36th Parliament, 1st Session

L152 - Tue 28 Jan 1997 / Mar 28 Jan 1997










































The House met at 1332.




Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I want to address my remarks today directly to the Minister of Northern Development, who'll be the guest speaker at the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce annual meeting Wednesday in Thunder Bay.

Last week the minister came to northern Ontario to sell us on the merits of dumping new financial responsibilities on northern municipalities. Although the minister acknowledged that northern communities will have higher costs than revenues when these sweeping reforms come into place, he tried to persuade the northern media that special consideration was being given to our communities through a northern investment strategy designed to deal with the inequities in the north because of the clearly higher service costs we face.

The problem: There was and is no northern investment strategy. The minister himself, when pressed, referred to a strategy that "will eventually happen," that he "assumed" would happen. The minister's staff the next day were quoted as saying they weren't sure there would be something distinct for the north.

Despite the minister's acknowledgement of our higher costs in the north, he admitted that we'll simply be competing for the same pot of money that the rest of the province's municipalities will be fighting over, a pot of money that, we now learn from the Premier, the municipalities may have to cofund.

All of us concerned with those massive restructuring changes are terribly concerned about them, and the minister and I can certainly disagree over the effects of these reforms, but the minister should not insult all of us in the north by inventing a northern-specific angle that simply does not exist. These are serious issues we're facing, and we need the facts and a minister who will deliver on a commitment he's publicly made.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Down in Niagara people are outraged, incensed and, I tell you, fearful as well about the attack this government is posing on health care in Niagara region. Among the hospitals to be shut down by Harris and this government are the Hotel Dieu and the Port Colborne General, and I tell you, they're not Mike Harris's hospitals to shut down. These hospitals, like hospitals across Niagara region, were built brick by brick by working people and retirees, as they donated money by subscription from their paycheques, $5 and $10 a week, money they couldn't afford at the time but money that they were prepared to invest in health care in their community so that their children and grandchildren could enjoy the benefits of a universal health care system.

Let me tell you, the folks in Niagara know what the shutdown of Hotel Dieu and Port Colborne General means. It's going to mean reduced access to emergency services. It's going to mean people dying on their way to an emergency room outside of their community. It means reduced access to intensive care unit beds. It means reduced access to operating room facilities. It means reduced access to hospital beds. It means reduced funding to deliver health care services. It means reduced choice for health care services. It means increased donations required for reduced access to care, and there's been no assessment of how quality will be affected.

I tell you, this government is not going to be tolerated in Niagara region. As it continues to attack and dismantle health care in Niagara, the people of Niagara are fighting back by the thousands.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): More and more of my constituents are contacting me to say they support the many dramatic and positive changes the government is making to the public sector in Ontario. However, my constituents are also wondering, as I am, where the leader of the official opposition stands. It is not clear where he stands on the government's initiatives, nor is it clear why he has not offered any constructive alternatives of his own.

In an editorial on January 12, the Toronto Star asked, "Do Liberals, NDPers Have an Alternative?" On January 17, the Toronto Star asked again, "Instead of playing procedural games, why don't opposition members debate the contents of government bills and examine them in legislative committees where witnesses can appear?"

We have seen the Liberals flip-flop on issues. If the leader of the official opposition offered his own views on today's issues, the flip-flops would be painfully evident. The Leader of the Opposition hasn't given an alternative to the reform we have introduced, but he has repeatedly stated that he sees the need to restructure and downsize government, to reduce the number of school boards and to achieve economies in government spending wherever possible. He has even said that if he becomes Premier after the Harris government's tax cut is fully implemented, he will not attempt to reverse the changes. He has also said he would not reverse a unified Toronto.

I must ask, what exactly is the opposition leader's position? Does he have a plan? Has he thought of ways of doing things better for less? Does he truly want to give taxpayers a break?


Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): This government's assault on defenceless children continues, this time in the justice system. According to the Law Times, the axe is about to fall on up to 20 civil lawyers working in the Attorney General's crown law office, including seven lawyers whose job it is to take legal action against defaulting payors of child support.

This government cannot even pay out support cheques voluntarily received, to say nothing about pursuing people who aren't paying, and now they plan to erode enforcement even further. The government is firing efficient and capable staff lawyers and is replacing them with commissioned bill collectors and ad hoc freelance lawyers, which not only ends up costing the taxpayers more but will reduce the quality of service in attempting to protect the interests of children.

This stands as another repugnant example of poor planning and government incompetence. What's happening with family support administration in Ontario is symptomatic of the widespread and unnecessary chaos this government is inflicting on our legal system. As Chief Justice Roy McMurtry recently charged in unprecedented criticism of the Attorney General, Ontario's justice system is headed for total breakdown unless the effect of government cuts and inaction is remedied.

We say shame on the Attorney General for imposing a slash-and-burn policy on the Ontario justice system, especially on our children.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Last week, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines came to Sault Ste Marie to make an announcement. That announcement was that this government had absolutely no industrial strategy for northern Ontario.

He also, in that announcement, told the communities and people of the north that if, in implementing this government's strategy, they find that taxes have to be raised and services are diminished, they should blame the municipal leaders and shunned any responsibility for the damage that is going to be incurred. This is an example of the contempt in which this government holds communities and community leaders across this province. But did it surprise any of us? Not at all, because the track record of this minister and his government has been at best dismal and at worst destructive.

They have dismantled the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. The vehicle that's left to administer community economic development, the northern Ontario heritage fund, has been literally dormant; we haven't seen a thing. They've been in power now for a year and a half, they've been making promises to northern Ontario for a year and a half, and they haven't spent a penny, not one cent, out of that fund on anything to help the people of northern Ontario as they deal with the very devastating decisions that have been made and done to us over the last year and a half.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I wish to address smarter government and less spending. Our government is determined to make this a reality in the province of Ontario. Previous provincial governments talked about making necessary changes to allow taxpayers to get better value for their hard-earned dollars. They never followed through. Our government has.

Simply put, where it makes sense for the province to assume responsibility, we have; where it makes sense for municipalities to deliver services, we've made that decision; and where it makes sense for the province and municipalities to share in the funding and in the provision of services, we are ready to fund our portion.

It's funny, even the Ontario Liberal leader has admitted that change is needed. He stated in August 1996, "Ontarians are telling us to retool government, to make it more efficient and to concentrate on what it should be doing and doing it well."

I would like to suggest that his idea, which we're implementing, is being very well received. For example, Ron Carther, president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, stated on January 17, 1997: "It's clear that what the government is doing is stepping back and looking at the fundamental changes in the way we govern. The purpose behind this is to flatten the organization clearly and provide greater value for taxpayers in the province."

Overall, our plan is one that will be more responsive to local needs.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Regardless of a ruling made by the Speaker in this House which was unprecedented in Ontario's history -- this government was held in contempt of the Legislature for its ad campaign -- yet even today the ruling by the Speaker has not dampened the spirit of the Conservative government in continuing to press ahead with Mike Harris ads throughout Ontario.

I'd like to remind the people of Ontario that every time we see the face of Mike Harris in our living rooms, that is hard-earned taxpayers' money paying for those ads, whether it's about education -- please remember the effect on the classroom, that millions of dollars being spent by the Conservative government, your taxpayers' money, is going to feed the ego of Mike Harris.

Instead of listening to the people and realizing what priorities should be, we are closing hospitals thanks to Mike Harris. We lay off nurses thanks to Mike Harris. Today, Frank Bagatto, executive director of Hotel Dieu Hospital in Windsor, announces that Windsor and Essex county is underfunded by $122 per capita compared to the Ontario average. And what do we see in our living rooms? Mike Harris spending your taxpayers' money on a television campaign. I ask the PC Party of Ontario to reimburse Ontario's citizens for every dollar that it is wasting.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): It's in this type of atmosphere that I wish to convey the anxiety shared by social services students at Confederation College.

As you are well aware, the government has recently enacted legislation to sanctify, to say, "If you have a BA or an MA you will be recognized as a professional, but if you don't, if you're one of the many more thousands of people who place the welfare of others ahead of your own -- the welfare of your family, that of your community, that of the province of Ontario -- well, we have little use for you, because by way of regulation we shall dictate, if you wish, by way of recognition for some but more importantly the lack of recognition for others."

The people who don't have the BA, the people who don't have the master's degree in social science, collectively, unanimously, wish to have a chance to be like the others, for they perform the same work, quite often for fewer dollars.

Today they share anxiety, and I share their anxiety. Let's give them a chance to exist.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I rise in the House today in response to my many constituents in the riding of Scarborough Centre who have called my constituency office to congratulate this government with respect to Bill 103, the City of Toronto Act.

This sensible and overdue initiative acknowledges the need to modernize Toronto's political and economic structures. Businesses, especially small businesses, are excited about the prospect of a strong, united Toronto that will continue to be the growth engine of Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Could the members for Lake Nipigon and Oriole come to order, please.


The Speaker: I appreciate that, but I can't hear the member for Scarborough Centre.

Mr Newman: Thank you, Speaker. This is what Rachelle Wood of the Ontario Restaurant Association has to say: "Our members, especially small business operators, are looking for coordination. They don't want a patchwork of bylaws across municipalities," and they think Bill 103 is a great idea; they support it.

This proposed initiative will result in better services at lower costs for the people of Toronto. This government has shown leadership and resolve in reversing the tax-and-spend policies of previous provincial and municipal governments. To those municipal politicians who are currently engaged in a costly campaign to save their own jobs, I say: "Stop wasting taxpayers' dollars and accept that the people of Metro Toronto and Ontario are fed up with spendthrift politicians and governments concerned only with preserving the status quo."


The Speaker: I know the member for Oakwood is standing on a point of privilege. Let me just see if there are ministry statements. I'd rather get through that before we deal with it. Ministry statements? None? Okay, point of privilege, the member for Oakwood.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Mr Speaker, as you know, last week you ruled that the pamphlet distributed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs was in contempt of the Legislature --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I think what we must do first off is clear that exactly up, if you could take your seat. I would ask the opposition, at least when dealing with myself, that you use that in fact I didn't find the minister in contempt of the Legislature; I found a prima facie case of contempt and there is a big difference.

Mr Colle: Mr Speaker, there was a prima facie case established of the minister being in contempt of the Legislature. As you know, Mr Speaker, your concern was that the wording in the pamphlet seemed to assume in colloquial language that the legislation, megacity, Bill 103, was a done deal.

It seems that the government and the ministry are continuing on the same path of assuming that this bill will be passed no matter what happens. I'll point to a communication that's come out of the faxes that are coming from this government and I'll read you a line from one of these faxes dated January 27. This is four days after your ruling and it's a question-and-answer thing.

It says "Who Does What." The question is, "Metro officials are now saying it will take many years to fully amalgamate Toronto -- much longer than you have suggested." The answer is, "The new united Toronto will be in place by January 1998." So here they are again establishing that this is a done deal. No matter what happens, January 1, 1998, this new united Toronto megacity will be in place.

I bring this to your attention again, Mr Speaker, and that this minister and this government are again in contempt of the Legislature and the people of Ontario.


The Speaker: It would be very helpful if you could send that down to the table.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Is this the same point of privilege? Yes? Member for Algoma.

Mr Wildman: It's similar and it relates to the same matter. In regard to the particular document that the member for Oakwood referred to, I have a copy of a similar document which says, "Do the Math -- Metro Taxpayers Win." There is no cover page to say who this was sent from. It says at the top, "From PGOO." I don't know what that means, whether it means provincial government of Ontario or whatever, but "PGOO."

I would also bring to your attention that when I was visiting Wawa in my constituency on Saturday, a representative of the teachers from Sir James Dunn Public School came to see me and presented me with a couple of other documents entitled "Who Does What," which were faxed to the school, one on January 16 and another on January 22, again with no cover page, not saying who they were from. All it says at the top is "From GMS." I couldn't understand what "GMS" might be until I did some investigating and came to the conclusion that this must be government members services. This deals with property assessment, the farm tax credit, red tape and so on.

Speaker, what I want to point out to you also is that I heard this morning on CBC Radio a report that included some quotes from Mr Paul Rhodes, the senior media adviser to the Premier in the Premier's office. In that media report Mr Rhodes acknowledged that he was responsible for this, what was referred to as a mass faxing program, and he indicated that he didn't know why there were no covering pages, which I understand are a requirement of the CRTC, the federal regulating body, and why it didn't say from whom they originated, but he said he was going to investigate it. He said that the government, or he, had contracted out this mass faxing program and that he and other members of the government, the Premier's office and so on, didn't have any control over it, but he was going to look into why, apparently, this private firm to which they had contracted out this faxing program hadn't complied with the CRTC regulations.

I refer you to the transcript of the report. It says: "An official of the CRTC says the Conservative faxes appear to break them," meaning the federal regulations. "They have to include the name of the sender along with the address and phone number."

For the life of me, I don't know why the government would want to fax this material to Sir James Dunn Public School in Wawa. These were done late in the evening on both the days I mentioned; no covering pages, not saying who they were from and simply saying "From GMS." If it is the government members service, then what Mr Rhodes said on the radio this morning appears not to be accurate; these were not sent out by some private firm contracted to do it but by the government members services, the caucus services, the MPPs services, and they were sent out from a room here in this building --

The Speaker: Thank you. Government House leader.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I haven't had the opportunity to see the pieces of correspondence alluded to by the members opposite, but my suspicion is that these are pieces of correspondence coming out of government services and I don't believe those pieces of correspondence were the subject of your ruling. I believe the subject of your ruling pertained to correspondence coming out of the government, coming out of the ministry. I think this is a separate piece of literature, not coming out of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, not coming out of any other particular ministry, but indeed coming out of government services.

Notwithstanding that, Mr Speaker, I've given my undertaking, and yesterday reiterated, to the House leader's office to contact all the ministries to ensure that your ruling is abided by. In this particular case, if it comes out of government services, I'd submit that it is a different form of communication, but notwithstanding that, we will have a look at it.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There is not an indication that this comes out of government services. I want to make the point that I was not raising this in regard to your ruling last week. I was raising it as a separate matter. It seems to me that if this was sent out by the government members services, the Tory caucus, it was sent out apparently in contravention of the federal regulations, which in my view calls this place into disrepute and therefore is a matter of privilege.

The Speaker: The member for St Catharines.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The issue is exactly this: The government, through its members services, can put out whatever it sees fit, I suppose. The issue was that this seemed to be disguised as coming from some impartial source. I think the problem, for my friend the Minister of Environment who is wondering about this, is that it's not identified where it comes from. It looks like it's just some citizen who wants to be fair about things in putting these matters out. I think that's what we're looking at, that it's in violation of the CRTC regulations, and that's where the government in this case is in trouble, I believe.

Hon David Johnson: This is a complete stretch. I don't know if the opposition members are suggesting that you now rule on behalf of the CRTC. I congratulate you on your new appointment and your broader responsibilities.

These are not communications, as I understand it, coming out of the ministries. They do not conflict, as I understand it, with your previous ruling. There's no attempt to disguise anything here. As I understand it, it's legitimate communications from members' offices, as the Liberal Party would do, as the NDP would do. To suggest that somehow you should rule on behalf of the CRTC I think is ludicrous.

The Speaker: Leader of the third party on a point of --

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: The government can try to pass this off as trivial. The government can try to say that federal regulations governing communications don't matter, but I think they do matter, and I think they matter for this House. Each and every one of us has the responsibility to obey the law when we try to use government money or taxpayers' money to communicate with people across this province.

My point is this, and I want you to listen carefully, Speaker: If, as we believe, these are coming out of government members services, GMS, and government members services for whatever reason, and we can speculate as to the reasons, doesn't put a covering page on it, doesn't want people to know that they're coming from government members services, want people to think this is somehow spontaneous information, third-party validation of the government's position, the government is breaching those federal regulations. I believe that brings all of us in this Legislature into disrepute. I believe it reflects on all of us and I think it affects all of our privileges, and that needs to be acknowledged.

Second, I think there is something seriously wrong when the government or government members try to communicate a message to the public and then try to disguise that it is the government members who are communicating that by not putting a cover page on the fax. It's as if the government is trying to use government services, government caucus services, to communicate a political message to the public and then say, "Oh, it's a third- party message; we had nothing to do with it." That in my mind borders on deception, and that in my mind borders on contempt for this House once again and, more importantly, contempt for the people of this province.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): The body which the opposition are referring to is the caucus research group. That is funded by this Legislative Assembly. I don't have any interest in controlling what the member for Ottawa East sends out to his constituents. I don't have any interest in controlling what the Liberal caucus sends out to their particular constituents. Quite frankly, it's none of my business. It is their business, it is their research budget, and I'm sure that they would be very angry if we started, as a political party, to interfere with what they said or how they said something or what they said.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): It is deceitful not to let people know who is sending them that tsuff.

The Speaker: Member for Oriole.

Hon Mr Sterling: Quite frankly, it contravenes all of the privileges which I have as a member of this political party. The objection contravenes my right to communicate with people the way I should do.

Mrs Caplan: You have no right to break the law.

The Speaker: Order. Member for Oriole, come to order.

Hon Mr Sterling: If I should break the law, or anybody should break the law, then let the appropriate enforcement authorities take action.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Just say where it comes from, Norm, that's all. Then it will be legal.

Hon Mr Sterling: But it has nothing to do with these people over here as to what I say or what I don't say. In fact, I find it objectionable that another MPP in this place should object to how I phrase something, how I present something. I have never heard that objection in the 20 years I've been in this Legislature, that any member of any party has ever said that another party is presenting material in one way or the other. I think they're wrong. I think they're wrong in terms of attacking the long-term privileges of members of this House by putting this objection forward.

The Speaker: I've got to say, just quickly, I think I've basically heard all there is to hear on this particular point of order. Now I see that there's obviously interest in putting some more on the record. I would ask that you put on the record, please, what hasn't been stated, rather than simply reiterating and getting into a debate about whether it's right or wrong.

Mr Hampton: Just to be clear, we've got a definition here and we've got the problem defined. No one objects to government members wanting to communicate with their constituents or wanting to communicate with the citizens of Ontario at large. The problem here is that I believe the government has clearly breached federal communications laws, and I believe, at the very least, you should apologize for that. I believe that by doing that they have brought this House into disrepute --

The Speaker: With respect to the leader of the third party --


The Speaker: Order. Government members, please. With due respect, I think you made those points very well and very clearly earlier on, and I appreciate that. Any other point? The member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: A brief point here because I just want to clarify. My friend the Minister of Environment and Energy may have misinterpreted it. The issue is that you did not identify where it came from. What you put out as a caucus is your business, but you must identify where it comes from so you don't pretend it's coming from somewhere else.

The Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Very quickly on this point, Mr Speaker, we will be sending you copies of the documents that we have raised and referred to. I wanted to make sure that in all of the arguments you didn't miss the point that some of those documents are headed "GMS," which we believe refers to government members services. In fact, we're asking you to determine whether or not that is the case. And one of the documents -- same document but obviously faxed from a different source -- is headed "PGOO," which we believe stands for provincial government of Ontario.

It may be in your ruling that you would find products of caucus services to fall under the purview of the Board of Internal Economy. You have ruled in that vein before and we understand that may be the case. We raise the question with you, when it appears that a prima facie case could be made that there's been a contravention of federal legislation by a caucus, what actions or remedies are available to members of the Legislature. But beyond that, if one of the documents has been faxed out by the provincial government of Ontario, presumably through the Premier's office, that raises it to a different purview and it becomes a matter of this House. We would ask you to take that into consideration.

The Speaker: Yes, and actually in a lot of respects that is in fact what I was going to surmise with respect to the government services. I will investigate it and I will report back, but let us be clear: On a number of occasions I have ruled that the Board of Internal Economy is the proper place to hear government services issues. With respect to the province of -- I've not heard this particular acronym myself, so I don't know and I will certainly review that one.

As far as federal laws being broken and so on and so forth, I will take it back but I can't offer you much comfort with respect to dealing with those particular rules and legalities. Having said that, I will take the time to review it. But again let us be clear: I have ruled in the past that these issues through government services, members services, properly and duly should be put before the Board of Internal Economy. You all have representation there, we all have representation there and that's where I think they should in fact be.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Now I want to move on. On January 16, 1997, the member for Dovercourt, Mr Silipo, rose on a question of privilege concerning the government's alleged appointment of three individuals to a board of trustees purportedly pursuant to a bill that had neither been passed by the House nor received royal assent. That, on the face of it, was in fact the basis for his point of order.

I appears the essential concern for the member for Dovercourt was not that the bill contained a provision that would give retroactive effect to certain clauses in the bill but rather that the government was acting as if the clauses containing the retroactive provisions were already law. Thus the member for Dovercourt was of the view that the government could act on the clauses containing the retroactive provisions only after, and not before, the bill containing the clauses had in fact become law. I think I've summarized it fairly accurately.

Then yesterday the member for Fort William, Mrs McLeod, rose on a question of privilege to express somewhat similar concerns about a separate incident. The member was concerned about the government's intention to appoint two named individuals to the Education Improvement Commission, a body whose existence hinged on the passage of a bill that had yet to receive second reading. The member indicated that the government's actions amounted to contempt. I am paraphrasing, but I think that was fundamentally the point of privilege. The government House leader spoke to the concerns raised by the member for Fort William yesterday as well.

I did in fact do some research on both these particular cases and previous precedents that had been ruled on by previous Speakers. In my research I came across a December 20, 1989, ruling, which seems very applicable, dealing with a member's concerns that public servants were acting upon legislation that had not yet passed all the steps in the legislative process. In that ruling Speaker Edighoffer stated as follows, at page 273 of the Journals for that day:

"It is perfectly valid for the public service to proceed with plans based on a bill that is already in the system in order to be able to act swiftly, once that bill becomes law. It goes without saying that if the bill is amended during the legislative process," and I think this is the important part that needs to be dealt with in the ones brought forward, "then the public service must take note and act accordingly."

It seems to me that the thrust of this ruling can fairly encompass the matters raised by the member for Dovercourt and the member for Fort William; that is, that a government may take certain actions in preparation for the possibility that a bill will pass through the Legislative process, that they may act and take reasonable direction to enforce that.

But I do not think the same state of affairs, as it presently exists with respect to those two matters, has developed to the point that a prima facie case has been established on the submissions made by the member for Dovercourt and the member for Fort William, simply because if they do in fact act, as they've done in this case and as in the case in 1989, and the bill is amended or changed, it would then be incumbent on the government to amend and change the action they've taken so that it conforms to the actual legislation that was passed. It doesn't create a prima facie case of contempt. It may cause a problem for the government at a later date if their bill is amended and they must change their direction at that time.

It may be -- I will say this very clearly and I want all members of the House to hear this particular point -- there is a legal issue involved in this course of action, however, and the Speaker cannot rule on the legality of the provisions contained in legislation or the actions of a government. These would be matters for the courts to decide.

I thank both members for their points of order and their input, I thank the government House leader, and that will be my ruling.




Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I have a series of questions today for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. For a couple of weeks now Ontarians far and wide have been telling you that your plans to dump services on to residential taxpayers are going to lead to dramatic increases in property taxes.

You have taken to calling those who disagree with you whiners. Minister, today we've got another prominent name to add to your list of whiners, that of David Crombie of the Crombie commission. David Crombie is angry because after you hired him to carefully consider this issue and after he came up with the best advice he could offer, you ignored it.

I want to quote what he said in the commission report. He said: "We are unanimous in our view that if there is a choice between placing education or health and welfare on the property tax, it's clearly preferable to continue to rely on the property tax to fund education."

That is what he said, and that is what you've ignored. Minister, is David Crombie a whiner or is he absolutely right when he says of your government, "I don't think there's a soul left standing that actually agrees with them"?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): To the Leader of the Opposition: It's amazing. A couple of weeks ago they were criticizing the government because we were rubber-stamping all of David Crombie's recommendations. Now when we examine the information that has been put forth by Mr Crombie and don't accept it all, they criticize that.

Just what has Mr Crombie recommended? Mr Crombie recommended that social services be delivered at the local level. We agree with that, and that's being done.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I want the opposition to come to order. I want to be able to hear the minister.

Hon Mr Leach: Mr Crombie recommended that the province assume 100% of the cost: let the municipality deliver it, and we just sign a cheque and send it out. We don't think so. We agreed that the services should be delivered at the local level, but there is a strong desire to share the cost 50-50 so that both parties can be responsible for their actions.

Mr McGuinty: Speaker, you may have heard of the story of the soldier named Ike. Ike always marched in a different direction than all the other soldiers, but his father would beam with great pride and say, "Look, mama, everyone is out of step except Ike." This minister looks at his wrongheaded dumping of services, beams with pride and says, "Look, Ontario, everybody is out of step except me."

Minister, wake up. You're the one who's out of step. The Metro board of trade says that your plans are going to lead to business tax increases in the amount of $7,900. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation calls it a shell game and confirms that it's going to raise property taxes. Mel Lastman, the latest, says it's going to hike his taxes by 13%.

Minister, don't stand there all alone. Join the rest of Ontario. Join the growing chorus and admit right here and now you've made a mistake.

Hon Mr Leach: Again to the Leader of the Opposition: Let's just review what the board of trade has said. The board of trade agrees with amalgamation. They want amalgamation and they state that strongly. The board of trade agrees with property tax reform. They agree that the property tax is a mess and it has to be addressed. They agree that education should come off the property tax. They have agreed with about 90% of the recommendations in the Crombie report. What did they not agree with? They said they had a concern with the municipalities picking up 50% of the cost of social services.

We're aware that social services can be volatile. That is why we have set aside $700 million to help any municipality that may have difficulties coping with social services in the future. We don't think they're going to have to draw on that, but it's there if they need it.

Mr McGuinty: I think it's important to understand the genesis for this mess we have to contend with now. The Premier got the cabinet together and said, "We are in desperate need of coming up with some money for our ill-considered promise to deliver on a tax cut." The minister against education said, "Give me control of education and I'll get you a billion dollars." The Premier then turned to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Al Leach, and said, "Al, make it happen, and I don't care what the consequences are." That's why we find ourselves in this mess today.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs perverted a good exercise. It was an exercise in disentanglement and he turned it into an exercise in further entanglement.

David Crombie looked at the scheme and said, "It was like it was done on the back of an envelope." Your government's handpicked head of the hospital restructuring commission said, "It's stupid."

Minister, I couldn't make it more clear: Your dumping of services is wrong; it's going to raise property taxes. Why are you the only person in Ontario, it would seem, who is bent on continuing with this?

Hon Mr Leach: It's very obvious why this government wants to continue with it: because we know it's going to end up with major benefits to the taxpayers of Ontario. We know, as the Premier has pointed out on any number of occasions, that after the transition period, between now and about the year 2000, municipalities will be in a position to lower taxes, not to raise taxes. These gloom-and-doomsters across the floor, if they would take a little bit of time and review everything from the ground up, will see that by taking a program that's growing by about 5% a year -- education -- off the property tax and asking the municipalities to share in social services, a program that's declining, the municipalities are going to end up ahead of the game.

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

Mr McGuinty: My question is for the same minister. It seems to me that one of the important tests that ought to be applied to government is not so much whether it makes any mistakes, because they all make mistakes, but what it does when it makes a mistake. In particular, does the government plow ahead once it makes a mistake, does it ignore the consequences or does it have the integrity to admit it was wrong and go back to the drawing board?

Minister, it's now clear to everyone watching that you've made a terrible mistake. The evidence against it is overwhelming and irrefutable. Business is against this, social agencies are against this, municipal governments are against this, ratepayer groups are against this. My question to you is this: What are you going to do now? You've made a mistake. Everybody knows about it. Are you going to acknowledge it now, and will you agree to go back to the drawing board?

Hon Mr Leach: Obviously if this government had made a mistake we'd reverse it, and if we ever make one we'll do that.

My understanding is that the Liberal Party agreed with taking education off the property tax. Actually they should be congratulated. I think it's been about three weeks in a row that they've held that position, which must set a new record for consistency for that party.

Obviously the programs that we're introducing, by separating the delivery of services and giving municipalities the responsibility for services while taking $5.4 billion off the property tax, are going to be of major benefit to the taxpayers of this province.


Mr McGuinty: At first we thought the minister had made an honest mistake, that he'd made an honest mistake and didn't fully understand and realize the implications of his actions. But the fact is, now you're ignoring the forceful objections of bodies like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto, the GTA mayors, the United Way, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and now David Crombie himself, your principal architect of this change. That ignoring on your part of those authorities tells me you don't care what happens to property taxes and you don't care if you're lessening this province's capacity to care for its needy.

Tell me I'm wrong. Stand up now and retain what credibility you've got left, back down, admit that you've made a mistake and that you're going back to the drawing board.

Hon Mr Leach: If the Leader of the Opposition would like to me to tell him he's wrong, you're wrong, and it's certainly not the first time either.

Mr Crombie made a number of recommendations on how we should separate the delivery of services to the municipalities and split it with the province. He recommended that the municipalities deliver social services, and we agree with that. He recommended that the province just be a cheque writer for social services, and we don't accept that. We think that municipalities should share the cost equally with the province so that we both have a responsibility that ensures the expenditures are made in a proper manner.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, the only thing longer than the list of experts opposing your scheme is a list of municipalities that say you're going to be responsible for the largest single property tax increase in the history of this province.

Here's the top 10 on today's hit parade of tax hike victims: Peterborough, $13 million in new taxes; Niagara, $43 million; Owen Sound, $2 million; Kingston, $23 million; Sudbury, $105 million; Metropolitan Toronto, $387 million; Hamilton-Wentworth, $121 million; London, $57 million; Haldimand-Norfolk, $29 million; and Brantford, $18 million in new property taxes.

That surely is not what you or the experts had in mind when you set about property tax reform in the province. Minister, will do you as David Crombie says? Will you forget your scheme to dump welfare, long-term care and property taxes and, once more I ask you, will you go back to the drawing board, take your time and get it right?

Hon Mr Leach: If the Leader of the Opposition wants us to proceed if we've got it right, that will allow us to proceed because we do have it right. We're heading in the right direction.

We know that municipalities through the transition period may require some assistance, and we're going to be there to provide that assistance. We have set aside $2.5 billion to aid municipalities through the transition period between now and about the year 2000 to make sure that they're in good shape and able to provide the services that their citizens require. Some municipalities will need assistance; we know that. Other municipalities will be able to assume these responsibilities without any assistance whatsoever.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I find the answers given by the minister responsible for municipal affairs very troubling, because we really are dealing with the future of our communities and a lot of us don't want to see our cities and towns start to look like some of the cities and towns that we see in the United States, where you've got literally decrepit cores, crime-ridden, drug-ridden and everybody flees to the suburbs.

I want to ask you, Minister, even David Crombie now disagrees with you. Even David Crombie says you're putting municipalities in a position where they either have to increase property taxes or cut health care and social assistance.

When even David Crombie, the person you appointed as chair of the Who Does What committee -- will you acknowledge now what everyone else knows, that your scheme to download on municipalities is going to be a disaster? Would you finally acknowledge that? Because everyone else in this province has acknowledged it.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): When Mr Crombie raised the issue of social services on the taxpayer, we conceded that social services could be volatile and that if we had a downturn in the economy some municipalities may need some assistance. That's why we've set up the social services review fund. If any municipality -- we doubt that's going to happen -- requires some assistance in dealing with a downturn in the economy in their particular community, and needs help with social services, this government will be there to help them.

We don't think that's going to happen. We think that by the time our changes wash through the system by the year 2000, the municipalities will be in a strong position and able to reduce taxes, not increase them.

Mr Hampton: The minister tries to offer up something and hopes it will be soothing, but both the board of trade and David Crombie were very, very clear. They point out that in trying to push social assistance down on to municipalities, you are in effect pushing a broad-scale, income redistribution scheme down on to a very narrow tax, the property tax, and it won't work. They point out that the cost of health care, particularly long-term care, is growing faster than anything.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): They know that.

Mr Hampton: We all know that. So your talk about, "Well, we'll do a little over here and a little over there," will not paper over the fundamental cracks. You are digging a huge hole for municipalities, and to offer them a little bit of wallpaper and to say, "This is going to fix it," is nonsense. Even the Financial Post says you don't know what you're doing. Will you admit now that you're wrong? Everybody else in this province sees that your scheme won't work, that it'll be a disaster.

Hon Mr Leach: By the year 2000 there will be $6.2 billion off the property tax. I had the pleasure of paying my interim tax bill yesterday from the city of Toronto --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: As I was saying, I had the privilege of paying my interim property tax bill yesterday from the city of Toronto and on that bill it was noted that 56% goes to education. My property taxes would be reduced by 56% by the province assuming the cost of education from the property tax and bringing it into our responsibility. That gives the city of Toronto 56% of the property tax base to come up with funding to pay for the services we've asked them to assume. I'm quite confident that those fine public figures in the city of Toronto will be able to accomplish that.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Everybody knows except you that the downloading of services is going to cause a major disaster for the property taxpayer. Minister, on this subject Mr Crombie has said that your plan to dump social housing appears to have been "done on the back of an envelope because it just sort of came out of the blue," and that to move $1.4 billion in social housing to municipalities without any discussion, without any preparation for it is just wrong.

Hundreds of thousands of Ontarians, parents and kids, call public and non-profit and co-operative housing home. You know the municipalities will either have to run it into the ground, raise rents or sell off units, and you don't know where your megacity will come up with the $200 million that public housing in Toronto needs in urgent capital repairs.


David Crombie is your guy, or at least he was your guy up to a short while ago. Will you take his advice and drop your ill-conceived plan to dump social housing on the backs of municipalities that get their money from property taxes?

Hon Mr Leach: Mr Crombie is mistaken when he says that this issue wasn't discussed at the panel. There were several discussions that took place with the subpanel on social services.

Mr Marchese: Where were these discussions, Al?

Hon Mr Leach: Those discussions that took place by the subpanel on the Who Does What panel were in the boardroom in my building.

Interjection: Was Crombie lying?

Mr Marchese: Somebody's lying.

Hon Mr Leach: I heard someone accuse Mr Crombie of lying and I want to make sure the record shows that is absolutely not the case. I don't think he should be expected to recall and remember every meeting that took place. However, to get back to the issue of social housing, we were requested by a major municipality in Ontario to transfer to them the responsibilities for social housing.

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

Mr Hampton: To the minister responsible for municipal affairs again: Minister, I wonder if you can tell me this. You have said repeatedly that this is all about disentanglement. You have said that, by pursuing this downloading on to municipalities, this whole scheme, you will reduce waste and duplication. Can you tell me where the disentangling is happening?

As we see it, you're now going to be entangled with municipalities over long-term care 50-50, entangled with municipalities 50-50 on social assistance, entangled on child care, entangled on public health. Mr Crombie says that you're going to be more entangled than ever, that this is going to be less efficient than ever. Can you tell me where the efficiencies are going to come in this entangled mess that Crombie acknowledges you're creating?

Hon Mr Leach: Social services will now be delivered 100% by the municipalities. That is going to eliminate a considerable amount of waste and duplication that's in the present system. Right now, somebody who requires social services can go to the province for some services, to the municipalities for other services; they're not sure who to ask about what. That will now be a far better service for those citizens who require social services.

Education will now become a responsibility of the province -- 100% of the delivery for hard services, for the delivery and funding of transit, for road services, for water and sewers. By eliminating the waste and duplication that existed in the current system, municipalities are going to be able to save a considerable amount of money, and that's all part of the process in having a municipality be able in a few years to give a tax cut.

Mr Hampton: It's interesting to hear this from the minister who has been cited for contempt because --

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think you ruled earlier today, and quite correctly, that the minister has not been cited for contempt in this House, and I would ask you to instruct the member opposite to be more cautious in his remarks.


The Speaker: Member for Durham East. Thank you.

I did stand in my place and actually correct the member for Oakwood and I know the leader of the third party was here or heard the correction. I assume you'll act accordingly.

Mr Hampton: A case was made out of prima facie contempt with this minister, so we've heard his comments. Now I think people deserve to hear what David Crombie had to say: "These recommendations entangle social services far more than ever before, health care far more than ever before. How this can be called disentanglement is an impressive stretch" of the imagination.

That's exactly where we are. No one in this province, no one who has looked at public finances with respect to municipal taxes and with respect to the downloading of health care and with respect to the downloading of social assistance sees that there's any efficiency here at all. All they see is you pushing large costs down on to municipalities. You know that municipalities won't be able to handle it through the property tax. They'll either have to raise property taxes or cut the services.

Why don't you come clean? Everybody else says you have no clothes. Why don't you come clean and admit that your scheme is nothing more than an effort to push the costs of these services down on to municipalities and force --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister?

Hon Mr Leach: Perhaps the leader of the third party should start looking at the costs we're taking off of the property tax. Obviously we're transferring some costs down to the municipalities, the costs of the hard services. We want to share the cost of social service delivery. But we are taking $5.4 billion next year off the property tax. That number will increase to about $6.2 billion by about the year 2000. Those tradeoffs are going to make the municipalities stronger. It's going to eliminate a lot of the waste and duplication that exists in the current system and it will allow municipalities in the very near future to be able to reduce property taxes, not increase them.

Mr Hampton: The minister can give this line all he wants. I'll read you some of the headlines today: "Crombie Blasts Tories on Welfare," "Crombie Criticizes Transfer Method: Social Services Plan Called a Mistake," "`Disentanglement' Plan Is Seriously Flawed," "Ontario Tories Tangled Up in `Disentanglement' Strategy."

No one believes you; absolutely no one believes you. People know that what you are downloading on to municipalities in terms of health care costs, in terms of social assistance costs, in terms of policing costs, in terms of all the other costs you're downloading on to municipalities is going to put municipalities across this province in a desperate situation. They will have no choice: Either they cut those health care services, cut those important community services, or they raise municipal property taxes. All this so that you can give your wealthy friends a tax gift.

Minister, will you finally admit you are wrong? Will you admit, as everybody else knows --

The Speaker: Minister?

Hon Mr Leach: I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever that the programs we're introducing are going to work.

The member opposite keeps talking about all of the services and the cost of services that are going down; he never, ever takes into consideration the cost of education coming off the property tax -- $5.4 billion, 56% of the tax bill in the city of Toronto, 71% of the tax bill in Mississauga off the property tax. That gives a huge window of property tax room for the municipalities to assign the costs of those services that we're asking them to take over.

I can only repeat that we know the municipalities are going to be stronger; they're going to be far better off. There's going to be a lot of waste and duplication eliminated, and again, property taxes should be able to be reduced by the year 2000.


The Speaker: New question.


The Speaker: Member for Hamilton East, come to order.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I want to help them out.

The Speaker: I appreciate your trying to help them out, but you know what? You're not helping them out. I appreciate your assistance.


The Speaker: The member for Oriole, I thank you for your assistance too but I wish you'd come to order as well.

New question, member for Oakwood.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): To the Minister of Municipal Affairs: It seems that the only people who agree with you that this will not cause a property tax explosion are the people who are issuing these junk faxes. The mayor of North York, for instance, is saying your scheme to dump welfare and public housing on to taxpayers is going to cause nothing short of a national disaster. Your own hand-picked David Crombie said: "`We had no discussions on social housing. I don't know of any report on social housing. I don't know of any public discussion on social housing,' Crombie told the Star.

"`It was like it was done on the back of an envelope because it just sort of came out of the blue. To have social housing moved off (to municipalities) without any discussion....'"

Minister, how can you not listen to Crombie, to the board of trade, to the mayor of North York who says taxes in North York are to go up $400 per house?

Hon Mr Leach: I addressed that question a little earlier. There were discussions with the Who Does What sub-panel on social housing. Everyone knows that the federal Liberal government has, I believe in their throne speech, indicated that they want to get out of the social housing business. We agree with the federal government in this instance, that municipalities are best equipped to deliver social housing. They originally were the deliverers of social housing, and we think they would be best equipped to do it in the future.

We have just started discussions with the federal government. Social housing, as we've all stated, is a very complex issue. We know that it's going to take several years to work out the agreement and we are going to work with our partners in municipal government and the federal government on that.

Mr Colle: I think saying municipalities are best able to provide for social housing is like saying you want to take us back to the 1920s and 1930s, and that's what the minister is doing.

In terms of what the numbers are, your junk faxes are claiming that Metro is going to gain $405 million. You've got the Metro chairman and the board of trade saying that Metro is going to be in the hole $378 million, that taxes in Metro are going to go up $7,900 per business, $350 per home. How come the junk faxes you're releasing only give your side of the story? Where do you get this information from?

Hon Mr Leach: For the member for Oakwood, I'll respond to his editorial comment on social housing and point out to the Liberal Party that it was their federal Liberal cousins who have initiated the transfer of responsibility for social housing.


The Speaker: Member for Parkdale, I'll hurry up. Yes. I'll do my best. Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: To deal with the social housing issue again, we know that it's going to take a long time to work out that program and we've always said that. It's very complex. It takes three levels of government right now to maintain an apartment building, and that just doesn't make any sense.

What we want to do is have the responsibility for maintaining and looking after social housing at the level of government that's best able to provide it. That is the municipal government. We agree with that, the federal government agrees with that and the municipalities agree with that.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. The minister's colleague, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, has made a great deal of the transfer of education from the residential property tax. Last night in east-end Toronto more than 350 people came out to talk about the government's proposed changes in the Ontario education system, a meeting that didn't have the benefit of the presence of the minister or anyone from the Ministry of Education and Training.

We know that the minister has indicated that there may be more cuts in education funding in 1998. Parents in Metropolitan Toronto want to know if they're going to lose up to $2,000 per child that they spend now above the provincial average, which supports classrooms, junior kindergarten, excellent language programs and other programs in this city for students. Can the minister alleviate these parents' concern? Will the minister commit today that per pupil spending in Metropolitan Toronto schools will not change when the provincial government has complete control over education funding?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm glad to have the member raise the question in the House today because I think that where there is any misunderstanding in Ontario we'd like to address that. I was very pleased to make an announcement that will not only end waste and duplication in the bureaucracy that surrounds education, that will not only focus spending in the classroom, but will also for the first time have the province take the senior responsibility for funding the education needs of every student in the province.

I've said very clearly time and time again, and I'm pleased to repeat today, that the commitment of our government is to meet the needs of every single individual student across the province regardless of their circumstances. We will commit the funds that are necessary to do that, because we are committed to student achievement in this province, to lifting student achievement from the mediocrity that has been the case in the past to excellence, to take our students to the top of the class. We will do that.

Mr Wildman: Through that rhetoric I guess the answer was yes, that he cannot commit that there will not be cuts in the funding once he takes control. It would be helpful, I suppose, if the minister would be willing, as was my colleague the member for Beaches-Woodbine, to attend such a meeting and talk to the people and let them know what he intends to do. It's not just in Metropolitan Toronto; it's across the province. I've been to London and Cobourg.

In all these communities people believe that come 1998, when the provincial government has complete control over education funding, the minister and this Conservative government will take the opportunity to take up to $1 billion further out of education in this province. Will the minister guarantee today that there will be no further decreases in educational funding for students in Ontario during this government's term of office?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I've already had the pleasure of announcing some time before Christmas that we will have stable funding for the next year in education and I have committed very clearly to changing the funding method. Perhaps the member opposite likes the funding method when the allocation for a student's education is predicated on the property value in that student's neighbourhood. I think it's a silly way of funding education. So does everyone else who's ever studied education.

Here's our promise one more time: Our promise is to meet the needs of the students, to meet the needs of every student across this province, because as the member opposite knows, this system needs to be reformed, needs to be changed so that every student's needs can be met. I'm proud that this government finally took that obligation on. Your government would not, sir.



Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): My question is for the minister responsible for auto insurance and minister for privatization. Before the 1995 election, many of my constituents complained to me about their rising automobile insurance. They kept getting increase after increase in their premiums, despite rate freeze promises from the Liberals and promises from the NDP that no-fault insurance would not increase their rates. This is an important issue for my constituents because many of them need to drive a great distance to get to and from work every day. The government promised a new auto insurance system which would stabilize rates. Will the minister responsible tell me what is happening today with auto insurance rates?

Hon Rob Sampson (Minister without Portfolio [Privatization]): As a matter of fact, today I announced that for the first time in four years rates have actually gone down in this province for auto insurance. That's after three years of almost 30% in rate increases, engineered by these people over here in the opposition.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): This is an interesting discussion but may be better taking place outside.

Hon Mr Sampson: I'm pleased to say that these rate reductions of 3% over the one year are a result of Bill 59, the Automobile Insurance Rate Stability Act, which we brought forward in November 1996. We said we were putting Ontarians, the Ontario consumers, the auto insurance buyers in this province, back in the driver's seat and we have.

Mr Tascona: That's good news, but I know my constituents would be interested in some specifics.


The Speaker: I want to hear the question from the member for Simcoe Centre, and if it takes us 10 minutes, I'm going to hear the question.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): We're pleased to hear it.

The Speaker: I'm very pleased to hear it too, member for Hamilton East, and that's the warning. Any more and I'll ask that you be removed. The member for Simcoe Centre.

Mr Tascona: I'm interested in some specifics. The minister has told us how much the rates have gone down. I would ask the minister to comment on what this means for Ontario drivers and what he plans to do to keep rates stable.

Hon Mr Sampson: Because of Bill 59 the average cost for auto insurance, as I said earlier, has fallen 3% year over year to the end of 1996. That rate reduction, by the way, equals savings of approximately $160 million for drivers in this province. I'd like to repeat that this is the first year-over-year decrease this province has seen in four years. It's good news for Ontario drivers. It reflects increased competition in this province for auto insurance, which will benefit consumers in the form of better rates for good drivers.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It has to do with -- I use your own numbers -- the cost to municipalities. Firstly, you have confirmed that you are offloading over $1 billion of expenses. You've taken the education portion off and your own figures indicate you have added $1 billion of cost. You then go on to say you have three funds available, but one fund is not available to cover any of these costs under these circumstances, by your own admission; that's the social assistance fund. The second fund is available only for one-time costs and will disappear, so that fund doesn't come into effect. The third fund you say is a $1-billion fund, but it replaces an existing $666-million fund. Will you confirm what all of this says, and that is, you have added $1 billion of cost, according to your own numbers, and you are going to provide about $335 million of extra revenue for municipalities?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I can confirm that yes, this government has set aside $2.5 billion to ensure that any municipalities that require assistance will be able to get that assistance. I can confirm the numbers he has quoted: $700 million for social services in the first instance; $800 million for any municipality that may require upgrades to infrastructure that is being transferred to them; and $1 billion which does consist of the current municipal support grant and an additional $350 million which will be available on a permanent basis to provide assistance to any municipality that may require it. The member is correct in his mathematics.

Mr Phillips: Just to confirm then, the social assistance fund is not available, will not be available to municipalities unless there's some unforeseen economic circumstance. You've offloaded $1 billion of cost. None of that money is available. You're also confirming that the four-year fund is gone -- after four years it's for one-time costs only -- and has nothing to do with the $1 billion. You've confirmed that. The third thing you've confirmed is that the $1-billion fund is not $1 billion. You're subtracting $660 million.

Just to be absolutely clear, because today you have confirmed that neither of those first two funds apply and that you are going to add $335 million for the municipalities to pick up $1 billion of cost: Isn't that why the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto is telling you that you've added $380 million of cost, that you're going to drive residential property taxes up 15% because you've added $1 billion of cost, and you have just admitted today you are providing municipalities with about $335 million of revenue to cover an added $1 billion of your cost? Will you confirm those numbers?

Hon Mr Leach: I'm glad, I'm very pleased that the member for Scarborough-Agincourt has admitted that municipalities will not have to draw on that $700 million for social services funds. I'm sure they won't either. The $800,000 for infrastructure improvement is our commitment to municipalities to ensure that when we ask them to assume the costs of certain road transfers and hard services, that will be brought up.

Why do I think the $1 billion we're setting up will be sufficient? Because of situations like this, where the city of Brampton pushes for a tax decrease. The quote is, "We're at zero with our budget now and we are confident that we will be able to reduce taxes." That's why that amount of money will be sufficient.



Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Your federal, provincial and territorial counterparts are meeting today and tomorrow to discuss the proposed national child income benefit. You talked about that yesterday in this House, and I was quite disturbed by your comments. You said that some of the options "would actually mean we would be lowering our welfare rates in Ontario in order to try and match this benefit from Ottawa."

You were paraphrased in the newspaper recently, saying something similar, in the Toronto Star on Saturday. They quoted you as saying that Ontario isn't interested in child benefit unless the federal government provides enough additional help that Ontario won't have to "dip once again into the pockets of families on welfare."

Minister, I agree with your sentiment that we want the federal government to propose a program that is a meaningful program, but I have to ask you, are you serious? Are you actually telling us that your government, the government that's managed to find $5 billion for a tax break, can't do something for poor children without taking money from the poorest of this province?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I appreciate the question today. Later this afternoon I'll be going to meet with the other social service ministers and Mr Pettigrew, our counterpart from Ottawa, to talk about how, as all the governments in Canada, we can indeed have an integrated child benefit that will help address the concerns of children in poverty. The difficulty of course, as you will appreciate, is how we can do that in a way that actually gets that money to those people who need it.

There are a number of options on the table, and one of the administrative challenges in those options is that it calls for provinces to potentially decrease the welfare rate that certain people on welfare are getting in order to have Ottawa top it up. Maybe all in the wash that might help, but surely there has to be a simpler way that we can help support children in poverty.

Ms Lankin: I have a lot of problems with the federal Liberal government, believe me, but I do not believe for one moment that they have placed options on the table that would force social assistance recipients to have their benefits cut. We have heard from day one that Ontario has been a problem at the table, that you have been a barrier to getting agreement on this national child income benefit.

Minister, child poverty is real. It is a shame and it is a crisis. Ontario can play a leading role in making this a reality. We need your commitment today that you will join forces with BC and with the others so that we will have a reality of a national child income program, and further, we need your commitment that you won't finance it on the backs of the poorest people in this province. If you can afford $5 billion for the wealthiest, you can find the money to make sure we get kids out of poverty.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I would like to remind the honourable member that it was not Ottawa that came up with wanting to do a child benefit; it was the provinces. It was the premiers of the provinces who instructed the social service ministers that we must work on this. We have agreed. Ontario is not -- I repeat, Ontario is not -- in any way standing in the way of this occurring.

Ms Lankin: It is what everybody says in the room.

Hon Mrs Ecker: Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, we are chairing the technical working group that is trying to resolve some of these problems.

I wasn't criticizing Ottawa. I am not criticizing Ottawa. They are just as committed to trying to make this happen as all the provinces are, and I certainly look forward to a positive outcome of these discussions as we work through the significant problems over the coming months.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is to the minister responsible for women's issues. Minister, critics have stated that the government is not taking enough positive action in dealing with violence against women. I know that with some of the events in the past few months in particular, it's been a very difficult subject in view of the misinformation that has been out in the public and in the media. I'm wondering if you can provide us with the bigger picture on what is actually being done in this regard.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Question?

Mrs Marland: Thank you for your help, member for Lake Nipigon.

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): With respect to the question from the member, we continue to take positive steps to address violence against women in this province, which is of concern to everyone in every community and home, and everyone knows that we passed the Victims' Bill of Rights. We continue to identify and to protect the rights of victims of violence and victims of crime, many of whom are women.

We established the victim notification system, providing victims with updates of the offenders' status, and we have established the automated information and referral service, which also is a place where people can phone and ask for advice as to where they can get help. We have expanded VWAP, which is extremely popular in our courts, the victim/witness assistance program, from 13 to 26 sites --

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Talk about what they cut.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: -- and we have expanded VCARS, the victim crisis assistance and referral service, from four to 16 sites. There are many others, including the two domestic violence courts --

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

Mrs Marland: I appreciate those answers. It's really significant when the members opposite are chirping in with their editorial comment --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): It's because we don't believe a word she's saying.

Mrs Marland: -- when they had the opportunity to solve this problem. The problem of family violence is not a new problem, and I would ask the minister if she could tell the House what future steps will be taken with regard to the prevention of violence against women, a concern that all of us share and one that is not just a new, recent event.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: Perhaps I can take just a minute to say how disappointed I am with the remarks of my colleague the member for Beaches-Woodbine, who continues to say that no one believes this. There are real people in this community who are getting these services, and they're very appreciative of them. Last week --

Ms Churley: Shame on you. Women know what you are up to.

The Speaker: Member for Riverdale, you're out of order, first, for heckling and, second, for sitting beside the member for Nickel Belt. I would ask that you go back to your seat.

Second, it's very difficult. I'm sitting right here and I had a very difficult time hearing the question from the member for Mississauga South and the minister. If you could come to order, I'd appreciate it.

Hon Mrs Cunningham: I think the question is an important one. Last week we were in Ottawa announcing the first in a series of some 17 projects funded through the community victim initiative programs on behalf of both the Solicitor General and the Attorney General. These are new programs, and Louise Ford from the Capital Region Centre for the Hearing Impaired should be congratulated for the grant she received on behalf of her work in that centre for over $32,000 to identify and promote videos to help women with the whole issue of sexual assault and violence, and hopefully prevent it, especially those women who are hearing-impaired. I want to thank certainly the ministers for establishing this kind of a project.

Also Lisa Oegema of the Women's Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew county -- they got some $9,000, and this is another project. A community-wide conference will be held, an information fair on issues of sexual assault. This is a sexual assault centre that is contributing tremendously, I might add, to the largest community, the largest county in Ontario. I will wind up by saying it's sad that we have to use this forum to get our message out, but with the kinds of remarks that the member for Riverdale --


The Speaker: Thank you.

The member for Ottawa West, I'm fully capable of controlling exactly how much time each member has to answer a question, but I appreciate your assistance.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I would like to return to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The figures are now coming in from --

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Kingston and The Islands, I apologize. There was --

Ms Churley: I'll do it after question period.

The Speaker: You're going to do it after question period? I'm not sorry any more. Member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: It's given the minister maybe a couple more seconds to think about an answer, because he certainly hasn't answered his questions so far. The figures are coming in from all across the province of how your particular swap is affecting municipalities. As a matter of fact, the massive swap of responsibilities you've imposed on municipal taxpayers is falling apart and you're creating chaos in this province.

We've heard that in Brantford, for example, there's an $18-million increase in taxes expected; in Brant county, $8 million; in my own city of Kingston, $23 million. The headline of our local paper screams "Swapped Costs Shock City Staff" -- not the politicians, not a commission, but the staff who are actually doing the work to see how these cuts are affecting them.

As one of the municipal treasurers said, it shows that you, the government, charged ahead with the welfare-for-education swap without having any statistics whatsoever. Why, Minister, are you creating this chaos and showing such contempt for municipalities and for the taxpayers of this province?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): When we started into the Who Does What panel, the goal was to separate the delivery of services. By taking the total delivery of social services and making it the responsibility of the municipalities, that is going to provide a far better, more effective, safer system that will save money. I'm sure that if the municipalities have 100% of the responsibility for the delivery of services, they will be able to find efficiencies in the totally wasteful system that we have at the present time. I'm confident that all the municipalities across the province that have responsibility for delivery of those services will be able to do that, including the member's home town of Kingston.

The Speaker: Supplementary? Sorry, member for Kenora.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question as well is --


The Speaker: Order. It doesn't take a lot to entertain these people over here. Member for Kenora, I apologize.

Mr Miclash: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. My question is also to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Minister, we have many, many municipal leaders across my riding who are extremely frustrated. They're frustrated because back in the election campaign they were told that a Mike Harris government would work closely with them and a Mike Harris government would not dump new taxes on to local taxpayers. That's what they were told.


My office has been calling various municipalities throughout northern Ontario. What are they saying now? Kenora cannot see a tax decrease through this minister's movement. Sioux Lookout: not enough information; not a chance of a tax decrease. Ignace: They're concerned with the labour costs associated with the changes, and again they're looking to having to increase their taxes. Dryden said that they're looking at a 10% tax decrease as just not realistic, as the Treasurer indicated earlier. It's just not possible.

I will be attending the Kenora District Municipal Association meeting in Sioux Lookout on February 7. What I want from you are some facts and figures I can take to them to show what your movement is going to mean to the municipalities of northern Ontario.

Hon Mr Leach: In response to the member for Kenora, I know the Minister of Northern Development and Mines will have a representative at that conference in February. His parliamentary assistant, Mr Murdoch, will be there, and I am confident that Mr Murdoch will be able to provide all the answers that anyone in Kenora riding would care to ask.


The Speaker: Let me get some order, please. I want to hear a point of privilege from the member for Riverdale.

Ms Churley: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I stand on a point of privilege. I was unable to get the exact words of the comments made by the minister responsible for women's issues in response to the question from the member for Mississauga South. She said something to this extent in response, that she had to stand in the House to get the truth out because of the kinds of things the member for Riverdale is implying. Perhaps you can review the Instant Hansard later, but she very clearly, in my view, suggested that I was lying and telling untruths to the people of Ontario, and I know that is against the rules of the House.

Further, I would add that everything I say to the people of Ontario about this government's agenda on the cuts to services to women in this province is the truth, and I resent very much having this minister using the kind of propaganda she does in this House to convince women that she's not cutting services, to use that to imply that I am lying.

The Speaker: I appreciate your point of privilege, and I'll tell you, I did not hear the minister say that and I am not far from the minister. I apologize, but it was rather loud. I can only ask that if the minister did say it, she can withdraw it, or ask her whether or not that is what she said. I put it to the minister at this point in time.

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Quite the contrary, I was responding to the remark, "Nobody believes you, Dianne." That's all I was responding to. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: As far as I can say, I didn't hear the comment and the minister said it wasn't that way, so that's basically as it is.



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

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


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I move that the following substitutions be made on the standing committees:

On the standing committee on administration of justice, Mr Crozier for Mr Conway; on the standing committee on estimates, Mr Bartolucci for Mr Cordiano, Mr Kennedy for Mr Curling; on the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, Mr Cordiano for Ms Castrilli; on the standing committee on general government, Mr Colle for Mr Grandmaître, Mr Gravelle for Mrs Pupatello; on the standing committee on government agencies, Mr Miclash for Mr Crozier; on the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly, Mr Curling for Mr Bartolucci, Mrs Pupatello for Mr Miclash;

On the standing committee on the Ombudsman, Mr Patten for Mrs Caplan; on the standing committee on public accounts, Mr Grandmaître for Mr McGuinty, Mr Lalonde for Mr Kennedy, Mr Patten for Mr Colle, Mrs Pupatello for Mr Crozier; on the standing committee on regulations and private bills, Mr Gerretsen for Mrs Pupatello, Mr Kennedy for Mr Sergio; on the standing committee on resources development, Mr Agostino for Mr Duncan, Mr Conway for Mr Lalonde; on the standing committee on social development, Mrs Caplan for Mr Gravelle, Ms Castrilli for Mr Patten, Mr Duncan for Mr Gerretsen and Mrs McLeod for Mr Kennedy.

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



Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas TVOntario has been providing Ontarians of all ages with high-quality educational programs and services delivered through television and other media for 25 years; and

"Whereas TVOntario provides universal access to educational broadcasting in the most effective way possible; and

"Whereas TVOntario provides essential broadcast services to communities in northern Ontario; and

"Whereas TVOntario has an extensive community-based advisory network spanning the province; and

"Whereas TVOntario is committed to increasing net self-generated revenues by 15% every year;

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

"To formally commit to the province's continued support of TVOntario as a publicly owned educational network."

I've attached my name to that petition as well.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here a petition from many citizens of the city of Timmins who petition the provincial government and the Legislature as follows:

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

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

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

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

"Whereas we believe workfare will eliminate permanent jobs;

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

I've signed that petition.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I have a petition which has been forwarded to me by a psychologist from the Lyndhurst spinal cord centre, Dr Keith Walker, and the petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm happy to add my support to this petition, and I think particularly coming from Lyndhurst lodge, it's a very significant submission from those people who have sustained spinal cord injuries from drunk drivers.



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep receiving petitions about the $2 user fee for seniors, and it reads as follows:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health has started to charge senior citizens and social service assistance recipients a $2 user fee for each prescription filled since July 15, 1996; and

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

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

"Whereas the Minister of Health promised as an opposition MPP in a July 5 letter to Ontario pharmacists that his party would not endorse legislation that will punish patients to the detriment of health care in Ontario;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge the government to repeal this user fee plan because the tax-saving user fee concept is not fair, it is not sensitive, it is not accessible to low-income or fixed-income seniors, and lest we forget, our province's seniors have paid their dues by collectively contributing to the social, economic, moral and political fabric of Canada."

I have affixed my signature to this document.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"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;

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

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

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

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

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

"A therapeutic community cannot exist in a superprison;

"Save victims and money by keeping what works open."

I have attached my name to this petition since I know it's in the proper form and will be accepted by the table.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I am presenting a petition this afternoon on behalf of my friend and colleague the member for Don Mills, and although I suspect that the draftsman did not couch this petition in a format that's acceptable to the Legislature, out of respect for those who took the trouble to sign it, I'm pleased to read it this afternoon. It reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned residents of East York, are in favour of the borough of East York remaining as a separate municipality."


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

"Whereas the private member's bill introduced by Rick Bartolucci, MPP for the riding of Sudbury, limits the number of pupils that may be enrolled in a class in a school in Ontario; and

"Whereas this limit depends on the grade level of the class; and

"Whereas studies have concluded that there are clear benefits from smaller class sizes; and

"Whereas there is greater student involvement and interaction; and

"Whereas there is improved student performance; and

"Whereas there is the opportunity for greater individualization; and

"Whereas smaller class sizes allow for more varied and constructive education for students;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to support this private member's bill as it enhances classroom education."

I have affixed my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario submitted by the United Steelworkers of America, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Canadian Auto Workers. It reads as follows:

"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 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."

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


Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly that has been signed by over 1,100 residents in just 72 hours. It reads:

"Whereas the teachers of Lennox and Addington secondary school board have been on strike since December 9, 1996, in this their third strike in the last 10 years;

"Whereas the quality of education for the current school year is damaged beyond repair and the students of the three schools in Lennox and Addington are at risk of losing their school term due to this strike;

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

"To find a resolution to the strike so that they may return to school immediately."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition signed by hundreds of recipients of the family support plan who are still very concerned about the absolute chaos that has resulted in the plan. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario,

"Despite the Attorney General's continued belief that the centralized family support plan office has cleared up all the problems previously experienced, we, the deserving recipients of this plan, know that the plan continues to operate in a state of chaos and is depriving many of us of the means to feed and clothe our children and in many cases to pay our rent.

"Therefore, we call on the Attorney General to apologize to the people of Ontario, to recognize his mistake and to reinstate the regional offices of the family support plan which allowed us direct contact with people who cared."

I'm proud to sign my name to that petition.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly. It reads:

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to take away the protections of the Rent Control Act; and

"Whereas the government is proposing to allow a landlord to charge a tenant who moves into an apartment whatever the landlord can get away with; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to raise the limit of how high rents can increase for all tenants; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is proposing to make it easier to demolish or convert existing affordable rental housing; and

"Whereas the government is proposing to take away the rent freeze which has been successful in forcing some landlords to repair their buildings;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to keep the existing rent laws which provide true protection for tenants in place."

I affix my signature to this.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"The Harris government must not be allowed to make any further changes to the workers' compensation and health and safety act. Too many workers die in our province in workplaces; too many get injured. The expected changes include:

"Erosion of the right to refuse unsafe work.

"Workers will be forced to apply to their employer for WCB benefits.

"Employers must decide if the claim is valid..

"Reduction in power of joint health and safety committees.

"Eliminate compensation for certain injuries and diseases.

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

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

"We, the undersigned, therefore, call upon the Legislature of Ontario to save our workers' lives and not contribute to the killing of workers of Ontario. The protection for workers must stay and has to be made stronger.

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

That's signed by 62 constituents from S-D-G and Cornwall.


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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further petitions. The Chair recognizes the member for Beaches-Woodbine.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I move that we proceed to orders of the day.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is it the wish of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.




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

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Fort York.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): It's a pleasure to continue to debate Bill 104 and to expose the real agenda of this Conservative government around the supposed reform that is contained in this bill.

There was a meeting at Clinton Street Public School in my riding yesterday which I attended, where a number of people spoke to the real concerns contained in Bill 104, the real concerns that are not contained there but which are coming very soon. The 60 parents who were there, parents very active and concerned around the education of their children, talked about the agenda of this government having to do with giving less money to public education, in particular to the Metropolitan Toronto public school system.

There's a real fear, and I share it, that what we're going to get from this government is a reduction of general grants from it to most of the public school system in Ontario, particularly Metro and some other major public boards like Ottawa and so on. They are afraid because this government will say it wants to achieve parity between the two public systems that we have, Catholic and the other public system. They know that the Metro separate school system has less money than our Metro public system, and in order to achieve parity what they will do is take money away from our system and then say to the Metro separate school system: "You are now going to be equal. We will have achieved parity by giving the public school system less and now you, Metropolitan separate school system, no longer have a claim or a case to being underfunded."

That's the real agenda, I argue, and there's more, and I will touch on that in the remaining five minutes.

They have proposed to amalgamate all of the boards in Metropolitan Toronto, where they will have to deal with 300,000 students. The few trustees that remain will be divided across great wards, and of the $5,000 remuneration that you propose, very few knowledgeable people will get back into the field. Not only that, they know there will be little left for those trustees to do because the Education Improvement Commission will have abrogated all their rights, will have trampled over any remaining rights that the existing trustees will have. In terms of future powers, all of that is unclear. Why would any trustee ever run for that system again?

What they have done very successfully is to attack trustees. What they have done successfully is to find a convenient scapegoat for their problems. The scapegoats for their problems have become the trustees of our school systems, and the other scapegoat is the bureaucrats; there are simply too many. When you add up the dollars for the trustees and you add up the dollars for superintendents and directors, it doesn't amount to much, but this Conservative government makes it appear that this is where the problem lies, and that's what Bill 104 addresses, that everything will be all right. The real agenda of this government is to take billions out of our system. Some people say $1.2 billion; I argue they want to take approximately $2 billion out of the educational system. I can predict this will happen.

Bill 104 talks about "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" and on and on. There is nothing in this bill that will improve education.

The bill establishes, for example, new district school boards and transition processes without any provision for a new role for boards in relation to management of schools and financial decision-making. It's gone. Trustees, new ones, won't have a clue as to what they will be doing. Nothing in this act helps new trustees or those who wish to run to have a sense of what they might be doing. My view is that there is little to do, so you'll find very few people who will run because effectively their power has been taken away.

With no apparent rationale, spouses of school board employees are prohibited from running for office at any board. What rationale is there for that? How does that improve the accountability and effectiveness of the quality of Ontario's education? It does not.

Buried among the Education Improvement Commission's responsibilities is the Harris government's hidden agenda: the establishment of charter schools. We will see private schools in Ontario funded by public boards. That's what this is all about. It's a sad chain of events that is occurring here, nothing to do with accountability and effectiveness but something else.

What this government is after is $1.5 billion or $2 billion. They're going to do it by taking collective rights away from teachers; the Minister of Education has said as much. He will prevent them from being able to strike, taking an essential tool and right that they have had for countless years. That's how he's going to take money out of the system and that's why he's centralizing funding and that's why he's taking the education portion out of property taxes, in order to centralize and control it so that he can give a whole lot fewer dollars through the general grants. That's the real agenda.

Finally, he will go after teachers on their preparation time because there's $1 billion there. If teachers think they can snugly sit at home and not fight this government, they're wrong.

Bill 104 does nothing whatsoever to improve education or accountability. It has all to do with taking up to $2 billion out of the educational system. That's what people need to understand. That is why I urge those who are listening and watching to fight back against the assault on our educational system.

The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I'd like to congratulate the member on his speech. I think the public of Ontario ought to realize that what this is really all about is the government getting control of the education system. It has nothing to do with bringing more accountability to the system. Once they get control of that system and once they get control of all of the finances, which they have now done or are going to do once all the various pieces of legislation have passed, then in effect the role of the boards of education will be seriously reduced, because quite frankly, there's no longer the accountability factor that the people on the boards of education will have to their local taxpayers, since they will not be imposing any local taxation on them at all.

It really doesn't matter then how big the boards are. As a matter of fact, the bigger you make the boards, the less accountability or the less the ability of anybody within the system of trying to get a hold of their trustee at all will be. I would strongly urge the people of Ontario to watch this debate as it unfolds, because really what has happened is that we've had a swap of $5.4 billion that has been taken off the property tax roll, that's correct, so that the province could get complete control of the education system.

On the other hand, they've loaded on $6.3 billion, mainly in social costs, mainly in health care costs, when just about every expert who has ever done a report on this whole subject matter has agreed over a period of time, not only here in Canada or in the United States but all over the world, that the property tax system is the worst kind of system to use to raise funds for either health care or social services. The main reason for that is the property tax system simply cannot react to any emergencies that may come along in the health care or social system.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I always listen carefully to my colleague the member for Fort York, and I expect that others in the House do as well, from all sides, no matter whether you're a government member or in opposition, because my colleague from Fort York, members may or may not be aware, had eight years of experience sitting as a school trustee in the inner city of Toronto in the west end, and before that was a teacher.

I expect that none of us is going to agree in this House on a lot of things, including this bill, but I do believe that everything the member for Fort York has to say, with his expertise and experience, should not be taken as just rhetoric by the government benches, because the experience that members of the opposition, as members of the government -- I don't know if there are government members who sat as school trustees or not, but I believe it's imperative when we're making such massive changes to our system that we try to listen to each other, and perhaps when the time comes, to make amendments that will improve this bill that, as my colleague points out, is a terrible blow to the kids of this province. My colleague is quite right.

We all know on this side of the House and the parents and the teachers out there and the school trustees all know what's happening here, that the school trustees are being used as a scapegoat. The government is busy convincing the people of Ontario that millions and millions of dollars are going to be saved by getting rid of school trustees when we all know what my colleague the member for Fort York is saying is true, that what this exercise really is all about is getting $1 billion, maybe $2 billion out of the system, and it's going to be kids in the classroom who will suffer as a result.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I want to comment briefly on the well-prepared, leadoff 90-minute speech that was given by our two members on a previous day and the completion today. It's quite obvious that what this government is doing, and the member pointed out quite clearly, is taking about $2 billion out of education, which is going to be less for classroom education, and they're saying that they're going to take education off property taxes.

But what they're doing is if they take $5.3 billion off property taxes, in turn they're putting another $6.4 billion on to the property taxes in other services like long-term care, welfare, housing, child care, ambulance services, health care, transit capital, transit operating, provincial highways, ferries, police, farm property tax and libraries. All of these services that property taxes were not used for before -- they were being paid for by the provincial government -- are now going to be dumped on to the property owners.

I know that most of the mayors and reeves throughout my riding -- and I'm sure it's the same thing in Toronto and a lot of the other ridings -- are very upset. I have an article here from the mayor of Kapuskasing: "Kap Mayor Upset by Restructuring from the Province." He feels that the Mike Harris led government is in total disarray and is doing whatever possible to cut the deficit and balance the budget on the backs of the property owners right across this province, and it's going to be a nightmare for some of the municipalities, towns and cities within Ontario that do not have the resources to be able to -- they don't have the manpower. They've cut down to the bare bone already, and now they're going to be dumped on with all these services. How are they going to be able to deliver that? I congratulate the member on his leadoff speech.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I too will just say that there is a lot of frustration out there. I indicated earlier today in my question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs that there's frustration with what he's doing. There's also frustration with what the Minister of Education is doing in terms of northern Ontario.

We were told by Mike Harris at one time during the last election campaign that he would be there to listen to the concerns of northern Ontario, and this legislation and what the member has said about it just shows that he is not.

One school board, Thunder Bay West: That would make any board want to question how closely this government is really looking at what it's doing in terms of a public board and a separate board west of Thunder Bay. Going back to the member's comments, representation on such a board would be very difficult. I believe that a good number of members in the House, members of the government, even the minister himself may not realize the distance factor and what they're asking the new boards of education to do in terms of bringing in representation, in terms of representing the parents, the taxpayers; not only that, but the students who go to our various schools.

The chair of the separate school board was on the phone to me not more than half an hour ago asking many questions about what this will mean in terms of unorganized territories, what this will mean in terms of those people who aren't in the organized municipalities in our region.

There are a lot of flaws in this particular piece of legislation in terms of the aspect from northern Ontario. I certainly hope that both the minister and the government listen to some of those concerns as brought forth by the various board representatives.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Fort York has two minutes.

Mr Marchese: I thank the members for Kingston and The Islands, Riverdale, Cochrane North and Kenora for their comments. There are several things I want to say about this.

First of all, they are effectively killing those voices that have criticized governments in the past, irrespective of which political party was in government. Trustees all over have been an effective voice in keeping funding to education at the levels they should be. They are effectively killing those voices by making sure that trustees who are there don't run again, for a remuneration of $5,000.

They are effectively killing parental involvement, which was driven by the energies of trustees who wanted parental involvement because they knew that education improves for their children when parents are involved. In many boards of education it was through the work of trustees that we got parental involvement.

In my view what we have done in the Toronto Board of Education is legendary. I shouldn't say that no other board has done it, but we have done a tremendous amount of work because of the trustees, and they're killing that as well.

The Education Improvement Commission is a euphemism for a dictatorial superstructure. It has the power to abrogate the rights of parents and trustees, an unacceptable, dictatorial superstructure under the euphemism of Education Improvement Commission. I oppose it thoroughly and I'm hoping the parents will see that its powers are dictatorial in nature and not democratic at all.

I urge the separate school system and the teachers of that system to rally together with the teachers of the public school system to fight a common enemy, and that's this Harris government wanting to take $2 billion out of education.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further debate?

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to rise and participate in the debate on Bill 104 in the Legislature. I've enjoyed the comments of the member from the other side.

I'll take some time today, first of all, to correct the record for the information of those listening today. I participated in the debate on the first day of second reading, and I made a comment and perhaps some of the viewers phoned and said they weren't certain of exactly what I meant. I would refer to the Hansard of January 21 on page 6415. On request from members in the House to name the boards I was speaking of or referring to, I made reference to the director of the Durham Board of Education, Mr Grant Yeo, and the director of the Northumberland and Clarington Board of Education, Mr Dick Malowney, both of whom I have a great deal of respect for.


My comments of that day were of a broader nature, but really I was referring to their being in total agreement, as far as I was concerned with speaking to them, with the boundaries that had been decided by the minister in the restructuring of the boundaries. In fact, I have it on good assurance that both directors are working with their partners to ensure that the transition to the new school boards of Peterborough, including Peterborough with Northumberland and Clarington, is moving along and they are having meetings.

But more to the point, if we bring up the debate on Bill 104, I think it's important to remind the viewers that it's 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 this transition to the new system, providing for certain matters relating to the election in 1997 and making other improvements to the Education Act and the Municipal Elections Act, 1996.

This is the bill and I think the viewer today is being done a service. I think you have to look at this also as a partnership. Taking the funding of education off the municipal tax base has long been a problem and I believe the province is now taking full responsibility. By taking full funding responsibility they're taking the full responsibility for having the highest quality education and the most accountable education system in Canada today.

In fact, it's all about students. Just recently there has been a number of changes in education, but if you think back to the previous government, the then minister of education -- I had the greatest respect for him at that time -- David Cooke implemented --

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Well, you didn't say it then.

Mr O'Toole: No, I did. I was on record at that time suggesting very strongly that he -- in fact, he started the education quality and accountability initiative, and I respect him for doing that. I did at the time and I think many of the boards were inquiring about what was meant by "education quality and accountability." That office is now in process, thanks to those initiatives and thanks to our government bringing those to action.

The other thing is the profession of educators themselves. You might recall the same minister of the day, David Cooke, brought in the initiatives that started the College of Teachers, so we take no credit except for bringing it from idea or concept into action. As we speak, each teacher in Ontario has been sent a package to participate in the election of that board of directors, and the majority of those will be teachers. That was long debated and finally brought in by this government.

The previous minister of education indeed tried to encourage boards of the time to downsize, to become smaller. He had a first initiative to encourage boards to do it, and then he developed a commission. The Sweeney commission was really started by the previous government. It was chaired by a Liberal and it was basically instituted by a previous government looking at and examining the number of elected trustees. I commend the previous government; in fact the whole exercise. What's completely different here is that this government is going about implementing those recommendations.

Basically, when you look at the restructuring, which is Bill 104, it's reducing the number of boards of education down to, I believe, 66. There were 163 boards, but it's a little complicated. I think only 129 of them were actually elected boards; the others are provincial boards. Of that mix of boards, the constitutional issues were fully recognized and fully respected. Those of the French-language boards and of the Catholic or separate school boards were respected as well. We've tried to make sure that each group that exists today has not been diminished, and I think that's been done respectfully and proportionately across the province.

I guess the role and duties of the trustee were brought about and were discussed even through the Sweeney report. As well, David Crombie discussed the role of trustees as part of the Who Does What exercise.

Bill 104 was the empowerment legislation to downsize the size of boards. I've said many times before that I currently have five boards of education in my riding of Durham East and that those five boards are basically going to continue to exist, with some differences in boundaries. I might add as well that there is the Christian school movement, which I consider the sixth board. The Christian board I meet with as well, because they have issues with respect to public health and those other publicly funded issues they want to be part of, but I consider them as a board. They're a volunteer board of directors for high school and elementary school and basically they get no government funding. I have a lot of respect for that model and I think there's something to be learned from it.

Also with all respect in Durham, when you look at the provincial spending averages on education -- I could look at some of my numbers here. By the way, when you look at the provincial averages in spending, Durham and that area -- Northumberland, Clarington -- is much below the provincial average, if not just at the provincial average, so it's not, in my view, punitive for that board. The remuneration for the boards: Many of the trustees in our area today aren't getting the advertised money we hear about Toronto boards: between $45,000 and $50,000. In fact, the trustees in our area are basically hardworking and work for something in the order of between $5,000 and $10,000, of which 25% is tax-free, so there would be a small change for them.

Today in our area all of the boards have a policy on parent advisory councils or community councils in the schools, and I believe all of them have councils today. Some of those boards are working through the issues of what their mandate and terms of reference are, but I'm pleased to say that parents have long wanted a role in the education of their children, a legitimate role without being full-time trustees, and to be involved at the school level as more than just perhaps escorts on bus trips or baking cookies or a hot lunch program, to have an active role, to assist the leadership in the school, the principal and teachers, as the legitimately paid-for, if you will, administrators of the school.

They're concerned about issues of school safety. There are issues of discipline, perhaps, issues of playground supervision and other issues in which parents have a legitimate role. After all, they're paying. At the end of the day the taxpayer, either municipal or provincial, the public, is paying for education, so it has to be accountable.

I think Bill 104 goes a long way to making the system more accountable. There are fewer boards and more responsibilities for those boards, direct responsibilities empowering the community councils at each school, giving them more clear direction -- I think there'll be a discussion paper on that in March -- also fully respecting that the funding of education is coming to the province. That isn't part of Bill 104, but you have to consider it as part of the disentanglement package, so there is an implication there.

I'm going to go through a couple of points here with the funding of trustees. There will be fewer politicians. Right now in Toronto, for example, I believe there are some 104 school trustees. When you compare that to the number of provincial politicians -- 130, soon to be 103 -- then there are certainly a lot of elected representatives being paid for and perhaps making them into full-time jobs. So there will be fewer trustees. I think what I'm hearing generally from my constituents is that they're pleased that there are fewer trustees.

I would ask the viewer today to respond to that. I've been a trustee. In fact many of the members here I'm sure spent some time as school trustees and it was enjoyable. Most of the people, I found, were very loyal and dedicated to the real purpose. They're not educated as educators; they're educated as sort of policy-setters and good municipal representation but they're not educators. Today they're moving a little closer to almost micromanaging the education system. I'm told that in some boards it's their regular appearance in the schools, sort of perhaps interfering in the schools.


The establishment of the improvement commission is also a very good thing. As we go through these changes, the boards have some decisions to make on the provision of service and the duties and responsibilities of the board. I think the commission has an important role there and I'm very reassured by the two persons just recently appointed: David Cooke, former minister, and Ann Vanstone. They've both expressed their views that may be somewhat different from the government's view, but I think they have the greatest interest in education and commitment to making sure that at the end of the day we have the highest-quality, accountable education system in this country, Canada. I'm very satisfied. The other members or appointments to that commission will send a very important signal to Ontario of just how committed our Minister of Education is to what he says here in the House.

You have to stop and listen to the quality, affordability, accountability. That's what the people of Ontario want. I for one want to make sure that means that quality for the student and the money that's required are in the classroom.

If you want to think these are rapid changes, I would take issue with that. I was just going through my old notes here, and we made commitments during the election -- the people at home may recall this very famous booklet, the CSR document. I'm going to read from it what was our commitment on education, because it really fits very nicely into Bill 104.

"Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed.

"That does not mean that savings cannot be found elsewhere in...education.... Too much money is now being spent on consultants, bureaucracy and administration." Remember this was in 1994-95 that this document was developed. "Not enough is being invested in students directly.

"Our principle of `classroom-based budgeting' will help ensure that this essential service is protected and, indeed, that excellence in education and training is enhanced."

We had a very important working document at that time that was called New Directions, Volume Two: A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario. I participated in one of those exercises, as many Ontario citizens did, and they elected this government to make sure there were changes made in education. If I go on -- people were well aware of this document; they voted us into office -- it says:

"...the idea that people run for school boards as a part-time commitment to make education better for our children. Too many of today's trustees have become full-time politicians with a full-time salary, paid with our tax dollars."

Remember that the $30,000 to $50,000 incomes for trustees is $30,000 or $50,000 that doesn't go to the classroom. When I hear parents calling me, saying there isn't enough art paper or there aren't enough textbooks, I really wonder if there couldn't be a more efficient, more accountable way of providing every dollar we can possibly save, in these difficult times, for the classroom. I know parents who are constantly in a fund-raising mode at schools to provide books and photocopying paper and other kinds of school-based needs.

I'm going to repeat a very simple model of education funding. For example, the provincial average of education funding is something in the order of $6,000 or $6,200 per student. If you have 25 students in a class, that's $150,000. I guess you could say the students in that class, 25 of them, have to get to school, so we need busing. Let's give them $100 a month times 25 students for 10 months; that's $25,000 for busing, roughly. The teachers certainly have to be paid, and they need a good salary for their 10 months in the school room, and nobody is disputing that they don't work hard at all, but they are there 10 months. Not many jobs today are that long. Let's say they get $50,000 or $60,000. We've got $25,000 for busing and we've got $50,000 or $60,000 -- there's still $75,000 left for that classroom. You could give each student $1,000 for photocopying, for textbooks and still -- what's happening?

Look at that model, if you like, at a school level. Let's say that in the school there are 500 students and that each student gets the $6,000. That's $3 million in that school. That's $3 million for 500 students. I'm sure if you look at school-based budgeting and management and parents involved, they will help to make the choice to make sure that we have the highest-quality education in that classroom. That's what we're trying to do: eliminate the duplication and waste.

What is happening, however, is that at one of the boards there are some 25,000 students today. They throw in $150 million at the board level and they tell me there's not enough money left for the classroom. I just don't go for that; I don't go for that at all.

If we look at the affordability level, I think the province is looking to do more with less -- there's no question of that -- starting with the trustees. But they're also looking at other changes to the school year which have already happened in Bill 34, one of our previous pieces of legislation, which introduced the elimination of the fifth year, the OAC year, of high school. I think there are other changes. This document, as I said before, is sort of a prelude to Bill 104. There's no surprise. Much of this was expected.

What the people of Ontario should know is that between 1985 and 1995, total enrolment in our schools went up by some 16%, and inflation would add about 40% to the cost of education. But school board spending in that same period, between 1985 and 1995, went up over 80%. Imagine: 80% spending and yet the enrolment only went up by 16%. The property taxes on education -- I had, when I was a councillor, people continually calling me and saying, "How come my taxes are going up every year?" an average of 3% to 5% every year on education across this province. In fact in that 10 years the municipal taxes went up 120%. Those were clearly unsustainable and a system that needed to be brought into check, and I think this legislation allows us to do that.

Bill 104, with the school boards and the councils, each school will have a clear direction of what its budget is, each student's entitlement, and also the ministry responsibilities will be much clearer. They are going to measure the outcomes. With the Education and Quality Accountability Office, we're going to have standard testing across the province to see indeed if what the children are being taught they are learning.

Education to me, as a parent with five children and my wife is a teacher, we cannot screw this up. In fact it's one of the most important initiatives this government has taken, and I for one will not stand by and see it ruined. Indeed, having been a trustee, a parent and a person who has always had an eye on education, I believe we are doing the right thing to improve the quality of education in Ontario.

I want to bring to people's attention that the funding of education is a part of this, as we've talked about, but that certainly in Ontario it has been a mixup. We're taking about $5.4 billion off the municipal tax bill. That's what municipal taxes contribute from the residential side to education funding today. On my tax bill at home -- let's say my tax bill is $2,400 -- approximately $1,600 of it goes to education. The other part goes to municipal or regional. Every person who's at home, $1,600, approximately, of what you're spending in taxes is going to education. That's changing.

When this law that we're debating here, not this one but Bill 106, the disentanglement one, when that comes into play -- I must qualify -- when it is in effect and fully voted on, the province will be committed to funding education. That means your tax bill at home will go down by some $1,600. But it won't go down. We're moving services to the municipal level under this disentanglement, if you want to call it, or swapping, so that it equals the same amount that we're removing from the tax bill.

But that's not new. I want you to understand that Ontario spends as much or more -- the numbers we get are some $300 to $500 more per student than any other province in Canada, so starting at that point, I don't think we'll be spending less than any province but certainly we'll be spending as much as any province.


How does it work? If you look across the provinces, for example, British Columbia -- I think they have about 500,000 students -- 95% of their funding is from the province today. The same can be said of most provinces. New Brunswick at the other coast I know is also funded by the province, and just recently we all know that New Brunswick did change and --

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): A Liberal government.

Mr O'Toole: It was a Liberal government indeed that made that very wise choice. Actually I think they have two school boards now in the province. I'm not sure they're elected. I think they're elected parents from community councils.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): What's the population?

Mr O'Toole: If you compare the population, I guess Ontario is by far the largest jurisdictional area. I think there are some two million students in Ontario, I believe that's the number, and I think there are some 5,600 schools approximately in Ontario. So our system, with a total spending of some $13 billion to $14 billion in the elementary and secondary level in Ontario represents a significant difference.

When you compare us to New Brunswick or to British Columbia, we're more than double or three or four times as large, so our changes are very much more important in terms of dollars. But really, each school individually is where we should focus. We shouldn't be lost because of the size. Each school and each child must be treated fairly, whether they're in northern Ontario, whether they're French language, or southern Ontario or public or separate. That's what we're doing: We're providing the funding dollars on an equitable basis across Ontario.

Also addressing issues that other people have called me on, on special education there will be specific grants recognized in the new formula; also for French as a second language or English as a second language, recognizing the changing demographics in large cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston. Where there are ESL problems, there will also be specific funding directed to those areas as well.

Clearly we are very much in line. We're also very much providing a leadership role for many other provinces. I was just reading a little bit during the Christmas vacation period that Quebec is now under education reform, looking at governance and funding and looking very closely at what Ontario has just been through.

To repeat for the people listening today, the fundamental changes in education today are not new. They were issues when I was first elected as a trustee in 1982. Many of the changes today have been long overdue and very few people who have been involved would not know that. In fact, at my first opportunity to attend one of the conventions in Toronto I met my peers from across the province and got talking and I thought, "Gee, this is rather elaborate, all travelling to Toronto from all over the frigging province," and this was just one kind of organization --

Mr Gerretsen: All over the what?

Mr O'Toole: All over the province of Ontario.

Interjection: Frigid province.

Mr O'Toole: Frigid province -- and I gather it was going on in the public and separate boards. I'm sure that each one of those dollars for hotel rooms and meals and flights etc were dollars that would be best spent in the classroom. When you have a system that's going up and up and up -- and education funding over the last few years has been going up an average of 3% to 5% a year -- it's about time that somebody brought it into order.

I really think that this issue on amalgamating boards is the right thing to do. I remember as a trustee that there would be an average of 1.25 meetings per week. This was a board with some 15,000 students and I think we had around 25 schools, I think we had three high schools -- a large geographic area. We used to say the board was the same size as Portugal, so there was a lot of travel involved to meetings and to visit schools as invited, but I think they did it very frugally. In fact, if you look at the funding summary on the Sweeney report, you'll find that there were quite a few boards educating students for well under $6,000 per student.

Those same students will, by the way, need to have the right training and skills to be able to sustain their own life by finding a job and meaningful employment or post-secondary education. Whether the children live in Toronto or Thunder Bay or Timmins or Tweed, they need to have fair access to education and it has to be done in such a way as they can provide for their own future. They'll all be applying to the universities or wherever, the colleges. So they need, whether they live in Toronto or not -- I can't for the life of me believe that in some areas we're spending in excess of $8,000 per student. When I look at some students getting $5,400, what's the difference between the $5,400 education per student and $7,000 or $8,000 funding per student? Can that all be explained by ESL or can it all be explained by inner-city problems --

Interjection: New math.

Mr O'Toole: It's certainly a new math issue, that's certainly right. But I think what we're looking for here is equity and accountability and, again, as the funding model emerges and that consultation process is going, I think the parent councils in the school will be very involved in deciding where that discretionary funding is spent within the school.

I think there are some other kinds of improvements that can be made. As I flip through my notes here -- I want to stay on topic. The key thing here is focusing on the role of trustees. If the province is going to be funding education, much of the looking at mill rates and the budget and all that kind of thing that trustees spend a lot of time doing -- very important time, I might add, and they were well-intended -- that's being changed.

In fact the province is going to fund it so now they don't have to worry about mill rate or mill rate adjustments any more -- that's going to be done for them -- so they can focus primarily on education, and that's what they should be focusing on. I think the trustees will be pleased at the end of the day to say, "Look, I'm here because of a genuine interest as a citizen," whether they are retired people or whatever, "to provide the best education for our children."

I think the sharing of governance of the boards of trustees with the parent councils is an important emerging legitimate activity. There will be more than just passing responsibilities. I think there will be absolute rights for these elected community councils. We must all guard against those community councils being -- some have said to me that they could be hijacked by special interest groups. I certainly don't want that to happen in my riding. I don't think anyone does. There is an inherent community responsibility to make sure it's truly representative of that community and its needs. In fact I think the trustees should try to attend the meetings and have some communication link with the board, the community councils.

I believe the community councils should have students on them. Certainly if it's a secondary school, I think if there is a five- or 10-member council, the principal would be the key presence of management and education, and perhaps another teacher, a special education or resource of some sort, but parents and perhaps students definitely have to have a role. It's almost like it could be a co-op work experience for them, if they took real responsibilities for being the treasurer of that committee or keeping the minutes and publishing the minutes of those meetings. I think there are some real, serious opportunities for that to be an effective, meaningful use of people's time, and very much related to their communities.

Schools are one of the access points for community, and who knows? When I think of schools, they are really the gateway to community for young families. For many of them, with their first child and first days at school, getting into the school and becoming involved is their gateway into the community.

There are many issues that come forward, some of which aren't particularly educational, where the school council and the structure within the school can provide access to other community services. In the future, rather than having 185 school days, perhaps the school could be open all year round. Perhaps it could be involved in the social programs, with day care. In some of our schools today we have a kind of an imbalance where some have day care facilities and some don't. I think much can be done.

Certainly the whole community has a role to play. I think there was recently a book written by somebody in a prominent position that says it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I certainly think this is a good starting point, where trustees aren't over here, parents over here and students down here. I think we're in this together, and if you think of it at the school level, it's an opportunity for each one of them.

I look at the policy memorandum --

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Thank you, time has expired. Questions and comments?

Mr Gerretsen: There are a number of points that I would like to just comment on. First of all, on this whole idea that a lot of money can be spent if we just get rid of the trustees or that the trustees are spending all the money and making exorbitant salaries, I think it's fair to say that most of the trustees -- probably about 90% to 95% of all the trustees in the province -- probably wouldn't be making $5,000 per year. I see the member even agrees with me on that. The amount of money you would be saving as a result of getting rid of a number of these trustees is minuscule; it simply isn't important and it's a red herring.


The other interesting comment he made was about attending conventions. The moment you start talking about conventions, a lot of people get very icky about it. They'd just rather stay away from the issue because, after all, people are there to have a good time, among other things. But the main reason people go to conventions, let's face it, is in order to exchange ideas with people who are in similar positions, whether it's trustees, whether it's municipal councillors, whether it's any kind of profession etc. I would dare say there is more good interaction and information exchanged during conventions than probably at any other time. That's the value of conventions.

He also talked about parent councils. Parent councils are all right. There's nothing wrong with them except that they have severe limitations. Number one, there are people other than just the parents of children who attend those schools who have an interest in the system. Where do they fit into this whole system?

The other thing I would just like to remind the member of and which I think he ought to seriously consider is, if you don't set the proper kind of parameters for these parent councils, if you don't set their terms of reference, if you don't properly delineate exactly what you want these parent councils to do, you're going to reach the situation very quickly where they're going to want more and more authority and power, which may be all right, but you'd better worry about that before you set them up.

Mr Marchese: The member for Durham East talks about how change is overdue, how we need to do something, and makes it appear as if somehow amalgamation is going to save a whole lot of money that is going to go back to the classroom. All of that is a sham, bafflegab; it's not what they're after. This is a real assault against the Metropolitan school board and its various cities. It's here that people earn more than $15,000; outside they earn less than that. It is in Metro where we have built great models for involvement.

Trustees in the Toronto board, where I was at, were full-time. I quit teaching to do this as a full-time trustee. Why? Because if you were part-time, as the member for Durham East or others might have been, you are essentially useless, because if you go there for one or two board meetings, you have nothing to contribute to that board, nothing at all to contribute to those students. You would have nothing to say to help them out. Unless you are there on a full-time basis to actually involve parents, your role as a trustee is essentially useless. That is what this government and this member are effectively doing to the new trustees, rendering them ineffectual, useless, because you cannot be helpful by simply getting $5,000 to go to a board meeting.

The real agenda of this government is the following: to take billions of dollars out of the educational system. This whole thing is a veil. There is nothing in this veil that creates a more effective and more accountable educational system at all. There is nothing in there about that. The effect of this is to go after the teachers, to render trustees useless and to make sure parents are not involved in the education of their children. That's what it's about.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I was waiting to hear in the member's speech his comments on the advertising campaign that is being carried out by the Ministry of Education at this time and was quite surprised he didn't mention that, because that is costing the taxpayers of Ontario $650,000 to see the Premier come on the television screen, money being paid even by people who are opposed to what the Premier is doing and yet are forced to fork over those tax dollars in order that they may be in a position of promoting the government position.

I asked the Premier in the House yesterday if he would withdraw these self-serving, clearly partisan, propaganda ads on the part of the government and if he would return that money to places such as the classroom, because that's an expenditure outside the classroom.

I wondered as well if the Premier would pay back, through the auspices of the Conservative Party of Ontario, the $300,000 to $400,000 it cost to produce the pamphlet put out by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

So in a sense of fairness I know that there are some members of the government who would be asking the question, "If the opposition is unable to do the same with these ministry funds, then isn't this unfair?" Of course it is, and the ads are clearly propaganda ads. That's why I'm surprised my friend didn't mention that.

This exercise, when it was announced by the minister, of course was designed to blast those who have been involved in education, many of whom have dedicated years of their lives to education, whether as trustees, whether as administrators, whether as teachers, or whether as others interested in education. This will appeal to the right-wing, Fraser Institute types. I notice that Conrad Black yesterday endorsed Premier Harris and is making sure at the Ottawa Citizen that he makes an editorial board which is fully in compliance with what Harris wants.

Mr Len Wood: Briefly, the member for Durham East in his address didn't say that what this is all about is a way of taking $2 billion or $3 billion out of education so that it can be given as a tax break to the wealthiest people in this province. We know that when mega-week started on January 13, the Mike Harris government was having a problem. Their numbers were not adding up and they needed dollars quickly in order to be able to fulfil their campaign promises, which were to reduce the deficit and balance the books and give a 30% tax break to the wealthiest people in Ontario.

In Cochrane North, eliminating school boards and forcing the new trustees who are going to be elected to travel from North Bay to the other side of Hearst, which is a distance of over 300 miles, 350 miles -- for this area to be considered as a district school board doesn't make any sense to the people in northern Ontario. All it means is that Snobelen is giving a snow job to the people and saying, "If we could change the boundaries for the school boards, get rid of a number of trustees, there's going to be a saving, there's going to be more money going back into the classroom."

All we know is that property taxes are going to skyrocket; they're going to go right through the roof. There are going to be less dollars spent on classroom education, because we know that they're saying junior kindergarten is not important. Physical education is at risk. We know they're going to bring in legislation within the next couple of months that is going to bring collective bargaining under Mike Harris and John Snobelen, which is going to mean a rollback of the salaries of the teachers.

It's all designed to pay for the advertising campaign. When you open your TV and you see Mike Harris on there, somebody's got to pay for this. The taxpayers are paying for it and property taxes are going to go right through the roof as a result of this Bill 104 that's brought in.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Durham East, you have two minutes.

Mr O'Toole: I'd like to just categorically go through and sort of rebut each of the members.

The member for Kingston and The Islands, for example, said -- and I agree with him; probably he's right -- that 95% of the trustees do make considerably less than $5,000. They still ran for the job or the position, and they work very hard at it. So I think that's probably a reasonable amount that they should be paid.

Some have made it into a full-time job. To the member for Fort York, I take great exception with his interpretation. If someone is not making it a full-time job, in his view, then he dismisses them as useless or trivializes them. That's basically what he's saying. I know many of the trustees outside of Toronto, in fact all over -- take, for example, Cochrane North -- mention how difficult it is even today for trustees in northern Ontario -- I agree with you -- to travel great distances at great personal inconvenience to these meetings and to interact with their peers and their schools. So he was trivializing you as well, and I think you should take exception with him outside the House. Set him right that it's not useless for people to volunteer their time and their interest in the students of Ontario. It's absolutely critical.

And to respect the member for St Catharines, whom I have a lot of respect for, he comments on pretty well everything in the House, but he's right off the mark on this advertising campaign. We've heard a lot about the amount of money. I think we have a duty to communicate with the people of Ontario. But I'll have you know that the Liberal Party when they were in government spent $24 million in advertising. The NDP spent $16 million. Our budget is 30% to 50% less; we're spending a mere $8 million. But there is a duty to communicate with the people of Ontario.

I think these changes are eminent, important and something this government has had the courage to bring forward for the students and the teachers of Ontario.


The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Patten: Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the debate this afternoon. I'd like to say right at the top that this bill, Bill 104, is really part of an overall government strategy which is an assault on the education system. All the background related to the explanation for the justification of the restructuring fakes a crisis in education. It exercises myths and myth-making that all school boards somehow squander money by using isolated examples to the extreme which are not typical and not representative. It scapegoats school boards and trustees, and the minister uses examples of some of the school boards and what they have -- again extreme examples, not typical, not your average school board -- and of course it dismantles the education system to force cuts.

Why would the government do all this? My colleagues have already identified that they're under tremendous pressure in their budget to find extra money in order to fund that 30% tax cut. We didn't have an economic statement; we just had a report to the finance committee from Mr Eves because there are problems. That's code for "there are problems in caucus for the government," because a lot of members know when they go back home how much they're getting beat up by some of the policies, especially in education.


Mr Patten: Some of my colleagues chuckle, but I know they know it's true.

This legislation is no different in a certain vein than Bill 34. Bill 34 was a bill that enabled the government to cut funding to two important areas: junior kindergarten and adult education; two classrooms, I might add, that the government chose to cut. That was part of the money they wanted to find, the $400 million annualized to $800 million that the minister has explained and agreed to.

Bill 104 begins to finish the process of getting at Ontario's education structure, the structure of governance. Bill 104 does what the minister's toolkit in Bill 34 did not do: It brings the education system to its knees, to extract, when all is said and done, something in the neighbourhood of $1.5 billion to $2 billion less for education. Imagine what could be done with that. Imagine how that could contribute to quality.

The justification for the legislation is cloaked in half-truths, exaggerations, scapegoating and number-fixing. The minister's opening remarks belie this point. For example, the minister states that his reform "will be a great relief to residential property taxpayers...who...have been singled out...." The minister knows this only too well because he increased property taxes last year through ministry regulations.

The first assumption is: Why was it that many people supported taking education off the property tax? To me it's very simple, and I haven't heard anyone else say this: Because they didn't want to pay it. They thought they would receive that money themselves and they'd keep it in their own pockets. Why else? They thought they'd keep that money, but of course we all know that's not going to happen. Property taxes were increased by a total of $335 million last year as a direct result of the Minister of Education's initiatives.

The minister goes on to state as well in his comments, "Taxpayers are also questioning what they're getting in return for an ever-increasing tax bill." He's presuming -- well, there has been an increase in the property tax for education, no doubt about it, but what is it that people receive in return? The answer is that they receive more educational services, many that were mandated by the provincial government. They have received more services because the provincial government has mandated many more.

Instead the minister tries to incite opinion by pointing to lavish administrative buildings and certain examples in the extreme which are not typical. The reality is that there are services that didn't exist 10 years ago, in and about that period: special education integration, early childhood education, health and social services not offered locally, technical advances, business practices, multicultural pressures, second-language training. Of course, you must remember the extension of full funding to the separate school board. This made a dramatic impact of course on the costs overall.

I suggest and ask that the minister stop fanning the flames. The minister knows full well that this is the reason. He even refers to these different needs later in his remarks touting the new funding model. Here he says that the cost of educating students, including "special circumstances...such as students with special needs and students in remote communities" -- or how about "the concerns of urban boards such as Metropolitan Toronto" -- don't forget the Ottawa Board of Education -- "which are the largest recipients of new immigrants not only to Ontario but to Canada, and of smaller boards such as Kirkland Lake-Timiskaming District Roman Catholic Separate School Board, which must meet the highest costs of transportation and heating." These are some of the examples of why costs have increased. But this does not of course fit the minister's agenda and therefore he will attribute it to other things.

The minister states that he is "streamlining the structure...and refocusing resources on the classroom." In fact, he's dismantling the structure and reducing resources for the classroom. That will be the end result.

According to the minister's own report on school board spending, "True administrative costs only amount to, on average, 15.7% of spending by boards." So all of the other indications of inside classroom spending and outside classroom spending are smoke and mirrors to try to fuzzy the waters and give the impression that there is either neglect or considered waste in the system. Even the Sweeney report, which was forced to use a flawed definition of classroom spending, found that in 1994 "true administrative costs only amount to, on average, 18% of spending by boards." No matter how the minister tries to mix the numbers, administration is never a major cost in the system.

The minister goes on to state as well, "We are also committed to improving the quality of education at less cost to the taxpayer." This means that they're taking money out of the system. That's what, "We are also committed to improving the quality of education at less cost to the taxpayer," really means.

Last year's level of provincial support for education as a percentage of property tax support is the lowest of any government since at least 1975. In fact, we are now at the same level of funding as we were back in 1990, and obviously the minister isn't finished yet. He hasn't found all the money that he wants. In 1990 there were 12% fewer students, and yet we're at that particular level and the minister is saying this is a wasteful system and we need to spend less. We all know that less invested in education over the long haul actually means more for us if we take a global view, if we take a long-term view.

The minister also states that he wants to ensure the "reforms take place in an organized and careful way." Then why is he rushing through the legislation so quickly? There are no specifics in it. He has put the cart, in my opinion, before the horse. Put forward specific proposals and let's debate them.


Bill 104 gives the government virtually unfettered power to establish and to alter at any time, by regulation, such critical matters as the number of school districts and their geographic configurations. The only limitation on this regulatory authority is that the number of trustees not be less than five or greater than 22 for a particular board.

Even the name of the legislation, as has already been identified by a number of speakers, is a misnomer. The minister knows too well it's a misnomer. That's why he only refers to it as the Fewer School Boards Act. He does not use the full title. I would like to read the full title: 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.

There is nothing in this that improves accountability. The fact is that there is diminished accountability. The delegation of considerable authority to cabinet to make regulations and the broad powers vested in the Education Improvement Commission significantly removes any degree of control over this process, or as a significant partner, from elected officials, being the trustees, especially during the transition period.

The only issue of accountability is that hopefully the public will realize that the Minister of Education, not the school boards, was responsible for last year's property tax hike and that the Minister of Education is responsible for the reduction in education resources.

The system wasn't broken. The minister says it is. It wasn't broken until he started putting his hands on it, and to make matters worse, he now wants, and I suspect will probably get, full control.

There is nothing about effectiveness. The creation of geographically large school districts will ensure that any saving on administration will probably be eaten up in trying to manage in a larger geographic area, due to travel, due to faxes, due to long distance, just to get some kind of sense of being face to face with parents and with students and with schools.

There is nothing that improves quality in this bill, absolutely nothing. Quality has been sacrificed for financial expediency; quality has been sacrificed for a tax cut that will cost more than $5 billion.

That's what this is all about. It's about taking money right out of education, not redistributing it, not finding saving in administration and placing that to help the teacher reduce class sizes or anything of that nature. This money is gone, totally gone out of education. Some people forget that. For some reason they believe that this money somehow is just going to be redistributed in education, and it's not.

This bill is about control. The minister has come up with the ultimate solution, take over control, and of course that means he can give back less. This legislation has been seen and judged in the context of the government's search for money to pay for their income tax cut. That is what this exercise in large part is about: how to get money out of the education system. The minister is scapegoating locally elected trustees, trustees who are duly elected and responsible to the local property taxpayers. He is scapegoating them so that he can legitimize the seizure of power and control of all the purse-strings.

Under the guise of fewer boards, the minister is changing the economic structure of the education system to make everyone and every board more dependent upon provincial funding. That will allow the government to pull more money out of education.

Let me state that again: Every single board under the old model or any reconfiguration will be more economically dependent upon the provincial government. Let that sink in for a minute. You're saying, "Now why would we want to do that?" Well, if you control the purse-strings, you can give back less, and if you're looking for a couple of billion dollars for a tax break, you've got to get some from education, and that's what's going to happen. Says the minister, he's got to get it. There were alternatives, of course.

In the end, the education system will be contributing more than $1.5 billion, maybe $2 billion, but the minister, the wizard of words and fiscal magician, will claim that his changes have produced savings. That's a joke. Savings? Give me a break. Savings for whom? Savings for the Treasurer of course, so that he can then allow the highest level of income earners in the province to benefit the most. It hardly seems like a wise investment. It hardly seems like a good tradeoff.

Let's talk a little bit about Bill 104 and what it actually says. Under section 327, the legislation vests wide regulatory power in the cabinet to determine the method of representation and the conduct of elections to district school boards. The legislation grants a significantly ambiguous power to the cabinet to pass regulations on, to quote from the legislation, "such transitional matters as the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers necessary or advisable in connection with the establishment of district school boards." Where is the opportunity for local input? What's the mechanism? Where is the mechanism for discussion over boundaries?

Subsection 327(8) says, "A person who establishes a geographic area under a regulation made under subclause (3)(d)(ii) shall have regard to any relevant submissions made by any person." I guess this means that this is where the public can write to the Minister of Education or phone long distance, if they can get through -- I don't know if there's an 800 number or not -- and give their views, because it won't be worth giving views to the trustees any longer, especially during this period, and that those view can be taken into account. Is this the case or not? Who knows? We don't know for sure.

What about the method for electing trustees? Are the new supertrustees going to be elected at large or through a ward system? Section 327 says that the LG will make regulations for "the establishment, for electoral purposes, of geographic areas within the areas of jurisdiction of district school boards." Sounds like wards to me, but the minister won't give us a straight answer as to what it will be. He says only that the same system that is currently used will remain. Some are elected at large and some are elected by wards, so we'll see how this all turns out.

The immunity provisions vest significant legal authority in unelected provincial officials in respect of fundamental budgetary and other decisions of school boards. These are appointed people, the Education Improvement Commission. The minister just named two people, an ex-Minister of Education and an ex-chair of the Metro school board, people with a lot of background. I guess they'll carry on what the NDP started and they'll continue reducing the size of school boards. Mr Cooke is quite clear on what he's identified. He thinks it should be less, so we know what his views are. I guess the government agrees and he's a good choice from their point of view.

The delegation of considerable authority to cabinet to make regulations and the broad powers vested in this particular group really make it function like a little junta. These aren't elected people, these aren't people responsible. They're in there to make judgements on the budget, what could be spent where, and in fact they have the tremendous power to limit what takes place. So the heavy hand of that commission, doing it of course for the government, will hang over the heads of elected officials, being the trustees duly elected.


Take for example school construction projects. The minister announced with great fanfare that he had seen the light and was convinced that the school accommodation crisis in Ontario was important. He announced that this government was lifting the freeze he had put on construction and that it would spend over $650 million over two years for new schools and renovations. So what's going to happen? The fact is that trustees are not allowed to approve construction spending, so effectively it means that all projects have been frozen again. All these words and gobbledegook essentially mean that we actually have a freeze again, but it's not called a freeze because it's been reduced. But they can't make a decision because now this commission will have that authority over which to preside.

School boards can't spend any money because the new Education Improvement Commission has to approve any spending. When questioned about this, the Minister of Education staff simply said that their hands are tied -- can you imagine? -- that it's up to the commission: "Pass it off on the commission. We have nothing to do with it." It's a government-appointed commission. That's interesting, because Bill 104 has been submitted in the name of the Minister of Education, so it seems to me he has some responsibility there, yet his staff say, "Our hands are tied." Is it a matter of hands being tied or a matter of hands being washed of responsibility?

This particular piece of legislation also identifies a number of labour issues that are as yet unresolved. It's not dealt with here but they're very important. Both the minister and this legislation are silent on what will happen to collective bargaining contracts when boards are merged.

Is the government going to override current collective agreements? We don't know. We'd like to hear from the minister on that. Will the new district school boards be empowered to negotiate collective agreements, including all terms and conditions of employment? We don't know that. Will the existing collective agreements be allowed to run to term? Silence. Will normal rules surrounding bargaining, as outlined in Bill 100 and the Ontario Labour Relations Act, continue to apply or is there another piece of legislation expected to come to somehow address this particular issue? Does the government intend to bargain directly with teacher unions, establishing a provincial salary schedule and provincial conditions of working?

The government's silence is not comforting on these issues. These are important questions because the employees, the most important people in this whole exercise, the teachers, who day to day relate to our children, don't know. They just don't know.

I want to address an area that I think is quite important for people in my neck of the woods. I found it interesting that within 48 hours of the minister's unleashing his latest attack on the education system, the ministry was banging on the door of the Ottawa Board of Education demanding that they hand over $31 million of locally raised residential property taxes to the government. These are tax dollars raised from property taxpayers in Ottawa for the purpose of education.

The minister talks about a cynicism among local taxpayers about how their locally raised residential property taxes are being used. Here's a prime example. The Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance want residential property taxes in Ottawa to be raised under the guise of education, but to send the money to Queen's Park to pay for the Conservatives' tax break. This is very important. They want the Ottawa board to raise local money from the residential property tax base to pay for the Conservative income tax cut. The Ottawa board doesn't receive money from the province. Local residential property taxpayers and business pay the whole shot. This all happened within 48 hours of the minister making his appointment.

This exercise is about taking money out of education. I say to the taxpayers in Ottawa that the provincial government will be stealing money that was raised and dedicated to education and will now go into the general pool, not for educational purposes, which it cannot do. I hope that board and the taxpayers there will take legal action against this government for that, if it was to be used.

They will find different ways. The minister said this. "We have our ways," he said. The citizens of Ottawa, you watch what will happen with that money, because that's your local money dedicated to education that will be used for other purposes, not for education. They have other ways.

What will they do? Maybe they'll try and say, "Maybe you as a board could pick up" -- and they have to do this all within a year, $31 million before the full implementation, which is in 1998. The money that's in there for the system now is from property tax, and it will be for 1997 too. It's still property tax because the implementation effect will not be immediate. I say to the property taxpayers of Ottawa who pay to the Ottawa board: Watch it. You're going to lose your money that you gave directly to make sure that quality education was going to take place in the Ottawa Board of Education.

There was a comment by the member for Durham East that I'd like to refer to, that Ontario's per pupil spending is now behind 40 American states and six Canadian provinces. The ranking of Ottawa per pupil expenditures compared to American and Canadian jurisdictions: In 1993-94 we were 29th; in 1994-95 we were 31st; in 1995-96 we were 46th. I guess we'll probably be in 60th or 63rd position at the end of this as we continue to reduce per pupil contributions.

The other point is that the minister in all of this never has provided a clear definition of classroom spending. Instead, he tells tales about out-of-classroom spending. What the heck does that mean, out-of-classroom spending? It ignores many services that are fundamentally important to the teacher. It ignores, for example, the expenditures in libraries, which we know are vitally important. We know that many kids are helped and stay in school because of guidance counsellors. We know of course that custodial services have something to do with the cleanliness and the tidiness and the appearance of the classroom itself. But these are considered to be peripheral.

I'd like to close by quoting a few people. These views are not just my own. For example, Heather Jane Robertson said, related to this initiative:

"The only thing you can do quickly in education is damage.

"First, the change challenges the democracy of education. In order for a school system to be decisive, it must be made as close to the people as possible." With geographically larger boards this will be difficult.

"Meanwhile, funding decisions will be made at the provincial level and won't be subject to local concerns and priorities." It takes decision-making away from local people and the "mega-school boards could lose those savings, as school board officials are forced to travel great distances just to get face to face with their schools."

Randall Denley, who is a reporter with the Ottawa Citizen says:

"One of the biggest reasons for property tax increases was the continuous failure by the Ontario governments to properly fund education. The province has cut grants for years, leaving boards with few options to pay the bills."

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): For years when you were in cabinet?

Mr Patten: No, not during our period.

"To blame boards now, without acknowledging the province's role, is deceitful," says Mr Denley.

"As an example of what school boards have been doing, we cite the Carleton Board of Education. Between 1991 and 1995, the board reduced spending in all areas by an average of about $8 million a year."

Lynn Peterson from OPSBA calls the overall legislation a "tax and power grab." "Gone will be the days when parents have a say in how their educational tax dollars are spent. Queen's Park will call all the shots on how much is spent on the student programs and the services of its choice." She predicts taxpayers will eventually see an increase on their property tax bill, as municipalities try to contain costs for such services as social assistance.

My time is up. In summary, I'd like to say that in part this legislation is a mask to provide the tools for the Ministry of Education and the minister to take money right out of education that we will never see again, and it will hurt education to the core.


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

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): To the member for Ottawa Centre, I listened to the presentation he gave to the House in regard to Bill 104, and I was interested at the very beginning, the whole preface of what he set up in regard to this debate. If you were to listen to the government, as the member points out, the government is doing this for reasons that are fairly -- how would you say? -- of good intention is what the government is trying to tell you. But I think the member points out quite correctly that really what this government is doing is a couple of things: They're taking over education finances for a very simple reason, so that they will be able to control education directly.

Now if there was a government in place that had a commitment to public education that would bother me but it wouldn't terribly upset me. The problem I have is that this government, listening to the Minister of Education, has very little confidence in our system of public education. In fact the Minister of Education is on record, on being sworn in as Minister of Education, as saying that he wants to create a crisis in our system of public education so that he's able to justify the changes that this government wants to make in public education. At every attempt, at every opportunity, the Minister of Education has denounced our system of public education, has done nothing to acknowledge the good that our system has, has done nothing to acknowledge that many boards in Ontario are among the best boards in the world when it comes to delivering education.

What this government is really trying to do is take over education, not to do the kinds of things that need to be done around consolidation in order to find the savings so you can reinvest it back into our system of public education to make it better. This government is trying to take over education for a very simple reason: He who controls the purse-strings calls the shots. This government has no commitment to public education and wants to move the way of private charter schools, and what better way to do that than to take over the system in its entirety and then do the devastation work that they want to undertake.

Mr Baird: I would say in response to my colleague the member for Ottawa Centre that I would agree with him that we do have a good education system in Ontario. I think, though, our goal should be to try to do the best job we can possibly do, that we would like to have a goal of being the best system, and we want to be able to look every taxpayer in the eye and say that every single dollar we're spending we're spending wisely and well. I think too often we can't say that.

In my riding the Carleton Roman Catholic school board spends 40% less than one of the boards on the other side of Baseline Road, and people have got to ask themselves why one board can spend 40% less than the board across the street and have just the same ratio with respect to children with special needs, have higher transportation costs and so forth. That is quite an indictment indeed with respect to financing.

The international assessment of education progress test, written in the spring of 1990 -- when the results were released in 1992, what did it say? It said that while we're the top spenders on education, we are certainly not the top performers. In a recent international math test conducted on 13-year-olds, Canada placed at the bottom half of participating countries. Within Canada Ontario's English students tied for second last and Ontario's French students came in dead last.

The Premier of the province of the day said: "Tests show clearly that we have problems. I don't think anyone in the school system can look for excuses." Who said that? Bob Rae said that. How did the Liberals respond, the then Liberal leader? "Blame the NDP government." But that seemed hardly fair, given that the tests were done under the previous government.

But the quote that I think best sums up the issue is an individual who said, "Lack of resources was not a factor," as Rae said at the time. "In Canada we spend per capita more than most other places in the world. I think it's a question of focus and a question of how we get the system to do its job." I think that is a clear example that even Bob Rae acknowledged that finances was not an exclusive issue.

Mr Bradley: We've heard a lot of myths from the government side, so I'm glad to hear the member for Ottawa Centre come forward with the truth at long last. I've been waiting for this. My friend from Durham East gave his point of view. I'm not saying it wasn't true, but it was a point of view I don't necessarily agree with. My own member I think was educational to members of the House because he recognized, and I could see it being woven through his speech, that the whole exercise we're involved in here of cutting classroom teachers and removing special education assistants and so on, all of that is to feed the tax cut.

This government is so obsessed with this, you're in so much trouble now trying to find money because of this ill-conceived tax cut for the richest people in our society that you're making cuts that your non-cabinet members never thought were possible, never contemplated them. I remember the Treasurer, Mr Eves, saying after his last budget, "That's the end of the cuts." Then I find out that we're going to have even more cuts, and I find out -- my Conservative friends phone me up. They say, "Is it really true that the government is going to borrow $5 billion a year to finance a tax cut, and didn't the Dominion Bond Rating Service say this was ill-conceived?" and I say yes.

I keep listening carefully, because I remember the member for Wellington and the present Speaker and the member for Grey-Owen Sound and Morley Kells, the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, all said this was crazy, this tax scheme was crazy. That's what this is all about, and my member certainly brought that to our attention.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I always enjoy and learn when the member for Ottawa Centre rises and tells us a true story about what is being debated. Would you please set the clock, or do I have unlimited time, madam? Thank you.

The government would have us believe that a reduction at the trustee level, fewer trustees, fewer elected officials, will constitute significant savings, and they would have us believe, through the duplication, they say, that by reducing the number of administrators the taxpayers of Ontario will save a great deal of money.

Make no mistake about it: This is not revenue-neutral. To come very soon at a neighbourhood near you will be the following: The government will have both hands -- actually, no hands. They will cut off their contribution as an employer to the teachers' pension fund, and they will say, "The pension fund has in excess of $42 billion and the liabilities are fully funded, so why should we pay?"

Then what the government will do is negotiate directly with the teachers, because they feel that's where the money is. When they negotiate with the teachers -- because, you see, teachers can no longer go to the school board. They don't have the power to levy, or they will give only so much to the school board, and you can't go to the taxpayers. When the government does that, it will remove the right to withdraw your labour, the right to strike, and then they will sock it big time: a 5%, 10% or 20% reduction in your wages. They will sap the morale out of the classroom.

They will get bigger, and then they will introduce a voucher system as a grand finale, coupled with a private system of schools. It is all so predictable, all so asinine and all so damaging.

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

Mr O'Toole: Madam Speaker, on a point of personal privilege: The member for Ottawa Centre made reference to a comment I made in my remarks, and I would like, if possible, to correct the record. I was using spending numbers for students based on the --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Durham East, take your seat, please. That is not a point of privilege. You will perhaps at a later date have an opportunity to clear the record for your own sake. The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Patten: I would be happy to hear the member's point following this. I'd like to say thank you to the members for Lake Nipigon, Cochrane South, Nepean, St Catharines and, for a very short while, the member for Durham East. I will hear those remarks later.


I'd like to respond to two things. My friend the member for Nepean quotes some surveys and statistics, and I must say to him that every single survey I have seen and observed -- and I think I saw most of them when I was the education critic -- every single test I have seen, internationally or otherwise, always had some quality that was proven to be an unfair comparison. Because of the nature of our universal system, we provide opportunities for people of all backgrounds to have a public education, and that works against us sometimes in international tests where it's a very small élite who write these exams and they're already streamed into these areas of biology or math or whatever it is.

I would like to sum up today by saying that in the final analysis, every organization can always find ways of improving, and I hope boards do that. My worry is that I don't believe bigger is best. I would like to believe that any savings that were found went to the classroom -- I think the members opposite would like to believe that too -- but frankly everything I see suggests that whatever is found, it's gone. It's right out of education. We are now in 46th place -- this is for the member for Nepean -- related to all the jurisdictions in North America, which is not a very good position to be in.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Your time is up. Further debate?

Mr Len Wood: It's a pleasure for me to speak on Bill 104. It's interesting that the title they put on it is very similar to a lot of other titles they put on bills: the Fewer Politicians Act, and now we're talking about the Fewer School Boards Act. Most people don't have a problem with fewer school boards in some areas of the province, but when you look at northeastern Ontario and northwestern Ontario, when you have elected school board trustees who are going to have to represent areas all the way from North Bay to Hearst, it's going to be physically impossible to get around this area. It's another slap in the face for people who live in northern Ontario as they take away the democratic right and the democracy we used to have in northern Ontario.

It goes back to when Snobelen was first appointed to the cabinet and he called a press conference -- or he was taped, anyway -- saying that in order to get dollars out of the school system, we're going to have to create a crisis in the education system. This is basically what has been happening over the last 18 months: It's one crisis after another within the education system. With Bill 104, as I said, it might be okay in some parts of the province, but in northern Ontario to expect elected school trustees to cover that big an area just won't work.

People feel betrayed by a lot of things that are happening in this government. The Harris government's record in the north -- the words people are using is that they've destroyed some of the north, that they've cut, closed, laid off, dismantled, downsized, abolished, reduced, chopped, shut down, wiped out, eliminated. These are the feelings people have about what Mike Harris and his people are doing to northern Ontario.

Now we see that they're going to close in and clamp the jaws tight on the city of Toronto. I understand a time allocation motion has been brought into this Legislature, has been tabled, where they're going to limit the public debate on amalgamation of the seven municipalities in Metropolitan Toronto. They're going to have no hearings outside of Queen's Park. My message to the people out there who want to make presentations on Bill 103, the amalgamation into a megacity, is to call the committee clerk and get your name on the record so you can make presentations on Bill 103. It's sad that they would do something very similar with Bill 103 as they did with Bill 26, the bully bill they brought in which allowed the cabinet ministers to take control of everything that is happening within this province.

A brief outline of what I see happening in Bill 104 is that it allows the government, through regulation, to create new types of school boards. As I said there, you're going to have one school board for English Catholics, one for French Catholics, and they're going to be all the way from North Bay to Hearst. It's going to be physically impossible for them to have meetings on a regular basis.

One of the main thrusts of dealing with education is that they want to take a few billion out of the education system. I met with students and teachers in Cité des Jeunes and they're concerned, when you consider what their speculation is, that libraries and physical education and guidance and other activities are not considered part of classroom education. The group I met with was very much concerned that if you eliminate physical education classes, where do the young teenagers who are 13, 14, 15, 16 get the education as far as nutrition is concerned, their sex education in schools? They're very upset and they videotaped the presentation, the questions they made to me, and they're very much concerned. I support them in their plea and I encourage them to write to Mike Harris and to John Snobelen because these are the ones who are doing this.

We have a lot of notes that I've been very much concerned with when it comes to this particular bill.

On the mayor of Kapuskasing the headline is: "Kap Mayor Upset by Restructuring from Province." His argument is very simple, that if you're going to take education off the property taxes and you're going to dump all the other services on, whether it be long-term care, welfare, public housing, child care, land ambulance, public health, provincial highways, ferries, airports -- I might point out that Hearst and Cochrane used to get funding from the province to assist them with their small airports. Last year the Minister of Northern Development and Mines decided he was going to cut their funding in half, and this year he's going to take away the rest of their funding from them at the same time that they shut down norOntair and destroyed the air travel we had.

Bill Davis -- I'll give him credit there -- 25 years ago decided that northern Ontario should be treated the same as everybody else in the province and established an airline and established good roads. Now we have a Reform-Conservative-Republican government that is taking everything out of the way. Imagine that when the Minister of Northern Development and Mines called a press conference and said, "We have a strategy for northern Ontario," and the reporter asked him, "Is that a strategy for northern Ontario or is it for all of the province?" he said: "That's right. I assume that we will have some kind of strategy for northern Ontario somewhere along the line."

This is the same thing that is happening with Bill 104. The Minister of Education and Training said, "Well, get it straight now -- and he was talking to the bureaucracy -- we have to create a crisis within the education system to be able to accomplish what we want to do," which is to take billions of dollars out of the education system. They already took $400 million out last year, near the end of the year, and if you annualize that it came to about $1.2 billion, I guess, that they took out. Now we find out that they find out they're going to have to take more out of it, and one of the ways of doing it is to bring in legislation that they have here in Ontario which is called the Fewer School Boards Act.

A number of other repercussions are going to come as a result of this legislation after it is passed. We know there are at least two or three other pieces of legislation that they're going to be tabling. One is going to be collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is going to be controlled and brought into the Premier's office or the Ministry of Education and changes are going to happen there. If you're going to reduce the number of dollars in the education system, how do you do it? Do you roll back the teachers' salaries through another piece of legislation that you're going to bring in or do you just increase the size of the classrooms?


I have a lot of respect for teachers. My daughter Brenda is teaching in Hamilton on Hamilton Mountain, and my daughter Sandra is teaching in Mississauga. I get an update from them on the size of the classrooms and what they think would be fair as far as the number of students they can teach. They let me know very clearly that if you put 40 or 50 students into a classroom, all the students cannot receive the information and educate themselves at the same level, so you're going to have problems.

We know we're having very little debate on the legislation that is being brought forward. As I said before, Bill 26 was tabled back in December 1995, and the Conservative idea was that they'd ram it through the Legislature. They brought back the Legislature one day in January 1996 and passed Bill 26, which opened up the door for all kinds of changes they're making.

As I said earlier, there's a time allocation motion that has been brought in now on Bill 103, which is the megacity legislation. It's an attempt to shut down the public debate that is happening on Bill 103. If a lot of people want to continue the debate on Bill 104, we know that eventually they'll bring in time allocation, which is a piece of legislation they bring in to shut up the people so they can't debate on second reading.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): That is absolute nonsense, total nonsense.

Mr Len Wood: I know that some of the Tories are heckling because they as well don't like to see time allocation, because when you shut down the debate in this Legislature --


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Len Wood: -- then all of the Conservative backbenchers, their phones are going to start ringing off the hook. Their phones are going to be ringing off the hook because they're going to be --


The Acting Speaker: Will the member for Brampton North come to order. Sorry. Come to order, please. Go ahead.

Mr Len Wood: It's not my problem if they're getting upset with what Mike Harris and Al Leach and Snobelen are doing in this Legislature. If they're upset with that, they should call --

The Acting Speaker: Take your seat for a moment. Could I remind the members to refer to the ministers and all members of the House by their riding, not by their name. Thank you.

Mr Len Wood: Thank you, Speaker, and I'd like to continue on Bill 104. As I said before, there were three main reasons for bringing in the Fewer School Boards Act: to allow the government, through regulation, to create four new types of school boards by replacing the existing school board system, and the four types are English public, French public, English separate and French separate; to set limits on how many trustees you can have on a board and who is eligible to run and how the election is to be conducted; to establish the Education Improvement Commission and give it the duty and the powers to oversee the transition of the new school board system.

I might point out that this Education Improvement Commission really is a trusteeship. The present 130 or 140 school boards that are there right now have all been put under trusteeship retroactive to January 13. If they want to sell buildings or buy buildings or if they want to hire employees or whatever, they have to get permission from the Minister of Education. That trusteeship is going to continue on through till after the new school boards are elected and take effect on January 1, 1998. It will continue to the end of the year 2000, from what I understand. There are a lot of school board buildings which the administrators work out of right now that are going to be sold or dismantled or whatever. I don't have a particular problem with eliminating those, but I am very concerned and upset at the large school boards that are happening in northern Ontario.

Sure, we talked about whether property taxes are the right way to pay for education. We had some discussion during the five years we were in government: "Maybe this is not the right way to do it. Maybe there are too many school boards." But it was never our intention when we were in government to have school board trustees have to travel about seven hours from one end of the district to the other end to attend meetings so they could administrate the job they were going to be doing.

I have no problem with limiting the salary that a school board trustee can get, because we didn't have any full-time school board trustees in northern Ontario. They would get $100 or $200 or maybe $500 a month to pay for the gas and oil and the wear and tear on the car when they were travelling to these meetings, so there are no big savings by eliminating 10 school boards within my riding and those of the members for Cochrane South and Timiskaming. There are no big savings by getting rid of all these trustees and having one or two big boards or four big boards that are going to cover the whole area. There are no savings whatsoever.

We know that when you go out and run a campaign as the Premier did -- now he's got his cabinet in place and they made all kinds of promises. Some of the promises we thought were silly at the time. We still say their numbers don't add up. The only way they're going to be able to add up their numbers is to close down hospitals in large numbers, and they've already gone out and introduced video lottery terminals; if they have 35,000 of them across the province, this will give them an extra $1 billion in revenue. But they're still short about $3 billion or $4 billion or $5 billion to meet the campaign promises that they said they were going to fulfil back in 1995.

The only way they can do that now is to go out and borrow $5 billion a year, give the tax break -- they gave the first 7.5% tax break last July and, lo and behold, the Liberal government in Ottawa said: "We want that. We're going to increase the Canada pension plan payments, we're going to increase unemployment insurance payments and we're going to take all that back. Mike Harris and his group in Ontario are not going to get away with giving a tax break. We're going to get our share in Ottawa." So the Liberals in Ottawa have done that.

The other 7% or 8% that they're giving on January 1, I'm sure there are going to be other ways of gobbling that up. I know in my town a couple of years ago we used to pay $3 for a parking ticket violation. I got a parking ticket violation the other day because I was tied up longer than I thought I was going to be at a meeting with one of my constituents in my office and it cost me $8 for a parking ticket. You're talking about increasing fees, and it's not the fault of the mayors and reeves. I don't blame the mayors and reeves.

We know what is happening. The Premier in this province is saying: "We don't think the Ontario government should be handling a lot of the services that are out there now. Whatever hospitals we can't shut down in Ontario, we'll pay for the upkeep of them and operate them. We'll pay for whatever schools we don't shut down. We'll pay for the balance of them out of the general revenue. But if we're going to do that, then we're going to force all of the mayors and reeves to look after policing in Cochrane, in Hearst." When the police changes are taking place, people are going to have to pay an additional $250 a year. Hearst has a figure of $229 a year. Some other areas are going to be more. If they want to have policing services, OPP services, they're going to have to pay for them. So that's another way of increasing the property taxes. We know they've turned over the water and sewer to municipalities. They're going to have to increase taxes to handle that.

Personally, my taxes were about 60-40, I believe, about 40% or 45% for property taxes and the other portion of it for school taxes. But now I know from listening every day in this House over the last 18 months that my taxes are going to be going a lot higher, and we have nobody representing northern Ontario from the government who is willing to stand up and say that this has gone too far.

We have the Minister of Northern Development, who calls a press conference and says: "Guess what? I have a strategy for northern Ontario. There's $1 billion in a slush fund that's going to help the municipalities to deal with this." Then when he was questioned by one of reporters, they asked him, "Is this a strategy for northern Ontario?" and he said: "Oh, that's right. I assume that somewhere along the line we're going to have a strategy worked out for northern Ontario, but at this point in time we don't have one. All we're doing is cut, slash and burn and get all the dollars we can out of northern Ontario in order to give a tax break" and, as the member said, protect the members in the 905 region who are the makeup of this Conservative government.


It's a sad day when we see that the government will stoop to all kinds of levels and tactics to get their agenda through when there is a swelling of opposition to this Conservative government. We know from the large meetings that have been held in the city of Toronto; we know that the Toronto board of trade has come out and condemned the Premier for pushing ahead with his agenda. They've condemned the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Al Leach, for dumping all these services on to the city of Toronto.

With the megacity happening and with all the dumping that has been taking place, my information is that residential property taxes, with the new megacity in Toronto and all the dumping they're doing on to them -- the other services, public housing, long-term care, ambulances -- property taxes are going to go up residentially about $350 a year. Business tax is going to go up -- hey, listen to this. Business taxes are going to go up $7,900 in the new megacity of Toronto if they're going to have to deliver all these services.

In northern Ontario I have mayors and reeves who have come forward --

Mr Bisson: It's 40% in Timmins, property taxes.

Mr Len Wood: If Timmins has to pay for all the services that have been dumped on them by the present Reform-Republican-Tory government in Ontario, property taxes will have to go up 40%, a 40% increase in the city of Timmins. You think the people in northern Ontario are happy with Mike Harris and his group that are dumping all these services on to northern Ontario and saying, "If you don't want to increase the property taxes, cut out the services"? We can expect to see a lot of services not being delivered.

We know that the particular bill that we're talking about right now is probably going to end up being the same as the bully Bill 26. They're going to bring in time allocation, they're going to ram it through the Legislature, they're going to limit public hearings. It's only about 40 minutes ago that this government brought in a time allocation motion on Bill 103. They're going to limit the public debate. They're not going to allow any public hearings to take place outside of this Legislature. Everybody's going to have to come down to Queen's Park, even though the seven governments have room for 200, 300, 400, 500 people within their buildings, so a committee of the Legislative Assembly could travel into these communities and listen to the public. But they're going to restrict them to here and they're going to limit it to about eight or nine days of public hearings, probably nine days of public hearings and one day of clause-by-clause, and then they're going to ram it through the Legislature and that'll be the end of the megacity for Toronto.

We expect the same thing is going to happen with the Fewer School Boards Act as they decide that the opposition parties are taking too long to debate and we're generating a public debate out there to the listening audience. The feedback that I was getting was, "There were a couple of good announcements come out." The Minister of Education is reannouncing the capital announcements that the NDP government did in 1994. They froze them in 1995 and 1996, and then in January they said: "We're going to unfreeze those capital dollars and we're going to build schools. We're going to get people out of the classrooms and everything is going to be okay. Don't worry about it."

They also made an announcement that the operating dollars were going to be stable for 1997 and 1998, and then all of a sudden they realized that they haven't got enough money to do all these things, so they bring in another piece of legislation, which is called the Fewer School Boards Act.

The students and parents are very much concerned about what the end result is going to be. Are we going to lose physical education? Are we going to completely lose junior kindergarten? Are we going to lose the guidance departments?


The Acting Speaker: The member for Scarborough East, come to order.

Mr Len Wood: Are we going to end up with 40 or 50 kids in classrooms where teachers are only going to be doing crowd control? We don't know what is going to happen.

We know that they've put all the school boards as they exist right now, effective January 13 -- it's retroactive to January 13 -- under trusteeship. They're saying: "You've got the money. You've been able to raise the money and you've collected the money, but you're under trusteeship now until after the new boards are elected on January 1, 1998. And by the way, we might keep that trusteeship on for another three years after that. We might just keep it on until the end of the year 2000 to make sure that we can get all the money we need. We can't get enough out of VLT slot machines." Even if you put in 35,000 of them, all you can collect is about $1 billion in taxes, revenue coming in.

This government, because of the promises they made during the last election, is short. They're short of money. They're coming back to all the people and they're saying: "You must have more money in your pocket. Come on, divvy up the money. We need this money if we're going to give a tax break to the wealthiest people in this province." Thirty per cent to somebody who's making $20,000 a year or $25,000 a year, most of that is going to be used up in user fees and increases in property taxes. But if you give a 30% tax break to somebody who's making $300,000, $400,000, $500,000 a year and is the president of a bank, the top people, it's big bucks.

The government is saying that money is going to go back into the economy and create jobs. I've said to a businessman in the town of Kapuskasing, "When you get your 30% tax break, how many jobs are you going to create?" He said: "I'm not going to create any jobs. I'm going to take a trip to Florida or I'm going to do something else, but I'm not going to hire any other employees." Now the same businessman I was talking to is saying that he's not going to have any extra money in his pocket because of all the user fees that are being brought on. He's not a Conservative and he would never agree with the Conservatives. As a matter of fact, he's not NDP either, but he's a friend and I've known him for a number of years.

The legislation that is being brought in is a lot different from what we had proposed during our term in government. We had looked at that. We had the Royal Commission on Learning reporting back and there were some changes that we were looking at, but we would never think of bringing in this exact piece of legislation.

At the same time as we're talking on this piece of legislation, Bill 104, this education act, we find out that the government has brought in time allocation. This is to shut down the Legislature as far as debate is concerned on the megacity. They're going to limit the amount of debate here. They're not going to have any public hearings outside of Queen's Park. Everybody is going to have to come down to Queen's Park. I would suggest that anybody who is listening out there now, if they want to make a presentation on Bill 103, should phone the clerk and get their name on the list and make sure, if the Conservative government is not going to allow the opposition members in here to debate legislation for the amount of time that we need, they can make a presentation to the committee.


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


The Acting Speaker: The member for Cochrane South, come to order.

Mr Len Wood: I understand that they're upset with some of the action their cabinet ministers are taking and that the Premier of this province is taking and they're using their time to air it out here. But they should be using their time to get hold of the Premier of this province to say: "What you're doing is wrong, what you're dumping on to the municipalities is wrong. You're forcing municipalities to make decisions to increase taxes where you were not willing to do it yourself." They've sloughed off the responsibility for all the services, basically, with the exception of a few hospitals that are left after they get through all the hospitals they're going to close down, they're going to look after education, the schools they don't close down as a result of the different pieces of legislation they're bringing in.


They're making it impossible for northern Ontario to deal with education when you look at the long distances. I drive from the town of Hearst to Nipissing or North Bay and it's a seven-hour drive. Now they're saying we're going to have a number of school boards in that area but they're going to cover that distance. It's impossible. The only people who are going to be able to sit on school boards and be able to take the time off work and represent the people are going to be the wealthy companies. The contractors or the large businesses out there will be able to say, "It's going to take you one day to travel there, one day for the meeting and one day to come back, so we'll allow you time off from work and we'll pay your wages because you're not allowed to receive more than a $5,000-per-year honorarium."

As I said, a lot of changes are taking place here and I think we need further debate on a lot of these issues. I hope they wouldn't bring in time allocation on Bill 104, as they've just done on Bill 103, because it's a sad day when you shut down the debate in this Legislature and ram your legislation through without having proper public debate.

I know people are phoning the Conservative backbenchers and getting their message to them because I see them coming in here on Monday morning after spending the weekend in their constituency office and they've got long faces. It sounds like the constituents are starting to beat up on them.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I'm pleased to be able to get up and say a few words about the speech of the member for Cochrane North. I was listening very carefully both here and outside to the way the words were put out, and the words were fine; the only thing was that some of the thoughts got mixed up in the sentences.

One of the problems was in this time allocation. It would seem to me that maybe the member for Cochrane North forgot that it was his party that brought time allocation into this House.


The Acting Speaker: Member for Cochrane North, order.

Mr Bert Johnson: We have been told by the electorate, by the people in Ontario that they wanted to get education off of property tax. It has been there for well over a century, since the very foundation and beginning of this province. Many municipal politicians told us that it's not relevant to their budgeting to have to send out tax bills, with more than half the amount on them for education.

We've listened to the people of Ontario, we've come up with a better system, and I would like the member for Cochrane North to address some of those concerns about Bill 103 and Bill 104 and the impact and improvements that we have and we look forward to in the coming months for education for the kids of Ontario. After all, the education system wasn't devised for politicians, either provincial or municipal; the education system should and always will be, under our direction, for the kids of Ontario and their future.

Mr Bradley: I enjoyed the remarks of the member very much. I found them intriguing. I'm glad he made reference to the guillotine which is being applied by this government on yet another bill, which will affect this particular bill because of the timing of all legislation. That guillotine, of course, is going to significantly reduce the amount of time possible, as the member must have appropriately pointed out, for people to make representations on Bill 103, the megacity bill, which of course will affect the timetable for this bill. I think it's most unfortunate that the government has not agreed at this point in time to hearings in each of the municipal council chambers in Scarborough, East York, York and the city of Toronto, Etobicoke and North York. This is most unfortunate because that's where the people can make direct representations. That's why I'm pleased the member raised that issue.

As well, of course, we need much more extensive hearings than have been contemplated in this time allocation motion, which significantly reduces the amount of time that groups and organizations and individuals will have to make representations to try to persuade the government to avoid this madness of creating huge cities, which do not work in the United States. I think our people in this province can be legitimately concerned that, step by step, in every instance we are moving to the American system. We're going to have American cities, an American education system, and if you get your way, we're going to have an American health care system. Somebody has to call a halt to this, and we in the opposition will be vigorously opposing that.

Mr Pouliot: In response to the timely presentation from the member for Cochrane North, shortly before 5 o'clock today the government filed a notice --

Mr Bradley: A guillotine.

Mr Pouliot: -- a guillotine, vis-à-vis Bill 103. They've shackled the opposition. Recall that it started with Bill 26, this way of doing business. They might as well come here one day and bring handcuffs and muzzles for the opposition. You're entitled to so much, but never more. More than 600 concerned citizens, clubs, organizations, have made their intentions known to appear at the public hearings, but they're not providing the right of an audience. They have decreed that the citizens are to say little and preferably say nothing. The steamroller goes on and on in the way and in the ditch: "We will do what we said we would, come hell or high water."

These people are on the hook for a 30% tax cut that will benefit the likes of Conrad Black, and it's supposed to create jobs. When has Conrad Black created jobs? He hatchets people. It fits their style. This is the kind of attitude they court. They wish that one day they too -- but surely they're on the waiting list. It's being done to them.

Their school boards are about to disappear, fewer teachers, larger classrooms. That's what the member said, and he's right. The erosion of the middle class, polarization, the know/know-not difference, the haves and have-nots. They'll carry the guilt. Shame --

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

Mr O'Toole: It's a pleasure to rise and respond to the member for Cochrane North and his comments on Bill 104. I also want to take this opportunity to clarify some comments earlier on that in a report that was issued by the Ministry of Education reflecting a study done by Dr Stephen Lawton, the province of Ontario spent $6,917 per student in 1995-96. These are statistics from Statistics Canada, and these data are citing that our spending today in Ontario is $319 per student more than the aggregate of the other provinces.

If you take the spending in education today, which is really what this is about, of some $14 billion; let's say it's $13 billion. If you were to save just 5% of that --

Mr Bisson: Just get rid of that money, the students are getting too much. They are spoiled, they are getting themselves a good education. How dare those kids. Isn't that terrible?

The Acting Speaker: The member for Cochrane South, come to order.

Mr O'Toole: -- do you think there are any savings or efficiencies or economies in education? Just 5% of that would be some $800 million.

Also, if you look at the subsidy to the teachers' pension fund, and other amounts of expenditures that don't go to the classroom, I think it needs to be re-examined. There have been over 25 studies on education finance since 1950. All of them have come up with recommendations that education funding should be a provincial priority and the province should fund education.


If you look at the Royal Commission on Learning, the report when the previous government was in office, it clearly supported that the province should fund education. The Fair Tax Commission supported that the province should fund education. And I would suggest to you that the disentanglement report from some years ago suggested the same thing.

Again I say to the viewers today, what is different is that this government is doing what the people of Ontario want. Those who don't want it are those who are perhaps benefiting from the system today. I honestly think the Minister of Education and Training is committed to quality education --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member's time is up. The member for Cochrane North.

Mr Len Wood: In my response I just wanted to point out and thank the members for St Catharines, Lake Nipigon, Perth county and Durham East. We have a ticking time bomb that is out there as a result of taking education off the property taxes and dumping all of the other services that this government should be looking after. It's probably going to be a ticking time bomb out there with the time allocation motion that has been brought in on Bill 103 when there are hundreds and thousands of people out there who want to make presentations and want to hear the debate continue on Bill 103, and now they find out that this Conservative-Reform- Republican government is shutting things down.

I listened attentively to the member from Perth saying that he didn't agree with some of the things I was saying. I would hope he would be spending more time making sure that his hospital in Listowel and his hospital in St Mary's are not going to close, because when they close down, they're going to be coming after the member for Perth. They're going to be coming after him saying: "Why were you not there speaking up against Mike Harris's desire to shut down a lot of the hospitals and transfer all of these services over?"

I have relatives in northern Ontario and in southern Ontario, and I'm sure as property owners they're not happy to see their property taxes having to go up because of what Mike Harris is doing on this particular piece of legislation.

The teachers out there are not going to be happy when they find out that Education Minister Snobelen will probably bring in legislation that will roll back their wages because they need those billions of dollars to be able to give a tax break to the wealthiest people out there.

I hope this government does not bring in time allocation, the guillotine, on Bill 103 as they've done on Bill 104, and shut down the debate in this Legislature.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): I welcome this opportunity to debate the Fewer School Boards Act, 1997. This debate allows us to move beyond the banner headlines trumpeting mega-week and mega this and mega that, and to consider the changes we are proposing to Ontario's education system. I'd like to take this opportunity to reiterate why those changes are needed.

This government is committed to ensuring all Ontarians have access to a high-quality education, one that focuses resources on the individual, on students and teachers in the classroom. That is our fundamental goal, but we've stressed throughout all the changes that changes to curriculum alone are not the answer.

Previous governments have tried this. Time and again they've added new programs and priorities piecemeal to an already unwieldy foundation. In the end, these changes did little to remedy the underlying structural problems, and for too long these problems have been eroding our system's ability to provide quality education that prepares our students for the future. In fact, they have further exacerbated the situation by diluting the focus of education and creating a funding system that is needlessly complex and totally impenetrable to parents and taxpayers.

The failure in that approach is obvious. Last year alone, Ontarians spent more than $13 billion on elementary and secondary education. That's more per pupil than any other jurisdiction in Canada, yet our students' performance on national and international tests continues to lag behind those of other jurisdictions.

It's of little surprise that parents are telling us they're concerned about whether their children are learning. Teachers are spending large amounts of time at the beginning of each new school year making sure the students entering their classes are equipped to succeed, and taxpayers aren't convinced they're getting the best possible return on their investment in education.

We don't believe that the current system's problems can be blamed on the province's students or the parents or teachers. It's a systematic problem. The system is broken, and we are committed to fixing it.

This government's comprehensive education reform is built on three key pillars: curriculum and standards improvements, funding changes and governance reform. The Fewer School Boards Act specifically addresses the latter two. I want to stress, however, that our effectiveness in revitalizing the system will be a barometer of how successful we are in enhancing classroom learning and student achievement.

This government will no longer require residential property taxpayers to bear the burden of funding education. School boards have increased residential property taxes by an average of 5% a year, every year over the last 10 years. If these trends continued, residential property taxpayers would be paying $6.2 billion for eduction by the year 2000. We do not believe that residential property taxpayers, many of whom are on fixed incomes, should be singled out to pay the sometimes questionable expenses of school boards. The days when hardworking seniors who have worked hard all their lives and lived by the rules lose their homes due to unnecessary school board spending will be gone.

Effective in 1998 these funds will be provided through provincial grants, not residential property taxes. Business will continue to support effective and accountable funding of the education system. These taxes will remain in the community in which they were raised. Beginning in 1998, municipalities will collect this money and forward it to the local school boards.

The Ministry of Education will distribute education funding to school boards through a new, fair funding model that we are developing. It will be a model that funds students, not school boards. It will ensure a high quality of education that meets all students' individual needs regardless of where they live.

The model is based on work conducted by the Working Group on Education Finance Reform. The group was composed of representatives of teachers' federations, provincial school board associations and Metro area school boards. It will recognize the cost of educating students, including special circumstances such as students learning English for the first time in the classroom, students with special needs and students in remote communities.

In doing so the model will respond to the concerns of large urban boards, which are the largest recipients of new immigrants not only to Ontario but to Canada, and of smaller boards which must meet the high costs of transportation and heating. The Minister of Education will be releasing a full and detailed proposal for the new funding model later this winter. Through the Fewer School Boards Act we are streamlining the structure of the system and focusing resources on the classroom, where they belong.

According to the report on school board spending, 1995-96, some boards in Ontario devote up to 73% to the classroom, others as little as 51%, a 22% difference that adds up to millions and millions of dollars. The report found that on average, for every dollar spent in the classroom, more than 80 cents was spent outside the classroom. This discrepancy cannot continue if we're going to give every student in this province an opportunity to excel and reach their full potential.

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

The House adjourned at 1800.