36th Parliament, 1st Session

L148 - Tue 21 Jan 1997 / Mar 21 Jan 1997














































The House met at 1331.




Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My statement today is directed to the Minister of Labour. Minister, for months I have been asking you to personally intervene in the eight-month strike at the Goldcorp mine in Balmertown.

This strike, as you're aware, is just one in a series of strikes throughout the province that has seen management run roughshod over hardworking and dedicated men and women with your government's blessing.

My municipal colleagues and I are very concerned that this strike will have a long-term effect on families, the community and, more importantly, the children of these workers.

Let me read from an article which appeared in our local media just before the Christmas break: "Social issue discussions in Linda Aucoin's grade 4-5 class are taking on a new light -- many of the students have parents on strike. They know the issues, they know strikes really hurt everybody." Ms Aucoin went on to state that she and her colleagues see "children come to school cold and hungry, their lunches as obscure sometimes as a tomato."

Workers and their families want to know when the Minister of Labour will finally intervene in this situation and use her office to bring an end to this strike.

It is clear to everyone concerned that this minister does not understand the seriousness of the situation. Like my constituents who work at Goldcorp, I am outraged that you would allow Goldcorp to continue this strike while children are going to school cold and hungry and the community is suffering. These workers would prefer to be working and they are outraged at your lack of concern for them and their families.

Obviously, workers' rights are not a priority with this minister.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Today I want to make a statement on aboriginal rights. I'd like to direct my statement to the Minister of Natural Resources and the minister responsible for native affairs.

I want to make this government fully aware of a very serious situation that has been developing since November 1996 in my riding of Cochrane North. The Constance Lake First Nation has complained that their aboriginal and treaty rights are being infringed upon by the Minister of Natural Resources and a lumber company within their own reserve. A few months ago, a member of the first nation was told to remove his traps on reserve land because the company wanted to start logging in the area. The first nation doesn't object to forestry activities, but will object to any infringement of their rights.

The MNR is responsible for issuing licences for harvesting wood. Your government must therefore play an active role in resolving this dispute as soon as possible. If this situation is allowed to escalate further, nobody will win.

The economic development and stability of the area depend on a resolution of this conflict. That's why I urge you today to stay on top of this highly sensitive situation and to pay attention to a letter that was sent from Chief Raymond Ferris of the Constance Lake First Nation, along with the national chief, Ovide Mercredi, as well as the grand chief, Charles D. Fox.

They are very much concerned about this situation. They don't want it to develop into another situation like happened at Ipperwash, and I'm asking both ministers to stay on top of this situation now.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of a new expansion at Hughes Elcan Optical Technology, which is a major employer in my riding.

Hughes Elcan is a definite business success story that is helping to put central Ontario on the global marketplace map.

This 55,000-square-foot expansion is needed in order to meet the demand for projected growth in the near future. Presently Elcan has approximately 625 personnel, and it is anticipated that by the year 2000 the company will employ approximately 1,000 and increase its sales from $106 million to over $150 million.

Hughes Elcan is a major exporter and world leader in the design, development and manufacture of high-precision optics, opto-mechanical components and devices, systems and assemblies; 90% of product sales to their major customers, including Panavision, Imax and Polaroid, are exported.

This expansion is a promising sign for growth for the community of Midland and for Ontario.

In speaking with Elcan's president, Dr Joe DeRemigis, he attributes the company's success to the skill, hard work, dedication and commitment of its employees.

That one of the world's leading high-technology companies is growing so successfully in Ontario and in Muskoka-Georgian Bay should serve as an example that the province is open for business.

I'm certain I speak for my constituents when I say we are very proud to have Hughes Elcan as a member of our local and provincial business community.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): Last Wednesday Paul Godin of Rockland, a father of two, was killed on Highway 17. On July 9, 1996, another man from Rockland, Denis Trottier, was killed on Highway 17. On June 21, 1996, Allan Isabel was killed in a motorcycle accident near Rockland.

In January 1996, on this same stretch of highway where 23 serious accidents occurred in the last eight months, another man from Rockland, Mr Ian Shiveral, was killed in a traffic accident. Last November, a mere 10 months later, the late Ian Shiveral's son Bryan and two other students from Rockland District High School were involved in a fatal accident at that same killer stretch of Highway 17. Bryan Shiveral suffered serious injuries.

Bryan Shiveral is only 19. He lost his father in a car accident in 1996 and his mother in 1995. Fortunately, Bryan is a very positive young man. I want to bring encouraging words to Bryan, who is still in the hospital, and I want to acknowledge the work of the Rockland Lions Club and the Rockland OPP volunteer victims' group, especially Garth Hampson, who organized a Bash for Bryan that was attended by more than 500 people at the Rockland District High School on Sunday.

Once again, the people of Prescott-Russell have shown great community spirit.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): A year ago, when the Minister of Northern Development and Mines announced that the norOntair service that had been established in northern Ontario by the Davis government, serving 17 communities, would be discontinued, we indicated that we believed the private sector would not be able to pick up these routes and make a profit.

The Minister of Northern Development and Mines at that time, though, assured us that all the communities served by norOntair would indeed get good service from the private sector and that the private sector would be more efficient and would make a profit.

Three communities immediately did not get air service from the private sector and so the minister set up a subsidy system with Pem Air. Since that time, most of the private carriers have abandoned the routes they took over. Now as many as 10 communities in northern Ontario, including Wawa in my constituency, do not have air service from the private sector.

The minister has caused this problem and he hasn't fixed it. He has extended a subsidy to Wawa, but the service now goes through Sudbury instead of Sault Ste Marie. These subsidies run only until the end of March. The question is, what happens at the end of March? Will there be air service properly serving these communities in northern Ontario after the end of the fiscal year?

The Minister of Northern Development and Mines and the Tories broke the system. Now it's time they fixed it.



Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I am proud and deeply honoured to rise and pay tribute to everyone from my community involved in organizing the 1997 Ontario Ladies Curling Championships being held in Peterborough January 22 to 26.

The 10 best women's curling teams from across Ontario will gather in Peterborough to demonstrate their skills and precision on the ice in order to become the province's representatives at the 1997 Scott Tournament of Hearts next month in Vancouver.

Peterborough has a remarkable history of hosting major provincial and national sporting events. Peterborough has been a host to national lacrosse championships, provincial softball championships, the Memorial Cup and now a provincial curling tournament.

The dedication and hard work of tournament convenor Joan Martin of the Peterborough Curling Club and all the people at the club and the many volunteers is most greatly appreciated.

Congratulations to my constituents. I am confident that the 1997 Ontario Ladies Curling Championship in Peterborough will be the best ever.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): The only thing that's gone up faster than municipal property taxes in Ontario in the last week is the number of incidents involving flying truck wheels. The Minister of Transportation has repeatedly said that his initiatives in the last two years will help to curb a problem that everyone in this province is afraid of.

We know that this minister's actions to date have not solved the problem. The Ontario Provincial Police have said we have a very serious problem that isn't being dealt with in the Metro Toronto area. The Canadian Automobile Association has said we have a serious problem that's not being dealt with properly. The official opposition has asked for a legislative inquiry into this issue so that we can deal with it in its entirety, so that we can have public hearings before the people so that all groups that are affected and all parties that have an interest have an opportunity to respond.

We again urge the minister to agree to a legislative inquiry into the issue of truck safety and truck safety inspections and allow this process to unfold so that we can work together to ensure that the number of accidents related to truck safety and flying wheels eventually goes down in this province.

The minister has not responded. We call upon him again today to recognize the fear and concern resultant from this issue and deal with it responsibly so the people of this province feel safer on their roads.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): In Metropolitan Toronto, today as we speak, the most amazing development of citizen-led democracy can be seen. The Tory government has been turning up its nose and treating with scorn and disdain the efforts of citizens who come together to voice their opposition to this government's agenda with respect to the megacity and the mega-dumping of services on Metropolitan Toronto.

Just a few short weeks ago 20 people coming together, forming themselves into a group called Citizens for Local Democracy, began the process of meeting on a weekly basis. In four short weeks, last night at that meeting there were over 1,500 people. That movement is growing. I want to say to those people: (1) Congratulations; (2) Your work is paying off. We just got word today that there has now been an agreement on the part of the government not to call Bill 103 this afternoon. This is really important because that puts off yet another day the passage of a time allocation motion and the passage of second reading of this bill.

That commitment came along with finally an agreement to have a House leaders' meeting so that we can sit down and discuss the process of this bill. As I've said before in this House, last Thursday the New Democratic caucus, through our House leader, put out our demands: We want full public hearings, we want everyone to be heard, we want them around Metropolitan Toronto and all the cities and we want third reading to happen after the democratic expression of the referenda. That's not too much ask.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I would like to advise the House and the people of Ontario that I recently had the privilege of taking part in a conference at Ridley College in St Catharines entitled Changing Tides in Education.

The keynote address was by our Minister of Education and Training, the Honourable John Snobelen. He acknowledged that we are about to embark on a change process, a process that can be both positive and transformational for the children and youth of this great province, who often cannot envision their own futures.

Just as the minister's address was upbeat and visionary, so too were the other speakers: Pauline Laing, Jean Hewitt and Jim Lang.

Mrs Laing, having recently joined the ministry from the Durham Board of Education, spoke on the topic of the current secondary school reform process.

Dr Hewitt has been a teacher and school leader for many years and offers workshops for teachers and school administrators on leadership and educational change.

Mr Lang is well known to most educators as an internationally recognized authority on entrepreneurship in education.

I want to personally acknowledge and thank the minister for coming to the Niagara region, and Ridley College for its leadership. It was very much appreciated.



Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I rise today to update the members of the Legislature on the recent Team Canada trade mission. Let me begin by saying how proud I was to have led Ontario's largest ever Team Canada delegation, and the single largest group on this trip, as we did business in Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.

Our delegation had outstanding representation from all sectors of our economy: 65 businesses, as well as business associations representing Ontario manufacturers, exporters, agribusinesses and health care, joined us on this trip. We also had representatives from four governmental agencies, which support Ontario firms' export and business activities, and 12 educational institutions.

Mayor Morrow of Hamilton, Mayor Christie of Kitchener, Mayor McCallion of Mississauga, Mayor Cousens of Markham, Mayor Holtzman of Ottawa, Regional Chair Clark from Ottawa-Carleton and Metro Toronto Councillor Cho rounded out a most distinguished group.

I want to acknowledge the dedication, the professionalism and the strength of the Ontario delegation and its contribution to the mission and the ongoing economic growth and prosperity of our province.

I had one main objective in participating in this mission. That objective was to bring jobs to Ontario, and I believe we accomplished that goal.

I had the honour of overseeing contract signings by Ontario business leaders in Seoul, Korea, worth more than $140 million. I signed two important memoranda of understanding between the Ontario International Trade Corp and two of Korea's main construction associations.

The first agreement was signed with the Korean Housing Builders Association. It will provide a framework for joint initiatives which promote Ontario's manufactured housing and building products capabilities to Korean builders.

The second agreement was signed with the International Contractors Association of Korea. This agreement will facilitate initiatives, such as seminars and exchange of business delegations, designed to familiarize Korean contractors with Ontario's engineering and consulting capabilities.

In the Philippines, Ontario's high-tech companies netted the most deals. The new agreements, valued at more than $100 million, are in the areas of engineering, telecommunications, solar power, computer networks and fire protection systems technology. These deals will help to create the kind of highly skilled jobs in Ontario that the province needs in this information age.

Our leading-edge industries had similar success in Thailand, signing agreements worth over $240 million. These agreements ranged from the introduction of a wireless telecommunications system to the establishment of a network of laboratories specializing in environmental testing, to a satellite technology contract with the Asia Broadcasting and Communications network.

Team Ontario and the results we produced are evidence of the value of partnerships between the public and private sectors in promoting our great province abroad. We returned not only with signed deals in our hands but with great potential for more business down the road. We marketed everything from software to wine, from pre-engineered homes to Candu reactors, from cattle hides to insurance.

Together we were able to strengthen prospects for Ontario businesses in overseas markets. This approach, as many of you know, is a crucial part of our government's Market Ontario strategy to bring jobs to our province.

In the past 18 months our government has moved forward on our plan to make Ontario the number one jurisdiction in which to live, work, invest and raise a family.

We are cutting income taxes to create jobs -- as much as 40% for low-income families. We have removed barriers to job creation by eliminating red tape and unnecessary regulation and by reducing the costs of doing business. We have given hope to people caught in the cycle of welfare dependency by making mandatory work for welfare a reality in Ontario. Already 200,000 fewer people are dependent on welfare today than when our government took office.

We're making much-needed investments in health care technology. We're strengthening opportunities for our young people by restoring quality, accountability and higher standards to our education system. We're lifting the burden of debt on our children by ending government waste and duplication and by staying the course for a balanced budget.

Our plan is working. As we on Team Ontario told everyone we met on this recent mission, "In Ontario the future's right here."


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I want to welcome the Premier back, although, I must say, it's as if he never left. We saw his picture on TV every night in a very expensive advertising campaign under way.

There was a time when we used to send our leaders to Asian countries to provide them with some instruction in some of the fundamental tenets of democracy. Maybe it's time we invite Asian leaders here to instruct our leader in some of the basics of democracy. That's bringing me to the issue of megacity.

This Premier wants to impose upon the people of Metro Toronto tremendous change and, in response to that change, the people of Toronto have decided in their wisdom, through their municipal representatives, to hold referenda. This government insists that it intends to proceed with this change without paying any attention whatsoever to the results of those referenda. Those voices ought to be heeded and, just as those people have a right to express their opinion, this government has a corresponding obligation to pay heed to that opinion.

Mega-week was unleashed, Mr Premier, as you will well know, across the land last week, and we have come to the conclusion, quite simply, as have various other groups, that the net result is a property tax explosion for the people of Ontario. You have downloaded, you have transferred an additional $1 billion in new costs to property taxpayers right across the province, and there are some implications that are not so obvious and we haven't really had time to address those, but I want to take a moment just to do that right now.

As a result of this transfer of what are sometimes called soft costs on to property taxpayers, Ontario in the long run is going to become a less caring and compassionate place in which to live. Take welfare, for instance. The benefits you obtain through welfare are now going to become a function, in part, of where you live. We have moved away from that over a number of decades in Ontario. The provincial government has assumed responsibility for those in need.

What we're doing now is downloading this responsibility, which is properly that of the government of Ontario, on to individual municipalities, and it's not so farfetched to think that municipalities will be sending not-so-subtle signals to welfare recipients, for instance, that it would be better for them if they were to move on. "Move along, we can't afford you. You're interfering with our quality of life. If we pay for you, then we can't afford our public transit, we can't afford public housing, we can't afford public health." That's an implication I think this Premier doesn't really understand. At the end of the day what we're talking about is a less caring and compassionate Ontario.

Those communities that are going to be hardest hit by those are the larger urban centres, places like Ottawa and Toronto in particular. The larger urban centres with large cores will have no choice but to continue to assume responsibility for those who are down and out on their luck and those in the other centres will find it easier to move them along.

It was a sad week for Ontario last week. Not only are we talking about an additional $1 billion in property taxes that are going to be dealt out to property taxpayers throughout the province, we're also looking at a future that's not as bright. Contrary to what the Premier would have us believe, it's not as bright in Ontario. As a result of last week's initiatives it's going to be a less caring and compassionate place in which to live.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I think the Premier is going to have to take many more of these missions abroad to make up for the damage he's wreaking at home. By his offloading, by this government's offloading of all these additional costs on to municipalities, you are destroying our domestic economy as a result, and it's not coming back in the numbers this government had hoped. The job creation isn't there. The government has an abysmal record in job creation.

Mr Premier, get out there and sell Ontario even more. We should have you out there every week doing this to make up for the damage you've brought Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I know it's been a long time since you've talked to each other, since of course caucuses this morning, so I'd appreciate it if you could just go back to your seats, particularly the Minister of Environment and Energy, actually. You're causing me the most problems out there. It's sometimes more difficult to know whether you're in your seat or not, but I can tell now that you moved. Thank you.

Responses, leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I found it quite interesting that in the week when the government was downloading health care costs, downloading social assistance costs, downloading transportation costs, downloading policing costs, downloading library costs on to municipalities and the municipal taxpayer in order to find $3 billion to finance their tax cut for the wealthy, while that was happening in Ontario and municipalities were having to deal with all of that bad news, the Premier was trying to hide on the other side of the world.

We know that the Premier likes the United States, we know that the Premier likes the American way of doing things, and it's a fine tradition in the United States that when things aren't going well at home, the President tries to go abroad to somehow get away from the news.

Premier, we see through your strategy. While your government is forcing all the nasty decisions down on to municipalities and down on to the municipal tax base and putting municipalities in a position where either they have to start cutting these important community services or they have to start cutting these important health care services or they have to raise the municipal property tax substantially, you're trying to dissociate yourself from it as much as possible and finding a diversion elsewhere in the world.

I want to say something about your trip. I found it interesting that while you were gone, a couple of newspapers did some research and found that our exports to countries like Korea, the Philippines and Thailand have actually gone down over the two years that you've been making these trips. Perhaps you'd like to explain to people why our exports to these countries have actually been going down during the two years you've been making trips to these Asian countries.

I also think, Premier, you should respond to this: A newspaper that identifies very closely with you, a newspaper that has a hard time saying anything bad about your government, the Toronto Sun, noted that more jobs have disappeared in November and December through your government cutbacks than were created by the private sector. The statistics released by your government and reported by the Sun report that Ontario lost 25,000 jobs in the last four months due to your cutbacks. Private sector employment rose by 7,000 in December while public sector employment fell by 19,000 in December; in other words, a net loss of 12,000 jobs in one month because of your cutbacks.


I also think the Premier should answer for something else. The Premier says 200,000 fewer people are on social assistance, but not even that many jobs have been created. Even if we assume that all of the jobs this Premier talks about -- and there aren't nearly enough -- even if we assume that all the people who were on social assistance got those jobs, there are still a whole bunch unaccounted for. I suspect those people are out on the street. I suspect they've become the homeless. If that's what the Premier was trying to tell people in Asia is good about Ontario, what an awful message.

I would like the Premier to explain something else. We know that there are 87,000 more people unemployed in Ontario today than there were a year ago at this time. In fact, Premier, you are falling further behind. You create a few jobs because, yes, American interest rates are low and Canadian interest rates are low, but in fact you're falling further and further behind. In the Common Sense Revolution you talked about 725,000 new jobs. You're so far off the mark that you can't even call that a target any more, and you're falling further and further behind. In fact the unemployment rate among young people is going higher; the real unemployment rate among young people is getting worse.

Then I want to say just a word about education, because you say here that you've done some good things in education. The only thing I can see is that your Minister of Education has tried to create a lot of diversions so that while there are diversions and while there's a lot of confusion, he can reach in there and take another $1 billion out of education, another $1 billion away from our children.

Then there's health care. The only news that I see in health care is more nurses being laid off, more jobs --

The Speaker: Thank you.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to take this opportunity to direct your attention to the members' gallery west. In there is the previous member for Waterloo North, Mr Herb Epp. Welcome.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I have a point of privilege that I think you as Speaker and in your previous incarnation as an opposition member would have a good deal of interest in. I'm seeking your assistance in this regard.

This morning the president of the Queen's Park press gallery, Richard Brennan, was interrogated by the Ontario Provincial Police because of the fact that he was able to gain access to a report that we in the opposition, you will recall, were seeking some time ago when the government was dealing with the issue of video lottery terminals. The report was entitled Gambling in Ontario: Current Enforcement Concerns, 1995. We felt that was relevant to the bill being discussed.

However, my concern is a greater one, and that is the use of the OPP -- and you're in charge of people within this precinct, or you help us out, I know, on many occasions. We know there are people who are concerned about this. I know, for instance, this view was shared by the now chief communications officer for the Premier, who said previously, "There's an undeniable sense of apprehension when a police officer sent by your government comes to your office unannounced and asks you questions about what you do and do not know." He went on to say, "The use of the police in this manner could have a significant chilling effect on people who happen to acquire documents that the government prefer not see the light of day."

I know even the Solicitor General, Mr Runciman, was concerned about this in the past, and that's why I raise it again. He said, "This appears to be a witchhunt to save the government some embarrassment. I want to say that it's an outrage," when the similar incident happened previously. He went on to say, "I want the minister to stand up in the House today and apologize to Mr Brennan, apologize to Mr Coyle, apologize to the people of Ontario for using the police for political purposes."

I'm concerned that a member of the press gallery, and the president in this case, simply because he was able to gain access to a report that many of us in this House felt should be provided to the members of this assembly in any event, is being intimidated through the use of an interrogation by the OPP.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I just have a quick question on the point of privilege. I'd like to ask the member if he knows, did this interrogation take place within the precinct?

Mr Bradley: I am not aware whether it did. The individual involved is an individual who works within this precinct and deals with matters within this precinct.


The Speaker: Is it on the same point of privilege, the member for Algoma? Well, I'll say before you get up -- it's very short -- that I need to know whether it happened in here or not. Obviously, if it didn't happen in this place, then there's not a lot the Speaker will or can do about it. I will say that the reporter did come to me previous to this happening and asked about the process and said that he was going to be interrogated. I directly said to the reporter, "No, it can't happen in the precinct," and, "No, I will not allow the police to come in here to interrogate you." I can only assume then that it didn't happen in here. I hope, the member for Algoma, you can tell me one way or the other. If you can, that's fine. But unless it happened in the precinct, there's no point of privilege.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On the point of privilege, Speaker: I know that you are aware of members in the time of the previous government who used to, as a way of making a point, hold up a sign "Call Police," even though that was a demonstration, which is of course not allowed according to the rules in the assembly. The point was being made that a government cannot and should not, must not, try to intimidate critics, particularly members of the assembly, particularly members of the press who are carrying out their responsibility to report on the public affairs of the House. I can tell you that I understand the interrogation did not take place in this precinct, but it still does not deal with the fact that the government is attempting to bully its critics.

The Speaker: Let me say this then: There are two points here. The point of privilege doesn't extend to members of the media. Secondly, it didn't take place in the precinct, so clearly there's no jurisdiction that I have over the privilege. To the members for St Catharines and Algoma, there's no need for me to take this away to even consider it. There is simply no point of privilege. It may be something you'll want to ask the government about. That's within order. But strictly on a point of privilege, no, it doesn't exist.

Mr Bradley: May I just ask you a question then and you can help me out with this, where I might take this, just a very quick question? What if the Solicitor General had ordered this investigation? What would I do then?

The Speaker: Again, you can't have a speculative point of privilege; you either have it or you don't.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Speaker, I just wanted to raise a point of order and ask through you if the government House leader would help to clarify something which does have an impact on the orderly procedures in the House, certainly for this afternoon. It's my understanding that the government does not intend today to call Bill 103. I ask, because there are lots of people here who are interested in this issue, if we can get a clear understanding from the government House leader --

The Speaker: I appreciate where you're heading with this, and it's not a point of order or a point of privilege, and it is in fact out of order. The process is very clear, it's printed, it's on your desk. Those are the procedures. The orders of the day are called. They can be called by the House leader. He calls them when they're due. If it's to be announced or whatever, that is not unusual. So no, I simply will not allow the House leader to start entertaining questions like that pre-question period. You can ask him in question period.




Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. Last night I went to a meeting of some 1,500 people who had gathered together in downtown Toronto in response to plans on the part of your government to bring about massive change to the way Metro Toronto is organized. They asked me to give you a message, quite simply. They said: "Tell the Premier that the people of Toronto don't want to be forced into a megacity. Tell him we need full public hearings, not just a token week or two." They said to tell him not to decide on a megacity until they've had an opportunity to vote in a referendum.

Premier, are you going to do that for them? On their behalf, I'm asking, will you have full and sufficient public hearings to give everyone a say and will you pledge today that you will wait until the March 3 referenda are over before making your megacity bill into law?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): First of all, let's be very clear: Metropolitan Toronto will be the same size before this bill as it is after. There will not be one citizen more, not one citizen less. It will be exactly the same size. There are some 2.2 million people in Metropolitan Toronto now and there will be 2.2 million people in Metropolitan Toronto after, so it will be the same size. What will change is that instead of seven levels of government, there will be one. There will be fewer politicians, there will be fewer bureaucrats, so we can have more dollars go to services.

With regard to the specific request, of course we'd be delighted to ensure full public hearings; we'd be delighted to accede to all the requests you've outlined today.

Mr McGuinty: Just so I'm very clear on this, the Premier has just told us that he's in full agreement with public hearings that are going to be full enough, long enough and sufficient enough to allow all to have their say, and second, he had indicated that this Bill 103 will not be made law until the referenda results are in and have been fully considered.

I just want to make sure that's perfectly clear and I will make sure, Premier, by asking you once more if I've got this straight: Is that what we're talking about here? You're going to wait until the referenda results are in and you've given them their due consideration, and you're going to ensure that we have full, sufficient and adequate public hearings to allow all interested in this to have their say?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me be very clear. I said yes in answer to your first question and I'll say yes now. Now, I want to say this: There will be some who will be opposed, who will think you should have five years of hearings. There will be some who will think that until you've talked to all 2.2 million to ensure that you can't possibly make the changes so taxpayers can get the massive savings due to them next year -- that they want that. But will we provide for full and adequate and representative hearings that make sure all viewpoints are heard, in addition to all the hearings that have taken place, in addition to all the consultations, in addition to everything else, and do I expect that this law will be passed before any PIN number or phone call or whatever forms of consultation will take place, no, I don't think it will be. I think all that information will be before us.

Mr McGuinty: I had the opportunity to address the crowd last night and one of the things I emphasized to them was that this was a non-partisan issue. We think --

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Mike said the opposite of what he believes now.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Mr Phillips: Eliminate Metro. That's what you said before the election. Do you think you can get away with that? People will see through that dishonesty.

The Speaker: Order. I heard that. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt, I'm going to ask you withdraw that; it's out of order.

Mr Phillips: I'll withdraw.

The Speaker: Thank you. Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, we Liberals think your ideas are wrong-headed, the NDP think your ideas are wrong-headed, and there are many, many Tories who happen to agree.


The Speaker: The members for Nepean and Quinte, please come to order. Opposition members. Thank you. Fort William and Algoma, please come to order. Thank you. I appreciate your cooperation.

Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: I understand the Premier's embarrassment and his reluctance to admit it, but there are many Tories who believe his ideas are wrongheaded when it comes to the megacity. To name but a few: Joyce Trimmer, Mel Lastman, and just yesterday we heard what Gordon Chong had to say. He's a Metro councillor and he's one of the handpicked appointees to the Who Does What panel and he's a lifelong Tory. He said something has gone dreadfully wrong: "I can't believe any political party would try to tear the guts out of Metro."

Premier, why is it that everyone can see what lies ahead except you and your government? Why are you so bent on causing so much damage to Metropolitan Toronto?

Hon Mr Harris: Quite frankly, to do nothing or leave the status quo would be the worst for Metropolitan Toronto. You will recall debates that we had before the election. You will recall the studies that said the heart and soul was coming out of Toronto, the doughnut effect, that something had to be done to fix it.

What we are doing is bringing in a much stronger, more prosperous, more vibrant Toronto. This legislation will do away with the waste, will do away with some bureaucracy and will put Toronto in a strong, vibrant position to assume its rightful place as the number one city not just in Canada but indeed, in our view, in all of North America. We have had the courage to do it where others dare not follow.

You put off decision after decision. Liberals put off decisions on market value. New Democrats put off decisions on reforming the tax system. Finally a government and a minister and a party with enough courage to put Toronto back on top comes along and all you naysayers are there saying: "No. We want the status quo."

The Speaker: Thank you.


The Speaker: I would ask that the members for Sudbury, Windsor-Sandwich, Fort York, Riverdale --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I didn't say anything.

The Speaker: No, you didn't say anything. You yelled a few things but you didn't say anything. If you'd all come to order, I'd appreciate it.

New question, leader of the official opposition.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier, to the man formerly known as the Taxfighter, now known as the Taxhider, to the man responsible for what is going to be the largest single property tax increase in our province's history.

Premier, while you were gone they were trying to sell this mega-week kerfuffle as a wash, that it was going to be an equal swap of services. It's turned into nothing more than a trick to dump hundreds of millions of new taxes, new tax dollars, on the backs of hardworking, decent, honest, law-abiding property taxpayers in Ontario. In fact even after your bailout fund is counted in, you're still shortchanging property taxpayers over $1 billion. That's $1 billion in new property taxes. That's a property tax explosion with a nuclear charge.

Premier, how does it feel -- we've got to know this now -- as a Taxfighter to dump over $1 billion of new costs on to the backs of property taxpayers?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Unless the municipalities and those who are elected in the next election are all Liberals and New Democrats, there will be tax cuts in the municipalities. In fact, according to the estimates we have, the changes we are making will allow for up to 10% in property tax reductions by the year 2000.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: The changes we are bringing in are not only long overdue but will allow municipalities, working in partnership with the government, more autonomy and more authority in many areas, along with the new Municipal Act. Quite frankly, we would expect property taxes by the year 2000 to go down on average about 10%. All I can do is tell you --


The Speaker: Order, please. It's nearly impossible to hear the answer. I'm asking the members to come to order. I don't want to be standing up here every question, but I'm going to. I can't hear the answers, and I have to.


Hon Mr Harris: Thank you very much, Speaker.

You speculate, you naysayers, you doomsayers, you purveyors of the status quo $11-billion deficits that were there. But we're prepared to be judged by results. The property taxes and the level of property taxes will be known long before the next election. If you want to stack your five-year record of tax hikes provincially, fee hikes and the offloading that you put on to municipalities, or if the NDP wants to put its five-year record up against our record, we'll be very happy to do that, come the next election.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Defend Peterson, Dalton. You love him.

The Speaker: The member for Ottawa-Rideau come to order, please.

Mr McGuinty: The Premier finds great comfort in talking about the past, but I want to talk about the future. Your lines are already dated. Nobody buys this; nobody believes this. We all understand that the net consequence, the net effect of mega-week is $1 billion which are going to be downloading on to property taxpayers right across Ontario. This understanding comes despite your attempt, through television advertising and radio advertising, to confuse us and to confuse the public out there.

We know you're shortchanging municipalities by more than $1 billion. Everyone knows there's going to be a property tax explosion, and let me promise you, the shock waves from that explosion will rattle your party to its very foundation. What the Premier unleashed last week is going to come back to haunt him. When those chickens come home to roost, they're going to be coming home with a vengeance.

I ask the Premier, if you're so confident that the tax experts, people like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, are wrong, why are you --

The Speaker: Thank you. Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: We've released the information on what programs cost today. We are also releasing expectations of what they should cost in the future. Some will go up, some will go down. But clearly, to achieve 10% or 15% or 20% property tax reductions, which may be possible, additional savings would have to be found. We would expect, on average, 10% by the year 2000, using best practices. But it may be possible that there will be municipalities that will elect too many Liberal and NDP members and maybe their taxes will only go down 2% or 3%.

We can't predict it all, you see, but we have great confidence in our municipal partners and in our school board partners that we'll be working with that we will deliver far better services, far better quality education and far better municipal services at less cost. That is our track record to date and we expect it will continue in the future.

Mr McGuinty: It's very convenient that the benefits that are going to accrue from mega-week won't be felt, won't be experienced by Ontario taxpayers unless and until they re-elect the Premier and his cohorts at the time of the next election.

You don't have to take my word for it. Ask the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, ask the board of trade, and they're going to tell you the same thing: Your $1-billion tax gap is going to lead to a property tax explosion right across the province.

The figures are starting to come in. Let's listen: Because of your dumping, property taxpayers in Hamilton are faced with an additional $69 million in costs. That works out to $325 for every household. Because of your dumping, London is facing an increase of between 17% and 18% in property taxes, Metro $378 million, Thunder Bay $15 million, Ottawa $81 million, Prescott-Russell $23 million.

Why don't you just admit that you've got a billion-dollar gap here? Why don't you just admit that as a Premier who promised not to raise property taxes you're in fact raising them by a billion dollars?

Hon Mr Harris: I have heard municipalities before lobby for more money and talk about initial budget allocations, even though now we're talking a full year down the road.

I can assure you that there is nothing in what we have announced that should cause taxes to go up and there is everything in what we have announced to allow property taxes to go down.

I can assure you of this: This government is not going to stand by and see any reduction in services to the public, in any social services, in any health services, in any of the programs, in any of the hard services, nor is this government, working in concert with our partners, going to tolerate tax increases, the kind you guys had for the 10 years of the lost decade. You can count on that.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. You are charging Ontario taxpayers millions of dollars to run your television ads that tell everybody, "Don't worry, be happy." Your Minister of Municipal Affairs has been trying to say that your downloading of health care, social assistance, transportation, policing and libraries will be a wash, that jobs won't be lost, health and community services won't be cut and he says property taxes won't rise.

But then this morning in a scrum, you said to the press that "some of Ryan's employees" will lose their jobs, that there will be fewer public servants, fewer CUPE members; they will lose their jobs. Premier, can you explain that? How many people are going to lose their jobs in this scenario?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): No, I can't give you the exact number, because a lot of these employees work for other employers: municipalities or school boards. But when you have seven municipalities in Metro Toronto serving 2.2 million people and you change to one level of government serving 2.2 million people, we would expect there would be fewer public servants. In fact, we campaigned saying there'd be fewer public servants. The net result of this will be fewer government employees.

Clearly, with an $11-billion deficit and high property taxes, we cannot sustain all the government employees you two parties racked up over 10 years, so we've been very upfront, we've been very straightforward. We expect to find savings in the numbers of government employees in school boards and municipalities and in the province of Ontario.


Mr Hampton: As I say, a whole bunch of things, a whole bunch of costly things, are being pushed down on to municipalities. These are all important services, so I want to ask the Premier this: Let's be a little clearer. Who exactly are you talking about? Are you talking about those hardworking people who work in municipal homes for the aged or municipal nursing homes and look after our parents and our grandparents? Are you talking about getting rid of them? Are you talking about getting rid of the people who plow the streets and maintain our streets? Are you talking about the people who work in our libraries so that our children are encouraged to read and have an opportunity to read? Are you talking about people who do important public works?

Premier, I think you owe it to people. We know that you're pushing down billions of dollars of costs on to municipalities, and we know that municipalities will either have to raise their property taxes substantially, they will have to cut services or they will have to get rid of a whole bunch of a jobs, or perhaps a combination of all three. I think you owe it to people to be honest. Which of these people and how many of these people are going to lose their jobs?

Hon Mr Harris: There are seven CEOs right now in Toronto. After this bill, there will be one.

Mr Hampton: I can see the Premier is trying hard to confuse the issue. The CEOs are not CUPE members. In fact, if you want to confine it to your megacity concept, everybody who looks at it says that it's going to add more middle managers; it's going to add more nameless, faceless bureaucrats. People from the United States who have done this say that. People who have looked at Halifax-Dartmouth say that.

Bill 104, your act to kill local democratic control of schools, gives your Education Improvement Commission the power to essentially do away with 55,000 hardworking educational assistants, custodians, maintenance workers, clerical staff, technical and aquatic staff, bus drivers, foodservice workers and English-as-a-second-language teachers.

Can you tell us, Premier, how many people there are you going to put on the unemployment roll, and can you tell us how that's going to affect the education of our children?

Hon Mr Harris: Let's be clear. What we are taking off the property taxpayer by the year 2000 is over $6 billion in education taxes, given where education is going. What we are asking municipalities to pick up is about the same. So if they don't want to cut taxes, if they don't want to find any savings, then there will be no tax increases. On the other hand, if they want to find efficiencies, we believe that there can be some reduction.

You ask about schools: Where are the savings? There will be two thirds fewer trustees, politicians. There will be two thirds fewer trustee supports. There will be half the directors of education. There will be half the directors of finance, half the directors of personnel, half the business superintendents, half the accounts payable clerks, half the accounts receivable clerks, half the human resources department, half the administration support, half the curriculum officers, half the office space and half the office equipment required, plus efficiencies in purchasing, transportation and other areas. With all those savings, we'll have a lot better education with dollars going into the classroom than we had under your administration.

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

Mr Hampton: My next question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, but I would say to the Premier, you have tried to avoid the question. You said it was going to be CUPE members, people who provide the basic services out there in the community, people who look after those homes for the aged, and I would say to you again, you're trying to miss the point.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs: Could you please inform all of us in the House today what is your understanding of the difference between market value assessment and actual value assessment? Could you please tell us what the difference is?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): As the member knows, both are value-based assessment processes, but there is a substantial difference between actual value assessment and market value assessment. Many of the details I would be glad to provide to the member. The system is a current value system and works on a rolling three-year average, which takes a lot of the volatility out of the system.

The other thing is that it's a very fair and equitable system. It's a system that's going to stop the bleeding in Metro Toronto, where these previous governments have allowed the property tax system to go into disarray, costing the municipality of Metro Toronto $100 million a year. You had the opportunity to fix it; you blew it. You didn't have the guts to do it. We have. We are going to bring fairness and equity back into the tax system.

Mr Hampton: Here's a bit of the history, and you should know this: The Golden report says the difference is that actual value assessment is like market value assessment in that it ascribes a value to each property, but it is administered differently in that property values are determined by applying weighting factors that reflect property characteristics. In other words, actual value assessment adjusts for things like size of the property, size of the house, and adds an element of fairness to a market-based system.

When we look through your press releases, Minister, and when we look through the briefing notes provided by Ministry of Finance officials, we can't find any of these things that distinguish between actual value and market value. In fact, here in this House yesterday you basically equated market value and actual value. I'll ask you again: Since none of the distinguishing things are present in your scheme, isn't your scheme really market value?

Hon Mr Leach: No, it's not market value; it's the Ontario fair value assessment system. There are substantial differences. It is a system that is going to bring fairness to the property tax system. It's going to have everybody paying their fair share; no more free rides. People who have not been paying their fair share for many years are going to have to do it, and the thousands and thousands of people in Metro Toronto who are paying more than their fair share will get a reduction in taxes.

Mr Hampton: The minister can use all the rhetoric he wants. This is the briefing note from the Ministry of Finance and it says, "Assessments will be based on what properties are sold for." That's market value. I would say to the minister, if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it's a duck. This is market value you're trying to push on people. There is no provision in your legislation for an assessment system which takes into account property characteristics; none of those things. Market value under your reform does not allow for the stabilizing influence of an actual value assessment system.

How do you explain this -- this is Al Leach during the election -- "My party and I will never support the imposition of MVA in Metro Toronto," yet when we look at the characteristics of what you're imposing on people, it is exactly MVA. When people questioned you about the figures yesterday, you referred to the MVA figures and said: "Go look at that. That will tell you how much it costs." Tell us: Who was telling the truth, Al Leach today, when we know it's now market value, or Al Leach in 1995, during the election?

Hon Mr Leach: This is not market value assessment and the member knows it very well. The Ontario fair assessment system is based on current use, not highest and best use. It's a system, again, that is going to bring fairness back into the system and correct the most messed-up assessment system this country has ever seen. You're worried about expenses in Metro? Here's one solution that's immediately going to correct a $100-million problem.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Quack, quack.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Quack, quack.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I never thought there would be the day when I'd rule "quack" out of order.


The Speaker: Okay. New question, the member for Oakwood.



Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): To the Premier: Anne Golden who authored the Golden report, the board of trade -- your friends -- Conservative Metro Councillor Gordon Chong, even people from the taxpayers' federation are saying that you are destroying the economic viability of Metro by jamming this megacity down the throats of its citizens, and on top of that you're dumping welfare and subsidized housing on Metro. The people are saying, "What do we need a provincial government for?" In fact some of them are even saying, "Maybe we should secede from the province." Premier, is that what you want to create in Metro, another Quebec situation?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Let me respond to some of the rhetoric about taking 2.2 million people currently in Metro Toronto, governed by seven governments, down to one government. Gordon Chong is very supportive of that; so is the Metro board of trade; so is the taxpayers' coalition. Given the veracity of your facts in the preamble, your question is really irrelevant.

Mr Colle: The Premier is wrong, as he is on the $1 billion. Paul Pagnuelo says this megacity proposal is utter madness and is going to increase property taxes, so I'd like to correct that record.

Premier, do you realize what you're doing to the gap in property taxes between the 905 and the 416 as a result of your megacity proposal and your dumping on Metro welfare? Even the Globe and Mail, a very conservative paper, says that your plan for megacity dumping is fatally flawed. People are asking, do you really know what you're doing?

Hon Mr Harris: I read an editorial in the Globe today that was 100% supportive of everything we're doing.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question, the member for Dovercourt.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Premier as well. I'd just say to the Premier that as he gets briefed and brought up to date, he'll discover that a lot of his former friends don't agree with what he's doing on the megacity. My question to him is exactly on that.

One of the reasons they don't agree and one of the reasons we have so many citizens concerned about what you're doing, one of the reasons we saw 1,500 people at a meeting last night in Metropolitan Toronto is not just because of the democratic process that you're trampling on -- that's a major issue in and of itself -- but it's also because when they recall back, they see a Mike Harris who runs around the province vaunting the fact that he's the man who keeps his promises.

Then they look at the promise you made with respect to Metropolitan Toronto. When you endorsed the report of another one of your ex-political friends, Joyce Trimmer, do you remember the one that said that yes, you were going to make changes in Metropolitan Toronto, but you would maintain the lower-tier municipalities? Now you're doing completely the opposite. That's why people are upset.

What do you say, Premier? As a man who keeps his promises, how do you justify what you're doing?

Hon Mr Harris: What we have done is scrapped Metro government and we have one lower-tier municipality in Toronto.

Mr Silipo: We'll look forward to how this Premier and his ministers continue to explain that position, which is diametrically opposed to what was said in the report he endorsed, which envisioned very clearly the maintenance of lower-tier municipalities in Metro Toronto. Yes, it talked about abolishing the Metro level of government, but it talked very clearly about maintaining local municipalities. In fact, it envisioned the responsibility for the delivery of some of these services moved to the local level and others moved out beyond. But it envisioned very clearly, Premier, and you can't cut it both ways, maintaining local municipalities in Metro Toronto. You couldn't have been clearer about that.

When people look at that, they now see a Premier of the province who is not keeping his promise. They see a Premier of the province who is reneging 180 degrees on that basic promise, and that's why they want to make sure not only that there is a public process of hearings that go beyond March 3 but that you will actually listen and be affected by the things you will hear in them. Premier, will you ensure that this process takes place?

Hon Mr Harris: Here are the eight recommendations of the Trimmer task force report:

"(1) There is too much government.

"(2) The current two-level system of government is too expensive, too bureaucratic and too unaccountable.

"(3) The government closest to the people is considered the most responsive, efficient and accountable.

"(4) Political boundaries often act as impediments to effective, efficient delivery of service.

"(5) Broader regional coordination for transportation is essential.

"(6) Unfairness in the property tax system is broadly acknowledged and in need of immediate attention" -- something you guys are opposing.

"(7) In order to achieve greater efficiencies, local government should encourage more private-public partnerships.

"(8) There is high value placed on local communities and the sense of belonging which a strong community engenders. Policies must be designed to protect and preserve the uniqueness of neighbourhoods."

We've followed through on all eight.

Mr Silipo: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to ask for unanimous consent that you give the Premier more time so he can read the paragraph that starts, "As you will note, these observations" are where the real answer lies, and he omitted from that --

Interjections: Agreed.

The Speaker: You know, I haven't even asked yet. The member for Dovercourt wishes unanimous consent so the Premier can read from that section. Agreed? No. It wasn't agreed.


Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): My question is for the minister responsible for seniors issues. Many seniors in my riding of Wentworth East have in the past expressed concern about rising auto insurance rates. Hardest hit, of course, have been seniors on fixed incomes. I'm wondering if the minister could let the House know how those concerns have been addressed through this summer's passage of Bill 59, the Automobile Insurance Rate Stability Act.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I'd like to thank my colleague for the question and indicate that when this government brought in Bill 59 it was aware that in the previous decade, when the provincial Parliament attempted to restore some stability to auto rates, our seniors seemed to be particularly hard hit. We designed the plan in this legislation to ensure that we restored good rates for good driving records and restored fairness, balance and stability into the system, and seniors have been the primary beneficiaries of this new legislation.

Since November 1, I'm pleased to report, insurance companies must province a discount if they are approached by a retired senior or someone on a fixed income, and there are real bargains out there for people if they'll call their insurance companies. In fact, statistics have shown that two thirds of companies out there are offering a 5% discount, a third of them are offering between 5% and 10% and there are eight companies offering discounts of greater than 10% for Ontario seniors.

Mr Doyle: Mr Speaker, many seniors in my riding are familiar with many high costs, such as particularly high education taxes and so on. I'd like to ask the minister if he could give a real example of a senior who is currently experiencing some new savings, because this is a government that is listening.

Hon Mr Jackson: I'd like to report that even members in opposition have shared with me that their seniors have approached them and advised them of these savings, which they appreciate, and that they share in the credit because it was a bill that passed in this Parliament.

I was talking to one of my constituents, Bill Carlton, who's been retired, from Burlington. He and his wife own two cars, $1,700 was his insurance, he's had a $200 discount and he is quite pleased. He's one of many success stories in discounts. Bill Carlton, a senior, has stated publicly, "I'm pleased with the direction this government is moving in," not only with his insurance rates, but with cleaning up all the waste in government.



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier. It has to do with the impact on residential property taxpayers of all the various moves your government is making, and I will say that in our opinion it is offloading in the most dramatic way on property taxes.

I want to focus on one specific issue: the business occupancy tax. We have been told here in Metropolitan Toronto that the elimination of the business occupancy tax is a $650-million hit on the revenue for our municipalities of Metro Toronto -- 15% of their revenue gone. I gather that your government is saying: "Tough luck. Replace it by increasing property tax on other things."

What does your government expect municipalities to do to recover the $650 million? Will that be put on business property tax or the residential property tax?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think the Minister of Finance has a few of those --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Finance.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): To the member, municipalities have the ability in the legislation to choose to make up the lost revenue in business occupancy tax by spreading it among the same category of taxpayer, among other classes of taxpayers, provided they don't raise the disparity in the rate between, for example, commercial property taxes and residential property taxes.

Mr Phillips: The answer we just got is very clear, then, to people in Metro Toronto: $650 million in revenue -- gone. That was municipal revenue. The province took the credit for it, eliminated it, but it's all municipal revenue. The minister just said that a portion of it will have to go on the residential property taxpayer in Metro Toronto.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): No, he didn't. He said no such thing.

Mr Phillips: The people in the province should understand that the Minister of Community and Social Services, who has offloaded social assistance, child care and long-term care, is barracking and yelling when we are trying to point out that they are offloading on the residential property taxpayer.

I will say to the Minister of Finance once again, you have said in your answer that local municipalities cannot increase the proportion on business. By definition, then, a portion of this has to go on the residential property taxpayers. So you have cut out $650 million and you are loading more and more on the residential property taxpayer. How much of that $650 million do you think will go on the residential taxpayer?

Hon Mr Eves: That is not what I said. Who does the member think are paying business occupancy taxes today? Businesses. Now the municipality will have the choice of taking that portion and putting it on the commercial property tax if they so choose. However, Ontario, after consultation with the municipalities -- AMO, ROMA, FONOM -- is going to establish ranges of acceptability between --

Mr Phillips: They can't put it all on the property taxpayer.


Hon Mr Eves: Now, just a minute. Excuse me. I say to the honourable members that if they have any small business people in their constituencies whatsoever, they might want to start to think about them.

Mr Phillips: I have a lot more residential property taxpayers and I am thinking about them right now.

Hon Mr Eves: I say to the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, the residential property taxpayers in his riding, as he acknowledged in 1990, are going to get a tax break under this legislation.

The Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): That's a new definition for new math. You don't need a calculator to figure out that new math.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): You didn't have the guts to do that either, Elinor.

The Speaker: The member for Oriole and the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, if you have a conversation, there are lots of other places.


The Speaker: The member for Oakwood.

Mrs Caplan: Well, so much for revenue-neutral. Out the window, right on the backs of taxpayers.

The Speaker: The member for Oriole, please. Thank you.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): She's right, though.

The Speaker: Well, somehow that doesn't shock me that you think that. I still have to move on. The member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): The member for Scarborough-Agincourt preaches for his parish and talks about the impact of the business occupancy tax where he lives, to the tune of $650 million. Let's enlarge the picture and face the reality that we're talking about $1.6 billion at the provincial level. This is a tax that has been removed, a revenue from the municipalities at present, through the business occupancy tax.

Minister, you established a rate of a 30% levy on small retail businesses. If you're the Royal Bank in downtown Toronto, if you're the biggie, you pay your share, you pay 75%. You can't have it eight different ways. Who's going to pay for the difference? Who's going to pick up the slack? Who will pick up the $1.6 billion, which is massive, because you have given a gift to your friends on Bay Street? You've been consistent on the back of small businesses. Who's going to make up the slack? Tell me, Minister.

Hon Mr Eves: To the honourable member, municipalities all across the province are going to have the ability to make the decision whether they ask commercial taxpayers --


Hon Mr Eves: No. Excuse me. Businesses are already paying --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Eves: Businesses will be paying if municipalities choose to have commercial-assessed properties pick up the difference. Municipalities will also have the ability -- he talks about banks etc -- to establish two different rates of taxation for commercial properties, one for small businesses, one for larger businesses, therefore answering your bank question.

Mr Pouliot: The minister is absolutely right: It's not that easy. What you're saying is that it's always better to have someone else die for their country than yourselves. You've downloaded. You see, the trick here, the downfall, is that there is limitation: You cannot place relative burdens among different classes of property. It's a devil's choice, nothing short of that.

Because of the regulations, because of the limitations, municipalities are negotiating and will be forced to levy with both hands behind their back. Who is going to pay the residential levy: property owners in Ontario or small business? It has to be one of the two. Pick one.

Hon Mr Eves: Yes, somebody is going to have to pay. Somebody is paying now. Somebody has been paying since 1904. This will be a far more equitable system for small businesses in Ontario than the antiquated system of business occupancy tax that's been in place since 1904, and municipal representatives will be able to make the appropriate choice for their community. Some communities are fortunate enough to have a lot of commercial and industrial assessment, and some, like mine, are not.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): My question is for the Minister of Transportation. As the minister will know, in my riding a number of my constituents have road salt problems. Some of them have salt contamination in their wells that are adjacent to roads; some of them are not adjacent to roads. Can you advise the House, Minister, just what your ministry is doing to make sure that MTO operations are not the prime cause of salt contamination?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I'd like to thank the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay for the question. The issue of salt contamination is of great concern to my ministry, and for that reason my parliamentary assistant, the member for Oshawa, has been visiting some of these problem areas.

We are currently engaged in a number of initiatives to limit contamination. Ministry of Transportation staff are now using more effective application-of-salt techniques. These initiatives are possible during winter maintenance operations through improved equipment and training of people, and also the new techniques I mentioned. We have also incorporated a design measure, such as lining ditches in particular problem areas, to prevent and reduce the salt from actually entering the earth. We will continue to explore whatever other possibilities we might have.

Mr Grimmett: It's good to see that your ministry is taking action to prevent this type of contamination from occurring in the future. Many of my constituents, however, want to know what you're doing for the people whose drinking water is contaminated now. Will you tell the House what action your ministry is taking to ensure that these people have access to clean drinking water?

Hon Mr Palladini: The Ministry of Transportation deals with the issues of soil contamination on an individual, claim-by-claim basis. MTO will provide and pay for a groundwater expert to come in to investigate the damage, particularly to the drinking water supply. If it is determined that MTO road salt is responsible for the contamination, we will accept liability and provide assistance to the claimant. Depending on the situation, my ministry will provide bottled drinking water; we might pay for drilling of a new well or we might replace damaged plumbing. But this government will stand behind Ontarians in making sure they will be protected from any salt contamination.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): My question is to the Premier. Yesterday afternoon Thunder Bay resident Veronica Manuel addressed the standing committee on social development regarding her severely disabled son, Dylan. Veronica told a harrowing story of the extreme measures she has had to take to keep her son at home despite the government's actions, including reducing her social assistance, imposing user fees for all the prescription drugs Dylan needs and indeed ignoring all her letters to you and to your ministers. Premier, your own committee members were deeply shocked by Veronica's story, and now you're dumping the responsibility for Veronica and Dylan, as well as a half-million other children in this province, on to residential taxpayers.

My question is simply this: What will you say to Veronica if your deep cuts and out-of-control policies force her to give up her child?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the minister has some information on that.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister of Health?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): Mr Speaker, I believe it was referred to me.

The Speaker: Premier, I know you said "the minister." I don't know which minister you're referring it to.

Hon Mr Harris: I know they all care, but the Minister of Community and Social Services.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I appreciate the very eloquent case this particular individual made to the committee yesterday. She has sacrificed considerably to take care of her child at home, and I think her case, more than anything, demonstrates why we need to improve the system to support families like that who care for their children at home. That's one of the reasons we were able to find $15 million in additional money to try and support women such as herself who need that support at home.

The other thing I would like to remind the honourable member of is that, no, we have not ignored the letters from this particular individual. We have met with this individual and her family on many occasions to try and sort out and put the supports in place. We will continue to do that.

The final point is that we are not dumping these programs or these services anywhere. The province takes them very seriously. We are continuing to exercise our responsibility to fund and support these families.

Mr Gravelle: One doesn't know where to begin to respond to that, Minister, for God's sake. We managed to get a meeting with one of your assistants -- no response to that meeting with one of your assistants.

You cannot deny that dumping on municipalities is taking place and that is simply going to cause a tax explosion in many of our communities. Thunder Bay city council was told last night that your dumping will add $15 million to the operating costs in Thunder Bay, which will potentially force a 20% increase in property taxes.

Our community in Thunder Bay is sufficiently desperate that they are now investigating a legal challenge to your out-of-control policies. This brutal hatchet job is going to put municipalities in a very difficult position and the dumping is going to force them to make some excruciating decisions. The minister cannot simply waffle out of this one.

Minister, in that the Premier won't respond -- and I will also say that it's not just your ministry that affects Veronica and some of the others. What we really need to know is, why don't you care? Why does the government not care what happens to our seniors and our children and to people like Veronica and Dylan? Please, please answer.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I appreciate the sincerity of the member opposite in trying to help many of the individuals who are trying to care for their children at home. That is one of the reasons we actually had additional money two weeks ago to try to support families who are caring for children at home.

I would like to remind the honourable member that the municipal level of government is one of the reasons the social support system in this province is as good as it is. They are part of the delivery system. They have been our partners in funding. They can continue to do that. We have additional supports in place to make sure those municipalities can live up to their responsibilities. We've improved their situation by taking the education costs off the back of the property taxpayer so they'll be able to afford these responsibilities.

We have not walked away from these programs. They are extremely important. There are many folks who depend on them, and that's why we think we are going to continue to improve the way they are delivered.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour regarding the investigation into the tragic deaths of two steelworkers at Dofasco in Hamilton last week. My office was told just a few hours ago by officials of the United Steelworkers of America, which indeed represents those two workers, that their union is being stonewalled in this investigation. The certified worker, certified as a health and safety expert by the government of Ontario, has not been allowed to inspect the scene of the fatal accident. As you know, this is a right that's guaranteed under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, subsection 8(14).

The Steelworkers were told by Dofasco, and I quote: "It's our property and our responsibility." Also, the union's representative has not been allowed to participate formally in the investigation. Minister, why is this happening and what are you going to do to stop it?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): As you know, the ministry is fully involved in this investigation, and I shall certainly take those issues under advisement and report back to you.

Mr Christopherson: I would hope the minister would ensure that that report back would include a response here in the House, because it's the public and workers in the public who are very concerned about this issue. I hope you'll respond in that fashion: here in the House.

My supplementary question is this: You can now appreciate, with this sort of thing happening in the province, the absolute need to strengthen the role of health and safety committees in the province and in the workplace, to strengthen the role of the certified worker, to strengthen the role of the committees and to ensure that all the legislation is strengthened, not weakened.

Everything we've heard from your government in terms of changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act says that you're going to deregulate responsibility back to the employer, that you're going to weaken the responsibility of committees, that you're going to weaken the role of the certified worker. Minister, I want your absolute assurance today that you will not do one thing that weakens the right of those committees and those certified health and safety workers in the workplace, and I want you to do it now.

Hon Mrs Witmer: It's unfortunate that the information you're receiving is so very wrong. As you know, I have repeatedly said in this House that our objective is to have among the safest workplaces those in the province of Ontario. That's why we are completely reviewing the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We will be taking a look at the role of the committees, we will be taking a look at the role of the workplace parties and we will be building on the internal responsibility system, which means the workplace parties will assume the responsibility for identifying hazards and making sure those workplaces are safe. This is a very significant step forward and it's one our government is going to do. We will have the safest workplaces.




Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I move that the following substitution be made to the membership of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly: Mr Clement be substituted for Mr O'Toole.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Does the motion carry? Carried.

Hon David Johnson: I move the following changes on the standing committee on administration of justice: Mr Chiarelli, Mr Crozier, Mr Ramsay --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I don't have a copy of that, Dave. I wasn't told about that; no agreement on that. I only have the first one.

Hon David Johnson: Mr Speaker, if I might make a note to the whip from the third party, I have just received a copy from the official opposition. These are all changes to deal with the official opposition. None of them are changes to deal with the government. If the official opposition has a list --

The Speaker: Just read the motion. Let's get on with it.


The Speaker: You do have time. Why don't you just discuss it?

Okay. More motions, government House leader? No more motions?



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): A timely petition from the people of St Catharines to the government of Ontario:

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


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is attacking workers' compensation benefits and the rights of injured workers; and

"Whereas Tory plans include taking $15 billion from injured workers and giving $6 billion to employers, including the government's rich corporate friends; and

"Whereas Cam Jackson, the former Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for gutting the WCB, refused to hold public hearings, choosing to meet secretly with business and insurance industry representatives; and

"Whereas the WCB has about $7.6 billion in assets and its unfunded liability has been steadily shrinking; and

"Whereas the Jackson report and WCB legislation are just part of a coordinated attack on occupational health and safety protections for working families in Ontario; and

"Whereas Tory plans also include abolition of the internationally respected Occupational Disease Panel; and

"Whereas the government needs to hear the message that taking money from injured workers and lowering incentives for employers to make workplaces safer is not the way to make Ontario a better place to live;

"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."

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


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I have a petition from the community action committee for St Marys Memorial Hospital.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the Minister of Health:

"Whereas St Marys Memorial Hospital is critically important to the St Marys area from both health and economic perspectives,

"We petition to support the continuation of St Marys Memorial Hospital with active chronic beds and 24-hour emergency services to effectively serve the St Marys and area community."

It's signed on nine pages, about 30 on a page.


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 have affixed my signature.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Legislature and to the Honourable Robert Runciman, Solicitor General.

"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;

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

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

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

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

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

"Therefore, since a therapeutic community cannot exist in a superprison, we urge the government to save the victims and money by keeping what works."

I'm proud to affix my signature.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I'd like to present a petition on behalf of some of the constituents within the riding of Bruce, and it reads as follows:

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will be pleased to affix my name to this petition.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Honourable Solicitor General and Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario has decided to scrap mandatory inquests as a result of fatalities in the mining and construction industry; and

"Whereas this unprecedented and callous decision sets workplace safety back 20 years;

"We, the undersigned, request that Solicitor General Bob Runciman, on behalf of all workers in the mining and construction industry, reverse his decision to remove mandatory inquests from the Coroners Act of Ontario."

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Given the events recently in Hamilton, I wholeheartedly support this petition.


Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I'm presenting this petition concerning the spring bear hunt on behalf of the Honourable Bob Runciman. It reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Whereas bears are the only mammals hunted over bait;

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

This petition is signed by people from various parts of the province.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition addressed to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the Harris government has enacted a variety of policies which will negatively affect the rights of Ontario's workers; and

"Whereas the proposed elimination of protections contained within the Employment Standards Act will further erode the basic protection afforded to working people in this province;

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

"That the government of Ontario reverse the unfair practices that have resulted in reduced protection and support for workers in this province and, in particular, that the proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act be withdrawn."

I support the petitioners and I will affix my signature to the petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): A further petition regarding occupational health and safety and its importance in the province of Ontario:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name in support of this cause.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): Before reading this petition, I'd like to pre-empt it by saying that this was dated prior to the arrival of the new Minister of Health and therefore reads to the past minister's name. It's a petition to the Parliament of Ontario.

"Whereas the Honourable Jim Wilson, Minister of Health, has announced an 18% reduction to the health system which would result in major cuts to hospital services, reductions in medical/surgical beds and possible closures of hospitals; and

"Whereas the future of the hospitals within Huron county are currently under review by the Huron-Perth District Health Council; and

"Whereas many residents of Bruce county are served by Wingham and District Hospital and would be directly impacted by the decisions of the Huron-Perth District Health Council,

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

"Whereas the citizens of Bruce county realize there are to be cuts and reductions to health care; and

"Whereas restructuring and financial responsibility can be accomplished without direct hospital closures,

"Be it hereby resolved that the citizens of Teeswater and Culross township care about their hospitals and hereby implore the Honourable Jim Wilson, Minister of Health, to give every consideration to ensure that the reductions to health care not result in the closure of any hospital in our area."

I affix my name to the top.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as well.

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario is considering the privatization of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario,

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

"That the Liquor Control Board of Ontario remain a crown corporation because we fear that the privatization of that organization will lead to increases in crime, drunk driving, alcohol abuse and its health costs as well as loss of control over availability to minors and quality of product."

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


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from the United Paperworkers International Union, Local 665, in Terrace Bay.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Mike Harris government is rolling back the clock on workers' health and safety and occupational disease; and

"Whereas before the Occupational Disease Panel was established the Workers' Compensation Board dragged its feet for decades in acknowledging evidence that work was responsible for many diseases; and

"Whereas the independent Occupational Disease Panel's work is respected internationally; and

"Whereas a leaked cabinet document shows that Labour Minister Elizabeth Witmer is planning to abolish the Occupational Disease Panel, ending this independent voice and giving the responsibility back to the WCB; and

"Whereas the government needs to hear from the people of Ontario that taking money away from workers with occupational diseases is not the way to make Ontario a better place to live,

"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 preservation of the Occupational Disease Panel; and to tell the Tory government to call off its attack on the dignity and standard of living of injured workers and their families."

I add my name to theirs in support of this cause.




Mr Bartolucci moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 110, An Act respecting the number of pupils that may be enrolled in a school class / Projet de loi 110, Loi concernant le nombre d'élèves pouvant être inscrits dans une classe scolaire.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion please say "aye."

Those opposed please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. Carried.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Come to order. Would you like to give an explanation?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'd like to thank the assembly for accepting first reading of a private member's bill, which is by all accounts customary. Certainly we know there's a backbencher in the government side who has trouble understanding that. But this act is entitled the School Class Sizes Act and this bill limits the number of pupils who may be enrolled in any class in any school anywhere in Ontario.



Mr Snobelen moved second 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.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Madam Speaker, Ontarians have long understood the importance of education to the wellbeing of this province. It's a passport to opportunity for the individual student growing up in a rapidly changing world and it's a vital factor in determining how well Ontario will succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive global economy.

Last year alone, Ontarians spent more than $13 billion on elementary and secondary school education. Taxpayers have always demanded accountability in public spending. They want reassurance that their tax dollars are being used wisely and that they are getting the best possible return on that investment.

As I noted on Monday, this is not a new issue. In fact, some 150 years ago the citizens of Toronto were already raising doubts about the rising costs of education and how effectively their tax dollars were being spent.

Today I'm delighted to open debate on second reading of the Fewer School Boards Act, 1997, which will respond to these long-standing concerns. The legislation we're debating today is part of a comprehensive package of government reforms that have been announced this week. Through it, we are going to streamline the way education in Ontario is financed and governed. As a result, residential property taxpayers will no longer be required to bear the costs of education. I am sure this will be a great relief to residential property taxpayers, particularly senior citizens, who for too long have been singled out to carry the burden of funding education through their property taxes.

Over the last 10 years, school boards have increased residential property taxes by an average of 5% in each and every year. If these trends continued, residential property taxpayers would be paying $6.2 billion more for education by the year 2000. Effective 1998, these funds will be provided through provincial grants, not through residential property taxes.

The public is becoming more and more critical of school boards that have demonstrated little control over their spending habits. In the period between 1985 and 1995, for example, total student enrolment rose by some 16%, while board spending increased by 82%. During that same period, residential property owners saw the educational component of their residential taxes jump by more than 120%.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: This is a very important bill and the government has not kept quorum.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Minister of Education.

Hon Mr Snobelen: This is a very important bill and I'm glad we do have quorum.

As I was saying, during the period that I've mentioned, residential property taxpayers in the province watched their taxes jump by 120%. In 1996, 78% of Ontario's school boards, rather than trimming their budgets to find a 1.8% efficiency, chose instead to increase residential property taxes; 29 of those boards increased property taxes by more than 3%.

Taxpayers are also questioning what they're getting in return for an ever-increasing tax bill. Many people point to the elaborate administrative centres that school boards have built as an all-too-visible reminder of a system that has little or no public accountability. In my riding, for example, two of these monuments to school board spending face each other across a single intersection. Some of these board buildings have opulent adornments, including waterfall walls and terrazzo floors. One board that I know of also has an ownership interest in a golf course. Residential taxpayers can't afford and shouldn't be expected to pay for these questionable costs that are routinely demanded by school boards.

The government is committed to putting an end to this practice. We will require that business taxes continue to support effective and accountable funding of the education system. But I want to make it clear that we have rejected the idea of pooling. These taxes will remain in the community from which they were generated. Beginning in 1998, municipalities will collect this money and then forward it to the local school boards.

These reforms are based on extensive consultation with the people of this province that has involved 24 separate reviews on finance and governance since 1950, including royal commissions, committees, fact-finding reports, panels and innumerable meetings. Each time parents have expressed their concerns about the quality of their children's education and the way in which education dollars are being spent. They say they can't get straight answers on their children's education.

It's time to take action. Through the Fewer School Boards Act we are moving forward with the much-needed reform of the education system. We are streamlining the structure of the system and refocusing resources on the classroom, where they belong.

According to the report on school board spending, 1995-96, which I released earlier this month, there are significant discrepancies in how boards spend their resources. Some devote up to 73% to the classroom, others as little as 51%. This report found that on average, for every dollar spent on the classroom, more than 80 cents was spent outside the classroom. Clearly this situation cannot continue if we are going to give every student in this province an opportunity to excel. Non-classroom spending must be reduced in order to maximize the resources that are focused on our classrooms.

Through the Fewer School Boards Act we will be streamlining the administrative overhead by cutting the number of major school boards in Ontario in half, from about 129 to 66, and replacing them with new district school boards, effective January 1, 1998. Where possible the district boards will follow municipal boundaries. We will be retaining the small, isolate and hospital boards as school authorities.

After this reform the province will have 55 English-language school boards, down from 125, and 11 French-language school boards, which will replace the confusing array of 71 existing boards, sections of boards and advisory committees. These changes will respect all constitutional rights and they will respect the tradition of local control and decision-making.

We are also committed to improving the quality of education at less cost to the taxpayer. To do that we'll develop a new, fair model for distributing funding to ensure a high quality of education that meets all students' individual needs regardless of where they live. The new funding model will be based on work conducted by the Working Group on Education Finance Reform, which was composed of key stakeholders, including representatives of teachers' federations, provincial school boards associations and Metro-area school boards. Its principles and features have already been presented in the consultation paper, Meeting Students' Needs, that we released in September. We've received tremendous response to this consultation paper and we'll be incorporating that input into our new model.

This new funding model will provide funds to recognize the cost of educating students, including special circumstances such as students learning in English for the first time, students with special needs and students in remote communities. As such it will respond to the concerns of urban boards such as Metropolitan Toronto, which are the largest recipients of new immigrants not only to Ontario but to Canada, and of smaller boards such as the Kirkland Lake-Timiskaming District Roman Catholic Separate School Board, which must meet the high costs of transportation and heating.

We'll be releasing a full and detailed proposal for the new funding model later this winter. The model will outline the approach we intend to take and will identify those issues upon which we'd like some advice, but I can assure you the new funding model, because it is based on the needs of students, will help to refocus our resources back in the classroom.


Through this legislation, we are also redefining the role of the school board trustee. We want to restore trustees to their traditional and effective role as guardians of local education. This legislation provides the mechanisms through which we will reduce the number of politicians in education by cutting the number of trustees at major boards from almost 1,900 to approximately 700.

The Metropolitan Toronto district board, due to its size, will have up to 22 trustees. All others in the province will have between five and 12 trustees. The number and geographic distribution of trustees for the individual boards will be based on population and density tables that we will set out in regulation.

The legislation also clarifies who is eligible to serve as a trustee. We want to get away from the situation where those elected to serve on a board are unable to adequately represent their constituents and participate in decision-making on key issues because of potential conflicts of interest. Through this legislation, school board employees and their spouses will no longer be able to serve as a trustee in any school board or school authority in Ontario. Running for office will be permitted only if the employee takes a leave of absence.

In addition, we'll be taking steps to control trustees' salaries. They will no longer be able to take home up to the equivalent of a full-time salary, some more than $49,000 a year. Instead, school boards will have the option to provide an honorarium of up to $5,000.

The trustee's role now will be to provide policy, direction and support, not to be the hands-on, day-to-day managers in the schools. By clarifying that role, we are allowing teachers and principals to once again take responsibility for the operation of their schools. They will now be assured that they will have the resources they need to teach the curriculum and that grants will address their students' individual needs, such as English as a second language.

Finally, to make sure that these reforms take place in an organized and careful way, this legislation will establish a commission that will work with the local community, including trustees, classroom teachers, parents and other stakeholders in the education community to guide the process of change.

These are not revolutionary ideas; in fact governments of all political stripes throughout Canada have already embarked on similar reforms. A report commissioned for the second national consultation on education in 1996 noted that jurisdictions are reforming education by promoting parental involvement in education; reducing the number of school boards, while expanding the use of school councils; renewing curriculum to focus on what students should know or be able to do; providing greater accountability to parents and the general public by instituting assessment tools based on a standard curriculum.

The legislation you have before you is proof that Ontario will no longer sit on the sidelines as others move ahead. Through the Fewer School Boards Act, we are continuing to fulfil the pledge that this government made to parents. We are providing them with the information and opportunities they need to resume their role as full partners in the education of their children. We are giving parents a greater direct voice in education by mandating that each school must have an advisory school council. These councils will have influence on key issues related to the school programs, codes of discipline and feedback on student achievement.

We are publishing annual reports so that parents and taxpayers can monitor and evaluate their school board's performance by seeing clearly where education dollars are being spent. The hallmarks of Ontario's new education system will be high standards and accountability. Our standards will be clear, measurable and comprehensive in all grades, and the new revised curriculum will be the same across the province. Our new curriculum for grades 1 to 9 will be released in the coming months. This rigorous and demanding new curriculum, focusing on language, math, science and technology, is the first stage in building a complete curriculum that provides a solid foundation in the basics.

We have already increased funding on new information technology in the classroom through a $40-million investment in the technology incentive partnership program, which will focus particularly on the early grades.

We have completed consultations on secondary school reform, one of the most ambitious ever on education in this province. More than 20,000 individuals and groups were involved, and their input will form the basis of this government's decisions on the structure and content of secondary schools in the province. The new four-year program will be implemented for students entering grade 9 in September 1998.

We have established the Education Quality and Accountability Office, which will begin regular province-wide testing of students this year, so parents will know whether their child has learned what is expected. Standard report cards will be issued by this fall to allow parents to see clearly how well their child is doing. This year we'll also be publishing our own report card and asking the public and parents to grade our efforts. That's the best way to make this system more accountable.

We are meeting our pledge. The Fewer School Boards Act is an important step in bringing accountability back into the education system, but we are doing more: We are reforming the education system to ensure our children have a solid foundation upon which to build their lives, a foundation upon which Ontario's future prosperity depends. This government's action will ensure that Ontario students will not be left behind.

The Acting Speaker: Are there questions and comments on the minister's speech?

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): The minister began the introduction of this debate with the statement, "Ontarians have long understood the importance of education to the wellbeing of this province." I agree with that. I think it's only too bad, perhaps tragic, that the minister and his government do not have a similar understanding of the importance of education to the wellbeing of this province.

The only part of the minister's introductory statement that has any relevance to the bill he is presenting today is his repeated concern about costs, his constant and now repeated efforts to dump on school trustees across this province, to point to trustees' apparent lack of responsibility in controlling what he considers to be spiralling education costs.

It is part of the minister's inability to want to paint whole pictures that he does not make any mention of the fact that over recent years education costs have been progressively dumped on to the local taxpayer and therefore have become the responsibility of school boards, that the province has paid less and less of a share of educational costs and that school trustees indeed have faced the very difficult decisions of knowing how to cope with those cuts, manage taxes in a way which is responsible, fair and realistic and still preserve a quality of education for the students in their schools.

The minister seems to have no appreciation of the kind of role that school trustees have played in this province. The minister chooses to use only bits and pieces of information. This has been a consistent pattern with this minister, using bits and pieces of information that he can then use to distort the picture being given so that taxpayers and citizens will have a very different picture of educational spending and the realities of where educational dollars are spent, all to serve a clearly predetermined political and personal agenda of this minister and a political agenda of a government which has one goal and one goal only, that is, to somehow, however desperately, find the means to pay --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you very much. The member's time has expired.


The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. This is two-minute responses.

Mrs McLeod: Oh, I'm sorry, Madam Speaker. I'm getting into my debate.

The Acting Speaker: It was a very good two-minute response, and in a few minutes you'll have the opportunity to continue.

Further questions or comments?

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I want to say to the former leader of the Liberal Party that that was a great two-minute response. I look forward to hearing the other 90 minutes.

For the benefit of those people who may be in the gallery or indeed watching who expected that we would be debating Bill 103 or doing other things this afternoon, we should point out that we are debating Bill 104, the education bill.

The reason that is happening is because we finally seem to have gotten somewhere with respect to the government understanding the importance of the issues before us and at least being prepared -- though I'll believe it when I see it -- under Bill 103 to have the referendum process unfold first and then deal with the bill here only after that has happened.


But let me come back to Bill 104, because here too we see many similarities with the issues we have been raising under Bill 103. Here too there was a very clear promise made by this government, which was that it would protect classroom spending, and we know that what's behind this education bill is a fundamental breach of that very important promise. The minister can cut it every which way he wants, but until and unless he's prepared to stand up and answer the question he's so far refused to answer, which he was asked again when he put forward this legislation and this proposal, that is, will he guarantee that the present amount of funding being spent on education will continue to be spent on education -- he's refused to answer that.

We know that what this is about is taking about $1 billion out of the school system of this province. At the end of the day, you can't get that kind of money without cutting in the classroom.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I'm pleased to rise today and respond to the minister's opening statement on Bill 104. I know just how hard the minister has worked to improve the quality, accountability and accessibility of education in Ontario right from the very beginning, with Bill 34, and right through the public discussions on education reform and education finance reform. It has come together with Bill 104, which is indeed a great first step.

I know the boards of education in my riding of Durham East, in fact all of Durham in the Northumberland and Clarington Board of Education, are very pleased. In fact, the directors have called me personally, Grant Yeo and Dick Malowney --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Give me names. Send them over.

Mr O'Toole: Give you names? Grant Yeo, Dick Malowney. They're very satisfied with these changes. They're satisfied and are prepared to work with the minister in the restructuring of education and the refocusing of education to the classroom.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, come to order.

Mr O'Toole: I think fewer school boards and more parent involvement are exactly what the people of Ontario want. I've heard it from the parent advisory committees in my riding. I've attended many of them, and I know they're supportive of these changes. They want a voice. Not just parents but grandparents, all citizens in the community, want to be involved. That's what we're looking for: the opportunity to be involved.

School councils are the way to go. Accessibility and accountability are clear. This is part of the strategy, as is the focus on quality in the classroom, starting with the basics: language, math, science and technology. Clearly the minister is right on track. That's what I've heard from the parent councils. That's what I've heard from students. After all, this is about students.

The standardized testing and standardized report card are what everybody wants. The students want to know how they're doing, the parents want to know how they're doing, and so do the teachers.

I commend the minister for his statement today. I think he's on track, on side, and I intend to support and argue for this bill throughout the week.

Mr Marchese: I want to take this two-minute opportunity to tell the public what this is all about, because I know the minister won't speak to this. He's going to babble about other stuff but certainly not about the real agenda.

This minister and this government have assaulted teachers in particular, have assaulted trustees by demeaning the meaningful role they have played over the years. He has assaulted the role of superintendents in school boards, he has assaulted the role of principals in school boards, assaulted the role of consultants, educational assistants and caretakers and the role they play in the educational system -- demeans them.

What this bill is all about when it's titled the Fewer School Boards Act is to play to that feeling out there of the people who perhaps are not actively involved in education, that by somehow eliminating a few school boards and eliminating some trustees or many trustees and/or diminishing their salary, in some places a great deal, he thinks he's going to be able to get away with the real agenda, which is that this minister and this government want to take billions out of the educational system to finance their income tax cut. That is the bottom line. That is the real agenda of this government and that's what it's about.

Taking education out of the property tax system to replace it with something of equivalent value is nothing but the giving of control of finances to this minister and to this government so they can take away not just $1 billion from our boards of education and our educational system, but more. I predict that by the end of this it's going to be an assault on teachers and students, and I predict it will be taking away $2 billion in the next year to year and a half. That's what it's about.

The Acting Speaker: Minister of Education, you have two minutes to sum up.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the debate so far today and who will continue to do so. I take exception to a couple of things that have been said. I know that will surprise you.

For one, the member for Fort William talked about the downloading of costs to the local boards. The member opposite's party promised to have the province take on a larger responsibility for the funding of education; so by the way did the third party. They both failed to fulfil their promise. This government will not. This government will finally take a senior responsibility for funding the needs of every student across the province, because fundamentally everyone in Ontario understands that it's the only fair way to make sure there's a high quality of education for every student in the province and that every student's needs will be met.

The member for Dovercourt quoted me I think inaccurately. Let me just make sure I have said clearly to him what our promise is to the people of Ontario and to the students of Ontario: We will provide sufficient funding to meet the needs of every single individual student in this province so that every student has a high quality of education. While other governments may have measured their success in the education system by how much money they could waste --

Mr Marchese: You measure it by --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, come to order.

Hon Mr Snobelen: -- our government measures success in education by one measurement only, and that is high student achievement by every student in our system, by every student across Ontario. This is the first step down a path to that high level of student achievement that our students deserve and that our parents and taxpayers pay for.

The Acting Speaker: Now it's time for further debate.

Mrs McLeod: Madam Speaker, as you can tell, I'm more than eager to participate in this debate and more than eager to do my part in attempting to expose the deception that is being perpetrated on the citizens of this province by this government over the course of the past week.

The deception that's being perpetrated begins with the actual title of this bill. The title has been spruced up in the final copy. I note that the minister used the old original title -- perhaps they forgot to tell him it didn't have exactly the right political ring, so they spruced it up a bit. The actual title of the bill, as it was introduced, is that it's "An Act to improve the accountability." This bill has nothing to do with improving accountability. In fact, this bill significantly reduces local accountability and any electoral accountability for education at all. That is clear in what this bill does.

It says it's an act to "improve...effectiveness." There is nothing in this bill that speaks to effectiveness of education at all. There is nothing in this bill in fact that speaks to effectiveness of the spending on education. In the course of this debate, I think I can bring forward sufficient evidence of that statement.

It says it's an act that will improve the "quality of Ontario's school system." There is certainly nothing in this bill -- I defy any member of this Legislature to read through this bill to find anything in this bill at all that speaks to the quality of education, anything in this bill at all that says anything about students and the wellbeing of students and the kind of education that students should be able to get in schools in every community across this province.

This bill is not about improving education; this bill is not about better education; this bill is not about students and their needs. This bill isn't even about parent involvement. The whole idea of more parent involvement is something that's going to come later. That will be another bill, if it takes a bill. It's something that's going to come in the spring, we're told by the ministry, because they haven't really worked out the role of the parent councils. That's one of the jobs that's going to be given to something called the Education Improvement Commission, yet another independent, non-elected body being given incredible powers by a government that can't solve its own problems and wants to wash its hands of any responsibility for the very fundamental change it's bringing into this province.

The old title of the bill, the one the minister used today when they forgot to tell him that the bill actually had a new and formal name, really says it all. This is the Fewer School Boards Act. That's all this is about. This is about reducing the numbers of trustees and reducing the numbers of school boards and it serves one very particular purpose: to get out a political message. It serves a purpose of camouflaging what was to come in what the Conservatives called their mega-week last week and it serves a purpose of paving the way for taking control of educational funding so that the minister and the Harris government can cut the spending on education, and that will have very dire consequences for kids in our classrooms.

That's really what this bill is all about in the long term, but you won't find anything written in the bill that actually speaks to that. That's why the purpose of this debate has to be to look at what is here and, more importantly, what is not here and what is to come.


We have to put this bill in the context of when it was introduced, and our colleagues will all remember that this bill was introduced a week ago Monday. It was the first day of mega-week. It was the first day of announcements that began the most horrendous change in the way we are governed and the way the services that people in communities need, not just kids in schools but welfare recipients, sole-support parents, families needing child care, seniors needing long-term care, the psychiatrically disabled needing housing, the low-income people needing housing, the services for all those people, are going to be drastically affected by the kinds of changes that were introduced by this government during mega-week.

Almost all the changes that were announced Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday were bad news for people in every community, bad news for property taxpayers, bad news for municipal government, so the government strategy clearly was to have something on Monday that at least sounded like it was good news. They decided they would introduce something called the Fewer School Boards Act, because surely everybody agrees that having fewer politicians is a good idea.

It seemed to work for the government when they decided to have fewer provincial politicians, so it should work for the government when they decide to have fewer municipal politicians, whether it's creating the great megacity of Toronto with its total loss of local accountability or having fewer school boards and school trustees with less and less accountability for educational decision-making. But it all fits. It's fewer politicians, and doesn't everybody think that's an easy political sell? That's all the government was looking for a week ago Monday, something that would be an easy political sell. That's really what this was all about.

Maybe it is a political sell that's quite easy. Maybe if you ask somebody, "Isn't having fewer politicians a good idea?" people would say: "Yes, sure, of course it's a good idea. What do those politicians do?" I see even a duly elected member of the Legislature on the opposite side nodding his head. If you don't think an elected representative has any legitimate role, why are you here and why are you drawing a salary? Some of us actually believe in democracy, some of us actually believe that elections serve a purpose and that a democratically elected representative is accountable as well as being accessible. I think when people ask the question, "Well, is having fewer politicians, including fewer school trustees, a good idea?" and they start asking what trustees do, what value there might be, it might not be quite such an easy political sell. You might find people saying: "What's going to happen to local decision-making? If we have these big mega-boards, what will happen to local decision-making? Are all the decisions going to be made out of Queen's Park?"

I'll tell you there's one thing the people in my community distrust more than any decision ever made by a school board or a local council: a decision made in Queen's Park that's imposed on my community. People will not accept this as good news if they know it means that all the decisions about the education of their kids are going to be made out of Queen's Park in the future.

I think people have a genuine concern about democracy, and they have seen it hit time and time again by this government. It seems almost incredible that it was a year ago this time that we were trying to fight Bill 26, which was the biggest affront to the democratic process this province or any jurisdiction has ever seen. Now here we are again: another attack on democracy, following several others in the meantime. Does anybody care about that? I think the people of this province do. They think about what it means to have a locally elected group of people they can hold accountable for decisions, a group of people who are accessible to them so that if parents have concerns about what's happening to their children in their classrooms, then they can reach their school board, they can take their concerns to somebody that's accessible.

I think people worry about that. I think they worry about who they can hold accountable for decisions that they think are wrong. If the quality of education is harmed by the actions of this government, whom do they go to? Whom do they take their concerns to? Thinking people out there, if they can get past the spin the government put on its mega-week, or attempted to put on its mega-week, will have some real concerns about whether all this change in governance, this loss of accountability, this loss of accessibility, this loss of local decision-making, really saves any money at all. I think people will then say, "Why is this being done?"

It's being done -- the most obvious reason -- because the government needed to appear to be doing something that people would agree with last week, that they would agree with at least until they ask questions and find out there are no answers to their questions, because all of this, this Fewer School Boards Act that now has a glossier title to make it look a little better, was thrown together in time to support the political message of mega-week.

I think we have to take each of the questions that should be asked about this seemingly good-news bill and we have to look at how the government answers or avoids answering the significant questions. The first, maybe most significant question is, why indeed are you doing this? The government will say they're doing it because they want to save money that's being spent on education that the minister has somehow decided is wasteful spending.

We heard him today describe spiralling costs as if the dollars that are being used are not dollars that are going to support education for our children. We've heard him say repeatedly that his goal is to ensure that the dollars that are spent on education go to the classroom. Who could possibly disagree with that in principle? But that is not what is happening with this bill and it's certainly not what is happening with this bill put in the context of the government taking over the control of educational funding while it dumps $1 billion more, in excess of what it has taken off the property taxes, back on to the property taxes.

The government says that with its budget of about $14 billion for education, it thinks it could probably save $150 million through amalgamating the school boards and creating these gigantic boards. Maybe it can save $150 million if it creates these mega-boards. They've looked at several categories and they've had an Ernst and Young study that tells them they can save money in some areas.

There are a couple of obvious areas that the government would target, that everybody would expect the government to target, as it looks for justifying this move by saying it's going to save money on non-classroom education. It looks at some savings for directors of educations if you have fewer directors of educations. It looks at some minimal savings, $2.5 million, on senior supervisory officers. Those may well be savings that are realized, although it seems like a rather small amount of money in an overall budget of $14 million, given the kinds of losses of local accountability and accessibility that we're going to pay for that saving.

I also have some questions in my mind about the assumptions the ministry makes in coming up with even less than $10 million worth of savings that it's identified in administrative savings, because we've seen them consistently, for the last 18 months, use outdated information to talk about the size of administrative costs in Ontario. We've seen them grossly exaggerate the percentage of school board budgets that are spent on administration. We know the reality is that over the last few years, as boards have had to cope with cuts, the first place they cut, naturally, is going to be in administration. Anybody who has any responsibility for spending dollars for education wants to be sure that those dollars go to classroom education and the support for student learning that is basic for everybody who has ever had anything to do with educational budgets. So what's the first place to get cut? You start with administration in the hope that you can cut down on overhead costs and keep those precious dollars for kids and for junior kindergarten and for special education.

We know that over the last few years administrative costs have come down and are accounting for less than 5% of the total education spending in Ontario.

Maybe you can still say it's something less than $10 million, as the ministry assumes, on administrative costs with amalgamation, but that remains to be seen, and maybe there are some boards that are well above the average, and maybe there should have been some guidelines put in place by the ministry as to what constitutes responsible, accountable spending on administration, but I don't think you needed to change the entire nature of educational governance to bring about that kind of accountability.


The government also suggests, in one of its categories of savings, that they'll be able to save a few million dollars on cutting the actual costs of school boards. That comes as a bit of a surprise because Mr Snobelen, the Minister of Education, in one of his more forthcoming moments -- if I can restrict myself to acceptable parliamentary language -- was meeting with a gathering of young Tories at the University of Western Ontario and I guess he felt he was among friends and might never be reported, so he could be a little more forthcoming in that setting than he normally is in the Legislature, and he did admit that board cuts were not likely to save big money. Nevertheless, he's decided to make that the primary area in which you're going to save money through the amalgamation of school boards.

This issue of the cost of school boards and school trustees has been visited numbers of times by numbers of commissions and studies. I think you'd have had all-party agreement, and probably agreement among almost all trustees in the province, as well as all citizens, if the government had taken the action of limiting the total number of trustees, reducing the total number of trustees on school boards, capping the salaries, so that in situations where maybe trustees were granting themselves honoraria that seemed larger than was warranted, there could be some limits put on that. But I believe that this minister has consistently used small exceptions to paint a picture which is not really a true picture of the costs of school trustees and the actual operation of our elected boards.

We also know that one of the things this minister has done very deliberately is to try to create that impression, that the spending, the $150 million he says he is now going to be able to save, can all come out of non-classroom expenditures. He's tried to create a sense that billions of dollars are being spent on what he calls out-of-classroom costs, as if these out-of-classroom costs are all sort of wasteful, not really going to kids in a classroom and therefore they're dollars that are not being well spent.

So a week ago Friday, which was the Friday before he decided to introduce this bill, or planned to introduce this bill, he released yet another study which purported to back up the minister's claims that nothing less than $6 billion was being spent on outside-the-classroom costs.

It is simply not the case that this report backs up the minister's contention that these dollars -- the minister will say as much as 49% of our education dollars are spent outside the classroom. He uses the highest possible percentage the report gives him, because the report says something in the area of 25% to 49% of education dollars are spent outside the classroom. The minister prefers always to use the higher figure.

The report doesn't say this is spent solely on administrative costs. Out-of-classroom, non-classroom, has been defined by the ministry for its own particular purposes, to create this sense of waste dollars. But when you really look at what those out-of-classroom dollars are being spent on, it includes libraries. If you think libraries are a waste, let's talk about the role of libraries, let's have some discussion about that. Let's not just talk about libraries as an out-of-classroom expense which is somehow needless or wasteful and doesn't provide educational support to children.

Guidance is one of those. Yes, guidance provides support to students. Does it need to be done differently? Do there need to be changes? Let's talk about that. But don't lump it into some sort of category defining out-of-classroom expenses as if somehow those didn't relate to students.

Another of those costs in that $6-billion was all the custodial and janitorial costs. Surely we don't think kids should go to schools that aren't being maintained and aren't being kept clean? How could any government or any minister throw custodial and janitorial costs into something that is then defined as "out-of-classroom" and they're somehow representative of the misspending on the part of school boards?

Preparation time -- amazing, another one the government thinks is going to be a really easy one, a place where you can cut costs. I don't think they've really thought through what cutting preparation time may mean, not in cutting dollars, but in teacher layoffs and in putting the kinds of time pressures on school teachers that mean they're not going to do extra-curricular activities, and what that does to the curriculum that students are enjoying and what role extra-curricular activities play in a student's curriculum. All of this is just lumped into this mythical $6 billion that the minister somehow wants to use as a figure to justify the fact that educational costs can be cut.

I think it's important today to go back specifically to the $150 million that the government, the Ministry of Education, claims it can save by this particular bill, without getting to what else they're going to do with the rest of the $6 billion down the road. Just what does it think it can do to find $150 million? I've mentioned directors and senior supervisory officers. They also think they're going to save money on classroom supplies and equipment and on custodial and maintenance supplies, presumably through some efficiencies of scale. If the minister had been out talking to school boards for the last 18 months, he'd know that the cost-cutting that went on a year ago has forced school boards into economies of scale in their purchasing even if they hadn't been doing that beforehand. Saving dollars on instructional materials and equipment and custodial supplies means kids will have even fewer books than they have right now and schools will not be kept decently clean.

Another category where they're going to save money, $1.3 million, to make up their $150 million in savings is in something called "other instructional supports." It sounds nebulous enough to be something you can just throw away, no sweat -- $1.3 million adds to our $150 million, makes it easy -- except that "other instructional supports" includes professionals or paraprofessionals who provide support services to students or teachers. Ever been in an integrated classroom with special needs kids in the classroom? Have you seen the role that paraprofessionals play in providing support to students in that integrated classroom? Does anybody have any idea what taking out that $1.3 million in professional and paraprofessional support services to students is going to mean? Does anybody really think that $1.3 million is not a direct loss of service to kids? It clearly is. So don't pretend that that part of the $150 million is going to be saved by amalgamating school boards.

The educator support program: You're going to save $16.7 million of the $150 million by cutting the educational program support. That's the group of people out in the school boards who develop curriculum. I'm not opposed to seeing the province do more curriculum support. I happen to believe that's important for parents' understanding of curriculum, for their satisfaction with it, for the ministry's and the province's ability to ensure some equivalency of standard across the province.

But I would ask the question of this minister: How many places can you cut curriculum support and have any curriculum support left? They have gutted the central Ministry of Education. That was part of their first round of cuts in order to try and make up the dollars they need for the tax cut. There's hardly anybody left to develop curriculum in the Queen's Park Ministry of Education. There's almost nothing left out in the regions in the Ministry of Education. So if they're going to save this $16.7 million in educational curriculum support at the school board level, who is going to be left to develop any kind of curriculum in this province? The minister likes to talk about how this is going to improve quality and improve standards and give consistency. I suggest to you that if they keep cutting the same dollars time and time again, there will be no curriculum development, no standards, no consistency and no quality left in education in Ontario.

Another category, part of the $150 million, minimal as that might seem in a $14-billion budget, is transportation. They've assumed that 15% of the costs currently being incurred by boards being amalgamated can be saved through economies of scale in transportation. I've been a school trustee in a board that serves a large geographic rural area, and I can tell you right now that economies of scale in busing kids to school means rural kids being on buses as early as 6:30 in the morning. I don't think you can find economies of scale, and I certainly don't think it's worth the $4.3 million they're looking for to find economies of scale, in busing kids to school if it means five-year-olds are getting on buses before 6:30 in the morning.


The last one I'll mention in this outline of where the ministry expects to save its $150 million is on the capital spending by boards. The minister, once again in his effort to use bits and pieces of information in order to distort the true picture, has suggested that boards have built monuments across the province.

I want people to know that when they talk about saving capital spending at the board level, they're talking today about schools. They're talking about schools that need to be renovated and maintained. They're talking about new schools that need to be built in areas where there are too many kids in portables. They're talking about those very schools that this same ministry 10 days ago made one of its good-news announcements because they said they were going to build more schools. Now they're talking about saving capital costs as part of this $150 million.

There is no way that even the $150 million that they think to save with this Fewer School Boards Act is going to be realized without significant cuts that affect kids in a classroom. Let that be absolutely clear.

There's something else that the Ernst and Young report says. It's part of the consultants' report that the minister had done in order to back up his $6-billion mythical cost. It's something the report says in addressing the reason why Ernst and Young was supposedly asked to look at educational spending, and that is, why does educational spending go up? Why is it higher in some boards than it is in other boards?

The report comes to a conclusion that is very significant for this piece of legislation. It comes to the conclusion that size is not a factor that is relevant to school board spending. Let me translate that, because what that says to me is that size is not relevant to spending, and therefore bigger is not necessarily better. And yet this whole bill is here, this whole change in governance, this whole loss of local decision-making and local access and local accountability is here, because the government says it wants to save money. I don't think they're going to save their $150 million without hurting kids in the classroom, and their own consultants have said bigger boards don't necessarily save money.

Their own consultants said, and maybe they risked their next contract by being so forthright about it, that the ministry needs to go back and get a better understanding of why spending is higher in some boards than others, and they particularly have to look at spending that is beyond the board's control. They particularly expressed their concern about the numbers of special needs students who are in that board.

It is only too clear, when the government releases that report on Friday, ignores that piece of advice to go back and get a better understanding of what is making educational spending go up and brings out a report on Monday that totally ignores what their own report says, that they have no interest in really understanding where educational dollars are going, what makes up the bulk of educational costs, and what price students, including special needs students, may have to pay for a government that is so hell-bent on finding the money it needs to pay for its tax cut.

There's something else, one other piece of evidence that comes out in a supplemental report by the same consultants at Ernst and Young. It's part of the report in which they outline where the ministry's assumptions are about finding $150 million, but they also go on to say -- and again I think it took some courage for the consultants to put in the note, because it clearly was not what the government wanted to hear. They wanted the consultants to say, "Yes, you can save $150 million if you amalgamate school boards." They didn't want to hear what the consultants put in their covering letter, which is the statement that in fact with school board amalgamation, educational costs might go up. I didn't hear that mentioned when the minister introduced the bill, that this amalgamation may actually lead to increased costs for education, that the $150 million they look to save may be offset by increased costs that come when you amalgamate boards, boards which have very different levels of spending on services and very different levels of commitments in their contracts.

The government had an answer to that, and maybe that's why they didn't bother to mention, when the minister introduced the bill, that amalgamation could actually cost more, that it wouldn't save money overall, that it would cost more. It's a little bit like, "Our changes last week were a wash," and lo and behold, you discover it's actually $1 billion more for property taxpayers than it was when they started. Amalgamation may end up costing more.

The ministry said to consultants: "Don't worry about that, because we're going to do something else. We're not just going to amalgamate boards." They know there's no evidence anywhere by any study, that any commission sent out to look at amalgamating boards has come back and said, "We have no evidence that amalgamating boards is actually going to save money." They knew that. When Ernst and Young said to them in their report, "It could cost you more, you know; there's no evidence that you'll really save much more than this $150 million, if you're even going to save that, but it could cost you more," they said: "Don't worry about that, because we're going to do something else. When we amalgamate boards we're also going to take education off the property tax. That will do two things. It will give us a good-news announcement, which we desperately need on Monday, but it will also allow us to take control of educational spending."

As the ministry says in its response to Ernst and Young, and this is in print, "We will then be able to control the costs." I think that is really what the agenda is. It is to get control of educational spending so it can cut what is spent on students' education in this province.

The government's first step? Make school boards useless. School trustees know a little bit too much. They understand local needs. They've got associations. They advocate for public education. They come and pester the minister and say: "We don't like your cuts. We don't like what you're doing to kids in our school systems. You can't make those cuts without hurting kids, hurting junior kindergarten, hurting special education." Trustees are a nuisance -- they get in the way of the government's agenda -- so first of all you've got to make your school boards absolutely useless, and then you've got to take the educational cost off property taxes so the government controls the cost.

It serves an immediate political purpose for the government. Let's be absolutely clear about that. The immediate political purpose is that it gave the government the spin it needed on Monday. It was taking education off the property tax. My goodness, isn't that something all of us would like to have seen happen years and years ago? There isn't a single one of us who's looked at taxation in the province of Ontario and not believed that the province should be paying a higher percentage of educational costs. As the minister himself has said and previous governments have all said, "We would like to move up the provincial percentage of spending on education, have property tax pay less." In fact, what's happened over the last few years is that the province has paid less and less of a percentage and property taxes have paid more, so surely all of us should be happy because education is no longer on the property tax.

Let me be specific, though, because I think this is part of the myth that's out there: It's only the residential property taxpayer who's not paying education tax; business is still paying education property tax. The difference there is that the property tax for business is going to be set by Queen's Park, and that is the first time ever that Queen's Park is going to have direct property taxation ability, as a result of these changes.

But they wanted the spin so they can go out and say to residents: "We've taken education off your property taxes. Isn't this wonderful?" We heard the minister say that again today. Well, that is pure camouflage for what happened on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday of last week as this government dumped billions and billions and billions of new costs on to property taxpayers across the province. There is no good news for property taxpayers, residential or otherwise. There certainly is no good news for business, which has all their educational taxes plus their share of everything that was dumped on municipalities on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. There is no good news for property taxpayers, because the net result of last week, the final total of mega-week, is that property taxes have to pay a net billion dollars more.

Madam Speaker, I'm not sure whether time is going to permit me to diverge from the educational bill and what they've done with education in order to spend time on my distress over what this government did last week and what for me is the sheer immorality, as well as the deception, of having dumped the costs for welfare and family benefits and child care and long-term care for seniors and social housing for the low-income and for the psychiatrically disabled on to the property tax base, a property tax base which we have all agreed is inequitable for the support of social services, a property tax base that we don't believe supports the role of equitable access to services for people no matter what community they happen to live in.


All of us would have supported the province paying more of the share of education costs so there could be greater equity. None of us ever would have dreamt that in return for that the province would shift the most volatile, most explosive cost, the cost of supporting the most vulnerable in our communities, on to the base of the property tax. My God, David Crombie, who was sent out by this government to come back in with his recommendations on disentanglement, to tell them how to make things simpler, how to make government work better, said to them days before they made these sets of announcements: "Don't do this. It is wrong. It is a disaster. If the only way to take education off the property tax is to dump all the other costs of social programs on to municipalities and on to property taxpayers, don't do it. It is wrong. It is a disaster. It is the wrong direction." The government went ahead and did it anyway.

They started with the spin on Monday. They hoped that nobody would notice this wasn't a wash, that at the end property taxpayers were going to be left with $1 billion in additional costs at the very minimum. They thought they'd be able to go out in the next election campaign and just say: "Look we're the ones who took education off your property tax. Isn't this great, and aren't you pleased?"

I don't think people are that dumb and I don't they they're going to have such short memories. I think they're going to see through the camouflage of the big dump; I think they're going to see through the cover of the big lie that property taxes are going to go down when in fact they're going to go up, unless, of course, services are devastated.

I believe that what happened last week in mega-week, and this bill is part of it, is without any question the most cynical deception that has ever been perpetrated by a government on the citizens of this province.

Having said that, I actually said that the intent of this bill does even more than that. I really believe that amalgamating school boards, making school boards essentially useless and taking over educational funding gives the province control over educational spending that is going to let them cut the dollars that are spent on education for our kids. This minister has made no secret of the fact that his goal, his personal goal, his measure of success in government, is to take $1.2 billion out of educational spending. He has tried to camouflage the ways in which that can be done. He has tried to say it's going to be done through out-of-classroom expenditures; he has tried to say it's going to be done through cutting administrative costs. None of that washes, but the minister is left with his own personal goal of wanting to take $1.2 billion out of educational spending.

They promised in the Common Sense Revolution document that they wouldn't touch classroom spending, and that's why the minister goes through such hoops in distorting the picture of where the educational dollars are actually spent. They want people to believe they're spent outside the classroom so they won't be seen to be breaking their promise not to touch classroom spending.

Then the government got nervous -- cut $400 million a year ago, were going to cut we thought another $800 million. They got nervous because they heard people saying the cuts are already hurting kids in the classroom. They saw parents' groups organizing and coming to government, coming to Queen's Park and saying: "Stop this. Stop the cuts." They did their own polls and found out that people were concerned about what this government was doing to education. They found out that people are actually prepared to spend tax dollars on education because they truly see the benefit of education for the wellbeing not only of our children but of the future of this province.

So the government, which still wanted to cut, that needs to cut because they're missing $3 billion to pay for the tax cut, the government that still needed to find big dollars and had to get them out of education, decided it somehow had to be a little bit more subtle about it. I don't think they've been subtle; I think they've been purely and simply deceptive.

The province says it is now going to pay 75% of the costs of education. You have to remember there is still commercial assessment for education, so the province is not paying 100% of education, it's paying 75%. They control 100% of spending and costs because they're going to levy the taxes on businesses, but the actual direct provincial contribution is going to be 75%. The question is, 75% of what? Is it going to be 75% of the total current budget for education which is about $14 billion? We have no answers from the minister on that. There are absolutely no guarantees the province will be spending 75% of $14 billion.

What happens now is that the province has a much bigger pot for its spending so it can cut big dollars and still say, "We're spending more on education than we were when the Common Sense Revolution document was written." That's deceptive because this government, I am convinced, is going to look for ways to take dollars out of education and that is going to have a very direct effect on education in our classrooms.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that education cuts are going to happen. They are going to hurt kids in the classroom. They are going to fundamentally violate, no matter how the government tries to spin it, an election promise that they would not touch classroom education. It is all going to be done because there is only one campaign promise this government holds sacred and that is the promise to cut income taxes by 30%. We have an irresponsible campaign promise based on absolutely no idea of how they could deliver it -- faulty numbers -- that is now going to lead to educational cuts as well as cuts in the most basic services in virtually every other area where government has traditionally delivered service, and to increase property taxes along with it all.

I can't be optimistic in any way. I can't give the government the benefit of the doubt in not believing that there are going to be educational cuts to come. We've seen this government's record on educational spending, we've seen the $400 million that was actually more like $1 billion in its impact on educational spending, and we've seen what happened when boards were faced with those kinds of cuts. Sure, they cut administration, they cut all those non-classroom areas which the minister seems to think is the panacea for reducing educational costs, but they were also forced to make much more difficult decisions. There were boards that had to cut libraries; there were boards that cut special education programs; there were boards that cut guidance programs and music programs and physical education programs.

There were 25 boards that cut junior kindergarten. Where's junior kindergarten now? It's not going to be a board decision any longer; it's not going to be boards that have to struggle with how they're going to be able to maintain junior kindergarten even as their funding is cut. Those decisions are going to be made by the Ministry of Education and they're going to be made by a government that clearly does not believe there is any place for junior kindergarten. They cut the funding for junior kindergarten. They were quite prepared to let boards cut junior kindergarten as a way of not having to raise the property tax to keep kids in their junior kindergarten class. I think we can pretty much guess where junior kindergarten is going to be as this government takes control of educational funding.

There is so much I worry about. I worry about what's going to happen to special education programs. I worry about what's going to happen to special education programs, not just because of the government's spending cuts, which I fully believe are coming, but because special education parents are not going to have anybody they can come and talk to about the fact that their child's special education class has been lost or they can't get that para-professional support that lets that child be integrated in a class.

I really believe that boards are eventually going to disappear and there will be no locally elected body, no body with the accountability to be able to speak to those parents, or to those parents who are concerned about the lack of libraries or the loss of junior kindergarten.


That's one of the other questions that we have to ask, one of the questions that underlies this bill that's in front of us today: Exactly what is going to happen?

I think one of the things that's going to happen is that the boards will clearly come to be seen to be virtually useless. The boards that this bill creates are simply too large to be effective in any way. If you look at the new Metropolitan Toronto mega-school board, I think the numbers of students that the board will be responsible for are three times as many as all of the students in the province of New Brunswick. As you know, the minister and the government have rather been inclined to hold up New Brunswick as a model because they eliminated school boards. They have said: "Why do we need school boards? The province of New Brunswick has done away with them altogether."

If you want to look at it just in terms of the size of the jurisdictions in Ontario, there is a fundamental difference between Ontario and New Brunswick, with Metro alone having three times as many students in its new mega-board as the entire province of New Brunswick.

If you want to look at the differences in geographic terms, come up to my part of the province; come up to northwestern Ontario. There are two new boards in northwestern Ontario, two mega-boards. We don't have huge numbers of students, but we have geographically in each board an area larger than the country of France. Tell me how there's going to be any local accessibility in school boards serving an area larger than the country of France.

There will be communities in my part of the province that will not have a single trustee, because even if they allow some northern allowance, which they're talking about, there won't be enough trustees based on per capita to allow even a single representative for each of our communities.

Boards will be virtually useless because they won't have any taxing power. I don't want to come down to simplifications, but I've always been one of these people who believe in the idea of no taxation without representation. I guess if you turn that around, if you don't have taxation power, you have to wonder what the role is of an elected body and why you go through the electoral representative process. As it becomes more and more apparent that boards have no real power -- no power for taxation, no power to respond to local needs with a local levy, no decision-making power because he who controls all of the dollars will control all of the decisions, and that will clearly be Queen's Park -- you have to say, "Well, why have boards at all?"

If boards become useless and they disappear, what will happen clearly is that Queen's Park and the bureaucrats will be running education. Even in the short term, even when these big boards are still in operation, there will be no access for individuals, for those special education parents who want to come to their board and say, "We don't think what you're doing is right." There will be no place they can go to voice their local concerns and there will be no group of people who are really able to look at local needs and look at creative, innovative programs to respond to local needs.

I guess I go back too far, because I can remember the origins of some of the programs that are an integral part of our school systems today. I suppose they're part of the out-of-classroom stuff that this Minister of Education thinks can be thrown away in the name of saving dollars to pay for the tax cut. I still think that some of these programs are important, programs that have come from the community, from concerned parents and citizens who have come forward and said: "We think we should have an outdoor education program. We think that's important. We think we could do it in our area. We think we should have a family life program and we think we should develop one that works for our parents and our kids. We think we should have an instrumental music program because that's important to us." I don't think there's going to be any local flexibility for those kinds of local programs now.

The province says: "Well, don't worry about that because what's going to happen is that parent councils are going to take the place of school boards, so you'll still have local responsiveness and local accountability. It will be through the parent councils." I don't for one moment want to take away from the value of parent councils. I've been a strong supporter of parent councils. I believe we should encourage parents to be involved at every school, elementary and secondary. I think what we have in the parent councils that have developed are knowledgeable and informed groups of parents and citizens, and they have proven time and time again to be our best advocates for the needs of students and for public education. The more parent councils, the better.

But I hear the parent councils saying: "We want to be advisory. We want to be advocates. We want to look at the needs in our school. We do not want to take on the responsibility of school trustees for the management of the schools." I could quote parent after parent who has said that this is not what they're looking for. Shelley Carroll, says that she comes to nearly every parent council at her children's two schools in North York. She spends 20 hours a week talking to other parents. She firmly believes in involvement, but she says, "Forget it" in terms of more parent power.

Carol Nixon from Ottawa, a mother of four who sits on an elementary school council -- she's chair of the 83-school Carleton Assembly of School Councils -- agrees with that and says: "We're comfortable with advisory powers. We're not comfortable with decision-making powers."

The Franklin school parents, whom we spent quite a bit of time with in the fall dealing with their concerns, are absolutely committed to education and to being advocates for their kids, but they don't want to be hiring principals and hiring teachers.

Even if the councils wanted to take on that responsibility, how would a system work? Would you have teachers having to apply to every single school in the province in order to be considered for a job? The system becomes unwieldy, it's unworkable, and I don't think it's been given any thought at all.

The other concern that's been raised is, who will advocate for kids with the government if school boards disappear? Will parent councils, which are supposed to take over this responsibility, form new associations so that they can advocate with the province, or is the minister's hope that parents won't be much of a nuisance any longer? After all, there will be so many parent councils that they won't be able to come one by one to Queen's Park, so there won't really be anybody effectively advocating for kids with the Ministry of Education and Training.

School board associations do that now. It's one of their important roles. I think it's a role that has to continue so that Queen's Park and the bureaucrats are not left all by themselves making all the decisions for kids in classrooms, with no effective parent or citizen representation at all.

The other concern that's been raised by parent councils themselves is, if they are given more and more management and decision-making powers, how representative are they? There is something to the democratic process. There is something about elections. As imperfect as they may be, as messy as they may be and sometimes, yes, a little bit costly as they may be, there is a purpose for democracy and elections so that we choose representatives and have representative bodies of citizens. That's what school boards have been for education at a local level. I don't think appointed councils can take on that representative role.

I look at the Ontario Parent Council, and I believe it has an important advisory role to play. I'm glad it was established, and I hope it continues to be an effective advocate. But I think we have to recognize it's an appointed body and it is appointed by the government. I question how it can be truly an advocate in opposition to government when its members are dependent on the government for appointment.

The other concern that has been expressed if we see school boards essentially being eliminated is that this may be the beginning of a move to the widespread introduction of charter schools in Ontario. It may sound appealing, it may sound like the ultimate in parent management of schools, but I am extremely concerned that it is a very frightening prospect for the future of public education. I hope this isn't part of the hidden agenda of government: to render school boards useless and eventually do away with them altogether, substitute that with parent councils that eventually have widespread decision-making powers essentially to establish charter schools.

The reason I'm concerned is that I've looked pretty closely at the evidence that comes out of places like New Zealand and Britain. I'm concerned, because I am a very passionate advocate for public education, but what has happened in places like Britain and New Zealand is that where charter schools have been established, they have too quickly become exclusive places and the parents who are prepared to run charter schools tend, inevitably, to be those who have the time, the knowledge and the confidence in their knowledge to undertake that responsibility.

Charter schools tend to be strongest in the most well-to-do areas of any community. In those well-to-do areas, charter schools also tend to find ways of topping up what the state provides in support for education. The charter schools that can afford to top up the state support become seen as better schools. They have some extras. Of course, there are people who want to come to the better schools, so they've got all kinds of applications and then they get to choose who comes to the school, who gets the better school and who doesn't. That's when charter schools become not only exclusive but élitist and when two-tiered education begins to develop.


I have spoken often in this Legislature on what I see to be the goals of public education and I will not be apologetic for doing so once again. I believe so strongly that the goal of public education is to provide equality of access to the best education we can provide without regard to an individual's ability to pay that I am prepared to shout that goal from any rooftop I can find to stand on and to shout even longer when I see that goal being threatened by an agenda that the government is not even prepared to set out in the public view for debate.

I believe that public education has been one of the strengths of this society; I believe that the people of this province believe that public education has been one of the strengths of our society. I don't believe the people of this province would accept a threat to the future of public education accessible to all, regardless of ability to pay, and since I believe that threat is inherent in this government's directions, we need to bring that out and have a real debate and not have our public education system demolished bit by bit with good-news-sounding announcements by the minister and the government. I am truly afraid that the end result of this seemingly simple, purely political bill may indeed be a challenge to the fundamental principles of public education.

I suppose I should get to the nitty-gritty of the legislation itself, because I think that's one of the responsibilities of the critics in second reading of the bill. It's a little difficult, because there are not many specifics in this piece of legislation. I suppose if you've got a bill that talks about having fewer school boards and significantly changes the role of school boards, then you'd expect to have something in the bill about the role of school boards. You can look through the bill and you're not going to find very much about the role of school boards.

I asked in my briefing with the ministry what changes would be brought to the Education Act to redefine the role of school trustees in accordance with the larger, new, amalgamated boards and the redefined role the minister told us school trustees would have, and I was told that's going to come later in the spring. I find when I read the bill that indeed, as I was told by the ministry officials, any decisions about what these new, amalgamated boards are going to do will be made some time in the future upon the recommendations of something called the Education Improvement Commission.

That is really, if you want to resolve the bill down to one basic thing, all this bill does: set up an Education Improvement Commission that at some point in the future is going to tell the minister what the new boards should look like, how they should be elected and what the role of school trustees should be. It seems to me that turns any idea of commonsense planning completely on its end. I would have thought that a government wanting to bring about some fundamental changes in governance and funding would have an idea of where it wants to be, what it wants to do, would put a plan in place to do it and then would bring in the legislation to back up that plan.

This government has done it in exactly the other way. They've brought in the legislation: "Here's our Fewer School Boards Act. We're going to have fewer school boards and we'll put in place a commission." That's all the legislation does. "We'll put in place a commission, and that commission will then come back and tell us what we wanted to do, what we think we can achieve with the amalgamated school boards" -- other than maybe finding $150 million. What will the school trustees do? How will they be elected? Aren't those questions you might have thought the government would have answers to before it brought in the legislation to amalgamate the school boards? They don't have answers to those questions.

I even asked, how would school trustees be elected, by ward or at large? The answer I got back was, "They'll be elected in the same way they are now." I find that a difficult answer to interpret, because some boards now are elected at large and some boards are elected by ward. I suppose I should just assume, simpleton that I am, that with these new mega-boards they're all going to have to be elected by ward because at large could never work. But I would have liked to have that answer from the people who were about to bring forward the legislation. It seems to me that it's just one of those basic things, but when I get into the bill I realize that the reason there are no answers is because it hasn't been thought out yet, and the Education Improvement Commission is going to be given incredible powers to decide what's going to happen.

You want to talk about challenges to democracy. Does this ever remind me of the Hospital Restructuring Commission that was set up by Bill 26 exactly a year ago today, an independent, non-accountable, non-elected body of people appointed by the government, a government that was going to wash its hands of any responsibility for any decisions made by that health restructuring commission, which was then sent out to fundamentally change the way health care is delivered to people in our communities.

We have seen over the course of the last months the way that independent, non-accountable, non-elected body has imposed its decisions on people in our communities. I happen to think they're also the decisions of the government, but the government likes to pretend they aren't when the decisions are ones the community doesn't like. We've got it again: the Education Improvement Commission.

I could take the time today, and I just may take the time, to go into the specifics, because this is the bulk of the legislation. These pages that set up the Education Improvement Commission are really the bulk of this legislation that's here for debate, setting out the responsibilities of the Education Improvement Commission, which shall basically "oversee the transition to the new system of education governance in Ontario."

They're going to do things like "coordinate processes relating to elections of members of district school boards and elections of members of school authorities...." That's how a trustee is going to be elected.

They're going to "identify issues relating to the establishment of French-language district school boards that should, in the opinion of the commission, be addressed and consider and make recommendations to the minister on those issues."

They are going to "identify issues that should, in the opinion of the commission, be addressed, relating to representation on district...boards of the interests of members of bands in respect of which there is agreement under this act to provide instruction to pupils who are Indians within the meaning of the Indian Act...." There was certainly no time to think about where native education would fit into this new, amalgamated board, so the Education Improvement Commission is going to do that.

They're going to "identify other key issues that should, in the opinion of the commission, be addressed, including but not limited to issues relating to the distribution of the assets and liabilities of existing boards and the transfer of staff of existing boards" -- a sweeping power to determine the future of school board employees in this province.

They are going to "consider, conduct research, facilitate discussion and make recommendations to the minister on the feasibility of increasing parental involvement in educational governance." That's parent councils. This government, which is about to fundamentally change the nature of elected representative government for education and replace it with parent councils, has not even decided what the role of parent councils is going to be. The Education Improvement Commission, this all-wise body of people to be appointed by the government, is going to decide whether indeed it is feasible to have parent councils and what their roles should be.

Does this government take any responsibility for planning, or is the need to have a political spin document out on Monday so great that they can't take the time to do any of their own thinking or planning at all?

There are further transitional controls the Education Improvement Commission is given, and they include -- I find this really quite alarming -- the review of the 1997 school board budgets in order to "amend and approve them when the commission considers it appropriate." Fundamental decisions about spending that are to take place during this transitional period are to be made by a group of people appointed by the government with no direct electoral accountability, and I believe that is truly undemocratic: the spending of taxpayers' money by a group of people who will be appointed by the minister, with the government taking no responsibility, and being given that power over and above the power that is currently in the legislation assigned to school trustees who are elected by their electors to spend the property tax dollars they have raised.

Even before the ministry takes education off the property tax, they are giving an appointed group of people the power to approve and amend the budget decisions of those local school boards. They are also giving them the ability to "establish and publish guidelines with respect to appointments, hiring and promotion" during this transitional period, so they'll make the decisions that will guide the school boards as to how you carry out amalgamation, what you do with the employees of all these school boards who are about to disappear in the amalgamation.


I don't know today whether or not I should be getting into the sheer anxiety that must be felt, not only by all the parents out there who are concerned about where this is going but certainly by all the employees of school boards who have no idea how these guidelines to be established by the Education Improvement Commission, a group of people who have not yet been identified, are going to affect their lives and their futures.

The point is that nothing's been decided. If you listen to the minister talk, you'd think maybe they actually knew what they were doing, except if you listen closely, you realize that every time he says something it's different from what he said the time before, because the Minister of Education, when asked about the new boards and the role of the new boards, said they were going to have a less-hands-on role.

Then when he was asked specifically what they would do in this less-hands-on role, he said, "They're going to continue to oversee the managers of the system." He said, "They're going to continue to be employers of record," although he didn't explain what that meant. He was asked who people should call if they had a problem with buses or they needed a new bus route and he said, "That's still going to be a function of the district school board."

I'm not sure what's changed in that description. It sounds to me like these school boards, although they are going to be restricted to $5,000 because it's a part-time job and in my part of the province they're going to have to travel hundreds of miles to get a school board meeting, are still going to have all the managerial hands-on functions that the current school boards have.

I had asked the same question of the ministry staff at the briefing and I got a letter from the minister's executive assistant to try to explain to me what it is they thought the new role of trustees would be and he said, "Trustees will be expected to focus their attention on the development of policies which will enhance the quality of education for students, not on the day-to-day operation of the school system." But then he goes on to describe some of the things school trustees will be expected to do and it sounds to me pretty much like what school trustees have always done, which is not to have the day-to-day management of the school system, but to keep a critical watch on the management of the school system.

There is another new role perhaps for school boards that at least is more emphasized in Mr Weir's letter and which Mr Snobelen I notice emphasized in his introductory comments today, and that is:

"As the government introduces the new vision for education with its focus on the student and teacher in the classroom, the role of the trustee will be focused on ensuring implementation of the provisions of the Education Act, approving school board policies and procedures, and reporting to the Ministry of Education and Training and the public on the implementation of performance measures based on provincial standards for students, school and school board administrators, and staff."

It sounds to me like boards are going to be much more of a reporting body to the minister rather than effective local decision-making bodies themselves, although Mr Weir goes on to say, "Trustees will also approve budget allocations through an open public process and policies on capital and transportation and human resources, as well as employ staff."

So I guess they still do have their hands-on managerial role. I don't know what sort of budget decisions they could possibly make since the ministry is going to control 100% of the funding and 100% of the allocations, and maybe this is too much to think would actually be happening, but presumably is going to be basing its funding allocations to the school boards on something related to the needs of students in the school system as the ministry sees them.

I don't know how much decision-making ability for budgets local boards are going to have. I really question why the government didn't just go the whole route, which is clearly where it wants to go, and simply eliminate school boards altogether since it's going to have total control, and total control is clearly what the government wants.

I can only come to one conclusion: The reason they didn't eliminate school boards altogether is because the minister still needs a scapegoat. He still needs somebody to take the blame if people don't actually like the decisions that are made. It's better to have at least a nominal local board available to be seen to be responsible for the decisions, even though in fact the minister will be pulling all the financial strings and making all those decisions. The local board will be a good scapegoat and not a whole lot more.

One of the unanswered questions that not even the Education Improvement Commission has been given powers to deal with -- it doesn't appear in this particular piece of legislation, although I think it's a logical question -- is exactly how is this commercial tax going to be levied? School boards are not going to have the power to raise any property taxes at all. Residential property taxpayers will not be paying anything for education. We know that. So the Ministry of Education is now going to go out into every community in this province, and I want the members opposite to understand this so that when the businesses in your community come to you and say, "What the heck happened here?" you'll know. The Ministry of Education will have the power to go in and levy an education tax on the businesses in your communities.

I asked the question, and it seemed to me like a pretty basic question, "Will there be one uniform mill rate for all the businesses across the province?" The answer I got back was that that has not been decided yet. There are only two possibilities. One is a uniform mill rate in which every community will pay one mill rate, and I can tell you that businesses in my home town are not going to like it very much if they're paying the Toronto commercial mill rate right now, but one uniform mill rate might be a way to go, or else -- here's the other alternative -- the Ministry of Education, the government of Ontario, will go into each community separately and decide what business taxes will be paid on commercial properties for education.

Doesn't that scare you as local representatives, that Queen's Park, your government, is going to be responsible for levying local property taxes, so when business comes to you and says, "Why are our taxes going up?" you'll have to acknowledge that there is a direct responsibility for setting those business taxes? Doesn't it worry you just a little bit that when even that basic question is asked -- because normally you'd have school trustees who decide what the local mill rate is going to be. That's not going to happen any longer. School trustees don't have that power, so the government has got to decide. Is it going to be a uniform mill rate or is it going to be a different mill rate for every community? They say, "We haven't decided yet."

They didn't give that power to the Education Improvement Commission -- I guess they decided there was enough on the plate of that group of all-wise people -- so they're going to set up a panel of business people who will at some point in the future advise them on how the business taxes for education should be raised in every community. So there is no answer yet to the question, even though the government has announced that it's paying for education, as to exactly how they're going to raise the business share of the educational costs in our communities. It is absolutely irresponsible that any government should bring in such sweeping changes to governance and to educational financing when they have no idea of how this is even going to work, let alone what its impact is going to be.

I hesitate to get into the discussion about Ernst and Young's concern that maybe the costs could go up under amalgamation. I hesitate because the Ernst and Young report was concerned about two areas in which there are differences. One is differences in services. I think we probably will have an equalizing of services, but it will be an equalizing at a much lower level than the services that are provided now because of the cuts that are going to be made to education.

There are also differences between school boards in their collective agreements. Let's put it on the table. That's one of the underlying issues here. I don't think there's much doubt that this Minister of Education thinks the way you're going to be able to find the $1 billion to $2 billion that he needs to contribute towards his share of the tax cut money is by taking over school board bargaining with teachers and others and being able to cut teachers' salaries.

At the very least, an issue related to collective bargaining of teachers is something which needs an open debate. It's not something that should be entered into through the back door, and yet that's exactly what's happening, because there aren't any answers as to how the hundreds of collective agreements that currently exist between boards and teachers and boards and custodians and boards and their secretarial staff are going to be amalgamated in this amalgamation process. Nobody knows. I asked whether or not current contracts were going to be frozen during the transitional period. Nobody knows. Do you really think there will be a single settlement of a single collective agreement between now and the time the amalgamation takes over? Why would you? Nobody knows what's going to happen at the end of it, who is going to be responsible for the amalgamation of those contracts and who is ultimately going to be responsible for collective bargaining. Shouldn't there at least be some openness and some honesty in putting this particular debate on the table?

We know where the Minister of Education is. The Minister of Education had a report, another report, commissioned by a good friend of his, Mr Paroian. I'm sure we all remember Mr Paroian. He's now going around offering free advice to school boards on how to deal with the amalgamations that are forthcoming. Mr Paroian recommended clearly that there should be provincial bargaining and arbitration of any disputes, and his report was based on such bias and such misinformation that it was clearly dismissed as being simply a shill for the government to be able to do what the Minister of Education had already decided it wanted to do. This is yet another of the issues which has not been brought forward by the government which needs to be debated. The fact is that this government doesn't know how any of this will work. They have no idea where they're going with it all next and they haven't looked at the impacts or the practicalities or the details of it at all.


Neither have they entered into a debate on the most fundamental question, and that is the question of who should govern our schools. Over the past 100-plus years of public education in this province, we've developed a balance in the responsibility for the governance of education. I think it's an important question to talk about that balance, that fundamental question of who should govern our schools. If we believe, as the minister said today, that the citizens of Ontario believe in the importance of education for the wellbeing of our students and the future of our province, it's important that we ask the question, who then should govern our schools? We should look at the balance.

There is a role for the province in education. I happen to think there is a greater role for Ontario in education than perhaps the province has taken in the last few years. I think it's important for the Ministry of Education, the provincial government, to take a larger role in looking at curriculum, that there is perhaps too much duplication, too much repetition and, yes, perhaps too much unnecessary use of resources in rewriting the curriculum documents board by board by board. I think you could have more standardized curriculum material prepared by the provincial government, with input from the professionals in the field, and still leave some local flexibility for curriculum that responds to local needs.

So I think the province could do more. They could do more to ensure standards. The province should do more on funding to ensure equity, because we have all been concerned that there is not yet real equity for students in every school board and every community across the province. I do not believe the province should be paying more at the expense of dumping billions of dollars more of the cost of other social programs on to the municipalities, but I do think there is an important role for the province of Ontario in the governance of education.

I also believe there is an important role for school boards, and I'm going to attempt to summarize it as briefly as I can. I happen to believe it is important to have locally elected, accountable school boards that do not manage schools day-to-day but keep a critical watch on the management of our schools on behalf of parents and citizens and taxpayers in their communities, and of course on behalf of their students. I believe the role of boards is to provide local flexibility to reflect local needs. I believe the role of boards is to provide access to concerned parents and citizens and students so they truly have a voice in education. I believe the boards are important community advocates for public education, advocates with the provincial government, advocates for the young people in their area.

I also believe the boards serve a really crucial role in developing partnerships in their communities, partnerships that work for education. I look back at where the co-op programs that are a major thrust of this government's agenda for education have come from: They came from local boards that set up local advisory committees that worked with businesses. I believe local boards have an important role to play in developing partnerships. I actually think one of the reasons school-based management works better at the elementary school level than it does at the secondary school level is because there is so much beyond the school at the secondary school level that needs to be done by local boards and really can't be done by each separate parent council.

I certainly do believe, though, in the role of parents and citizens. I believe in their role on a board. I don't think we should forget the fact that as messy and imperfect as democracy may be, boards of trustees are representative of the citizens of that community. Parents and citizens have a direct voice in education in a representative way through the electoral process, and that is through their boards of trustees.

I also believe, as I've said, that parents and students and the broader citizenry have a role to play in education at the school level in an advisory capacity and an advocate role. I believe that's the kind of balance we have now in educational governance.

So I ask, why do we have this dislocation? We can make changes that might be necessary; we can bring refinements to the system; we can look for efficiencies. Yes, we can reduce the number of trustees. Yes, we can cap their salaries. Yes, we can continue to look for efficiencies in purchasing and in administration. But we don't need to fundamentally change and dislocate a system that is working much better than the Minister of Education would like us to believe.

I have not many minutes left in my part of this debate. I want to again put the announcement of this legislation and the taking of education taxes off the residential property tax base into the context of the mega-week of announcements. I want to make it absolutely clear that any attempt by the government to talk about all this as being disentanglement, eliminating the confusion of duplication in roles, is just mythical, just part of the deception, because there is more entanglement now and will be in the future than there has ever been before.

Yes indeed, education has been simplified, because the ministry will call the shots for funding; it will have total control and local decision-making will effectively disappear. I suppose that's simpler. I happen to believe that was one of the areas in which the dual responsibility was not only necessary but was working in an effective and shared way between local governance and provincial governance. But certainly it is simpler now in terms of who calls the shots, because Queen's Park and the Minister of Education will call all the shots.

But in every other area of social programs, we do not have disentanglement, we do not have simplification; we have more confusion. We have shared responsibility in a host of areas, from welfare and family benefits to child care to long-term care, areas where the municipality had no responsibility before and where the dumping of costs on the property tax base is a way of abandoning the provincial government's responsibility for ensuring equity.

At the same time as they seem to have accepted some greater responsibility for equity in education at a provincial level -- although I think it is going to be equal parts of a much smaller pie -- they have abandoned any responsibility for ensuring equity in every other area of our social programs and have dumped, totally abdicated, any financial responsibility entirely on to the municipalities in areas of social housing and public health.

This is not disentanglement. This is not less confusing. This is not simplification. It turns on its ear every piece of advice that has ever been given to any government about how to disentangle services. It simplifies the one area in which shared jurisdictions were necessary and working well and puts in its place a host of areas in which shared jurisdictions will not work well. It does it all under the camouflage of reducing property taxes, which is a complete and total deception, because we all know it is a $1-billion dump on local property taxes and that either property taxes will go up or all services, including education, are going to go down.

There is absolutely no question that this government is taking control of its education costs and dumping costs on to the municipality in order to pay for taking the share of education costs -- while saving itself $1 billion into the bargain, because this isn't a wash; it's a $1-billion extra dump on the municipal property tax base -- but taking control of education costs so it can cut the spending that goes to education, which will hurt kids in the classroom, and that this is all being done ultimately for one reason, and that is to pay for a $6-billion tax cut promise.

I'm a veteran now with the battle over Bill 26, which, as I've already said today, a year ago we felt was the biggest affront to democracy we'd ever seen. But I believe this bill is part and parcel of the ultimate in political cynicism. I believe this is motivated by pure political cynicism, because it is a cheap political hit against people who have committed themselves for years, committed hours and hours of work and energy and concern week after week with little or no compensation, simply because they were concerned about education; a cheap political hit against those people who have served as trustees of public education, who have been the advocates for public education and who have struggled to preserve a quality of public education in the face of continued constraints.


It's a cheap political hit to justify this supposedly good news announcement by refusing to even recognize the value of the role of school trustees. It is a cynical, cynical piece of legislation in its sheer irresponsibility because virtually nothing has been decided. There are no answers to the most basic questions. It hasn't been thought through yet. They are simply going to turn the power to make the decisions, to come back and tell the government what to do, over to another appointed body and give it more decision-making powers than most appointed bodies, other than the Health Services Restructuring Commission, have ever had.

It is a cynical, cynical piece of legislation because it is part of the political spin. It is part of the overall deception in its camouflaging for the big dump on property taxpayers in the hope that people won't notice, that they'll just remember this was a government that took education off the property tax. It's cynical in its deception because it is a way of cutting educational costs to pay for the tax cut.

It is, I am afraid, cynical in its deception because it may prove to be a way of allowing the Minister of Education to advance his own personal agenda of introducing, not only charter schools in the name of greater parental involvement but also privatization, because when the cuts to education start coming and the quality of education starts deteriorating, as it will because I don't believe education can sustain more cuts -- we've already seen them hurting the classroom and more cuts will hurt the classroom again -- people will start saying, as they are saying about health care, "If we can't afford to pay for quality for everyone, then let those who can afford to pay buy something better."

Just as we are threatened with two-tier health care, we will be threatened with two-tier education and we will be threatened with privatization of education. We have a Minister of Education who I personally believe sees that as a not unhappy agenda to achieve.

In my view it is a very black day in the history of the Legislature when public education can be jeopardized to pay for a tax cut that was made to get a political party elected, and when a minister can be allowed to impose his private views on a century and a half of the achievements of public education. There has been so much thrown at us in mega-week, and that was a part of the cynical strategy as well, part of the camouflage strategy: Throw so much at them, start with the supposedly easy political sells and the supposedly good news announcements, and hope that nobody will notice the billion-dollar extra dumped on the property taxpayers.

So much, so many huge changes, not only in the way we're financed but in the way services are delivered, in the way we're governed, all thrown at us last week, that it is going to be difficult to get this seemingly small bill the attention it deserves. But I believe that the underlying agendas of this bill and what this bill will ultimately mean to students and to education in this province are so significant that we have to call on, not only all the members of the Legislature but concerned citizens across this province, to really recognize what this Fewer School Boards Act is really all about, what the government's ultimate agenda is in bringing this in.

Even with all of the concerns with all of the other issues, including the creation of a megacity here in the Metro area at the same time as the Minister of Education quietly goes out to create mega-boards across the province, we must be able to devote enough time and energy and concern to fighting the changes that could be so destructive to public education.

I trust the public will notice, will see through the camouflage and the deception, will understand that this is a fundamental threat to the future of public education and will be ready to stand up and defend what I know it values, and that is a continued access to quality of education for every student in every community of this province, regardless of their ability to pay. The only way we will continue to have that is if we continue to have strong local accountability, local accessibility and an ability to advocate for public education.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments? The member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: I want to congratulate the member for Fort William on a very fine speech which exposed the cynicism of this government that she spoke of in terms of the implications of Bill 104. I think the member is quite right to point out how very inappropriate it is for this government to have mixed this bill in with all the other actions of the mega-week as a means of trying to continue the shell game, trying to convince the people of Ontario that somehow they can continue to enjoy the level of education that we have built.

Indeed, the member for Fort William is right: It has been built very carefully over 150 years. It has been based on local accountability. It has been based on the ability of citizens to access their trustees, to influence the way in which first the teaching itself and then the policies of a provincial Ministry of Education happened. One of the things my constituents say to me is how shocked and surprised they are that a government that has the same name as the Bill Davis and John Robarts governments, which contributed a great deal to the education system as it exists today, would come along and destroy what was a very fine legacy.

That does not mean to say, as the member pointed out, that there doesn't need to be changes. That is not to say that what we have needs to stay. It is to say that we need to evolve, rather than have a sudden rupture and explosion that destroys what we have learned in the past and takes no account of what is best for the children and youth in our own communities.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I listened with great interest to my colleague the member for Fort William in her speech. One has to wonder whether time has not passed her by when you look at what her colleagues in the Liberal caucus have said about the government's proposals, when you look at what the Liberal members have said about our government's direction. While campaigning for the Liberal leadership, Dalton McGuinty said about school board amalgamation: "We have an obligation to consider it. We can't back away from the prospect of amalgamation. As Liberals, we're fiscally responsible." Orillia debate, September 25, 1996.

Dwight Duncan said while campaigning for Liberal leader: "Would I reduce the number of school boards? If it meant putting more dollars in the classrooms and more teachers in the classrooms and improving ratios for kids, yes."

Even the Liberal member from Ottawa, whom I have a great of deal respect for, said on CJOH on December 28: "We've heard that so often, that we have got to look at reductions for school boards. I think the government is on the right track by looking at it very closely." A good friend of mine from Ottawa, a Liberal member, said that.

So when the member opposite stands in her place and says that this government is looking for some cheap trick with respect to reducing the number of school trustees, people in the public are very cynical and you wonder why they're cynical. The member opposite said this government's attempt to reduce the number of trustees is a cheap political hit. Well, if the member wants to talk about cheap political hits, her smiling picture on the front page of this document -- within the first year, "We will reduce the number of trustees." And she criticizes this government for doing something about it?

Sometimes you can't just talk; sometimes you've got to act. We need more than words. Things like "considering it," things like "looking at it" aren't enough. Sometimes you have to make a decision and implement something. You can't be on both sides of the same issue. And you wonder why the public gets cynical? Clearly, this government is acting on the commitments it made.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I would just like to compliment the member for Fort William on a good number of points that she has put forth here this afternoon. We know her dedication to education and her former work as the chair of the Lakehead Board of Education and her commitment to the students of this province. As she indicated, what the province has actually seen is just part of a big dump, and I can tell you that many communities throughout the northwest and in my riding know what's out there and know exactly what this government has done. I think the member for Fort William has said it well in terms of taking that control of education out of the hands of the local people, the folks who know most what their communities need.


In my area alone, in the northwest of the province, we're going to have now a mega-board. I was just indicating to the interns earlier on that we're going to have trustees who are going to be expected to drive from places like Red Lake and from places like Fort Frances to a common meeting area. I often wonder about what kinds of people you're going to get in terms of education, what kind of involvement they're going to want to have in a board that stretches from Thunder Bay to the Manitoba border. Again it's just something this government has not taken into consideration, the differences of the northwest, the vast area and the distances between the present school boards today. The member for Fort William has certainly put forth the argument that there is a difference between downtown Toronto and northwestern Ontario. Again, local accountability -- out the window; local access to parents who want to go and discuss the issue with their board -- out the window.

I would just like to congratulate the member for giving us a good amount of her experience as both a chair of the board and now here as a member of the Legislature.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I would also like to congratulate the member for Fort William for the speech she has just given this House. She has, in her own inimitable way, elaborated on a number of the very alarming issues that are raised in this piece of legislation, not only in the legislation itself but in the way it's being delivered and in the context within which it is being delivered.

This is again an example of this government trying to kill a flea with a sledgehammer. We have some challenges, there's no doubt. There isn't anybody in this place who won't agree there are some things we as government have to look at over time to change, to make things better, to improve, to respond to new information and to have our systems evolve. I don't think anybody will disagree that is a healthy exercise for all of us to be involved in. But this government has not, over the last year and a half, shown itself to be able to get its head around the complications, the sophistication of the systems all of us together in this province have put in place over a number of years to serve our communities, to serve our children, to serve each other. This is another example of the simplistic approach that in the end will do damage. It will do major damage to the communities, it will do major damage to families and will do damage --


Mr Martin: That's right. It will do damage to children, the lack of respect shown by this government over the last year and a half for a very simple and fundamental democratic process of consultation, of sitting down and talking with people and trying to figure out with them what is in their best interests. This government is arrogant, as the member for St Catharines has just said, in their eagerness and lack of experience to do some things that are going to destroy this province, destroy communities and destroy families.

The Deputy Speaker: You have two minutes to reply.

Mrs McLeod: I should begin my two-minute response by suggesting to the member for Nepean, who happens to have once been a classmate of one of my daughters, that we grandmothers are a little sensitive to allusions to time passing us by. But since you've made that allusion, I would tell you that maybe time has passed me by, because I find myself with a very long memory that goes back to exactly those governments that were referred to by the member for London North, to previous Conservative governments. I was a trustee for a long time, providing local accountability in education with a provincial government that actually cared about education.

I happen to remember a Conservative government that brought in special education legislation because it was so committed to the needs of special education kids and so concerned about equal opportunity. I never for one moment, even though I am of a different party stripe, would have questioned the commitment of previous Conservative governments to the goals of public education, and I have talked to many long-time Conservatives who share that concern who are absolutely dismayed by what this government is doing and threatens to do to education in this province.

I make no apologies to any member of this House for any statements I have made about directions for change in education. If the member for Nepean would listen up for a moment and open his ears as well as his mind, he would have heard me say, "You can make changes, you can make refinements, you can reduce the number of trustees, you can cap their salaries, which is consistent with every bit of advice this province has been given by consistent studies; you don't have to destroy local governments and lose local accountability and local access and turn all the decision-making power over to a government and a minister that are determined to take $1.2 billion out of education to find a tax cut." If you don't think it is deception and camouflage to claim you're doing this and cutting property taxes when you know full well that at the end of the day property taxes are going to go up because they have more than $1 billion net cost on property taxes, or we are going to lose services, if you don't think this is cheap, answer the questions I asked today.

The Deputy Speaker: Time has expired. Further debate?

Mr Marchese: The member for Algoma, who is our education critic, was unable to be here to do the leadoff, so I would ask for unanimous consent to postpone our leadoff.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it agreed? Agreed.

Mr Marchese: It's a pleasure for me to have a half-hour to talk to Bill 104, entitled the Fewer School Boards Act. I want to begin by saying that the assault on the educational system isn't just beginning; it has already begun. It began last year, when this government took out of the educational system $400 million and did some major things that I think began the deterioration of the quality of education in Ontario.

Part of it was the elimination of junior kindergarten. They argue, of course, that they haven't eliminated junior kindergarten, that boards of education do that. The real problem is that this province funds those programs, and as a result of limiting, restricting or cutting off the funding for that particular program boards have been left with very little choice but to cut junior kindergarten from their jurisdiction. We believe, I as a former teacher believe, that's a problem, that students come to the educational system unequal, that we are not all prepared in the same way and that some students who come from academic, wealthy backgrounds tend by and large to fare better because they were better prepared, particularly in the early years. When you eliminate junior kindergarten, you've caused serious damage to how we reduce that inequality, particularly in those early years. But this government, of course, doesn't care about those considerations.


Mr Marchese: How do I know? If you had cared, you would have kept the money for the program. But if you take the money away from the program, it means that your consideration around the issue is obviously minimal. If you wanted to reduce inequality in the educational system you would have kept funding junior kindergarten programs, because that is the area and that's the time, in those early years, when you deal with a lack of appropriate preparation. If you compensate for some of that inequality in those years you may likely be able to achieve some equality for all students. You may not in all cases, but you can reduce those inequalities.

The government further continued its assault on adult education programs at a time when many people in this society, in Ontario, have gone back to acquire courses as a part of that educational continuum to deal with the fact that many are being fired by the private sector and fired by the provincial sector and fired, to be fair as well, by the federal Liberal government. They're being fired by all sides. People recognizing this, of course, in their great fears have gone back to school to acquire new knowledge and hopefully get into other fields that might be able to employ them. So continuing education has been part of an important strategy for boards of education -- particularly in Metro but not exclusively so -- all over Ontario.


This government, of course, cut back funding for adult education. That obviously was not part of their consideration, because if it were, they would not have cut funding to that program. This is the worst of economic times to cut these programs, both for adults and for young people at the junior kindergarten level, but they obviously didn't have any qualms in cutting the funding for such programs. If they did, it would have been manifest, and I can tell you, I don't see them flinching one bit as they make these cuts.

The assault on education continues. It began last year; it continues again this year. How does it begin? The public decides how your cuts are hurting our educational system, but how does it now begin? This government has taken the education portion out of property taxes.

They say it with a great deal of excitement. The Minister of Municipal Affairs said, "Our seniors are going to be very happy that we took the education portion out of property taxes, and so should the whole world be." Well, there's a problem, and the reason why there's a problem is because the senior is not getting property tax relief. This government, in its interesting wisdom, has decided to take the $5.4 billion for education out of the property taxes and replace that $5.4 billion with additional costs having to do with welfare, child care, long-term care, other health matters, housing, transportation, libraries and many more; programs that generally would be dealt with, by and large, by the provincial government.

The things David Crombie said about welfare, which he never would have dreamed and/or hoped -- in fact, he encouraged the Premier not to dump welfare on to municipalities. Those things are now back on the backs of property taxpayers. The province, which has the appropriate jurisdiction for these matters, because it is the level that is able to raise more money than municipalities, has decided to dump those costs on to the municipalities. This government knows that welfare has been expensive and will continue to be expensive. Recessions, as we have seen, recur every five or seven years. They come back, and when they come back costs will be greater for municipalities. Long-term care, as everybody knows, is going to be expensive. Why? Because there are going to be more seniors. These costs that have been dumped are going to be a weighty problem for the property tax owner.

Why take $5.4 billion out of the property tax system for education? Why do it? What is the real goal of doing that if the intent is to achieve a revenue-neutral position? Why do it? I'll tell you why: It's all part of this whole grand scheme. It's all connected here. Nothing this government does should be considered in isolation of this grand scheme of theirs. They are taking control of education money to be able to eventually, down the line -- and it won't be too long -- give less to all boards of education. That is the intent: to take $1 billion out of the educational system. I predict it will be more than $1 billion. I predict it will be anywhere from $1 billion to $2 billion out of education alone. So much for that promise of not taking one cent out of education.

Some separate school trustees are not delighted but happy because they think this is going to achieve for them some measure of funding equity. That's not going to happen. I'm afraid to tell those separate school trustees -- some of them -- that the equity they were seeking will not happen. What this government is going to do is the following: Take money generally in its control, fund public education systems in places like Metro, Ottawa and other areas at the same level as separate school boards, and that's how they're going to achieve equity. That's what this government is talking about when they say, "We are going to homogenize our funding across Ontario." They'll be taking money from many boards and arrive at equity with the separate school board in that way. There is no more money for the separate school system. The trustees who think that is the case are dead wrong to believe it. They're on the wrong track.

The agenda of this government is to reduce funding for education. That's what this is all about. Why are they doing this? Because they need money to finance their income tax cut. These fine members across the way deny this all the time. They deny it, but they know this is taking money out of the system to support the few privileged people who don't need the support. The ones who are going to benefit from the income tax cut are those with privilege, both economic and professional. They're the ones who benefit from this. The person making $25,000 or $30,000 has barely seen the advantage that comes with an income tax cut. Many people I meet still are wondering where that money is coming from because they haven't seen it yet, "Where is that income tax cut?"

I can tell you this: The banker has seen it. The banker who earns $1.6 million has felt the income tax cut already. I can see them scurrying about buying those fridges and stoves and toasters and the like, things they really needed with $1.6 million; it's not enough to buy these essentials. They're scurrying about to invest. As they open the doors for their private investor folks to create these jobs, they're scurrying about to help them out to spend that money. Imagine that. It's important.

Mr Speaker, you're alluding to the fact that somehow I may not be speaking to this bill, but I am. They're all connected. You're almost making it appear as if somehow this little bill is disconnected from the cuts we have already suffered last year, or that taking the education portion out of the property tax is disconnected from this bill. Please. It's all connected. To force me into a position where we simply isolate the issue would be wrong. We've got to give the macro-picture for the public to understand where we're at with this government, what this agenda is all about.

This government has demoralized everyone in the system, has demoralized all of them. They are assaulting everybody. They have assaulted primarily teachers, insulted by assaulting them. They've insulted many, and many are angry. As a former teacher I see and talk to many of them. They're not happy with the fact that these people here don't trust the work they've been doing in the classroom. I talk to many trustees as well. They are insulted by the assault on the performance of the job that they have been doing. I was a former trustee for eight years. I quit teaching --

Mr O'Toole: Doubled your salary, a $10,000 raise.


Mr Marchese: What we do here is irrelevant; it's only what the others do, because our role in raising of salaries has nothing to do with it. We'll get to that; I have time.

I quit teaching when I got elected to be able to do the job as a trustee full-time. We were making $7,000 then. We didn't have these fine members asking why I quit teaching, why I would even dream of doing that job full-time. I remember I had one Tory come to ask me why I would be foolish enough to do that. That's okay. It was an individual choice. I made that choice. I understand that. But many of us believe that what we were doing as trustees was important.

I have to tell you this: Why did I enter politics in education? As someone who was interested as a teacher and someone who was interested as a parent, who realized how streaming affected students, how many Italian Canadians in the early 1960s were hoarded into vocational schools because they were told they were good with their hands and weren't so great with their intellectual skills, so they assisted them to get into the vocational schools to be carpenters, I presume, or construction workers, manual workers, bricklayers and the like. We were good with our hands, they told us, so they streamed us into vocational schools. Many Portuguese Canadians in my riding were streamed into vocational schools because they too were good with their hands. That was a problem. It was a problem that needed to be dealt with by the educational system. It was wrong to direct many of those students who came, who had the ability, to those schools.


Why did I get involved, and people like me? I wasn't the only one. We got involved so we could help students, but particularly to help parents become more actively involved in the education of their children so as to be able to defeat this problem called streaming that herded many of their children away from academic schools. That's why we got involved. Many people in the Toronto Board of Education system understand the role we have played as trustees. They knew that the role we played was critical in being able to bring about some equity for many of those students.

The black children in our system were angry because they too were directed to vocational schools. Did it happen consciously? No, I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't argue that it happened consciously. But I have to tell you that many of those problems we experienced could have been avoided. In fact, now, after years of parental involvement, 80% of our students in the Toronto Board of Education system are away from level 3 vocational schools and into level 4 and level 5 programs, and they're doing better because of parental involvement, stimulated by the support that was given to them by the trustees.

They have become vocal in the Toronto Board of Education system, and I speak about that because that's where I was for eight years prior to 1990. They became vocal and they became active, some as angry parents, but many who realized that by simply being actively involved and seen by their children to be actively involved in their own way -- whether they as parents had grade 5 or grade 10 was irrelevant -- that involvement helped their children to achieve and to remove themselves and get away from one stream and into another. That was important, so when this government dumps on trustees, demeans their role, people like me who were there get offended, and I get offended for those colleagues and friends who are still there, not just in Toronto and all over Metro but all over Ontario, who do a job in education because they care about wanting to involve the parents in the education of their children. That was important.

Some of the Tory members obviously don't understand or possibly don't care. I could be wrong. It's sometimes wrong to say they don't care because it's quite possible that many do. But the point is that you've got to manifest that caring in some way, and manifesting it has to do with what support you give to the educational system and not how you cut in the educational system, which is what all of you are doing.

All of you are saying, "We need to cut to make the educational system better." I have not been able to intellectually understand how you do that. You don't make the system better by cutting. In fact, there will be a great deal of suffering in the Toronto Board of Education system, one that I know very well, because of these cuts. We've seen the assaults by this minister, who says 47% of our costs are in non-educational programs. He's wrong. He doesn't understand it and never explains it and never responds to the questions when asked, because I don't think he understands it.

I've got something here from the Ontario Public School Boards' Association which talks about --

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): That's what Sweeney said. You mandated it.

Mr Marchese: I know, but you have an important responsibility to be critical and read those things so you know, so you understand. That's your role, not to say, "You appointed Sweeney and Sweeney told us, so it's fact." You need to understand it. It's important, because if you don't understand it --

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Do you understand it?

Mr Marchese: I believe I do. Spending on elementary education, done by the Ontario Public School Boards' Association; the source is the Ministry of Education and Training. They say, just for the record, elementary and secondary: for the elementary, 67% of our dollars go into the classroom, instructional support is 28%, and central administration is 5%.

Their assault is on the trustees, on that central administration, the trustees and the superintendents. But it's the wrong assault, to focus on that 5%. That's what this minister and these fine soldiers do every day. They know that if you assault trustees and that if you say to them, "Oh, we can save millions of dollars on amalgamating a few boards," that they can solve the problem of funding. It can't be done. This government needs billions; it doesn't just need a couple of million that go to trustees and superintendents. As the Premier just said today, they need billions to be cut out of the educational system.

Other than Metro and a few other areas where they earn more than $15,000, most trustees earn less than $10,000. If you cut their salaries and you reduce the number of trustees, in the end you've still got a great problem to solve, your problem of your income tax cut, which requires you to have -- I don't know why you're squirming with that face. You require $3 billion every year. You've got to get it from somewhere, and you're going to take it out of education, the only place you could go. Of course, health is coming. The assault on our health care system is not too far in the future; it's coming. But you've assaulted these people here who do an important service to our educational system.

Instructional support, another area you have assaulted, includes attendance and guidance, other professional and paraprofessional program support, maintenance, supplies, computers, principals, vice-principals and clerical support. What are you going to do? Are you going to fire all these people? Is that what you're talking about? Do you want to eliminate 28% of this critical part of our educational component? Is that what you are talking about? If that's what you're talking about, you don't have a clue what you're saying and what you're doing.

It fits very well to introduce a bill called the Fewer School Boards Act because, as befits this government, which titles its bills in a way that is very propagandist, it gives the impression to the public that you are about to do something useful, something that they want. But by and by, people will understand what you're doing. They will understand that the real agenda is not the few millions of dollars that you're saving here, that it's elsewhere.

By calling it the Fewer School Boards Act, the Reform-minded public that you have in some of the areas of the 905 and beyond will say: "Oh, this is great. This is exactly what we expected of our elected Reform politicians." That's fine. It will suit some of them. But I tell you, as they begin to scrutinize what you have done and what you are introducing, they will understand that the real agenda is not about reforming the educational system, because this is not going to do one thing for the improvement of the quality of education for our students and teachers, not one thing.

I know that the Speaker's sister-in-law, whom I met in one of the meetings, believes what I'm saying and agrees with what I'm saying, because at one meeting that I attended where Mr Snobelen, the Minister of Education, was to have attended and did not attend, many of those people were upset at the cuts, upset at all the cuts that are about to be forced upon this province.

Mr Martin: What did his sister-in-law say?

Mr Marchese: We don't want to be personal. I wouldn't ever dream of saying anything more than that, other than the fact that I met the Speaker's sister-in-law and she was an active parent and she was a very concerned parent, worried about what the cuts mean to the quality of education for her children and for parents like herself.

Mr Speaker, I think we're close to 6 o'clock and I have some time that I would like to have for tomorrow, so I'd like to move adjournment.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): That's perfectly within order, member for Fort York, and the timing was impeccable.

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

The House adjourned at 1800.