36th Parliament, 1st Session

L143 - Mon 13 Jan 1997 / Lun 13 Jan 1997



















































The House met at 1332.




Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): We begin our session today once again with people protesting outside Queen's Park. The people out in front of Queen's Park today were women from the Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centre of Peel and from a number of other concerned women's groups. These women were here because they're worried and because they want answers.

They are worried because the minister responsible for women's issues has commissioned a report that tells her that the government should shift its emphasis to prevention of violence rather than deal with it later. They are worried that this statement means less support for essential programs that give women immediate and essential safety and protection. There's no question that the prevention of violence is important, but protection and safety cannot and must not be jeopardized.

It is frightening when the author of this report says that abused women can return home after 24 or 48 hours and when the report makes no recommendations to ensure that home is safe. It is truly frightening when the author of the report apparently sees a difference between an abuser who only hits and one who is determined to kill. It is frightening to think that essential programs that provide support to victims of violence could be somehow just rolled into other community services. It is frightening that this report, throughout its content, is more concerned about efficiencies than it is about safety.

The minister must distance herself from this truly frightening report and ensure there will be no further cuts to the programs that meet the needs of victims of violence.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Welcome to the opening of the $3-billion session, because that's what this session is all about. As we know, beginning today and throughout the week we'll hear a lot of announcements, from the amalgamation of the six cities in Metro Toronto, which has already been announced, to measures to shift the cost of education from property taxes to provincial taxes, but also to shift a large percentage of the cost of welfare, child care, public health and long-term care to the property tax base.

But we know, and people across the province will need to find out, that it's not going to be an even tradeoff at the end of the day. At the end of the day, property taxes will end up picking up a larger percentage of the costs, and they will be for services which will grow over time and whose costs will grow over time.

We already saw today the continuing saga of the Minister of Education --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. It's difficult to hear the member for Dovercourt. I know it's reunion day here, but let's try to keep it down so I can hear the statements.

Mr Silipo: We already saw today the beginning of the saga of the Minister of Education continuing to use figures that in other circles might be called somewhat misleading by claiming that 47% of the costs of education are outside the classroom -- of course pretending that you don't need things like principals, libraries, music, science programs, special education programs, because all of a sudden, as far as this Minister of Education is concerned, those are outside the classroom.

People will find out that in fact what the Tories are all about is reducing the load on the richest citizens in the province and putting more and more of the tax load, in this case through property taxes, on to the average family across the province.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): Ishmail Spence was murdered one year ago yesterday by a 16-year-old youth at the Kennedy Road subway station. Ishmail was returning home from school when he was made the victim of another senseless act that started with a small confrontation and ended in tragedy.

Subway stations, like malls and gathering places, attract youth and gangs, youth who congregate in public places and cajole, intimidate, swarm, tag, assault -- all leading to more serious crimes.

Michael Amman Ewaschuk was murdered at the Main Street subway station over a baseball cap. Louis Ambus was stabbed at least 54 times during a petty theft, reputedly by two repeat young offenders.

The pattern is simple: Petty criminals left unpunished graduate to more serious crimes. An article called "The Police and Neighbourhood Safety" postulated the broken windows thesis: that unaddressed disorder is a sign that no one cares and invites more disorder and more serious crime. The mayor of New York City punishes minor crimes, and the serious crime rate has dropped.

My private member's bill, the Juvenile Delinquents Act, was prepared after the third youth was murdered in my area over a six-month period. Following the last murder, I was swarmed by about 10 youths who surrounded me in my car, kicking doors and windows. My bill puts youth on notice that minor offences will be punished by curfews and fines -- for sure. The third offence will result in the postponement of provincial privileges for at least three years. Driver's licences and age-of-majority cards will be delayed.

I urge members to attend on January 16 and support my bill.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise today to speak to what the Tories have dubbed mega-week but which I think should more appropriately be dubbed mega-scam or mega-disaster for taxpayers across this province.

What we're going to see this week is the most massive downloading of costs on municipal government in the history of this province. This government, with its shell game, with its fraud, with its deception of the taxpayers of Ontario, is leading us to believe that somehow this is going to benefit municipal property owners in this province. What we're going to see is more costs for social services; what we're going to see is more costs for roads, for transportation, for GO Transit, for sewer and water services across Ontario. What they're doing by removing education from property taxes they are going to more than make up for on the other side.

I can tell you that the senior citizen in my riding on a fixed income is not going to appreciate the fact that this government has now imposed on them and will impose on them in future years humongous tax increases at the local level as a result of its actions. Then you run and hide: It's the municipality's fault for increasing taxes; you're not accountable. You have ducked your responsibility. You're walking away from what you were elected to do across this province.

You have betrayed people. You have betrayed senior citizens, you have betrayed parents, you have betrayed teachers, you have betrayed every single sector of our society with the scam and the fraud you're pulling off this week.



Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): My statement today is to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Chris Hodgson. One year ago, after your government announced the shutdown of norOntair, you said the government should not be subsidizing air services and you were confident that the private sector would fill the void.

The situation experienced by northerners today shows that you were wrong. In my riding of Cochrane North, for example, air service from Kapuskasing to Timmins has been cut in half by Air Creebec, leaving business people and other travellers no choice but to spend the night in either Toronto or Timmins, or drive between Kapuskasing and Timmins, which means at least a two-hour drive. Air Creebec, which took over service to Kapuskasing last year when norOntair was dismantled, will now have only one incoming and one outgoing flight daily.

This also means that people who have to go for medical appointments in Toronto will not be able to make the trip in one day and will have to spend a lot of money for accommodation and extra days off work. Once again, northerners are paying the price, one which is much too high.

Your abandonment of air service in northern Ontario is putting municipal infrastructure, health care and the viability of northern businesses at risk. This government has caused the problem and we're asking that it fix the problem of travel in northern Ontario.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): It's a great pleasure for me to rise in the House today to inform the members of the 75th anniversary of R.H. King Academy in my riding. It is a pleasure, not only because I'm the member for Scarborough Centre, but because I'm a proud graduate of R.H. King.

In 1919 a board of trustees was appointed to establish the first high school, named Scarborough High School, in the southern portion of the township of Scarborough. Seven acres were purchased from the Pherrill estate for $14,000 and on June 29, 1922, the cornerstone was laid for the new building.

Although the school was not ready until November 22, 1922, classes began on September 6 in the Birchcliff Congregational Church, with Reginald H. King as principal, three other teachers and 116 students. Today, 1,325 students are continuing the tradition.

In January 1930 the school became Scarborough Collegiate Institute and in 1954, when the Scarborough Board of Education was established to serve all of Scarborough with Dr R.H. King as director, the school was renamed R.H. King Collegiate Institute. In 1987 the school was designated as Scarborough's first academy and renamed R.H. King Academy.

Some of King's former students include authors Maggie Siggins and Ron Brown, hockey great Bobby Baun, Scarborough Mayor Frank Faubert, Scarborough board chair Gaye Dale and Metro Councillor Ken Morrish. R.H. King Academy is an important part of the history of my community and I would ask every member to join me in congratulating everyone who over the years has played a part in the success of R.H. King.


Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): The government calls this week and the weeks to follow the Who Does What session. Really, this should be entitled the Who Pays More and Who Will Get Less session, because that's what this government is proposing. They're proposing that municipalities pay a whole lot more for a number of services that they will now have to provide in addition to what they've traditionally provided. As well, citizens will have to pay more by way of their property taxes being forced up.

It follows that as a result of the transference of all these additional services, such as municipal transit, GO Transit and welfare costs, which will now be shared on an even basis, child care, public health, ambulance services and long-term care, which could explode in the future, the costs could be enormous for municipalities. This government owes very careful consideration and a detailing of what those costs will be for the average citizen, the average property taxpayer in this city and across this province. This government owes an explanation to those people to detail those exact costs. The debate must be informed by that if we are to proceed in a rational, reasonable way.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. It is very difficult to hear the statements that are being made. I'd appreciate that if meetings are needed you could just go into the lobbies. Thank you very much.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The previous Minister of Health approved the operating plan for the Sault area hospitals which proposed to close all the inpatient beds at Matthews Memorial Hospital in Richards Landing and turn the hospital into an outpatient clinic with so-called 24-hour emergency service, albeit with only one nurse on duty. It's not surprising that Mr Wilson approved these changes, since the decisions to make these cuts in service are a direct result of the Conservative government's cuts in funding for hospitals.

The administration of the Sault area hospitals has been faced with enormous cuts in provincial funding and, unfortunately for us who live in the rural area, chose to make the largest cuts at the satellite hospitals as part of their across-the-board cuts in hospital services in the Sault and area. The Tory Minister of Health, despite his stated commitment to rural hospitals, recognized this and approved the Sault area hospitals' operating plan. That means the end of Matthews Memorial Hospital as we know it.

It's important that the new Minister of Health reverse his predecessor's approval of the closures at Richards Landing. A first step would be for him to recognize that you cannot have a 24-hour emergency service at a hospital if there are absolutely no beds in the hospital and if there is only one nurse on duty. If he recognizes that, then he will ensure that there is adequate funding available.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): Each January, in order to recognize Alzheimer Awareness Month, chapters across Canada hold various activities to promote awareness of Alzheimer disease. This year the local chapter in my riding is holding a county-wide Walk for Memories fund-raiser on January 25 to raise awareness in Huron.

Alzheimer disease is a degenerative brain disorder that destroys vital brain cells. There are currently 250,000 Canadians with Alzheimer's and that number is expected to grow to 750,000 by the year 2030. It is estimated that the cost is approximately $4 billion each year to care for Alzheimer patients. There is no known cause or cure for Alzheimer disease. Hope is increasing for all those with Alzheimer's due to numerous Alzheimer drugs currently being tested.

On September 6, I chaired a meeting with the Alzheimer Association of Ontario. We are the first government to enter into discussions to develop a strategy to deal with patients with Alzheimer's and dementia and their families. Approximately 50 people participated. We have received a report from the Alzheimer Association of Ontario and are currently in the process of reviewing it with the expectation that further announcements will be made in the near future.

The theme this month is "Turn Alzheimer into a Memory," and I would encourage all members of the House and those watching to participate in events in their community so that this disease will indeed become a memory.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Before we move to ministry statements, I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce to the members today the new pages, the eighth group that will be working with the 36th Parliament of Ontario:

Lisl Baker from Victoria-Haliburton; David Borden from London North; Breken Corcoran from Oakville South; Jonathan Howard from Mississauga South; Marybeth Kigar from Hamilton West; Greer Kirshenbaum from Oakwood; Alan Largo from Scarborough-Ellesmere; Jing Jing Liu from Beaches-Woodbine; Daniel Man from Durham Centre -- back there too, we need order as we're reading these; thanks -- Caitlin McCarter from Halton Centre; Brandon McKee from Sudbury East; Patrick McLarty from Essex-Kent; Shannon Murphy from Algoma-Manitoulin; Cameron Parrack from Etobicoke-Humber; Christopher Roscoe from York East; Lindsay Rudyk from Dufferin-Peel; Julie Sermer from York Centre; Darlene Sly from Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings; Sandeep Soni from York South; and Tara Stockwell from Northumberland. Welcome.




Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): It is with a tremendous sense of accomplishment that I rise today to announce yet another step in our plan to provide taxpayers with better services at lower costs. Our goal is to lower income taxes provincially and lower property taxes at the municipal level.

When this government took office we knew, because the people of Ontario told us, that government in this province had become too big, too wasteful, too complicated and too expensive.

As we said in the Common Sense Revolution, we simply don't need every layer of government we have now or the cumbersome bureaucracies supporting them, and we certainly don't need as many politicians as we have now. That's why we asked David Crombie and his Who Does What panel how we could make the provincial and municipal levels of government in Ontario work better for the taxpayers they serve.

At this point I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Mr Crombie and his fellow panel members for their hard work and excellent advice. You will see, through the government's announcements this week, that we have adopted the bulk of the panel recommendations either in whole or in part.

We believe our decisions will result in simpler, smaller, more accountable and less costly government at both the provincial and municipal levels. We are also convinced that better services at lower costs can be delivered while protecting the priorities of the people of Ontario, such as health, education and social services.

As a starting point, we're taking education off the residential property tax and making it a provincial responsibility. This will allow us to improve the quality of schooling for every student in the province and protect taxpayers from the spiralling costs of school boards. My colleague the Minister of Education and Training, the Honourable John Snobelen, will outline reforms to our education system in just a few moments.

In the important area of social services, we're continuing to fix welfare, and we want taxpayers to share in those savings. My colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services, the Honourable Janet Ecker, will announce details of reforms planned in the social and community health services tomorrow.

In the next few days my cabinet colleagues will announce our decisions to provide better services, at lower costs, in libraries, provincial offences, police services, environmental infrastructure, transportation services, ambulances and property tax reform.

To ensure that we have a smooth transition, we plan to have most newly defined responsibilities in place for 1998, following the 1997 municipal elections.

Later this week we will also announce the details of a permanent $1-billion fund which recognizes the special needs that some municipalities may have and which is part of an overall community reinvestment strategy. In particular, some municipalities in northern and rural Ontario may require ongoing assistance.

Our goals are all achievable. They won't be reached overnight, but they will be attained over the next few years as we finalize and implement changes that need to be made to reduce, once and for all, the size and cost of government in Ontario.

The road ahead is clear: better services provided at lower overall cost leading to tax savings for the people of Ontario. We are convinced our plans spell prosperity and renewed hopes for jobs, opportunity and our children's future. We believe it's a road well worth travelling.


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): As Minister of Education and Training, I have gone on record as saying that Ontario taxpayers are not getting good value for the money they spend on education. Today we're going to do something about that, and at the same time we're going to ensure that the needs of all students in this province are met.

To meet students' needs and to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent in the classroom, later today I will be introducing the Fewer School Bills Act -- Fewer School Boards Act -- I'm sorry, Mr Speaker. We will cut the --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): That's really what it is. That was a Freudian slip. There's fewer bills per school.

The Speaker: Stop the clock, please. Member for Sudbury, come to order. Minister.

Hon Mr Snobelen: Thank you, Mr Speaker. In fact, it will be fewer bills: fewer bills going to the taxpayer. We will cut the 129 major school boards in Ontario by almost half and replace them with 66 new district boards effective January 1, 1998.

The new funding model will recognize the cost of special circumstances, such as students learning in English or French for the first time, students with special needs and students in remote communities.

One of my foremost aims has been to promote the involvement of parents in local schools. School councils led by parents have now been established in most Ontario schools, but we want to make sure that all schools always have advisory councils of parents, so in the spring we'll be introducing legislation to mandate this and to give them expanded advisory responsibilities.

Finally, to make sure the reforms I have mentioned today take place in an organized and careful way, we are establishing a commission which will work with local communities to guide the process of change.

I am confident that the measures I have outlined today will help us get our education system back on track and free residential property taxpayers from the spiralling costs of education.

Ontario students deserve the best we can give them, and I am confident that we can give them an excellent education while at the same time cutting bureaucratic duplication and waste. With our help, Ontario students can finally take their place at the head of the class.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): It is absolutely staggering to realize that any government could be so irresponsible as to propose such sweeping changes in the way education is governed and financed without having any idea at all of how this is going to work or what the impact is going to be, whether that impact is on communities or on local taxpayers or on employees of school boards. Certainly it has no idea of what the impact is going to be on students.

This legislation proposes only that there are going to be a different number of school boards and a different number of trustees. Nothing else has been worked out and nothing else has been decided. One thing is clear: There is going to be less local access, less accountability locally, and less ability for parents who are concerned about education to contact the people who are making the decisions.

Trustees are going to have what is called a less hands-on role. Nobody has decided what the role is going to be, but if you want to ask who is then going to control education, the answer is clear, because it is going to be bureaucrats and it is going to be Queen's Park. If you ask whether there are going to be some communities that may not even have a single trustee as a representative, nobody can answer that question because nobody has actually looked at it. Nobody has worked that out.

They don't even know whether school boards are going to be elected at large or whether they're going to be elected by ward system. The government wants to look like it's bringing in change for change's sake, if nothing else, so it's going to forge ahead and then it's going to figure out later how it works or whether this will work.

The other thing that's clear is that this government wants to continue to cut the costs, the spending that it puts into education, and this is camouflage for further cuts to educational spending. John Snobelen himself has said that amalgamating boards isn't likely going to save any money. On Friday he brought out a significant report in which it says the size of boards is not a factor affecting the level of spending by school boards. The minister's own report as of Friday afternoon said that the ministry should go back and get a greater understanding of what does cause higher spending for some school boards. It was particularly concerned about costs that are beyond the control of a school board, like the number of special needs students the board has. Where are those special needs kids going to fall in the cracks as this government takes over total control?


Suddenly, on Monday, the minister decides he can save millions of dollars by amalgamating school boards. That's what this is all about. This is all about camouflage to find new ways of cutting the dollars that go into education for our children.

The scariest statement of all that's been made is that if you look at how the millions of dollars are going to be found, one of the most significant areas will be staffing reductions. We know the ministry has already tested cutting 10,000 teachers out of our classrooms. The answer is no, Minister, you can't cut teachers without hurting classroom education.

They want the taxpayers to believe this is going to be good for local taxpayers. That's the other camouflage, the other part of the spin. There's no question that property taxes are not going to go down because of this announcement, because the minister has already indicated that the government is going to abandon its responsibility for almost all other social programs and dump these programs on municipalities. On top of that, Queen's Park for the first time ever is going to go directly after municipal property taxes by levying its own tax on businesses in every community. It hasn't even decided whether it's going to have one uniform tax rate across the province or whether it's going to do it community by community.

This is the worst of all worlds for everyone affected. It's the worst of all worlds for taxpayers who are now going to pay for the costs of programs that are beyond the control of their local municipality; it's the worst possible world for businesses which now have both Queen's Park and the local municipality going after them with increased taxes; it's the worst world for parents who will no longer have access to elected trustees and will be expected to manage the schools themselves; and it is certainly the worst possible world for students who are going to lose out again to a government that is so determined to find new ways of cutting dollars it spends on education in order to pay for its tax cut.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Once again this Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing hasn't told us everything. He states, for example, that "my colleagues will announce our decisions to provide better services, at lower costs, in libraries, provincial offences" etc. What he doesn't say is that municipalities will from tomorrow forward be responsible for all the costs of libraries, provincial offences, police services, environmental infrastructure, transportation services, ambulances and the property tax system.

The municipalities will be responsible, and you know as well as I do, Minister, that when the Minister of Community and Social Services makes her announcement with respect to welfare, municipalities will have to pay 50% of the welfare costs from then on in. Most municipalities -- you know as well as I do and the taxpayers should know -- will not be able to afford it.

Why are you doing this? All you're doing is simply downloading to --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The minister in making his statement made a Freudian slip when he said that this was a Fewer School Bills Act, and then he tried to salvage that by saying there would be fewer bills for the taxpayers. In fact what it means is fewer dollar bills for education in this province. This is what this is about. This is all about control and cost-cutting. The government wants to gain control, at the expense of local autonomy, of education in the province, and wants to be able, starting in 1998, to take even more out of education than it did in 1996. That's what this is about.

The government plans to control education funding, to determine how much will be spent. When asked in his press conference today, directly, if this would mean that he could guarantee there would be the same amount spent as is now collected in the property tax, the minister skated, because he didn't have an answer and he didn't want to say no.

The fact is there's going to be less money starting in 1998 for classroom education and for education in this province as a whole because this government does not want to have the kind of expenditures that are now accruing from the property taxes spent on education. This is about trying to pay for an income tax cut for those who will benefit at the top end of the income scale at the expense of students and classrooms across Ontario. This is not about improving expenditure levels for rural, poor boards, areas, or even separate boards.

This is about getting more money out of Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa, for instance, boards that in the past have been able to collect through the property tax for education. It also doesn't mean lower property taxes in general because the government is transferring other costs such as welfare to the municipalities, and my colleague will speak about that.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Shakespeare said, "Methinks he doth protest too much," and we're seeing here a government that's going to spend $800,000 on an advertising campaign because they want to protest over and over again to the public of Ontario that this is about efficiency. They do protest too much.

People can see through this rhetoric. This is about extracting billions of dollars from education, from health care and from communities in order to pay for this government's phoney tax scheme to benefit the wealthy. The scheme this government is announcing here today is all about finding the money so that corporate executives can get their $200,000 tax gift from this government and bank presidents can get their $200,000 tax gift from this government while this government strives hard to disguise how they're going to extract money from education and set up an agenda at the municipal level which will disguise how they're going to extract money from municipalities and health care.

It won't happen so easily. People know that simply taking money out of education, simply taking from wealthy boards like Toronto or Ottawa, is not going to benefit other boards. It simply means bringing the best boards down, not bringing boards that have had a difficult time in the past up. People know that when you pass off important health care services like long-term care and homes for the aged on to municipalities, municipalities will be stuck in the position where they will either have to increase their property taxes significantly as our population gets older, or they will have to cut those important health care services. People know that.

This government is hoping that if they shuffle enough decks, people out there won't notice, that people will blame municipalities when their health care services, their ambulance services and their police services start to fall, that people will blame municipalities when poor people can't get the help they need. This is all about refusing to take responsibility and trying to shove responsibility off on someone else.

We won't let that happen. We're going to expose what this government is really all about, no matter how many $800,000 ad campaigns they put out.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Just so we're all clear on this, you're not fooling anybody. Your actions are about one thing, and one thing only: finding the cuts you need to pay for your irresponsible tax cut scheme. It's about cutting important services like the health care seniors need, about cutting things like the education our children deserve, about creating new property taxes and about fewer services.

Minister, why don't you just forget the propaganda campaign and tell us the truth? Why won't you admit that this is really about more cuts, fewer services and higher property taxes?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): He hasn't got that quite right, because this is all about providing better services at less cost to the taxpayers of Ontario, and that's what we're doing. Every one of our actions that we're going to be rolling out this week will show that to be the fact. Our announcements today on education and our announcements tomorrow on social services will all benefit the taxpayers of Ontario. Taking 60% off the cost of education is going to give a window of opportunity for municipalities to deliver those services that they should be delivering at a fair cost to the taxpayer.


Mr McGuinty: Try as you might, nobody's buying that. What you're really doing is creating a smokescreen of chaos behind which you're trying to hide your property tax increases, your health care cuts and your cuts to education. That's a smokescreen accompanied by an $800,000 propaganda blitz, all to find money to pay for a tax cut none of us can afford.

What you're announcing this week will lead to different levels of care for our seniors depending on which city they live in. It's going to cut hundreds of millions from our schools and raise property taxes right across the province. Is the damage you are about to inflict really worth it? Is it really worth destroying the things that make Ontario great just to pay for Mike Harris's irresponsible tax cut promise?

Hon Mr Leach: I'm glad that the Leader of the Opposition mentioned senior citizens, because I think that if there's one thing that has irritated senior citizens over the years, it's been having to pay for education out of the property tax. This is going to alleviate that irritant to them. Senior citizens don't mind paying their fair share of taxes, but they like to pay for services they're receiving. This is going to give the municipalities the opportunity to deliver services, like garbage and roads and sewer and water, that should be delivered and paid for by the municipality. This exercise is going to be as close to revenue-neutral as we can make it. There may be some advantages to the municipalities; there may be some advantages to the province. When we all sort it out, I think we'll be pretty close to a wash.

Mr McGuinty: If senior citizens have concerns about education being on their property taxes, they ain't seen nothin' yet. When it comes to destroying things that make Ontario great, there is no better example than your heavy-handed and dictatorial approach to the megacity. Metropolitan Toronto was recognized by Fortune magazine as the most livable city in the world. Now, with practically no public debate, with no meaningful input, you are planning to ram your megacity through this Legislature in record time. You are being told that your megacity will result in higher property taxes, a lost sense of community and fewer services overall. Is your tax cut really worth jeopardizing the very things that have resulted in Toronto being recognized as the greatest city in the world? Is it really worth it?

Hon Mr Leach: We're looking forward to the opportunity of taking a great city and making it even greater, by eliminating the waste and duplication of the delivery of services that now exist in Metropolitan Toronto, by eliminating six planning departments -- seven planning departments, as a matter of fact -- six fire departments, making them into one, bringing some efficiencies that will save the taxpayers money. I think the vast majority of the people of Metropolitan Toronto are looking forward with excitement to seeing one city of Toronto for all of us.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

Mr McGuinty: What they are looking forward to is having you pay some attention to the results of the upcoming referenda.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My next question is for the Minister of Education and Training. Today John Snobelen confirmed the worst fears of many parents and students across Ontario. Our Minister of Education is going to compromise education in Toronto to pay for a $6-billion tax cut we can't afford. Students, parents, teachers and even public polls have already told the Harris government that the $400 million already cut from education has led to rundown schools, more portables, more students in our classrooms and the loss of many special education programs.

We're not fooled by your announcement today. What you're really after here is money to pay for a $6-billion tax cut. Your real intention is to get an additional $1 billion from our children's classrooms. Isn't this what it is really all about? You're taking control of education in Ontario because only then can you take the money out.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the honourable member opposite for the question. In response directly to that question, this announcement today is about creating a new school system for the province of Ontario and making sure that money taxpayers spend on education makes a difference with the students in Ontario. That's what it's about.

Mr McGuinty: Nobody's buying that either.

Let me focus in on a specific here. In the Common Sense Revolution, you promised not to cut classroom spending, yet the very activities that allow teachers to teach, classrooms to be functional, and students to have access to things like books through libraries, you define as spending outside the classroom. To even suggest that these things are not part of direct classroom learning shows just how far you're prepared to go to take money out of education.

Minister, how can you justify defining books in our libraries, books that are used inside the classroom, as an outside-the-classroom expense? How can you say that the heating and cleaning of the insides of our classrooms is an outside-the-classroom expense? How can you call the important work our teachers do in advance to prepare for classes an outside-the-classroom expense?

Hon Mr Snobelen: In answer to the question, in today's announcement we've obviously indicated very clearly to the people of Ontario that this government intends to take a senior role in funding the education of children in the province. Not only that, but this government is committed to making sure that every single student in the province has his or her needs met in the classroom, that the spending will be directed for what they need and what they want, regardless of what those circumstances might be for that individual student. If that's an English-as-a-second-language student, a student in an isolated community, a student who needs some remedial work in class, we will meet those needs; we will fund those needs.

In direct response to the inside or outside the classroom, we released a study last week that indicated that the range of spending outside the classroom is anywhere from 51% in the worst-case scenarios in Ontario to over 80% in the best cases, the money directed to the classroom. We think we can use the best examples of the best practices across the province and the rest of Canada and make sure we can make a difference --

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

Mr McGuinty: Let's focus in on teachers for a minute. It was recently uncovered that in focus groups you ran and paid for, you told participants that you were considering cutting 10,000 teachers from Ontario classrooms. You can't possibly suggest that this won't impact the inside of our children's classrooms. The driving force behind your education reforms has more to do with an ill-considered promise to cut taxes by 30% than a desire to improve education in Ontario.

When are you going to stand up for education in Ontario? When are you going to tell Mike Harris that he can't have any more education money because the future of our kids and our province depends on it?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Rarely in my limited time in this chamber has any member stood in the House and been more wrong than the Leader of the Opposition is today. Our commitment --


The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, I'm warning you. Next time I'll be asking for you to be removed from the chamber.

Hon Mr Snobelen: To inform the member opposite, the province does not employ 10,000 teachers in the province of Ontario. We employ teachers at our provincial schools, but we are not the employer of teachers in our school system; school boards are. Under our new school system they will remain the employers of teachers across the province.


To further clarify the matter for the member opposite, our reforms, our changes, our new school system announced today will do two things that are of benefit to the teachers of this province. One of those is that they will allow us to put forward a system of curriculum in this province with clear standards and clear outcomes so that teachers will know that students entering their classes have the skills necessary to participate in them. Second, teachers can take to heart our promise that the funding needs of students across this province will be met in every part of this province.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): It is also to the Minister of Education and Training, and let me say to the minister that the only thing teachers take to heart about you is that you're intent upon cutting education and you're intent upon using all kinds of devices to disguise those cuts.

Let me just bring this up, since one of the studies you refer to talks about classroom education. It's an Ernst and Young study, and that study makes it clear that you don't count libraries as classroom education, you don't count guidance counsellors, you don't count school social workers, you don't count psychologists, you don't count preparation time, you don't count custodians and janitors who keep the schools and the classrooms safe and clean, you don't count principals, you don't count vice-principals, you don't count support staff and you don't count curriculum people.

Minister, are you saying that all those people who do all those important jobs in our schools aren't important and they can be cut? Is that what you're really saying here, that you can cut all those services and it won't matter for our children's classroom education?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Certainly the member opposite, the leader of the third party, knows there is a variety of services important to students across this province. We want to make sure that our funding is focused on those that are most important to those students in meeting the high standards across the province.

What our announcements talk about today is a new funding methodology, one that meets the needs of every individual student across the province, and removing education from the property taxes across the province, where they've gone up over the last decade by an average of 5% per year.

Let me remind the member opposite of this: Over the last 10 years we've had a 16% enrolment increase in the province, but the spending of boards has gone up by 82% and the residential taxpayer is paying 120% more in that same time period. It's time for that to end.

Mr Hampton: I'll come back to where I started. The minister talks about how much he wants to reduce education costs, and it's clear from all the rhetoric he's been spewing that he says he is going to take all these costs out of non-classroom education. I ask him, does this mean that libraries don't count for classroom education, guidance counsellors don't count, social workers don't count, psychologists don't count, principals and vice-principals don't count, that the people who ensure that our schools have discipline and order don't count for classroom education?

Minister, come clean. You keep talking about how you're going to cut these costs. Are you saying that these things -- the work a custodian does, the work a principal and a vice-principal do, the important work a guidance counsellor does with children -- are unimportant and can be cut? Come clean. Where are you going to take the money out?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I remind the member opposite that this government has said very clearly today and on previous days, and I've said this on many occasions over the last year, that we have no target for a spending reduction in education. We have indicated very clearly today that we believe, based on outside reports, that there's as much as $150 million in duplication and waste in the administration and bureaucracy surrounding our education system in the province. I think that comes as a surprise to no one who's observed the school system over the course of the last decade.

Our commitment is really very clear. It's to make sure that there are sufficient funds to meet the needs of every student in the province, right across the province. We've said very clearly that we intend to do that and we intend to be held to account for our promises.

Mr Hampton: The minister mentions that he thinks about $150 million can be saved by reducing the number of school boards and centralizing control over the education system here in Toronto, by letting the nameless, faceless bureaucrats in Toronto tell everybody in this province how their education system is going to be run. Minister, that gets you $150 million. It wipes out school democracy, but it gets you $150 million.

The problem you've got is that you've been saying, "No cuts to classroom education," but we know that school libraries across this province have been closed because of your cuts, we know that special ed classes have been wiped out because of your cuts, we know that there are classrooms with over 40 children in them because of your cuts.

If this is not about taking money out, let me ask you for a guarantee. Will you guarantee that the total amount of money going towards our children's education will be no less in 1998 than it is today?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I think we've come very clean with our new school system today. I will just go over some of the highlights for the member opposite so he might know where we think we can find some economies in our school system so we might be able to end some of the waste and duplication that his government left or encouraged in the system.

For instance, we believe that the $150 million I just mentioned -- that may sound like a small amount to the member opposite, but it seems like a large amount to me -- we'll be able to reach that because we have two thirds fewer trustees in our new model, we have two thirds fewer trustees' support, we have half the education directors, half the senior supervisory officers, half the directors of finance, half the directors of personnel, half the business superintendents, half the payable clerks, half the receivable clerks, half of the human resources department, half of the administrative support, half of the curriculum officers, half of the office space and half the office equipment. I think we might be able to find some savings in this that will not affect classroom education.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Hampton: I did not hear a guarantee from the Minister of Education and Training that we'll see the continuing money spent on classrooms and children.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I put it to you today that your announcement is about cutting and slashing education, health care and other important community services. You have to do this because you have to pay for your phoney tax scheme in order to give bank presidents their $200,000 gift. That's what it's all about.

I put it to you that this is what you're doing, so I'm going to ask you to categorically deny that you're going to transfer important community and health care services to municipalities, to say that you're not going to do that, that you're not going to push off important social assistance services and important health care services and important transportation services on to municipalities. Will you deny that you're going to do that?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I think the leader of the third party must have recognized that when we were going through the Who Does What panel, the whole exercise was to try to decide which level of government could best deliver and pay for services. Obviously if the province is going to assume $5.6 billion in education costs, the municipalities are going to assume the cost of a number of hard services, services they can deliver, services they can pay for, services they would have 100% control over. That was the whole point of the exercise.

The leader of the third party might remember that when his party undertook the disentanglement exercise, unfortunately they were going in the right direction but it fell apart on them. We're trying to have the right level of government deliver the right services, and that's what this exercise is about.

Mr Hampton: I asked for a denial and I didn't get it, so let me probe a little deeper. Minister, I put it to you that these services you're going to pass on to municipalities, services like social assistance -- even David Crombie said you should not push off social services on to municipalities, because when times get really hard, municipalities will not have the resources to provide for the poor, the homeless and people who need help. I put it to you that even David Crombie disagrees with what you're doing.

Since you won't deny you're going to push these services on to municipalities, will you give them a guarantee that their municipal property taxes won't have to increase over the next three years to cover these services? Will you give them that guarantee?

Hon Mr Leach: Not only would I not deny it, I would state it as a fact. When you're going through a separation-of-services exercise, where you're trying to decide which level of government can best deliver the services, obviously there are going to be services that are now shared between the province and the municipality that are going to become 100% the responsibility of the municipality.

If it works out as we believe it will, and we're quite confident that it would, with our taking education off the property tax and transferring functions down to the municipality, functions that are stable, and education is climbing at 5% a year, by the year 2000 the municipalities would have the potential of cutting property taxes.


Mr Hampton: The minister will know, or if he doesn't know yet he'll soon be learning, that social services and health care services are closely linked. If people suffer badly in terms of nutrition or suffer badly in terms of housing or suffer badly in terms of public health, sooner or later they end up in the health care system.

I want to put it to you: We've got a tradition in this province that we should have equal access to health care, equal access to health across the province, but your scheme means that municipalities are now going to have to fund a lot of this. Your scheme means that people who live in, say, Cornwall, which was hard hit by the free trade agreement and hard hit by the recession, are going to have to pick up all these costs.

Are you going to guarantee that people across this province will continue to have equal access to health care, equal access to public health, equal access to nursing services and home care services? Are you willing to guarantee that now as you begin this exercise of pushing all these services down on municipalities? Will you guarantee that?

Hon Mr Leach: I know what we can guarantee is that the province of Ontario and the citizens of Ontario are going to be a whole lot better off when we eliminate all the waste and duplication that's currently being undertaken. Obviously there are going to be shifts in who pays for what. Right now there are those who pay for welfare, those who pay for health care.

Mr Hampton: So if you live in a poor community, it's back to the Depression: You do without. This is not headed into the future, this is going back to the Depression.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Leader of the third party, would you please come to order.

Hon Mr Leach: I would like to point out to the members of the opposition that we announced earlier that we are going to be rolling out a number of announcements this week. My colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services, the Honourable Janet Ecker, will be making an announcement on social services, health and social housing tomorrow which will clarify many of the points the member is asking about.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. I want to raise with you a matter which I know you recognize as being of the utmost seriousness. It seems that not a day goes by without another truck accident. Just this morning another incident was reported outside of Thunder Bay. There have been over 30 incidents of runaway truck wheels in the past 13 months in Ontario.

We feel this issue has taken on such a high public profile and is of such a serious nature that it ought to be given special attention by this House. I'm asking for your support to have this matter referred to a legislative committee so that all of the facts can be brought forward and potential solutions considered. Will you support my request?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I welcome the question from the Leader of the Opposition and I'm really saddened by the recent events, especially where lives are lost. One can only say that we must do better.

I believe this government has shown a strong commitment to enforcing safety on our highways, and we've come some way but we still have a long way to go. I've been saying all along that government alone cannot do this. I think we have to get industry and we also have to get insurance people involved, and I welcome the opposition's involvement in making this thing happen.

But I really want to say this: In fiscal 1995, MTO staff inspected 19,500 vehicles; in the first seven months of 1996, we inspected 27,000 vehicles. I want to share something else with the Leader of the Opposition: In 1995, MTO staff removed 1,400 plates and laid 8,200 charges; in the first seven months of 1996, we removed 2,300 vehicles and laid --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Transportation, come to order, please.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, I want you to understand that I am putting forward this suggestion in a non-partisan way. Ontario drivers are afraid of the trucks travelling our highways. They need to understand and we need to understand the root causes of this problem and we need to ensure that we're coming up with the right solutions. I'm asking you to take this step in addition to those you're already taking. The problem is so dangerous that we owe it to our public and ourselves to treat it in the serious manner it deserves. If we don't have a crisis on our highways, we at least have a crisis of confidence in the minds of Ontario drivers, so I'm asking you once again for your support in having this matter referred to a legislative committee immediately so that all of the facts can be brought forward and the very best potential solutions considered.

Hon Mr Palladini: I think I have been quoted many times, but we will not stop until Ontario's roads are the safest in North America. Certainly we are going to implement whatever it's going to take to make sure our roads are safe. Like I said earlier, government alone cannot do it, but we as a government are taking the steps that are necessary.

I really would like to remind the honourable member that his party could have done something in 1987 in enforcing a weight measures act. They did not do that. This government had the courage to do that. This government has the courage to do other things as well.

Our staff right now are looking to implement an automatic truck suspension. We're actually going to be able to suspend a vehicle, whether it's for 15 days or 90 days.

It's going to be some of these measures that are going to make our road safer, but it does take time. I want to appeal again: I welcome the opposition's help in making sure our roads are safe.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the minister responsible for the greater Toronto area. Opposition to your megacity scheme is clearly growing within Metropolitan Toronto.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I don't mean to interrupt, but unless I could be mistaken, I don't believe there is a minister responsible for the greater Toronto area.

Mr Silipo: Mr Speaker, I've always understood that to be part of the name of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing with responsibilities for the GTA.

The Speaker: The question has to be put to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Mr Silipo: I wasn't trying to be misleading at all, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: I understand.

Mr Silipo: Minister, as I was saying, opposition to your megacity scheme is clearly growing within Metropolitan Toronto. So far, over 250 citizens and community groups have already said that they want to make a formal presentation to the legislative committee on Bill 103. People want to be heard on this issue. You have clearly stirred up widespread anger and fear. They don't want the bill to pass, and they certainly don't want the bill to pass quickly.

I want to ask you to give your personal guarantee today that your megacity bill will not whipped through before the municipal referendum that's scheduled for March 3 of this year. Will you give that guarantee today?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): No, I can't give that guarantee to the member. We're going to process the bill through second reading --


The Speaker: I will clear the assembly if it's necessary. You can't do that. It's simply not in order.


The Speaker: I'll clear both sides at the same time.

Hon Mr Leach: Mr Speaker, thank you. We're going to be bringing the bill forward for second reading and then the bill will go through the legislative process and committee hearings where everyone will have an opportunity to have their input, as they should. That's the democratic way to do things: have committee hearings, allow people to make deputations, give their concerns, give suggestions, give options, all of which would be taken into consideration, and that's what this process is going to do.

I hope to bring the bill in for second reading early, within the next few days. I hope the opposition parties will support its quick passage through second reading so that it can get to that public debate. If they're saying that they want to have public involvement and input, then they should give it a chance to get to committee.

Mr Silipo: You refuse to be clear with me. Let me be clear with you: You will not get any help from this party in getting this bill through quickly.

What you should be doing as the minister responsible, if you believe in the words that you have just uttered, in the democratic way to do things, is to ensure, given that there is a public referendum under way, that you will not push this bill through before that process has been gone through and before the people of Metropolitan Toronto have the right to express their opinion and their feelings on this important issue.

You can do that today without hiding behind the process. We all know the process. We all know that you're starting debate on second reading of this bill tomorrow and we all know that it can go through in a way that does what you say you want to do and still respects the right of citizens out there to have their fair say. Once again, Minister, will you ensure that you will not use your legislative means to ram through this bill before the referendum process is completed in Metropolitan Toronto?

Hon Mr Leach: It's interesting. I don't know what kind of referendum process he's talking about. The six municipalities are in total disarray when it comes to this. To the best of my knowledge, I think some of them are going with a mail-out ballot. Some of them are calling for a vote; some of them are calling for a modified referendum. Besides that, when we met with the mayors early in December -- in fact, the end of November, I believe -- we discussed the referendum question with them, we discussed the possibility of having a referendum, pointed out why a referendum isn't appropriate on this issue and told them that the province would not be bound by a referendum held on this question.

What question would you ask? You're going to have a loaded referendum question that would be inconclusive and wouldn't resolve anything.



Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. The 1996 business plan for your ministry, and subsequently the passing of Bill 54, the Safety and Consumer Statutes Administration Act, in June of last year, outlined the government initiative to move forward towards self-management for a number of business sectors regulated by your ministry. Could you inform my constituents of Halton North and the Legislature what progress you are making towards implementing self-management for real estate agents and brokers, travel agents and wholesalers, automobile dealers and cemetery operators?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I'd like to thank the member for Halton North for the question. Yes, through our ministry's business plan and Bill 54 we outlined our intention to enable the ministry to delegate certain duties and responsibilities to the industries for administration, licensing, enforcement and consumer protection, to non-profit, independent private organizations.

On Monday, January 6 I signed an administrative authority agreement, as provided for under Bill 54, setting up a new, independent, non-profit Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council. The organization is now up and running. In February or early March I anticipate that we will be signing a similar agreement with the real estate industry.

Just at the end of last year I had the opportunity to be in Hamilton to go to a greater Hamilton real estate brokers meeting along with the member for Hamilton West. The industries are enthusiastic about this because they believe it will increase the standards for the consumer across this province.

We have discussions going on right now with the travel industry and also with the cemetery operators to have similar agreements. When these agreements are in place --

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

Mr Chudleigh: There is some suggestion and comment being made that by turning over these responsibilities to the private sector, consumer protection will be lowered. Can you inform the House what protection will be in place to assist the consumers of Ontario?

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Whether you are screwing the consumer: That's what you wanted to ask, isn't it, whether or not you are screwing the consumer?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I hear a lot of noise coming from across the floor with respect to this initiative, that somehow it's quite similar to many of the initiatives that have been proposed before by the third party.

Mr Kormos: I was just making the observation that you are screwing consumers, Tsubouchi; you've abandoned them.

The Speaker: Order. Member for Welland-Thorold, that's out of order. I would ask you to withdraw it.

Mr Kormos: Withdrawn.

The Speaker: Also, member for Welland-Thorold, when you're addressing the Chair, you must stand. I would ask you to withdraw the comment.

Mr Kormos: Withdrawn.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: So much for that New Year's resolution, I guess, eh?

What we are doing right now is going to self-management, not self-regulation. The ministry will maintain its critical functions for regulation, for consumer protection, and certainly will have the responsibility still for standards-setting and policies. The experience in other jurisdictions, such as Saskatchewan and BC and Alberta and Quebec, has shown that the consumer response has increased as a result of these type of initiatives. Also, we will be able to appoint consumer representatives to be on the council as well as a member of the ministry. We do have checks and balances to ensure that consumer protection will continue.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): A question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs: You just said you would not wait to hear the results of the referendum on your proposed megacity. You've basically said again that you don't care what people say. You have said you're going to have committee meetings. I ask you, will you therefore commit to allowing everybody who wants to speak to the committee to have a right to speak to you and the committee when this legislation goes to committee?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): We would certainly commit to allowing everybody to speak as the time allows. But certainly if you're going to have a write-in campaign, as I understand is going on now, where you've got hundreds of individuals writing in wanting to speak individually in a planned protest to try to disrupt the committee process, I don't think that's apparent.

If the members opposite really want to get into the true democratic process and give people the opportunity to have their say in this project, get second reading through, get it to committee, and give them the opportunity to speak and say their piece as quickly as we possibly can.

Mr Colle: It's obvious the minister is saying he doesn't care what people say on a referendum, he's not going to allow people to come to the committee; he's going to put a time allocation on it. So I ask the minister, why this haste? Why this bulldozer agenda? Why are things so wrong in Toronto that you have to bulldoze these six cities? What's the emergency? Here's the city that's been called the best in the world and you're saying it's got to be destroyed. Why the emergency? Why the demolition of democracy, Minister?

Hon Mr Leach: The member opposite speaks as if this was the first time this issue was ever raised. This issue has been debated in this community for the last 25 years.

On referendum, I don't know where that Liberal Party is coming from. Your member from Windsor spoke up last week and said that referendums were totally inappropriate, that they should only be held on issues of national interest. Where are you coming from on referendum? Are you for it or against it? And where are you coming from on amalgamation? What's your position this week? Are you for amalgamation or against it? Several years ago, that was Mr Amalgamation himself.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the minister responsible for women's issues. You may be aware that a large group of women braved the cold this morning and gathered outside the Legislature, many of whom are with us here in the gallery today. In case you haven't got the message yet, they are here to tell you to back off, leave services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence alone. Only after the crisis last month with the leak of your controversial consultants' report, only then --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Can they be removed, please. The member for Riverdale.

Ms Churley: Only then did you and your Premier say that you wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the safety of women. Yet, incredibly, you seem to remain committed to this report and you refuse to tell us what you are going to do to the services for victims of abuse. Today, Minister, will you give us your government's commitment for the continuing support of women-controlled services for women who are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): First of all, I'd like to underline on behalf of everybody in the House the fact that violence is not tolerated in society and that this government, as have the two previous governments, has made it a priority to find the right programs, the right services, and to have accountability in what we do to help victims of violence. I think that's extremely important.

Second, in answer to the question, I don't really think the member meant that she would want us to leave victims of sexual assault alone. I think our responsibility here is to help them and to look for the best advice we can get in improving our programs in Ontario.

On the last point about women-controlled, I'm not certain what the member meant in that regard, but I do know that the most important leadership and the best leadership we can get in providing these programs is important to all family life in Ontario, and I would welcome the input of the member --


The Speaker: Minister, thank you. Supplementary.

Ms Churley: Minister, that was a very nice answer, but we believe your mind is already made up and I think you do know what I mean by "women-controlled centres for women" very well. You're not really talking to anybody if you don't know what that means.

We gave you a copy of an internal document, a memo from December 19, which indicates that the kind of reform discussed in that report was already under way in eastern Ontario. The report was aimed at legitimizing a decision your government has made to dismantle women's services. The evidence is there. You see, we all know that there is no duplication in services for victims of abuse and that you cannot reconfigure these services to save money without seriously jeopardizing accessibility for victims.

I am simply asking you today to take the next step: Do your job finally, Minister, and stand up for women today. Will you assure us that women's shelters, transition houses and rape crisis centres will be financially --

The Speaker: Thank you. The member for Riverdale, come to order, please. Minister.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I think the concerns of the member are concerns that all of us have as we take a look at changing our system and making it better. There will always be these kinds of questions.

But I do take exception to the kind of questioning today by the member. I don't think she is supported in giving out this kind of information. The report that she is waving was an internal report. Something that was going on in eastern Ontario does not represent the focus of this government. The focus of this government, as was the focus of your government, as was the focus of the Liberal government, is to make certain we have programs that are accessible, that work, that assist victims of violence. This is not an exercise about cutting costs; it's an exercise about making programs better. I think what's very important is that you have advised women to meet with me to give me their best advice, and I will be meeting with some of them tomorrow.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Your Bill 99 is a comprehensive reform of the workers' compensation legislation. I've received many verbal and written inquiries from my constituents in Durham East with respect to Bill 99. Many have expressed an interest in having an opportunity to discuss the legislation at public hearings. Minister, do you have any information which might be of assistance in clarifying the government's position on this matter?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): We certainly have also received inquiries regarding public hearings and I just want to go on the record one more time and indicate that as soon as we have further passage of the bill through the House, we will be having public hearings and --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): This side as well as this -- well, I'm going to clear the galleries.


The Speaker: Members from the third party.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Point of order.

The Speaker: No, I'm standing. Member for Dovercourt, take your seat, please.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): What has anybody said on this side?

The Speaker: Order. I'm not -- clear the gallery. Order. When I said, "Clear the" --


The Speaker: They're not clearing them out. No. Order, order. When I said, "Clear the gallery," I meant this gallery. This gallery didn't need to be cleared.


The Speaker: No, they don't need to.


The Speaker: Order.


The Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, okay, if you have a point of order, I'll be happy to hear your point of order. I'm simply waiting.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): What about the clock?

Mr Pouliot: What about the clock, sir?

The Speaker: The clock's running.


The Speaker: Okay, member for Dovercourt, you have a point of order?

Mr Silipo: Mr Speaker, I think maybe then the error was corrected. I thought that you indicated earlier that you were going to clear both sides of the gallery. That's why I stood up.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The Speaker responded to what all of us heard were some comments made from the gallery. Clearly not every member of the public sitting in that gallery was engaged in participating in that sort of commentary. Speaker, with respect, you have imposed a collective punishment, which is repugnant internationally.


Mr Kormos: Well, it is. My friends laugh, but you have excluded members of the public --

The Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, I appreciate what you're saying. I will answer it very quickly and hopefully we can get back to questions. I couldn't tell who was commenting. There were a number of comments coming from the top.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Do you want to borrow my glasses?

The Speaker: The member for Cochrane North.

I appreciate the fact that it was frustrating. I couldn't tell. It was very simple: I couldn't see who was commenting or who wasn't. It was easier to simply remove that side of the gallery. That's the decision I took. Frankly, I don't find myself to be an undemocratic individual. That's how I feel about the situation.


The Speaker: So that's my response to your point of order.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think it would be unjust to the members of the opposition if you did not add some time to the clock. When you ordered the galleries cleared, I think you unfairly punished members of the opposition by taking time away from us. I think it would be fair and not unreasonable to ask the Speaker to add to the clock the two minutes which have been taken away from us.

The Speaker: In future I would suggest --


The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East and others, in future I would suggest to you that if I'm going to clear the galleries I will stop the clock. It was probably a mistake of mine not to stop the clock. I will add two minutes back on to the clock.

Member for Durham East, supplementary.

Mr O'Toole: I recognize that Bill 99 is a complete overhaul of Ontario's workers' compensation legislation and that it promises to introduce a totally new approach that emphasizes first and foremost the prevention of injury and illness. The people of Ontario have been waiting for a real change at the Workers' Compensation Board for a very long time. Is the minister able to be more specific as to when these hearings will take place?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would certainly concur. We have a new piece of legislation, and as we've said on many occasions, this legislation has as its number one priority the prevention of illness and injury in the workplace and will soon be identifying as a target what type of reduction we're looking at. Obviously it's going to depend on what happens in this House. The bill needs to go through second reading. Once the bill's gone through second reading, then we'll be able to have public hearings. We still hope the bill will become law on July 1.



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and it has to do with his announcement today and a fairly fundamental direction. You appointed the Who Does What committee. They spent a considerable amount of time studying this issue. They reviewed the matter you dealt with today. Their recommendation was clear and it was exactly the opposite of what you're proposing. You're proposing that the areas of health and welfare move back down on to property tax and education come off it. Your handpicked panel said that it strongly opposes such a move. "We are unanimous in the view that if there's a choice between placing education or health and welfare on the property tax, it is clearly preferable to continue to rely on the property tax for the funding of education."

Can you give us a brief explanation of why you've chosen to completely ignore your own panel's recommendation.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I said in my statement earlier today that we would be making a series of announcements on education and on social services. I would suggest to the member opposite that when he sees the whole puzzle put together during the next three or four days of this week, many decisions that we're announcing today will become obvious. The Minister of Social Services will make a statement in this House tomorrow afternoon and introduce legislation which I think will go a long way to answering the member's question.

Mr Phillips: You owe the people of Ontario an explanation. We have people who are deeply involved in education. You've made a fundamental recommendation here, completely contrary to your own panel, that unanimously, strongly opposed what you're doing, and you've made the announcement today. So I'm saying to you, get on your feet and give us an explanation of how you reached the decision that is completely, 180 degrees opposite to that of your own handpicked panel. You owe the people of Ontario an explanation, and we want to hear it now.

Hon Mr Leach: I thank the member from Scarborough very much. The panel recommended that if we were considering putting all of welfare and all of health down on to the municipalities, it would prefer to see education stay on the property tax. All I can tell the member opposite right at this point in time is that you're going to have to wait until tomorrow to see the rest of the answer that is going to come out. All our announcements are not being made in one day. This is a comprehensive program that's going to roll out over the next three or four days.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. You are turning this province upside down. You are deranging the soul of Ontario, and worse, you are plunging an ice pick in the heart of all the communities of Ontario. You are taking over $5 billion out of the property taxes for education purposes. You need to make up for that somehow. You will not raise income taxes because you're too afraid to raise income taxes to make up for those $5 billion, so what are you going to do?

You need to shift that equal amount, as you have said, to make it revenue-neutral, on to the municipalities. So that poor senior you talked about, who you said is going to get relief, is not going to get relief, because those municipalities all over the place are going to be faced with welfare costs, libraries, long-term care and a whole variety of health care needs. How are those municipalities going to cope?

Hon Mr Leach: I think I answered this question earlier. The whole point of a disentanglement or separation of services exercise is to get one level of government to provide and pay for services, the best level of government that can do that. If we're going to take $5.6 billion off the property tax, we're going to give to the municipalities those services that they're best prepared to deliver -- roads, sewer, garbage -- all the services the municipality can provide better, at cheaper cost, to the taxpayer. It's obvious.

Mr Marchese: Minister, you are driving an ice pick into the heart of our communities. That is what you're doing. Provinces have greater access, and more important, federal governments have greater access to tax people, but municipalities have a problem: They can't raise property taxes the way they would like because people would rebel. They don't have that same power to be able to collect taxes to pay for the ongoing needs of welfare. That's not going away, and long-term-care needs of people are not going away, health care needs are not going away and library needs are not going away. Municipalities do not have that power to collect the money in the same way provinces would be able to.

I ask you this: How are municipalities going to cope with those ongoing needs? I tell you they're either going to increase property taxes or, Minister, if you're listening, they're going to have to reduce the services and fire people. That's what I think is going to happen in our municipalities.

Hon Mr Leach: That's very similar to a question that came from the Liberal Party, and I'll have to say there is going to be a major announcement on social services tomorrow and it's going to deal with the question the member asked.

We have been as clear as we could be in pointing out in our announcement today that we're rolling out a whole package of programs over the course of this week, and that when the ministers make their announcements during the course of the week, all these issues will become very clear.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is to the Deputy Premier and the Minister of Finance. The overriding objective of the government's economic policy has been to create jobs and encourage hope and prosperity, a return to hope and prosperity in Ontario. Small business is the key to job creation in the province. High payroll taxes kill jobs. When the employer health tax was brought in, it killed thousands of jobs across the province.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Would you come to order, please. That's not very funny actually.

Mr Baird: Could the minister tell the House what steps the government is taking to reduce the worst offender of all, the employer health tax, particularly for small business?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): The member will know that even the federal Finance minister, Mr Martin, refers to payroll taxes as job killers, and there's no doubt that they are. I think that every government at every level has an obligation to try to reduce payroll taxes as much as it possibly can.

On January 1, 1997, the first instalment, if you want to put it that way, or the first tranche of a reduction of the employer health tax, the first $200,000 of payroll by small businesses all across this province, is now exempt from this job-killing tax. This will continue to escalate, in January 1, 1998, to the first $300,000, until it's finally fully implemented on January 1, 1999, for the first $400,000 of payroll, which covers small businesses as they're defined in Canada, which will be exempt from this job-killing tax; 88% of employers, representing 270,000 businesses, will be exempt from this tax.

Mr Baird: Another job killer in Ontario was the $4 billion or $5 billion worth of tax increase brought in by the previous government. The experience was that raising taxes killed jobs and it destroyed consumer confidence in every region of the province. Could the minister tell the House the early effects of the first two instalments of the tax cut?

Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member also knows that on January 1, 1997, we instituted the second instalment of the provincial income tax reduction. Now fully 15% of the promised 30% reduction has been implemented in Ontario.

We've also, as the honourable member will know, tried to do this in a proportionate way so that those earning more income than others will pay a fair share health levy which will reduce the size of their particular personal provincial income tax reduction.

At the same time, talking about payroll taxes, it is kind of difficult when you have the federal government raising EI premiums and CPP premiums to Ontario taxpayers in the amount of half a billion dollars in 1997 alone.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is to the acting Minister of Health. You recently signed a deal, an agreement with the doctors, that's purported to cost about $150 million. We have reason to believe that this will cost the taxpayers in the area of $350 million to $400 million and, as the Premier has said, it will have to come out of the system and be paid for by the taxpayers.

More and more doctors are charging patients for services such as missed appointments, toll charges for long-distance calls, sick notes and back-to-work notes. One option they have been offered is that you can pay what is called an alternative or a family fee, for example, $100 per individual, $200 per family. It has been reported to me that if a patient pays this annual fee, they receive preferred service for appointments. Alternatively, if they don't pay the annual fee --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Just as a quick point, he's not the acting minister, he's the Minister of Health.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): Thank you for that clarification, Mr Speaker.

I might say to the member opposite that we were delighted on the weekend that the doctors ratified the deal with the province of Ontario. Of course there had been concern about job actions last year. We now again have the continuity and the excellence in service that we're accustomed to in Ontario in our health care system. It shows again, as I indicated over the weekend, that the doctors are putting the patients first in Ontario.

I take some dispute with the member's numbers with regard to the future because we are back into negotiations on a full-time basis with the doctors in terms of the longer term, and the cost to the people of Ontario, the cost to the health care system will be dependent on those negotiations.

I would say to the member opposite that we support the principles of the Canada Health Act that health care services be accessible and equal to all people of the province of Ontario.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: It's with respect to the expulsion of all the strangers from the west visitors' gallery. My understanding is that standing order 18 says: "All strangers may be excluded from the House or any committee thereof on a motion properly moved and adopted by the House or the committee, as the case may be," but "All strangers." I just want to understand, Mr Speaker, why would you exclude all people? In the meantime, you have permission to exclude an individual, a stranger, so how could you exclude en masse all strangers from the west visitors' gallery?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): As far as I understand the ruling that you read from, they may be removed on a motion passed by the House but they may also be removed by the Speaker, on either side or all the galleries themselves. That can be moved by any member this House in fact agreed to, but the point is that the Speaker is allowed to remove individually or collectively sections within the building.

Mr Curling: That's not what it says here. Allow me to read it.

The Speaker: All right, go ahead.

Mr Curling: "Any stranger admitted to any part of the House or gallery who misconducts himself or herself, or does not withdraw when strangers are directed to withdraw...." It is saying you can do that individually, but it goes on to say in 18: "All strangers may be excluded from the House or any committee thereof on a motion properly moved and adopted by the House or the committee, as the case may be." I didn't see anywhere, Mr Speaker, where it said you can do that collectively. It says you can ask somebody, an individual, a stranger, to withdraw but not on a collective basis in this way.

The Speaker: To the member for Scarborough North, in my opinion, the ruling and the workings of this House and the standing orders are that the Speaker is allowed to ask people to be removed from the Legislature.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): You must act judicially, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: I say to the member for Lake Nipigon, I don't like getting interrupted every time I get up to speak. It's very frustrating sometimes. Right now I feel frustrated with the member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Pouliot: I can't help you there, sir.

The Speaker: Yes, I suggest you could help me there.

I say to the member for Scarborough North, if you're suggesting to the Legislature, to myself the Speaker and all the members here that you now want to restrict the Speaker's ability to have galleries cleared or in fact individually remove members from galleries, that that is the only way in fact a gallery can be removed, then I guess that's something you're going to have to get together with the House leaders on and ask them to relate.

But in my opinion, as I read the standing orders and have seen in the past previous Speakers do, the Speaker has asked galleries to be removed. I know you have seen that as well, having been a member here for a long time. I can only tell you that's the practice I've seen in the past, that's the call of the Speaker, and I think it's a reasonable amount of power to ask the Speaker to exercise.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 96(d) Mr Ouellette and Mr Murdoch, and Mr Pettit and Mr Leadston, exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business.

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



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.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a petition from a number of my constituents. I won't read the entire petition, but it has to do with the anticipated cutbacks to workers' compensation and the rights of injured workers.

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold full, province-wide public hearings on WCB reform; to listen to the voice of the people calling for improved occupational health and safety protection; and to tell the Tory government to call off its attack on the dignity and standard of living of injured workers and their families."


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition to the Legislature and to the Honourable Robert Runciman.

"Whereas we, the undersigned, believe that helping reduce crime and abuse in our communities is our responsibility as employees of the Ministry of Correctional Services, as professionals in related fields and as concerned citizens;

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

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

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

"That," as Mr Ross Virgo has stated, "the Ontario Correctional Institute is a therapeutic community known around the world for their techniques;

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

"That a therapeutic community cannot exist in a superprison;

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

I will sign my signature to this document because I agree with its content.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I continue to receive thousands of petitions regarding this government's anti-worker agenda. These petitions, signed by thousands of auto workers from Local 222 of the Canadian Auto Workers, were specifically sent to me by Paul Goggan, the health and safety representative at the car assembly plant, on behalf of Mike Shields, the president, Don Whalen, the shop committee person, and Ron Gibson, the car plant chairperson, on behalf of their members. The petition reads as follows:

"To ensure enforcement of the health and safety act at the General Motors Oshawa car assembly plant:

"To Premier Harris:

"Whereas we the undersigned CAW Local 222 members working in the General Motors Oshawa car assembly plant are opposed to the lack of enforcement by the Ministry of Labour against General Motors, who is prohibited by law from taking reprisals (disciplining, threatening, intimidating, or penalizing) any worker who has acted in compliance with or has sought enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or regulations;

"Therefore, we demand enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and direct involvement of Labour Minister Elizabeth Witmer to ensure enforcement of the health and safety legislation for the protection of the workers in the General Motors Oshawa car assembly plant."

On behalf of my caucus colleagues, I add my name to theirs.



Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): Mr Speaker, I have a petition from the St Marys library board.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll sign this petition on behalf of my constituents. It's signed by 45 of them.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I have a petition to the government of Ontario.

"Whereas the proposed changes to secondary schools as outlined in Ontario Secondary Schools 1998, the detailed discussion document, make it easier for students to drop out; and

"Whereas the types of courses offered, as outlined in the discussion document, will not meet the needs of minority students; and

"Whereas there is too much emphasis placed on workplace education, as outlined in the discussion document; and

"Whereas, as outlined in the discussion document, students who are at risk of dropping out will continue to be at risk; and

"Whereas there is a lack of minority teachers to act as teacher advisers, as outlined in the discussion document; and

"Whereas there is reduced time in ESL and ESD courses, as well as in English courses, as outlined in the discussion document; and

"Whereas the proposals of anti-discrimination education, as outlined in the discussion document, are virtually meaningless;

"We, the undersigned, wish to express our great dismay and opposition to these proposed changes and urge the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training to reconsider these ill-advised changes."


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition which is addressed to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We, the following undersigned citizens, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"Whereas the Harris government has initiated the workfare program; and

"Whereas the unemployment rate in the province of Ontario increased by 57,000 in the month of September 1996, giving a clear indication that there is a need for job creation; and

"Whereas the majority of welfare recipients do want to work and there is no evidence that workfare will create permanent jobs; and

"Whereas we believe workfare will eliminate permanent jobs;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario abandon its workfare program and concentrate on job creation."

This is signed by 18 residents of the city of Timmins. I have signed it as well, and I agree with the petitioners.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition that reads as follows:

"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; and

"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; and

"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 over $40 million in funding for Niagara hospitals when carrying out its study; 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 affix my signature as I'm in complete agreement with this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have further thousands of letters and petitions from auto workers in Windsor, another part of the province that opposes this government's anti-worker agenda. This was forwarded to me by Dave Crosswell, who is the political education chairperson for Local 200, CAW, on behalf of Alex Keeney, the president, and the thousands of members there.

The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government has recommended that the occupational disease panel be `eliminated' even though the panel has proven to be a major source of prevention because occupational disease cannot be prevented unless its causes are fully researched; and

"Whereas members of the CAW have known for some time about the dangers of exposure to machining fluids; and

"Whereas the Ontario Disease Panel has researched this issue and confirmed our belief that machining fluids cause laryngeal cancer and that this important research has enabled us to prevent our members from getting cancer of the larynx; and

"Whereas the Ontario Disease Report on laryngeal cancer was released over a year ago but the WCB has still not adopted it;

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

"That the Minister of Labour direct the WCB to adopt this report on laryngeal cancer and that the Ontario Disease Panel and its research functions be maintained and not integrated into the Workers' Compensation Board."

I add my name to theirs on behalf of my colleagues.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep receiving petitions against the $2 user fee that is levied against seniors. This reads:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has started to charge seniors a $2 user fee for each prescription filled since July 15, 1996; 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 copayment will not compensate for the suffering and misery caused by this user fee or the painstaking task involved to fill out the application forms...."

Then it goes on with one paragraph in Portuguese.

Remarks in Portuguese.

Finally, it ends by saying:

"We, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge this government 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."

You know what? I'm signing my signature to this petition because I agree with its contents.


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

"Whereas the constitution of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario states that, `We believe in and accept our responsibility for the preservation of...and the conservation and renewal of our environment for present and future generations'; and

"Whereas the Common Sense Revolution makes no mention of the environment, and thus this government has no mandate for the systemic dismantling of Ontario's environmental regulations; and

"Whereas protection of the environment, especially as it relates to human health, continues to be a serious concern for Ontarians; and

"Whereas prevention of air and water pollution is linked to prevention of cancer and other deadly diseases; and

"Whereas the minister's decision to return large-scale waste incineration to Ontario will inevitably lead to an increase in atmospheric toxins; and

"Whereas the Minister of Environment continues to preside over the destruction of a three-decade-long legacy of environmental legislation;

"We, the undersigned, humbly request that the Premier of Ontario immediately request the resignation of the Minister of Environment."

This is signed by 10 residents of the riding of Sudbury East. I have affixed my signature to it and I agree with the petitioners.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the NDP government under former Premier Bob Rae passed legislation, Bill 181, the Ammunition Regulation Act, placing restrictions on the sale of ammunition in Ontario; and

"Whereas the provisions contained in Bill 181 are time-consuming, onerous and create unnecessary red tape; and

"Whereas the records for which these provisions have been produced do not track criminals; and

"Whereas Bill 181 was passed in only one day, without any discussion with law-abiding gun owners such as farmers, collectors, hunters and recreational shooters, who understand and have a deep respect for the power of firearms and ammunition and the need to maintain and use their equipment in the safest of conditions; and

"Whereas Bill 181 will do nothing to combat the use of illegal ammunition;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to repeal Bill 181, protect the rights of responsible firearms owners and work for tougher penalties against weapons offences."

I have signed this and I did not vote for Bill 181.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have another petition dealing with hospitals, which says:

"Whereas the Conservative government of Mike Harris has closed three out of five hospitals in Thunder Bay and two out of three hospitals in Sudbury; and

"Whereas drastic funding cuts to hospitals across Ontario are intimidating hospital boards, district health councils and local hospital restructuring commissions into considering the closing of local hospitals; and

"Whereas hospitals in the Niagara region have provided an outstanding essential service to patients and have been important facilities for medical staff to treat the residents of the Niagara Peninsula and will be required for people in Niagara for years to come; and

"Whereas the population of Niagara is on average older than that in most areas of the province;

"We, the undersigned, call upon the Minister of Health to restore adequate funding to hospitals in the Niagara region and guarantee that his government will not close any hospitals in the Niagara Peninsula."

I affix my signature as I am in complete agreement with this petition.



Mr Snobelen moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 104, an Act to improve the accountability, effectiveness and quality of Ontario's school system by permitting a reduction in the number of school boards, establishing an Education Improvement Commission to oversee the transition to the new system, providing for certain matters related to elections in 1997 and making other improvements to the Education Act and the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 / Loi de 1997 visant à accroître l'obligation de rendre compte, l'efficacité et la qualité du système scolaire ontarien en permettant la réduction du nombre des conseils scolaires, en créant la Commission d'amélioration de l'éducation, chargée d'encadrer la transition vers le nouveau système, en prévoyant certaines questions liées aux élections de 1997 et en apportant d'autres améliorations à la Loi sur l'éducation et à la Loi de 1996 sur les élections municipales.

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

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members; this will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1533 to 1538.

The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time until your names are called.


Arnott, Ted

Gilchrist, Steve

Murdoch, Bill

Baird, John R.

Grimmett, Bill

Mushinski, Marilyn

Barrett, Toby

Hardeman, Ernie

Newman, Dan

Bassett, Isabel

Harnick, Charles

O'Toole, John

Beaubien, Marcel

Hastings, John

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Boushy, Dave

Hudak, Tim

Parker, John L.

Brown, Jim

Jackson, Cameron

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Carr, Gary

Johns, Helen

Ross, Lillian

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, Bert

Sampson, Rob

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, David

Shea, Derwyn

Clement, Tony

Johnson, Ron

Sheehan, Frank

Cunningham, Dianne

Jordan, W. Leo

Skarica, Toni

Danford, Harry

Kells, Morley

Smith, Bruce

DeFaria, Carl

Klees, Frank

Spina, Joseph

Doyle, Ed

Leach, Al

Tsubouchi, David H.

Elliott, Brenda

Leadston, Gary L.

Turnbull, David

Eves, Ernie L.

Marland, Margaret

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Witmer, Elizabeth

Flaherty, Jim

Maves, Bart

Young, Terence H.

Froese, Tom

Munro, Julia


The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will rise one at a time until your name is called.


Bisson, Gilles

Gerretsen, John

McGuinty, Dalton

Boyd, Marion

Grandmaître, Bernard

McLeod, Lyn

Bradley, James J.

Gravelle, Michael

Miclash, Frank

Brown, Michael A.

Hampton, Howard

Patten, Richard

Caplan, Elinor

Hoy, Pat

Phillips, Gerry

Castrilli, Annamarie

Kennedy, Gerard

Pouliot, Gilles

Christopherson, David

Kormos, Peter

Ruprecht, Tony

Cleary, John C.

Kwinter, Monte

Silipo, Tony

Colle, Mike

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Wildman, Bud

Crozier, Bruce

Marchese, Rosario

Wood, Len

Curling, Alvin

Martel, Shelley


Duncan, Dwight

Martin, Tony


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 59, the nays are 34.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 84, An Act to promote Fire Prevention and Public Safety in Ontario and to amend and repeal certain other Acts relating to Fire Services / Projet de loi 84, Loi visant à promouvoir la prévention des incendies et la sécurité publique en Ontario et modifiant ou abrogeant certaines autres lois relatives aux services de lutte contre les incendies.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have about four minutes left to summarize what is our leadoff speech on Bill 84. The last time I was speaking we outlined a number of very serious concerns throughout this bill. Let me just say that the primary concern that firefighters, fire chiefs, legislators and, I would say, the general community have is whether or not this bill will, as the minister claims, improve our fire protection and prevention within the province. That has to be the focus that we have as we discuss Bill 84.

Quite clearly, it is our belief that there are elements and implications within Bill 84 which put at risk the levels of fire protection that Ontarians have learned to expect and on which we all rely. Some of those issues arise because of the way in which this government is insisting on delivering what they call flexibility to municipalities at the same time that they are withdrawing the huge proportion of grants from municipalities and the ability, frankly, to tax citizens of municipalities appropriately to provide these services.

It is our belief that by the twinned provisions around allowing part-time firefighters and allowing fire chiefs to call in part-time firefighters to assist at what they define loosely as a major emergency makes it possible for a slowdown in response time. A slowdown in response time is an essential worry for all of us. Inquest after inquest has shown us that that first response time is the key to saving lives and to saving property. A fire doubles in size and intensity with each minute of delay. Four minutes in a smoke-filled room, deprived of oxygen, and our brains die. Left too long, fires burn out of control. They destroy homes and entire communities. The issue of response time, the issue of how that is going to be improved rather than endangered, as we believe it is under Bill 84, is enormously important.

It is also our belief that those very provisions around part-time firefighters and the whole issue of calling people in for major occurrences jeopardize the teamwork on which public safety relies. By enabling municipalities to tamper with the firefighting system that has been developed by professional firefighters over time and is used across Ontario today, Bill 84 absolutely makes it impossible for us to guarantee that the kind of teamwork that we expect from organized and efficient fire services will continue to exist.

Frankly, this bill has the potential to put families and communities at risk. It is important that the government understand that is why we are calling, as are the firefighters, the fire chiefs and many municipalities that have concerns, for full public hearings on this bill, this bill alone. This bill should be our focus of attention around public safety, around fire protection and fire prevention. It should go out to municipalities across the province because our municipalities are unique in the way they have developed fire services and the way in which they need to be protected because of their differing characteristics.

It is important, and I call upon the government, to reassure firefighters, to reassure the opposition and the communities our firefighters serve that they will have a full opportunity to discuss this bill and their concerns about it in full public hearings; that this bill will not be lumped in with a bill yet to be introduced around civilian control of the police, will not be looked at within a lump of other public safety issues but will get the attention that was guaranteed by the Solicitor General to the firefighters and the fire chiefs when this bill was introduced.


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

Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): I'll be very brief. I just want to thank the member. She spent about 90 minutes going through, point by point, some of the issues, and I can assure you that we take her points very seriously. In fact, I sent a copy of the Hansard over to the ministry staff, and there will be a bit of a reply coming back. I thank the member and will look forward to going on with the debate over the next little while and leading up to the committee as well.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I'd like to congratulate our critic responsible for the Solicitor General in this particular piece of legislation. Most people in the services of firefighting would know that Marion Boyd, the member for London Centre, has done a lot of work across Ontario in this particular area. I think she recognizes, because of her unique perspective of being the prior Attorney General under the NDP government, and understands the legalities involved with legislation, but more practically what it means from the anecdotal evidence and the work she's done with firefighters and fire chiefs across this province in looking at what this legislation does. If you listened, first of all prior to Christmas, to the lead part of her speech and to what she said in the short four or five minutes she had now, she really brings us down to the fundamental issue: a question of safety for the citizens of Ontario.

We can at this point sleep well at night knowing we have firefighters in this province who are professional firefighters, who are trained to do the job and by and large get the funding and support they need, both from the municipal levels of government and the province, in making sure that fire services in this province are second to none. We know that if there's a fire call, the firefighters who will come to fight that fire are able to do so both because of their professionalism and the support they get from the provincial and municipal levels of government.

All this is about the change, because this legislation, in short, allows municipalities, through enabling legislation of the province, to do a number of things that will diminish the safety of the citizens of this province by allowing, among other things, a lowering of the number of professional firefighters and changing a number of regulations that exist within current acts about how safety is approached from a fire services perspective.

I hope that the members in the government have listened to the member and taken some of her comments to be able to make the changes that are necessary in this legislation.

The Deputy Speaker: Windup.

Mrs Boyd: I'd like to thank the member for Oakville and the member for Cochrane South for their kind comments. I think that is the issue we need to keep in front of our minds. All of us know that as time goes on, the requirements for us to protect our changing communities change dramatically.

We know that firefighters not only fight traditional fires but do a great deal of the emergency and rescue work in all of our communities. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in areas that are served by professional firefighters have come to rely on those professional firefighters in a way that has become quite subconscious. We don't think about it often enough.

Hopefully, as we go through the discussion of this bill, we will come to appreciate more and more the dangers they face every day, the professionalism and the training that's required to deal with new substances that may cause problems, as in chemical spills, as in some of the very hazardous situations they face.

I hope we will come to appreciate the level of training, the level of teamwork that is required, and that if we expect those services to be there to preserve our public safety, we as a community must be prepared to support those services.

This is the time, if ever there was one, for the people of Ontario to show their support for the very professional services that are under discussion in Bill 84. It is important for every citizen to inform himself or herself about the implications of this bill and take advantage of the opportunity to show support for their professional firefighters, for their volunteer firefighters, as this bill travels around for discussion within our communities.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): It's certainly a pleasure today as well to speak to Bill 84 briefly; for the next few minutes at least. The member for London Centre spoke on this issue at some length prior to the Christmas break and did so from a very insightful and constructive viewpoint. I congratulate her on doing so.

I admit that I'm addressing this issue from two different perspectives: first, as a government member who strongly supports the general thrust of the bill, and second, from the perspective of a person who has had a career in municipal administration and some experience with this issue as well as a personal interest in the administration of fire services in this province, at the municipal level at least. I freely admit that I address this matter from perhaps two different points of view.

The reality is that this bill is very timely in the sense that it's been nearly 50 years since some major issues surrounding fire services in this province have been adequately dealt with. Therefore, change is very much long overdue.

The bill is consistent with the government's commitment to redefine the role and function of local government, and this is a very appropriate application in that regard.

Based on that premise, the bill is focused on the principle that municipalities are essentially responsible for arranging fire services according to their own needs and circumstances. Second, the primary role of the province will be to provide a leadership or support function to municipalities in the exercise of their duty.

The third general objective, and perhaps the most important, is that the focus of this bill provides a strong direction with respect to fire prevention and public education. I believe it is important that we remember that more than 30 coroners' juries have called for a more coordinated approach to fire safety and fire prevention in this province. The office of the fire marshal indicates that some 80% of fires are accidental and could have been prevented with greater fire prevention and education.

I think also that all members of this House would agree that too often we awake to the news of an overnight fire to see and hear about human loss of life or injury, the loss of personal belongings as well as property, only to have that news clip end with a fire official in a particular community emphasizing the need for public safety, education and the use of smoke detectors; too often a common occurrence that we see in our media.

Therefore, I feel public education and awareness are very critical to our efforts to combat injury associated with fire, and I certainly congratulate the Solicitor General for his efforts and his aggressive pursuit of this initiative as it applies to the education and prevention component in a very meaningful way.

Apart from the general themes, it's important to recognize that the backbone of our fire services in this province is reliant on some 26,000 firefighters. This includes firefighters in both volunteer and full-time capacities. I want to reflect upon that briefly for a moment.

From a volunteer perspective, I must say that I've had some direct experience with volunteer departments and have observed many changes with respect to the services they provide. First, they obviously bring an immense commitment to the community and the responsibilities they hold within their community. They hold an immense sense of pride in their abilities and the equipment they're provided with by their municipal councils.

They are certainly a group of individuals who continue to respond to the demands of fire services, demands which have witnessed the transition from what I would have to describe generally as fire suppression and protection to vehicular extraction, medical emergencies and community awareness activities; a wide-range transition and one that has been greeted very positively by the many volunteers who exist in this province.

This is a group of individuals who are routinely involved in community charity events, a group of individuals numbering approximately 18,000 in this province, representing nearly a $1-billion asset to the province as well.

I'm certainly encouraged by any government effort which provides volunteers with the necessary tools to fulfil responsibilities that they currently have and those responsibilities that may be presented to them in the future.

From a different perspective, I think it's important to recognize the professional services that are provided to us in this province. Again, these are individuals who are intensely committed to their profession, intensely committed to the community they serve and equally intensely committed to the safety and wellbeing of their own colleagues. All of these are commendable attributes.

On a personal basis, I have met with the representatives of the London professional firefighters and I think it's important on their behalf to make a few comments. Some of their comments I agree with and I know they will disagree with some of my personal views.


I'd have to say from an initial perspective that you will not, in my mind at least, find a firefighter in this province, in the city of London, in a voluntary or professional capacity, who would not support any initiative for the enhancement of public education and fire prevention. That is simply not an issue with many fire professionals in this province. They are involved in this exercise now. They are involved in our schools, in our businesses, they're at fairs, they're at special events, and this is not a new part of the responsibilities they currently hold. I think it's important that we recognize this, because too often it's easily forgotten.

Secondly, I think it's important to recognize that professional firefighters, at least in my community, have some genuine concerns, primarily with section 9 of the bill. Firefighters in my community have expressed both concern and opposition in general, and they are equally concerned about the language, the clarity and lack of definition, as they believe, in the legislation. On that basis I trust that public hearings would provide an opportunity for professional firefighters to express and air their concerns and pose alternative solutions if the ones presented are not satisfactory.

I must say, and I respectfully do so, that I appreciate the frankness of the conversations I have had with the executive representatives of the London Professional Fire Fighters Association and certainly appreciate their continued professionalism as they debate this issue with myself and, I hope, before a standing committee of this Legislature.

Briefly, in the time I have left, and as I mentioned I have only a few minutes to speak to this legislation this afternoon, I think it's important that we recognize a very positive component of the bill, and that deals with the establishment and enhancement and strengthening of the Public Fire Safety Council. The legislation establishes the council in statute, including the ability of the council to contract in its own name, to enter into revenue-generating partnerships with the private sector and the ability to receive, retain and disburse moneys to promote fire safety in our communities. I believe these are immense improvements that will result directly in a benefit to the public and our communities at large.

The proposed changes as outlined in Bill 84 will provide an increased profile for public fire safety in this province. They will establish a public education fund for the development and implementation of province-wide public education programs at no cost to the taxpayer. Also, they will enable the council to receive private donations and engage in partnership activities, assist municipalities in the development and delivery of local public education activities, thereby reducing costs to municipal taxpayers, and certainly improve public safety by ensuring that the public receives a continued and consistent message about public safety. This will create an awareness about fire safety hazards, emphasize individual responsibility and provide appropriate information on how to ensure everyone is safe from fire and the hazards associated with it.

To conclude, it's certainly my belief that Bill 84, as we've come to know it as the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, is perhaps one of the strongest pieces of legislation of its kind in this country. Again, from a timing perspective, change is long overdue. No government has acted in almost 50 years, and certainly I commend the Solicitor General and this government in their determination to ensure that the interests of the public are protected with respect to fire safety and prevention.

Under the act municipalities will provide Ontarians with the best possible level of safety from fire in the most efficient way: by placing priority on fire prevention and public education. The act will streamline legislation affecting fire prevention in Ontario by consolidating no less than nine separate statutes. This consolidation will provide a straightforward legislative framework for fire protection in this province. Finally, the bill demonstrates our commitment to public safety by placing a priority on fire protection services, especially fire prevention and public education.

To conclude, I think that in a very concise manner this bill provides some very necessary tools to fire services in this province, and its focus and aim on fire prevention and safety are key and important steps to the future of the public in this province and their understanding and awareness of the hazards associated with fire and its related implications.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments? There being none, any further debate?

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's a pleasure for me to take a few minutes to speak to Bill 84, the fire services protection bill, and to resume debate on it. We have had a bit of a break, of course, since having adjourned in mid-December. I'm sure that those watching, as well as those in the Legislature today, would want us to reconfirm the points of the bill that we are all speaking to as we continue with second reading.

I want to start by pointing out some concerns we have received from the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. I think all of us -- in fact, I'm sure there's unanimous agreement on this: If this bill's going to do anything, it certainly must keep foremost its objective, that being public safety in the province of Ontario.

The concerns the professional firefighters have -- I will address some of these as I go through comments -- are, first, that Bill 84 puts at risk the levels of fire protection Ontarians expect and rely on. We certainly have to make sure that we do not reduce those levels of fire protection and that we do not put our citizens at risk in anything that may be contained in this bill.

The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association also is concerned that Bill 84 puts lives at risk by slowing down response time. Their suggestion is that this bill opens the door to understaffing of firehalls and reducing the fire services in a municipality, and response time is crucial. We want to be sure and we all want to be reassured that this bill does not put that at risk. I support the view that's been put by others that this bill should go to public discussion so that anyone who has concerns about the bill might speak to those concerns.

They point out, and this is an interesting fact, that a fire can double in size and intensity with each minute of delay. We think of the very best response you might have if you live only blocks away from a fire department -- the very best response will take several minutes -- and how quickly a fire can grow in that length of time. They go on to say that four minutes in a smoke-filled room, deprived of oxygen, and the brain begins to die. Left too long, fires can burn out of control, destroying homes and entire communities. We certainly are aware of that and we see every day where heroic rescues are made by our fire protection services in the province, where firefighters put their own lives at risk so they may attempt to save the lives of others and, with very few exceptions, do an outstanding job. So that I may not be misunderstood, they do an outstanding job regardless, but with very few exceptions are they unable to rescue individuals from fires. That of course depends to a great extent on the response time they're able to achieve.

Bill 84, the professional firefighters suggest, jeopardizes the teamwork that saves lives by enabling municipalities to tamper with the firefighting system used across the province today. Bill 84 throws a monkey wrench into our efficient organized system of firefighting.

It's suggested that Bill 84 puts families at risk. Communities may find themselves served by part-time firefighters who don't have the training and experience of full-time professionals, and Bill 84 means a greater risk to firefighters.


So that those concerns may be answered -- and I'm not suggesting that there are not parts of this bill that might be amended so that those concerns can be alleviated -- we agree that a bill of this magnitude, a bill of this concern to all of us, a bill of this importance should go to public hearings so that all experienced and professional persons concerned might have an opportunity to speak to the bill.

Fire protection services include fire suppression, fire prevention, fire safety education, communication, training of persons involved in the provision of fire protection services, rescue and emergency services, and the delivery of all those services.

I come from a community where all my life fire services have been thought of as those men and women who respond to fire emergencies in our community, and when they are called it is essentially to extinguish fires. Over a period of years, we have come to know that firefighters in our communities not only fight fires but respond to calls of automobile accidents where individuals need to be removed from a damaged vehicle. It's usually the firefighters in the community who do that. Through contributions from various organizations, for example, in the small urban and rural communities, from the contributions of service organizations, fire departments and firefighters have had equipment upgraded, have been able to do this, have been able to carry out rescue operations when it comes to automobile accidents.

As well, over the years the firefighters in the communities I am familiar with along Lake Erie have been called upon to do rescue work on the lake. Fortunately, again, through the forward thinking of the communities involved, where they've supplied them with the apparatus, the boats, the equipment they need to carry out these rescues, they have been able to do that and expand their emergency services.

We all know, or we should, those of us who live on bodies of water, that fire departments are also called upon not only to carry out the initial rescue operation on water but to carry out that very unfortunate task of looking for missing persons in the lake.

All of these things have expanded well beyond what was thought of some years ago as strictly firefighting services. They have become known as being at the forefront of the protection of the citizens in their community, whether it be from fire, disaster, automobile accidents or tragedies on the lake. Firefighters are involved in all of these operations, particularly in small urban and rural communities.

It may be that in a city like Toronto, which is also on the lake, they have specialized services. It may be that the coast guard or the armed services are more readily available to carry out some of these tasks. But in small urban and rural Ontario -- and I speak more specifically of Essex county, which is surrounded on three sides by water -- these responsibilities have often fallen to the local firefighters in the community. We want to continue to provide them with the proper legislation so that they can do this, with the proper equipment with which they can do this, and we certainly don't want to hinder them in any way.

It may interest some to know that in the past not all communities provided fire protection services for their residents; they haven't been required to. Certainly one aspect of this bill that I support is in part II, where it lists the responsibility of fire protection services:

"Every municipality shall,

"(a) establish a program in the municipality which must include public education with respect to fire safety and certain components of fire prevention; and

"(b) provide such other fire protection services as it determines may be necessary in accordance with its needs and circumstances."

I think it's extremely important that we now define the responsibility of municipalities to provide those kinds of services. Of course, that's easy to say. It's easy to say to municipalities, "You have to provide such services." What we'll run into, no doubt, and the municipalities will have to solve this problem, is, where do they find the money to provide those services?

With the provincial government providing less and less support financially for municipalities, this is going to put an extra burden on those municipalities. I have concern on one hand about legislation that requires a municipality to do a certain thing, to carry out a certain responsibility, but doesn't address where the funding will come from to provide those services.

In reviewing this bill, we see of course that it consolidates and repeals nine separate acts relating to fire services into one piece of legislation. The following legislation will be affected in this manner: the Accidental Fires Act; the Egress from Public Buildings Act; the Fire Accidents Act; the Fire Departments Act; the Firefighters Exemption Act; the Firefighters Protection Act, 1993; the Fire Marshals Act; the Hotel Fire Safety Act; and the Lightning Rods Act. They are all affected by this legislation. I only point that out; in fact, rather than having to go to all of these separate acts to determine responsibility and regulations in the province, it's probably best that we have one act that covers all of this.

As I mentioned earlier, part II of the bill deals with a municipality's responsibility for fire protection services. Subsection 2(1) requires every municipality to establish, at a minimum, a fire safety public education program. They may also provide other fire protection services such as fire suppression, rescue and emergency services, which I have spoken to, if they're deemed necessary. The bill also requires each municipality to appoint a fire safety officer or a team or to establish a fire department, depending on their needs.

Fire safety officers would provide fire prevention and fire safety public education programs, fire departments would actually provide the fire suppression and other emergency services and protection services, and the fire marshal would of course be available to advise these municipalities on their needs, what level and what type of services they require.

As some help to those municipalities which have not had fire protection or emergency service protection such as this in the past, two or more municipalities may share a community safety officer or team or a fire department. Such arrangements, of course, would permit fire departments to respond to fires and emergencies regardless of the municipal boundaries.

In small urban and rural Ontario, we have had mutual aid agreements that have enabled municipalities to share these responsibilities in time of extreme emergency with adjoining municipalities. In Essex county, the mutual aid provides for a stepped response to an emergency in a community depending upon its size so that they can then call on fire departments and fire protection services in other communities to assist them.

This mutual aid agreement of course needs to be in place because at one point where you're assisting one fire department and you're moving equipment out of your own community to do this, you don't want to leave your community unprotected. In the past mutual aid agreements have been very helpful in providing enhanced protection services to various communities through these agreements.


Of course, the fire marshal may also enter into agreements to provide fire protection services to areas that do not have a municipal organization. To those of us who live in the southern part of the province, or my experience in the southwestern part of the province is that we kind of take for granted from time to time that we have these municipal organizations, we're close together -- in fact there's some suggestion these days, and it's being worked on, that we have too many municipal organizations -- but we take for granted that it's easy to organize these kinds of things in a densely populated area, where it may not be so easy when it comes to other regions of the province.

It also should be noted that municipalities that were not previously required to provide fire services will be required to do so. It's quite unlikely that they'll receive, as I've pointed out, any additional financial support from the provincial government, so these new responsibilities need to be looked at very carefully. They need to plan for them very carefully and they therefore will welcome the opportunity, I'm sure, to share this among the various municipalities in their area.

Part III of the bill sets out the powers and duties of the fire marshal and permits the delegation of certain functions to other persons.

Part IV permits the minister to establish a fire code for Ontario.

Part V permits entry on to lands and premises in emergencies and for fire investigations. Firefighters or other authorized persons may enter without a warrant on various lands and premises for the purpose of fighting a fire, providing rescue or emergency services or removing a serious threat to life or the environment.

Some might say that should go without question, yet I can think of an example near my own community where the fire department had some great difficulty in entering on land to put out a fire, for what reason I can't imagine, but in this case the individual simply did not want the fire department to enter on those lands. They certainly should without question and without concern about the consequences be able to do that.

Municipalities will also be able to enter into automatic aid agreements, permitting firefighting or rescue service to be provided automatically with or without a warrant on premises beyond the territorial limits of the fire department.

Entry without a warrant on lands or premises is also permitted for the purposes of investigating the cause of a fire. The use of force is not permitted for such purposes, but the section permits the fire marshal or a fire chief to apply for a search warrant if access is denied.

We have to consider that under extreme circumstances it may be that someone may not want the fire marshal's office to come on their property to investigate a fire. I certainly would hope that those cases would be extreme and small in number but, as well as with other parts of this act, the fire marshal's department has to be able to do this without concern down the road for any liability that they might have had in the past.

Part VI deals with inspections and permits the inspection without a warrant of land and premises for the purposes of assessing fire safety. The fire marshal and assistant fire marshal or a fire chief is an inspector for these purposes. I think that's one of the more important things this act allows, because if we are to assist our fire services at all in making the province and our communities a safer place to live and work, we must give them the authority to inspect residences and buildings for fire safety.

I suppose each of us who has been involved at a municipal level in the past would not be surprised that this would have to be written into the legislation because, strangely enough, there are individuals in our communities who don't see fire protection and fire safety as one of their foremost responsibilities and therefore have been reluctant to allow the fire marshal's office and/or fire chiefs and fire departments to enter upon their property and to advise them, and in some cases require them, to adhere to certain fire safety standards.

We may not appreciate always why land owners, property owners, may feel this way, but we have to support our fire services in this area because that obviously is a great step towards the objective of any of this sort of legislation, and that is that the safety of our citizens be foremost.

To that end, part VII of the bill deals with offences and enforcement, because always with the regulations that allow these fire safety codes to be put into effect we have, unfortunately, to have offences and enforcement legislation. It's an offence to hinder or obstruct the fire marshal, their assistant, or a fire chief, from the performance of their duties; to prevent an inspector from carrying out an inspection and to fail to cooperate with or mislead an inspector; to contravene the legislation or regulations thereto; or to disobey the orders of the fire marshal, their assistant or a fire chief. Individuals convicted of an offence may pay fines of up to $10,000 or go to prison for up to a year, or both. Corporations may be fined up to $50,000.

We have to give those kinds of tools to the fire regulators in our province so that they can in good conscience carry out their duties, and if you don't comply with those rules and regulations, then they can be supported and know that they can be supported by adequate fines and/or convictions.

I know there's much more to this bill because it is, in effect, an omnibus bill in that it covers so many pieces of previous legislation. I merely wanted to take the opportunity to point out that there are some differences between large urban municipalities and the protection services they have in place with individual groups and that fire protection, emergency services and the like need to be carried out by one department in a small community, and in many cases not by professional full-time firefighters, but by what I call professional volunteer firefighters.

I hope this bill will go to public hearings so that we will be able to hear from the municipalities who are affected and from the professional full-time firefighters in this province as to their concerns about the bill -- and I'm sure their concerns will only be intended to enhance the bill -- and that we also will be able to hear from those professional volunteer firefighters in our province who serve with their time, effort and energy, and indeed risk their lives for the small urban and rural municipalities in our province.

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

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity to stand after the Christmas break and get back into the fray here in this place on this bill and to congratulate the member from Windsor on the comments he made --

Mr Crozier: Leamington.

Mr Martin: Leamington.

Mr Crozier: Essex South.

Mr Martin: Essex South. Okay, let's get that straight. It's been a long holiday, I guess -- and to agree with him that there are aspects of this bill that create tremendous anxiety out there in the minds and the lives of all kinds of people. Anybody in a community in this province who has a concern about the very nature of the way we respond to fires and crises of that nature in our communities will be anxious to know that this bill will diminish over time the ability of the very professional firefighters that we have in our communities today, firefighters who put their lives at risk every day of their lives to protect us, protect the general public, and who either get paid to do that or do it as a volunteer. This bill, by their own critical judgement of it, will not enhance their ability to do this job but will in fact diminish their ability to do the job.

This bill, like every other bill this government is bringing forward, is about reducing the level of service that government delivers to the people of the province. It's about saving money, and at what cost? It's about diminishing those things that we collectively have decided to pool our money to make sure every community has. The unfortunate part about all of this, as has been the case since these folks were elected in June 1995, is that there's absolutely nothing, it seems, we can do about it; it's happening and it's going to happen.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I too listened carefully, as I did to earlier speakers not only today but before the House broke for the Christmas break. I've got to tell you, I've also listened to the speeches and the comments made by government members, government backbenchers, and I can't help but think that the government backbenchers, when they've spoken to Bill 84, have done so with sincerity in terms of their personal support -- I believe that -- for firefighters, but I think they've been duped on this issue, as they have on so many others. They've been sold a bill of goods by the spin doctors in their own leader's office.

I listened to my colleague from Middlesex a few minutes ago as a government member, a very eloquent speech. He waxed on about his support for firefighters, and I have no quarrel with that. The problem is that Bill 84 doesn't do the things that he and other Tory backbenchers say it does, and it does a whole lot of things that they're afraid to acknowledge. This bill is not a pro-public-safety bill; it's certainly not a pro-firefighter bill; it's certainly not a pro-community bill.

This is all part and parcel of the agenda that we've witnessed here for, yes, a year and a half now. I suppose the key legislation was Bill 26. But we see by way of Bill 84 and then today by way of Bill 104, which as you know the opposition members voted against even on first reading, the beginning of the end, an end that's going to be coming very soon to public services, including public firefighting services, public professional firefighting services, here in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? The member for Essex South, you can sum up.

Mr Crozier: As I said at the outset, I just appreciate the opportunity to be able to take a few minutes today to speak to the bill and to emphasize that it's of such importance and concern not just to the citizens of the province and not just to the government and/or the municipalities. This bill is of great concern to the thousands of firefighters across this province who each day in one form or another serve us and who in many instances put their lives on the line for us. It's important that we give the opportunity for each of those groups, being the firefighters and the municipalities themselves and the citizens, to give their input to such an important bill. So I would hope that at the conclusion of second reading and in the break this spring -- I don't know whether it will be the summer break now that we're into our spring session, but that we be given the opportunity to debate the seriousness of this bill in a public forum before it's passed in its final form.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Kormos: The spring session is what this was referred to as. I beg to differ, sir. This is winter. Trust me. Down where I come from in Welland, we know it's winter. It's cold. It's the winter session, and then following this will be the spring session and then the summer session and then the fall session. Then we'll start the winter session again.

I suppose it's a little bit interesting that this is being called for debate again on the same day that Bill 104 is read for first reading. I was telling you a few minutes ago, Speaker, about how Bill 104 is part of that succession of bills that seem to have had their foundation laid by Bill 26, which seems like a horribly long time ago, quite frankly. The last year and a half has not gone by quickly by any stretch of the imagination. Day in and day out we've seen public services and communities under attack on an escalating level.

I've talked to people who tell me they supported the Conservatives in the last provincial election but at a level which they never anticipated or they never intended to endorse by virtue of their having elected Conservative members to the Legislature. I find it remarkable that we are even beginning to hear in some of the bastions of support -- they were the bastions of support for the Common Sense Revolution -- some of the radio talk shows, which were very critical and had been throughout the term of the last government and very supportive of Tory candidates, similarly now find themselves expressing increasing concern.

Again, I don't want to in any way suggest that the nature of the weekend in terms of the weather and the snow was not fierce in northern Ontario -- I'm sure it was -- but I'll tell you what we learned down in Welland as a result of what has been happening to funding for municipalities. What happened in Welland this past weekend after a heavy snowfall, much of it what they call the lake effect coming up from Buffalo, an intensely heavy snowfall blocking roads and roadways, was that the people of the community became aware in a very acute way of the policy that had been adopted and had been forced upon Welland city council last year.

This policy dictated that there wasn't going to be snow removal on weekends or during any period of time when there was a requirement to pay workers overtime other than for bus routes. So down on Bald Street -- Bald Street is a side street; that's where a whole lot of good people live; I live there too -- and all the other side streets across the city -- Griffith Street, Regent Street, the whole nine yards, Springhead Gardens -- if it wasn't a bus route, it wasn't plowed. Even this morning when I left Welland, the street remained unplowed.

I suppose for me and my neighbours, the Wightmans or Ross Dickie and his wife across the road, it was inconvenient, but when I looked at the materials I had gathered on Bill 84 and reflected on what, let's say, firefighters or their colleagues in public safety, in public protection -- ambulance workers, paramedic types -- would have to confront if they were called out to an address on one of these side streets that hadn't been plowed, it would have surely hindered, inevitably delayed and possibly significantly obstructed the ability of firefighters or medical care people, ambulance workers or police to do their job.

Again, this is in southern Ontario. We from the south can't begin to imagine what I'm sure are similar cutbacks in municipalities across the north, what they have done for those sorts of essential services and the delivery of those services in places where they laugh at our snowfall and say: "What are you moaning about? You put it in four-wheel drive."

I reflected on that over the weekend and as I was driving up here to Toronto. As a matter of fact, I spoke with a couple of city councillors. We were over at the CAW hall on Friday night because Stelco as you know has been on strike. The Stelco workers, for several weeks now, have been fighting a company that's dug its heels in, that feels it's received licence, a blank cheque from this government, to treat workers any way it wants to, that forced them into a strike position, not negotiating with them, and is denying them the right to even a basic decent pension and the most modest of demands for wage increases.


As a matter of fact, I met Cindy Forster, councillor for ward 3, because she was over at the CAW hall. There was a spaghetti dinner on Friday evening from 4 to 7. The CAW, that local, is going to be holding these dinners for their workers and their families every Friday as often as they can. The Commisso Food Terminal donated the food and the workers and their partners, their spouses and their families, prepared themselves a spaghetti dinner. That's when the snowfall became acute. It was Friday afternoon. I drove over to the old UE hall, it's now the CAW hall, down on Steel Street because I wanted to just say hello to these people and wish them a happy new year. But that's where the snow conditions struck me. Mind you, they'd only just begun, but that's when I first spoke to one of our city councillors, who explained that the city of Welland was forced, because of this province's cutbacks, into suspending snow removal on anything that wasn't a bus route and only to permit snow removal on the balance of the streets during Monday to Friday, I suppose, normal daily working hours.

I appreciate that you've got to push or help your neighbour push his truck out. I don't have to help my neighbour, he's got a four-wheel drive, but somebody has to help me push my truck out of a snow bank. That in itself isn't a problem. But when you think about the elderly, when you think about people with disabilities, when you think about how unsafe it is for children travelling about, going to school, going to their friend's home, going to the Y, what have you, to have to walk through snowdrifts and expose themselves to cars or vehicles slipping and sliding down the street, it's no longer just an inconvenience.

A whole lot of talk has been made over the last year and a half by any number of opposition members. Our members from the north have raised significantly with the Minister of Transportation the impact of a reduced -- and we're not talking here about secondary streets within the city, we're talking about highways that passenger vehicles have to share with big transport trucks that are travelling internationally and working on tough time schedules. You've got to share those same highways, not residential streets but major highways, the only route available. School buses have to share them too, discharging kids. You've been up there; you know what it's like. There's a home here and then a plot of land and home over there and so on. So this weekend, especially contemplating the type of legislation we were going to be confronted with here today not only by way of Bill 104 -- wait till tomorrow.

There's a bomb that's going to be dropped down in Oakville. The Minister of Community and Social Services has got a press conference down there over on Bronte Road. I'm told that at the regional headquarters, at a press conference where it's going to be Nightmare at Queen's Park, Part II -- today was part I -- we're going to find out exactly what this government has in mind in terms of downloading the cost of funding general welfare assistance on to municipalities, a program that's provincially mandated. The act is there; the General Welfare Assistance Act is there. The municipality is going to have no choice about whether or not it's going to administer it or whether it's going to pay for it. It's simply going to be told, "You've got to pay for it."

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): It's a new hard service.

Mr Kormos: Yes, it was described today by the Minister of Municipal affairs as a hard service. Hard service, my foot. Give me a break. It's not a hard service. He's the minister. He should know better than that.

We're going to see the downloading of general welfare assistance, we're going to see the downloading of what we perceive to be, I suppose with any numbers of descriptions, municipal health care, long-term care, the sorts of things we want our folks, our grandparents, to be in in terms of regional seniors' homes, on to municipal property taxpayers, and we're going to see an attack, because that's what Bill 104 does. I'm going to get to Bill 84, Speaker. That's what Bill 104 does, the Minister of Education's bill today, part of the Premier's grand scheme for what is going to be a very different type of Ontario than our parents or grandparents worked so hard to build.

Bill 84 has been before the House for a considerable period of time; not a whole lot of debate yet. Our critic, Marion Boyd, only today finished her initial responses as the critic for the Ministry of the Solicitor General. I tell you, and I think I can speak for a whole lot of the members of this House, although it hasn't been on the floor for debate a whole lot yet, it has certainly attracted attention from people across this province and it certainly has attracted attention from firefighters, their families, people who are familiar with how important firefighters are to our communities and people who care about public health and safety. It's attracted a whole lot of attention from people who care about free collective bargaining rights and how this government once again is attacking collective bargaining, as it did in Bill 26, as it has been through the course of any number of labour bills presented by it and as it continues to do with Bill 84.

I might make mention of some of the letters that I receive, but I've also, as I think everybody here has, been visited by any number of firefighters. I tell you, they're welcome. I've been visited by them at home down in Welland, down on Bald Street, in the constituency office, when I've attended at firehalls for any number of functions, and here at Queen's Park. I remember one of the people who spent a whole lot -- as a matter of fact, for a long time, he's felt comfortable and free in giving me insight and advice. Henry Labenski down in Welland, who's now the vice-president for the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association in districts 1 to 4, which includes Welland and Niagara Falls, has been one of the guys who, not only with Bill 84, but every time an issue has come up around firefighters, has never hesitated to make sure that I understand the issue from the point of view of professional firefighters, those hardworking women and men. He certainly did that, along with his colleagues from both the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Welland fire department.

Down in the city of Welland we've got a city council that, because this government has crippled it, has cut it off at the knees, has said, "We don't care about local governance and we don't care about the integrity of municipalities and we don't care about community" -- that's what this government has said to cities like Welland and Thorold and Pelham. City council is being forced into contemplating the closure of one of the few firehalls we have. Those firehalls were built by Welland taxpayers, by hardworking people, by people who work in factories and hospitals and schools and who pay taxes knowing that those taxes are being used to protect all of the community, not just themselves, and for the betterment of all the community.

I appreciate that Ms Boyd canvassed the legislation very meticulously, as she is inclined to do. But I tell you, the proposition as put forth -- and I'm in accord, I agree, it's undeniable to understand that this bill that dares title itself as being -- sorry, Speaker?


Mr Kormos: Look, Speaker, you understand I got a little bit of heat with the Speaker earlier today and I wanted to make sure I wasn't offending you.

This bill dares call itself or title itself as being a bill concerned with public safety. One of the critical observations you've got to make is that this bill is going to undermine public safety. Firefighters have been working for a long time to develop concepts of minimum staffing, right? So you've got a reasonable number of staff on at any given point in time, and it becomes all the more crucial -- and again, Toronto is not like the rest of Ontario, but the rest of Ontario in some respects is going to be inclined to become more and more like Toronto. Heck, 20 or 25 years ago, Welland didn't have high-rise apartment buildings. Firefighters didn't have to concern themselves with the very special issues that are involved in high-rises. Yes, Welland does have high-rise apartments; so does Thorold, the seniors' residence. You've got multi-floor buildings, no longer just one- and two-level buildings where the demands on firefighting services are diminished.


Welland and Thorold are towns that have economies based on industry; granted, industry that's not as comfortable in the last year and a half as it should have been or could have been or would have been had it not been for the Tories, but industry that's still struggling along. Again, this puts very special demands on firefighters. This makes for an entirely new world for firefighters.

Many people have perhaps a very narrow vision of what firefighting consists of. You've got to spend some time with firefighters going to some of their annual meetings where they recount the number of calls they had that year and where those calls were to, and understand that they're involved in far more than just putting out fires. They become part of the first-line response to personal trauma, physical trauma, motor vehicle accidents, heart attacks, strokes, falls, serious ones. They become the first line of response, and people understand that down in Welland-Thorold; of course they do.

They are there when it comes to fire prevention, and that's what the firefighters have addressed with all of us. Some of us have listened. I'm afraid that others haven't. I'm afraid that some government backbenchers have simply tuned them out.

One of the things that the firefighters told, I'm confident at this point, every member of this Legislature, or at least every member who would accommodate them with a visit -- there may well have been some government members who wouldn't accommodate members of the professional firefighters from their community or from the two associations, wouldn't have accommodated them by way of a visit, yes, for the purpose of lobbying. But among other things, this bill is a betrayal of firefighters by Premier Mike Harris. They've got a videotape. Boy, have I become familiar with videotapes over the last short while. They don't lie. They've got a videotape of the Premier, Mike Harris, telling them that they would be consulted. They, not the fire marshal for Ontario, not the bureaucracy at the Ministry of the Solicitor General, not their chiefs of fire departments, but they, the professional firefighters, would be consulted.

They videotaped it. Pretty slick, if you want my view, because Mike Harris -- I'm sorry, the Premier, because he is the Premier for the moment -- can't run and hide from that. It's one I'm sure he wishes would simply evaporate, because there are other videotapes around. There's a videotape of the family support plan that I'm sure the Attorney General simply wishes would evaporate. But no, there are too many copies now. He can erase and erase and erase, and there is still going to be that next copy of the videotape of the family support plan left, just like there's going to be the next copy of the videotape of Mike Harris, as he was then, campaigning -- and by God, he went after firefighters during the election campaign. You know that, don't you? I understand. He campaigned, Speaker, and you know it because you saw him doing it, with firefighters. Mike Harris told firefighters they would be consulted before anything akin to Bill 84 was going to be put forward before this Legislature.

What's going to happen is that notwithstanding firefighters' efforts, and they have through any number of means, through their collective bargaining process, yes, through the grievance process, with varying degrees of success -- they understand the need to understand the concept of minimum staffing. Firefighters know that Bill 84 is going to permit municipalities to understaff fire departments. What that's going to mean is tragedy. What that's going to mean is not just loss of property, but physical danger for members of our communities. It's going to mean unnecessary deaths, because the understaffing that's going to flow, the reduction in fire services in a municipality that's going to be permitted by this bill is going to mean needless deaths of Ontarians, deaths that are going to be mourned but for which the responsibility is going to have to be placed with this government.

The bill also permits the introduction of so-called part-time firefighters -- again, with loopholes so wide you could drive a Mack truck through them -- who are going to be undertrained, who are not going to have the experience of full-timers and are going to be called out and used in the stead of the full-time professional firefighters who serve our communities now.

We can talk about the threat to the public health and the public wellbeing and the public safety, but let's also talk about the fact that this bill, because of the way it's going to permit and encourage and facilitate understaffing, is also going to put firefighters at risk. The firefighters are going to be called out to respond to situations of great danger and great risk without being fully staffed.

Just as Bill 26, the foundation for privatization, among other things, is complemented by Bill 104 today -- because if Bill 104 isn't designed, among other things, to facilitate the privatization of education in this province, nothing ever has been or will be. We know it. I've been on the phone all day talking to people from Welland-Thorold who have heard the news reports of the Minister of Education's little speech in downtown Toronto today, and they know what's happening. Some of them have been teachers. Most of the teachers haven't been able to call me; they've been working in schools. The ones who have been able to call me are among the hundreds of teachers in Niagara region alone who have been fired, laid off, given the pink slip by this government.

Parents have called me, and, more tragically, grandparents, because they understand. Those parents, and more important the grandparents, know how hard they worked and how much they sacrificed to build public education. They know it. Don't think it wasn't done without struggle and without sacrifice. They built public education, because some of these grandparents -- more than a few -- are, oh, too familiar with societies wherein not every child has the right to attend school. Only the rich kids can go to school or only the richest kids can get the better education.

Friday afternoon I was over at Thorold high school talking to the grade 10 class there, and I canvassed the class, so enlarged in size from last year because of the funding cuts this government has imposed on education in Ontario, reaching all the way down and through the riding of Welland-Thorold. I talked to kids, bright young people who know that their class is larger this year than it was last year, and they know why too: because this government doesn't give a tinker's dam about public education. It not only doesn't give a tinker's dam about public education, but it's going to do everything it has to do as quickly as it can do it to ensure that we have not just two-tiered health care in Ontario but two-tiered education.

But the very rich, the ones who are getting the biggest tax break, being funded by the poor and the poorest and by their children and by abused women -- it's being funded by abused women. It's being funded by kids who were denied junior kindergarten. It's being funded by day care workers, who remain among the poorest and lowest-paid skilled professional workers in our society. It's being paid for by health care workers who are losing their jobs in city after city as this government shuts down hospital after hospital, like the Hotel Dieu in St Catharines and like the Port Colborne General Hospital in Port Colborne, hospitals that were built not by any government, certainly not by this government, but they were built by working people -- $5, $10, $20 a week.


I remember those days in the Welland County General Hospital. Workers were asked to subscribe at their workplace, at their plant -- secretaries, office workers from their offices -- and five and ten bucks a week, when that was being done back in the 1950s and early 1960s, was a lot of dough. It really was; it was a lot of money. But people paid it because they wanted to help build their community. They wanted to strengthen neighbourhoods and strengthen the community because they understood that when you work together, when you work cooperatively, when you share resources, everybody can benefit.

This government isn't interested in sharing resources because it doesn't want everybody to benefit. This government wants the very rich to be the beneficiaries of what will continue to be sacrifices imposed on them, mind you, by the government, of workers and professionals, be they in health care, in education or in firefighting services.

Not only were firefighters never consulted by Mike Harris as he promised them in the video that was displayed at the firefighter conference for April 1995, they're still waiting to hear from him. Firefighters are sitting by the phone waiting to hear from Mike Harris to see whether he lied to them or whether he's simply being negligent in not getting back to the phone quickly enough. I know what they believe in their hearts and I believe you share that, because it's again the irresistible conclusion as to whether he lied to them or was simply negligent in getting on the phone to them.

During the Crombie commission, during the Crombie inquiry, hearings -- well, I suppose they were -- commissioned by this government, the Who Does What, firefighters weren't consulted by Harris, weren't consulted by the Solicitor General, weren't consulted by Crombie.

This bill will, as I say, encourage and facilitate and indeed dictate that there be increased and increasing privatization of fire services -- firefighting, fire protection services. There will be an increase in the utilization of part-time firefighters to the jeopardy of all involved: members of the community as well as firefighters.

There are going to be increased hours of work permitted that can be imposed on firefighters. There are going to be massive exclusions from bargaining unit. This bill gives municipal employers or "any other private employer deemed to be so by the minister" the power to simply exclude people from the collective bargaining agreement.

I suppose one of the penultimate indignities imposed here is that this bill purports to ban the right of firefighters to strike when firefighters have never struck in this community but have, in good faith, relied upon the collective bargaining process and from time to time arbitration, and recognized that they have held the safety of the community in higher regard than their own personal interests.

The fact that firefighters have never struck in this province simply wasn't good enough for Mike Harris. He's going to teach these people, these committed women and men, who's boss. He's going to show them what the toe of a jackboot feels like and he's going to take away their right to strike. I tell you that governments in other societies at other times have tried the same exercise. You can kick around workers and professional people like firefighters for a while, but then they're going to react.

If this government doesn't at least concede to the modest request for full-fledged, wide-open hearings on Bill 84 so that the folly of this exercise can be exposed, it's putting people and virtually every community in this province at risk because firefighters may well feel themselves goaded to engage in various work actions. I'm going to support them if they decide to take that course. It will be their right to decide. I'm not telling you they should, I'm not telling you they will, but I suspect that's going to be a consideration, and I'm prepared to stand side by side with firefighters just as I am with teachers, with nurses, with workers when they're getting beat up on by this government and their cronies.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time is up. Questions or comments?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I would like to comment on something the member for Welland-Thorold said early in his comments. It didn't deal directly with the changes to the Fire Departments Act, but it did deal with the whole question of why all this downloading is taking place. I suppose the average viewer out there may be asking: "Why are people so excited about it? If we take the education taxes off the property tax roll and give municipalities more responsibility for welfare costs, for costs like policing, libraries, provincial offences, transportation services and ambulance services, what is wrong with that?"

What is wrong with it is this: I think the taxpayers out there know that property taxes and business taxes being paid in our municipalities are known as regressive taxes, and they're set once a year and a municipality has to live on that funding, whatever mill rate it happens to set.

The problem with a lot of these new services that will be downloaded on to municipalities is that quite often they are costs that cannot be predicted accurately at the beginning of the year. Second, they are quite often costs associated with catastrophes that may strike municipalities. There may be major layoffs, there may be plant closures, there may be all sorts of reasons, and as a result these kinds of social services will all of a sudden become much more meaningful and much more needed in that municipality and cost a lot more. The real question then becomes, will the municipalities at that given moment have the ability to pay for those services? That is the real problem with having the soft-core social services being paid for out of municipal taxes.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to congratulate my friend and colleague from Welland-Thorold for his usual eloquence around most issues, but in particular on the very issue being debated here.

He touched on the matter of consultation. I remind the Tories, because they might have forgotten, about what Mike Harris said before the election about consulting. This is what he promised the firefighters: "No changes will be made under a Harris government until such a time as your members have been thoroughly consulted."

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): The big lie.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Marchese: "We will insist that all change be fully costed, both from the point of view of the workers as well as -- "

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, take your seat for a moment, please. Member for Lake Nipigon, would you please withdraw that?

Mr Pouliot: I will withdraw, Madam Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Marchese: I remind his colleagues about the promise Mike made: "No changes will be made under a Harris government until such a time as your members have been thoroughly consulted." That's what he said then. The problem with this government is that it's all rhetoric, not just before the election but during and after. We're living through this all the time. They talk about consulting, except they won't consult on matters where there's disagreement out there in the public. That's why they refute and reject a referendum in Metro. We think it's abominable.

What is concerted here is that this Conservative government is linking very closely with the big banks and the financial sector in general and the developers and the rich, privileged few in Ontario. That agenda -- we see it here; we see it in Manitoba -- is an assault on workers. They're taking the right to strike from these workers and they want to privatize their services. This is a shameful act and a shameful bill by this government.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The last speech was a very good one in many ways, I thought, but it didn't fully deal with why we're really dealing with this bill, which is of course to pay for the tax cut, a tax cut which will cost the government some $5 billion per year when it's fully implemented, a tax cut which will result in far more cuts to education, to health care, to consumer protection, to environmental protection than anybody could possibly believe in this province.

I know even some of my good friends in the Conservative caucus themselves are very concerned now about the implications of the bizarre tax scheme, because they say, "Why else would we be bringing forward a piece of legislation such as this?" a piece of legislation which is going to hurt firefighters in this province, which is breaking trust with a group which has been so supportive of our communities over the years, an anti-labour piece of legislation at a time when the government has already been involved in anti-labour legislation. They're asking why these things are happening. I fully understand their concern.

I'm glad the member brought forward some of the good arguments against this legislation, which I was hoping the government would withdraw. Now, I know Tuesday morning the caucus meets. My friend from Rexdale will be speaking to the powers that be. He will be suggesting that the government withdraw this legislation, that it make significant changes to the legislation and that it bring it back. He'll also be urging the government not to proceed with the bizarre tax scheme which is going to force a Conservative government to borrow $5 billion a year to give a tax cut to the richest people in our society.

Mr Bisson: I thought it was quite interesting how the member for Welland-Thorold brought together all of the various issues that are connected to this one piece of legislation, because when you look at it, it is all connected. What this government is doing is saying: "We are trying to play a shell game. We're trying to tell the people of Ontario that we're going to give you a 30% tax break and make ourselves the good guys of the province of Ontario."

But we all know what's really happening, as the member for Welland-Thorold pointed out. As the government is trying to give that 30% tax cut to the people of the province, it is sticking its hand into the pockets of the taxpayers of this province by doing a number of things such as eliminating a number of school boards in Ontario.

The Minister of Education and Training stood in this House today and said he was going to make tremendous changes in education. Well, tremendous they are. Those changes are going to mean, for example, that in northeastern Ontario, instead of having local representation on school boards such as we have now, we are going to have a superboard that will run from the counties of Muskoka all the way up to the tip of James Bay. That is a humongous piece of Ontario. In fact, it is larger than most European nations. We will be running that with a school board with a few elected officials, which I presume would mean that a number of those communities wouldn't even have an elected trustee, because the school board will not be able to seat as many people as you have within that jurisdiction.

Why is the government doing this? It's quite simple. The government is going to be taking away local control from the school boards and giving it to itself, the provincial government, so it can move ahead with giving people a tax break but at the same time change our system of education so that those with the dollars in the long run will be able to send their kids to private charter schools and those of us who don't have money are going to have to put our kids in a system of public education which will be greatly underfunded and greatly in need of being able to support the needs of our kids. That's really what this government is doing. I'd like to commend the member for Welland-Thorold for bringing that to our attention.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, you can sum up.

Mr Kormos: Of course, appreciation to the member for Kingston and The Islands, the member for Fort York, the member for Cochrane South and the member for St Catharines for having listened to what I was saying, as I know you did, Speaker.

Interjection: Nobody else did.

Mr Kormos: Well, that's interesting. There's a Tory over there saying, "Nobody else did." I have no doubt that the Tories weren't interested in what I was saying, no doubt about that at all, because the fact is that not only do they not listen to me, but they don't listen to the people in their riding, they don't listen to the nurses and the teachers and the firefighters and the hardworking people of their respective ridings. They're not listening to the farmers. They're not listening to the mothers of little children who are being denied day care.

I'll tell you who they do listen to, though. Their rich friends, the corporate bosses, the Conrad Blacks of the world have the ears of this gang. Let me tell you, I've got folks in Welland-Thorold and elsewhere in the province who wanted to hear about the tax break. You see, when a corporate vice-president, when the big wheels at the Royal Bank or the TD Bank or the Bank of Nova Scotia that have been making billions of dollars get tax breaks, it's going to be $100,000, $200,000 and $300,000 a year.

What's this government done? They've imposed more user fees and more economic hardship on the working people of places like the Niagara region, on the seniors and retirees. They're going to be shutting down seniors' homes, we know that's going to happen, just as they shut down hospitals and just as they've been shutting down classrooms.

This government has moved from diabolical to evil in its motive. We look at the people they're prepared to victimize, to pay off, to grease, their rich corporate friends, and that demonstrates evil in the most profound way.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today about this government's fire prevention bill, which will enable municipalities across Ontario, both rural and urban, to have the best possible level of protection from fire.

I understand that Bill 84 is the strongest fire safety legislation proposed in Canada, making Ontario a fire safety leader in this country. Today I want to draw the members' attention to a number of provisions in the bill which will help protect public safety. I also want to respond to some points raised by the member for London Centre and other members in the House today during earlier debates on this bill.

Mr Pouliot: Like a bunch of vultures sitting on a branch.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon, come to order. Continue. Go ahead.

Mr Pouliot: I'm being provoked.


The Acting Speaker: Take your seat for a moment. Member for Lake Nipigon, would you please come to order. At the end of his comments you may make a two-minute comment in response. Member for Norfolk, continue.

Mr Barrett: This is a piece of legislation that's been a long time in coming. I understand there have been no updates to many parts of this law dealing with firefighting since 1948. I believe that most Ontario taxpayers would agree that almost 50 years is a long time to wait to modernize legislation which, once Bill 84 is passed and implemented, will allow fire services to be delivered more efficiently and effectively.

Extensive consultations have been held for a number of years with firefighters' unions, municipalities and fire chiefs to examine ways that municipalities and the government can provide enhanced and cost-effective fire protection right across the province. The fact that this government had the courage to make these changes after previous governments studied the problem but took no action shows the government's commitment to public safety.

This bill provides tools to the local municipal governments, which are better able to reflect local taxpayers' concerns, which will in turn allow them to make sure that fire safety services are provided in the safest, most efficient way possible.

I wish to make mention of volunteers, and I represent the rural riding of Norfolk. In my riding fire protection is provided mainly by volunteers, in fact, solely by volunteer firefighters. I'd like to take a moment to recognize the enormous contribution that volunteer firefighters make in keeping all of us and our families safe.

I have lived on a farm all my life and have witnessed first hand the impressive job that volunteer firefighters have done to protect people, in fighting fires not only in houses but barns and farm shops. On occasion volunteer firefighters in my area have demonstrated bravery by rescuing farm animals, and there are some unique situations in rural areas we have yet to hear in this debate.

I have the utmost respect and admiration for volunteer firefighters in my own community and across Ontario, whether they're fighting barn fires -- unfortunately my family has lost a number of barns over the years -- or doing accident rescue, as was alluded to across the way, or for that matter in certain ceremonial purposes, marching in Remembrance Day memorial parades.

I understand that approximately 18,000 of the 26,000 firefighters in Ontario are actually volunteers. As our parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General pointed out previously, volunteer firefighters represent a $1-billion asset for this province, and this government intends to make sure that the volunteer system is not only supported but also enhanced by Bill 84.


I have also seen the remarkable effort that volunteer firefighters put into fighting the Hagersville tire fire which occurred in my riding a number of years ago. I clearly see how important it is that these volunteers be given more opportunity in the areas of training and public safety under this particular bill.

For example, the mandate of the office of the fire marshal will be strengthened to provide better training for volunteers. This gives volunteer firefighters the support they need to do the best job they can in preventing fires through public education and in the practical training required to effectively fight those fires.

In addition, the Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council will help support the volunteer system by making sure volunteer firefighters have the materials they need for public education.

Through restructuring, volunteers will have better access to training programs and facilities. Municipalities themselves will also be able to provide more support and assistance to the volunteer system as a result of this bill.

Earlier I mentioned the issue of public fire safety education. The fact is that fire safety prevention and education save lives, and Bill 84 recognizes this. That is why the bill expands the role of the Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council in educating the public on fire safety so they can be more effective in preventing fires from occurring in the first place.

For example, statistics compiled over the past 25 years clearly show that fire fatalities have declined due to improved education and prevention. Between 1985 and 1994 there was a 19% decrease in the number of fatal fires for this very reason. In addition, over 30 coroner's juries have recommended that more attention be paid to fire prevention through public education.

We cannot stop now. We must continue to allow the Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council to give the municipalities and firefighters themselves the tools they need to continue and improve fire prevention.

I would also point out that Bill 84 also improves public safety for all municipalities, including those in isolated rural and northern communities. For the first time legislation provides unincorporated northern communities with the authority they need for effective fire prevention. The bill gives them the means to take advantage of technology and places more emphasis on early warning systems and escape plans through effective prevention and public education.

I would ask, Speaker, that you not take my word for this. I wish to make reference to a letter I received, one of many from volunteer firefighters, to hear what they are saying themselves about Bill 84. What I have found in reading these letters is that the tone is generally supportive. I want to take a moment to read a letter, one of several, from the vice-president of the Volunteer Firefighters Association of Ontario, and I quote:

"I am a member of your constituency and I have had a chance to review Bill 84. As a firefighter in our community, I am pleased with this legislative initiative and sincerely hope the members of the provincial Legislature will see their way clear to pass Bill 84 as soon as possible.

"The fire service has changed drastically in the last 50 years and we need the legislative leadership provided in Bill 84 if we are to continue to offer the most flexible and progressive public fire protection service to our citizens."

So we are hearing from volunteer firefighters and others that Bill 84 will make changes which are long overdue in Ontario and that these changes will result in increased public safety at reasonable cost to taxpayers.

At this point I would like to change direction and briefly address a number of points raised in earlier debates on Bill 84, debates that occurred in December of last year. At that time, I believe it was the member for London South who asked why there were no improvements made around the fire code. I believe she raised the issue of smoke alarms and why they were not made mandatory for all homes as part of Bill 84. As recently as today the member for London South raised the spectre of people being put at risk and also made mention of her concern for response time.

I want to let the member and other members know that the government can at any time amend regulations such as the fire code without introducing new legislation in the House. I am informed that the ministry, in cooperation with the office of the fire marshal, is currently reviewing a number of regulatory proposals to further improve public safety, including proposals to expand the requirements of the fire code regarding the use of smoke alarms. So our priority indeed is public safety. There are different mechanisms to achieve this goal. Regulations are an important mechanism and so is this particular legislation.

The issue of what is being done about certain recommendations from coroners' inquests was raised. I understand the office of the fire marshal reviews all coroner's recommendations related to fire safety in order to identify further improvements that can be made to the fire code. I am advised that the Ministry of the Solicitor General is currently reviewing a variety of such proposed fire code amendments. I should also mention that Bill 84 quite clearly gives the Solicitor General the authority to make fire code regulations. Currently, all regulations must be approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. This change should, if anything, reduce the time required to introduce changes to the fire code and, as a result, help make sure it's kept up to date. This should also help protect the public.

I mentioned the concern we've heard today concerning response time. This brings to mind the concept of automatic aid. Automatic aid is a priority of this government. When lives are at stake, it really shouldn't matter which department responds. It's really only common sense that whoever can get there faster should respond. We expect and are confident that municipalities will work together to ensure public safety and to continue to build on the strengths of the past with respect to automatic aid.

By way of example, the cities of Toronto and York are an example of confusion that currently exists regarding municipal borders. Both cities have their own respective fire stations and equipment, some being immediately on the municipal border. If a fire occurred in the city of York, the Toronto fire department might be able to respond faster than York's, depending on the area. However, the way things are currently, Toronto wouldn't be able to respond to that fire. These changes will make it easier for municipalities to arrange automatic aid efforts with their neighbours.

If a fire occurred in a specific area of one city, a neighbouring fire department might be able to respond faster, but the way things are now they wouldn't be able to.


Mr Barrett: This is ridiculous, and I agree with the member across the way.

I'm pleased to say that approximately 15 fire departments in Essex county are very close to finalizing an automatic aid agreement that could serve as a model for the province as a whole, and they hope to initiate this agreement early in the new year. Through hard work and diligence by municipalities, fire departments and professional fire departments, mutual aid agreements have worked well in the past, as has been pointed out, and we are confident municipalities will continue and enhance such partnerships to ensure the safety of all Ontarians.

There are a number of concerns that I have heard from members opposite about labour provisions of Bill 84. This refers to part IX of the bill. I want to indicate that the Solicitor General has met personally on a number of occasions with professional firefighters and fire chiefs to discuss these issues. I also understand that the government is committed to holding public hearings as part of the legislative process after the second reading stage has been completed.

As you can see, it is this government's goal to create a whole new framework for fire protection in Ontario. This obviously requires updating and modernizing many aspects of Ontario legislation, including labour law, for firefighters. I must stress that the key issue here isn't labour relations or job security; the key issue is public safety and community security. Public safety is the number one issue here.

I would like to think that firefighters and their unions would be supportive of legislation that enhances the safety of both the public and firefighters. I appreciate that some professional firefighters may be concerned with part of the bill; however, we can look at this specifically. I am confident that once all the stakeholders have a look at the package as a whole, they will appreciate that these changes are fair and reasonable and will ensure public safety. This is everyone's goal. The changes in this bill will bring fire service more in line with other labour legislation in the province.

The concerns of professional firefighters regarding bargaining, hours of work and other matters of concern to them will, I'm certain, be raised in committee hearings on this bill.


Finally, in conclusion, I would like to reiterate what I believe are the key themes of Bill 84. The bill is about better protecting public safety by giving municipalities the flexibility they need to better deliver fire services across the province. With this bill, municipalities will play a key role in fire service delivery.

The Fire Protection and Prevention Act is part of the government's municipal restructuring program, giving municipalities the flexibility to arrange fire protection services based on their own needs and circumstances. A key component of their responsibilities will be to provide mandatory fire prevention and public education. Meanwhile, the primary role of the province will be to provide leadership and to support to these municipalities. To enhance these efforts, the Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council will support municipalities with fire prevention and public education materials.

Bill 84 also provides the Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council with expanded abilities to raise funds: funds for better fire prevention programs, funds for public education. Finally, Bill 84 will help volunteer firefighters, such as those I have referred to resident in my riding, to have better access to training and better access to prevention programs.

I just want to say that I've heard the strong message from the volunteer firefighters in my riding. I hope all members will be supporting passage of Bill 84 so that this important bill can be implemented, most importantly to enhance public safety.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I listened very attentively to the honourable member. What he hasn't said, really, is what the great rush is for your ramming this bill through. To begin with, I presume the only thing you could say about this is the consistently very undemocratic way you have governed since your party came to power. Bill 26 was rammed through without any of your members understanding it. Bill 84 is the same stuff. Bill 86, which you introduced today, is the same. You want to ram things through.

I have spoken to many of the firefighters. I don't know who you're speaking to. They don't like this bill. They will not support this bill. If you want to hear more, give them the public hearings they are asking for so they can come before you. They seem unable to convince or even to meet with your members when they try to come forward to say, "Here is our position." You haven't heard them, because they have come to me and have come to many of my colleagues and expressed their concern about the way you're conducting this legislation. They don't like it.

He went on and on that the volunteers have done a tremendous job and what have you, but what you have done is excluded them from all of this. In the collective bargaining situation, they have done the most honourable thing that anyone could want: They have cooperated very well and have never struck in all the years they have been around. Now you're bringing in laws to say, "You can't strike." You're the same individuals who are saying, "There are too many rules and regulations governing this province." Then you turn around and put in rules and regulations and laws that are not required, just because you want to upset a number of people and flex your muscles to say: "We are the government. We don't have to listen to the people." As a matter of fact, you can see that you'd rather the people go away, the volunteers go away, before you can act.

Mr Bisson: I listened quite intently to the member for Norfolk's comments on this bill in regard to fire safety. What was interesting was that a common thread ran through that entire speech from one end to the other; that is, the emphasis on volunteer firefighters. I don't mean to demean volunteer firefighters, because as do the member for Norfolk and other members of this Legislature, we recognize that volunteers make up the majority of the firefighting services in Ontario and do a good job.

For the record, I would also like to say that volunteer firefighters, under this bill, will get more training, and we're not opposed to that. What really scares me is that the emphasis is all on volunteers. It's almost as if the member is saying it is a bad thing to be a full-time firefighter. Full-time firefighters are not wanted and needed by this government, and some of the indication I would have is that they want to move on to private firefighters, as the member for Sault Ste Marie has just mentioned.

It's interesting that the member spent his whole time talking about what this meant to volunteer firefighters and then alluded to full-time firefighters in I thought a bit of an offhand way in his speech, which tends to indicate, I would believe, that the member across the way from Norfolk, along with the rest, probably the majority of the Conservative caucus, is really in support of diminishing the importance of full-time firefighters in this province and diminishing their numbers overall. I say that is not acceptable. We need to have a mix between our volunteer and our professional force. We need to make sure that it works well, and by demeaning full-time firefighters, I don't think you're doing quite well.

The other thing is that the government seems to be sitting in la-la land, because it comes into the House and in every speech tries to make us and the public believe that full-time firefighters and the two full-time firefighter associations are in complete support of what the government is doing. Well, that is not the case. I can't say what's on my mind because it would be unparliamentary, but let me assure you it is not nice, and firefighters in this province do not support what you are doing, sir.

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I just wanted to congratulate my friend from the riding of Norfolk for his I think incisive remarks. I am here but to buttress some of the comments and concerns he has raised. In particular I note that my honourable friends opposite have taken it upon themselves to criticize the process by which this bill has been introduced and discussed.

The fact of the matter is that fire services reform has been a topic of conversation between government and the constituent agencies for almost 30 years. It was the Liberal government that established the Fire Services Review Committee, which started the process of meaningful reform, and we have merely started to get beyond all the claptrap and talk and into action to ensure that our communities are safe, or as safe as possible in a modern society, from the threat of fire.

Indeed it's not only myself saying this. I would draw the members' attention to the fact that the minister, Minister Runciman, has taken the opportunity at the end of November to meet with representatives of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association and with representatives of the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters. It was a very constructive meeting where a lot of misconceptions, perhaps due to some fearmongering that had occurred, were alleviated. I have a letter from the presidents of those two organizations where they say they are pleased indeed to hear that the province-wide public hearings will occur over the winter with regard to Bill 84 and, that "in response to your request, we will advise you of our choices of locale."

They are part of the process. They have always been part of the process. They are confident that they will be able to have a say in public hearings with regard to this bill and I am confident earnings they can represent their representatives and their firefighters far better than the members opposite can.

Mr Bradley: It's a sad state of affairs when all the government can claim is that they're going to go through the normal process that everybody would expect; in other words, that we're going to go through the idea of having hearings across the province so people can have input.

That's the sad state we've reached today in Ontario, that the government brags about this. In fact, when I've talked to the firefighters, they fully expected that this would be the case, though they asked those of us in opposition to intervene, so I sent a letter to the government House and leader and said, "Would you please ensure what normally we would have: public hearings across the province so the firefighters can have their input?"

To this point in time nobody has listened to them. You've excluded them. The people who are on the front lines, who understand fire safety the most, you have now excluded those people. The firemen and firewomen are very concerned as well because they know that the government is closing hospitals around the province, including the Hotel Dieu in St Catharines and the Port Colborne hospital and the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital, that the Douglas Memorial Hospital in Fort Erie is being radically changed, and that the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in the riding of Lincoln is threatened with near closure, a least a radical change to it. All these people are contacting me. The firefighters are worried about this because they know that none of these should be closed, that these are not made-in-Niagara solutions we're talking about. This is a made-in-Toronto solution, not even made at the cabinet table but made by Tom Long and the other ideological advisers to the government. So this bill fits in with the general tenor of closing hospitals in this province and carrying out other kinds of cuts which are hurting people on the front line.


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

Mr Barrett: Just to perhaps address some of the recent comments from members opposite with respect to rushing this through and with respect to a lack of consultation, I'd like to further the line of argument presented by my colleague the member for Brampton South, and I will mention, as I mentioned earlier, that this legislation goes back almost 50 years, over 50 years. It hasn't been rushed through. There has been a lot of activity, and I would say the members opposite are dead wrong when they say there has been a lack of consultation with respect to these changes.

Consultation has been ongoing for over 30 years. We heard about the Fire Services Review Committee, a committee established by the Liberal government in 1989. This committee included representatives from the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association and representatives from the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters. In 1990 and 1991, under the NDP, the committee met, and its report was distributed for comment in 1993. All stakeholders, including fire unions, provided written responses, and we have access to these reports to better produce the kind of legislation we need to protect our communities from fire. I don't know why the Solicitor General of the day did not act on that report. Instead, he chose to institute another round of consultations in 1994.

Dialogue, as we know, is still ongoing. Our Solicitor General has spoken to associations on November 21, has addressed the unions. The message is clear: This government wants your input. We want input from people across Ontario, and public hearings will be held on Bill 84.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'm pleased to be able to offer a few comments today on this important piece of legislation, Bill 84.

Mr Bradley: Certainly until 6 o'clock.

Mr Michael Brown: That's quite possible.

One of the things that strikes me, this being January 13, I believe, 1997, is I was reflecting a little bit about what I might have been doing last year at this particular time. I don't think on this exact date, but in this general time frame, we were out having hearings on Bill 26. I remember being out on the hearings on Bill 26, and we might remember in this place why we were out having these hearings on Bill 26. We were out because an opposition stayed, did things that were quite improper, I guess one would say, but managed to force this government into having hearings across this province on Bill 26.

I bring that to your attention because at the hearings in Sudbury, I believe it was, and I'm sure it happened in other locations, one group, the professional firefighters from Sudbury, came before the committee -- actually, there was more than one group -- and they brought videotape. They brought what the Progressive Conservatives had sent out to them before the election. This was quite slick. It was Mr Harris, then the leader of the third party, saying to them, "Look, we're not going to make any changes to the way firefighting is handled in this province, any changes at all, until we've had a huge consultation and we've talked to everybody." That's what the Premier said. I saw it on videotape. It was quite impressive. You would have believed him if you had seen it. He was very sincere, probably something like this $800,000 campaign they're presently involved in. The sincerity's just dripping as he makes these promises.

Mr Bradley: Where did they get the money? From developers?

Mr Michael Brown: The $800,000? The $800,000 came from those people in the province with very deep pockets who I suspect are going to be benefiting hugely from the crazy voodoo tax scheme that delivers huge amounts of money to the richest people in this province of Ontario. That's where it's being paid for. But I digress.

Why has this bill been brought to my attention? It was brought to my attention because there were thousands of firefighters out on the lawn in front of this place saying: "Premier Harris told us in this video that he would talk to us. He hasn't. He hasn't talked to us at all. We're out here saying that we want our say on this legislation." The Premier is doing something exactly different than what he said he would do in that very slick video presentation he prepared directly for the professional firefighters in Ontario. It's on videotape. If there's anything that might cause people to wonder about the credibility of politicians, it would be just watching that tape and now seeing the actions we're seeing today.

Out among those thousands of firefighters on the lawn there were people from Elliott Lake. Bruce Walker was out there. He was in to my office after and spoke to me about this very bill. I couldn't find him. There were so many people out there that I couldn't find the third of the Elliott Lake firefighters who took the time to come down from Elliott Lake to be out in front of the Legislature. I couldn't find the third of the firefighters from Elliott Lake who had come down -- one third. That is a significant representation of the firefighters in Elliott Lake. I did find some of the fellows from Sudbury who were good enough to share their bus with the Elliott Lake firefighters on their way down to be here. They were expressing their very deep concern that this bill did not represent the views they had communicated to Premier Harris before the election and that Premier Harris was busily ignoring what they were thinking about in terms of legislation.

Having reflected just a little bit upon where we were last year and where we are this year as an opposition, again demanding that we have public hearings on this bill, it's déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say.

I should speak a little directly to the bill and point out that most of this bill all members can support. This is a bill that is largely supportable. I should go through this bill section by section so that we can indicate that there are many good things and probably relate a bit of the history of this bill so that the people of Ontario can understand that this bill, in large part, has broad support among all three political parties, but it has some sections that are unacceptable to some.

I just point out that this bill was introduced on October 16, and certainly that's what brought our friends the firefighters to the front door.

The main legislation governing the provision of fire services in Ontario has remained essentially the same since 1949. In 1989 the Liberal government created the Fire Services Review Committee, consisting of representatives from the Solicitor General, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and various professional firefighters associations. Its task was to review the delivery of fire services in Ontario. Following the election of the NDP in 1990, the review was continued but the NDP never did deal directly with the issue. The Fire Services Review Committee report was eventually released reflecting consensus and, where not achievable, the views of the Ministry of the Solicitor General. We are now seeing this legislation before us purporting to be the end result of a long process of consultation.


The bill is intended to streamline current legislation, create better integration of services, provide more public education to increase fire safety and give municipalities more flexibility to deal with local services.

The bill repeals and consolidates separate acts relating to fire services into one piece of legislation that makes sense. The following legislation will be affected in this manner: the Accidental Fires Act; the Egress from Public Buildings Act; the Fire Accidents Act; the Fire Departments Act; the Firefighters Exemption Act; the Firefighters Protection Act, 1993; the Fire Marshals Act; the Hotel Fire Safety Act; the Lightning Rods Act.

Part I of the bill sets out the definitions of various terms utilized in the legislation.

Part II of the bill deals with municipal responsibility for fire protection services.

Subsection 2(1) requires every municipality to establish, at minimum, a fire safety public education program. They may also provide other fire services such as fire suppression, rescue and emergency services.

Subsection 2(2) of the bill requires each municipality to appoint a fire safety officer or a team or to establish a fire department, depending on their need. Fire safety officers would provide fire protection and fire safety public education programs. Fire departments would provide fire suppression and other fire protection services. The fire marshal would advise municipalities in determining the level and type of services to be provided.

Well, I tell you, that section causes me at least some difficulty because it requires municipalities to do something. They are required by law to do it. I think it's a good thing to provide fire protection and fire suppression, rescue and emergency services, but if you look at a riding or constituency such as the one I represent, it is a large riding where the provision of fire services is often very difficult.

We look at communities across the district of Manitoulin, across the district of Sudbury and in part in the district of Algoma that have some difficulty providing all of these services, and we're not finding that the government of the day is going to match any kind of funding at all to the requirements of what they must do in terms of fire safety or fire protection or emergency services or fire suppression.

You might want to wonder in the township of Shedden how this could be totally affordable if you're working on a model which might be similar to the megacity of Toronto or whatever. I think we would find some difficulty in the local tax base being able to support that kind of service, yet it needs to be provided.

So one would expect that if a level of service is necessary in those municipalities, which I believe it is, that the funding be provided from the province to be able to do it. It only makes sense to me that if the requirement is there, the province is requiring this to be done and this is the minimum level of service that can be provided, and the local tax base, ie, assessment, is not able to support it, the province finds a way that these services are supported.

I say that because we are also in the midst of the chaos created by the amalgamation of municipalities. I know in my constituency and I know across the province that there are discussions going on among various municipalities at this moment deciding what would be the best way to go about merging services, deciding how the various services that they need to provide can best be provided to their taxpayers recognizing geography and democracy and the ability to pay.

There are quite a number of these discussions going on but, I guess as a northern member, one of the more interesting discussions goes on when we start to talk about unorganized municipalities or unorganized townships, something which most members of this House don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about. But there are large areas in my constituency that are unorganized. Often they are adjacent to organized municipalities. There are very few people in most of these unorganized areas, although in some there is a relatively large population. The organized municipalities are very fearful that they will have to take on the responsibility, under these amalgamations, for all the services necessary in the unorganized townships.

Any of us would know that one service that is very expensive to provide and yet extraordinarily necessary in the unorganized areas is the provision of fire services. Often, that is not the protection of a barn or a house or your summer camp; it is the protection of the crown forest, even the protection of private forests.

The question to many of these municipalities is, "How will we be able to afford to provide firefighting services in these unorganized areas?" You say: "Well, not to worry. Usually the MNR looks after that." I want you to know that MNR is a busy bee trying to get out of as much fire protection as it possibly can because it has no budget. The budget of MNR has been totally emasculated. There are not dollars in MNR to fight fires the way they once did.

As a matter of fact, the ministry is now pursuing "partnerships" with the private sector in terms of firefighting. They are looking for municipalities to become involved. They are looking for first nations to become involved. There's probably nothing wrong with that, as long as the partnership is a true partnership and the money, the funds, the training and the equipment come from the province as part of the deal. Well, we know that is highly unlikely to happen.

I want to say to you that volunteer firefighters are going to be not exceptionally happy, nor are their municipalities, to be out protecting the crown's forests, participating in a way that I think will cost their taxpayers huge amounts of money which they cannot afford.

As we go through the bill a little further, it says that two or more municipalities may share a community fire safety officer, team or fire department. Such arrangements would permit fire departments to respond to fires and emergencies regardless of the municipal boundaries. The fire marshal may also enter into agreements to provide fire protection services to areas that do not have municipal organization.

Madam Speaker, I see that you're getting a little antsy and that it is 6 of the clock. I'm barely a third through my presentation, so I will adjourn or whatever we do at this point.

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

The House adjourned at 1759.