36th Parliament, 1st Session

L156 - Tue 4 Feb 1997 / Mar 4 Fév 1997












































The House met at 1332.




Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Residents of West Bay First Nation on Manitoulin Island are mourning the death of Ernest Louis Debassige, who passed away two days before Christmas. I know the House will want to share with me in extending heartfelt sympathy to Ernie's family. Yet people in West Bay, indeed people throughout Manitoulin Island, Ontario and the nation, not only mourn his passing, they celebrate his life as one dedicated to the welfare of people and particularly native people.

Born at West Bay, son of the late David and Cecile Debassige, Ernest served in the Second World War with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders. Following the war, he was instrumental in gaining national recognition and a better life for Canada's native war veterans, sparking the foundation of the National Native Veterans' Association. He was a proud member of Branch 177 of the Royal Canadian Legion and a member of the Manitoulin Cenotaph Committee.

Ernie was active in the Union of Ontario Indians and his political involvements were known and respected nationally as a reflection of his unwavering loyalty to the goals and aspirations of his people. In 1993, the Canada 125 commemorative medal was presented to Ernie in recognition of his many contributions to veterans, youth and first nations causes.

I was proud and enriched to have known Ernie Debassige. In the words of Joseph Hare, grand council chief of the Anishnabek Nation, Ernest Louis Debassige was "a warrior to the end."


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): In the last few days the social development committee has been hearing from various members of the community about their concerns around what is happening to the disabled in this province. It was a very interesting experience for us to hear about the cumulative problems faced by the disabled as a result of the actions of the Progressive Conservative government. Indeed, it's very interesting particularly to hear of their analysis around what the implications of megaweek might be.

I only have time to talk about some of the questions raised by disabled groups around the dumping of 50% of social assistance on to the municipalities, but those questions are, for example: How does that dump fit with the redefinition of "disability?" How will that affect the numbers who are eligible to be considered for what the government has called its guaranteed income system? Who is going to be responsible for the Ontario drug plan? Who is going to manage to set the standards for who is eligible for that? What will happen in terms of special needs across the board in terms of assistive devices? What will happen in terms of appeals around assistance to the Social Assistance Review Board?

These are questions which the government has not answered and they are questions which are urgent to the disabled population of this province.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): It is with pleasure that I rise today to speak of some recent sporting achievements in my riding. On Tuesday, January 28, television viewers across Canada got a glimpse of Ontario Hockey League action at its best with the first annual OHL Bell All-Star Cup broadcast from Barrie. The Barrie Examiner reported, "The feeling in the air was electric" as a packed house of more than 4,000 cheered at the Barrie Molson Centre.

Simcoe Centre's home team, the Barrie Colts, normally plays for the central division, but moved to the east for the match. Players from the Colts gave it their all, but lost to the west in a close 5-4 game.

More than 40 of the best junior players in the country took part in the OHL Bell All-Star Cup, and many have already found homes in the National Hockey League.

I would like to congratulate all the players, coaches and organizers for making this event such a success.

While we're on the subject of excellence in sports, I would like to extend my best wishes to all of the athletes, especially those from Simcoe Centre, who are participating in the 1997 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Collingwood and Toronto. I look forward to cheering them on.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I'm delighted today to stand in my place and congratulate the Pikangikum Youth Patrol in winning the Ontario Community Newspapers Association Junior Citizen of the Year Award. Pikangikum's east and west side patrols received the OCNA's only group award, which will be presented by the Lieutenant Governor on April 4. "The youth group really deserves this recognition for all the work they've done in the last two years," stated Roy Fiddler, the nominator of the group.

This group of community-minded youth are extremely dedicated, and I commend them for wanting a better life for themselves, their families and friends.

The Pikangikum Youth Patrol was established in October 1994 after four people committed suicide in the community in the span of one week. Today there are more than 60 volunteers divided into east and west side patrols. Every night, from 6 pm to 6 am, volunteers take shifts patrolling the community in pairs. They look for teenagers who might be suicidal, sniffing gas or drinking. After finding someone who requires assistance, the group gains their confidence with the hope of bringing them home to safety. Volunteers have received training in counselling, conflict resolution and first aid.

The youth patrol has been so successful that they have been asked to go to other first nation communities to initiate the beginning of more patrols.

I ask that all members join me in congratulating this group of fine young adults who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of their families and friends in the first nation communities throughout northern Ontario. We wish them well.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I last night attended two separate meetings on the amalgamation, the megacity bill: one in East York and one in Toronto. More and more people are coming to these meetings opposing the government. Now there is a group of women. More and more women are signing this document called the Women's Declaration Against Amalgamation and for Local Democracy. Women are being urged to oppose this amalgamation, sign this declaration and vote no in local referendums.

I'll give you a few of the reasons why. It says, "Women worked to create services that benefit our community, such as child care, recreation centres, settlement houses, health and safety programs and good public education." It goes on to say, "The added financial burden on municipalities will jeopardize existing and future services which women need: housing for low-income people, long-term care for the elderly, child care, public health services, environmental sustainability programs, programs to prevent violence" and it goes on and on.

I would urge all women who have concerns about this to sign the declaration and to join many of us at Toronto city hall on Wednesday, February 12, from 4 to 6 pm for a signing ceremony.



Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): I'd like to take the opportunity today to extend my congratulations to a very special constituent of mine in my riding high atop Hamilton Mountain. Last Monday evening, Vincenza Travale received the 1996 Distinguished Citizen Award, sponsored by the Advertising and Sales Club of Hamilton. This award was in recognition of Vincenza's many years of commitment to volunteerism in her community and in recognition of her work as co-chair of Hamilton's 150th, or sesquicentennial, birthday celebrations.

Vincenza Travale spent her career with the Catholic separate school board, where she began as a teacher and ended as an associate director of education. In between, she found the time to contribute to the quality of life in her community.

As a former chair of the board of St Joseph's Hospital, a former chair of Festitalia, a current member of McMaster University's board of governors and the current chair of the board for the Hamilton Community Foundation, a $15-million endowment fund, Vincenza has shown the vital role that volunteerism plays in the life of the community.

Upon accepting the Distinguished Citizen Award, Vincenza explained her motivation to get involved as a volunteer, and I quote: "From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I've been given much -- the gift of life and other talents -- and it is best used in the service of others."

On behalf of the citizens of Hamilton Mountain, I thank Vincenza for her tireless efforts and her service to others and congratulate her again on this outstanding award.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): On November 28, 1996, this Legislature voted unanimously to approve Bill 78 and refer it to the standing committee on resources development. The Minister of Transportation congratulated me on my bill and told the Toronto Sun that he supports it.

I have been waiting not so patiently for the government to call my bill for discussion in committee and have been actively pressuring the committee Chair and the clerk for meetings to discuss my bill for almost a month.

The issue of protecting children from unsafe drivers who refuse to heed school bus warning lights is critical. Yet resources development has met only one day since my bill was passed and has been completely idle since then, with no government business before it.

I repeat: The need to protect Ontario's school children is urgent. The spectre has been raised that this government may well face a lawsuit in the future if it does not pass Bill 78 and another child dies needlessly.

The minister tells the media he supports Bill 78. Is this empty government rhetoric? School bus drivers, police and other stakeholders say that vehicle liability is the only measure which will ensure the conviction of drivers who endanger children's lives. This is not photo radar; it is an eyewitness report of a crime being committed.

I urge you to keep your promise and to immediately bring Bill 78 before the committee for an open public discussion.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): As I go to meeting after meeting in my community, I'm hearing more and more of my constituents saying that they understand the connection between the downloading of costs to municipalities, the cuts in services and health and the cuts to kids' education in the classroom, and the Conservative government's income tax break that benefits primarily the wealthy.

More and more of them are saying they don't want the tax cut on that basis. There's one couple in my riding who took it a bit further, and I want to send this over to the Premier, but I'd like to read a couple of these letters into the record.

First of all, October 28: "Mr Premier, we do not want a tax refund financed by those in need, and therefore we're returning it through the cheque enclosed. This money is only to be used for direct assistance to a person in need. Thank you. Yours truly, Andrew Smith and Susan Smith." In that, they included a cheque for $132.

On January 11 they sent the next instalment with a letter to the Premier; that was a cheque for $106. They noted that their October cheque hadn't yet been cashed. Shortly after that, they received a letter back from the Premier with the cheque enclosed. He didn't want their money. He said: "As the Premier, I can't get involved in individual cases. Give it to a charity." They said that's not good enough.

They sent a letter to me saying: "We still do not want a tax cut that is financed by those in need. We still wish this money to be used directly to assist a person." They've asked me to help them get this message to the Premier. So I've got these letters and the cheque from October, and am sending it to the Premier. We hope he'll get the message.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I rise today to congratulate S-S Technologies Holdings Inc of Kitchener. As you know, Mr Speaker, this government's number one priority has been the creation of jobs, and historically job creation has been the result of positive economic activity in the private sector.

The more successful a business is, the larger the workforce it needs. The primary role of government in the job creation process is to create the conditions which attract an increasing number of successful businesses to the province, which encourages existing companies to expand in the province and which assists entrepreneurs to pursue their dream of establishing their own businesses.

This government has made a commitment to improve the business climate in the province. The first message this government promoted was that Ontario was open for business again. However, a government can only do so much to promote positive business conditions. Ultimately, the primary responsibility rests on the shoulders of companies to take advantage of the economic environment we have created.

One company that is taking full advantage of the positive economic climate we as a government are striving to create is S-S Technologies Holdings Inc of Kitchener. S-S Technologies Holdings is a Kitchener-based company of which I am very proud. S-S Technologies was recently named by the Financial Post as one of Canada's 50 best-managed private companies. S-S Tech, with its 195 employees, operates under a self-managed team system. Alexander Mikalachki, a professor at the University of Western Ontario's Ivey school of business says he doesn't know of another company that operates effective teams to the extent that S-S Tech does, and Ivey school MBA students have --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you very much. Ministry statements? It's time for oral questions.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): No government.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): How can we have a question period when there are no ministers here?


The Speaker: There are a couple. Time for oral questions.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: You will know that it is the practice prior to question period for the government to notify the opposition of which ministers might be absent. According to the list today only two, Messrs Saunderson and Villeneuve, were to be absent. What gives?

The Speaker: That's not for me to know. All I can tell you is it's time for oral questions. I'm looking now to the official opposition. If anyone is not prepared, I'll move on.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I have a question for the Premier. Yesterday, or this week alone, 6,000 people gathered in Grimsby, 3,000 gathered in Fort Erie, 2,000 gathered in Port Colborne, and just to give you some idea of the scope here, when we talk about the 6,000 people who gathered in Grimsby, that's one third of the population -- that would be the equivalent of 200,000 people from the city of Toronto gathering here on the front steps of Queen's Park -- and they all had the same message.

They said that their hospitals are about to be closed and that they have to date been saving lives in their communities, and they're calling on you to keep the promise you made during the election not to close hospitals. So I want to ask you Premier, are you about to keep that promise? That's the one you made during the leaders' debate when you said, "Certainly I can guarantee you it's not my plan to close hospitals." Are you going to keep that promise, Premier?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think the Minister of Health will know what's happening there.


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

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): There is a challenge certainly, because as we all know the federal government has reduced payments to the province of Ontario by some $2 billion --

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I hear whining again. I hear a whiner.

Hon David Johnson: -- but I am pleased to say again today that this government is living up to its promises in all aspects of government, but particularly in health care, because we said we would spend at least $17.4 billion in health and the budget this year was $17.7 billion --

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): You promised not to close hospitals. That was your promise.

Hon David Johnson: -- and the member opposite can count on the fact that next year the budget will be at least $17.4 billion and probably more.


In terms of the people in Grimsby, the government is delighted that people are taking an interest in their hospital. We know that people have this interest and the government shares their interest. I would say that the district health council is looking at this issue. The district health councils and the restructuring commission are making plans to improve health care services and hospital services in our communities, and I think we have to let that process unroll.

The Speaker: Could I caution the members from both Essex South and Oriole to come to order while the minister is answering the question.


The Speaker: I am shocked you're shocked actually.

Mr McGuinty: The Premier and the Minister of Health on a regular basis in this House and outside of it try to lay blame for what they're doing to our health care system on the federal government. I want to make it perfectly clear once again. It was the Premier who said, during the course of the campaign, "Certainly I can guarantee you it is not my plan to close hospitals." This Premier said that. In addition, during the course of the campaign, the Premier said the following in writing: "The restructuring of federal transfer payments does not affect the Harris commitment to protecting Ontario's health care system." So let's put this to bed once and for all.

It is clear, Minister, that you simply cannot understand the important role that hospitals play in our rural communities. They have a greater proportion of an aging population, they have greater distances to travel between their communities and you can't understand how hard it is to attract doctors to a community that doesn't have a hospital.

Minister, you do not understand what effect your cuts are having on small-town Ontario. That's quite obvious. You do not understand that it's not like Toronto and --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon David Johnson: What this government does understand is that we need to improve our health care system and we need to improve hospitals. That is precisely why this government has already to date announced over $600 million in improvements, improvements in terms of cardiac care, cancer, dialysis, long-term care, more money for hospitals in high-growth areas. Over $600 million has been announced.

In terms of what people have said, if we want to see what people have said, I'll quote from the Toronto Star of December 13 last year. In the Toronto Star article, it says: "McGuinty says he might close hospitals as part of a plan for better-integrated health care services across the province." It says McGuinty might close hospitals. Are we being consistent here? This government has embarked upon a course of improving hospital care in Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: The minister doesn't understand, I think, the importance of this issue. Eleven thousand Ontarians left the comfort of their living rooms and marched because you are about to close their hospitals. They are frightened by the actions of your government. Not only are you shutting down hospitals, you are going to shut down emergency wards. You can't tell me that this is solely in response to the district health councils' recommendation. You have effectively put a gun to their heads and said: "The money's coming out. You guys make it happen." In addition, you are slashing $1.3 billion out of those hospitals that are lucky enough to survive.

Minister, will you not admit today that you are not about improving the health care system that we can offer to Ontarians? What you are about to do is to decrease our ability to care for the health of Ontarians, but especially so in small and rural communities.

Hon David Johnson: The reality is the Liberal Party, during the last election, said $17 billion was enough for the health care system of Ontario. Progressive Conservatives said no, that was not enough, that we needed more money in our health care system. We said at least $17.4 billion and we have exceeded that.

We have followed through on the district health council model appointed by the previous government. The previous government spent $26 million on the district health councils to come forward with expert advice in their communities. That advice is coming forward, that advice will be given to the restructuring commission, the restructuring commission will listen to the people of Ontario and at the end of the day we will have a better hospital system in Ontario, serving the needs, putting the patients first.

The Speaker: New question, leader of the official opposition.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): You can't trust the Tories with health.

Mr McGuinty: Yes, you can't trust this government with health.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): We'll move on to education now, so my next question is for the Minister of Education. Over the last three weeks you have been using $6.2 billion -- and this is your number, not mine -- to describe the amount of money municipalities would have had to spend on education by the year 2000. You've now said municipalities will not have to spend anything on education. I have a very simple question for you: Will you commit, here and now, to making sure that all of that $6.2 billion you have taken on is actually going to be spent on education?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): It's a pleasure to stand in the House and once again say, yes, this government has committed to removing the burden on the property taxpayer of paying for education, a burden that has been increasing; and yes, it's true that that increase has represented 5% a year on average over the last decade; and yes, it's true that that amount of money would equal $6.2 billion by the year 2000. The province has finally taken that burden off the property taxpayer and taken it on provincially to make sure there's an equitable and fair funding system for every student across the province.

Our promise and our commitment remains clear today: It's to increase student achievement across our system and to meet the funding needs no matter what they are for every individual student right across the province. We have said that very clearly and I'm glad to be able to say it again today.

Mr McGuinty: What that means is that this minister is intent on removing a substantial amount of money from education funding in this province and spending it on a tax cut which will have no benefit to Ontario children whatsoever. As you well know, cuts are already being felt in the classroom. We have today larger class sizes in Ontario. We have significant cuts to special education programs throughout the province. We have had dozens of school boards eliminate junior kindergarten.

I want to ask you again very directly: Will you reinvest any savings back into the classroom? Will you spend every single penny of that $6.2 billion you say municipalities were going to spend, will you make sure that additional money is actually going to be spent on education?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Yes. In fact, we have witnessed over the course of the last year that despite the fact this government has continued to fund junior kindergarten at exactly the same rate as other programs, despite the fact we've protected special needs funding, there have been some reductions in our system that have hurt students. That's why we have changed our system of governance, that's why we've taken on this burden of responsibility for funding education: To make sure that every dollar makes a difference to the young people of Ontario, because it's our commitment that every student have the same opportunity for a high-quality education.

The member opposite asks what this means. It means that this government measures success not in how much money it can waste in the name of education but at how high a level the students of Ontario can achieve, grade by grade, year by year, province-wide.

Mr McGuinty: It is clear that not only can we not trust this government with respect to health care, we cannot trust it with respect to education. Ontario now ranks 46th in North America -- and this is an embarrassment -- on per student funding for students at the elementary and secondary levels. In 1993-94 we were 29th. We've gone from 29th to 46th.

The minister talks about improving the quality of education. Well, your neglect is showing right now in class scores. Our children right now are being hurt by your actions. We have got to ready ourselves for the 21st century, and we're not going to do that if you take money out of education and give it to those who don't need it who are looking for a tax cut.

I want a guarantee right now, Minister. I've given you a couple of chances. I want a guarantee. I want to know that you're not going to cut any more from schools. You're going to have $6.2 billion. I want to know that children are not going to pay for your tax cut. Can you give me that guarantee right here and now?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The member opposite can't take yes for an answer. Yes, there has been a history over the course of the last decade of mediocre results by our students, and that is not okay. It doesn't represent the ability of our students; it doesn't represent the ability of our teachers. What's wrong? What's wrong is simple. There are problems in our system where we are not directing the funds in education into places where it matters to students.

We are taking the very dramatic actions, very serious actions that it'll take to redress that. We made an announcement of clear standards of achievement in every grade. That's been missing in this province for years. We are restoring that. We have talked about assessment of student abilities right across the province. We are doing that. We have committed, and let me commit again today, to making sure we meet the needs of every individual student right across the province. That's a promise that's clear to the people of Ontario and that's a promise I'm glad to restate today.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My first question is for the Premier. Yesterday, we witnessed one of the most shameful displays of communications manipulation ever by a Minister of Health. Yesterday the Minister of Health cut hospital budgets in this province by a further $435 million, but then tried to stand up in this Legislature and say he was doing something good for hospitals. This means that in two years you have taken $800 million across the board from hospital budgets. Thousands of nurses have been laid off, other health care workers have been laid off and the impact is being felt by patients all across this province.

The question is a simple one: How do you expect hospitals across this province to provide the quality care that patients need as you force them to lay off thousands of nurses and health care workers? How do you expect them to provide the care?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Minister of Health could answer that.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): To the leader of the third party, the reality is that in this fiscal year, the year 1996-97, we have asked hospitals to look for administrative savings, savings in efficiencies, savings because of technological advances, of $365 million. We are pulling $365 million out of the system in terms of waste and duplication. We have announced investments of over $600 million into the health care system, over $600 million in terms of --


Hon David Johnson: Those reinvestments of over $600 million include kidney dialysis, cardiac services, diabetes, cancer, funding into restructuring, long-term care, the Trillium drug expansion and on and on and on it goes.

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

Mr Hampton: You can tell by the weak applause from the government's back bench that even the government backbenchers know this isn't selling out there.

Minister, you think you can walk into this House and make empty announcements day after day and people are going to swallow it, when in every community across this province thousands of nurses and health care workers are being laid off and services are being shut down.

The fact of the matter is that you've come into this Legislature, as your predecessor came into this Legislature, and have made announcements, but that money has not done a thing out there either in terms of cardiac care or in terms of some of the dialysis units, because the same hospitals are having to lay off nurses because you're cutting the global budgets.

Let's be clear about this. You took $365 million last year, you're taking $435 million in the year we're about to enter, $800 million overall, and through your hospital closing commission you're taking even more: $30 million in Thunder Bay per year, $40 million in Sudbury. Why don't you be absolutely clear with people? You're cutting health care in this province.

Hon David Johnson: The reason I couldn't say that is because it's not true. This government has increased spending. This government said it would spend $17.4 billion in health. In actual fact, we'll be spending at least $17.7 billion, $17.7 billion being the budget, but my guess is that at the end of the day the actual spending will be higher than that.

The member says, for example, in terms of cardiac care that nothing is being done, yet the government has invested some $18 million into cardiac care in the province to increase the number of surgeries by 19%. Over half of those have already been realized. We are seeing progress not only in cardiac care, in cancer treatment, dialysis, the Trillium drug program -- right across the board this government is reinvesting in hospitals and health care in Ontario.

The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Minister, you clearly haven't got any answers around how you expect hospitals to absorb another cost saving of anywhere from 4% to 10% It's absolutely ridiculous for you to stand here in this House among all of us who hear the stories day after day in our constituencies about the effect of your cuts on actual patients, actual families in actual communities.

We all know that many people have received their notices -- over 8,000 in the last nine months alone. We all hear about the long waiting lists for different kinds of surgery. We all hear about the problems with emergency rooms being closed because there are no beds available in hospitals. We know that there are serious difficulties faced by individual people. Your bland assurance to people that everything is fine because when it all comes out in the wash you're going to guarantee that this money is being spent is not being seen in the communities.

Minister, how can you possibly defend taking these kinds of dollars out of the hospitals when the hospitals have made it very clear to you that restructuring is --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon David Johnson: I find it interesting to hear the message from the NDP in terms of a criticism with regard to the hospital situation when we know full well that over the last 10 years, primarily during the term of the NDP, that about 8,500 hospital beds were closed in the province of Ontario -- 8,500 beds closed, primarily under the NDP.

We know full well that the present system, in terms of re-examining the hospitals through the district health councils, was initiated by the NDP, some $26 million to start the process. This is a process involving the people of Ontario, a process involving the hospitals, a process to look for and find efficiencies. I mentioned Shelburne the other day. Two hospitals in Shelburne got together and formed one adminstration; the cost of one administration has been removed from the taxpayers. These are the kinds of savings we need in our system.

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

Mr Hampton: I would just say to the Minister of Health that we have seen how much you're taking out of health care, but we haven't seen any community reinvestment; we haven't seen the community services that need to be there if people aren't going to be able to go to their hospital.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question is to the minister responsible for municipal affairs, the other minister who is taking a lot of money out of the pockets of Ontario taxpayers. Three weeks ago the Minister of Municipal Affairs announced his massive download of health and social services on to the municipal property taxpayer. The minister boasts about a $1-billion community reinvestment fund at the municipal level, and he claims this will be an even tradeoff.

But on January 20, when I asked you if you were going to help Toronto with the download problem you've put to them, you said to me, "If anybody can't cut or reduce expenditures by...5% or 6% out of $7 billion, they shouldn't" run for office. Minister, a lot of people are beginning to think your whole process is a fraud. Tell us that isn't true.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): It isn't true. I think if you looked in today's paper and went over the numbers that were printed in the Star -- these are the Metropolitan Toronto numbers -- they're indicating that they're going to have social programs of $1.655 billion. They had $234 million. That leaves $1.2 million coming off education. That leaves them with a shortfall of about $200 million on a $7-billion budget for a new city of Toronto. That's about, what, 3%? If they can't find 3%, I think they should probably find another line of work.

Mr Hampton: It's interesting how quickly the minister forgets numbers, because Metropolitan Toronto, in adding up the numbers, the continuing numbers this week, has come up with an effective download of at least $531 million. That's what you've downloaded so far. Even Alan Tonks, who sometimes agrees with you --


Mr Hampton: The Premier can shout and wail all he wants. The fact of the matter is, it's a --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): If you want to answer questions, why don't you answer when it's put to you, Mike?

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Refer it to Mike. He wants to answer it.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): The Premier wants to answer this question.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I don't get to direct the questions. Government members, if you could come to order I'd appreciate it, during their questions as well. Leader.

Mr Hampton: Minister, it comes to this: Will you guarantee Metropolitan Toronto that you will have in this so-called reinvestment fund $531 million for them to in effect handle your download, and will you guarantee to the other municipalities across Ontario that you will give them the amount of money they need to handle the millions of dollars of downloading? Will you guarantee that $1-billion fund will be there for them?

Hon Mr Leach: Again I'll refer to the numbers that were provided by Metropolitan Toronto. According to the numbers they provide, they will be --

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): This is quite the research you've done here, Al.

Hon Mr Leach: It's a whole lot better than his, Gerry. We've taken their numbers. They've also indicated that --

Ms Lankin: Where are those studies? I know you gave them instead to the Toronto Star so that you can get the information --


The Speaker: Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: The source of these numbers is the Metropolitan Toronto community services -- right from the source, okay? Included in those numbers is $369 million for social housing. As we have stated repeatedly, we're just starting negotiations with the federal government and the municipalities. It's doubtful that switch will take place next year. So if you take that $369 million out of the equation, Metropolitan Toronto will be $147 million ahead of the game.


The Speaker: Final supplementary.

Mr Hampton: We see today the depth of the Minister of Municipal Affair's research capacity. People have been asking him for months to turn over his studies and his figures and he says, "Well, it'll all come in due time." Today we see the capacity of his research arm. He got one clipping out of the Toronto Star and the Minister of Municipal Affairs calls that his figures. If it weren't so pathetic it would be laughable, but it is truly pathetic.

Let me tell you what everyone thinks you're up to. What people believe is that you're going to go after all the municipalities -- Metropolitan Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Hamilton -- and you're going to go after their reserve funds. You're going to say to them, "You have to spend all of your reserve funds covering this downloading before there's any reinvestment fund available from the provincial government." Will you guarantee all those municipalities that you won't be going after their reserve funds, you won't force them to spend their reserve funds to cover your downloading?

Hon Mr Leach: Just to recap for the member opposite to tell him what we really are doing, we're going to be taking $5.4 billion off the property tax immediately -- that'll be about $6.2 billion by the year 2000 -- and we're asking the municipalities to assume certain services to offset that. That's the premise.

The numbers I've been quoting today have been provided by Metropolitan Toronto. Using their own numbers, it shows in 1997 a savings of $147 million. Would that equate to a tax cut? I think it probably could if we wanted to do that. I'm sure the member wouldn't want to challenge Metropolitan Toronto's own numbers. Let the numbers speak for themselves.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Yesterday the Minister of Community and Social Services was forced to admit that despite their grand announcements in the last budget, the Harris government, and this minister in particular, have not spent one nickel of the $40 million that they announced for child care. While children are waiting, the minister is making excuses. There are 34,000 children across the province, 17,000 in Metropolitan Toronto alone, in need of child care.

I say to the minister, admit that you never planned on spending money in the first place, and admit as well that your mega-week dumping of services means that child care will be competing for funding at the local municipal level for municipal taxpayer dollars against other services like long-term care, social assistance, social housing, garbage pickup and sewers.

Will you tell me and this House today what it's going to take before you start delivering on your promises to make children a priority and child care a priority?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm not in the habit of admitting things that are untrue. Our commitment stands. We have new money for child care. We've always been clear that this new money will be allocated pending the decisions of the child care reform and the Who Does What initiatives.

Second, one of the reasons across this province that there are children on subsidy waiting lists is not because Ontario has been reluctant to put its money on the table; our 80 cents has been on the table. The difficulty has been that some of the municipalities have not put their share on so those families can have that support. One of the reasons, under the Who Does What initiative, that we want to have mandatory services with municipalities is so we can meet that need which the member has pointed out today.

Mrs Caplan: I listened very carefully to the minister's answer and I want to tell this House and all Ontario what the Harris government and this minister are really doing when it comes to child care. Not only is this minister not spending the money that was promised to children and their families, but now the minister is cancelling approved projects and asking for the money back from child care.


Today in the gallery is Catherine Blake, who has worked with the Small Miracles child care centre in Clarington, a community in Durham. They've worked tirelessly for six years on this project. It was approved three years ago despite the fact that Clarington has the fifth-fastest-growing population in Canada, in Durham region, and a community where children in need of service make up 20%. This project was approved three years ago by your ministry. You have cancelled that, and on January 14 they received a letter from you saying their project had been terminated. Minister, if you really have the commitment -- you've got $40 million on the table -- stand up today, reinstate this project, tell them they're going to get their money or at least --

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


The Speaker: Order.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Pretty smug over there. Pretty smug.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Is that what they are saying in Thornhill?

Mr Bradley: No, in Grimsby, where they are talking about your promises.

The Speaker: Member for St Catharines, and the Premier, thank you. It would be helpful if we could just have a little quiet.

Hon Mrs Ecker: This government has been very clear that we are trying to shift our resources, not for capital expenditures but to try and make sure that there are more dollars for front-line services. For example, the member mentioned earlier the lack of fee subsidy support for low-income working families that need child care. That is one of the things we think that money should be going towards.

I appreciate that in many of the communities they have capital needs --

Mrs Caplan: So you are cancelling projects, asking for the money back.

The Speaker: Member for Oriole.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I appreciate that in some of these communities there are capital needs. One of the problems that our government found in the Ministry of Community and Social Services was that there were many projects which the previous government had approved, and unfortunately the capital dollars to proceed with those projects had not been set aside in order to justify those approvals. It's a very difficult situation, and I sympathize with them, but we have to make this decision to put that money into things like fee subsidies.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Minister of Education and Training. Could the minister make it clear whether he and his government favour banning books in Ontario, and is it his intention, once he gets complete control over the education system, to ban books that are currently on the curriculum of high schools?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the member opposite for the question. It's this government's intention --


Hon Mr Snobelen: One more time, Mr Speaker. It's this government's intention to lift student achievement right across this province. That's what this government's intention is. It's this government's intention to make sure that our taxpayer dollars are spent not in the name of education but in a way that makes a difference with students.

I have said on several occasions with direct reference to materials in the classroom that of course there is a board responsibility now for those materials. The province supports that with circular 14.

We are now looking for new ways in this new information age of making sure that our children are protected, to make sure they're protected from some of the information devices that are there. We are working in cooperation with technology folks, we are working in conjunction with boards and other people in education, to make sure that Ontario has a modern response to the kind of information that's available in classrooms. It's also our intention to make sure that students have access to that modern technology.

Mr Wildman: I was referring specifically to censorship and the banning of books. The minister will know that his parliamentary assistant, the member for Halton Centre, is quoted in the press as being in support of Reverend Ken Campbell and his efforts to have a particular book banned in the Halton Board of Education, from the schools in Milton. As a matter of fact, in the same article, Reverend Campbell is quoted as saying, "We were told that the legislation" -- that is, Bill 104 -- "will restore to the minister authority to overthrow board decisions such as this," that is, the board decision to keep a book on the restricted curriculum for grade 12 in that area.

The member for Halton Centre, the honourable parliamentary assistant for education and training, has said that he wants to see the book banned and he thinks the legislation will make that possible. Is that your purpose? Do you intend to ban books in Ontario?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let's be very clear about this. There's no need to hide from this at all. There are a lot of people in Halton who are concerned about a book called Foxfire. They have written to my office about it. They've directed their inquiries to me personally. They've talked to the member for Halton Centre, they've talked to the member for Halton North and other members, and they're concerned. They think the book is not appropriate for reading by students, by children, by young people, by adolescents.

I am very concerned, as I'm sure the member opposite is, that we have some freedom of expression in schools but that it is reasonably controlled by community standards. That's the standard we've been held to in this country for many years. Those community standards change. I personally believe the best way to reflect community standards is to listen to the parents in a local area, and I hope parent groups will have something to say about this in the future.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): This hearkens back to 1939.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Cochrane South, I ask you to come to order.


The Speaker: I don't want to argue with you. I'm asking you to come to order.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. I know you are aware that for the past two years I have been very involved in representing the concerns of my community about the environmental impact, if any, of the expansion of Petro-Canada's lubricants plant in my riding of Mississauga South.

In recent months the plant's emissions of sulphur dioxide gas have been the subject of a hearing before the Environmental Appeal Board. I'm sure you are as pleased as I am that all the parties to the hearing reached an agreement concerning the plant's sulphur dioxide emissions and related air quality issues. This agreement was accepted by the Environmental Appeal Board on January 15, 1997. Minister, can you tell us about the terms of the agreement?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): First, I'd like to commend the member for Mississauga South for all her hard work with regard to finding an appropriate solution to a very difficult problem.

The agreement which was ratified by the board calls for Petro-Canada to have a concentration rate for sulphur dioxide at 20% or less of the allowable limit in the province. As well, Petro-Canada has committed $250,000 to a trust fund under the management of Petro-Canada and Greenpeace, which will conduct research into the airshed management of the area.

Our government applauds joint solutions. We look forward to cooperation between industry, community organizations and environmental groups like this.

Mrs Marland: Minister, as you said, Petro-Canada has agreed to reduce its emissions of sulphur dioxide so that the concentration of this gas is 20% or less of the limit permitted by Ontario's air pollution regulations, but during the hearing before the Environmental Appeal Board expert witnesses pointed to the need to revise Ontario's air quality regulations. Many of our limits on the emission of contaminants have not been updated since the 1970s, but we have made a great deal of progress since then in the technology that is available to control pollution. What steps is your ministry taking to bring Ontario's air quality regulations into the 21st century?

Hon Mr Sterling: This is a very pertinent question because not only was it recognized in this hearing but it was also recognized by the Provincial Auditor recently that we are 20 years behind in Ontario in bringing our air quality standards up to snuff. Quite frankly, we're going to do that in this province and we have a three-year plan under way to attack that problem in a serious and meaningful way.

In addition, we have done some other things as well. We have enhanced fine particulate monitoring in Ontario by some 400%. New technologies are enabling us to maintain a state-of-the-art air monitoring system. As well, we are seriously exploring the possibility of implementing a mandatory vehicle emission and maintenance program, which was never put forward by previous governments but has been put forward by one province in this country and several states in the United States.

The ministry is also aggressively working with a variety of stakeholders to reduce the contributions to smog in this province. In total, we are attacking this --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Minister, thank you very much.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Premier of Ontario. People who attended a rally in Grimsby last night, the largest single public gathering of people the town has ever seen, requested that I ask you a question about the future of their hospital. They believed you when you said the following during the leaders' debate during the last election campaign, and I quote you directly, Premier: "Certainly I can guarantee you it's not my plan to close hospitals."

As the person who made this solemn promise, as the Premier of this province, as the person now in charge, will you guarantee to the people of Grimsby, St Catharines, Fort Erie, Port Colborne and Niagara-on-the-Lake that they will not have their hospitals closed?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I don't mind answering the question at all, if you wish to talk about commitments in the campaign. Your leader in the campaign said, "Yes, I'd be prepared to close hospitals." I was asked, was I planning to close hospitals, so I said, "No, I'm not planning to close hospitals." But I said, because the NDP had a study out, a restructuring study -- district health councils, hospitals themselves were saying, "Some of us should close." That wasn't my plan; those were hospital plans, district health council plans, NDP plans and your Liberal leader's plans. They weren't my plans.

We clearly said in the campaign that we would wait for the study that was being done by the New Democratic Party and we would analyse that. Our response to that was to appoint the restructuring committee so that communities themselves could make the decisions, could decide how the health care dollars could best be spent in their areas and their regions. That's the process that's being followed all across the province.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary?

Mr Bradley: I have the answer from the Premier in the initial question, which was that he will not live up to the promise, so I don't have a supplementary.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is for the Minister of Labour. Minister, as you know, workers have been struggling for over 100 years to shorten the standard workweek. We know that the shorter workweek serves two purposes: first, it provides a better quality of life for workers and their families, and second, it creates opportunity for jobs for the unemployed. It makes absolutely no sense to have people working longer and longer hours while we have growing numbers of unemployed. Yet your government's Red Tape Review Commission moves in exactly the wrong direction and suggests that we move to a 50-hour workweek.

Since 1948 in Ontario, we've had a 48-hour workweek. In fact, the Mining Operation Act provided a 48-hour workweek in 1890. Minister, you owe it to workers in this province and their families and to the unemployed to stand in your place today and say you have absolutely no intention of lengthening the standard workweek from 48 to 50 hours. Please stand in your place and say that today.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I am well aware of the fact that the maximum hours of work at the present time are 48 hours a week. As I have indicated in this House on several occasions, we are planning to do a review of the Employment Standards Act. At that time, all the issues that are part of the Employment Standards Act will be reviewed. Obviously, that issue is going to be of extreme importance to all the stakeholders, and I will be looking forward to their input on that issue.

Mr Christopherson: That's an absolutely shameful answer to give to workers in this province and their families and to the unemployed who need to see, if anything, a shorter workweek. You ought to be standing in your place saying today that this whole idea is dead in the water. It's shameful that you aren't.

That same report goes on to say, contrary to assurances you've given me in this House that you're not going to water down the right to refuse unsafe work, that indeed you're going to make changes that would "significantly reduce the number of work stoppages" by putting in tough new criteria. Minister, we know all about your code words. "Significantly reduce" means you are going to water down the right to refuse unsafe work. It says so clearly in that report.

For God's sake, start putting some meat behind the empty language you continually give in this House. Stand in your place today and say you have no intention of moving on that recommendation and that you've no intention of watering down the right to refuse unsafe work in the province of Ontario.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I think the member opposite would agree with me that these are issues of extreme importance to the people of Ontario, and that's exactly why we are giving them the opportunity to respond to our discussion paper on the Occupational Health and Safety Act and also the Employment Standards Act.

Mr Christopherson: All you've done is to take away rights for workers. That's all you've done.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Hamilton Centre, please come to order.

Mr Christopherson: This is disgusting, Speaker. We listen to this language every day.

The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, I warn you to come to order.

Mr Christopherson: Absolutely disgusting.

The Speaker: I warn the member for Hamilton Centre to come to order.

Hon Mrs Witmer: As we start to take a look at reviewing both those acts, we are responding to exactly the concerns you've brought to my attention today. We're going to have a complete discussion on those issues, just as you've asked us to.


The Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre, I want to warn you to come to order. It's being very disruptive. You know you're being clearly heard around the chamber. I ask you to come to order.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. While there's been a tremendous amount of discussion in the public of the government's plan to take education funding off the residential property tax, something that meets with strong support in my community, there are other important issues with respect to post-secondary education.

I understand that the University of Toronto has been lobbying the provincial government for full deregulation of tuition fees. I also understand that a number of other universities across the province have been lobbying for a 20% increase in tuition fees over the next academic year. Could the Minister of Education confirm this?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): It's true that some universities, including the University of Toronto, have called on this government to have tuition fee increases immediately of everything from 20% to a fully deregulated tuition environment. This obviously would have an enormous shock on students, that size of tuition fee increase suddenly.

While the Smith panel encouraged this government to look at deregulation of tuition fees, it also suggested that we must move forward on income-contingent loans packages so students would have a way of meeting these increased tuitions and so there would be real accessibility for all students in the province.

This government remains committed to that accessibility. We've demonstrated that in increasing our support to the Ontario student assistance program. We've demonstrated it by starting the Ontario student opportunity trust fund. We've demonstrated it in a number of ways. I want to make very clear to the member and to all members in this chamber that any movement on complete fee deregulation must -- must -- have an income-contingent loans package available for students before we even consider that.

Mr Baird: I would certainly agree that those demands from a good number of universities across the province of Ontario are far too excessive in the absence of an income-contingent loan repayment plan. There's growing support for an income-contingent loan repayment plan, support from students, student governments, university and college officials and parents across the province of Ontario. Could the minister advise the House where we stand with respect to the implementation of an income-contingent loan repayment proposal?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm very pleased to restate the commitments we made in the Common Sense Revolution, which we walked door to door in this province and made to the people of Ontario. We had a promise that we would pursue an income-contingent loans program specifically because we believe that meant that no student with the appropriate qualifications and the desire would be denied access to our institutions.

We have made many attempts over the past few months to get our federal government to act on this issue. I wrote on January 24 to Minister Pettigrew, the federal Minister of Human Resources Development, to ask him to act immediately on this, to get us an income-contingent loans package. We've done a lot of work on it. I think it's time to move on it, to harmonize the federal and provincial loan programs and to make sure that tax deductions are available for interest on student debt. We believe these are important steps to protect accessibility and to make sure students can repay that debt. I've called on Minister Pettigrew to take action on this and I hope in the coming federal budget we'll see that action.



Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Last week a safety blitz that was conducted just east of Toronto found that more than half the trucks that were stopped were taken off the road. How does the minister react to that and how will this result affect his plans with respect to road safety in Ontario?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I certainly want to thank the member for the question. Obviously, our staff are out there doing the job that the people of Ontario expect us to do, and we're not going to stop until truck safety in the province of Ontario is the best in North America. We will continue to do that job.

Mr Duncan: I think the implications of the blitz are that you haven't had a plan, that despite all of your bluster and all of your press releases, road safety in this province has not only not improved, it's probably gotten worse. According to your own ministry statistics, the wheels are coming off road safety in Ontario.

Today we see that federal deputy ministers are planning to meet. The families of victims of road accidents are calling upon you to act more quickly. They are calling upon you to do the things that have been recommended to you by countless studies, by the inquiry that was held into the Worona death and also by recommendations of the OPP and the CAA.

When are you going to react? If you won't react, will you do what we've asked you to do repeatedly, have a legislative inquiry into this initiative, into road safety and road maintenance in this province, so that people of Ontario can be assured that their roads will continue to be safe and they can travel between points without fear of their lives?

Hon Mr Palladini: I'm very happy to see that finally the federal government has taken some interest since my appointment as Minister of Transportation and, I believe, the first discussion I had with the then Minister of Transport, Mr Young, with the concern I had for a national safety policy that was not coherent in the country of Canada. I've also, I would like to tell my honourable critic, had numerous discussions with ministers across Canada.

Would you believe that one of the things that came across is, "We don't have a problem in the rest of Canada." Well, that's not true. We have a problem not only in the GTA but in all the provinces of Canada. I'm glad that we're finally going to see some action and maybe collectively we can resolve this problem that exists not just in the GTA but across Canada.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question to the minister responsible for women's issues. Last week when the NDP pay equity laws guaranteeing fair pay for women came under attack from the Tory task force on red tape -- a panel made up of 10 men and one woman, I might add -- we heard nothing at all from the minister responsible for women's issues in this government. Reading last Thursday's Ottawa Citizen, I found out why. This article, a long profile and interview with Dianne Cunningham, says, "The minister believes women don't earn as much as men partly because they choose part-time work. She said, `Women choose to live their lives in a very different way.'"

No wonder the minister doesn't speak up when pay equity is under attack, or when the employment equity laws that encourage promotion of women are repealed, or when the Premier says working women are to blame if their children go to school hungry. Pay equity has nothing to do with part-time work. Does the minister really believe that women choose to be paid less?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): As the member well knows, in political life when we're asked questions sometimes parts of responses are published and other parts are missing, so I appreciate the opportunity to answer the question. We have had input, all of us within the government, on the whole issue of pay equity. The Premier on many occasions and certainly the Minister of Labour have responded to this question by saying that more money than any other government has been put into the budget of the Ontario government this year to respond to the issue of pay equity within this government.

That is a very positive, very factual and extremely important indication by the government as to its commitment to the issue of pay equity. As far as what goes into it is concerned, that's an issue many of us have spoken to over the years, and those are not the only two components that should be taken into consideration. I'd be happy to have this discussion with the member at some further opportunity.

Ms Churley: I can't understand how you could say that with a straight face. You're the government that cut proxy pay equity, which was pay equity for the most vulnerable, lowest-paid women in Ontario; your government cut 140,000 of them. Get your numbers straight here.

The article in the Ottawa Citizen says that the minister has some ideas for improving the economic status of women. It says she believes that this can be achieved through deficit cutting and training opportunities for unemployed women, for example, under the province's workfare program. What workfare program? What these women really need are real training programs and real jobs being created and real pay equity. Will you guarantee today that you will talk to the Minister of Labour and your Premier to reinstate the proxy method so those low-paid women --

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

Hon Mrs Cunningham: The response to the question is that everybody who's interested in this whole issue knows right now that there has been a report made to the government on pay equity, the Read report. There are some 21 recommendations. I studied it very carefully. I have written a full-page advisory note to the Minister of Labour. We have met on this issue on more than one occasion. I have met with representatives of the Pay Equity Commission. I have met with women who are interested in this whole issue and have given my best advice.

The response specifically about the proxy method is that there is no indication that's a method that worked for women, and it's not a method that is used, to the best of my knowledge -- if the member wants to give me better advice -- anywhere in Canada. Having said that, I will say now that we will be responding to this report at the appropriate time.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the membership of the House by reason of the resignation of Dave Cooke, member for the electoral district of Windsor-Riverside, effective January 31, 1997. Accordingly, my warrant has been issued to the chief election officer for the issue of a writ for a by-election.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My 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 a 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 affix my name to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition from my community in Hamilton.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the tragic deaths of two workers at Dofasco's bayfront steel mill raise serious questions about safety procedures; and

"Whereas the representatives of the workers, the United Steelworkers of America, were stonewalled and shut out of the early stages of the investigation; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris Conservatives have abolished the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, and laid off the agency's staff of safety training experts; and

"Whereas the Harris government has reduced the requirements for workplace health and safety training; and

"Whereas the Conservative government is considering changes to the role of the joint health and safety commission and to the right to refuse unsafe work which could lead to even more workplace accidents in the future; and

"Whereas deregulating workplace health and safety will lead to more deaths and injuries;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand a coroner's inquest into the fatal accident at Dofasco, along with a complete investigation including full participation by the representatives of the workers."

I add my name to theirs.



Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I'm presenting a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by approximately 25 people who are associated with the resident care committee of Leisureworld Nursing Home in Barrie. The petition reads:

"We do not agree that residents of a long-term-care facility should have to pay part of their prescription costs, especially if their income is below $18,000 per year, and ask the Legislature to consider eliminating this prescription copayment for residents of long-term-care facilities with an income of less than $18,000 a year."


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Bill 96, the Tenant Protection Act, will dismantle all tenant protection legislation in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas Bill 96 will lift rent control in Ontario, leaving Ontario's 3.3 million tenants with uncontrollable rent increases and financial instability; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is giving landlords the freedom to demolish apartment buildings and convert apartments into condominiums;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to withdraw Bill 96 and save rent control."


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs in support.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I have a petition to the Parliament of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Whereas bears are the only mammals that are hunted over bait; and

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

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


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition to the assembly and specifically to the Minister of Education and Training:

"We believe that the heart of education in our province is the relationship between student and teacher and that this human relation dimension should be maintained and extended in any proposed reform. As Minister of Education and Training, you should know how strongly we oppose many of the secondary school reform recommendations being proposed by your ministry and government.

"We recognize and support the need to review secondary education in Ontario. The proposal for reform as put forward by your ministry, however, is substantially flawed in several key areas: (a) reduced instruction time, (b) reduction of instruction in English, (c) reduction of qualified teaching personnel, (d) academic work experience credit not linked to educational curriculum, (e) devaluation of formal education.

"We therefore strongly urge your ministry to delay the implementation of secondary school reform so that all interested stakeholders -- parents, students, school councils, trustees and teachers -- are able to participate in a more meaningful consultation process which will help ensure that a high quality of publicly funded education is provided."

I have affixed my signature to this document because I agree with it.


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

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

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

This is signed by 18 residents of the city of Welland. I agree with the petitioners and I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I have a petition here signed by a number of East York residents, including Beryl Corneil, John Ridout and Jack Christie. 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 Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:

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

"Whereas the Harris government has launched an all-out attack on working women and men that will expose them to dangerous and hazardous working conditions; and

"Whereas the Harris government is going to be responsible for the inevitable death and injury that will be caused to workers in these unsafe workplaces created by the Harris government's policies; and

"Whereas the Harris government shows nothing but disdain for the working people of the province of Ontario; and

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

"Whereas the government has made it clear that it intends in its hamfisted and right-wing manner to water down the act and weaken the rights of workers under the law, including the right to know, the right to participate and especially the right to refuse; and

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

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

It's signed by David Leblanc of Thorold, by V. Vaillancourt of Hamilton, by Chris Pizzacalla of Front Street down in Thorold, and many, many other working people concerned about the health and safety of workers here in Ontario and the damage that this government has done and will continue to do to them.



Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I have a petition which is not in the proper format addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, but I'll read it anyway. It is regarding medicare and it bears the signatures of 13 of my constituents, all of whom are senior citizens. They are concerned with the fairness of having to pay for extra accident and sickness insurance coverage when they vacation outside the country.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition 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 a 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 am very proud to sign my name to this petition.


M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud): J'ai ici une pétition de beaucoup de résidents de la ville de Timmins. La pétition se lit comme suit :

«Attendu que le gouvernement conservateur de Mike Harris prévoit démanteler le système actuel de contrôle des loyers ;

«Attendu que Mike Harris et le Parti conservateur n'ont pas mentionné le démantèlement du contrôle des loyers durant la campagne électorale de 1995 ou dans leur document intitulé La Révolution du bon sens ;

«Attendu que de nombreux candidats conservateurs dans leurs circonscriptions avec de fortes concentrations de locataires ont fait campagne durant les élections de 1995 en promettant de protéger le système actuel de contrôle des loyers ;

«Attendu que le gouvernement a consulté des groupes d'intérêt représentant les propriétaires et les promoteurs, tout en éliminant le financement accordé aux organismes représentant les quelque 3,5 millions de locataires en Ontario ;

«Nous, soussignés, exhortons le premier ministre Mike Harris, Al Leach, ministre du Logement, et les députés de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario à mettre fin à l'attaque contre les 3,5 millions de locataires dans la province de l'Ontario.»

Je signe cette pétition.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): "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;

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

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

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

"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."

This petition is signed by people from Elliot Lake, Blind River, Iron Bridge and other North Shore communities.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The young page Sandeep from York South will be delivering it to the table, sir. It reads:

"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 in the workplace;

"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."

It's signed by David Ferguson of Pine Street in Thorold, by Edward Lawrence of Keefer Road, and by numerous other hardworking people of Niagara region. I give this now to Sandeep from York South to deliver to the Clerk.



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 / Projet de loi 104, Loi 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): I'm told the member for Halton Centre has the floor.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): Through the Fewer School Boards Act, we are streamlining the structure of the system and focusing resources in the classroom, where they belong. According to A Report on School Board Spending, 1995 to 1996, some boards in Ontario devote up to 73% in 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. If we're going to give every student in this province an opportunity to excel, that discrepancy cannot continue. We're taking steps to ensure that non-classroom spending is minimized in order to maximize the resources focused on the classroom.

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

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

Since school boards will no longer be in the taxation business and trustees will be restored to their traditional and appropriate role as guardians of local education, this legislation provides the mechanism through which the number of politicians at major school boards will be cut from almost 1,900 to approximately 700. School boards will have between five and 12 trustees, except Metro Toronto, which, due to its size, will have 22 trustees. The number and geographic distribution of trustees for individual boards will be based on student population and density tables that we will set out in regulation.

The government is also clarifying the criteria for who is eligible to serve as a trustee. Elected trustees should be full participants in all decisions. They should not have to withdraw from debates due to recurrent conflicts of interest. Through this legislation, school board employees and their spouses will no longer be able to serve as a trustee in any school board or school authority in Ontario. Running for office will be permitted only if the employee takes a leave of absence. In addition, trustees will no longer be able to take home the equivalent of a full-time salary, some more than $49,000 a year. Instead, school boards will have the option to provide an honorarium of up to $5,000.

The trustees' role now will be to provide policy direction and support, not to be micromanagers in the schools. By clarifying that role, we are allowing teachers and principals to once again take responsibility for the operation of their schools.


Finally, to make sure that these reforms take place in an organized and careful way, the government is establishing the Education Improvement Commission, which will work with the local community, including trustees, classroom teachers and parents, to guide the process of change.

Just before I finish, I'd like to comment on the media coverage that surrounded the minister's announcement. I am heartened by the number of trustees who stated unequivocally that they became trustees because they believed in the value of education. I can also understand the questions that were raised by trustees and others, because change is never easy.

I can assure you those questions will be answered in committee debates and as the commission begins its work. What I can't understand are the comments I read from a small minority of people who seem to suggest the education system in its current form is somehow above change and reform. The reforms this government is making are based on extensive consultation with the people of this province. The issues have been studied again and again in 24 separate reviews on finance and governance since 1950, including royal commissions, committees, fact-finding reports, panels and innumerable meetings. After every review there have been calls for changes to improve the way the system operates. Governments of all political stripes in other provinces have already responded by introducing similar changes. That leads me to some of the most telling comments that I read last week.

A number of trustees from those other jurisdictions who have already embarked on similar system-wide reforms and are already noting positive results, such as dramatic improvements in student performance on international tests -- their advice to us in Ontario is to move ahead with the reforms and keep our attention focused on the classroom. That captures the essence of what this government is doing. We are showing leadership in finally tackling in a comprehensive way the problems with the education status quo and we are doing it in a way that demonstrates both responsibility and accountability to the students and teachers, to parents and to the taxpayers of Ontario.

In the final analysis, we are delivering on our promise of providing our students with an education that is second to none.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments? Further debate.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I do not feel a good feeling about having to speak on this bill, because I happen to think that the purpose of this bill is really to wrestle control from local people in education and give it to a central bureaucracy and that the ultimate goal of the Minister of Education and the Premier is to take money out of the education system, and that means taking it out of the classroom at this time.

There have been efforts already made in years gone by to control expenditures in various fields. Indeed, Premier Rae -- I was reading his book -- lamented the fact that he had to become involved in some control of expenditures in education by means of implementing the social contract, which affected the collective agreements of people in education, and had to hold down the potential increases that might have existed in education, so this is not a new effort. You will make the point that you're simply following on the policy of the last government. While the last government, in the midst of a very deep recession, undertook some of these activities, the zeal with which you are moving into a system that has had the fat removed from it, if you will, if there was fat in that system, is going to have an effect on what is happening in the classroom.

I always give you credit over there for your public relations in terms of the way you spin your message. While you want to talk about things in a simplistic manner and say to people, "Doesn't it mean an improvement if we have fewer politicians, and aren't the politicians the real problem out there?" you have to look at what the alternative is to elected representatives. The alternative is that bureaucracy then rules or the corporate sector takes over an increasing responsibility in our province.

When I think of people such as Bob Welch, Tom Wells, Bette Stephenson and others, Larry Grossman as well, who held the education portfolio in the past with a Conservative stripe on their back, as part of a Conservative government, I believe many of these people would be appalled at what you're doing to the education system, particularly Premier Davis himself. In education, a lot of people supported the Conservatives in the 1960s and the 1970s, based on Premier Robarts's premiership and Education Minister Bill Davis implementing a policy for the province.

Subsequent to that, Premier Davis, with various ministers of education, built an education system which would try to serve all the people in our province. There are what are called the regular classroom students who may not require additional assistance or help, but there are many people now who are part of the regular classroom who have disabilities. When they are placed in a regular classroom, it means there's a necessity for teacher aides to help out with the special needs of those individuals, whether they happen to be physically disabled or developmentally disabled. What we're going to see as a result of the constant squeeze on the funding in education is that these people will fall by the wayside.

Already this government has made a decision that it will not fund junior kindergarten, and the consequence of that can be seen later on in life as opposed to immediately. There are far more children today, whether we like it or not, than there were a generation ago who come to the education system from dysfunctional families or disadvantaged families. As a result, the earlier the intervention to assist these youngsters, the better it is. Even people who in years gone by were opposed to junior kindergarten, who characterized it as an expensive babysitting service, have come around to the view that it is an extremely important investment in the future of our province.

Studies internationally, not simply in our own country but internationally, have demonstrated that the funding of junior kindergarten has a measurable effect on our future society by bringing about a situation where you have fewer people in the penal system, fewer people requiring social service payments and fewer people being, if I may use the terminology, disruptive to society. This government does not consider that to be important and I believe has already removed the funding for that in our education system.

You will have this resonate well with some people out there. There is a group of people who are anti-public sector, who are anti-education in terms of the education establishment, as they would call it, and they will applaud you for what you're doing. But I point out that you're dealing with the future of the province. You're dealing with vulnerable children in many cases, and as they get into secondary and post-secondary education, you're dealing with people who are going to be the future professionals or future workers in some other area in our province. I ask you not to shortchange those people.


We have heard government speakers get up and give the government line. I understand that and I think in democracy all sides must be heard. I am not a person who immediately dismisses what everybody else has to say, but I am fearful that what you are doing in the education system is going to be detrimental. I know you made the promise that you would not cut funding to classroom education. So you have the Minister of Education get up and start to define in a rather narrow and interesting way what is classroom education, excluding, I believe, such things as library services and other services that are really a part of the classroom education when you think of it.

You as well are worrying people out there that you're going to privatize the system. There are thousands of workers out there in the public sector who have given dedicated service to the field of education, who have worked very hard, who are extremely committed, who are in jeopardy now of losing their jobs. That ultimately has a bad spinoff in our communities.

I've talked to people now who are school secretaries, who are working at the board of education in various capacities, who believe that what you're going to do is privatize the system, that you're going to contract out those services and that people who have had long-time employment are going to be left behind. This again does not bode well for our communities.

I know some people on the government side believe that when you get rid of public sector jobs, somehow you've done something good for the economy. We don't want public sector jobs just for the sake of public sector jobs. I wouldn't suggest that; I don't think anybody, in fairness, would suggest that. But we're saying there are many positions that are essential to an education system, even those outside the classroom, and that cuts have already been made in the field of education.

The government of Ontario has said that the $400-million cut introduced last year to school boards wouldn't hurt classrooms. Well, we've seen plenty of evidence that it has had an effect on classrooms. To date the government cuts to education have meant larger classes, more portables, less support for students and reduced access to essential learning resources such as libraries and textbooks.

This bill will now allow private companies into our schools, with the outsourcing of services. This is the first step, in our view, to the privatization of our schools. For that reason alone we must question the hidden agenda of education of this particular Minister of Education.

The government insists that amalgamation will save money despite the findings of a report they commissioned that clearly states that there is no evidence suggesting that amalgamation will save money. That's a report on school board spending by Ernst and Young.

You have the advantage of sounding plausible. You have the advantage of making a simple point to the people, as you do through your television ads. I see that the Premier now is on television speaking supposedly from the classroom. The people of this province who are watching this afternoon should know that they have to reach into their wallet every time the Premier comes on television on one of those ads because they are paying for those ads. In fact the Conservative government is spending, in the last couple of months in this program, more money than it spent in the entire election campaign. The entire advertising budget of the Conservative Party in the last election campaign is less than what you're spending today on government advertising.

Now I see that you're going out into other areas: The Premier is going to spend $50 million on more ads. Coincidentally some of those ads might just be watched by people of Ontario if they're tuning into United States stations or if they're on airplanes and are travelling on Air Canada, Canadian Airlines and other airlines. They will get to see those. So the spinoff effect is, of course, positive for the Premier and the government.

The people who were out in Grimsby last night, over 6,000 strong, the people who were out in Port Colborne, over 2,000 strong, and Fort Erie, over 3,000 strong, would prefer to see that money spent on their hospital system, not on advertising by this government.

I think it's absolutely scandalous that you are paying for, out of the taxpayers' money, ads through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Ministry of Education and Training, and later the Ministry of Health, which are simply self-serving, partisan propaganda ads featuring the Premier of this province.

The news media should be outraged by this. The news media, which see this happening and see the effect that it can have on the debate, should be outraged by this. I think some of them recognize that, but let's remember, the owners of the networks themselves are going to be financial beneficiaries of this.

We have another problem that we confront in dealing with issues of the day, because I think it's important to have equal advantage for opposition and government. I don't deny the government the opportunity to make its case when it goes out into the interviews in the hallways, when it goes on television on free-time broadcasts or when it subjects itself to interviews. Those are fine. That's equal. The opposition can do the same and the people can make their choice. That's the way it should be in our democratic system. But you are bringing about a very unfair advantage to one point of view, and you're doing it with simplistic and simple television ads.

The person watching the hockey game, who may have watched a bit of the 6 o'clock news, wonders: "What is all this that's happening out there? It sounds complicated. Yes, I know my local municipal politicians, whom the Premier calls whiners, are complaining and saying the property taxes are going to increase as the government dumps more responsibilities on local taxpayers, and he refers to them as whiners when they say it."

So they see that out there and they wonder what is going on. Then they turn on the television set and they see Mike Harris, and in a very simplistic message he reassures them: "Well, here's some wires and they're all mixed up. We're going to straighten them out."

Second, he turns around and says in the classroom, "Look, we're going to fix the education system."

Now if the ads in education or in health said it is wise for young people to get a shot, a vaccination for measles, that's quite legitimate. If it is advertising tenders for the government, that's quite legitimate. There are a lot of things that government does that are quite legitimate, such as when they advertise that a committee hearing is taking place in the Legislature and you're welcome to make submissions. All of that is acceptable, so please don't get the idea that I think or anybody else thinks there aren't areas where governments should invest funds for the purpose of informing.

The difference is these are self-serving, clearly partisan propaganda ads being paid for by all the people in the province, so when they see Mike Harris on television in one of those ads, they should know that they are paying for it -- and we're seeing those now in education as well.

What it does is cloud the issues. There are some interesting issues to debate. In fairness, the government has an opportunity to make its case, and it may be that in some instances the case the government makes will be accepted by the population and will be valid. That's fine. There's nothing wrong with that, but you simplify it to such an extent that you eliminate that kind of debate. That debate doesn't take place.

If there's a good, solid debate in this House or on a public platform that deals with the actual issues and you win, well, good for you. That's democracy, and I applaud you for that. That happens from time to time. The opposition isn't always going to be accepted in its viewpoint by the public. But when you simply use these self-serving, blatantly partisan ads to simplify the issues so much that you really don't deal with them seriously, I think democracy loses in that case.

If you can win legitimately, that's fine. I accept that. In each election we all accept the fact that there is a result. When John Turner lost the federal election in 1984 and they interviewed him after and they said, "What is your reaction to this?" he said, "The people have spoken, and in a democracy the people are always right."

The reason for that is that we go by numbers and if sufficient people vote for a particular party and elect that government, then that's the way democracy works. I respect that; I respect those results.


But what I don't respect is the oversimplification of these issues. For instance, if you go to people and say, "If you go to a combined school board, you're going to save money because you'll have one administration and you'll have one this and one that," it sounds reasonable and it sounds plausible, and in fact there may be instances where that might actually be the case. But what you're saying is: "We want to show people that we're going to have fewer politicians and fewer administrators and so on, so we're going to do this right across the province regardless of the consequences." What you do is you save either no money or a minuscule amount of money and you take the decision-making away from the local people.

Let me tell you what the Conservative Party used to stand for. If somebody asked, "What does the Conservative Party stand for in this province?" -- again I'll go to the Robarts days, the Davis days -- they stood for local input and local government. That's what they stood for in those days. I could always say that of them. They could accuse the other parties, in fact, of being a little bit of centralizers in those days. I think the one thing they had going for them, if they had nothing else, was that attachment to local community. When Premier Davis established the education system as it is, he allowed for the kind of local input that's going to disappear with this.

Sure, you'll have fewer trustees, and the people from certain groups will write in and say, "Hurray for the government; we've got fewer politicians," and you'll save a few thousand dollars. But what you will lose is the ability of people to have direct access in a meaningful way, through elected representatives, to the education system.

Now we have county boards; we currently have county boards. At least now the town of Grimsby has representation on the Lincoln County Board of Education, and Niagara-on-the-Lake and Lincoln and St Catharines itself and West Lincoln. You have that kind of representation. It's going to disappear because there are going to be so few people on the board of education. As I say, the Reformers out there, the Reform Party, will applaud you. There will be so few people that those communities won't have that access to education. Coming from a large city, perhaps I should cheer that. Perhaps our city can predominate; perhaps we can get our way. But it's not fair to the people in the other area.

While you're listening to the applause from those who think, automatically, that if you have fewer representatives elected you're better off, you should know that you're removing that kind of direct access to elected people, because they are elected and they are accountable. If I don't like what they do, at the end of their term of office I can vote for someone else. If I like what they do, I send them back. But at least I know I have people that I can talk to on these boards of education.

All I'm asking, which I don't see in this bill, is that you don't just do it ideologically because it sounds good to say there are fewer politicians or fewer school boards so it's better. Really carefully look at it, and if there is a substantial saving without the loss of local autonomy somewhere, you're quite welcome to move there. I think you would have a pretty good consensus of support. But when you just holus-bolus across the province, because you've got a right-wing Minister of Education and a right-wing Premier and, worse, right-wing people who aren't even elected writing your policies and making that case, I think that's extremely unfortunate that this happens.

I suspect there are some moderate members of the Conservative Party, even some who are in the House today, who in their heart of hearts believe what I'm saying and know that what I'm saying rings true, even some who have worked for previous Conservative members and who are Conservatives with compassion, who are true commonsense Conservatives; the best word, the "commonsense."


Mr Bradley: But now we have the Reform right-wingers like the member for Etobicoke-Humber, who sits there and barks right-wing epithets left and right, and others.

I look, for instance, at the Minister of Labour. The Minister of Labour is here this afternoon. She was the chair of I believe the Waterloo board of education. The word I heard when she was the chair and other governments were in power was that she did a good job. They said: "You know, Elizabeth Witmer is a Conservative, but she's a good person. She believes in the education system." And here she is today in the House, part of a rabidly right-wing government that I can't believe she supports in its education policy.

I remember my good friend, Dianne Cunningham, the member for London North, having her feet cut off at the ankles by the Premier one day. I think it speaks of what you people are all about today. She came to St Catharines as the education critic. She spoke to the Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation. In fact I introduced her that night -- it was a non-partisan night -- and I was very complimentary because I thought Dianne had a lot to contribute to education as an opposition critic. I happened to be a guest there the same night and I introduced her, and she gave a good speech. Not everybody agreed with everything she said, but she was moderate, she was reasonable, she was commonsense and she had a lot of empathy for the people who deliver education on the front line.

Unfortunately, the same day the Premier was in the city, but he wasn't speaking to the public school teachers' federation, he was speaking to the Rotary Club, and the message was far different for the Rotary Club than it was for these other people. Dianne Cunningham had the Conservative blueprint for education and she presented what she thought was the Conservative policy. I thought she was moderate and I thought she made a good case. I didn't necessarily agree with everything she said, but I thought she presented well for the Conservative Party that I knew. But that same day the Premier was there with those little asides about "those people in education, those teachers" and all of this, and of course he got applause from certain people -- not everybody in that group, but certain people -- who don't like people in the public sector, who think that people in the public sector are useless to our society.

Dianne Cunningham, the member for London North, represented that day the Conservative Party I know and have respected; though I've been in opposition to it, I have respected it. But Premier Harris, as leader of the Conservative Party, represented the new, rabidly right-wing Reform Party and its attitude.

That's what's reflected in this bill. It's not that everything you do in education is wrong. Some of it came from some commissions and some of it you have seen other governments involved in, so not everything you do is wrong. It's just that it's so vicious today and you're moving so rapidly and without looking at the ramifications of what you're doing.

I lament the fact that we have this legislation before us. I know there are people out there afraid now, people who have served for a long time. I know there are young teachers out there who are eager to work with young people. It's a challenge, I'll tell you, a lot tougher challenge today than it was before, because there are many more difficulties that the students experience today coming into the education system and it's a much more complex job to have. These people are eager out there to work in this system, to work with our young people, to make them productive and good people in our society as they come through our education system, to foster a positive self-image, to look to the future with some optimism. Instead we see a government that simply is going to slash wildly.

While you've taken the education system off the local property tax -- by the way, that's something that's going to be pretty stable, if not declining because of declining enrolment, and you've dumped on to the municipalities areas that are either uncertain or that are bound to cost a lot more money. Then the Premier, when the local people complain, calls them whiners. I think the people are not whiners when they complain locally; they are very legitimate in what they're saying.

This is all in the context of the hospitals, just as the 6,000 people in Grimsby, the 3,000 people in Fort Erie, the 2,000 in Port Colborne and the hundreds and thousands across the Niagara Peninsula are protesting over the loss of their hospitals because they know the Premier said, "I can guarantee I have no plans to close hospitals." They remember that. I asked the Premier that question this afternoon. I didn't need a supplementary. The Premier gave me the answer. He's not going to keep that promise, and he's not going to keep the promise not to adversely impact the classroom with these cuts either.


Why are we doing it? For a tax cut. I know that's popular. Listen, if you ask people out there, "Would you like a tax cut?" most of them will say, "Yes, I'd love a tax cut." But if you said to them, "You're going to lose your hospitals and your education system in the classroom itself is going to be adversely impacted and you're going to lose a lot of service, and when you travel on the road you're not going to have the same degree of service in winter maintenance and a number of other services," almost invariably those people will say, "In that case, I want you to spend the money efficiently, I want you to spend it effectively, but no, we don't need this tax cut," particularly where you're going to have to borrow $5 billion a year and add to the debt, because you have interest on that, add to the debt to give a tax cut.

The very rich will like it, because they're going to get a lot of money; 60% of it is going to go to the very rich people in our province, so they may applaud, and they will be able to buy their services.


Mr Bradley: What the member for Etobicoke-Humber, who interjects, is really saying is that there should be one rule for the rich and the privileged and one rule for the rest. That's exactly what it's about it, you see, because rich and privileged people can buy themselves a good education. They can go to private schools, they can go to private hospitals, and if necessary they can go to the United States if they need the service. All those people out there don't mind this. They can take that tax cut and spend it as they see fit. The member from Rexdale smiles, because I think he knows in his heart of hearts that I'm right when I say that.

How is this debate to come about when you're running television ads at the taxpayers' expense, costing millions of dollars? How are we supposed to have a proper debate in this province when Conrad Black owns 58 of 104 major newspapers? He was here. He was here for the swearing-in of the Lieutenant Governor, the friend of the Conservative Party, Conrad Black. What is he doing in the various newspapers now? He's firing people out the door and putting right-wing ideologues in. They just hired two people at the Ottawa Citizen, I saw the other day. Here's the qualifications: One is 28 years old; previous experience, two years as a researcher for Mike Harris and, previous to that, the Fraser Institute. Then I saw another one come in: two years' previous experience with the Reform Party as a researcher and, previously, the Fraser Institute. Conrad Black and his friend Radler, his henchman who does all the work, they say: "Oh, we don't bother with that. We're just running the business end."

That's why we can't have a proper debate on the key issues of the day, because you are robbing the airwaves from the people and you have Conrad Black doing your bidding elsewhere.

This bill is bad policy and it should be defeated, and we intend to oppose it in our party.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I enjoyed listening to the dissertation from the member for St Catharines. He always brings an interesting point of view to the debate.

What I was really pleased for him to speak about is what the real agenda is in what the Conservative government is doing here. Let's not kid ourselves. The province is taking over the financing of public education. Why are they doing that? Very simply, it's because they want to get their hands on the entire pie so that down the road they're able to make the fundamental changes to education that they want to make in the province. If school boards were to control a certain portion of the funding and school boards were to have some political control over education, the province would have problems trying to make changes like introducing private charter schools in Ontario. The government would have problems in introducing a whole bunch of initiatives to privatize services within the school boards if they didn't control the schools entirely.

That's why the government is going out and saying, "We want to take over education and take over the financing." They are doing it because the Conservative ideologues around Mike Harris and his caucus are saying, "We want to take over education because we don't like our present system of public education." The government wants to change it so that it fits its view about what education should be: a good system of education partly funded by the public sector but offset by the private sector where rich kids can go, and another system for the rest of us. I'm not an alarmist in saying that is exactly where this government is going with public education.

The fact of the matter is that the Minister of Education and Training, upon being sworn into cabinet, said, "I want to create a crisis within education so that I can effect the kinds of changes I want to effect in the Ministry of Education so that it fits the Conservative ideological dream," which is a system that is publicly funded but augmented by the private sector so that they can run private charter schools so that kids with money get a good education and that kids who don't get a not very good education. I, as a New Democrat, won't stand for that.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): One of the things my colleague the member for St Catharines pointed out in his very important remarks on this bill, which I think should be noted, is the unprecedented advertising campaign that the people of this province and, I understand now, internationally will be subjected to.

Never before in the history of this province has the Premier gone on television in ads paid for by the provincial government which are clearly partisan propaganda and which are clearly designed to lull the people of this province into a false sense of security. The ads, and I have seen them and I agree with my colleague, do not give anybody a real understanding of the policies this government is proposing, of what it is doing. The ads are simplistic and they run on the principle that if you keep it simple, people will respond and feel comfortable.

That runs contrary to all the things I believe in. I believe that part of participatory democracy and the democratic process requires that people have facts, that they have information and that they are given that information in a fair and impartial way so that they can be encouraged to participate in the debate and give consent to the government for its plans.

It is wrong. It is absolutely contrary to all the beliefs of encouraging individual citizens to participate in democratic debate when what you do is a deliberate attempt to lull people into believing that they have nothing to be concerned about.

I find the ads, which are being paid for by the people of this province, to be an offence to democracy and an insult to the people of this province. I don't believe they will be fooled.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): As usual the member for St Catharines speaks with great passion. I know how anxious he was to speak this afternoon. He wanted to get on the record on this issue and speak to Bill 104. He knows how strong the opposition is out in the province among teacher groups, among trustee groups and particularly among parent groups to what this government is doing with this bill.

It is extremely important, I think, for us to take heed of the concerns the member for St Catharines has raised because he is reflecting what most of us are hearing in our constituency offices from people who are there.

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): That's not a fact.

Mrs Boyd: There are those among the members of the opposition who claim that's not the case. I can assure the member for Brant-Haldimand that this is the case in my riding. The member for St Catharines is well aware that it's the case in his.

This is not an esoteric argument about cutting bureaucracy. What happens in Bill 104 is that the power of the remaining bureaucracy will be enormous, because the only information that so few trustees will be able to get will depend entirely on the willingness and ability of the bureaucrats to bring that information forward. Their ability to represent their constituents -- the students, the parents, the community members -- is greatly lessened because their numbers will be lessened and because the way they are going to be elected, given the kinds of limitations this bill puts on them, is definitely counter to the kind of representation that communities have had in the governance of education in the past.

The member for St Catharines has certainly brought a number of issues, including the issue of false advertising, to our attention this afternoon, and I commend him.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to respond to the member for St Catharines's comments on Bill 104. I was caught by his comments with respect to the member for Waterloo North, the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer, and the member for London North, the Honourable Dianne Cunningham. Indeed they were the co-chairs of the Blueprint for Learning, a document in which the then Conservative caucus examined education throughout Ontario. The report, I believe, formed a very important basis for many of the policies being brought in today.

I think the whole issue on education and the changes in education are not new in Ontario. In fact, the member who just resigned from the New Democratic Party, David Cooke, has a long history of knowing that education -- and the correct changes. We want changes that are sensitive to the needs of students.

In my riding of Durham East I speak regularly with those who I believe are very good directors of education. The director of the Durham board, Grant Yeo, and the director of the Durham separate board, Grant Andrews, are working very hard, under very difficult circumstances, I might add, to make sure that quality education and our children's future are in the right hands. I think these are difficult changes, but they're changes that are long overdue. Most people here who are sensitive to education don't blame any of this on the students, they don't blame it on teachers; the system just has become a little bit paralysed.

I want to mention Dick Malowney. He's another great director of education in Northumberland and Clarington, working through some very difficult challenges. They worked towards the amalgamation with the Peterborough board. I know they're going to do their very best, that they have the interests of students at heart. I have a great deal of trust that these changes are required, that they are difficult and that we have to work together. I don't think having confrontation helps students one bit. I look forward to supporting this bill.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for St Catharines has two minutes to respond.

Mr Bradley: I appreciate the comments of each of the members. I like this exercise of being able to respond. I want to say to the member for London Centre that indeed she has pointed out one area that I talked about, and she was quite correct in saying that the real winner in this is the bureaucracy. You've got fewer politicians and you can go out and brag about that, but the bureaucracy will now run it, because the fewer elected representatives you have, the more you have to put the power in the hands of the bureaucracy. They'll feed the information to you.

Mrs Boyd: Both provincially and locally.

Mr Bradley: Both provincially and locally.

I say to the member for Durham East that I appreciate his reference to Elizabeth Witmer and Dianne Cunningham, as they were known in their previous incarnations. I somehow think that the present policy of the government doesn't quite reflect what they had in mind when they developed this particular document, because it has changed substantially. These are more moderate people. Some days people in the opposition may criticize them, but they're part of the more moderate wing of the Conservative Party, I might add.

My friend from Oriole mentioned that the advertising is a big issue, and it is. More and more I'm getting people out there saying, "Am I paying for those ads every time I see the Premier's face on television?" Unfortunately I have to tell them that they are.

Peter Preston, who is now the member for Brant-Haldimand, is from Grimsby. He would have known many of the people who were out at that meeting last night, over 6,000 strong, denouncing the government over hospital cuts. That was a made-in-Toronto report, not a made-in-Niagara report, because it took into account the $44-million cut in hospital funding for the Niagara region.

I lament the extent of this bill. I don't say the government shouldn't look at all its policies, all the past policies. I think this bill has gone too far, too fast.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I want to thank all members of the House for giving unanimous consent for our caucus to defer our leadoff. I want to take the opportunity now to present my remarks as critic for the New Democratic Party in this debate on Bill 104. I will be speaking at length and taking the opportunity to use the 90 minutes provided under the rules for leadoff remarks on pieces of legislation as important as this.

I must say at the outset that I am not happy that we are debating this legislation today. The reason is that I believe we must have a commitment from this government that makes real the remarks made by the Minister of Education and Training in this Legislative Assembly in question period a week or two ago. That was during mega-week.

The minister made his announcement on a Monday, downtown at Enoch Turner, the first school to provide free education to people in Ontario. Subsequent to that he travelled to London and spoke to the chamber of commerce in London. I find it somewhat passing strange that if he wanted to talk about education, he would not be talking to parents or students or teachers or trustees, but rather he chose to speak to the chamber. But I'm sure the chamber is interested in education.

I was in London that same week, as a matter of fact, and I spoke to parents and students, teachers and trustees, as well as other members of the general public about education, and they spoke to me and gave me a lot of information about what's happening as a result of the cuts this government has made to grants in education.

At any rate, to get back to the minister, the minister said, in answer to a question from me about his remarks to the chamber of commerce in London, that the boundaries set out on the maps that were published at the time the minister made his announcement were not necessarily final. He had said to the chamber in London that there might be changes. I wanted him to confirm that, because obviously if there might be changes to the boundaries that are proposed in London, Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin, there might be changes to other boundaries set out in those maps. The minister did confirm that there could be changes.

That then means we are really going to have to have extensive hearings across Ontario, because I'm sure there are going to be many groups -- parents, teachers, trustees, members of the public -- that are going to say, "We're in favour of amalgamation of boards and the lowering of the total number of boards, but we don't necessarily agree with the exact boundaries you've proposed," or for that matter, "We don't agree with the proposal that this board be amalgamated with that board instead of some other board."

I suspect there may be some in Elgin county, for instance, who might say, "We're not necessarily in favour of being amalgamated with London and Middlesex and Oxford." I know there are some in London who will say, "We expected we might likely be amalgamated with Middlesex, but we didn't expect to be amalgamated with Oxford and Elgin." Obviously we're going to have to get out into Elgin county and London and Middlesex and Oxford to hear what the people have to say about these boundaries.

If that applies to that particular amalgamation, it's going to apply in every other one that is proposed under Bill 104. This is going to mean extensive hearings, yet at this point we do not have a commitment from the government that we will have those kinds of extensive hearings. We don't really know how many weeks of hearings the government is going to propose. We have had some preliminary discussions, but they're only preliminary.


I'll tell you quite frankly, Speaker, as I know you are finding this a very interesting presentation, that I and my caucus were prepared to disrupt the proceedings of the House today. That's one of the tools that members of the opposition, whether they be Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat, have found over the years they have to use in order to squeeze concessions from a majority government.

I know you won't remember, Speaker, because you weren't here, but I remember the then leader of the third party, the now Premier of the province, getting up and reading out the names of just about every lake, river and creek in Ontario into the record, for hours at a time. That was the member for Nipissing. I know why he did it. He did it because he was opposed to a piece of legislation that the government then, the New Democratic Party government, was bringing forward and he wanted to hold things up and he wanted to ensure that we as a government agreed to hearings on the particular piece of legislation.

The rules do not allow for that kind of idiotic approach any more, because we can't get up and read the names of every street in Ontario or every lake or river into the record. For instance, on Bill 104, we could not get up and read the names of every school in Ontario into the record as a way of stopping debate.

Interjection: Well, we can use points of order.

Mr Wildman: Points of order are quite in order, I point out. I heard a member from the other side saying, "Well, we can use points of order." It may be instructive to the members opposite to know that the only way anyone in this House can raise a point of order that is in fact a point of order is if something is out of order.

The members will know that for some reason known only to the government, this government has been very derelict in its responsibility in terms of answering written questions on the order paper. If they had answered the written questions on the order paper, then members of the opposition or anyone else in the Legislature would not be able to get up and raise a point of order because they hadn't answered the questions; they would have answered them. All the government has to do is answer the questions. Then we couldn't get up on points of order about it not answering the questions. In that particular regard, the government is the author of its own misfortune.

Mrs Boyd: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The government is indeed the author of its own misfortune. There is no quorum in the House.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Would you please check if there is a quorum in the House.

Acting Clerk Assistant (Mr Todd Decker): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Acting Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Algoma.

Mr Wildman: I'm indebted to my friend the member for London Centre for drawing this matter to the attention of the Speaker, particularly because -- I know it may be out of order, Speaker, but I hope you'll indulge me if I point out that neither the Minister of Education and Training nor either one of his two parliamentary assistants was in the House when the quorum call was made. One is now here.

Mr Preston: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe it's improper for a member to draw attention to anybody who is absent, and I would request that he retract that.

The Deputy Speaker: The member is right. The member for Algoma, you're an old pro.

Mr Wildman: That's right. I just wanted to point out that when it is in the interests of the government to raise points of order, they seem to do that --

Mrs Boyd: That's right, and no hesitation.

Mr Wildman: -- and with no hesitation, so they shouldn't object to us raising points of order when it's in our interest to raise points of order.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Algoma, let's continue the debate now. Let's make sure we continue the debate.

Mr Wildman: I guess that was just a lesson in the way things work around here, that if it's in your interest to call a point of order to the floor, then you do it, and you shouldn't object to us doing it when you give us the opportunity.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): How come there are so many empty seats behind you?

Mrs Boyd: It's not our job to keep quorum.

Mr Wildman: It's the government's responsibility to keep a quorum in the House. It has always been the government's responsibility to keep quorum.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Algoma, speak to me.

Mr Wildman: Speaker, I know that you're aware that it's the government's responsibility to keep a quorum in the House.

As a matter of fact, as I was saying, we as a caucus were quite prepared to prevent this matter from coming before the House until we had a commitment from the government that there would be extensive hearings. There must be extensive hearings to deal with these matters raised by Bill 104. At this point, we have no commitment on hearings.


Mr Wildman: One of the members seems to think we do. I think he's referring to Bill 103, not Bill 104. We don't have any commitment on hearings in this House on this matter, and we should.

What does Bill 104 do? It proposes to make significant changes in the educational governance in Ontario as part of an overall restructuring of municipal governance. It is the most significant change in the way local authorities are chosen, elected, and the ways in which they carry out their responsibility that we've seen in Ontario in over 100 years. This is a very significant period in the history of this province.

I know members of the party supporting the government understand that. That's why it's called mega-week -- not just because there was an announcement about the megacity in Toronto, but because there were a significant number of announcements during that week that affect school boards and municipalities right across Ontario, that affect their relationship with their ratepayers, their relationship with the community and their relationship with the provincial government, and vice versa.

I want to make certain that everyone understands a couple of things. The New Democrats in Ontario are in favour of the removal of education from the residential property tax. That is something that not only we but other parties in the House have advocated for a long time. We are not opposed to that, but the problem we've got is that when we looked at this we saw that this was going to be an enormous cost at a time when there were serious difficulties in terms of the budget.

The reason we did not proceed is that we did not want to do what this government is prepared to do, and that is to transfer a number of other soft services from the provincial level -- the cost and the responsibility for them -- to the municipal level. This is not a savings for the residential property taxpayers. There will be a shortfall which will probably result in an increase in their taxation.

If the Minister of Municipal Affairs were in fact suggesting, in exchange for taking education off the property tax, hard services -- such as some of the provincial roads that the government is talking about transferring, water and sewer, even policing, I suppose -- that relate to property and property values, and that was it, then that would be something we would consider supporting. But on top of those transfers, this government is also proposing to transfer the cost of social assistance and in a completely unprecedented way the cost of health care -- public health, ambulance services and extended care -- to the property tax.


This is unprecedented in Canada. It has never been suggested by anyone, to this point. While all sorts of people have advocated the removal of education from the property tax, not one that I'm aware of, before this particular government came up with this idea in the last couple of weeks, has proposed that public health and long-term care should be funded from the property tax.

This is a very neat trick; that's what it is. The government has taken education, which is very predictable in terms of costs and probably quite stable -- it may actually go down a bit as we see declining enrolment -- to the provincial responsibility and has transferred a very unpredictable cost, which is going to grow substantially over the next few years, to the municipalities, to the property taxpayers.

Social service costs are unpredictable. If there's an economic downturn, they will go up substantially. They're going down now, but we know there are cyclical downturns just about once every decade. There have been ever since the Second World War. If that happens, the economic situation will mean that there will be fewer jobs, that people will be out of work and that they will be dependent on social assistance. Those numbers will climb substantially, and the municipalities do not have the tax room that a provincial government has to meet that demand. The municipalities are dependent on the property tax.

With long-term care this is really insidious. What we see is that the population, the bulge in the population, is now in its late forties. Over the next 20 years a very large percentage of the population is going to be over 65. The cost of long-term care is going to climb exponentially. That is being transferred to the municipalities, to the property taxpayers. This is not a good deal for property taxpayers at all.

Education costs about $5.4 billion on the property tax. Sometimes the minister and other ministers in the government say it's $6.2 billion. I think they came up with that figure by guesstimating what it might be by the year 2000. Anyway, right now it costs $5.4 billion. That's being removed from the property tax. When you add up all the other transfers to municipalities in exchange it isn't a wash, as the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is wont to say; in fact there's a $1-billion shortfall. About $6.4 billion is being transferred to the property tax in exchange for removing $5.4 billion.

This government is saddling property taxpayers with an enormous bill in the guise of a fair exchange. It won't become obvious for a couple of years, maybe not until after the turn of the century. It's perhaps not quite as obvious as what the government did with the farm tax rebate, in saddling rural municipalities with a $170-million bill, because they've now said they will eliminate the farm tax rebate and just have farmers pay 25%, as they've always paid since it came in. Obviously the municipalities aren't going to get the other 75% and they're going to have to make it up someplace; a $170-million bill being turned over to rural, residential and business taxpayers in rural municipalities.

My good friend the member for S-D-G & East Grenville had a hard time keeping a straight face when he made that announcement in the House. He winked at me and said, "Don't you wish you'd thought of this?" It's a pretty neat trick. I'm not sure rural municipalities and rural municipal leaders are going to be too happy about this, but then, this is all part of a piece.

Many people in Ontario are in favour of reducing the number of school boards. As a matter of fact, our government initiated the Sweeney report, appointed John Sweeney, a former Liberal cabinet minister and a former director of education in the Catholic school system, to study the situation and to come up with a proposal for reducing the number of school boards in Ontario. But this bill is part of this mega-week set of announcements that are going to transfer, as I said, the burden of taxes to the property tax in a way that no one could have anticipated and is also, apparently, going to take away local accountability at the same time, and local autonomy is also going to be affected.

What this Bill 104 is really about is taking control of the education system by the Ministry of Education and Training, taking complete control over funding and spending decisions and curriculum and taking it away from local authorities.

There was a time when the Progressive Conservative Party, as it used to be called in this province, used to tout local autonomy, local decision-making. I can remember the Honourable Darcy McKeough -- we used to call him the Duke of Kent -- used to get up here and make long speeches about local autonomy and how we had to ensure that local communities had control of their own affairs, whether it be municipal services or education.

But what Bill 104 does is reverse that for education. It takes complete control to the minister. The minister has been quite frank about this. He has said one of the reasons the government is proceeding in this way is because boards of education did not follow his game plan.

In 1996, when the Minister of Education took $400 million away from education, he said he didn't want boards to make up the difference of their losses in grants through property tax increases. He didn't make that some sort of edict, just said he didn't want them to do it. But he found that some boards -- not all, but some boards -- did increase their mill rates somewhat, not to make up the whole loss they had experienced in grants, but they did increase their mill rates somewhat. The Minister of Education and Training, the Honourable John Snobelen, has made it very clear that he was displeased with that, that it wasn't part of the program, and because boards couldn't be trusted not to raise taxes, he had to take the power they had to do that away from them. That's what Bill 104 is about. It's not me saying it; he said it himself.

This is a bill that is about power, about control. It is a bill that says the ministry must have complete control over every decision that really matters in education and that local trustees will really not have much say any more. They certainly won't have any say with regard to curriculum and they will have very little say when it comes to determining how the budgets are going to be arrived at and how the expenditures are going to be made.

This is a complete denial of what the Progressive Conservative Party used to stand for: local autonomy, local people getting together and electing their representatives to make their decisions locally. They'll still be able to elect trustees, but the trustees won't have any say. The minister has been quite clear about that. He wants to have more say for school councils; he doesn't want the trustees to have much say any more.


Because of this inequitable financial tradeoff with regard to the property tax, the offloading of social services and long-term care in particular to the property tax from the province, and the disregard in Bill 104 for democratic processes and principles, we are opposed to this legislation. It's part of a piece, part of a restructuring that is going to be rammed through by this government whether or not the people of the communities it affects are in favour. For those reasons, we're opposed to this.

The Minister of Education and Training attempts to justify this by saying it's going to save money. He points to the KPMG study that says it will save approximately $150 million. That $150 million is saved because there will be fewer trustees and there will be fewer administrators, approximately 1,700 administrators going down to 700 or 800.

I think we should bring a bit of a note of reality to this. Members of the assembly are aware that about $13 billion in total is spent on education annually in Ontario. That includes what is now on the property tax, it includes the grants from the ministry and it includes also the expenditures by the Metropolitan Toronto School Board and the Ottawa Board of Education that don't get grants.

What percentage is a $150-million saving of $13 billion? That's a lot of money, $150 million, but what percentage is that of the total spent on education in Ontario? The arithmetic isn't difficult. It works out to about 1.15%. It can hardly be that the minister is saying he's doing this because it's going to save a lot of money. It's only going to save a little over 1%.

It's dangerous when you start talking about numbers when you're dealing with education, though, because if $150 million is about 1.15%, how is it that the $400 million that the minister took out of education grants last year is, as he says, only 1.8%? Well, of course we know that the $400 million is not a 1.8% cut; it's much more than that. For some reason the minister continues to say it is only 1.8%, but it is much more than that.

Mr Peter Wright, a financial person from the Ministry of Education and Training, a civil servant, who doesn't make political arguments, answered the question quite directly on behalf of the minister in the Ministry of Education and Training estimates in the estimates committee. He said, "No, a $400-million cut is about 5.5%," not 1.8%, as the minister and the Premier keep saying.

Bill 104 establishes new district school boards and a transition process without any provision for the new role for boards in relation to the management of schools, financial decision-making or other issues. It also tampers with the principle of representation by population on school boards that is currently enshrined in the Education Act. Under Bill 104, this will simply be dealt with by regulation; it's not in the bill.

I know there are a lot of rural people who are seeing their boards amalgamated with adjacent urban boards and who are worried about this. I'll give you an example in my own area. In Algoma district all of the boards, except for the Hornepayne board in the far north, are going to be amalgamated with the Sault Ste Marie board. Sault Ste Marie District Roman Catholic Separate School Board and all of the other separate school boards, the North Shore, Michipicoten, are going to be amalgamated. It covers an area of about 40,000 square miles, not a small area.

Recently, after the minister's announcement, the director of education for the Sault Ste Marie District Roman Catholic Separate School Board said that in this new board 85% of the students are from the city, so that means if you have seven trustees, at the most only one or two will be from outside the city. That's worrisome. What about the people in all of those communities across Algoma district? How are they going to be properly represented in discussions by the board? And I'm sure that's the case in counties across southern Ontario.

There will be people living in the urban area, there will be administrators, there will be trustees, there will be parents in the urban areas who will just assume, I think correctly, as I read 104, that they will have nearly all the trustees, and there will be large expanses of rural areas with schools, with students, who will not have trustees. This again is a denial of what the Progressive Conservative Party used to stand for.

I can remember debates in this place where members of the Conservative Party would get up and they would say, "We've got to preserve the role of rural Ontario, the rural communities in this province," but this is being denied by this government. It started with the changes to redistribution.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Yes, and the NDP used to be called the CCF too.

Mr Wildman: I agree that the NDP is no longer called the CCF, and this government party is no longer the Progressive Conservative Party. I think it would be more likely called Reform, or perhaps you could put an "ly" on the end of Progressive so it becomes the Progressively Conservative Party. But it certainly is not progressive and it certainly doesn't take into account the needs of rural Ontario. I represent a very large part of rural Ontario in the north and I'm proud to represent them, and I'll continue to put forward the needs of rural communities as we debate these kinds of legislation.

It's unfortunate that members of the governing party who represent rural Ontario are not also putting forward the needs of their communities.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): We are.

Mr Wildman: Well, if they are, they're not being listened to. They're not being listened to by the people who make the decisions on the front bench.

Also, this Bill 104 establishes the so-called Education Improvement Commission, which is empowered to --


The Deputy Speaker: Member for Kitchener, please.

Mr Wildman: I hear an urban member in the back here making some comments. He doesn't like the fact that the needs of rural Ontario are being put forward.

It would appear in this bill that the so-called Education Improvement Commission is going to be empowered to compel boards to contract out non-instructional services, compel outsourcing. Right there, that shows that there isn't local autonomy.


Recently I was in Cobourg and I met with the chair of the Northumberland and Clarington Board of Education, certainly not a member of my party. He is a Progressive Conservative and he expressed serious concern about this provision of Bill 104. I don't think it's out of place to repeat what he said. He said it publicly; it was before the press and the public. He said that this government was the most vicious government he had ever seen in the history of Ontario, and he said that his board has done studies about outsourcing.

Mr Preston: What's his job?

Mr Wildman: He's the chair of the board, and he's a Conservative. He said that he had studied outsourcing, the ministry had studied outsourcing.

It's interesting that this government, every time they hear about somebody who disagrees with them --


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Sudbury East.

Mr Wildman: Every time members of this government hear from someone who disagrees with them, they attack them.


Mr Wildman: I don't care where the member from Simcoe is; I'd like to debate this bill.

The chair of the Northumberland and Clarington board said they had studied outsourcing because they were looking for ways to save funds. They came to the conclusion, after an extensive study, that it doesn't save money; it's going to cost them more money.

I want to emphasize that this gentleman did not raise objection to Bill 104 on the basis of the number of trustees or, in fact, the amalgamation. His board is being amalgamated with the Peterborough board, and frankly, they're in favour of it. So perhaps members opposite should not attack someone who is opposing them on certain things before understanding what their actual position is. This chair is not opposed to amalgamating his board with the Peterborough board. He isn't even concerned, as far as I can understand, about lowering the number of trustees.

He is opposed to this requirement that the Education Improvement Commission compel boards to contract out on non-instructional service. He says that is going to cost them money, and it makes sense: Maybe you'll change this section, I hope, but if you hire private sector contractors who are in business for a profit, which is why they're in business, they are going to charge you more than you can do it for in-house. That's why custodial services, secretarial services, accounting services, those kinds of things, for that board at least, are cheaper in-house.

Buried in the responsibilities of the Education Improvement Commission is a hidden agenda for this government. I believe it is the privatization of education in this province, and the first step is the outsourcing of non-instructional services. I believe we're moving towards a voucher system which will have each student costing a certain amount and that money then following that student no matter where that student goes to school. We will end up with public funds going into the private school system. An interim step will be charter schools, and then we're headed, I think, for the complete privatization not only of non-instructional services but also the teaching services that are provided by boards of education.

I also want to raise in this debate some concerns I have about the Education Improvement Commission's powers under this bill, which are quite extensive, powers over what the boards can do.

It might be suggested that it's unusual that New Democrats might be opposed to this legislation because, as I said earlier, we did initiate the Sweeney study on amalgamation of boards. I want to make quite clear that, as I said, we are not opposed to lowering the number of boards in Ontario as long as the needs of the local communities are met properly. I have some serious problems with the final report from Mr Sweeney, however. Initially, Mr Sweeney came forward with --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe we have a quorum in the House.

The Deputy Speaker: Could you please count the number of members.

Acting Clerk Assistant: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Acting Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Algoma, you have the floor.

Mr Wildman: I'm pleased that so many members have rushed back in to hear my remarks.

I said I had some difficulties with the final report of Mr Sweeney. Initially, Mr Sweeney came forward with a report that would have reduced the number of boards by about 50%. Then the new government, the Conservative government, asked him to go back and look at some other matters, specifically how much money was spent outside of the classroom, to come up with a definition for classroom expenditures.

Mr Sweeney came back with a report that said 47% of all expenditures were spent outside the classroom, but what was problematic was his definition of what was classroom instruction. He did not include in "classroom instruction" junior kindergarten, adult education, teacher preparation, principals, vice-principals, all the support staff, custodial services. He didn't include the assistants who do things like give remedial help to students who need it. He didn't include special staff who give assistance like speech pathology, audiology, psychological assistance, all of those things. He included those as administrative. That's a false division. All of those services are provided to assist students to achieve. They are therefore classroom expenditures.

Some people might say, "Why do you include custodial services as part of that?" Obviously, custodians clean the schools. They keep the schools safe. They do repairs. That adds to the educational environment of the students. If we have a dirty school that is in disrepair, that affects the learning environment for students adversely. So I'm very concerned about that final report and I want to indicate clearly that we will not be supporting this legislation.

I'd like to deal in some specifics about the bill. Bill 104 introduces new definitions for district school boards, English public and separate and French public and separate, and school authorities, existing isolate boards and provincial schools.

I must say there's one thing I do agree with that this government has done in opposition to what Mr Sweeney proposed. This government, in deciding on amalgamation, has not included the isolate boards in the new amalgamated boards. They are keeping the isolate boards separate and are going to establish so-called school authorities. I agree that it would not have made any sense to include most of the isolate boards -- maybe some of them -- in the new amalgamated boards. As a result of the amalgamations proposed in the map the minister published when he made his announcement, school boards in northern Ontario are going to cover enormous geographic areas. If they had included the isolate boards as well, they would have been even larger and more unmanageable.


As it is, the geographic areas that are being covered in northern Ontario are such that it's going to make it impossible for trustees who are elected under this new system, if the boundaries remain as they are proposed, to attend meetings. One of the school boards that is proposed goes from Hornepayne all the way along Highway 11 to Timmins and down towards North Bay. It would take seven hours to drive one way from Hornepayne to where the board will probably have its meetings -- seven hours one way.

Mr O'Toole: Why don't they just have it in the schools?

Mr Wildman: Then it would take seven hours for the people in the other area to travel to them.


The Deputy Speaker: There's a period after the speech which is called questions and comments. You could wait for that.

Mr Wildman: It appears that the member, who's from southern Ontario, is actually trying to learn about northern Ontario, so I appreciate the question. If it takes seven hours to drive from one community to the other, if he's suggesting that they have the meeting in that community, it will take seven hours for the people from the other community to drive there.

It has been suggested by the government that perhaps they could use teleconferencing so they wouldn't have to travel these long distances. The government, as I understand it, has been in touch with Bell Canada and asked them if they can provide the equipment to make teleconferencing for school board meetings possible across northern Ontario. I understand that Bell has said yes, that if the government is prepared to give them the money, to invest the money, in two years they could have all the boards covered with equipment that would allow for teleconferencing. So we're going to invest all this money, apparently, pay Bell Canada to install digital equipment and all the other equipment required for teleconferencing and within two years we will be able to have meetings where people will be looking at each other on television and talking to each other back and forth over long distances.

I'm not necessarily opposed to teleconferencing, but if the board is centred in Timmins and most of the students are from Timmins, won't most of the trustees be from Timmins? They will be at their meeting, and you might have one or two trustees from communities a long distance away, maybe Hearst or Kapuskasing, and they will be sitting there with their equipment, trying to intervene in the discussion among all the people in the meeting in Timmins, trying to put forward the concerns for the people from all the schools that are outside of Timmins, over that great expanse of territory.

Well, good luck. If we have a period of declining enrolment and there's a suggestion that perhaps some of the schools might close, you can bet in that kind of scenario they aren't going to close in Timmins. They're going to close in the outlying areas, in the outlying communities, and they'll bus people over long distances, or they may, because of the distances involved, not be able to bus them; they may have to board them in the city so they can attend school. So much for the concerns of the small communities.

This Bill 104 also sets limits on how many trustees a board can have and who will be eligible to run for office. The number being put forward is five to seven, except of course in Toronto, which is going to have an enormous number of students and schools included in one board, and they will be allowed about 22 trustees.

Now, that's the point. If you only allow five to seven trustees on a board and these boards are covering enormous geographic expanses, most of the communities in that large geographic area are not going to have a trustee; they won't have any representation. Yet as I understood it, the Progressive Conservative Party in the past has been interested in preserving local communities, strengthening communities and ensuring that there is local autonomy and accountability in communities. Bill 104 doesn't allow for that. I hope the rural members opposite are putting forward these concerns in caucus.

The bill also establishes, as I've said, the Education Improvement Commission, so-called, which will oversee the amalgamation of the current boards of education. In other jurisdictions there have been amalgamations. I've heard the members of the government in the House refer to Alberta and also to British Columbia. In both of those jurisdictions there were far fewer boards in the first place, and of course when they eliminated boards and amalgamated boards there were far fewer boards being eliminated. In British Columbia, however, the process took three years. As I understand it, the result is something that most people can live with and are happy with, but they took three years to do it.

This government, because of its agenda, is determined that this will be in place by January 1, 1998 -- a far greater number of boards involved, a far greater number of collective agreements that have to be dealt with, far more people, far more students, far more schools, seniority lists that are very complicated, trying to deal with assets and debts for various boards and working all that process out. This government wants to do all that in a matter of months, so the Education Improvement Commission has been given enormous powers under this bill.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Dave Cooke will look after it.

Mr Wildman: I hope he does. I hope Ann Vanstone does as well. Ann Vanstone is a Conservative who, just a week before the announcement was made that she and Dave Cooke were going to be appointed, was threatening to sue the government over this Bill 104.

Mr Gerretsen: Maybe that's why they appointed her.

Mr Wildman: She was the chair of the Toronto board and is very experienced and knows these matters, and so does Dave Cooke. I'm not concerned so much about who's there but what is being proposed by the government and why they are taking control. Why is it the government is taking control of education? It's because they want to take $1 billion out of education. That's the reason. To be fair, the minister has been quite straight about that. He said that. I'm not critical of him; he's quite upfront about it. He wants to take $1 billion out of education, $1 billion on top of the $400 million they took out in 1996. He said they won't take it out in 1997 but cuts will begin again in 1998.


How are they going to do this? We're told that there are going to be changes in the funding formula for students in Ontario. We expect this announcement will be made by the Minister of Education as part of this whole process sometime this month.

I understand also that the government may be interested in having some consultation about that change and may be going to get into some sort of process which will allow input from people across the province. I hope they will do that. But they want to have it in place before the end of June.

We also are told that many issues arising out of the work of the Education Improvement Commission will be dealt with in that bill, the bill that will bring in the new funding formula. The way it's going to work is that the Ministry of Education will determine what core educational services each student needs. They will then calculate how much it costs to provide those services. I'm not sure if they're going to do that on a province-wide basis or if they're going to do it regionally, but at any rate, they're going to come up with a figure. That will determine what the allocation is; simply by determining how many students a board has, that will determine how much money each board gets.

I suppose if a board in the future wants to provide services other than those core services, they may be able to do that, but they won't get any more money from the government; there won't be an additional allocation. They will have to take the money for those other services out of the basic allocation, so it means cutting other services.

It's something like the way the government treated junior kindergarten. The government said: "Junior kindergarten won't be funded at 100%. We're cutting the funding for junior kindergarten and we're making it optional for boards. If the boards want to provide junior kindergarten, they can, but they're not going to get the money." So what happened? Many boards that were not too much in favour of junior kindergarten said, "Okay, we're not going to provide it," and those that did want to continue junior kindergarten programs that they already had in place had to cut those programs and change them substantially. Many of the junior kindergarten programs changed from a half-day every day during the week to a full day every other day. In some cases, they were amalgamated with senior kindergarten programs. The number of students in each junior kindergarten went up substantially. The number of aides that junior kindergarten teachers had was cut substantially.

That's what's going to happen in this scenario, because the government is determined to take another $1 billion out of education as part of this overall process.

There's another piece of legislation coming, and we don't know what it's going to say or when it's going to come; that is, changes to teacher collective bargaining in the province. If the government is taking nearly all the power and responsibility away from boards in terms of funding and expenditures, I suppose it's not surprising that it also intends to change teacher collective bargaining. We've heard musings from the minister and from some of the government backbenchers that maybe we should take the right to strike away from teachers and maybe we should even have province-wide bargaining, ignoring the fact that 97% of the contracts in the last 20 years have been negotiated without lockout or strike in Ontario and the teachers and the boards have been able to settle their agreements amicably.

Let's deal specifically with some of these parts of Bill 104. All of part VIII of the Education Act is repealed under Bill 104. Part VIII of the Education Act deals with trustee representation. It determines the number of electors, rules for determination of the number of trustees and appeals to those rulings.

It's interesting that Bill 104 leaves part VII of the Education Act in place. It deals with board members' qualifications, resignations and vacancies. The bill also says who can run and that teachers or spouses of teachers cannot run for a board. But it leaves part VII of the Education Act in place, which seems rather strange to me because of the other changes. I think if this bill passes, it's rather redundant.

The bill introduces a new part XIV, which is the establishment of a district school board and related matters.

It allows for many things to be dealt with by regulation that are not included in the bill. This is always dangerous. All of us, whether we've served in opposition or in government, understand that it is quite dangerous to allow a government simply to say, "We'll deal with this by regulation," because it makes it possible then for all sorts of changes to be brought in without proper public scrutiny and proper public input. All it means is that the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Education will come up with some proposals, they will make them to the minister and the minister will consider them. If he agrees with them, he'll take them to the cabinet. It goes to the cabinet committee on legislation and regulations and gets passed, and that's it. There is a committee of the Legislature that deals with this but they don't really look at most of the regulations that are passed by cabinet. That is quite a problem.

Let's deal with the matters that are actually included in the bill. The bill establishes district school boards and sets out the boundaries and names and areas of jurisdiction. If the minister was serious in his comments in London and here in the House, then we obviously have to have hearings on this, and they have to be extensive hearings. If people have objections to the areas or boundaries for the district school boards, then we have to get out there and hear what they have to say so that we can make changes, because the minister said that the boundaries were not necessarily final and there could be changes.

Part XIV also sets out the number of members for each board and sets out the establishment of geographic areas for electoral purposes within the areas of jurisdiction of district boards; that is, wards. It suggests it might be wards. I suppose that wards and the setting up of wards might make it possible to ensure that there are going to be rural representatives on the board, but that depends on how the wards are established. If the wards include some parts of the urban areas as well as the rural areas, it is quite possible that the urban votes in the ward will swamp the rural votes.

It also sets out the distribution of board members to the geographic area. When we had the briefing on this legislation after the minister made his announcement, we asked the members of the ministry staff what provision there was going to be to ensure that all communities were represented on a board. To our great surprise, the ministry staff said they hadn't thought of this, that it hadn't been considered. Of course it's a problem, because if you're going to limit the number of trustees to five or seven, it's impossible to ensure that all the communities are represented on the board. Why the ministry staff had not thought about that is beyond me, but apparently they hadn't.

I think this is one example of what happens when a government attempts to rush something through to get it decided very quickly, as they're doing with Bill 104. A lot of the implications and ramifications have not been properly considered and thought out.


That section of Bill 104 also deals with "the duties to be performed by the" so-called "Education Improvement Commission...relating to representation on or elections to district...boards." Interestingly enough, the bill does not allow for the dissolution of existing boards. It states that there will be no regular elections in 1997 to existing boards. Again I say, what is the rush? If you want to do this properly, why not do it the way they did in British Columbia and take two or three years to do it and ensure that it's in place for the next municipal election, not the municipal election in 1997 but the subsequent municipal election? What's the hurry? Why not do it right?

There's a very simple answer to that: The government needs to do it this year because the minister has to gain complete control of education expenditures this year, not because of anything to do with education or educational governance in Ontario but because the Minister of Finance has a problem. The Minister of Finance requires $3 billion to help pay for the tax scheme that will bring about cuts in income taxes for the top 10% of income earners in Ontario. They need $3 billion. They're not going to take all $3 billion out of education. They're going to split it up evenly in the three areas most costly to government. They are going to take a billion dollars out of health, they're going to take a billion dollars out of education and they're going to take a billion dollars out of other community services, particularly social assistance.

The minister has to have control over education expenditures this year so that by 1998 he will have control and will be able to take another billion dollars out of the education of our kids in their classrooms. That's the reason for the hurry. Otherwise it could be done in a thoughtful, serious way, looking at all the implications and ramifications and making changes where necessary to ensure that the needs of students are met right across Ontario in each one of these new boards.

But the government isn't concerned about the education of students. The government is concerned about taking a billion dollars away from their classrooms and away from their education. Nobody should be fooled that this government is preserving the education of students in classrooms and protecting educational expenditures in classrooms in Ontario. They've already hurt those educational experiences for students, and another billion dollars removed from education will mean that students will lose big time in Ontario.

I must say that in terms of representation on these boards I am very concerned that determining how many trustees will be on each board is left to regulation. This is a denial of the principle of representation by population, where people will be able to have a say directly on how the representation on boards will be determined. Instead it appears that the Education Improvement Commission will make a recommendation of how the representation will be determined and that will be it.

Let's deal with the Education Improvement Commission. As I said, part XIV establishes this new commission. It will consist of five to seven appointed members. While there is no specified term in the bill, I understand that the bill will automatically be repealed on December 31 in the year 2000, so I guess the term of the commission runs until the end of the year 2000.

The commission is to report annually to the minister, and he must table a report in the Legislature. This commission has enormous powers. It will coordinate the process related to district school board or school authority elections. It will determine how the elections take place this coming fall. It will also identify issues and make recommendations related to the establishment of French-language district school boards.

One of the supportable things in this bill is the establishment of new French-language boards in Ontario. This is required because of the commitment to provide French services where numbers warrant in Ontario and because of the constitutional decisions upheld by the Supreme Court which say that the francophone community in Ontario must have control over the governance of their schools.

I'm more than a little worried about how these new French-language boards will operate, because the areas they cover, particularly in northern Ontario but right across the province, are even greater than the enormous boards that are being proposed for the English-language schools in Ontario.

The commission will also identify issues and make recommendations related to "the distribution of the assets and liabilities of existing boards and the transfer of staff." That is quite a mouthful. How on earth is this commission going to do this in such a short time?

Every board in Ontario has different collective agreements, from setting forward levels of pay to dealing with issues like seniority and positions of responsibility. If we amalgamate these boards and get these large new boards, a lot of different collective agreements are going to have to be merged. This is going to entail an enormous amount of negotiation, I guess between the commission and the unions representing the workers, the teachers, the support staff, in all the boards. This is going to take a lot of time if it involves negotiation. If it is done by some other method, then we could be headed for serious problems.

Just the decisions around how we share reserve funds -- that is, if the government doesn't intend to somehow expropriate those reserve funds from boards -- how we deal with reserve funds and how we meet the liabilities of existing boards that will now have to be taken on by the new boards is an enormous task.

It's unfortunate that this government is determined to get $1 billion out of education in 1998 so that it has this in place by January 1, 1998. If that weren't the real agenda, then perhaps this could be done over a longer period of time in a more sensible way to ensure that these very difficult issues are dealt with in a serious, reasonable manner.

Most insidious in these powers of the Education Improvement Commission is the next one. The Education Improvement Commission must "consider, conduct research, facilitate discussion and make recommendations...on how to promote and facilitate the outsourcing of non-instructional services by district school boards." This suggests that boards may be subject to financial or other penalties if they don't agree to contract out.

What is going to happen if the chair of the Northumberland and Clarington board and his other board trustees say to the commission, "Well, we've studied outsourcing and we've found that it's going to cost our board more money, and therefore we don't want to do it"? Will the commission then impose sanctions on that board? Will the commission say that the board will lose, or will it require them to move forward even though they think it's going to cost them more money? What does this mean for the workers?


We know what the Premier thinks it means for the workers. He made a statement to the press recently in which he said the only people who are going to lose in this are Sid Ryan and his members. He was of course referring to the members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees who are represented by that union in many boards across Ontario. There are 36,000 members of CUPE who work for boards of education in Ontario, 36,000 people who live in the communities across Ontario who provide custodial services, secretarial services, who act as teaching assistants to help students with special needs. What this means for those CUPE members, those 36,000 workers, is that they're going to lose their jobs. They're going to be out of work.

I don't think that can easily be absorbed even in a large metropolitan centre, but I certainly know that in small rural communities, if you have a significant number of people with good-paying jobs, who are providing a good service, laid off, it's going to affect them and their families but it's also going to affect the business community in that town.

They're not going to have money to spend at the retail stores. They're going to be dependent first on unemployment insurance, or as it's now euphemistically called, employment insurance, and then subsequently on welfare; or they're going to have to take much lower-paying jobs to do the same work they're already doing for contractors -- unless this government provides for successor rights, and when we see the example of what they did with their own employees, OPSEU members, we know this government is not going to ensure successor rights.

What does it mean for the educational experience of the students? I can tell you there are a lot of parents in this province who are very worried about having people paid on a contract basis, at the minimum wage, carrying out the responsibilities of custodians in their schools. It's a question of safety, because there's going to be an enormous turnover in those kinds of jobs. People are not going to stay in $7- and $8-an-hour jobs if they can find other employment. They're not going to have a long-term commitment to the school. They're not going to be the extra eyes that custodians are now for the principals and vice-principals. Parents aren't going to know who is in the school. That raises really serious questions about abuse, the possibility of abuse of students.

We know that in the public education system already, that is a concern we all have, now when we know who the staff are. If we don't know who they are and if they don't have a long-term commitment to the school and to the students, it's an even more serious question. It's a question of safety.

As I said, it appears that the Education Improvement Commission is empowered to compel boards to contract out non-instructional services, and that's only the first step. After that, we're headed to privatization of the whole system. Already I understand that the separate school board in Sault Ste Marie is considering laying off all its accounting staff and hiring a contract firm from Toronto to do its accounting. I don't know, they may think it's going to save them some money, but what does it mean for the community if we lay off all those people who have good-paying jobs and have been providing a service for the community over all these years? More unemployment.

Mr O'Toole: What's the answer?

Mr Wildman: The answer is to provide good, well-paying jobs to people who can provide a service, who can provide for education in Ontario. The answer is not to contract out. The answer is not to compel boards to fire their loyal employees.

The commission is also to "conduct research, facilitate discussion and make recommendations on strengthening the role of school councils." That may sound like a good thing, but I'm afraid this government may see it as a way of leading to charter schools under the euphemism of giving parents control over education. Charter schools are simply private schools at public expense.

The commission is also to "conduct research, facilitate discussion and make recommendations on the feasibility of increasing parental involvement in school governance," which, as I said, basically means charter schools.

The commission will also "make recommendations on what measures...to strengthen the financial accountability of existing boards." What does that mean in terms of power and role of local trustees? If the boards don't have control over the educational expenditures, if they no longer have the control over taxation, setting a tax rate, how do we ensure the financial accountability? What do they have financial control over? What are they accountable for?

The most serious concern I have about the Education Improvement Commission is its relationship with existing boards and the restriction on the power of existing boards, which is similar to the trusteeship that has been installed to control Metropolitan Toronto municipalities as they move towards the megacity.

Existing boards will not be able to buy or sell property with a value of more than $50,000. They may not appoint, hire or promote any person or make severance arrangements except in accordance with existing contracts and collective agreements without the approval in advance of the Education Improvement Commission. Boards must submit their 1997 budget to the commission for approval by a set date and the commission can make changes, if necessary, before giving approval.

These are freely elected, democratically elected members of boards, elected to make decisions on education for local communities by the electors in that community. We're not talking about situations where there's been malfeasance. We're not talking about situations where boards have squandered the taxpayers' money. We're talking about freely elected, democratically elected people being told they can't exercise their powers without the approval of an appointed board appointed by the minister. What does this mean about democracy? What does it say that the votes cast in the last municipal election for these people mean?

"The decisions of the Education Improvement Commission are final and shall not be reviewed or questioned in a court." There is no appeal.

I received a letter recently from a woman named Mrs Norma Inch from Etobicoke. She says in her letter that she's concerned about the powers given to the Education Improvement Commission under this Bill 104. She says:

"The draconian powers given to the Education Improvement Commission in this new bill are, at the very least, frightening. I refer particularly to subsections 344(1), (2) and (3), whereby the Regulations Act does not apply to them. Their decisions are final and not subject to review, and the Statutory Powers Procedure Act does not apply to them. Under "Vicarious liability," subsections 346(3) and (4), they are not subject to the Proceedings Against the Crown Act and are absolved of any responsibility for any neglect and/or default arising from their actions." As she points out, "Nobody is above the law."

Why is it that the commission has to be given such far-reaching and wide powers? Why is it they are not subject to the Proceedings Against the Crown Act? Why are they not responsible for any neglect or default arising from their actions? What kinds of decisions is the commission going to be taking that requires them to be given these kinds of powers? These are very wide-sweeping.


I've made it very clear, in the few moments I've had to participate in this debate, that we don't support Bill 104, that we are not opposed to amalgamating boards, lowering the number of boards in Ontario, that we are not opposed to lowering the number of trustees on boards. But we are opposed to this government's agenda, which is to take complete control of education away from local authorities and concentrate it in a bureaucracy at Queen's Park, concentrate it in the hands of the Minister of Education and Training, who is determined to take another $1 billion out of education, starting in 1998, over the $400 million he removed from education in 1996.

The reason for that desire to take that billion dollars so quickly out of education is because this government has an agenda which is designed to compromise the democracy at the local level before the altar of a tax scheme, which is to give a significant tax break to very wealthy people on their income taxes in Ontario. I don't genuflect before the altar of that tax scheme; I'm opposed to it.

I recall the decisions that were taken on education over many years in this House. I note that education has been the centrepiece of most governments' approaches to governing in this province. Under John Robarts and Bill Davis education went through significant change in Ontario. Those changes were not rushed through in the manner that these changes are being rushed through. When Mr Davis brought in the county boards, it was very controversial. But Mr Davis wasn't determined to give a tax gift to his wealthy friends. Mr Davis cared about the education of students in their classrooms in Ontario, so he established a system which has served us well, a system that can be improved, a system that must be improved and adapted as we go into the 21st century, but a system that should not be wrecked by taking $1 billion out of it in one year, a system that should not be wrecked by compromising local autonomy and local accountability.

The Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario historically has defended the rights and concerns of people in rural Ontario as well as people in urban Ontario. They have argued in favour of local autonomy. They have argued in favour of democracy at the local level. They have argued that local authorities must be given powers and responsibilities and that they must be accountable to their electors at the local level. Bill 104 denies that. Bill 104 takes away local accountability. Bill 104 will establish boards that are very large and that will not respond to the local needs of the community. Bill 104 establishes a commission with very widespread powers that will be able to deny the rights and privileges and responsibilities of locally elected, democratically elected trustees.

Bill 104 will facilitate the establishment of centralized control over education in this province. It will allow the minister and the Ministry of Education and Training to have complete control over funding and expenditures and curriculum in Ontario. These kinds of decisions will not be made by locally elected people who are responsible to the electors in their own communities. Instead of having people who can be turfed out if they don't do a good job, we'll have a number of bureaucrats in the Ministry of Education and Training making these crucial decisions about the education of our students and our children.

For those reasons, we're opposed to this legislation. We are not opposed to change in education, but we don't think there needs to be a rush to have it in place by January 1, 1998. Why not follow the example of the western jurisdictions the minister keeps referring to, Alberta and British Columbia, where they took three years to do this, not a few months?

Mr Preston: They're different.

Mr Wildman: The member says they're different. I suppose they are different. I don't know, but the difference may be that the government in British Columbia and perhaps even in Alberta cares about the education of kids. This government doesn't. That's the difference. All this government wants to do is take money out of education. They want to decimate one of the best education systems in North America because they believe they have to get the money out. That's what this is about. For a short-term gain of $1 billion to the treasury of this province we are compromising the future of the kids across Ontario.

We can't allow this to happen without arguing against it. We must have widespread hearings across Ontario to ensure that people who are concerned about this, concerned about the education of students --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr O'Toole: It's a pleasure to respond to the member for Algoma's remarks this afternoon on Bill 104. Just for those who were paying attention, the member said they're not opposed to fewer boards and they're not opposed to fewer trustees. The Liberals' statement during the election was saying very much the same thing. They recognized that there should be fewer boards and fewer trustees. I think we have unanimous agreement here and I think this bill is intending to do exactly that.

Everyone would respect the fact that the role of the implementation commission is very important so that there aren't inadvertent moves at the last moment by some boards, but I think that after all, we really want the same thing. Everyone in this chamber wants a quality education for our students, we want an accountable education system and we want an affordable education system.

I look at it and I talk about just one level: affordability. We have such disparity in the province, some areas spending as little as $5,000 per student and some spending as much as $8,000 and more per student. So there is some disparity. But I look at the whole system. For example, I think there are about two million students in Ontario, and we spend something in the order of $14 billion. If you want to think about the students, we spend something above $6,000 per student. I think really there's a lot of room for improvement, and you can't blame the partners today. The system itself has become paralysed. All the teachers I know are hardworking and dedicated and loyal to the commitment of quality education. so that's not a problem.

One small comment on his remarks about the size of school boards: I recognize that the size of school boards in the north will be a problem and a challenge, but with automation I think we can help to communicate. The parliamentary channel, which Mr Bradley is very familiar with, is seen all over Ontario, and I think that's one way of communicating the changes in education today.


The Speaker: Questions and comments? When you sit down, you stop talking. That's the rule in here.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Let me just make some comments on the previous comments that were made by the member for Durham East. He said that yes, there will be problems in the north, and he agrees with that. Actually in his comments he made a few days ago he suggested that we went by what Mr Sweeney said in his report, and that was totally wrong. Mr Sweeney said in his report that there should not only be two boards west of Thunder Bay, a public and a separate board, that that area should be divided further. That was the final report Mr Sweeney came out with after going out and meeting with the people and finding out what was needed in the northwest.

The minister talks about not taking dollars out of the classroom. There is not one educator, administrator and now many parents who will believe what this minister is saying. Cuts to education are going to be cuts to classrooms. He must get that through to himself and realize that we are hurting the education of the children in our classrooms. Studies coming out are showing that we haven't got the best system. He talked today about having the best system back in Ontario. By taking $1 billion out of the system, I don't care where he cuts it from, it will not ensure that we have the best system to meet the needs of the children in this province.


Yes, the Sweeney report indicated that there should have been more attention paid to the north, but this government just went over and did exactly what they thought would best service the needs of the north against the wishes of northerners, putting one separate board, one public board to cover one third of the area of this province west of Thunder Bay.

I would just hope the minister would sit down and listen to some of the comments coming back from the people who are trying to service the needs of our students and ensure that education, not only for the north but for the entire province, remains number one in terms of his priorities for --

The Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mrs Boyd: I want to congratulate the member for Algoma for his clear commitment to the issues that he's talking about and to make it clear that he is not alone on our side in saying that much restructuring is good in these things.

It's very interesting that one of the members, when the member for Algoma said that we're not against having fewer school boards and we're not against having fewer trustees in principle, said, "Well, then, we can just pass this right away." There's a great deal more in this bill, and it's fine for the members opposite to have the selective hearing that we saw from the member for Durham East, but you need to hear very clearly where the qualifications to that agreement are and where the concerns are.

The member for Durham East is right, as the member for Algoma pointed out, that you can eventually, over time and with a great investment, get telecommunications that enable people to participate, an individual to participate, but that doesn't mean that the members of the community can participate in those meetings. That was what local governance in education was all about. It has a fine tradition in this province and all of us benefited from the fact that there was local autonomy around many of the issues in education.

I find it extraordinary that the members of the government continue to heckle and to make assumptions about this not being a massive change. This is a huge and massive change. The control of education has moved completely away from the local governance model that we developed in this province, all of us as citizens, over many years. The contributions that individual communities can make, the decisions that they make with that autonomy, will no longer be real and we will --

The Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr Parker: I very much enjoyed listening to my friend from Algoma and his comments this afternoon. I think it bears just touching on a few points so that there's no confusion about some of the matters that are at issue in this subject and what this bill attempts to address.

Bear in mind that four provinces across the country have already brought about the type of reforms that this bill puts forward. One province, New Brunswick, has done away with school boards altogether, and in Quebec they're looking at the same type of reforms as well.

Over the last 10 years, enrolment in our schools has gone up by less than 20%, but school board spending in this province has gone up by over 80%. Provincial grants to schools have gone up by almost 40% and property taxes have gone up by 120%. School board spending has gone up by over 80%, whereas enrolment has gone up by less than 20%. That's a key reality that we have to address.

I don't think anyone in this chamber or anyone in this province would quibble with that if the quality of our education had gone up commensurately. But there's nothing to suggest that the quality has improved at all. Test after test shows that Ontario students do not score any higher than students elsewhere in the country. In many tests they score lower than other provinces that spend less on education. The question is not money; it's quality.

The Speaker: Response? The member for Algoma.

Mr Wildman: I'd like to thank the members for Durham East, Kenora, London Centre and York East for their comments. I would say that the member for Durham East has rather selective hearing. He did hear those portions of the bill that I said we were in favour of; he seems not to have heard all of the other portions of the bill that I had expressed serious concern about. It's a little like the government's attitude towards the royal commission's For the Love of Learning. As Mr Caplan has said, they take selectively, they cherry-pick out of it, they don't listen to the whole thing and take the whole thing as a package.

The member for Kenora points out very clearly that what the agenda is about is cutting classroom education. That's what this government is about; that's what its agenda is about. He also points out that the Sweeney report made significantly different recommendations than what has been decided by the government with regard to Bill 104. That's why we need to have hearings across the province so people in northwestern Ontario can express their concerns about having one board for that whole area.

The member for London Centre rightly pointed out that the problem with the new boards is that it is impossible, even if you have telecommunication hookups for trustees, for the members of the community to attend board meetings if you have these enormous areas to cover. They won't be able then to hold the trustees accountable in the way that they've been able to over the last number of years going back to the 1800s.

The member for York East pointed to New Brunswick. I will point out to the member for York East that there are fewer total students in the whole province of New Brunswick than there are in the city of Toronto. The situation is somewhat different. To suggest that because they did away with school boards we should do the same is ridiculous. For one thing, constitutionally we can't. What I said is that we should do what they did in BC and Alberta and take time to do it properly.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak on Bill 104. I think it's important at the outset of my remarks to set the record straight, to put a few personal comments on the record. We have a very good education system in the province of Ontario. The strength of that system has had a very positive effect on my own life. I received a good education in our system.

Particularly, many of the teachers that I had over the years made a positive impact on my life. In fact, one of the teachers I had served as president of the Carleton teachers' federation and was the one who encouraged my involvement in the political process and in the public policy process. She even ran for the Conservative nomination in my constituency and I had the opportunity to work for her campaign, the first campaign I was involved with.

I benefited immensely from the work and education of people like Kyle Murray, who now serves ably as the director of education at the Carleton board. Trustees who made a very positive contribution to our system in our community, ones I had the opportunity to benefit from, played a very important role; trustees like Jean Beamish and Norm Cooksey, who did a great job for our community over the years. I can also note the involvement of people in our community like Don Cummings, who served in a voluntary capacity in the effort to build Bell High School where I attended. They worked with the Nepean township council to get that high school built more than 30 years ago.

I know that today people in the Carleton Roman Catholic school board, in the administration, do a very good job. People like Phil Rocco, who now serves as director of education, and Ron Larkin, who retired last year, have contributed a great deal to our community over the last number of years.

When I hear members opposite say that on this side of the House we have nothing but contempt for those involved in the public service, I feel it's important to put on the record that I believe public service to be an honourable profession. My father, my stepmother and my sister have worked or are working in the public service, and I think that's something they can take great pride in. I can say that in my work at the Ministry of Labour I'm very privileged to work with a dedicated group of professionals who do an excellent job in what are very tough budgetary times. That's important to put on the record.

As well, at the outset of this debate it's very important to talk about the process. This isn't a bill being debated for a period of days here in the Legislature exclusively. What we've seen is a process that's both open and consultative. The previous government, the New Democratic Party government of the day, appointed a very well-respected former Liberal cabinet minister, John Sweeney, to head a review of the school boards in the province of Ontario some years ago. He consulted extensively across the province and issued an interim report, printed on newsprint, sent out to hundreds of thousands of folks around Ontario. He solicited further input from that draft report. He then reviewed all those recommendations and amended his report accordingly before issuing a final report.


The Minister of Education, the Honourable John Snobelen, wanted further consultation and asked every member of provincial Parliament to go back to their constituencies and to report back to him on what the response was to that report, an opportunity for further review and consultation.

Now we have Bill 104, where we have a full legislative process: first reading, second reading, committee hearings and indeed third reading. That's quite a long process, where public involvement was present at every stage.

I'd like to talk about what was done in my own constituency. I think there is widespread support for reducing the number of school boards, and that really goes across party lines. People of all political persuasions have told me they agree with the concept of reducing the number of school boards, that in Ottawa-Carleton perhaps we didn't need six school boards in one regional municipality. I do appreciate there is some disagreement with respect to this proposition, and reasonable people can differ. Some people don't support reducing the number of school boards, and they're certainly entitled to that. My view, having talked to many constituents in Nepean, is that by and large, folks support this initiative.

There were a lot of concerns coming out of the interim report by Mr Sweeney. I heard a number of concerns relating to the proposal to put Renfrew county in with the Carleton Roman Catholic Separate School Board in Ottawa-Carleton. Folks made that representation to me, and it was reflected in the changes that Mr Sweeney made. He listened and made amendment.

There was also a significant amount of concern with respect to the smaller, specialized school boards for children with special needs. Again, changes were made; the process saw changes. That was good to see, and that's very important as well.

It's also important to look at exactly what this bill does. This bill reduces the number of school boards from 129 to 66, and they will now be known as district boards. The changes will respect the constitutional rights contained in the British North America Act. Thirty-seven existing isolate and hospital boards will be retained and renamed school authorities.

The number of trustees across Ontario is being cut from 1,900 to 700. Trustees will no longer take home the equivalent of a full-time salary, and boards can provide an honorarium of up to $5,000.

New criteria for the qualification of trustees will reduce the potential conflict of interest. School board employees and their spouses will not be able to serve as trustees in any school board or authority within the province of Ontario.

There are a number of other initiatives in the bill that I think are worthy of note with respect to the involvement of parents. Whenever parents are involved in the educational process, I think we see improved accountability not just to the parents, but indeed to taxpayers as a whole.

In April 1995, the previous government asked school boards to establish advisory school councils, a move that I think was met with all-party support. Bill 104 will strengthen the councils by establishing them in legislation, something that didn't exist previously. Parents will now have a clear and consistent standard for what students should be learning and when, and for how that learning is funded. Beginning this year, the government will publish its own report card and ask the public and parents to grade its efforts, and I think that's key. When we measure performance, I believe we'll see better results, and I am very pleased to see that change in legislation.

When I look at the motive behind this bill, I think it could be simply put: to ensure a high-quality education system that is less costly and more accountable --


Mr Baird: I can appreciate that some of the members opposite would like to interject during this debate. I think that asking young people, asking students, asking a grade 1 student or a grade 8 student -- to basically say to that student, "We're going to go to New York City to the bond market and borrow the money to fund your own education, and by the way, we'll send you the bill when you leave school," I don't think there is any social justice whatsoever. I don't think there's any morality in borrowing money so the next generation --


The Speaker: Order.

Interjection: It's incredible, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: I'm not sure about that, but let's try and calm down somewhat.

Mr Baird: I appreciate the difficult job, Mr Speaker. Some of the members opposite simply don't want to hear that when we borrow money, we're borrowing it on the backs of the next generation. When we borrow money, we're asking young people to pay for their own education. It's essentially a user fee, an income-contingent loan repayment plan for kindergarten students, because they're going to be stuck with the bill. None of the people around Ontario will have to pay this debt. It will be the next generation, the young people of this province, who have been served very badly by governments which have borrowed and taxed and spent like drunken sailors, and that is wrong. There is no social justice in borrowing money in the name of children. That is very important: There is no social justice in borrowing in the name of children.

The government made a commitment to significant reforms in education in the Common Sense Revolution and I believe we're following through on that commitment. Ontarians have expressed concern about the quality and cost of education, the size of the education bureaucracy and duplication and waste among school boards.

We look at what's going on in other jurisdictions for best practices and what other provinces are doing. In Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, governments being run by all political parties in Canada, by the New Democratic Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party in these cases, they've reduced the number of school boards dramatically and undertaken a major streamlining of education. New Brunswick, as one of my colleagues previously mentioned, has recently eliminated school boards and trustees entirely and placed much heavier emphasis on parent involvement and control. That's something that's not in this bill. School boards are being maintained and we're increasing and strengthening the role of parents in the process, something that I believe is very important.

There are a number of other indicators of waste and inefficiency in education spending, and they were ably pointed out by my colleague the member for York East. Let's look at the last 10 years, the 10 years from 1985 to 1995.

Mr Preston: The lost 10 years.

Mr Baird: Yes, the lost 10 years, as my colleague says. Let's look at the growth in enrolment versus spending during that 10-year period. Enrolment increased by 16% over that 10 years, school board spending increased by 82%, provincial grants increased by 39%, but property taxes increased by 120%.

Mr Wettlaufer: How much?

Mr Baird: The member for Kitchener asked, "How much?" By 120%. That is simply unsustainable in the long term.

I look at the spending in different school boards in the province and I see dramatic differences, where some school boards educate children for dramatically less than other boards. I looked at the figures within the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton where today we have six school boards in one regional municipality. I look at the difference. The Carleton Roman Catholic Separate School Board has the lowest spending per pupil in the region yet upholds high standards for quality Catholic education. An example: The board maintains its position within the top five of Ontario's 168 school boards for student retention rates. What does that board spend per person? It is $5,600 per elementary student. The Carleton Board of Education spends $7,021.

But on the other side of the street from those school boards, from the area they service, on the other side of Baseline Road, instead of spending $5,600 per student on an elementary student's education, the Ottawa public board spends over $8,000, a 40% difference. One has to ask whether there's some vortex on Baseline Road in Ottawa-Carleton that the rest of us aren't aware of that would see a need for 40% more spending on one side of the road, yet the Carleton Roman Catholic board is among the top five of Ontario's 168 school boards for student retention. That's certainly an impressive accomplishment for the Carleton Roman Catholic board and the effective representation it has. We wonder why there could be such dramatic differences within the same regional municipality, and that's of course an issue that the government is looking at, one that merits some study.


We do see some strange examples of education spending in certain parts of the province. The school boards in my area don't own golf courses, they don't have waterfalls in their board offices and they don't see their officials take trips to Southeast Asia on trade missions. I was reading the Toronto Sun this morning: "School Board Chief Told to Pay for Junket." Apparently, in one municipality here in the Toronto area, an individual took a two-week trip, estimated to cost the taxpayers $20,000, accompanied by an elementary school principal, trips to Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea.

Mr Gerretsen: Why did he go there?

Mr Baird: Why were they there? On the Team Canada trade mission.


Mr Baird: One would have to ask why school boards would see it as their business to travel thousands of miles to the other side of the earth to recruit students. Perhaps that's an inappropriate expenditure of money. A defender of this action "said it was a revenue-generating chance to promote school board programs, not just a chance to get more visa students -- who bring an additional $200 profit per student annually," trying to turn a public school into some sort of a business. I think people can rightly wonder why they need to send elementary school principals to Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea. One could be very curious about issues like that.

I also look at what has been said by some of my colleagues, because this is a non-partisan issue. You haven't seen a tremendous divergence of opinion in the past, with the commission started by the New Democratic Party and then reporting under this government. I thought I'd read a quote from a good friend of mine who's a member. He said, "I think there's generally a fairly broad support for reduction in school boards."

Mr Wettlaufer: Who said that?

Mr Baird: Who said that? Dalton McGuinty. "We can't back away from the prospects of amalgamation. As Liberals, we're fiscally responsible. We've got to look at it." Who said that? Dalton McGuinty. He says there's "a very compelling argument." Who said that? Dalton McGuinty.

Another interesting quote: "There is such public support for this streamlining of the system that any government is going to have to follow through." You know who said that? David Cooke, NDP Minister of Education, to the Windsor Rotary Club in March 1995, when he was minister, before the election. You see, David Cooke has one policy, and it's the same policy now as it was before. That's important to note.

There's another important quote I'd like to put on the record, from Bill Robson, the chair of the Ontario Parent Council. "One of the things we thought was quite positive in this announcement was the focus on school-level decision-making, school councils. It's clearly one of the best ways you can make sure you're getting value for your money" -- Bill Robson, chairman of the Ontario Parent Council, commenting on the new role in the legislation for parents.

Then, following up on the quotes from Mr McGuinty, I wondered what was contained in the Liberal campaign manifesto, so I looked. I look at the plan for the first year, for year one. They promised to do this within the first year. They said: "Less administration: We will reduce the number of trustees" -- done it -- "cap their salaries" -- done it -- "introduce guidelines for spending on administration and clearly define school boards' roles" --

Mr O'Toole: Doing it.

Mr Baird: Done it.

The Liberal red book said: "We will make sure that we are getting value for our dollar. As much as possible, our education dollars must be spent on classroom learning, rather than on administration. Reducing the number of trustees, placing a cap on the salaries of trustees and recognizing the part-time nature of the job," is a very important component of the Liberal campaign strategy. This bill does it. Less money on administration, more money spent on classroom education; more money spent in the classroom, where the teachers are, where the students are, where the learning takes place.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Michael Brown: A very entertaining intervention by the member for Nepean. One of the things that concerns me is the way we throw around this chatter about the Sweeney report and the amalgamation. You pointed out that all three parties understood that there needed to be some amalgamations, but what the government has proposed is in no way even remotely close to what Mr Sweeney had suggested in his report, and I think we should make that clear.

I want to talk particularly about the constituency I represent. One of the things that's very interesting here is that what's happened in the proposed amalgamation of school boards is that the Manitoulin board and the Espanola board will now be amalgamated with the Sudbury board. The North Shore board and the central Algoma board, which is actually in Mr Wildman's constituency, will go to Sault Ste Marie. That sounds interesting. The problem is that the North Shore separate board will go with Sault Ste Marie. That means the town of Espanola will have a public board that is amalgamated with Sudbury and a separate board that is amalgamated with the Sault.

All these boards, the five boards, had created a co-op, had been working together, so busing and all those interesting problems you have in administration were working quite well. The Espanola and North Shore boards were sharing a director of education; that can't happen any more. The Espanola and North Shore boards were also sharing business administration; that can't happen any more.

I'm really quite concerned that not only are local people going to have very little input into what boards do, but some of the efficiencies that were found by these very hardworking boards are going to be lost.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the comments of the member for Nepean. I certainly don't very often agree with what he says, and today is no different, but I always enjoy listening to him say it. I think he does it with a certain flare and level of belief on his part; I find him to be an honourable member. But I do want to take exception to a couple of things he said because they cause me a great deal of concern as I think about my own community in Hamilton and the implication of the changes you're making in education.

First of all, the member had the audacity, the absolute audacity, to talk about money being borrowed to pay for the school system and how unfair that is to little kids entering kindergarten and grade 1, and I think he said grade 8. He said how awful that is, that it's a terrible thing to do, yet he's prepared to stand by his government as it borrows $5 billion a year to give its very wealthy friends a 30% tax cut. It's starting to sink in out there that that tax cut is not going to benefit the average working, middle-class family, that it's those who are already well-off, and you're going to borrow the money to give them that. Nobody is going to believe it's a fair tradeoff to borrow that money on the backs of those same little kids you talked about so you can take care of your friends with a 30% tax cut.

The second point I want to make is that you talked about the importance of the parent councils, which we brought in, by the way, and you say that strengthening them is going to matter, yet I would point out to the member that by watering down the trustees they're liaising with, you're actually reducing their level of influence.

On those two points, I believe the member is way off the mark.

Mr O'Toole: It is certainly a pleasure today to respond to the very on-the-point remarks made by the member for Nepean. When he opened his comments, I think those who were listening would find that he went out of his way to compliment the people who are working in education today. Indeed, I think we're all after the same thing: We're really after quality in the classroom. Everything I heard the member for Nepean saying was encouraging each one of us in the House here today to give these changes a chance.

If you think of the two million students in Ontario, they're counting on each one of us to work together to make education accountable, affordable and available to every student with special needs. Each one of the students we have in our riding I know is being recognized daily by their boards and by their teachers and encouraged to strive for excellence as we move in the global economy today.

I want to make one small point. When you look at the size of boards, I remember back in 1969-70 when the boards were changing. At that time there were 1,400 school boards and we moved down to some 70 or 80 school boards. It was a significant change at that time. When I was first elected as a school trustee, the same issues we're discussing today were indeed the issues of the day in the 1980s: talking about the number of school trustees, the size of boards and the role and duty of trustees. In fact, I think what we've got to focus our time on after all is the student and the curriculum and the need to address the changes in technology today.

The school board that I was on was the Peterborough-Victoria-Northumberland Roman Catholic board, and it was always said to be the size of Portugal, a fairly large board. But people worked hard and they worked together to provide accountable, affordable education.

Mr Gerretsen: I always enjoy the comments of the member for Nepean. He actually made some relevant points, but what he didn't say was that what this is really all about is for the government to take complete control of the education system. He sort of talked about it in a roundabout way, but he never actually said that. It's kind of interesting; in this whole debate we've heard nobody from the government actually say that, that what the government is really interested in is taking complete control of the education system in its entirety and that boards of trustees, no matter how large an area they will represent, will almost become token members, in effect, because they will not have any power to tax and they therefore will have lost their entire effectiveness.

The really sad part about this is the fact that boards of education have been around in this province since the 1830s. As a matter of fact, they go back much further in time than, let's say, even local councils or municipal government. So this really is the end of an era where people in their own communities had some say as to the level of education and the quality of education they wanted for their students.

It's very interesting to bat all sorts of figures around as to how much is being expended by one board per pupil as opposed to another board per pupil, but of course it doesn't talk about perhaps the special programs that exist in one area that don't exist in other areas because of the special needs of the particular students in one area as opposed to another area.

I think what the taxpayers of Ontario have to understand is that this is all about the government of Ontario taking complete control of the education system.

The Speaker: Response? The member for Nepean.

Mr Baird: I would like to thank my colleagues the members for Algoma-Manitoulin, Hamilton Centre, Durham East and Kingston and The Islands for their responses.

I would indicate first to my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin that the Sweeney report has been followed 75% to the letter, and that's a number which is ironically close to the Liberal red book. Jean Chrétien says he has fulfilled over 75% of campaign promises and that that was a home run, so this must be pretty good.

I would also indicate to him that school boards will still be allowed to work together to save taxpayers money. That's not affected by this bill. They're still allowed and still encouraged to work together. If they want to go and save the taxpayers even more money than this bill, that's a good thing.

I'd also indicate to my colleague the member for Hamilton Centre that probably the biggest problem I have with him is that I actually believe he believes the stuff that he says.

Mr Christopherson: A hundred per cent.

Mr Baird: "A hundred per cent," he says. That's what I enjoy, and he's always consistent. You can agree or disagree with the member, but you've always got to respect that he has only one opinion on an issue, and that's something that I think is important.

But when he talks about students and debt, right now in the province of Ontario, we have $46,600 of debt per young person, per student, in this province. That is simply something that is unacceptable for the next generation. I think for my generation and those who succeed me, this bill will be an important part of our plan to get less debt and to have more opportunity for the future. We know from the record of the last five and even 10 years that more taxes, more debt, equals less jobs, less hope and less opportunity for the future of Ontario. This bill is a small part of turning that around, of creating more jobs, more hope and opportunity for a better province.

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

The House adjourned at 1805.