do not have sufficient doctors' services.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): As the member opposite knows, the government has entered into a tentative agreement with the Ontario Medical Association, which is in the process of being ratified by both parties. The agreement calls for various incentives in terms of underserviced areas in the province of Ontario. There will be incentives to encourage doctors to go into underserviced areas. There will be disincentives for new doctors to go into overserviced areas, thereby directing them into underserviced areas. In addition, a group of some 20 physicians will be trained and designated particularly for underserviced areas; there will be extra moneys for training, which will guide ordinary doctors into underserviced areas.

Mrs Pupatello: I was looking for an answer to the question that relates to underserviced areas because my area has yet to be designated. As the minister knows, you received complete files from our community, all the information in detail that you need to designate Essex county as an underserviced region. You received that in October, October 11, to be exact. I remind the minister that we have a significant shortage of doctors: 30 family physicians and eight obstetricians short. The list goes on and on. The minister will know that he has all the information required. Will the minister today designate Essex county an underserviced region?

Hon David Johnson: The ministry is committed to considering proposals from communities and the ministry is currently considering the Essex proposal. But I will say at the same time that the ministry, through the agreement with the Ontario Medical Association, has agreed to meet with the association in terms of overserviced and underserviced areas. The doctors have asked to have some input into this and the agreement we have made with them allows for that provision.

I will say that this ministry, this government, are not satisfied with the health services in the province. There are many good people working in the health system in the province but we feel that the health care system should be improved. We've committed to protecting the funding. We have committed to making the health care system better. We have committed to providing additional services in underserviced areas.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Minister of Finance.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Grey-Owen Sound, if the conversation's necessary, why don't we do it outside?

Mr Wildman: Thank you, Speaker.

We understand that the Minister of Education and Training will be making an announcement tomorrow, the day after the last day of this sitting, on transfer payments for education. Can the Minister of Finance assure the House that there will be no more cuts to schools, to school boards, to universities and colleges in that announcement?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): To the honourable member, I am not aware of any announcement that the Minister of Education is making tomorrow and I don't believe that the final decision with respect to transfer payments has been made.

Mr Wildman: We understand the announcement is imminent. The rumour is -- the rumour may or may not be well founded -- that there may be between $600 million and $1 billion in further cuts to school boards and that transfer payments to colleges and universities will be frozen.

Can the Minister of Finance confirm that the government will follow the recommendations of Dr Smith and the panel on post-secondary education, that the $430 million this government has already cut from post-secondary education will be restored, that you won't freeze colleges' and universities' funding, and certainly that you will not make up for the loss in funding to colleges and universities by deregulating tuition fees?

Hon Mr Eves: I'm sure the Minister of Education will make announcements not only with respect to transfer payments to boards of education but also with respect to colleges and universities when he deems that to be appropriate. I obviously can't relay to the honourable member, and I'm sure he would appreciate that, decisions that are in the process of being made or that haven't been made yet.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism and it's concerning the Ontario wine industry. As you know, this is a very proud and growing industry, especially in Niagara, with ambitious goals not only in Ontario but on the international market as well. The economic spinoffs for us in the Niagara Peninsula are certainly very significant throughout the peninsula, including Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Wainfleet and Stevensville. Could the minister tell the House about the spectacular growth and achievements of the Ontario wine industry over the past year?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm very pleased to respond to the member for Niagara South. Yes, it's very true that this is a very big industry in the Niagara Peninsula. There has been spectacular growth of the Ontario wine industry over the last decade, and I think we in Ontario should all be proud of this achievement.

Wine sales in the year just ending have grown by over 20%. They have been sold around the world. One of our specialty wines is the ice wine; in Japan that is one of the delicacies of cuisine there. There are 44 wineries in Ontario that employ 1,300 people -- I'll say that again: 1,300 people -- not only in manufacturing but also in the retail stores as well. We are selling about 83 million litres of wine in the period of 1995-96, and that's valued at $675 million.

Mr Hudak: Thank you, Minister, for that answer. Not only as a member of Niagara am I concerned about the wine industry but also I'm a customer of the Niagara wine industry -- maybe, around Christmas, a little too often. Not only from the Niagara area but throughout Ontario, how does the Ontario wine industry rate in worldwide competition?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm glad he asked that question, because we've had a very good success this year at the wine competitions. Our Ontario wineries were runaway winners in the international competition, which is somewhat like the wine Olympics, in London, England. There were entries from 38 countries, and Ontario companies won seven gold medals, 22 silver and 30 bronze medals.

In conclusion, I would urge all of us in this House to make sure that we have a good supply of Ontario wine, if needed, this Christmas season.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Two days ago, in response to a question from my leader, you confirmed that the province will legislate streamlined, one-tier municipal governments across the province, reducing the number of municipalities from 850 to as few as 200.

Last Wednesday, the regional council of Sudbury voted against your supercity idea and voted 12 to 8 to go to a modified two-tier governance model. Will you allow the region of Sudbury to stay with a modified two-tier model, or will you legislate and force the region to a one-tier model?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Again, I'd just like to set the record straight. I don't know where the member opposite gets the numbers. I have never said that we would reduce the number of municipalities from 800 to 200 in this House or any place else. I just want the record to be very clear on that.

With respect to the structure of government in Sudbury, I recognize that they have been exploring restructuring for a number of years. The community was somewhat split. I know the city of Sudbury and the mayor of Sudbury were looking forward to a one-tier, but the region as a whole did debate it and they did have a vote. The vote was 12 to 8 in favour of a two-tier government and I respect that decision.



Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I am forwarding this petition on behalf of the students and families of St Timothy's school. Ms Teresa MacNeil was the one who gathered the petition, and it is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have hundreds of signatures on this petition and I sign my name and hope that the government will listen to them.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from Paul Sharkey on behalf of members of OPSEU, Local 405. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario not to alter the Occupational Health and Safety Act nor erode the rights of workers any further and ensure strict enforcement of the legislation."

I add my name to theirs.



Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas 47% of all driving fatalities are alcohol-related; and

"Whereas 544 persons died in alcohol-related crashes in Ontario in 1994 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) and more than 25,500 drivers were charged with impaired driving in the same year; and

"Whereas 65% of the total convictions for drunk driving in 1994 involved repeat offenders; and

"Whereas every year drinking and driving costs Ontarians $1.3 billion in personal financial loss, medical expenses and property damage; and

"Whereas the existing measures and penalties have failed to deter chronic impaired drivers from re-offending; and

"Whereas driving is a privilege, not a right, and chronic impaired drivers have failed to take their responsibilities seriously;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to enact Margaret Marland's private member's Bill 85, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act (Impaired Driving), 1996, or similar legislation, as soon as possible."

I am proud to add my name to this petition.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended that North York Branson Hospital merge with York-Finch hospital; and

"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who in numerous cases require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;

"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendation contained within the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital, so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."

I've affixed my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have further petitions from the members of CEP and SEIU.

"Whereas the Harris government will introduce legislation to amend the Workers' Compensation Act and distribute a discussion paper about changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act; and

"Whereas the expected changes include erosion of the right to refuse unsafe work; workers will be forced to apply to their employer for WCB benefits and employers will decide if the claim is valid; reduction in power of the joint health and safety committees; and eliminate compensation for certain injuries and diseases; and

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I have a petition signed by 94 people in the London area. It reads as follows:

"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."


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition from a number of people in 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; and

"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; and

"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 studies; and

"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 agree with this petition and I sign this petition in agreement.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): This petition is from the Ontario Federation of Labour to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, agree with and support the policies of the Ontario Conservative government. We, the students of Arthur District High School, respect the teaching position but we also feel that this position would be best protected by the immediate removal of school boards."

It's signed by quite a number of my constituents who are high school students, and I have affixed my signature as well.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : «À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que les 218 élèves de l'école publique Nouvel Horizon de Hawkesbury vivent dans une école qui n'est pas convenable, qui est située sur un terrain d'un acre et qui n'appartient pas au conseil scolaire ;

«Attendu que l'école publique Nouvel Horizon a une très petite bibliothèque, pas de gymnase et des classes mobiles qui ne sont pas reliées à l'école ;

«Attendu que l'école publique Nouvel Horizon est la seule école publique de langue française du comté de Prescott, et que nous croyons qu'il est essentiel d'obtenir au moins une école de langue française pour les contribuables du secteur public français ;

«Nous, soussignés, faisons parvenir cette pétition afin que le financement pour l'achat d'un terrain et pour la construction d'une nouvelle école soit accordé tel que promis en 1994.»

J'y ajoute ma signature.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a petition that's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:

"Whereas the current" -- it says Progressive Conservative government, but that's an oxymoron -- "Progressive Conservative government of Ontario is proposing to amend the Workers' Compensation Act;

"Whereas the proposed amendments include cutting maximum benefits from 90% to 85% of net average earnings;

"Whereas the government is further proposing to outlaw workers' compensation benefits for chronic stress;

"Whereas the direct payment by employers to employees for the first four to six weeks of disability essentially amounts to privatizing a huge portion of WCB, giving employers total control and benefiting private insurance companies;

"Whereas the Occupational Disease Panel will be folded back into the WCB, therefore compromising their ability to do credible, independent work on establishing the cause of occupational diseases;

"Whereas employer assessments under the government's proposals will be cut by 5%, adding billions of dollars to the board's unfunded liability;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold full provincial public hearings on any proposed amendments to workers' compensation legislation to provide all the people of Ontario the opportunity for full disclosure of all proposed amendments and the ability and forum to ensure that all facts and potential impacts are heard and addressed."

That is signed by thousands of people from here in the province. I have affixed my signature to indicate my concern --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.



Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have a petition entitled "Reinstate the Lord's Prayer in Ontario's Public Schools."

"The Grand Orange Lodge of Ontario West, being a firm supporter of the public school system and the Protestant faith, does, with the undersigned, hereby petition the government of Ontario to reinstate the Lord's Prayer in the public school system of Ontario.

"Equal rights to all people, special privileges to none."

I hereby affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition here against the $2 user fee for seniors. It reads:

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

"Whereas the current Ontario Minister of Health" -- of course it was Jim Wilson at the time --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Let's go.

Mr Ruprecht: -- "promised as an opposition MPP" -- Mr Speaker, I've got to be able to finish my petition. Why wouldn't I be able to get my petition done?

The Speaker: Petitions. The member for Hamilton Centre.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to save the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers.

"To Premier Harris and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

"We 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 that.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have another petition with well over 1,500 additional signatures on the Barrhaven High School issue, which reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have affixed my own signature thereto because I'm in complete agreement.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): One final petition. The member for Parkdale.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I was at the third paragraph.

"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 in filling out the application form; and

"Whereas the current Ontario Minister of Health" -- at that time it was Mr Wilson -- "promised as an Ontario opposition MPP in a July 5 statement 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 of Ontario to repeal this user fee plan because the tax-saving user fee concept is not fair, sensitive or 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'm signing my John Henry.



Mr Hodgson moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 52, An Act to promote resource development, conservation and environmental protection through the streamlining of regulatory processes and the enhancement of compliance measures in the Aggregate and Petroleum Industries / Projet de loi 52, Loi visant à promouvoir la mise en valeur des ressources, la conservation ainsi que la protection de l'environnement en simplifiant les processus de réglementation et en renforçant les mesures de conformité dans l'industrie pétrolière et l'industrie des agrégats.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): Amendments to the current statutes contained in the Aggregate and Petroleum Resources Statute Law Amendment Act will make the aggregate, petroleum and brine industries more accountable for meeting Ontario's environmental standards.

These measures will maintain Ontario's leadership in regulating these industries and improve the ministry's enforcement capability to ensure compliance. They will also make the industries more accountable for their day-to-day operations and allow the ministry to concentrate on its core business of standards development, technical approvals and enforcement.

The bill implements a new, streamlined approach that is backed by detailed technical standards. These new standards will have input from key stakeholders and interest groups and will be adopted in regulation following a 30-day public review period through the Environmental Bill of Rights registry.

This legislation has been thoroughly reviewed by the standing committee on general government, and I'd like to thank all the committee members. The dialogue between the government and the opposition was of tremendous benefit and improvements to this bill have been made.

For example, the bill now contains a provision requiring that annual compliance reports be sent to the upper- and lower-tier municipalities, as well as the ministry. In addition --

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Thank you. That was my amendment.

Hon Mr Hodgson: I already gave the opposition credit for the amendment.

Ms Martel: I know.

Hon Mr Hodgson: You'll get to speak and further elaborate on that.

In addition, where annual compliance reports are not submitted on time, or an operator does not take appropriate steps to remedy non-compliance, the operator's licence for a site is automatically suspended.

I would like to thank the opposition parties for proposing these changes.

The government made changes to the bill in committee to strengthen provisions for compliance reporting. Several housekeeping amendments were also made based on suggestions from the industries. This initiative enjoys strong support among the client industries and makes better use of taxpayers' dollars. Ministry inspectors will be freed from time-consuming financial and administrative duties and will be able to focus their efforts on compliance. There will be improved enforcement of the standards and regulations. The industries will have more responsibility and will be held accountable for meeting environmental standards.

As we have said throughout the discussion on this bill, the approach we are taking addresses both the economic and the environmental perspectives and represents a true balance of all interests.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments or questions? Further debate?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have some comments to make on this bill on issues that may be a bit peripheral to the bill perhaps. I'm going to try, because you're in the chair and an excellent Chair, to keep those remarks as close to the bill as possible, but you know you always have to look at the total context in which a bill comes before this House.

I know there are some who've expressed concern about this bill, which deals with the Ministry of Natural Resources aggregate and petroleum resources act. There are some who say the bill has some redeeming features. The bill, as members of the House may know, revises four statutes: The Aggregate Resources Act, the Petroleum Resources Act, the Mining Act and the Ontario Energy Board Act. So it has some rather significant ramifications for this province.

Bill 52, in our view, is part of the government's wider effort to shift responsibility for direct program delivery from the government, which is impartial and independent, to industry, which cannot be considered to be impartial and independent.

Similar to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act and the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations' recently introduced Safety and Consumer Statutes Administration Act, the bill proposes that the province's aggregate and petroleum industries now be responsible for the day-to-day site inspections and monitoring, with the government's role restricted to establishing minimum standards and issuing permits and enforcement. The bill will also allow the government to use private inspectors. These of course would have to be certified by the ministry. These changes were tested in two pilot projects last year, one in Uxbridge.

Now I have a bit of concern about this because I think the government, when it had these responsibilities, could look upon this situation in an independent fashion. There are some people who have said that what the government is doing in many instances such as this is putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, and there's a lot of concern about that. If you're asking industry to police itself and there's not an independent body to do so, some industries that choose to break the law may gain an economic advantage while other industries that want to be good corporate citizens and comply with the laws and the standards and regulations will be at an economic disadvantage. That's why it's important to have what we referred to as a level playing field. I believe that a level playing field exists only when the government, as an independent inspecting unit, is in the paramount position and that you not simply hand the keys to the car over to the people who are in the industry itself.


While I hope it works -- I hope it does; I'm not a person who wishes ill on these situations -- I certainly believe it has a good chance of not being as fair as the other system. Of course we know the reason for this. This saves the government money and the government is looking for every last penny it can find to finance the tax cut, which will be a 30% cut in provincial income tax with the greatest advantage going to the richest people in our society.

The member for St Andrew-St Patrick rose in the House today to extol the virtues of the tax cut. I know there was applause in the boardrooms of the major corporations where the chief executive officers would be getting perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in money returned from the government. I could hear the clinking of the champagne glasses in the Albany Club and other significant establishments where rich people tend to congregate as she stated this.

But you would know, Mr Speaker, and as I once said in this House, being an individual who's worked at the municipal level and knows the importance of frugality and of not borrowing money when you don't have to, the government will have to spend, that is, borrow, some $5 billion a year to finance this tax cut, and of course will have to make some drastic cuts in its expenditures in many communities.

In my community, for instance, the Hotel Dieu Hospital is now under the meat axe of the provincial government. In Port Colborne, I read a column from my friend the member for what used to be called Erie, now Niagara South, where he said he was going to fight with the government over the closing of the Port Colborne hospital. I'm pleased he's joining my battle in the Niagara region to preserve health care and I want to say that we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, no doubt, with the people of our communities, preventing the provincial government from closing our hospitals, the three, in St Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake and Port Colborne. I am pleased; I've got a copy of that column which I'll be happy to provide to any who call my constituency office and want a copy.

That's the member's role locally, to do that, and of course we will get some information from others who will be pleased. In all these situations the winners are going to agree with it; the losers do not agree with it. So when they complain that the member for Port Colborne or the member for St Catharines uses statistics provided by the Port Colborne hospital or the Hotel Dieu Hospital, do they really expect that the other hospitals that have dodged the bullet are going to disagree with the recommendations? Of course they will not. That's why he and I will be proud to utilize information provided by the hospital in his constituency and mine.

The reason I bring this up is because I think the government in this bill is trying to shed its responsibility so that it can cut its provincial budget. I think the taxpayers of this province who are getting a good service here, a service which protected the environment, will not get as good a service now, though I wish for the best, I don't wish ill on the government over this particular change. I think we could see that change coming.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): You've forgotten about VLTs.

Mr Bradley: Did I forget about VLTs? I can't think of how I could possibly bring VLTs into this bill without challenging the Speaker to perhaps bring down a difficult hand on me, but let me say this: The government is trying to save money in this because it doesn't want its inspectors, it wants the industry to inspect itself, and that can be indeed tied back to the fact they need the money for the tax cut. Of course the other reason, the other thing they're doing is they're putting VLTs in to finance it, video lottery terminals -- I want you to join with me -- video lottery terminals, electronic slot machines which will be placed in every bar, in every restaurant, on every street in every neighbourhood in Ontario. I know the members are happy I mentioned that. I hope they don't put them in Mitchell or in Stratford, a wonderful community. I've been to Stratford and Mitchell and Monkton and communities such as that throughout your constituency. It's a lovely part of the province and you've extolled the virtues of your community here in one of your recent contributions to the House. I want to congratulate you on extolling the virtues of a community that deserves the extolling of its virtues.

While the industry associations were consulted during the drafting of the bill, others were not included. Does that sound familiar? Yes, it does. I was reading in the Globe and Mail the other day, a source this government wishes to quote on many occasions, particularly editorially, when some of its editorials are a little right of Genghis Khan in their viewpoints. I looked at this and said, "The government is doing the same thing with the change of standards." You see, in this case they consulted the industry associations and asked, "Is it okay if we make these changes, and what changes should we make?" Once they got the thumbs up or thumbs down from the industry associations, then they went to environmental and public interest groups and asked, "What do you think now?" I think their mind had been made up by then.

They're doing the same thing in the Ministry of Environment now, where the Minister of Environment is going to change standards, something that's relatively routine. They're trying to make a big deal out of it. The former NDP Minister of Environment and Energy is here this afternoon. He knows that routinely we work on standards. This government is not even going to develop its own standards; it's simply going to try to adopt standards from somewhere else so it doesn't have to do its own work and tailor these standards to the special conditions of Ontario.

It's going to go to the industry first and ask: "Is this okay? You people have been polluting in this area. You produce these contaminants. Is it okay if we make these standards stricter?" I can tell you what the answer's going to be. Some of them are not going to be happy with the potential standards. They want to clear them with the polluting industries first and then come to the public and environmental groups. Industry should be consulted, absolutely, as it should have been consulted on this bill. It's essential that this be done. But it's as important to consult others at exactly the same time, not okay it, give it the thumbs up from the industry first and then turn around and say to the environmental groups and public citizens' groups, "Here's what we've decided upon." You come forward with the proposal and you let everybody comment, and then whatever decision you make you have to live with. I understand that. I might disagree with it, but at least you can say that everybody had an equal chance. That wasn't the case with the MNR aggregate and petroleum resources act. They consulted the industries first, got their input, drew up their proposals and then consulted somebody else after, which is not the proper way to go.

The government has stated its intention to pass this bill before presenting any draft regulations. Minister Hodgson has promised that all interested groups will be consulted on the regulations before they're implemented. I don't know whether someone might be able to help me out.


Mr Bradley: They have not developed those regulations yet. We have not seen them. What all of us in this House should know is that it's not simply the legislation, it's not simply what's contained in the bill that counts; it's what's in the regulations. That's often the very key part of it because that's the specific detail. You can make some sweeping statements. You can have some statements within a piece of legislation that will make everybody feel good. They'll say, "This looks great." Then you put in regulations that change the bill's interpretation to a certain extent and the fact is that we don't get a chance in this House to debate regulations.

There is a regulations committee of this House that nobody in the news media covers. It's hard enough to get them into the gallery here, with the television sets they have in their offices, but they certainly are not going to come down to the various committees to give coverage, particularly the regulations committee, so what happens is that only the cabinet and perhaps some of the other government members get a chance to look at and deal with these regulations in any meaningful way. By the time they get to the regulations committee, I can assure you the government has its mind made up.

We think it's important that there be considerable consultation before the regulations are developed. Then, when the draft regulations are out, we think it's important that they go to everyone at once to look at and for the government to make any modifications it deems appropriate, and we in the opposition will be helpful in suggesting what some of those changes might be. I have a sneaking suspicion the government might not adopt some of the changes that we would want to see adopted.


The provincial aggregates policy group, with representation from industry, environment and municipalities, did begin discussing this legislation and possible standards for the first time in late May of this year, I think it was. Only limited progress has been made thus far. Additional meetings happened in the fall and perhaps there are going to be further meetings.

I'm concerned about this, because I look at it in the context of the government's overall policy, which is to deregulate anything that could possibly provide protection for consumers and the general public of this province. It's an effort to get rid of civil servants. I know it's popular out there to say civil servants are lazy or they don't do their job or something like that, but over the years they have done an excellent job. They have been dedicated individuals who have performed, on an independent and objective basis, a very important role in protecting the environment, whether they happen to be in the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Environment or any other ministry. That's why I become concerned when you turn that all over to the industry, because they do not have a vested interest, as the general public might have, in the protection of the environment, though many in the industries will have that concern. The point I make is that you just don't have a level playing field unless you have an objective, detached, independent observer and inspector in the form of people from the various government departments that are relevant.

The changes: New technical standards will be created to regulate the province's aggregate industry. Apparently MNR staff are only in the initial stages of the standards, according to this very important note I have before me.

Similar to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, an aggregates trust fund will be established to pool annual licence fees and provide for rehabilitation where permits have been revoked as a result of bankruptcy or default. The fund will be administered by the industry.

I think the idea of the fund is a good idea. I want to say that. I don't want to say everything about the bill is negative. This fund is a good idea, and that the funding be obtained from the industry itself I think is reasonable as well.

The new standards for the petroleum and brine industries, the changes to this regulation, I think are something that should be observed carefully. New standards will be developed to regulate the industry. These will be based on the Canadian Standards Association standard for hydrocarbon storage. A new trust fund, again funded by industry, will pay for the continued operation of the geological core and chip library, which provides information and research services to the industry and academic institutions. Maximum fines for offences under the Petroleum Resources Act are increased from $10,000 to $500,000, and the time period for initiating a prosecution is extended. The annual production and rig licences will be replaced by a life-cycle well licence covering the entire lifespan of a well.

Those fines may sound like a lot of money, but you have to know whether the government is going to seek the highest penalty. If the government is tame in prosecuting -- first of all, if it decides to prosecute, and when you have fewer people in government to do the prosecutions, you're going to have a greater problem being able to prosecute when necessary. That's what is happening, because if you look at the Ministry of Environment, they're cutting their budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars. They're taking away the resources.

Do you know what happens in these ministries that I don't think a lot of people realize? Because of the bumping provisions, people who work in specific areas are lost. Let us use as an example someone who might be working in the regulation of the petroleum and brine industries or the aggregate industry. That person may have been there for five or 10 years and have a particular expertise in that field, but someone with more seniority is able to bump that person out of the position, so often you lose that person. The problem is, the government is so obsessed with slashing people left and right -- they would like to get about 25,000 people out of there if they could -- that they're moving so quickly and so rapidly that these changes are disruptive.

It comes back to a theme that I think many in the public are talking about today, which is that even those who agree with the government in its general policy say the government is moving too quickly and too drastically and is not looking at the ramifications of the decisions that are being made. I agree with those people. I don't agree with the government agenda in any event, and a lot of people don't. But even people who are Conservatives come to me, because I have a lot of good friends who are Conservatives. I think some of them might even vote for me once in a while. I respect their point of view very much. They come to me and say, "I can't believe the government is borrowing money to give a tax cut, $5 billion a year for a tax cut." And I'm getting calls all the time from people who are saying, "I can't believe the government is cutting inspectors for the aggregate industry." I have a volume of telephone calls, something to behold, at my constituency office over this matter.

They don't even touch, however, the number of calls I'm getting on the potential closing of Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines. People are very concerned that the so-called restructuring commission -- I call them the hospital closing commission -- have abandoned Hotel Dieu Hospital. They had a consultant from Toronto come in to do an evaluation. The people I know in Monkton, Ontario, and in Listowel and places like that must wonder whether all the expertise in the world resides in consulting firms emanating from Toronto. Somehow I don't think that's what they believe to be true.

But here we have the government taking $38 million out of hospital budgets in the Niagara region, and then the local restructuring commission is forced to face what I call crackpot reality. That's what it is; it's crackpot realism they're dealing with. I don't accept the fact that you have to take $38 million out of the hospital budgets in the Niagara region, so I start from that premise. Unfortunately, the restructuring commission has to take that into account.

I digress from the bill, and the parliamentary assistant looks on with a puzzled look at how this could possibly be part of this bill, but I know he wanted me to put this on the record this afternoon.

So when I look at the fines -- I was on the fines -- I think $1 million as the maximum fine would be reasonable. The Ministry of Environment and Energy could put people in jail for violating these laws, because do you know who doesn't have to worry about this? Good people in that industry. Good, dedicated corporate citizens in the industry don't worry about that, because they spend the money on care of their companies, on training people environmentally, putting in the appropriate equipment, changing processes. They have established a policy that calls for maximum care of the products with which they deal. So they don't care if it goes up to $1 million, and they don't care if the time period for initiating prosecution is extended, because they're not going to break the law. It's only those who have an eye to breaking the law who are going to be concerned about any of these changes.

I was concerned when I heard about this bill that what we've seen happen is some questionable decisions being made, and it's again why I'm worried about the government.


This is dated March 18, 1996. It's a hearing officer's report on the proposed Niagara Escarpment plan amendment PG/101/93. It says, "Harold Sutherland Construction Ltd," and then it says, "As we discussed by telephone today, enclosed is a copy of the hearing officer's report on proposed amendment 101 to the Niagara Escarpment plan. The hearing office recommends that the proposed amendment be refused.

"The Niagara Escarpment Commission will be considering the hearing officer's report at its April 11, 1996, meeting. The commission will then send its recommendation on the proposed amendment to the Minister of Environment and Energy.

"Subsequent steps in the amendment process are as follows:

"(a) The minister makes a recommendation on the proposed amendment to the cabinet. If that recommendation differs from the hearing officer's recommendation, public notice is given and a 21-day comment period is provided for written representations to cabinet.

"(b) Cabinet may approve, approve with modifications, or refuse the amendment."

This is signed by a planner in plan administration. This is pretty routine, this is not secret information, it is information that the Niagara Escarpment Commission would have to provide.

What happened with this operation on the escarpment was the following.

The Sutherland application came to the Niagara Escarpment Commission to amend the Niagara Escarpment plan to allow an asphalt plant within the escarpment. In 1991 Sutherland constructed the asphalt plant at the East Linton site in Sarawak township. Sutherland built this plant without receiving the proper approvals from the Ministry of the Environment. This is where I get into the problem with this legislation. Here is a situation where even with some staff a problem arose. Now, without the staff, you know that the problem's going to be multiplied ten times. Let me go through this chronology again.

In 1992 Sutherland Construction and Harold Sutherland were each charged with establishing a plant without a certificate of approval, operating the plant without the certificate and creating an adverse impact on the environment. The company, Sutherland Construction, was convicted of the first two charges and fined $10,000. All other charges were withdrawn.

Sutherland did receive a certificate of approval in 1993, but numerous complaints were subsequently received from area residents regarding noise, dust and odour emissions at this location. As an example, the Ministry of Environment and Energy recorded 150 such complaints in the summer of 1993.

In 1993 Sutherland applied to move this plant to the new location in Keppel township where Sutherland has an existing quarry. The staff of the NEC recommended against approval of this application on the basis that this applicant had operated his plant so poorly in East Linton and because the Niagara Escarpment staff felt that the Keppel site was not an appropriate location. However, in 1994 the commission rejected their own staff's recommendation and approved the amendment.

Public hearings on this application were held in 1995. Numerous citizens in the area of the proposed new plant opposed this application on the basis of concerns regarding dust, noise and odour, as well as the applicant's very poor track record in operating similar plants. There were some complaints then that did exist.

The hearing officer concluded that this application should be rejected primarily because it does not comply with many of the objectives of the Niagara Escarpment Act because it would set a precedent throughout the escarpment area. The hearing officer's report was made on February 23, 1996.

In July of this year, not that long ago, the former Minister of Environment and Energy, Ms Elliott, the member for Guelph, issued her recommendation in support of the Sutherland application. The minister's recommendation to the cabinet to approve this application went directly against the hearing officer's recommendations -- directly against them.

In early November 1996, this past month, the current Minister of Environment and Energy also recommended to cabinet that this application be approved, and cabinet issued its order in council on November 6, 1996. On November 21, 1996, the Niagara Escarpment Commission issued a conditionally approved development permit to Harold Sutherland Construction. So ends this portion of this saga.

But what I'm pointing out is how important, because some of the aggregate industries are here -- I just received a note here that's rather interesting. I've lost my train of thought with this note, which is designed to disrupt this House, Mr Speaker. It claims that 19 MPPs are being held hostage by somebody in this House. I don't know who that would be. I thought we were here till midnight tonight, or 6 o'clock -- something like that.

Anyway, I wanted to put that on the record so the parliamentary assistant would be aware of this circumstance and the concern of neighbours in that area, because some of the quarrying operations in this province take place on the escarpment; that's how I tied this in to the this particular piece of legislation. While I don't think the world will end with this piece of legislation, I just don't believe for a moment that you can have industry policing itself. You've got to have an independent body. The best one is the representative of the people of this province, and that is the government of Ontario.

There was a rather interesting article written that all members of the House should know about, because it fits into the role of government in this bill or any other bill. It was written by Charles Caccia, who is the MP for Davenport, and is called "Bashing Government Hurts Us All." What I see in this bill is the bashing of government. I want to share its contents with members; it will only take a couple of minutes to do so. Mr Caccia writes as follows:

"We live in times when denigrating government is fashionable, when government is seen by some as unnecessary, redundant, wasteful if not corrupt and downright stupid. Politicians like Newt Gingrich, Preston Manning, Ralph Klein and Mike Harris have done their share of the demolition of government, and may have managed to convince some Canadians of the evils of government, `useless bureaucracies' and, horror of horrors, `duplication and overlap' (rarely supported by precise examples).

"Canadians have listened to these claims, but don't seem entirely convinced, if one is to judge from the re-election of incumbent governments in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that critics of government have managed to weaken the public's confidence in our public institutions.

"Some media outlets have played a role in this weakening process in a variety of ways: strident headlines unsupported by the content of the article; sensational reporting of events oblivious to the larger context; a short historical memory; rare admissions of errors, usually relegated to a correction on page 39; opinion-driven rather than fact-driven reporting; and, recently, the emergence of new media owners with a strong belief that government is a burden, an inconvenience, a distant tyrant with an unquenchable thirst for the tax dollars of hard-working citizens. In reality, however, international tax comparisons show Canada ranks in the middle among OECD countries."

I don't know who he was making reference to as media owners, but it might perhaps have been Conrad Black, who now owns 52, I believe, of 104 newspapers in Canada and certainly seems to be changing the complexion of some newspapers with which I am very familiar, because I notice a difference in the tone and the composition, and certainly the columnists. We have the wife of Conrad Black, Barbara Amiel, now in the St Catharines Standard, along with Andrew Coyne, again no raving socialist, to be sure.

The reason this fits in with this bill is that what you're doing, I say to the parliamentary assistant, is denigrating those who have served in government in this capacity and wanting to toss them out and have the industry police itself.

He goes on to say:

"The central issue is: Without strong government, who would look after the public interest? Who would ensure safety in the air and on the highways for millions of travellers? Who would ensure the orderly marketing of milk, eggs, wheat and other agri-products so as to protect consumers and producers from the vagaries of the marketplace? Who would organize and provide education for all? Who would run public libraries? Would fire trucks arrive at our homes within minutes of the alarm? The list goes on: Who will provide export development money for private sector entrepreneurs? Who would allocate billions of dollars to defence-oriented industries? Who would provide fast tax writeoffs for mining and oil industries? Who would pay for, organize and run embassies and consular services for Canadians abroad? Who would ensure social stability by giving fishermen economic assistance during the moratorium on cod fishing?

"And what about a broadcasting network, coast to coast, in two official languages? And old age pensions, guaranteed income supplements, social housing, clean drinking water, lead-free gasoline, safe workplaces, police protection, health care and electricity?

"Let's hope the antigovernment message will turn out to be a short-lived phenomenon, bringing an end to an era in which the advancement of the civil society seems to have weakened.

"Canadians, I believe, value the greater public good. Business and labour pursue, and understandably so, their sectoral interests. It is for government to pursue what we generally call the public interest, the res publica of the ancient Romans, a concept that embodies, in just two words, the values we hold dear as citizens, as members of the society, as people in pursuit of large, just goals that we know we can't pursue as individuals.

"To pretend we can erode government and governance with impunity may be convenient to some. But the price to be paid would be high, in the form of social unrest, polarization and inequity. While a few would gain, many would lose. And in the end, we would all lose what binds us together: the commitment to the public good and its pursuit, one of the defining features of Canadian society."

I couldn't have said it better myself. The man is obviously a better intellect than I, a very thoughtful individual.


Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I disagree.

Mr Bradley: The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing disagrees. I appreciate his compliment.

The reason I brought this within this legislation is that it's again part of the idea of withdrawing government from areas where government probably should be -- not all areas by any means. Some of the changes that governments have made over the years and that this government is going to make or is making are going to be justified. I think we have to observe that and watch it carefully. Some will be justified.

I don't think the changes contemplated in this bill are justified, because you're withdrawing independent, objective, detached individuals with some detailed knowledge of the area from many of the areas they were involved with before in dealing with these industries. While I hope what you're doing will work out all right, because I know there are many in the industry who are careful, who do care about the environment, the problem is that this is not going to allow you to capture those who are prepared to break the laws of the province, to not spend the money on environmental improvements, to not spend the money on training of employees, to not develop a code of practice and a code of operation, which is essential for the betterment of this province.

I wanted to offer just a few words on this legislation this afternoon. I'll cut short my planned --


Mr Bradley: I hear calls for more. I don't want to disappoint the members of the Legislature, but there are Christmas cards to be completed yet and there is shopping to be done. I know that you would all want to do that.

I wanted to give time to the member for Brampton South to be able to get to his seat so he could get up and challenge all of the views that I have presented this afternoon.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? Further debate?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): No, no, questions or comments, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry, but I didn't see you in your seat in time for that. I'm calling for further debate. The Chair recognizes the member for Sudbury East.

Ms Martel: The Speaker has obviously made a decision that he wants to be out of here today. I had every intention of speaking for the full 90 minutes.


Ms Martel: I thought the members would like that. I was not going to go that long, but in light of what just happened I really think I might.

In any event, I'm glad that the parliamentary assistant and some of the staff are here because there are some points I want to make with respect to this particular piece of legislation. I was pleased to be a part of the committee that had some public hearings, short though they were, part of the committee that went through some amendments. In fact, some of the opposition amendments were indeed accepted, which was a better situation than I had dealing with Bill 82. But I won't go into that.

I want to make some remarks, though, on behalf of the NDP with respect to this bill. First of all, the stated intent of Bill 52, as put forward by the ministry, is to streamline regulatory processes, transfer some areas of program delivery to the industries and allow the industries to be responsible for day-to-day inspections and monitoring so as to allow MNR to concentrate on auditing and enforcement. That's the stated intent of the bill, and it's the line that the government members have repeated throughout the debate on this particular bill and through the clause-by-clause and through the public hearings.

The fact is that this bill really has to be seen within the context of any number of other pieces of legislation this government is putting forward; that is, in order to finance the 30% tax break, to give to those who have the most in Ontario even more, this particular bill is designed to have any number of people within the ministry laid off and the savings from their layoff and the savings from offloading current ministry responsibilities on to the industry to then be given to the Treasurer to finance the tax cut.

That's what's at the root of the changes the ministry proposed in Bill 52. That's what's at the heart of the changes that are now going to happen around an industry that was once regulated by MNR staff and will now, as a matter of fact, be self-monitored, self-policed, self-enforced by the industry itself.

With respect to this particular minister, some 2,000 Ministry of Natural Resources staff, if they have not already received layoff notices, are going to by the end of fiscal 1997. Fully 20% of all the people who are getting laid off from the public service by this government in the next two years are coming from this ministry. I think that's shameful for a ministry that is so important in terms of monitoring compliance not only with respect to the aggregate industry, which is the focus of this bill, but with respect to game and fish, with respect to forestry; that a ministry whose staff has a paramount responsibility to protect and sustain resources for the benefit of all Ontarians -- that this same minister would be so eager, so very eager, to offer up so many staff to be kicked out the door.

Fully 20%, I repeat, of all the staff who are being laid off across the government for the next two years are coming from this particular ministry. That means, at the end of the day, that the important role those staffers undertook to protect the natural resources in this province -- resources, I remind you, that belong to all the people of this province -- is going to be undermined.

I say that because we all know that while there are some very good operators across this province, be it in the aggregates sector, be it in the forestry sector, the fact is that you will always have those operators who think it's more important to make a fast buck than it is to protect the environment and to protect the resource for future use, for future generations.

What you're going to have because of the offloading of programs on to the industry and because of all of those ministry staff going out the door from the Ministry of Natural Resources over the next two years is a scenario in which so many of those bad operators who are only interested in making a quick buck are going to take on the environment and are going to ensure that we have a serious environmental disaster in this province the likes of which we have not seen and the likes of which this government will be completely responsible for because of the staff they have thrown out the door, because of the staff who used to undertake these very important protection activities.

That is what is really at the heart of this bill; that's what the bill is all about and that's why it came forward. It is a bill which facilitates all those staff going out the door and many of the programs in the aggregates sector that are delivered by MNR now are being shifted over to, offloaded on to the private sector, along with any number of ministry jobs that used to go with delivering those same services.


The bill in a general sense is really just enabling legislation, and the fact of the matter is that the bill we have dealt with in this House and in committee and during the clause-by-clause really is only a shell. Huge and very significant and important sections of the bill are being taken out and will be put into the regulations at a later date.

Members in the House should know that whole process is quite contrary to a process that the minister, when he was on this side of the House, argued about when our government dealt with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. At that time the member who is now the minister argued very fiercely that we should not move forward with a proposal, with a bill that was only a shell and that the committee itself dealing with the forest sustainability act had a right to see all the technical standards, all the documentation that was going to lead to the development of the regulations. He argued very ferociously about that at the time.

What I found so contradictory was that when it came to this bill, a piece of legislation he is responsible for, that same process, that same procedure, that same principle did not stand. Repeatedly, members of the opposition throughout the debate on second reading, during the hearings process and during the clause-by-clause asked for the technical standards that were being developed in association with this bill, asked for some right to be involved in the development of the regulation process.

What was so interesting was that we found out quite by accident during the course of the public hearings that work was going on in the ministry right now to develop the technical documents. We had a representative from the petroleum industry who came before the committee one day to talk about his support for the bill and he accidentally mentioned that industry representatives were at that point already involved in working groups with the Ministry of Natural Resources in no less than six areas to develop the technical standards which would accompany this bill.

It was a real shame that the government saw fit to have working groups working with industry to develop the technical standards at the same time they were dealing with the bill, but the government, through the minister, did not see fit to actually give that information to the committee. I regret that. I think that's a bad process. It's certainly a process that the minister, when he was a member in opposition, did not appreciate and did not accept. It would have given the whole process some more credibility if we could have seen the work that was already going on at the same time we were trying to deal with the bill.

But that also followed on what became clear during the public hearings: that the government itself had really not consulted with anyone but industry representatives in the drafting of Bill 52. I say again that's a really unacceptable position for the government to have put itself into, especially because the Ministry of Natural Resources itself has its own aggregates working group in place, has had since at least 1992 a group in place to provide input and advice to the minister on legislation regarding the aggregates industry in the province.

What became clear during the course of the public hearings was that the government saw fit only to consult with the industry representatives about this bill. The government did not consult with the environmental groups, which are part and parcel of the aggregates working group; did not consult with the municipalities, which are part and parcel of the working group; did not consult even with some of the consultants, who were part and parcel of the working group -- a group of folks who on their own time, not being paid per diems, doing it voluntarily, have over a number of years tried to provide the minister with good advice about how to regulate this industry.

It was really shameful to discover that the minister for whatever reason -- I don't know what it is, I can't accept it -- refused to even talk to those other groups about the details of this bill before the bill was actually presented in the Legislature.

I just want to read into the record some of the comments of some of the people who were involved on the working group, who were really quite frustrated and quite disturbed about the fact that they saw this bill on the same day it was introduced in this House.

The first was Carol Seglins. She is the mayor of Caledon. She was also part of the aggregates working group and has been for some time. I remind members that this aggregates working group is a creation of the Ministry of Natural Resources. She said the following: "[W]e do have some concerns, and one of the concerns is the very little opportunity for public input and little review from stakeholders. As a working group that has been working on this since June 1992, we were stunned to find that the bill was presented to us as a fait accompli on our desks at a meeting, with no opportunity for any input. So not only have we not had public input, but not from stakeholders either."

Glenn Harrington is also a member of the minister's Aggregate Resource Working Group. He represents the Conservation Council of Ontario. I asked him, during the questions and answers portion of the time he was at the committee for the public hearing, how long he had been a member of the Aggregate Resource Working Group. He replied: "Since its inception. Before that, I was a member of the steering committee." I asked him: "Are you in the same position as Mayor Seglins was in, in that all of a sudden you saw the bill in the form it was going to be presented and that was the sum total of your participation in it?" He said, "Absolutely, along with everybody else." Except we know that there was another group that saw the bill and was involved heavily in its drafting, and that happened to be the aggregate producers themselves.

Two comments from other people who were also very concerned about the lack of input: one, Valerie Cranmer from Valerie Cranmer and Associates. She was a member of the aggregates working group as well. I asked her if she had been part of that group. She said: "Yes." I said: "Can I ask you when you first saw a copy of this bill?" She replied: "After it was presented. The members of the committee were not aware of it being prepared until it came out." I asked her how she felt about her lack of participation in the drafting of this bill when she had given so many hours of her free time to provide advice to the minister about how to regulate this industry, and she said, "Actually, the whole committee was extremely upset with the way that it happened and we requested a meeting with the minister to clarify the role of the committee, because we felt that with the discussions and the stakeholders that were sitting around the table, it was very appropriate for that committee to at least be aware of what was happening with the legislation."

Finally, comments from the regional municipality of Niagara, which presented a very important and very good brief to us. This is a group of people who have been involved in working with aggregate operators for a number of years. "Mr Corwin Cambray: With the changes to the bill, as it says in our report at the beginning, we had no input to the changes before the bill came out, and there was a concern that there was no input. We understand that the Aggregate Producers' Association of Ontario did have input, but municipalities had no input."

Municipalities had no input, environmental groups had no input, consultants who work with operators around these issues had no input. The only group that the minister consulted with were the aggregate producers. If you want to put together a bill that's going to protect the environment, going to protect the interests of those who are concerned about environmental protection, you can't just talk to the producers about that. You have to deal with people like the people on the working group, who for a number of years have provided their input for free to the minister about how to regulate the industry. I think it's a real shame that the Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines did not see fit to talk to the very people who on other occasions he is quite prepared to have work for free for him to get advice from about how to regulate this industry.

I say to the parliamentary assistant, who is here, some of us were given a commitment at the public hearings that we were going to have some input around the regulation-making process itself. Even though the aggregates working group had met with the minister and asked him for direct input by their group in the development of the regulations, the minister said no to that too. The minister said that the aggregates working group could see the regulations after they had already been drafted.

I don't know why the minister won't try to correct the first mistake he made, which was to not consult with these folks at all. It seems to me that if he's really concerned about getting their input, if he's concerned about putting together some regulations that are going to respond to a number of concerns, not just the industry concerns, he has to be prepared to allow his own aggregates working group to participate in the development of the regs, not to see them after the fact, which is what happened when they saw the bill after the fact.


I would encourage the parliamentary assistant, who is here today, to again raise that issue with the minister. We certainly tried when the minister was before his committee, but I think the minister could do himself a lot of good right now if he were to involve those people at the beginning of the process rather than asking them to rubber-stamp something when it's all over and done.

I want to deal with some of the specific concerns we had with the legislation, concerns that at the end of the day have not been rectified. There are a number of them.

First of all is with respect to the definition of "inspector." This may seem to be a small point to a number of members, but in the current act that we operate under it makes it very clear that "The minister may designate in writing any employee of the ministry as an inspector for the purposes of this act." As the current acts operate, anyone who is an inspector is a crown employee, they are directly accountable back to the minister, and the government is then held directly accountable for any action that may or may not be taken with respect to protection of the environment or enforcement of the law for operators who are operating under these acts.

The change the government made was to say that "The minister may designate in writing any person as an inspector for the purposes of this act," not only, as the parliamentary assistant told us on one occasion, to allow an MTO employee to deal with wayside permits, but now it's very clear that with respect to the aggregates act, any person can be designated by the minister to carry out any functions of the act. I think that's wrong for two reasons.

I think it's ridiculous that we have to lay off MNR staff to help finance the tax break at the same time we're going to give employ to someone else in the private sector for doing the same job. There is no net increase in the province in terms of job creation. There is no net increase in terms of money that's circulating in the economy when you do that. To lay a ministry staff person off in order to appoint someone from the private sector makes no sense whatsoever. It certainly, in my opinion, doesn't allow for the same kind of accountability you have when that person is a public servant.

I'm also very concerned that what we set ourselves up for is for someone from the industry itself to then be responsible for enforcement of his or her own industry. I don't know why the government wants to get itself into that position. Why do you want to be in the position of being accused of having someone from the industry not only self-monitor, self-regulate, but then self-police? That's exactly what's going to happen, given the wording that the government put forward and passed when this bill was dealt with.

We are now going to be in a position where someone from the industry itself can act as an inspector, can go out and inspect sites of their colleagues, and will be responsible for policing what's going on at those sites. I don't think that does the public any good. I don't think it does this government any good to put itself in a position where you're going to have inspectors who may well be from the industry policing some of their colleagues. It does not give people any comfort that at the end of the day environmental protection is going to be the number one priority and that their concerns are going to be responded to. But the government would not make a change in this particular section, and I regret that they wouldn't.

Second is with respect to the aggregate resources trust. Currently the collection of a number of fees the ministry disburses, moneys for the abandoned pits and quarries rehabilitation fund, are from that fund. All of those moneys and all of those responsibilities are now going to be transferred over to the aggregate resources trust, and the trust itself will be responsible for rehabilitation and research on rehabilitation.

I agree with that. That is an important thing to do. It was done already at the Ministry of Mines, started by the Liberals in 1990, carried on when both my colleague from Lake Nipigon and I were there. A trust was established to deal with rehabilitation. The difference between that and what the government has proposed is that we thought it was appropriate that a crown employee again have responsibility for making the decisions with respect to the disbursements from the fund, what projects for rehabilitation would be considered and would be funded. We thought it was appropriate that the crown assume that responsibility because it gave a sense to the public that the government was accountable if something went wrong or if decisions were made that were not good for the environment.

Again, the government felt it was better that they offload that responsibility on to the private sector. You are going to see staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources lose their job doing the work they are now doing gathering this money together and providing disbursements for rehabilitation, and you're going to see someone from the private sector hired to do that. No net again in employment, no net gain in economic wealth in the province. I don't understand what the rationale is to do that kind of thing. You're not going to save a job. In fact, one person is going to lose theirs so that someone from the private sector can gain. I don't think that makes any sense at all. I don't think it provides for the same sense of accountability. I don't think it provides for the same mechanism for accountability that the public really thinks should be in place on these kinds of resource issues.

I also tried to move at the same time that we establish a multistakeholder committee that would be responsible for making decisions about disbursements of funds for rehabilitation, because what I am concerned about and what I was concerned about during the committee process is that the trustee of the fund would be someone from the industry whose only responsibility was going to be back to the industry, not to environmental groups, not to municipalities, which also have an important stake in how rehabilitation of these sites is undertaken. I moved a motion that would have put into the bill a change that a multistakeholder committee, not just a trustee all on his or her own, would be responsible for making decisions about rehabilitation, and that committee would broadly represent all of the interests that are involved in aggregate production and rehabilitation in the province. That was defeated as well.

However, I gather from the parliamentary assistant that there will be some kind of board of directors that will be involved in the administration of the funds, and I would say to the parliamentary assistant that I certainly look to him to ensure that the composition of that particular board will indeed reflect not only interests from the industry but also interests from the environmental communities and from municipalities as well, all of whom have a great and important stake in this issue.

Thirdly, our main concern, and this is really at the heart of the bill, is that of replacing the annual site inspection by Ministry of Natural Resources staff with an annual compliance report. This new report will replace the inspections that used to be carried out by MNR employees, and this new report will be sent in to the ministry and will outline, operator by operator, site by site, what their site looks like, what kind of measures they have to take to remedy anything that might be wrong on the site and what the time frame is that we've put in place to take that remedial action.

The reason I disagree with this is because it represents a fundamental shift from the work that the ministry now undertakes, and that fundamental shift is that inspectors were onsite in some of the 27,000 licensed sites in this province to monitor compliance, to ensure that if remedial action had to take place it would. They gave a sense to the public that there was some work being done to ensure that work going on in quarries was being carried out with respect to whatever the site plan had been that had been put in place and whatever conditions had been on the licence.

Certainly the government tried to argue that even with the reduced number of staff they would have a change in their responsibilities and this particular change would allow ministry staff, those who were left, to in fact go after the bad apples. I say to the members who are here today, I wish that it were going to be so, but the fact of the matter is that we know the government has about 32 inspectors in place for the fiscal year 1996-97. That's down from what they used to have. We couldn't get a number beyond that, even though we do know that the ministry has a number of other cuts to make.

The enforcement officers themselves sent a brief to the committee and said that clearly two years from now the number of inspectors would go from about 41 to 16. I strongly believe that with 16 inspectors left in the province of Ontario to try to monitor compliance for 2,700 sites, because they are going to have to take a look at the annual compliance report and follow up and ensure there is compliance, there won't even be enough of them left to seriously deal with the bad apples, with the operators who have no interest other than making a quick buck at the expense of the environment.

Sooner or later in the province, on a quarry or in a pit, there's going to be someone who totally flaunts the rules, who totally disregards the rules, who then, because they want to take shortcuts, affects the water quality, affects the water table, affects the flow of water, causes an accident with a school bus or does any number of other things because they are trying to cut costs. That will come back to haunt this government, because it will be your fault, because you thought it was more appropriate to lay off staff in order to finance the tax cut than you did to ensure that there would be staff available to deal with particularly the people who are only interested in flaunting the rules.

I firmly believe that is what's going to happen. We heard from a number of presenters at the public hearings who expressed concern about the current situation, who said that already there were not enough staff to ensure that operators in their area did what they were told, followed the development agreement that had been put in place.


We heard some very powerful stories from people who had had no end of problems with operators who just wanted to flaunt the law. What the government is setting itself up for by moving from an annual inspection by MNR inspectors to an annual review by the operators themselves, which they have to forward into MNR, is an environmental problem which is going to be very significant, which is going to cause serious environmental damage that I hope at the end of the day does not seriously involve people being hurt as well.

This is the heart of all of our concern and it is the area where I think not only with this bill but also with the changes we saw in the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, where the government offloads its responsibility on to industry, where the government tells industry to police itself, sooner or later the resources that you have a mandate to protect are going to be used in an inappropriate way that will cost all of us a great deal in the long term.

We also had a concern about aggregate permits being issued in perpetuity and we moved an amendment in this section to say that every five years an operator trying to get an aggregate permit would have to reapply for that. The government voted against that, of course, again, because if they allow an operator to continue to have a licence that doesn't have to be renewed, then the government doesn't have to have the staff in place to carry on the administrative functions which require that licence to be renewed.

Again, you see that the tax cut is really at the heart of why the changes are being made. In the first year this bill goes into effect, in phase 1, some $900,000 will be saved, in the second year some $2.6 million. It's around changes like this and on the backs of these MNR employees that those cuts are going to be made. The resource belongs to all the people in the province. It is completely inappropriate that this government would allow aggregate permit holders to continue to have licences without having to reapply, without having to give some kind of information to the ministry on a five-year basis or a 10-year basis.

The resource belongs to the people in the province, not to the aggregate holders, and it would have been a small, small change indeed for the ministry to make to say: "Yes, in fact we recognize resources belong to everyone. We are not going to let a permit holder have that licence in perpetuity. We are going to make sure that every five years or every 10 years he or she has to renew that licence. We can see what's going on, we can check what's going on and we can make a decision at that point whether or not to allow that resource extraction to continue in the hands of that operator."

Our fifth concern, and I raised this at the beginning, was how much of the details of the act that's now in place now go into regulation. Indeed, Bill 52 is a shell. The problem with that is that some very important sections that now appear in the current act are being taken out and we don't know what's going to replace them. We don't know what's going to replace them because we haven't seen the regulations yet and we don't know how strong or weak they will be and, frankly, we won't be able to participate in the process. They will be done at cabinet, cabinet will review them, they will be stamped order in council, the LG will sign his or her name to them, and that will be the sum participation of the members of the committee in that process.

Second, I have always believed that regulations do not have the same force of law as the wording in the act does. By taking out very significant portions of this act and moving them into the regs, I think you weaken overall the bill and the protection that has been in place in the bill with respect to the aggregate industry, the protection of the environment with respect to how that industry operates.

I just want to give the members some idea of what has been taken out. For example, all of the details for a site plan for a class A aggregate licence have been taken out of the bill where they currently appear and will go into regulation. All of the details for the report which accompanies the application for a class A licence have been taken out of the current act and will be developed in the regulations. All of the notification process outlined for operators applying for a licence have been taken out of the current legislation and will be developed at some point in the regulations. All of the details for a site plan accompanying an application for a wayside permit have been taken out of the current act and will be developed in the regulations. All of the details for a site plan accompanying an application for an aggregate permit have come out of this bill and will be dealt with in the regulations.

We did not see the regulations, of course, during the committee process. We were assured by the parliamentary assistant that they were going to start to be developed some time in November. Since I haven't been notified that the process is under way, I assume that it is not. I really fear that we are making the entire act much weaker because so many of the important provisions that are now in place which outline the responsibilities of the operators will no longer appear in the act but will appear in the regulations at some point in time, whenever they are developed. That is the wrong way for the government to go with respect to this act. The general public believes that what is in the act is much stronger in terms of force of law and is very concerned that regulations can be changed with the stroke of a pen, at any point in time, by any government. That does not afford to the public the same type of protection as you would if all of the details appeared in the act.

I regret that the government decided to move in that way and I certainly hope, given that the parliamentary assistant is here this afternoon, that he will guarantee again to the members in this House that it will be a broad base of stakeholders who will be involved in the development of the regs, certainly broader than the people who were responsible and who were spoken to in the development of the bill, who were only the producers themselves.

Any number of notification processes were also taken out of the act and moved into the regulations. The same concerns I raised with some of the details around licences apply here, some of the examples. The minister used to have to provide a copy of an application for a licence and the accompanying documents from the operator to the municipality or the county that operation was in. Now the notification that's going to occur will be developed in the regs.

The minister used to have to provide a licensee and a municipality with conditions that the minister wanted to apply aggregate licence for review and comment, and now the minister will have the discretion to advise the municipalities of a change in the site plan amendment if he or she wants to do that.

The minister used to have to provide an amendment to the site plan by the ministry or by the licensee to an adjacent municipality, an affected municipality, for comment or review, and now the minister has the discretion to send the proposed amendments to the municipality.

Before, the minister had to advise affected municipalities of a transfer of an aggregate licence, and now that responsibility will be undertaken by the licensee, the person to whom the licence was transferred; it's no longer a ministry responsibility.

The minister currently, upon issuing a wayside permit, has to send a copy to the affected municipality, but now it's the licensee, the person receiving the permit, who will have to advise the municipality.

Finally, when an operator applies for a licence for a pit and quarry in an unorganized area there's a whole notification process outlined in the act to advise residents in unorganized areas. That whole section has been repealed by the government and we are told that all of that notification process will now be developed and appear in the regulations. I don't think that makes a whole lot of sense, because my concern is that with the changes that occurred in the act the minister has offloaded his responsibility for notification and now put that upon an operator. There is no mechanism to check to determine whether or not that operator is complying with what he or she is supposed to do.

I believe that the minister should continue to assume some responsibility about the changes that are being made to licences or permits or to transfers. That's a ministry responsibility. That should remain a ministry function. You should not offload that on to licensees or permitees and hope that they notify in the way they're supposed to.

I am very worried about the changes that have been made with respect to taking out the notification process for people who live in unorganized communities. I have a number of unorganized communities in my area. They would argue that the current notification process is not enough as it currently stands in the bill. I worry that as we take that out of the bill, as the government did, and develop that process in regulations, their voice and how they participate in the process will be weakened even further. That will cause a lot of problems for this government if it has to start dealing with people in unorganized areas who feel they have no access, no way and no right to participate when an operator is trying to operate in an area close to them.

Finally, because I recognize that the Lieutenant Governor is due in here in about 10 minutes to give passage to a number of bills, I want to end in two ways. First of all, this bill follows from any number of any other bills that the government has introduced, or any number of other policy changes, which at the end of the day, in the opinion of our party, weaken protection of the environment.


Some of the other examples are all the cuts that have been made to the Niagara Escarpment Commission; the repeal of the ban on incinerators; the elimination of blue box funding; the elimination of the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy; the elimination of the MISA Advisory Committee on environmental standards; the elimination of the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee; the end of the Intervenor Funding Project Act; the changes to the Land Use Planning and Protection Act; cuts to MOEE staff; cuts to MNR staff; cuts in the order of 70% to conservation authorities; the changes which have been made by this minister to the Public Lands Act and the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act which eliminate permits needed for dredging, which eliminate permits needed to build docks and boat-houses on public waterways, which eliminate the need for a permit to drill or move heavy equipment or blast and strip overburden from land by mineral exploration companies.

Again and again we have seen this government in the last 18 months move to cut funds to programs that were in place to provide environmental protection. We've seen this government move to change legislation, to weaken some of the protection we had in law to ensure that protection of our resources would be paramount for this government and for any other government that comes after.

I regret that because I think where this government will find itself sooner or later is in a position where some operator, be it a forestry company, be it in the aggregates sector, decides it's far more important to make a quick and fast buck, and will cut corners and will then produce an environmental problem which will be very serious and very significant, that may well harm not only water or lakes or the air, but end up harming people.

I don't know why the government wants to put itself in that position. I believe the role of any government, and I believe the role of this government should revolve around being the stewards of natural resources in Ontario. It's a role you should take very seriously, but what I see in this bill is an offloading of that responsibility, an offloading of the staff by in essence throwing them out the door and having industry police itself in many ways that at the end of the day will come back to haunt this government.

As I conclude, there was one presenter who probably said it the best. It was a presenter who came before this committee and had a very difficult time in expressing himself, but it was a presenter whose family and he himself had no end of trouble with an operator currently operating beside their house. He expressed to the committee his tremendous concern that even now, under the current circumstances, they had great difficulty in trying to get the development agreement enforced. What would it be like when the industry was left to regulate itself?

Mr Cummins said the following: "I hope I can somehow put a human face to this debate, because the anguish this industry has caused us and our community is very great. I really wish to draw on that experience and share with you our concerns, because the present regime that we have is not working. My concern with Bill 52 is that it devolves even more power to the industry. It does not protect the interests of people like me and other residents of communities all across this province.... I understand that the government is proposing to streamline the regulation under Bill 52. To me, streamlining the process for approval gives the unscrupulous operators free rein and it is that experience that I wish to draw upon, because we live right next door to an unscrupulous operator. I can tell you, it's not a pleasant experience. I think it's this particular type of operator the public needs to be protected from, and I don't believe Bill 52 in its present form protects us in that regard."

In closing I say to the parliamentary assistant that was probably the most powerful and most poignant of the speeches we heard, and I believe Mr Cummins and I agree with Mr Cummins because I think the changes you have made will make it that much easier for those unscrupulous operators to try and flaunt the law, to try and disregard the law, to try and cut costs at the expense of the environment, and at the end of the day all of us are going to pay for that.

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

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for their participation in this debate. I'd like to particularly thank the member for Sudbury East and express my appreciation as well to the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for the Liberal Party who participated throughout the course of the hearings.

Even more importantly, I'd like to take this opportunity to express appreciation to the members of the public who participated in a very meaningful way in the hearings around this bill. What I fail to understand are the comments by the member for Sudbury East, who expressed concern about the fact that people didn't have an opportunity to make contribution or to have input. The member read from Hansard about people who expressed concern about not having input, and yet it was in the very process of having input. That is how this process works.

Just in closing, I would like to say that this bill is not about self-policing, it is not about self-regulation; it is about self-administration. It is not about offloading; it is about partnership between the government and the private sector. In the final analysis, we believe that this bill is in the best interests of the people of Ontario. It is in the best interests of ensuring the sustainability of natural resources in the province.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I too support the bill, but more importantly, I would like to do what I do every year at this time, and that is to extend my personal greetings to all of my colleagues in this place and, on behalf of all of us, to thank the people who work in the legislative precinct. In particular, we take for granted our security staff, our staff at the table in this chamber and the other people who work in this chamber, and the legislative staff as a whole. It is very true that none of us does our job solely and we cannot do it without the staff throughout our whole organization. It is with great pleasure that I wish everyone a very blessed Christmas and happiness and health in the new year, 1997.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): And prosperity.

Mrs Marland: While I'm trying to do this, I'm enjoying the interjections from my dear friend, my colleague who isn't even in his seat. I guess he's really enjoying this interlude.

I know that everybody shares with me our appreciation for the support we have. We cannot do our jobs alone or even with our own immediate staff who are in our direct employ, so thank you to everyone who makes our job easier. Our success as parliamentarians, no matter where we sit in this chamber, depends on that support, and it's only with that support that we are able to serve the people of this province, which it is our privilege to do.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): Mr Speaker, I see that we are not adhering to the rotation this afternoon, so I will take advantage of this opportunity simply to point out to my friend opposite that she referred to someone flaunting the law. I think she meant flouting the law. I offer that comment on her remarks.

Apart from that, I wish to echo the sentiments and the remarks of my celebrated and sainted colleague the member for Mississauga South. Merry Christmas to all. God bless us, every one.

Mr Bradley: I want to say to the member for Sudbury East in this little response, because there's been some reference made to it, that this is a law which certainly this government would not want to flaunt in all good conscience. I think she would agree with me on that. While there may be some flouting the law, as the member points out, no one on the government side, at the end of its term, should be flaunting this law.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr Hodgson moves third reading of Bill 52. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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

Orders of the day.

Mr Frank Sheehan (Lincoln): Mr Speakers, orders number 63 through 71.



Mr Hastings, on behalf of Mr Clement, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr31, An Act respecting the City of Brampton.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Hastings, on behalf of Mr Clement, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr31, An Act respecting the City of Brampton.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Mr Bradley, on behalf of Mr Patten, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr35, An Act respecting the Ottawa Civic Hospital.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Bradley, on behalf of Mr Patten, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr35, An Act respecting the Ottawa Civic Hospital.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Mr Hastings moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr40, An Act respecting the Association of Architectural Technologists of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Hastings moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr40, An Act respecting the Association of Architectural Technologists of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Mr Baird, on behalf of Ms Bassett, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr66, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Baird, on behalf of Ms Bassett, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr66, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Mr Bradley, on behalf of Mr Cleary, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr67, An Act respecting the Ontario Plumbing Inspectors Association Inc.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Bradley, on behalf of Mr Cleary, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr67, An Act respecting the Ontario Plumbing Inspectors Association Inc.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Mr Grimmett moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr68, An Act respecting the Huronia Airport Commission.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Grimmett moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr68, An Act respecting the Huronia Airport Commission.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Mr Leadston moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr71, An Act respecting the City of Kitchener and the City of Waterloo.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Leadston moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr71, An Act respecting the City of Kitchener and the City of Waterloo.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Mr Wettlaufer moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr72, An Act respecting the University of St Jerome's College.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Wettlaufer moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr72, An Act respecting the University of St Jerome's College.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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


Mr Bradley, on behalf of Mrs Pupatello, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr76, An Act respecting the Windsor Utilities Commission and the supply of heat energy within the City of Windsor.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Bradley, on behalf of Mrs Pupatello, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr76, An Act respecting the Windsor Utilities Commission and the supply of heat energy within the City of Windsor.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

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



Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): His Honour awaits to give royal assent.

His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario entered the chamber of the Legislative Assembly and took his seat upon the throne.

Hon Henry N.R. Jackman (Lieutenant Governor): Please be seated.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present meeting thereof, passed certain bills to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour's assent.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): The following are the titles of the bills to which Your Honour's assent is prayed:

Bill 52, An Act to promote resource development, conservation and environmental protection through the streamlining of regulatory processes and the enhancement of compliance measures in the Aggregate and Petroleum Industries / Projet de loi 52, Loi visant à promouvoir la mise en valeur des ressources, la conservation ainsi que la protection de l'environnement en simplifiant les processus de réglementation et en renforçant les mesures de conformité dans l'industrie pétrolière et l'industrie des agrégats

Bill 82, An Act to establish the Family Responsibility Office, protect the interests of children and spouses through the strict enforcement of support orders while offering flexibility to responsible payors and make consequential amendments to certain statutes / Projet de loi 82, Loi créant le Bureau des obligations familiales, visant à protéger les intérêts des enfants et des conjoints grâce à l'exécution rigoureuse des ordonnances alimentaires tout en offrant une certaine souplesse aux payeurs responsables, et apportant des modifications corrélatives à des lois

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

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

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

Bill Pr31, An Act respecting the City of Brampton

Bill Pr35, An Act respecting the Ottawa Civic Hospital

Bill Pr40, An Act respecting the Association of Architectural Technologists of Ontario

Bill Pr66, An Act respecting the City of Toronto

Bill Pr67, An Act respecting the Ontario Plumbing Inspectors Association Inc.

Bill Pr68, An Act respecting the Huronia Airport Commission

Bill Pr71, An Act respecting the City of Kitchener and the City of Waterloo

Bill Pr72, An Act respecting the University of St Jerome's College

Bill Pr76, An Act respecting the Windsor Utilities Commission and the supply of heat energy within the City of Windsor.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): In Her Majesty's name, the Honourable Lieutenant Governor doth assent to these bills.

Au nom de Sa Majesté, Son Honneur le lieutenant-gouverneur sanctionne ces projets de loi.

His Honour was then pleased to retire.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Mr Speaker, I have a motion to move. Before I do that, I wonder if I might just say a few words first of all to you, sir: how much we have, I believe on all sides of the House, respected not only your office but you and the way you've conducted yourself upon your election as Speaker and offer congratulations for difficult attempts to bring order to all of us who are not always silent when we're supposed to be silent. Those of us on this side of the House learned from the master, perhaps we all did, but we respect very much the difficult task you have and we congratulate you and thank you and want to wish you and your family season's greetings and all the best.

I'd like to say to the table officers our very best wishes, our thanks for looking after us throughout what's been a very busy session. We thank you for your counsel, for your advice and for your assistance. We suggest to you that as we reflect on 1996 we're going to need you perhaps even more in 1997, for those who had planned January or February holidays or time to do other things, but we thank you for your commitment when it's required on behalf of this Legislature, and that means the people of Ontario. We say to you and your families many thanks for 1996 and best wishes for 1997 and the holiday season as well.

All those at Hansard who look after us in all capacities, we thank you. I'm sure some members from time to time thank you for not hearing some things, but we thank you --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): "On the other hand."

Hon Mr Harris: On the other hand, the record is the record.

We thank you very much, the officers, all those who have given us assistance, the pages, those who look after us and serve us. The pages wanted very much to be at school this week, I'm told, and are not here at this particular time, but we thank them as well.

I say to all members of the Legislature, and I hope you'll relay to your staff as well, our sincere thanks on behalf of the people of Ontario for your assistance in making sure that legislation gets proper debate and proper scrutiny. From time to time after question period we on this side of the House don't always feel that way, but as we reflect back on 1996, we've all been in that role. We appreciate that, we understand that.


We also understand the demands that are on elected officials, particularly at the senior levels of government, and therefore on your families. We all face this. We all have spouses and children who from time to time are asked why their spouses or fathers or mothers are doing certain things. Unfortunately, that's part of life.

Might I thank you and say I look forward to a very equally as productive 1997 as we've had in 1996. While we'll disagree on some policy areas, perhaps in modest ways, from time to time, I think we all accept that we were elected to do our very best for the people of this province, for today and for tomorrow, and we all come here in that spirit. As we enter into a time of thankfulness and blessings for what we in Ontario and in Canada have been blessed with, I thank you for that commitment. I thank your families. I wish you all season's greetings at this time.

I'm sorry the time off is not as long as it might have been. I'm the first to acknowledge that when we're not in this Legislature it's not time off; what it means is that when we're in this Legislature we're on double duty, in our constituencies and ridings and here as well. So I'm particularly pleased, when we asked for the session to come back, we had the support from all members of the House, all parties, who recognized that we had important business to proceed with.

To all of you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and season's greetings.

Mr Wildman: On behalf of our caucus, I would like to add my best wishes to all the staff who serve this assembly and to express our thanks for their assistance, and to the table officers and to you, Speaker, and to all members of the Legislative Assembly best wishes for a happy and safe holiday, and to say that one of the greatest achievements this government seems to have achieved this last session was not only having us leave now for a happy holiday, but declaring that spring starts on January 13.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Very quickly, I want to echo the good wishes that have been made on behalf of the other two political parties, and to say on behalf of the Liberal caucus that I extend to all members of the Legislature our very best wishes for a happy holiday season, whatever holiday you happen to be celebrating, whether it's Christmas or Hanukkah or any other holiday people might be celebrating at this time of year, and wish you the best in the year ahead.

I know that members of the public who watch this from time to time think that members of the Legislature perhaps dislike one another intensely. What we do in this House is we debate ideas, we debate issues, we debate policies, we debate legislation, but all of us have a great respect for one another and believe that each person who is elected to this House is endeavouring to do the best job possible for the people of the province of Ontario.

To all the staff who assist us in many ways, and the Premier has enumerated those individuals, has listed those people for the people who are watching today and for those of us in the assembly, I thank you very much and wish you the very best in the year ahead. We look forward with anticipation to the new session, and I will not make any political comments at this time.

To you, Mr Speaker, congratulations on the fine job you have done as our Speaker, ruling in ways both the government and the opposition find both pleasing and annoying. That means you're doing an excellent job if on some days you're annoying the government and on some days you're annoying the opposition. Very best wishes to you and your family as well.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): To the members of the House, I'd just like to make a quick, brief comment, but considering I haven't spoken in this place since October 3, "brief" may be a definitional point that I disagree with.

I'd like to thank you all, first off for myself. It was a rather difficult situation we found ourselves in, I understand. I appreciate the fact you supported me. I'd like to recognize the member for Mississauga South right now. She has been both effective and I think helpful, very helpful, and I greatly appreciate that in the last couple of months.

To the members of the House, I've not found an unreasonable member here, particularly when it comes to rulings and discussing things outside of this House. The people who do watch I think believe there is some deep-seated war that goes on in this place and outside, and it really comes to them as a surprise to realize that outside of this place many of us get along, go out and have a very good relationship. It's probably something that isn't known and should be known more often. It is ideas that we debate in here.

To the table clerks: I would like to thank you. It would have been impossible to do this job had I not had the experience and guidance of a group of people I think are often overlooked and make this place run so effectively sometimes. It wouldn't happen if it weren't for the people who are sitting in front of me now.

To the Premier, the leaders of the two parties, the House leaders and the whips and all members, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, happy holidays. I will echo the member for St Catharines: If I've left anything out, I apologize in advance, but I'm sure the vacation will be well worth it. I look forward to coming back in January. It will be fun, I'm sure, and I will just remind you on those days of these kind words you said about me, because I may need to. Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

Hon Mr Harris: I should also just like to put on the record that His Honour gave his last nod in this place -- I think -- his last royal nod. I believe that is the case, unless everything we want to do is passed in the first week of January and we adjourn right away. We will all have the pleasure of welcoming the new Lieutenant Governor later on in January, to which you are all welcome, of course.

I move that this House now adjourn.

The Speaker: The Premier has moved that this House now adjourn. Is it the pleasure of the House the motion carry? Carried.

This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock on January 13.

The House adjourned at 1657.