36th Parliament, 1st Session

L157 - Wed 5 Feb 1997 / Mer 5 Fév 1997

















































The House met at 1332.




Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I rise today to inform this House and the government about my great concern over the recent elimination of provincial funding for the Pelee Island ferry service. It is a serious issue that requires the attention of the Minister of Transportation, who to date has not responded to my request for a meeting with the minister and local stakeholders.

The minister will know that the ferry service to Pelee Island is not only important for 250 permanent residents of the island but is of vital economic importance to the agricultural community on the island; the wine industry, where hundreds of acres of grapes are grown for the mainland winery; and for the tourism industry, where each year millions of dollars flow through the local economy not only from mainland Canada but from the United States as well.

Also, the economic impact of the ferry service is felt in the nearby mainland towns of Leamington and Kingsville, where infrastructure and jobs are reliant on the regular service of the ferry. Moreover, many aspects of business planning for the agriculture and tourism sectors must be completed up to a year in advance.

There are 250 permanent residents who are literally being left out in the middle of Lake Erie by this government. The island and its people are Canadians and Ontarians who deserve the same access to the rest of our province as all its other citizens.

I respectfully ask the minister to place a priority on this issue and meet with me and the officials from Pelee Island, Leamington and Kingsville as soon as possible.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Highway 560 runs between Elk Lake and Highway 144 and is badly in need of rebuilding. The people of Shining Tree, Westree, Morin Village and Gowganda depend on this road and are very concerned for their safety.

Highway 560 is heavily used by logging trucks, which share the road with school buses and family cars, yet there are places where this two-lane highway is not wide enough for vehicles to pass in opposite directions. There are turns so sharp that trucks have to go in the opposite lane to get around the corner, and there are rock cuts so narrow that snowplows cannot get the snow off the road.

Over the past several years, parts of Highway 560 have been widened, straightened and repaved, but there is still a lot of work to do. At this time of year, when the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines are determining their priorities for road construction for 1997, I want them to remember the people who live along Highway 560 as they make their allocations.

Today I will be forwarding letters from more than 50% of the households in the area to the ministers involved, and I ask them to make sure that this highway is not forgotten simply because these communities are small. There may be bigger and busier highways elsewhere in the province, but I'm sure there are few highways in as bad a state as Highway 560.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I rise in the House to inform all members about another positive opportunity that has come to the riding of Peterborough. Last Friday my colleague and good friend Chris Hodgson, the Minister of Natural Resources, came to Peterborough to sign a cooperative agreement between the MNR, Trent University and Sir Sandford Fleming College. This agreement will create a watershed science centre at Trent University and a sustainable ecology institute at Sir Sandford Fleming College's Frost campus in Lindsay. The ministry's expertise and the quality of the facilities at these schools will assist our government in developing greater environmental initiatives while providing students an opportunity to expand their skills and knowledge.

Now that the new MNR building is open in Peterborough, we are going to see positive things happen again in our community. New employees are moving to our great city and businesses in the downtown will reap the rewards of greater consumer traffic. The MNR move to Peterborough is a very positive relocation.

Many thanks to the presidents of Sir Sandford Fleming College and Trent University for their cooperation in establishing these new long-term partnership agreements, many thanks to the Minister of Natural Resources for attending last Friday, and many thanks to the people of Peterborough for welcoming the MNR and its employees to our great community.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): When the Minister of Agriculture announced changes to the farm tax system, he was very vocal about saving the farmers the time and inconvenience of applying for and receiving a rebate. But this is only half the story. What was not pointed out was that at the end of the day, farmers will pay more on their tax bill. The government's mega-week announcements dumped on to the farmers and other taxpayers of Ontario long-term health care, ambulance service, policing, welfare and roads, among other costs.

When the farm tax rebate was removed, the minister did not address the problems that rural municipalities will face in replacing this lost revenue. How can rural Ontario cope with the demise of this rebate, which creates a shortfall of $171 million? Some rural municipalities depend on the property tax rebate for 50% or more of their revenue. These municipalities have been holding the line on taxes for years. They cannot make up the 50% revenue reduction without raising the taxes on hardworking farm families.

We know that we will be competing for your questionable reinvestment fund with large urban centres. The government must commit to replace this money, the lost revenue, dollar for dollar so that rural Ontario can survive and be the engine of economic growth. Give them that guarantee, Minister. Give it today.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Last night I held a public meeting in my riding to hear community concerns about the proposed merger of the Queen Street Mental Health Centre and the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry. These hospitals have had very different mandates in the past. The Clarke Institute is primarily a research facility associated with the University of Toronto and Queen Street is a treatment facility run by the province.

People in the community to whom we spoke last night are very concerned because there has not to date been sufficient consultation with them. They are asking, is this merger really necessary and is it in the best interests of the community and the people they serve? They're concerned that the staff may be cut and that the most vulnerable people in our society, the severely mentally ill, may suffer as a result.

I believe the real issue here is the Harris government's cost-cutting agenda. The Minister of Health has already announced that there will be substantial cuts to hospital budgets this year. We've read that, we've heard about that. Hospitals feel threatened, so some of them, like Queen Street and the Clarke Institute, are rushing into mergers in a desperate attempt to deal with the cuts, without adequate time for public consultation. I ask, why the rush? Hasty decisions will not have good results. Hospitals must be given the time to plan for everyone concerned.



Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I am pleased to share with the House that the Minister of Finance announced yesterday an enhancement to the small business investment tax credit for banks. This tax credit will provide greater opportunities for Ontario's new and emerging small businesses to get the financing they need to grow, prosper and create jobs.

The government consulted with the small business and investment communities. The advice provided through these consultations has made the tax credit more responsive to the needs of small business. Small business asked the government to target the credit to smaller firms, those that often have the toughest time getting the money they need to expand, and that is what we have done.

In recognition of the higher transaction costs associated with smaller investments, the size of the tax credit will be increased up to a maximum of 20% for investments under $250,000. We are also extending the credit to include investments in unincorporated businesses. Small business investments made through qualifying small business investment funds will also be eligible for the tax credit.

Our goal is to create jobs and support economic growth. To create jobs, new and growing businesses need access to sources of capital that believe in their potential. Our government is taking action to help make that happen.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I want to revisit an issue that we talked about on Monday, and that issue is the Harris government's attempt to hoodwink the people of Ontario with a $57-million reinvestment announcement. I want to reiterate the point I made then, that our part-time health minister was announcing reinvesting money at the very same time, on the same day, that his ministry was advising hospitals of new and drastic cuts of $435 million to their budgets, the second instalment along the way to a $1.3-billion devastation of this province's hospitals.

We now have some of the details about how drastic these cuts will be. We have the evidence that shows in 1996-97, following that, a 7.7% cut for 1997-98 for North York Branson Hospital, a 7.9% cut to Windsor's Hotel Dieu Hospital, an 8.2% cut to Brockville's St Vincent Hospital, an 8.9% cut to Paris's Willett Hospital, and a 9% cut to Ottawa General Hospital. The list goes on, with cuts to individual hospitals of up to $10 million.

When we look at the two-year cuts, we now have hospitals contending with 14% cuts, like Etobicoke General; 14% cuts, like Kingston's Hotel Dieu; a 23% cut over two years to Peterborough's St Joseph's.

The Premier said yesterday that he has chosen to refuse the advice of OHA to hold off on these cuts taking place. We know who we can trust. We know we can't trust a Premier who wants to fund a tax cut on the backs of patients across this province.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Mr Speaker, sometimes in this House it's really difficult for us to find the appropriate language when we're trying to describe the government's actions; you know, those days when they say that black is white and white is black, and we don't know how to express it adequately, like when the Minister of Health announced a $57-million reinvestment when he was actually cutting over $400 million, or like the day when the Premier was asked about the 40 million new dollars in child care that hadn't been spent and he said, "It's the municipality's fault; they haven't picked up that money," yet the minister admits she never offered it to them, that she had put a freeze on the money. It is hard.

I have another example. Last night at a community meeting, there were over 200 people out fighting the megacity, and a constituent gave me this. He wrote it. It's called A Steve Gilchrist Story:

"On Monday morning, Steve Gilchrist was on Metro Morning, and he said he had to support the megacity because Ken Morrish, councillor in Scarborough, did a poll, and 80% of his constituents supported amalgamation, so he had to do it.

"Next day, Frank Faubert, the mayor, calls in and tells the real story. The poll that was done asked three things: (1) `Do you want lower taxes? (2) Are you in favour of actual value assessment? (3) Do you want fewer politicians?'"

The question, "Do you want Scarborough to be amalgamated into a unified city?" was never asked, and yet Mr Gilchrist touts it over. My constituent ends up saying, "What this says about Mr Gilchrist and, by extension, the facts of the Harris government, we leave to your musing."

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Unanimous consent to do it again.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Unanimous consent to do it again? No.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): On February 2, every year since 1956, Canada's foremost weather prognosticator, Wiarton Willie, has emerged from hibernation to pronounce his winter weather report. Since his discovery he has delivered predictions on the remaining course of each winter with over 90% accuracy.

The famous albino groundhog was born in Bruce county. His mystique is enhanced by the fact that he was born precisely on the 45th parallel, the midway point between the equator and the North Pole. Rumour also has it that Willie maintains his trim figure with corn chips and salsa, and his hero is Red Green.

The annual festival that accompanies Willie's prediction draws thousands of participants, as well as international media that broadcast to all corners of the globe. In fact, Willie gets e-mail from more than 20 countries. Although Willie's predictions were a little shaky last year, many believe the leap year and his 40th birthday added too much pressure.

This year Willie's prediction was consistent with that of his Pennsylvania counterpart, Punxsutawney Phil. Neither groundhog saw his shadow and both predicted an early spring.

Organizers of the festivities are looking to municipal, provincial and federal politicians for their support in recognizing Wiarton Willie as Canada's groundhog and declaring Groundhog Day, or the first Monday in February, a Canadian national holiday.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): There are many lines I could use at the end of that, and I'm not going to.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: May I ask for unanimous consent to recognize February as Black History Month?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Do we have unanimous consent to recognize February as Black History Month? Agreed.

Mr Curling: The month of February is celebrated as Black History Month. Many people have really asked the question, why Black History Month? What it does is that it provokes good debates and discussions on the contribution of the black people in our society in Canada, on the positive things they have done, and sometimes recognizes the struggles that have happened over the past years.

It brings pride to the people in our black communities when a successful black man or a successful black woman achieves. That person, that father, that mother, that aunt feels there is a role model which they can emulate. Because that person contributes to society as a whole, we as a society of course benefit overall on this.

February has been recognized in North America for over 72 years now as Black History Month. Since it started, Canada has come into that fold and itself has seen many prominent blacks who have contributed to our society.

What we have seen also with the achievements of blacks is many of the struggles and challenges that face them ahead. They are one of the most vulnerable peoples in our society that are still struggling to have equal access to jobs and of course to opportunities in schools etc.

Government plays a very important role for those people in our society to make sure that they can and do contribute, because contributing and having access to those situations helps us all.

Recently we saw a prominent black man who was the Ontario guardian pass away, and over 2,000 people attended the funeral to talk about his contribution. That afternoon we heard people speaking highly of those contributions. Today in this month, as we celebrate Black History Month and as we look to those who have contributed, I ask every parliamentarian to remember some of the struggles and challenges ahead for our people in our society. It is incumbent upon every one of us to make sure that access for those people is being seen. We have seen employment equity in the past that did not see the achievement of those people who are still denied access to jobs and are still denied access to opportunities, and I ask this Parliament to take a very serious look at it.


Last year we were overwhelmed in Canada by Donovan Bailey's achievements as a Canadian. Many young people, as I speak to them in schools, tell me how proud they feel about Donovan Bailey. Of course, he's a black man, and those young people who feel they cannot contribute effectively in our society feel a part of that. Not only black people but all Canadians celebrated his achievements.

I say to you all, this month take the time in your constituency to visit some of the wonderful events that are happening; take time to look at the displays in the lobby of Parliament, because we have always had some displays there that recognize the achievements of blacks; take a look at the display outside where the coloured men who participated in the First World War are being recognized. We in Parliament have always recognized some of the black achievements that have happened. We want to sing those praises more. We want to make sure that we're sensitive to all the things we do in our policies and the directions we want to go.

I ask all my colleagues to join in recognizing February as Black History Month as a positive contribution to society.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm pleased to rise today on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus to join in the recognition of February as the commemoration of Black History Month.

We note that this is a celebration that goes back a number of years. In fact this month-long event began back in 1926 when it was known as Negro History Week. It was started in the United States by Carter G. Woodson, a black educator and publisher from New Canton, Virginia.

Incidentally, February was chosen initially because it is the month of the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and emancipator Frederick Douglass, birthdays which fall on February 12 and 14 respectively.

It is a month which has grown over the years, which has taken root across many parts of the world and certainly here in Canada. We are proud to be part of this process and to recognize it today.

I think there's a fair question that people could ask: Why have a Black History Month? It is of course a time when African Canadians across this province and across Canada can look back to their African roots in North America with pride, but at the same time it is an opportunity for the rest of us to learn about the history and the involvement and the contribution of blacks to Canada and to Canadian history and the evolvement of this country.

In fact the celebration of Black History Month is indeed an attempt to have the important achievements of people of African descent in Canada included. I think we could list many a Canadian of African descent, of black descent, who has contributed greatly to this country in recent times, but I think it's worthwhile noting that those contributions and that involvement go back to the days before Canada even existed as a country.

The first known black to arrive in Canada was Mathieu Da Costa. He acted as a translator between the Micmac Indians and Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who came here in the early 1600s as a discoverer of the New World. Clearly Da Costa had already been in Canada some time even prior to Champlain's voyage of discovery since Micmac is neither a European nor an African language, and he was here in the capacity of interpreter.

There are many others who can be cited in the years and centuries that followed. We know, as we look back at our own history here in Ontario, we can trace back settlements at least two hundred years ago in which blacks were prominent and made up a significant chunk of the community.

I think it's fair to say that while that celebration takes place -- and it should take place with great pride -- Black History Month is also an occasion for us to take stock of the differences that still exist. I think it would be incomplete to note the marking of this month if we didn't also note that there are many within the black community who feel justifiably that there are issues of racism, issues of injustice as they pertain to education, as they pertain to the justice system that still need to be addressed.

I know they and many others would tell us that the greatest day would come, in their eyes, when we did not have to use Black History Month as a way to note the contributions simply because those contributions of this formidable part of our community would and should be noticed and noted every day in our classrooms and every day in the fairness and practices that we want for all of ourselves, for our children and for our communities.

It's in that spirit too that I, on behalf of our caucus, mark this very important month and urge all my colleagues also to use it as a time of reflection to help us address the many inequities that still exist.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I am happy to have this opportunity today to echo some of the sentiments expressed by my honourable colleague from Scarborough Centre this past Monday. I'm also particularly pleased to have this opportunity to support the member for Scarborough North in his efforts to highlight this important event.

This is the second year since the federal government declared February Black History Month, and it's a pleasure to have this opportunity to rise in this House today to mark this special occasion on behalf of my party. We are fortunate to live in a province like Ontario. Our identity is based in a strong foundation of diverse cultural traditions. People from a wide variety of backgrounds have made significant contributions to this society, not the least of which are the accomplishments of our vibrant black community.

It is important that we mark this celebration and pay tribute to the many contributions this community has made in politics, the arts, education, medicine, sport, and the list goes on. But the important thing is to recognize that our society is made stronger and is defined by the varied contributions of all its members.

I am pleased to see that Black History Month has grown so much since its inception in 1926. Carter G. Woodson's dreams are kept alive by this growing annual tradition as more and more people become involved in the month-long celebrations here in Ontario and across North America.

This special session of the Legislature has provided us with a unique opportunity to recognize this important event. It is a privilege, as the Minister of Citizenship, to have this opportunity to recognize this event here on the floor of this Legislature.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I have a question for the Premier. It has to do with integrity and it has to do with the standards you have set for your office.

About a year ago in your budget you promised that you would "establish procedures to require the registration of all persons and firms who lobby the government." You have not done anything in that regard to date.

In his last annual report the Integrity Commissioner expressed his concern that conflict rules did not apply to senior political staff. You have also failed to do anything in that regard.

You will know that the federal government has in place some extensive conflict rules for political staff. They are subject to a cooling-off period. In fact, they're restricted from directly lobbying the government for one full year. In Ontario there are still no rules governing the activities of political staff. Premier, can you tell me why you have not moved to regulate lobbying in Ontario, and particularly why you have not restricted the activities of your former staff members as lobbyists?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): It is an area that obviously neither the Liberals nor the NDP moved on when they were in government and we felt was important, and we committed to do so. The proposals for bills are going through the legislative process of government. I don't think anybody in this House or in the province of Ontario would say that we haven't been a busy government and that we haven't had a lot of important items on the agenda. Such legislation is going through the process. I expect that shortly it will be before the House, and actually, with the cooperation of all parties and less caterwauling and yelling and stonewalling on legislation, perhaps we could get it passed this spring.


Mr McGuinty: Premier, let me tell you why this is so important. Ed Arundell, your communications director, just left to take on a position as senior VP at the lobby firm of Hill and Knowlton. Hill and Knowlton just received a lucrative contract as part of a $50-million Market Ontario campaign. Mitch Patten, formerly your deputy principal secretary, took a job with Canadian Highways International. Despite protests from the auditor, that company was allowed to bypass the tendering process for a huge contract involving the maintenance of Highway 407.

Premier, you will be aware, as I am, that senior staffers are privy to highly sensitive and confidential information. They not only know what you're going to do tomorrow, but they know what you're going to do next week and in many cases they know what the government is going to do next month and even what it's going to do a year away. That information can be exceptionally valuable to people who want to do business with the government. Do you not feel that there is a very serious problem here and that there ought to be some restriction placed on senior political staffers who were formerly employed through your office?

Hon Mr Harris: In spite of the fact that neither your government nor the NDP thought there should be, we do, and we are bringing forward comprehensive legislation. In the interim, in the absence of any legislation being inherited from either the Liberal government or the NDP government, and as we work on it, we have said to our senior staff, "We expect you to conduct yourselves as if legislation existed."

Therefore, Mr Arundell had absolutely nothing to do, no say and was not part of any award of any contracts that had anything to do with the Market Ontario initiative. Secondly, upon leaving the government, he can have absolutely nothing to do with anything at Hill and Knowlton in relationship to the government with any file he worked on. The same applies for Mitch Patten. The same applies for all my staff. In spite of the fact you left us no legislation, we have set those standards for our staff even without the legislation.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, let's again lend some focus to what we're talking about here. These are some of the people who have left your office: Paul Rhodes, your senior media adviser, has left; Perry Martin, your senior justice policy adviser, has left; Ed Arundell, your director of communications, has left; Mitch Patten, your deputy principal secretary, has left. All have left to act as lobbyists and consultants for those doing business with your government. They are subject to no restrictions whatsoever at the present time.

You will know that ministers of the crown are subject to a cooling off period. They can't do business with you for a period of one year afterwards. If they don't abide by that rule, they are subject to a fine in the amount of $50,000. Again, political staffers are subject to no such restrictions.

In my opinion, the situation that exists is completely unacceptable. I want you to commit today, Premier, that you're going to take action as soon as possible to restrict your government's senior staffers to ensure they can't pass off and profit from secret insider information.

Hon Mr Harris: I appreciate that the current leader perhaps does not recall when the Liberal government was in power and the current Premier and the current Deputy Premier lobbied to expand that bill to include senior civil servants along with the politicians. But no, the Liberals voted it down. They said: "No, no, we don't want to cover them. We want our staffers" -- I guess -- "to be able to go out here, we want senior bureaucrats." The NDP for five years did nothing as well. We committed to do it. We will do it. In addition to that, we expect our staff to follow those principles that will be in legislation even though the legislation is not there.

I might add, since you brought up Mr Patten, that you neglected to mention to the House and those who might be watching that the contract you referred to was one that was tendered and awarded when the NDP were in government.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Come to order, the member for Northumberland.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): No, not me, it was him.

The Speaker: No, I don't think it was him. I think it was you, so come to order.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is for the Premier as well. On the evening of May 15, 1995, during the leaders' debate, televised province-wide, Global's Robert Fisher asked you, "Can you guarantee us tonight that your pledge to protect health care will mean that you will not close hospitals?" Your response, Premier, was very clear and very, very unequivocal. You said, "Certainly, I can guarantee you that it is not my plan to close hospitals." When did you decide -- it's important for us to know this -- that you were going to break your promise made to voters on province-wide television?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'm glad you brought it up, and you brought it up yesterday and you brought it up 10 or so times before, and I'm happy to answer it each and every time. Robert Fisher asked the question because Lyn McLeod said, "Yes, I'd close hospitals." Bob Rae said during the campaign, "We have a restructuring commission that's going about to decide which hospitals should be closed." The question was, did we have a restructuring commission, did we plan, did I have a plan? I said: "No, I don't. I don't have a plan. We don't have a restructuring commission --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Premier, order. I appreciate the question-and-answer time, but I want to hear the answer and I'm having great difficulty.


The Speaker: Please, will the opposition come to order. The members for Cochrane South and Welland-Thorold. Thank you. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: So in 1995 the Liberals and the NDP I guess already had plans to close hospitals. We did not. We said we would await the local restructuring commission that the NDP had set up, and following election we awaited their report. We have asked local district health councils, we have asked locally developed reports prepared by local people to give us their recommendations and to give us their advice. I suggest to you that we have done exactly as we committed to do. We acknowledged --


The Speaker: Order. Premier. Thank you. Supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: For the Premier's edification, I want to repeat my question. Robert Fisher asked --


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): What did Mike say, Mr Fisher? I'll tell you, it's Robert Fisher's fault.

The Speaker: Order. You can't heckle other members and you can't heckle reporters as well. It's out of order.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Well, let Fisher answer the question. He was there. He knows what the Premier said.

The Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, come to order. Thank you. Leader of the Opposition.

Mr McGuinty: On May 15, 1995, at about 6:55 in the evening, in Ontario, Robert Fisher asked of the Premier: "Can you guarantee us tonight that your pledge to protect health care will mean that you will not close hospitals?" The Premier answered, clearly and unequivocally, "Certainly, I can guarantee you that it is not my plan to close hospitals."

I want to ask you again, Premier: When did you first decide to break that promise?

Hon Mr Harris: On June 15, whatever it was, 1995, Robert Fisher asked me the question, do I have a plan to close hospitals? No, I do not. I said I understand that the Liberals will, I understand the NDP have a process but we do not. We had not studied hospitals or what should close.


The Speaker: Order. I would ask the members for Sudbury East, London Centre and Riverdale to come to order.


The Speaker: That's out of order as well, member for Burlington South.


The Speaker: I'll wait.


The Speaker: I want to warn those three members, please come to order. That's out of order.

Hon Mr Harris: To date we've closed no hospitals. Upon taking office, along with an $11-billion deficit we inherited a report in progress, developed locally, on what should be done about hospitals and we have set up another committee to do that.


I don't know what your argument is. I understand that on December 13, 1996, well after the election, well after the restructuring commission that we inherited, that was there, Mr McGuinty -- this is the current leader of the Liberal Party, the one asking the questions, the one who brings forward all the kinds of information, like Mitch Patten, that had nothing to do with our government, that's the level of his questioning -- Mr McGuinty said, "Yes, I might close hospitals as part of a plan for better-integrated health care services across the province." We are saying, if that flows out of local communities, of local hospitals, then we will take a look at that.

Mr McGuinty: I am not the guy who said on May 15, 1995, at about 6:55 in the evening --


The Speaker: Order. Member for London South, the Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Minister for Community and Social Services as well, it's just as wrong for you to be heckling when the leader is up as well. Now, please come to order. I want to hear the questions and answers.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): He's reading it anyway, Speaker.

The Speaker: Minister, he can repeat the same question 25 times. Those are the rules. If he wants to, he can. If you choose to see it that way, that's your choice, but I want to hear him.

Mr McGuinty: I am not the guy who said at that time and on that date, "Certainly, I can guarantee you that it is not my plan to close hospitals." If the Premier has any doubt whether or not people in this province feel he has broken his promise, he should travel to Thunder Bay and ask them. He should go to Sudbury and ask them. More recently, he should go to Meaford, Walkerton, Chesley, Durham, Fort Erie, Port Colborne and he should ask them whether he is living up to his commitment. This is a very straightforward matter.

Premier, you said, "Certainly, I can guarantee you that it is not my plan to close hospitals." You have clearly broken that promise. But you also made another one. You said that if you were to break any of your promises, you would resign. Your word was your bond. That's how important your commitments were, that if you broke a promise you would resign. So now, Premier, I'm going to leave it to you. What do you think you ought to do in the circumstances?

Hon Mr Harris: Given that I acknowledge the quote you made, that's exactly what I said and that is exactly the situation in May, and given that actually I currently have no plans either, today, to close hospitals, but what we did --


Hon Mr Harris: Well, I'm sorry, but I don't. What we did inherit, of course --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Harris: Let me be clear about what I said on health care, because I think this is very, very important. What we said on health care was that we would seek savings, we would try to find reductions in some areas of health care spending, and as we said in the Common Sense Revolution, we would reinvest every dollar that we could save by whatever means. We said we'd consult and we would study. Now, if that meant that in the future citizens felt we should close one building and reinvest those savings in another or in new programs, we committed to do that.

We acknowledged up front that we will cut some areas of the health care budget so we can reinvest in other areas. We pledged and committed that we would cut not one cent out of the overall health care envelope, and we have cut not one cent out of the health care envelope, exactly as we pledged.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Minister of Health. This week the Heart and Stoke Foundation of Ontario released a surprising report on fatal heart disease; it found that the rural areas of this province have a significantly higher rate of death from heart attack and stroke than large cities do. The findings raise a lot more questions for all of us, and those questions are going to have to be the subject of further research. One of those questions is very particular to rural Ontario: Is there any correlation between heart disease fatality and access to emergency medical care?

Minister, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has made it clear that it doesn't have the answer to that question at this point in time, and we're quite sure you don't either. Given that agricultural areas have significantly more deaths already due to heart attacks, how can you go ahead with closing small-town and rural hospitals and their emergency departments without really knowing what impact that may have on heart disease fatalities?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): This is a troubling question. It's one that certainly concerns me a great deal. The member opposite mentioned that further studies are under way and I certainly am very anxious to get the results of those studies. I know the Heart and Stroke Foundation is embarking upon a study this fall. The cardiac care network is reviewing this area; we're expecting information from the cardiac care network within the next short period of time. The ministry will certainly be taking a very close look at it and looking for ways and means of addressing this problem.

I will say that over the past year the ministry has invested a considerable amount in, for example, paramedic training in defibrillation techniques. Some $16 million is starting to flow in Kent county, for example, one area of concern; some 15 defibrillators have been announced in that area. The ministry is concerned. We'll be participating in these studies and anxious for the results.

Mrs Boyd: That's scant comfort to the people who live in rural areas who are seeing their hospitals threatened with closure. Last night the Grey-Bruce District Health Council received a report from its health and hospital restructuring committee, a report that recommends turning the Meaford, Walkerton, Chesley and Durham hospitals into primary health centres and downgrading the Wiarton hospital. About 300 concerned citizens attended that meeting despite a horrible rain and sleet storm. They know all about driving in weather and on roads that make a joke of your guidelines that residents be within 30 minutes of emergency care, care that could save a life when someone has a heart attack.

Many rural residents believe they are being denied their rights under the Canada Health Act, that in cities people generally have a 15-minute emergency response time. They're asking, does your hospital downsizing justify this double standard for emergency service?

Hon David Johnson: In Grey-Bruce, a subcommittee of the district health council did report yesterday with specific recommendations. The district health council, however, has not had an opportunity to deal with that particular report. There are a number of steps along the way. People are participating. The district health council in that area is participating. It is a recommendation that is being developed in that local area and will be coming forward.

Once it goes through the district health council, I would expect probably in March, then it comes to the ministry, then it goes to the restructuring commission. There is a good deal of work to do on any recommendations coming out in Grey-Bruce. I fully expect that through that process there could well be changes, but the net result and the goal of all this through community development, through the district health councils is to develop a better standard, improved hospital care for the people of that area.


Mrs Boyd: Minister, you didn't answer the question. The question is whether the people in rural Ontario can expect the same kind of emergency response times that their sisters and brothers in large urban centres can have. We know the answer is no. Rural people all over this province are saying that as you go ahead -- and of course one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing and there's this denial of any responsibility on the part of the government -- what you are doing is exposing people in rural and northern areas to health care that is substandard under the Canada Health Act, an act which, I remind you, you said you would observe. They are being treated differently than people in large urban areas. That's the question, Minister.

Would you please answer whether this development of standards is going to guarantee that emergency response times in rural and northern areas are the same as they are in large cities, and are you going to guarantee that those response times are going to end this horrible mortality rate for heart disease and stroke?

Hon David Johnson: What I will guarantee to the member opposite is that we will carry on with the process that your government began a number of years ago involving the district health councils. This was initiated by the NDP. Some $26 million was plugged into the process to get it going because I suspect your government recognized, as our government recognizes, that there need to be changes to improve the health care system.

By doing this on a community level through the district health councils, the commitment is to tailor and improve in those communities the services that are available. We have embarked on that process even as this is being undertaken by announcing some $600 million worth of reinvestments over the last year -- reinvestments in dialysis treatment, in cardiac care, in defibrillators, in cancer treatment, in drug programs as well as long-term care and all the components of the health care system.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. Three weeks ago you announced your massive download of health and social services costs on to the municipal property taxpayer. Yesterday, using inaccurate numbers, you laughed off the catastrophic impact of a half-a-billion-dollar download on the property taxpayer of Toronto. But your mega-load is happening all over the province.

Minister, your comments lead a lot of people to believe that your $1-billion community reinvestment fund is a fraud. A lot of people believe that you've stuck property taxpayers with over $1 billion in costs and that the promised fund will quietly disappear. Without being flippant, if you can, will you guarantee that $1-billion fund will go to the municipalities every year?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): In response to the member for the third party, the $1 billion is a real number. That number will be in the budget. That amount of funding will be available for redistribution to the municipalities for as long as it's needed. If it's needed for two years or three years or five years or 10 years, that money will be there. We've committed $1 billion to assist municipalities that need help and we live up to our commitments, as the people of Ontario know.

Mr Marchese: The municipalities and property taxpayers are very worried about that. That's why we're asking the question. You have dumped a huge cost on to the taxpayers of Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Niagara, Sudbury, Timmins, and the long list goes on. You want municipalities to come to you on bended knee, but worse, I fear the money will not be there. That is my fear, and it is the fear of many municipalities. You want to snatch $1 billion out of the hands of property taxpayers.

The region of Haldimand-Norfolk has a population of 94,000 people. You are dumping approximately $30 million in extra costs on to the property taxpayer in that region. That's about $750 a household. Are the good folk of Haldimand-Norfolk going to get that $30 million every year so that you can keep your promise of no property tax increases?

Hon Mr Leach: I know the taxpayers of Ontario know what we're doing. We're taking $5.4 billion off the education property tax, which is going to give them an opportunity to have the room on their property tax base to absorb the cost of the other programs that they rightly should deliver. That $5.4 billion will grow to about $6.2 billion by the year 2000.

What the people of Ontario know is that they can trust this party. They know that this party is not going to flip-flop like the Liberals did. They know that they can trust this party to carry out its commitments and its promises. That's why the people of Ontario know that if they need help in covering off some of the costs, that $1 billion will be there to assist them.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Final supplementary.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): The people of the province can trust you like they trusted Mike Harris on health care. Let me tell you that in the regional municipality of Sudbury, the net cost of your dumping of social services and health care costs will be $105 million. That represents an additional cost of $1,600 per household across the region.

Jim Gordon, mayor of the city of Sudbury, former Conservative MPP and cabinet minister, has this to say about what you're doing: "Municipalities are forced to go after their taxpayers for money in order to support Premier Mike Harris's provincial tax break. It's just going to make people poorer, poorer and poorer because we're taking so much money out of their pockets when someone else is providing a tax cut. It's so much baloney," said Gordon.

Minister, will you assure the people in the regional municipality today that they will not have to foot this $105-million bill and that your reinvestment fund will cover that entire cost this year, next year and every year that we have to cover it?

Hon Mr Leach: The people of Sudbury know that if they require assistance, we will be there to help them with that assistance. But we know that by putting actually $2.5 billion aside to help municipalities that may require assistance -- $700 million for social services, $800 million to help with restructuring if they need help in rebuilding roads -- we will be there to provide some assistance to them. If they need assistance, that $1 billion in funding will be available to the municipalities of Ontario.

We intend to sit down with the municipalities very shortly. We're sitting down with AMO and other major stakeholders to work out the ways and means in which that $1 billion will be distributed to the municipalities that need it. That formula on distribution will be made known after we have full consultation, as we always do, with the municipalities.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have a question for the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services. I'd like to bring to your attention today another reason why the cancellation of the bail supervision program was wrong, and I think in this case dangerous.

In the past two weeks, you've been criticized about the cost-ineffectiveness of your decision, and of course that is because it's far more costly to jail somebody on bail rather than to supervise them in the community.

But I think you've also lit a time bomb here because the counts at jails have skyrocketed recently. Metro East currently has 358 beds, but Sunday night there were 517 inmates there. Metro west and the Don jail are in a similar mess. You know this is a recipe for disaster, and you have created it. When are you going to admit that your decision was wrong and very dangerous?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): This member knows as a former Minister of Correctional Services that overcrowding is not a new problem. It's one that governments of all political stripes have had over the years, but this is the first government that is doing something in a meaningful way to address that situation, especially the crowding in the greater Toronto area. The first phase of our new infrastructure program will focus on the greater Toronto region so we can relieve some of the overcrowding pressures that have existed for a significant number of years.

With respect to bail verification, all I can say is that the research that has been conducted indicated that that program was not providing any real or meaningful impact in terms of the remand counts in our institutions, and that is a fact.


Mr Ramsay: Minister, it's because of your mismanagement that you're creating the overcrowding problem this time. You're adding to that because you're putting more people away than supervising them on the street.

The signs of pending disaster are really starting to show. This overcrowding is now explosive. One night last week at Metro east there was a severe assault and a beating in that area, and again this weekend. With 25% to 30% overcapacity and triple bunking in cells, not only are the violent acts among inmates becoming more common, but guards' lives are at greater risk now. You are creating a situation that could lead to a full-scale riot. When are you going to admit that the cancellation of the bail supervision program is costly and dangerous and that you are putting offenders' and guards' lives at risk?

Hon Mr Runciman: The member complains about us putting more people behind bars. I don't think the public at large would complain about that particular activity. In fact, I think they're tired of the record of past governments with respect to coddling criminals and are taking a much different perspective with respect to the criminal justice system.

There's no question about it: Our major concern is public safety. We are getting tough on crime. We're doing the things that former governments should have been doing but didn't do. I think if you check the public, if you gauge the public with respect to this issue, public concern with respect to criminal activities in this province and across this country, they're very much pleased with the approach this government is taking in terms of support for police and the number of initiatives we're taking in the justice area. I think we're doing all of the right things that should have been done many years ago, which your government failed to do.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Health. I want to bring to your attention a situation that a constituent of mine finds herself in. Diane is suffering from a heart condition and has been needing surgery since June -- June 4, specifically -- of last year. She went to Sudbury Memorial in order to have her situation checked out and the specialists in Sudbury said: "Go home, go off work, wait for the call. You need surgery. You're in a life-threatening situation." That was June 4 of last year.

She sat at home in June, she sat at home in July, she waited for the call up to August. No phone call came. She finally decided to take the matter into her own hands because her condition was worsening. She started calling her doctor and the people at Sudbury Memorial every week to try to get admittance, to be able to get the heart surgery she needs in regard to valve replacement.

September, October, November, December, January -- no phone call. She sits at home. She waits in fear. She wonders if she's going to be able to see the next day. Minister, I ask you this: Is it acceptable for a citizen of this province to have to wait that number of months to get surgery in Ontario for a life-threatening condition?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): Obviously I'm not aware of this particular case. If the member for Cochrane South would give me the details other than what he's given here in the House, I'd obviously be happy to bring it to the attention of ministry staff and look into it. I will say, though, that in cases like this, as we all know, the hospitals do a rating here.

If your question is, are the government and the ministry and am I satisfied with the existing situation in general, no, I'm not satisfied. I've indicated that. This government has put $16 million this past year into increasing heart surgeries. Indeed there are over 1,000 -- somewhere up to 2,000 -- more heart surgeries planned this year than in previous years. But is the situation acceptable? No, it isn't.

I can assure you that the ministry and I will be interested in the results of the cardiac care network review and the Heart and Stroke Foundation review.

Mr Bisson: The problem is that more and more people in northeastern Ontario are having to suffer, having to wait for surgery because of the cutbacks you've made in the health care system. Specifically, in Sudbury you've reduced the amount of money being spent in those particular hospitals so people are having to wait a lot longer to get into surgery.

The good news in this particular situation is that she finally got an appointment yesterday. She got confirmation from the specialist in Sudbury that they would schedule her. But for her to do so, she had to threaten suicide to her doctor to get admittance to Sudbury Memorial for the surgery.

I ask you this: Do people literally have to threaten to take their own lives to get themselves moved up waiting lists so they can get surgery for what is a life-threatening situation? Is that acceptable?

Hon David Johnson: The information I have is that waiting time for elective surgeries is increasing somewhat. In the case of urgent situations, they're dealt with immediately.

The member opposite indicates that the spending and the investments are being cut in health care. That's not true in general. That is absolutely not true. This government is committed to $17.4 billion. In fact, in health care as a whole, this government will invest at least $17.7 billion. We spend more per capita, about 6% more, on health care than all the other provinces on average in Canada.

Second, in terms of cardiac care, we have invested some $16 million in paramedic training, defibrillation techniques -- $2.3 million in defibrillators -- $16 million in terms of increased funding for heart surgeries and $2 million for cardiac stents. This government is investing in health care and this government is investing in cardiac care in the province of Ontario.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Each of us knows the importance of our public libraries and our volunteer boards. Recently I presented a petition in this Legislature respecting library boards in Ontario. Furthermore, I've had contact with Cynthia Mearns, the library director of Clarington, and Tony Bonanno, director of the Scugog library. I also served as a library trustee myself for many years prior to coming to Queen's Park.

Minister, I was very interested in your response to the Who Does What recommendation from Crombie. Crombie recommended the elimination of boards. You did not take this advice. Could you tell the House today the reason for your decision?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you to the honourable member for Durham East for his question. The Crombie report is advice to our government and Mr Crombie did indeed recommend the total elimination of library boards. I spent over nine months in consultation with the library community, and that included municipalities, library workers and users. As a result of those consultations, there was almost unanimous agreement to retain library boards. I wholeheartedly agree with that agreement, and under my proposed new framework, municipalities that now currently fund on average 85% of library costs will be given control over local libraries as well as the responsibility for establishing the rules and membership of local library boards. Who better than the local library community and the people that live in that community to make such decisions?

Mr O'Toole: I'd like to thank the minister for her answer and support of library boards in Ontario. What has been the reaction to the proposed new framework for local libraries?

Hon Ms Mushinski: I have some responses here that I'd like to read into the record.

Verna Ross, chair of the Aurora public library board, said in a personal letter to me in January, "I think you did a marvellous job of protecting the essential underpinnings of the system, and I want to thank you."

Barry Fowler, who's the acting chair of the Windsor library board, said on CKLW Radio, "Given the changes that are happening around us, we think it is a very reasonable response from the provincial government."

Finally, in the Ottawa Citizen on January 16, Terry Mundell of AMO said he welcomes the changes and does not believe budgets will be decreased as a result.



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier and it has to do with the role your office played in the Ipperwash event, where a first nation person was killed and an OPP officer faces charges. It now appears, based on the information we've got, that all the key files involving your office around the major meetings on September 5, 6 and 7 have disappeared. We requested, under freedom of information, all documents, memoranda and e-mails produced by your staff regarding these meetings. We now have been informed, in a memo from the freedom of information office on January 29, that the Premier's office has neither custody nor control of any records, in response to our request for the memoranda. It is clear that the major files have disappeared.

My question is this, Premier: Did you or anyone in your office order the destruction of all the Premier's staff reports on the Ipperwash interministerial meetings of September 5, 6 and 7?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): You make up imaginary files. You make up imaginary involvement. There were no files, there were no records, because we had no involvement.

Mr Phillips: Premier, you acknowledged on May 29 that your executive assistant was at these meetings. You have acknowledged that the reason the executive assistant was there was to prepare briefings for you, was to get the full information on the events taking place. These meetings took place on September 5, 6 -- the day of the shooting -- and 7. These were major meetings involving senior people of all ministries, you represented by your executive assistant -- major, significant meetings.

We can only assume, because you've indicated it was the case, that you were briefed on those meetings. We can only assume that your senior staff prepared briefing notes. We can only assume that those briefing notes have now disappeared. They're gone. Your office has informed the freedom of information office that they're gone. That is what the freedom of information officer says.

I will say to you, Premier, it is clear that you've acknowledged in the past that briefing notes were prepared. It is clear now that you are acknowledging that those notes no longer exist. My question is this: Who ordered those notes to be destroyed?

Hon Mr Harris: You have a wild imagination with no facts, and nothing's been destroyed.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. Today in the papers we read that you fired Don Richmond as head of the Metro Toronto Housing Authority. Don Richmond, as far as I know, was praised by politicians of all stripes when he was Metro social services commissioner. He even served as an executive officer in the Premier's office under Tory John Robarts. He later worked for Metro Chairman Paul Godfrey, another of your friends.

Mr Richmond, it seems, has a fatal flaw. He cared about the people who live in social housing. This is what he said: "Public housing was created to fill a gap. The private sector is not interested in housing people at the bottom end of society. I'm very concerned about the tenants."

Minister, are you firing this individual because he disagrees with you and because he cares for these tenants?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Mr Richmond was not fired at all. Mr Richmond had a two-year contract, an assignment he took on for a period of two years. That contract expires on February 28 and Mr Richmond will be going on to other challenges.

As I mentioned in the article, Mr Richmond did extremely good work for us. We don't always agree on philosophy on public housing, but he did a good job and he'll continue to do a good job as long as he's there. But he was not fired.

Mr Marchese: His contract obviously did not continue because he disagrees with you fundamentally. That's really what's at stake here.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Member for Fort York, order.


The Speaker: Order. Member for Brantford, you're out of your seat, and the member for London South, it's not helpful. As I said before, I want to hear the questions and the answers. I can't hear that question.


The Speaker: I'm sorry; London North. I apologize to the member for London South.

Mr Marchese: My view is the following: You did not extend his contract because you have fundamental disagreements about public housing. That's the real reason. Getting rid of Don Richmond, getting him out of the way opens the door to your downloading of social housing on to the municipalities. That's the agenda.

You make a big deal as well about the fact that you're going to phase in the downloading, but that doesn't change the fact that the cost to property taxpayers is going to be very high. It's just delayed.

Don Richmond says that public housing in Metro still needs over $200 million in urgent, essential repairs. That's money you haven't counted on in your statistics but it's money that property taxpayers in Metro will have to come up with. What the Metro taxpayers are looking for is this: clarity and certainty from you. Where is Metro going to find the $200 million it needs for essential repairs? Clarity and certainty, Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: There were two parts to the question. I'll repeat for the record that Mr Richmond is moving on to other challenges in the future, which is his right to do.

Mr Richmond is right. There is a tremendous need to rehabilitate much of the social housing in Metropolitan Toronto that was allowed to run down during your administration, allowed to go into wrack and ruin, with broken windows and broken pipes and everything else. We recognize that public housing has to be rehabilitated and we intend to do something about that very shortly. Stay tuned.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is to the Minister of Education. There have been several reports today that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation is planning to take their protest campaign now into the classrooms of Ontario. Members on this side of the House are very upset about that kind of campaign going to the classrooms of Ontario.

There are many acceptable methods of political discourse: faxes, letters, petitions and phone calls, to name a few. But surely taking union politics directly into the classrooms in Ontario crosses the line. Parents tell me this method is an unacceptable politicization of the classroom, students have complained, and I suspect that the teachers I know are upset about this campaign and won't participate.

Minister, what is the ministry's position on using the classroom for union politics?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I regret to inform the member that we have information that the union has instructed its members that they should use union lesson plans to take their protest campaign directly to the classrooms in Ontario.

I want to assure the member that the teachers I've talked to over the course of the last few days have assured me they understand, and understand fully, their professional responsibilities and the trust and respect there is between students and teachers, and that the classroom is not an appropriate place either for a protest or to move a political argument.

I think that all parents and students and teachers in this province understand very clearly that we need to put in place clear standards and have accurate measures and work together to lift student achievement in this province to the head of the class so that our students are achieving better than any other students in Canada, and we are working together to do that. This sort of action flies in the face of our commitment.


Mr Hudak: I'm sure the members on this side of the House are as concerned as I about this campaign into the classroom. I know the parents in Niagara, if this happens in the Niagara classrooms, are very concerned about OSSTF's campaign. What are you going to say to the union officials about going into the classroom and interrupting math and science and English and religion classes to preach union politics? What is your answer?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Again, I think this action is regrettable. I hope the union will give it some sober second thought. I will raise the issue with Mr Manners and suggest that the union reconsider this action. I have today written to school boards, the school board association and the directors of education and asked them to make sure that they have a look at lesson plans and do a thorough review of all materials that are going into the classroom, as is their responsibility.

I want to make sure that everyone in this chamber understands that the classroom has to be kept away from protest. It is just not appropriate to have bargaining take place in a classroom. I think all members of this chamber surely understand that. I have called upon the OSSTF leadership to respect our students, our parents and particularly the professional acumen of their own members.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. I'm glad to have the opportunity to ask you a follow-up question to the rather shameless setup you had from your colleague moments ago because the truth is that all supporters of the public library system in this province are devastated by the minister's decision to withdraw provincial funding support for our library system. I would recommend to the minister that she read some of the other letters that are coming in, the thousands upon thousands, decrying these cuts to the provincial funding system.

They're also worried because they already know we have an education minister who believes that school libraries aren't a priority either. So now we have the spectacle of a culture minister who's dumping all responsibility for funding libraries on the backs of residential property taxpayers. We have user fees which are going to mean that less-well-off children in our province are going to lose access to the new technology our libraries are developing.

This weekend the Ontario Library Association is meeting to discuss your shocking about face.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question.

Mr Gravelle: What they want to know is, where does it say in the Common Sense Revolution that the children and the millions of other library users in this province are to be deprived of access to our public libraries?

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Mr Speaker, I have a point of personal privilege.

The Speaker: Okay, I'll deal with it after question period.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): What we said in the Common Sense Revolution was that we were going to eliminate duplication and overregulation and dual responsibility for the delivery of local services and were going to make government more accountable to the taxpayers. That's exactly what we're doing with respect to public libraries. These changes will actually result in more effective and simpler management, something that we committed to in the Common Sense Revolution.

Mr Gravelle: It's clear that the minister just doesn't get it. Your reforms are simply moving us to an underfunded library system in the province. You talk about our municipalities being responsible because of the new funding reality, but how can you expect them to do this when you've dumped over $1 billion in new financial responsibilities on local taxpayers? The representatives of the Ontario Library Association told me they tried to send that message to you last week in a meeting with you, along with many other concerns that they have, and they're the spokespeople for this, and you were oblivious to their warnings.

We all need to know how you're going to respond to the library association this year. Will you tell them that no community -- big, small; urban, rural -- will lose their library services and will you guarantee that no local neighbourhood library branches will be closed as a result of your actions? Will you guarantee it?

Hon Ms Mushinski: I will repeat exactly what the responses have been to our proposals. In an Ottawa Citizen story on January 16, 1997, Mr Mundell, the president of AMO, which is the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said that he welcomes the changes and does not believe that budgets will be decreased as a result. Jean Dirksen, who is the former chief executive officer of the Windsor Public Library, said on December 31: "The Crombie recommendations were welcome news. They are farsighted and will enable libraries and their municipalities to bring about seriously needed change within the fiscal authority of the municipality."


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question to the Minister of Correctional Services. He has a superjail plan that just doesn't make sense. He talks about shutting down 14 correctional facilities in this province. He omitted from his list of 14 the old county bucket in Brockville -- 100 years old. That, from his own riding, happened to be omitted from the list of jails to be shut down and replaced. But he included the Ontario Correctional Institute, which has internationally acknowledged treatment programs. He included for shutdown the Vanier institute, the only women's correctional facility in the province of Ontario.

He also included the Niagara Detention Centre, one of Ontario's newest correctional facilities, built in 1973, one of the most efficient, with a per diem inmate cost of only $88, well below the provincial average. That's not common sense; that's just plain stupid. I put to the minister: How could he even think of including the Niagara Detention Centre, one of our newest and most efficient and cost-effective correctional facilities on his list of --

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

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): It's interesting that the member mentions the Brockville jail as not being part of this plan, suggesting, I suppose, that there's some political decision lying behind this. I want to point out for the benefit of this member and others that Brockville is part of phase 2 and is indeed slated for closure as one of the very old jails in this province.

We're not showing preferential treatment to anyone with respect to provincial representation, unlike, I might point out, the NDP government when it was in power. I want to point out that they realized they had a problem with older jails in this province. They had recommendations before them which they failed to act upon except in two ridings held by provincial Conservative members. Those are the jails they selected to close and they ignored all the other recommendations.

Mr Kormos: This minister --

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Where were you then, Peter? They had you muzzled.

The Speaker: Minister of Agriculture, order.


The Speaker: Okay, I didn't hear that, so let's continue. The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Kormos: This minister is obsessed with handing over the operation of our correctional facilities to profit-driven corporations, and the fact is that there's no conclusive evidence that that's going to save taxpayers a single penny. In fact, a Tennessee study -- the minister should know about it -- indicates that in a comparison of inmate costs between private and public facilities there is very little difference.

This minister is going to close down, as I have indicated, some of the most effective treatment programs, some of the most efficient and newest jails that this province has. He's going to hand the operation of corrections over to companies that make profits from filling jails which therefore will have little interest in avoiding recidivism, or people returning to jails. It will be motivated to have more people in jails.

Why is the minister risking community safety, the safety of correctional officers and the safety of inmates, and the accountability of the prison system, by handing over our correctional services to private corporations?

Hon Mr Runciman: If this government and this minister's obsessed with anything, it's bringing common sense back to government, and that applies to the corrections system as well, where we've had a system where we are paying far and away the highest costs in terms of incarceration of any province in this country, an average of $124 a day. It costs less to stay in a hotel in downtown Toronto than it costs the taxpayers of this province to house inmates across our institutions.

We have the oldest infrastructure in Canada, many facilities over 100 years of age. The member mentioned some facilities. We're also dealing with the federal authorities with respect to keeping some of those institutions open for alternative uses.

They raise the spectre of safety. The new institutions that we are building under phase 1 and phase 2 will be maximum security institutions. Public safety is priority number one.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I beg to inform the House I have today laid upon the table the Twentieth Indemnity and Allowances Report of the Commission on Election Finances.



The Speaker: I apologize; you're right. The member for Durham East on a point of privilege.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It concerns my attempt to ensure that I am not impugned. The member for Port Arthur, in his question to our Minister of Citizenship and Culture, implied somehow that my question was a setup or somehow illegitimate. This is the very point in these proceedings that all --


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): O'Toole, what did they tell you? How stupid are you?

The Speaker: Members opposite. Members. The member for Welland-Thorold, please. All members have a right to raise a point of privilege, and I know when all members on this side stand, I insist that I hear the point of privilege. Please allow him to put it. Member for Durham East.

Mr O'Toole: Really, this is the point in the proceedings every day where all members are allowed to ask questions of the minister. I just want the shallow attempt by the member to disqualify my attempt to ask a sincere and initiated question on my side -- I am working for my constituents of Durham East and I want my constituents to know that.

The Speaker: Just a moment, member for Beaches-Woodbine.

What is your point of privilege?

Mr O'Toole: Somehow the member for Port Arthur was impugning my motives or the legitimacy of --

The Speaker: All right. Did you want to rise on that? Member for Beaches-Woodbine.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Just to say, in response to the member's point of privilege, I think he was referring to the fact that there had been an accusation that it was a setup question and that's what he was objecting to. I think there is an easy way to resolve that. If you'd just get the minister to stop reading the prepared answer to your prepared question, we wouldn't think it was set up.


The Speaker: Order. I think that's just a comment the member for Port Arthur made. It's a comment the member for Port Arthur made --


The Speaker: I think he was passing his opinion, and opinions are in order in this place. If it was his opinion that your question was prepared, I hardly expect you to have the Speaker start reprimanding members for suggesting some are prepared questions, some aren't. Although I understand what you're saying, I don't really believe it's a point of privilege.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition very relevant this week to the government of Ontario.

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

"Since Hotel Dieu has modified its role over the years as part of a rationalization of medical services in St Catharines and has assumed the position of a regional health care facility in such areas as kidney dialysis and oncology;

"Since the Niagara region is experiencing underfunding in the health care field and requires more medical services and not fewer services; and

"Since Niagara residents are required at present to travel outside of the Niagara region to receive many specialized services that could be provided in city hospitals and thereby not require local patients to make difficult and inconvenient trips down our highways to other centres;

"Since the Niagara hospital restructuring committee used a Toronto consulting firm to develop its recommendations and was forced to take into account a cut of $44 million in funding for Niagara hospitals when carrying out its study; and

"Since the population of the Niagara region is older than that in most areas of the province and more elderly people tend to require more hospital services;

"We, the undersigned, request that the government of Ontario keep the election commitment of Premier Mike Harris not to close hospitals in our province, and we call upon the Premier to reject any recommendation to close Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines."

I affix my signature to this petition as I'm in full agreement with its contents.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): This petition is to the Legislature of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A therapeutic community cannot exist in a superprison;

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

I've affixed my signature to that.


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

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

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

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

"Whereas there is greater student involvement and interaction; and

"Whereas there is improved student performance; and

"Whereas there is the opportunity for greater individualization; and

"Whereas smaller class sizes allow for 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 signature to this petition of several thousand names.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I have a petition signed by a number of East York residents, including John Withrow, Wayne Swallow and Shelley Davis. It reads simply as follows:

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


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here which is addressed to the Legislature and to the Honourable Robert Runciman, and it states as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A therapeutic community cannot exist in a superprison.

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

They've requested that everyone who signs this petition respond as well to the Solicitor General, and I have affixed my signature to it.



Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): I have a petition from hundreds of the good citizens of Cambridge, and it reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas induced abortion is the intentional medical killing of a pre-born human being before birth, and evidence that pre-born human beings of five to six weeks' gestation have the ability to experience pain has been reported as long ago as 1941 and corroborated as recently as 1994;

"Whereas a recent study reviewing all available research on the reasons for abortion in Canada concluded that, `As the procedure is not therapeutic, and as there is mounting evidence that it is harmful to women's health, funding by the government under health care cannot be justified';

"Whereas US studies have shown that where public funding for abortion has been removed, both the pregnancy rate and the abortion rate have dropped significantly;

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require that `elective procedures' be funded, nor has any Canadian court ever found a constitutional right to publicly fund abortion;

"Whereas it is the responsibility and the authority of the province exclusively to determine what services will be insured;

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

"That the Ontario government remove induced abortion from its medically insured services; and

"That the Ontario government, through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community and Social Services, endeavour to encourage an alliance between all groups offering crisis pregnancy support across the province."

Pursuant to the standing orders, I sign the petition on the face of it.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition that's directed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which reads:

"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 an 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 have attached my name to that petition as well.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's my pleasure to present a petition to the Parliament of Ontario.

"Whereas pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness; and

"Whereas abortion is not therapeutic; and

"Whereas abortion is never medically necessary; and

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require `elective procedures' to be funded; and

"Whereas there is no right to publicly funded abortion; and

"Whereas it is the responsibility and the authority of the province exclusively to determine what services will be insured; and

"Whereas there is mounting evidence that abortion is hazardous to women's health; and

"Whereas the availability of abortion at public expense leads to the use of abortion as a means of birth control; and

"Whereas Ontario taxpayers funded 45,014 abortions in 1993 at an estimated cost of $25 million;

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

"That the Ontario provincial government remove abortion as a service or procedure covered under the provincial health insurance plan."

I sign my name to this petition.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): "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 an 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 proud to sign my name to it.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I have a petition from the town of Thessalon.

"We, the undersigned residents of the town of Thessalon in the district of Algoma, would like to extend our appreciation to the Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Al Palladini, and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the Honourable Chris Hodgson, for their commitment to northern Ontario, and in particular to the district of Algoma, for road improvements to Highway 17 from Sault Ste Marie to Bruce Mines.

"As part of this commitment to northern Ontario, we request that the road construction be continued in an east direction so that years of neglect to our highway system can be rectified."

It's signed by many petitioners from there.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This is a petition in response to Bill 84.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the firefighters of Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Ontario are very concerned about Bill 84;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is unfair;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is discriminatory;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 endangers the wellbeing of the people of Ontario;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 requires extensive changes;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 needs broad provincial public hearings before implementation; and

"Whereas we are concerned and we don't want to get burned by Bill 84;

"We, the undersigned, therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand the Solicitor General to rewrite Bill 84 before being enacted into law and only after extensive public hearings across Ontario."

I affix my name to this petition.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I have now another petition from the township of Plummer.

"We, the undersigned residents of the township of Plummer in the district of Algoma would like to extend our appreciation to the Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Al Palladini, and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the Honourable Chris Hodgson, for their commitment to northern Ontario, and in particular the district of Algoma, for road improvements to Highway 17 from Sault Ste Marie to Bruce Mines.

"This is the first major road improvement in over 10 years in our area, and we, as residents of Algoma, salute the minister."


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a petition that's signed by numerous people from the Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation.

"Whereas the government of Ontario's list of PST-exempt purchases regarding native Indians presently discriminates against Ontario Indians living off reserves because of educational purposes, medical reasons or unsettled land claims;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to pass amending legislation to allow Indians living off reserves for educational purposes, medical reasons and unsettled land claims to be included in the PST exemption policy."


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I have a petition here.

"We, the undersigned residents of the town of Bruce Mines in the district of Algoma would like to extend our gratitude and sincere thanks to the Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Al Palladini, and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the Honourable Chris Hodgson, for the road improvements to Highway 17 from Sault Ste Marie to Bruce Mines.

"This is the first major road improvement in over 10 years in our area, and we, as residents of Algoma, salute you both for your commitment to the north and our highway system.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here signed by 129 people on separate cards that read as follows:

"We support free public libraries as the foundation of a literate, informed and prosperous population.

"I am therefore opposed to the repeal of the Public Libraries Act, also opposed to the elimination of provincial conditional grants to public libraries and the eradication of library boards and the imposition of fees for the use of public libraries."

This petition is on 129 separate cards and I am glad to affix my name to it.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the firefighters of Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Kenora and the rest of Ontario are very concerned about Bill 84;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is unfair;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 is discriminatory;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 endangers the wellbeing of the people of Ontario;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 requires extensive changes;

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 needs broad provincial public hearings before implementation;

"We, the undersigned, therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand the Solicitor General to rewrite Bill 84 before being enacted into law and only after extensive public hearings across Ontario."




Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I beg leave to present the 31st report of the standing committee on government agencies.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Mr Laughren presents the committee's 31st report. Does the honourable Chair wish to make a brief statement?

Mr Laughren: No.

The Acting Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 106(g)(11), the report is deemed to be adopted by the House.



Mr Leadston moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 123, An Act to establish the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Foundation / Projet de loi 123, Loi créant la Fondation de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario.

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

Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): The purpose of this bill is for the establishment of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Foundation. The objects of the foundation are to solicit, receive and to manage money for the purpose of maintaining and restoring the Legislative Building and the Whitney Block.



Mr Galt, on behalf of Mr Sterling, moved second reading of Bill 107, An Act to enact the Municipal Water and Sewage Transfer Act, 1997 and to amend other acts with respect to water and sewage / Projet de loi 107, Loi visant à édicter la Loi de 1997 sur le transfert des installations d'eau et d'égout aux municipalités et modifiant d'autres lois en ce qui a trait à l'eau et aux eaux d'égout.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It's certainly a pleasure for me to be able to speak on behalf of Minister Sterling on Bill 107, the Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act.

Ontario's water and sewage infrastructure ranks among the very best in the world. The people of this province have long relied upon top-quality services. They expect and will accept no less in the future. This government is committed to finding the best ways to ensure that this expectation is met by finding the most efficient way to run our water and sewage systems. This is indeed especially important at a time when all levels of government face the challenge of maintaining high-quality services without increasing the burden on the taxpayer.

Today I am pleased to move for second reading a piece of legislation, Bill 107, that will help to ensure that Ontarians continue to enjoy the highest quality of water and sewage services. Minister Sterling introduced the bill known as the Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act last month, pursuant to recommendations in December by the Who Does What panel, chaired by David Crombie.

The amendments it proposes serve the people of Ontario by both clarifying the role of government and improving accountability. Bill 107 proposes giving Ontario municipalities full title to provincially owned water and sewage treatment plants serving their communities. Bill 107 also proposes appropriately transferring responsibility to municipalities for septic system inspections and for their approvals.

Municipalities have already shown that they can deliver outstanding water and sewage treatment services to their communities. They currently own three quarters of the treatment facilities in the province of Ontario and, with the passage of Bill 107, they will be the sole level of government that holds title to water and sewage plants in the province.

It is very important to note that we are not forcing ownership on to unwilling recipients -- far from it. Many local governments have told us that they want us to move in this direction. About 50 municipalities have requested title to water and sewage facilities, and we are responding to this request, to this demand in St Marys, to give you one example, Waterloo region to give you a second.

Divested of title to plants, the province would no longer be in the ambiguous position of being the regulator, the owner, the operator and the funder of these very essential services. This legislation would allow municipalities to deliver water and sewage services, as most do now, and to have the flexibility to choose an operator that will best serve their needs. Fewer levels of government administration means increased efficiency and decreased cost to the taxpayer. It will make our water and sewage systems operate more efficiently so that safe, drinkable water will continue to be provided well into the future.

The provincial government would then be able to focus on its most important role, that of setting and enforcing tough performance standards for the operation of water and sewage treatment plants. As a matter of simple fiscal responsibility, municipalities that propose to sell part or all of their waterworks to the private sector would be required by this legislation to repay any provincial capital grants received since 1978. This would protect the taxpayers' best interests and investment and encourage continued public control of water and sewage works.

Under the amended legislation, municipalities would also become formally responsible on October 1, 1997, for septic system inspections and approvals. They would have the ability to include new or expanded septic systems with a one-stop approvals service. We intend to ensure that public health and the environment are protected through tough rules for septic system installation and for their operation. Those doing this kind of work will have to meet competency requirements that will be set through provincial regulation.

People need the assurance, for example, that the inspectors are knowledgeable and competent, that their advice can be relied upon. We will use the transition period between now and October, when the Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act would take effect, as a time for training to ensure that inspectors meet the highest standards of professionalism. The toughened training and certification requirements for installers and inspectors have added benefits for homeowners. I'd like to read you a quote from Aubrey LeBlanc, the CEO responsible for the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. He said, "The new requirement for training and certification of installers and inspectors will provide greater protection for both the environment and the homeowner."

Homeowners would be better protected through increased professionalism in the field. They would get better value for their dollar. More reliable septic systems mean lower long-term maintenance costs. This increased dependability is also expected to lead to reduced insurance rates for new homes built with septic systems. In addition, the government is exploring ways to help smaller municipalities with specific needs or challenges to continue to meet Ontario's environmental protection and public health standards. Details will be provided in the next few months.


Some water and sewage works service more than just one municipality, which means that they are jointly responsible for the debts. In the case of these arrangements, called area plans, the works will be transferred to the serviced municipalities by way of a shared ownership agreement. Shortly after promulgation of this bill, area plan municipalities would be provided with a proposed order specifying the terms of the management structure. They can work from these model agreements, or if they have alternative proposals, these will of course be welcomed.

By way of the proposed amendments to part VIII of the Environmental Protection Act, municipalities or their agents would be responsible for the delivery of the septic system inspection and approvals program, beginning October 1, 1997. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing would administer the program in the unorganized areas in this province.

This will mean that residents of all municipalities across this province will receive a seamless level of service delivery. To date, this has not been the case.

Just as the province will continue to set and enforce environmental and health standards for the operation of water and sewage treatment plants, so will we continue to set tough rules for septic system installation and operation to protect public health and the environment. Restructuring these services would improve the way that they are delivered so that the taxpayer receives value, the best possible service with optimum efficiency and least cost.

Higher-quality work would also of course mean better protection for the environment. This remains the most important goal of Bill 107.

Water and sewage services have to date had confused ownership and fragmented administration. Bill 107 clarifies and untangles the roles of provincial and municipal governments in water and sewage services. Clear and consistent assignment of responsibility will result in better delivery and increased accountability. It is a better deal for the taxpayer.

These initiatives are designed to save the taxpayer money by ending administrative overlap without compromising the quality of the services themselves. Municipalities have clearly shown that they are able and responsible in delivering quality services to their constituents.

This government is committed to ensuring that Ontario's high standards of environmental protection are maintained and, wherever possible, improved upon. I am confident that Bill 107 will enable the ministry to become more efficient and effective, while also ensuring that Ontarians enjoy the greatest protection possible of their health and their environment.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Comments or questions?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Certainly, listening to the parliamentary assistant you would think that this is all good news to municipalities. Unfortunately, it isn't so, because it's interesting what the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has to say about this. They say that the transfer -- and by the way, the transfer is not negotiable. Municipalities are going to get ownership of these older plants whether they like it or not, and some of these plants go back to the 1950s and 1960s.

This is going to be forced on municipalities and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario states that the high cost of servicing the plant debts will undoubtedly be a huge fiscal pressure on those municipalities that are forced to do so, in addition to everything else that's already been forced on them during the mega-week. Municipalities may now not have the resources to assume the cost of operating these plants and, I may add, of upgrading the plants as need be because, as I stated before, many of these plants were built in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, AMO feels municipalities may have to reduce services, allow plants to deteriorate and dramatically raise the cost of water and sewer services.

Let's hear what the Ontario Municipal Water Association, a group that represents about 220 drinking water plants already owned by municipalities, has to say. They are very concerned that municipalities will either want to sell off their plants -- and by the way, there's no provision in the bill that eliminates that. We will be moving an amendment at the appropriate time stating that municipalities will not be allowed to sell off these plants to the private sector.

The OMWA goes on to say that to cover the additional responsibilities, municipalities will either want to sell off their plants or be forced to sell them to cover the additional responsibilities dumped on them by the Tories. As a matter of fact, they released a poll showing that 75% of Ontarians supported public ownership of water systems. We want to make sure it remains that way. We also want to make sure that those smaller municipalities that will be forced to take over these systems will have sufficient resources made available to them by the province when capital repairs are required.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to get up today and support my colleague from Northumberland, Mr Galt, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy, on second reading of Bill 107, the water and sewage improvement act, which will come into effect October 1, 1997.

Really, as Mr Galt said, the purpose here is to maintain the high quality of water and sewage access for the people of Ontario, which includes public health. The Ontario municipalities will receive full title to facilities. I think this is long overdue. It's another form of disentanglement. In fact, you might know that today about three quarters of them are already owned by municipalities, so there's a great opportunity here to streamline and clarify exactly how things are organized and run in this province.

Transferring responsibilities for the inspection and installation of septic tanks is long overdue. The bureaucratic way it is being handled today and the approval process itself are rather unclear. Again in that whole area we're going to improve the inspection. Installers will have access to new and tougher updates of training and certification, which is long overdue for those communities that use the private sewage treatment systems.

This bill allows a clear opportunity to disentangle the previous provisions of service and the operation of sewage and water treatment for the people of Ontario.

Just to wrap up, I think the member for Northumberland has clearly outlined an opportunity for Ontario to move forward in the most cost-effective, efficient way to provide high-quality water and sewage treatment for the people of Ontario.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The bill of course is about two things: It's about dumping responsibility on municipalities, and second, it's about privatization. If there is a third, it would be about lessening environmental regulation rather than increasing it.

The government puts this in a little package and hands out the information to the members and tries to pretend that what is actually happening is that it's going to increase environmental vigilance. It's exactly the opposite. This government is moving in exactly the opposite direction and it's doing it to curry favour with those who have always hated the Ministry of Environment. There are people out there, I assure you, who dislike the Ministry of Environment intently because it used to get in their way of doing the kind of business they wanted to do that was detrimental to the province, detrimental to the people of this province.

Good corporate citizens never worried about that. Good corporate citizens supported the Ministry of Environment. It was a leveller, if you will. First of all, they were citizens who wanted a good, clean environment in Ontario, and second, they knew there were bad actors out there who needed some regulation and some supervision.

Anybody who saw the program on The 5th Estate about the privatization of water systems will recognize what has happened in Britain and all the difficulties that come with this privatization. I know this government worships at the altar of privatization. It's an ideological response in this case, not common sense, not practical the way the previous Conservative government would have been. In this case, it's strictly ideological. That's what this is all about, and what will suffer will be the environment of this province. Make no mistake about it; that's what this agenda is. This bill fits in to that particular agenda.


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): The comments made by the parliamentary assistant, the member for Northumberland, I think are appreciated by all sides of the House. One comment that I'd like to particularly comment on is that with respect to septic systems. I think this is an issue that a number of governments over the years have looked at, how to toughen up the requirements for septic systems. If you live in a rural area or you live in cottage country, that whole topic of the septic systems and how it affects the environment, how it affects the homeowner is long overdue. So I congratulate the Minister of Environment and his parliamentary assistant for announcing that there will be tougher standards with respect to the installation of newer septic systems.

I can tell you that people in my riding, many of which are under septic systems, and areas in cottage country are certainly concerned as to the effect that faulty septic systems are having on our environment. I think the fact that there will be tougher standards will result in a number of things. Not only will it help the environment, but it will be an added boon to the homeowner with respect to tougher standards for the maintenance costs with respect to the septic systems.

There is a further area. There has been some indication that it's possible that insurance rates with respect to homes may have a downward climb or downward --

Mr Bradley: That's a real stretch.

Mr Tilson: I'm not so sure. You say it's a real stretch, the member for St Catharines, but it has been indicated by some insurance companies, particularly with the fear of the defective septic systems around the province, that if these standards are tougher and if the septic systems are going to be constructed in a more efficient and better way, the rates will fall. So congratulations to the member for Northumberland.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Member for Northumberland.

Mr Galt: Thanks to the member for Durham East and also the member for Dufferin-Peel for their kind comments. I also have to admit that, going back, I didn't realize that it was an MOE responsibility in my area of the ministry. The health unit looked after septic systems, and after joining as parliamentary assistant, I started to find out, heavens, it's conservation authorities, it's private, it's health units, and overseen by the Ministry of Environment. This is going to clarify and sort out an awful lot of that confusion.

I notice the member for Kingston and The Islands made reference to the good news. Certainly there's a lot of good news in this particular bill. I'd point out that he seemed to miss the point on the tax, that the provincial government is taking over the education tax on residential property and the intent is all about being revenue-neutral. They just seem to be missing that point and they want to talk about this downloading all the time. It seems a tough one to get clarified for them.

I do want to point out to them one of the comments that David Crombie made, and that was how much municipal politicians lobby to get money to build infrastructure. In the case he pointed out, they built such a large sewage treatment plant that in the end the municipality couldn't afford to run it. They had to come back to the provincial government to get grants and subsidy so they could actually operate the oversized plant that they so effectively lobbied for and got money for, and built it so big that they couldn't afford to operate it.

That's the kind of thing we want to get rid of. We want the local municipality to be responsible, to be fiscally responsible, and recognize the actual size that they need and build plants accordingly. This bill, by giving the ownership to the local municipality, making them responsible, will accomplish that, even though the member for St Catharines doesn't quite understand.

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

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I would like to ask consent to split my time in response with the member for St Catharines.

The Acting Speaker: Is there consent? Agreed.

Mr Agostino: When you look at Bill 107 and you look simply at what the government has put out and you see it in isolation, it sounds like a neat, nicely packaged, innocent piece of legislation that, in effect, does what the government believes municipalities would like to have done. When you look at Bill 107 and the way it has been packaged and sold by this government, it seems like a great move. But this is all part of the approach that this government has taken in dealing with the environment. This has all been part of the strategy since this government took office to dismantle, destroy and reduce any government involvement in the environment in this province.

Bill 107 cannot be looked at in isolation. Bill 107 cannot be looked at simply in the context of the three or four or five pages that the legislation has in place. How Bill 107 has to be looked at is in the context of mega-week. It has to be looked at in the context of the most massive downloading that has occurred in the history of this province by this government in the last couple of weeks. It has to be looked at in the context of Bill 26 that allows municipalities now to take certain action regarding water and sewage plants that they could not do in the past.

When you look at Bill 107, it really becomes an issue of not simply transferring the other 25% of the sewage and water plants and works to municipalities across Ontario. What it becomes is a clear opportunity and endorsement of municipalities having the ability, the power and the need, I believe, to sell their sewer and water assets.

Let's distinguish clearly. There is a difference between municipalities that choose to allow a private company to come in and operate the facilities and one that will choose to allow a private company to come in and own the facilities and, therefore, have control, most importantly, of the rates and the standards that are being set. Bill 107 allows that clear opportunity for municipalities across this province to do that.

The downloading that has occurred on to municipalities, the dumping that has occurred on to municipalities in the last few weeks put many municipalities across the province in serious financial jeopardy, a financial situation that municipalities have never faced in the history of this province. My own municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth will face a shortfall of $121 million -- that is one example -- Sudbury $105 million, Metro Toronto in the range of $380 million, and the list goes on and on.

You have put municipalities in a state of financial crisis. You have put municipalities in a situation where their choice is going to be to increase taxes dramatically in most municipalities, and municipal politicians know that can't be done because taxpayers cannot afford to pay any more municipal property taxes. If municipalities don't take that option, they face the option of increasing user fees for everything: bus transportation, public rinks, swimming pools, golf courses, garbage pickup, every service being provided.

That's the second option. You can either increase taxes or you can put user fees, which are basically a back-door approach to taxation. Any way you look at it, this government has become an expert at that. They meant to use user fees across the board in many areas but claim that's not a tax. It is a tax, and people who pay those user fees, like senior citizens, $2 a shot for a prescription, know that, know it's a tax as a result of your government's efforts on their backs. You will see that same option being utilized at the municipal level.

The third option that municipalities have is to cut services dramatically. Again, many municipalities have bit the bullet in the last three, four or five years and not cut services, have slimmed administration, have cut services that were not seen as important although necessary. That effort has already happened.

What is left? When you eliminate the option of increasing property taxes, when you eliminate the option of bringing in user fees, when you eliminate the option of massive reduction in services, you're left with only one option, and that is to look at services or operations that the municipality now has that you can sell off and maybe allow the private sector to do them.

When you look at municipal services, there are not many that are revenue makers for the private sector. There are going to be very few companies interested in purchasing the Hamilton Street Railway or the TTC or many other subsidized transportation systems across this province. Bus service, transportation service is seen as an essential service in municipalities, and governments over the years, with the exception of this government, have realized the need to fund those essential services.

In most communities like Hamilton-Wentworth and others across Ontario, people who use the bus service don't use it out of choice. People in Hamilton often don't use HSR out of choice. They usually use that system as a result of necessity. They can't afford to run a car, they can't afford parking, they may not be able to afford insurance, they're seniors, they can't drive for whatever reason. So it's an essential service. We have seen that. Very few companies are going to be interested in purchasing from the municipalities or running a bus system.

Social services is out; health is out. There are very few moneymakers.


There is one potential moneymaker here. That is water and sewer. First of all, it is essential. No one in any community across this province can go on without water or sewer services. We need water; it's a necessity of life. Therefore, people will be forced to pay whatever is necessary or whatever is charged to them, because you can't do without that service. So when you look at all the options, municipalities will be faced with the opportunity, and possibly the lack of choice, to look at selling and privatizing their assets, their infrastructure for water and sewer services.

What does Bill 107 do to address that? It gives it a bit of a token effort to make it look good. It's all part of the spin, the public relations effort. The whiz kids in the Premier's office say: "How do we counter the reality now that municipalities will be forced to sell off water and sewer services and the assets in order to deal with the massive dumping that has occurred? We're going to state in legislation that the municipalities have to pay back to the government the grants that were given to them to build those facilities."

I can tell you that water and sewer service is a big business and there will be a lineup miles long for private sector companies to come into any municipality across this province and buy those facilities, and they'd be more than happy to pay the municipalities the cost of provincial grants, the funds that were given to municipalities. It's going to be a small cost of operation, the $30 million or $40 million or $50 million for these companies in the private sector to come in and take over a water or sewer operation in a municipality. It will be peanuts. They will be glad to pay that to the municipality, and the municipality will pay it to the province. So it really is a token smokescreen that you've put in legislation.

We've seen the British experience with privatizing water and sewer services. We've seen rates in Britain that have gone on average from $96 per household in 1988 to $460 per household in 1995. That has been the British experience with privatization of water and sewer services.

What one cannot understand is why this government, when introducing Bill 107, would not look at the question of prohibiting municipalities from selling these assets. If you're so sure that municipalities are not going to do it, if you're so sure that it's a bad move by municipal governments to sell water and sewer infrastructure, and more importantly the ability to set the rates through the private sector, why would you not bring in legislation that would do so? What is the harm in that? The minister certainly seems convinced that it's a bad idea. Let me quote Norm Sterling, December 4: "I don't think any municipality would be foolish enough to privatize, because I don't think that's where the general public are in terms of those kinds of assets."

The minister tells us it's foolish. The minister tells us the public would not like that. Why would the minister then not bring in legislation to prohibit that? What is the agenda here? Is the agenda to simply remove that 25% of the services of water and sewer facilities that are now operated under provincial jurisdiction, or is the agenda here to open the door for your friends in the private sector to operate and run and make a ton of money at the expense of taxpayers and senior citizens and the disabled and hardworking Ontarians, based on the ability to own and control the flow of water and sewer services to their homes and charge whatever rate they want?

I would appreciate someone from the government side of the House in their response or somehow through this debate to outline to me what rationale there would be for not putting such a provision in legislation. You could avoid all of this problem. You have the power through legislation to force municipalities to hang on and operate the services. If that is your agenda, if truly your agenda is affordable, clean, safe drinking water for Ontarians, then that simple amendment in your legislation would do so. It would meet that criterion.

But that is not the case. That is not the case because your friends in the private sector who have lobbied for this for years and years unsuccessfully through former Tory governments, through former Liberal governments, through former NDP governments don't like that. They want that ability. They're going to want that power to own those facilities, because you can make a ton of money. Shareholders will be happy. People who work at the Toronto Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange will be the happiest people in the world when you allow the privatization of water and sewer to go on in Ontario.

How does Bill 26 fit into this? It fits in very simply. Under Bill 26 you have eliminated the need for municipalities to hold referendums before selling off water or other public facilities. Before Bill 26, because previous governments realized the importance and how vital water and sewer services are to people, there was a provision that said you can't sell water and sewer infrastructure, facilities and rates without going to a referendum. But you have eliminated that, so you've clearly opened the door.

When you look at the backdrop of all of this, you look at a government that since it has come to office has basically dumped hundreds of millions and billions of dollars on to municipal taxpayers. You look at a government that has gone out of its way to privatize absolutely everything that moves and breathes and makes dust, and you look at a government that through Bill 26 has cleared the path and opened the door for total control for municipalities to operate or to sell water and sewer assets across Ontario and the setting of the rates. You look at that and you see clearly what the agenda is. The agenda is very clearly that when it comes to the environment and when it comes to essential services in this province, the private sector's ability to make money through this government's efforts takes precedence over the public need.

A member of the government can maybe assure us in the opposition and ensure the people of Ontario that not one municipality will sell its assets, because you have nothing in legislation that prohibits them from doing that. Your objective is to continue to dismantle the ministry. Your objective is to continue to dismantle ministry regulations. Your objective is to get out of the whole business of environmental controls. Your objective is clear: It is to dismantle 50 years of work by governments of all three political stripes in this province to set some of the toughest environmental standards in North America, standards we have been proud of.

I can tell you, you've done more damage to environmental regulations in the last year than we've ever seen in the history of this province, and this is one further step. We're no longer talking simply about long-term effects on the environment. What we're talking about now is the impact on people's ability to afford water and sewer -- water, one of the most essential needs, if not the most essential need, we have.

You have opened the door for the private sector to walk in, to be able to own these facilities and charge taxpayers and residents across Ontario whatever they want to provide those services, and what choice do those residents have? It is a monopoly. There is no alternative. There is no accountability. Once a municipal government gives up its power to control rates, who do the citizens turn to? They can no longer turn to their councillor because you've increased water rates. They can no longer turn to their MPP. Who do they turn to? Maybe they'll pick up the phone and call the CEO of a corporation. Maybe they'll pick up the phone and call someone on Bay Street or on Wall Street. I'm sure they'll get a quick response as to why their rates have gone up.

Clearly you have given municipalities the power and you are forcing municipalities to give up what is really the ace in the hole, and that is the ability to control water rates and sewer rates and what they charge taxpayers across this province.

This government has a brutal record when it comes to protecting essential services and protecting the environment and environmental services across Ontario. This is one more addition to that, and it's not simply the opposition saying that. Let me quote from the Ontario Municipal Water Association. This is a group that represents about 220 water treatment plants owned by local governments across Ontario.

Don Black, the executive director of the Ontario Municipal Water Association, said, "We believe the government is opening the floodgates to the irreversible deterioration of public waterworks in Ontario." I think it's a fairly credible source, a very credible spokesman, certainly in my view one much more credible than this minister or this ministry or this government when it comes to protecting water services across Ontario.


This government has ignored all public warnings. They've ignored all public advice. They've ignored the auditor when it comes to dealing with environmental issues. Let me quote what the auditor had to say under "Overall Audit Observations," page 113: "The ministry needs to update its standards for air pollutants. Additionally, it needs to improve its monitoring efforts in the areas of air, water and hazardous waste material."

What does this government do in response to these recommendations? They lay off inspectors. They lay off the inspectors who do the monitoring for air, water and hazardous waste materials across Ontario. In response to concerns by the auditor that we need to upgrade the standards and strongly enforce the standards in Ontario, they lay off staff. They lay off the front-line men and women who do that enforcement. That is the commitment from that government.

Do you know why they do it? Because their friends in the private sector want them to do that, the big corporations that for years and years used to get away with murder, literally murder, when it came to environmental standards across Ontario. In many situations it hasn't changed yet. People may be shocked to know that a report last year from the Ministry of Environment -- not a special interest group, not a watchdog group, but the Ministry of Environment -- outlined that in my community of Hamilton-Wentworth 20 to 25 deaths a year occur as a result of dust particles known as PM10.

We raised this issue with the minister in August. We raised it with the minister in October. We're sitting here in February and there's been absolutely no action, no initiative, taken by this government to deal with this issue of PM10, the fine dust particles that the Ministry of Health itself estimates cost 20 to 25 deaths a year in Hamilton-Wentworth.

That's part of the record. That's part of what we have seen from this government. That is clearly an indication of how seriously this government takes environmental concerns, how seriously this government takes air pollution and water pollution concerns across Ontario. They take it seriously enough to simply ignore it and hope it'll go away on its own. It's not going to go away.

I fear that with the introduction of Bill 107, with Bill 26 added to that mix, you are now going to allow the lowering of the standards for drinking water across Ontario -- not only selling the assets, not only allowing the private sector to put greed and money before people's health and before quality drinking water; you are now going to compromise the quality of drinking water across Ontario.

I find this interesting. I'd read this with some humour, if it weren't so serious. Here's another quote, from November 4 from Minister Sterling:

"`After I've finished here I want to look back and say, "Hey, I did some really positive things for the environment," Mr Sterling said recently.... `I really believe that too many politicians, after they've finished, can't look back and say, "I did do something while I was there."'"

I can tell you, Mr Sterling has already done a great deal while he's been here. The minister has done tremendous work on behalf of private corporations at the expense of average Ontarians when it comes to health care.

What has this minister done? Let's look at the record. This minister and this government have downsized, have laid off, have reduced the size of the ministry staff by 40%. At a time when the auditor says we need more enforcement, we need higher standards, this government responds by laying off 40% of its staff. Over 500 environmental investigators across Ontario have been laid off.

The report out of Hamilton-Wentworth that shows 20 to 25 deaths a year as a result of PM10: How does the government respond? By shutting down the air monitoring station on Kentley Drive in my riding of Hamilton East. In a riding that abuts industry, in a riding where people's homes are a couple of hundred feet from industry, the government responds by shutting down an air monitoring station at the same time that the ministry releases a report that shows that 20 to 25 a year die in Hamilton-Wentworth as a result of one particular type of dust particle. That's their response.

The answer is: "If we just bury our heads in the sand, if we get rid of the staff and we can't do the investigating or the monitoring, if we get rid of the stations, you know what? The problem won't exist. That solves the problem. We just shut down the monitoring stations and we don't know there's a problem. We get rid of staff and we can't investigate, so we don't know there's a problem."

It's simple, just as simple as the Comic Book Revolution you introduced two years ago that's got simple answers to all the problems across this province; every single problem has a simple bumper-sticker solution. Whether it's welfare, whether it's employment equity, whether it's photo-radar, whatever the issue is, you've got a simple one-line solution that fits on a bumper sticker and sounds great in a 10-second clip.

You've done the same thing to the environment and you've done the same thing here. If you shut down the stations and you get rid of the staff, we don't have a problem in Ontario any more, because we can't tell there's a problem. How can you tell there's an air problem when you've shut down the monitoring station?

You have moved very clearly in your own business plan, you acknowledge, to self-monitoring and self-regulation by industry. What you're doing is allowing industries that over the years have polluted our air, our water, our environment and that over the years have been forced by government actions of former Conservative, Liberal and NDP governments to spend money in upgrading their facilities because we believe the health care of Ontarians is a priority and is important -- what you're doing is now allowing these corporations, these companies, to self-monitor and self-regulate.

That is very clearly the equivalent of giving a drug addict the key to the pharmacy. That is very clearly allowing the people who have been responsible over the years for destroying our water, for destroying our environment, for destroying our air to be good corporate citizens and, on their own, monitor themselves. We've seen that that has been a failure, a dismal failure, in the past, and there's no indication for us to believe it will be any different today. The pattern continues.

We then look at this ongoing pattern of destruction in Bill 107 in the context of the bigger picture, in the context of the red tape review, which is a classic example of government using the excuse of cost-effectiveness and doing more for less to dismantle regulations and to lower standards across this province. What do some of the recommendations do? Let's see. Some of the recommendations again tie into the pattern. When you look at Bill 107, as I said earlier, you must look at it within the context of the bigger picture, within the context of this government's record on the environment and environmental protection.

What does the Red Tape Review Commission recommend? This commission recommends that recycling and waste reduction be voluntary for industrial, commercial and institutional establishments. No longer, if these recommendations are accepted, will the private sector, will industry, will commercial institutions across the province have to recycle. Waste reduction will no longer be mandatory. It will be at the whim of these corporations, of these industries, of these institutions. If they choose to do it and they can find money in their budgets, they'll do it; if they don't, it doesn't really matter. What does that do? That increases costs for public institutions, but it also increases the usage of landfill sites and incineration to get rid of this excess waste.

The commission also recommends that the assessment of environmental liabilities not include previous owners. We have seen in the past where there have been gas stations, where there have been chemical plants, as we've seen in my own community of Hamilton, that these owners have walked away. There have been regulations and enforcement mechanisms to at least allow the ministry some latitude and some power to go in and try to find these owners and hold them responsible for contamination of the site, cleanup of the soil that has been contaminated, cleanup of the site so it doesn't pose a health danger, it doesn't pose a risk for people, and at the same time it allows whoever buys the property that ability to do something with it.


What the commission is now recommending to this government is that those rules be relaxed, that we no longer make any real effort to find previous owners, that it become the responsibility of the new owner. So an unsuspecting owner buys a piece of property that has contaminated soil because there may have been a gas station next door 20 years before or five years before, and that owner is stuck with the problem. That makes it easier for the private corporations, the friends of this government, to be able to walk away simply unscathed without any liability, without any responsibility.

The storage and transportation of PCBs: Over the years there has been a fairly rigid requirement in place. The storage and transportation of PCBs had to meet some fairly strict government regulations, MOE regulations and municipal approvals. I remember sitting on city council where, on a regular basis, we received reports from the MOE of requests from the private sector and from industries to move or store PCB waste across the city.

It was simply sent to us for consultation. It was sent to us for input. The ministry ultimately made the decision. But at least the municipality had some control over that. We were able to express our concerns, we were able to say: "We think it's a bad move. We don't think there should be a storage site here. We want to be aware of the fact that PCBs are being moved across our roads when and where in this community."

I understand there is a level of danger in PCBs between liquid PCBs and other forms, but at the end of the day, if there's a fire, if there's an explosion, that level of danger exists in both situations, with both liquid and non-liquid PCBs. But what you have done through these regulations is you have allowed the free and uncontrolled movement and storage of PCBs, highly dangerous, potentially dangerous chemicals, in the communities across Ontario.

Why have you done that? Because this is part of the wish list that your friends in the private sector have wanted for years and years. But there hasn't been a government stupid enough to allow that to happen because they know there's a danger to the public in that. What does this government do? It says: "It's okay. Don't worry about the regulations, don't worry about controls, don't worry about having to notify municipalities that you're going to move PCBs or store PCBs in certain areas."

The same applies to the transportation of hazardous waste across public streets. Previous legislation forced industry to get permission and have qualified individuals and qualified companies remove, store and transport hazardous waste. This recommendation by the Red Tape Review Commission now says if a company wants to move hazardous waste from one site to another, it can do so across public streets without any approvals, without any controls, without any regulations. That is a time bomb waiting to explode.

I am not sure if the government really understands what this regulation means: It means if a company has two plants five kilometres apart in a municipality, they can move without any regulations, any controls, any approvals, hazardous waste from point A to point B those five kilometres without any government regulations whatsoever. It is dangerous and irresponsible of any government to expose the citizens of a community to that type of risk, but if this commission's recommendations are accepted, that's exactly what is going to happen here.

The environmental monitoring of substances under MISA will be severely reduced. This clearly puts our surface and drinking water at risk. The people of Ontario clearly will have to fear for the quality of the drinking water. People in Ontario should be able to turn on the tap and drink water without feeling they're going to get sick as a result of government deregulation.

The MISA project over the years and the regulations very clearly allowed some stricter controls and some monitoring of the effluents going in and coming out. That no longer will exist if this review is accepted. It means that the number of inspections will be reduced dramatically, that the government thought it would be cheaper for private corporations to have to inspect bimonthly rather than once a day. Of course it will be cheaper, but it's also unsafe, unhealthy and dangerous to the public and to the health of Ontarians.

This government has also chosen to go soft on companies that have been found or charged with violations across Ontario. We have seen, since this government came to power, a 40% reduction in charges laid and in convictions against the private sector. Is it a coincidence? Is it simply a coincidence that since this government came to power there has been a massive reduction in the number of charges laid against companies for acts against the environment, for breaking environmental laws? Is it a coincidence that there has been a decline not only in the number of charges laid but in the number of convictions that have occurred? Is it strictly a coincidence?

I think not. I think it's a very clear message this government has sent that violators can get away with it, that violators across Ontario can very clearly do what they want and that this government is not going to charge them or, if they charge them, they'll probably let them off with a slap on the wrist. This has all been part of the pattern; this has all been part of the path of destruction that this government continues to unload to people across Ontario.

What is fundamentally different from regulation changes that have occurred in the past that people had problems with is that many of those changes and moves by government in the past to look at deregulating certain aspects of the environment and environmental controls had a long-term effect, effects that could be seen in five, 10, 15, 20, 30 years, not necessarily tomorrow or next week or next month, to the health of Ontarians.

The difference substantially to what this government is doing today is that we're no longer talking about environmental protection in the long term for our children, our grandchildren and so on. What we're talking about now is short-term, immediate threats to the health of Ontarians. If you go ahead with many of these moves, you're going to put the health of people across this province at risk. The danger is there. Your staffing cuts have certainly deteriorated the level of enforcement across Ontario, as have your lack of resolve to follow through on companies that have been charged and simply your deregulation.

As I said earlier, your answer is simple, as you have an answer for everything that is simple: "We'll deal with the environmental problems in Ontario in a very simple manner. We're going to reduce staff, we're going to get rid of regulations, we're not even going to charge companies and we're going to get rid of monitoring stations. Therefore, we don't know there's a problem, and if we do know there's a problem, we don't have the staff to follow it up and enforce it, and if we do enforce it and charge someone, we're not going to follow through with it and convict him." It's a very simple solution, but it's a solution that is really endangering the health of Ontarians.

This bill simply adds to that pattern of destruction. Bill 107 is nothing but a smokescreen for municipalities to basically be forced to sell to the private sector something that we in this province, in this country, believe is unthinkable.

Some of my colleagues across will say: "You know what? They've had that power before. Why haven't they done it?" They've had the power in the past, but first of all, as I said earlier, before Bill 26, your bully bill, municipalities had to go through a process of a public referendum before they sold any of these assets. That's no longer required. Number two, municipalities have never, ever been faced with such a massive dumping and added burden to the cost of doing business as they have today by your government.

It is absolutely ludicrous to allow the opportunity for municipalities to sell this asset. Companies will line up to buy water and sewer infrastructure across Ontario, across this country, because it is a moneymaker. It can be made into a moneymaker. It will be made into a moneymaker because they don't have the responsibility the municipal councils have in setting water and sewer rates.

It really is not going to give the senior citizen in my riding on a fixed income or a small pension, or my injured worker, or my steelworker, the option of saying no to how much they pay for water once the private sector owns that service. You can't shut off the tap in the home and say, "We're not going to drink any water, because the rates are too high." This government doesn't seem to understand that. They don't understand the danger in the road that they've moved towards.

They don't understand that one simple change to this legislation would go a long way towards easing those concerns. If you are as convinced as you say you are and if you're as committed to clean and safe and affordable drinking water in Ontario, then for God's sake why would you not put in legislation a clause prohibiting municipalities from selling these assets? It is simple. It is not rocket science here. It is very simple. One line, one little amendment to this legislation would prohibit municipalities from doing what we all fear could happen.


If you believe it is not going to happen, if your agenda is not be in the back pockets of the private sector and continue to do exactly what the private sector wants you to do, if your agenda is not to sell out the interests of Ontarians, if your agenda is not to jeopardize the health of Ontarians, if your agenda is not to simply dismantle every single regulation we have left, then the solution to this issue is a simple amendment to the bill.

I hope that the parliamentary assistant to the minister, once he gets up for his response, will agree to that and commit that this government will bring in an amendment to this bill that will prohibit municipalities from selling off the water and sewer assets, and therefore the control of rates. Anything short of that will do nothing more than continue to put into people's lives a fear that municipalities are going to sell off those assets to the highest bidder and that this government is in the back pockets of big business and the industry when it comes to protecting the environment.

Mr Bradley: I appreciate the opportunity the member for Hamilton East has provided me to participate in this debate as part of the leadoff of the official opposition, because I think this bill has very serious ramifications for this province. It is characterized as somewhat benign in that is always dressed up in a name that makes it attractive, and on a continuing basis this government does that, when in fact if one looked at the title the government uses and then at the actual implications of this bill, we would see that there is a significant difference.

With all of the legislation and regulation this government is involved in, you must look in the context of the total picture, because it is part of a pattern of pushing the Ministry of Environment and the environment into the background, much to the chagrin of many people in this province. Fortunately for the government, in terms of public relations, it is a situation where there isn't much attention paid to this kind of bill, or in fact environmental issues.

The reason is that there are other issues of interest out there. I find that most unfortunate, because in virtually every move I see this government making I see a retreat on the environment.

I always seem to be speaking when my friend the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is here, and it always reminds me, I guess brings me slightly off the intent of a bill when I see him here because I suspect, though I never expect him to publicly disagree with the government, that he must have a concern at the disappearance of agricultural land in this province, good agricultural land.

My friend the member for Victoria-Haliburton drives down Highway 401 towards eastern Ontario, where both the temperatures and quality of the soil do not lend themselves as much to certain crops as would the Niagara Peninsula, for instance. There are very few places where you can grow such things as peaches and cherries, and plums and grapes. I don't think you can grow them very well in eastern Ontario.

My friend the member for St Catharines-Brock would be aware of this. Tomorrow, for instance, the Ontario Grape Growers' Marketing Board, will be here at the Legislature -- first of all at their offices in St Catharines; here at the Legislature at 3:30 -- to present its annual report. I think they've had some degree of success. There's been a major turnaround in that industry. When I look at it, I say part of the reason might well have been the very significant infusion of funds that took place in the late 1980s and 1990 that helped turn that around, and I might add to the Minister of Agriculture -- he will find this amusing and nod in agreement -- much to the chagrin of the Treasurer of the day, I believe, who thought it was a costly program. But the Premier of the day, Premier Peterson, was quite supportive of it.

The point I make with the agricultural land is that we're seeing new proposals on good agricultural land to eat it up. One of the assets we have, as you have, Mr Speaker, in southwestern Ontario, one of the genuine assets we have in the Niagara Peninsula is that agricultural land. There's a new industry now -- not entirely new but a growing industry -- which is agritourism. People like being able to come through the rural areas of the Niagara Peninsula to visit some of our cottage wineries and larger wineries, to take advantage of the fresh product that is available during the summer months. I lament the fact that we are now seeing some proposals to further gobble up that agricultural land, which once turned over for development will no longer be available for agriculture.

One of the most important industries we have, I think the minister would agree with me, is the agricultural industry, often underrated by others. You will recall when the previous government rushed to the aid of the steel industry in Sault Ste Marie and the pulp and paper industry in northern Ontario -- and I was supportive of that, and we've seen a turnaround -- because there was a significant number of jobs, hundreds or into the thousands of jobs that depended on it. But because agriculture is spread out across the province, people don't always recognize that when it's in jeopardy, when it isn't a strong industry, we lose thousands upon thousands of jobs and a lot of money to go with it, in terms of taxes that come to government, but as important, in terms of purchasing power for those individuals. So I look to the government to protect that and I relate it to this because this is an environmental bill and environment involves protecting farm land.

On the bill itself, it is part of the downloading or dumping of this government of so many responsibilities to municipalities. I recall, when I was Minister of Environment, that there were a lot of small municipalities, many, by the way, in the Minister of Agriculture's part of the province, that were dependant upon the Ministry of Environment for some funding and for some assistance.

I thought he wrote some good letters at that time. My staff used to comment on the quality of the letters, the tone of the letters that came to the office. We were able to respond favourably as much as possible to the suggestions for specific areas of funding for the smaller municipalities, in particular in eastern Ontario and in other parts of the province.

Now we see the province abandoning that field and saying, "Well, locally you have control." I know the parliamentary assistant mentioned that 75% of water plants and sewage treatment plants are in the control of municipalities, and they are by and large the larger municipalities in the province. The 25% that are the responsibility of the smaller municipalities should be of equal concern. I represent a large urban riding, an almost entirely urban riding, so if you want to look at it on a parochial basis, there's nothing particularly for me or my constituents in this bill. But all of us are elected to look at the good of the province as a whole, and I am concerned about those municipalities which I think will be forced into privatization -- they really will.


I know the agenda of the Minister of Environment and Energy is to privatize the Ontario Clean Water Agency that we have. Frankly I was never particularly enamoured of setting up a specific agency. I always thought it was better as part of the Ministry of the Environment, but the previous government did that and said there were safeguards there. I guess as long as there were, there wasn't irreparable damage done.

We have a situation now where it's made it easy for the Ontario government to dump the Ontario Clean Water Agency into the private sector. We've seen examples in Britain of what happens when you privatize water and sewer services. There are some services that the private sector can handle that the government in some cases has privatized and may not have had much flak from the public at large. I think it's always worthy of governments to examine all their operations to see how they can best be handled. I don't deny the government that opportunity.

I think one area where the government should be involved on behalf of its citizens is in the delivery of water services and sewage treatment services. When you privatize that, you're heading down a slippery slope into the unknown, except that it isn't entirely unknown if you look at the British experience where water rates zoomed, service wasn't that good and disadvantaged people often had their water cut off.

I remember looking at the program and taping the portion of the program, The 5th Estate, which dealt with that, and I read a number of articles on that and heard speeches people have made about this particular problem. I think this is where this government is heading, and the reason is, as in so many cases, strictly ideological. It is not practical. It is not the approach of Darcy McKeough, who many people always thought was a right-winger; Darcy today wouldn't be a right-winger in this government. Mr McKeough saw a role for the public sector to play as well, and I think this government is abandoning virtually all those areas, and while I hope for the best -- I'm not here to hope for the worst; I'm not that kind of person -- I really fear that it is a wrong path you're moving down in many of these areas.

If we look at concerns we have, there was mention of, "Well, weren't those municipalities irresponsible because they built oversized sewage treatment plants?" The reason they built them was because you have to accept the fact, even though we'd like to think otherwise, that there is extraneous flow which gets into these water systems.

There is some thought -- interestingly enough it swings back and forth, and those who follow it perhaps would find it a bit amusing -- originally they said: "You shouldn't treat stormwater. Separate the stormwater and the sewage which comes out of a house."

So municipalities such as mine in St Catharines spent millions of dollars separating stormwater and sanitary, meaning sewer water that comes out of a household and out of industries, so that the stormwater would flow directly into the waterway nearby, in our case Lake Ontario, and the other would go through a sewage treatment plant. But when we started to look at the quality of the stormwater going through a major urban area, we found out that quality wasn't all that good and that it wasn't all that bad to treat some of that water.

One of the best solutions, and I heard members mention it before, was retention tanks, retention ponds which would control the flow into a sewage treatment plant. But there were many situations where either development couldn't take place, or second, where the plant could not hold anything involving a 30-year storm, for instance. So the operator has the choice. I think I saw this on a program on PBS, the Public Broadcasting System in the US, on the Boston sewage treatment system where they had to, as I say, let her rip. That meant bypass the plant and let everything go into the lake because there wasn't the capacity. I think those people weren't being so wrongheaded as they were being cautious about the environment.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy, in this context, should be looked at carefully. To be successful, and this isn't necessarily the case of all ministries, the Ministry of Environment needs four things, basically: (1) It needs adequate funding; (2) it needs substantial staff to carry out its responsibilities; (3) it needs resources -- that's equipment, I think of things such as equipment; (4) it needs clout. In all four instances this government is diminishing the role of the Ministry of Environment, which had gained some prominence.

When one of the previous governments, the Liberal government, came into office in 1985 the Ministry of the Environment was considered to be a minor ministry. A minister was either on his way up or his way down, but the minister always spent a few months on the job. The minister was not in the position of being on the policies and priorities board or the economic development committee or the management board. It was a junior ministry. That was turned around in 1985 because the government that was elected, I think certainly partially in response to large public demand, wanted to see the Ministry of the Environment play a much more significant role. There were people out there who were concerned.

I know there are people today, as there were then, who hate the Ministry of Environment because it's an inconvenience for them, because it may diminish their profit to a certain extent, because it may get in their way. But there are a lot of people in this province, citizens who appreciated some of the improvements that have been made over the years through the auspices of the ministry.

When you remove the funding, when you cut the funding by 33%, by fully one third, when you cut the staff way back so that I don't think anybody from Ontario now goes down to check the monitoring stations along the Niagara River, which has some of the most toxic waste sites sitting on the American side, with seepages going into the Niagara River, they're virtually abandoning their responsibility because they don't have the staff and they don't have the money and they don't have the resources.

When they have all three, somebody's saying, "Remember we're supposed to be business-friendly," which makes them hesitate about bothering an industry that might well be causing some damage to the environment. This will help you if you're aiming at that group to support you because they will come to your fund-raisers; they will be supportive of you because you are taking away laws which get in their way.

I go back to the point I've made in many cases in this House, that there are a lot of good corporate citizens, and the good corporate citizens support strong laws and strong enforcement of the laws because they have nothing to fear. They spend the money on training their employees, on the necessary equipment, on changes of process and on developing an attitude among everybody in the company that's pro-environment. Those companies don't worry about strong laws, they don't worry about strong enforcement; they want it. They want it because they know they may have some competitors who are prepared to cut corners to make changes which affect the environment adversely, and they want a level playing field. I appreciated the support of those people, as I do today.

I was talking to an individual the other day -- who will remain nameless, so you might say, "He probably makes this up if he says that"; I'm not -- who was here on a special occasion, and I was quite surprised because the person was from the private sector, from a company, and he was very critical of what this government was doing on the environment. What a turnaround, because 12 years ago, a dozen years ago that person from that company would probably have been wanting the government to deregulate, to scale back on its environmental operations. But this company had made tremendous advances not only in technology, in the way of working, but in general attitude, and was now trying to drag others along. This person was lamenting certain changes that were being made to the deregulation process under the auspices of the member for Lincoln.

We also look at a report that says convictions are down. Why are convictions down? Is it because everybody is now obeying the law of the province? I don't think so. Convictions are down because if you don't look for the problems, you won't find them. If you have fewer staff to enforce the environmental laws of the province, you're going to have fewer prosecutions and fewer convictions.


I guess the ultimate goal of any government of any society would be to have no convictions for the reason that nobody is breaking the law, but I think all of us are wise enough to know that at midnight, you know what happens. The dump goes. Up go the emissions into the air, the effluent into the soil, the effluent into the waterway. That's why we need a strong investigations and enforcement branch, totally independent of the rest of the ministry, independent of the minister's direction, to enforce the laws of the province.

I heard reference made to septic systems by my friend the member for Dufferin-Peel, and I can tell you that there is a problem with septic systems. I used to hear people say: "Well, you know, those pointed-headed people down at the ministry don't know what they're talking about. We know common sense, and what we're proposing is not a problem." Then, when they were stewing in their own sewage, they'd come down to the Ministry of the Environment and say, "You should be providing clean water for us." And you end up doing it, though you well recall the dismissal of scientists and technicians from the Ministry of the Environment as "those people from Toronto who don't know what they're talking about." Again, you have to be careful when doing that, because that's what happens, and I've had this told to me by many people who regretted after that they had had certain exemptions or certain changes to laws over the years which didn't allow for careful observation of septic systems. Unfortunately, some parts of the province are stuck with that.

Let's look at the cuts to the Ministry of Environment. The total ministry staff in 1994-95, and that was even after some cuts by the NDP, was 2,400. The 1996 business plan cuts call for 752 jobs or 31% of the total staff to be eliminated. In budget cuts, 1994-95, again after the budget of the ministry had been reduced by the previous government, $286 million. The current operating budget for 1996-97 is $175 million, so the total operating budget cut was 39% or $111 million.

There's been a reduction in laboratory services, elimination of three regional labs -- Thunder Bay, Kingston and London -- and a reduction of jobs at the lone remaining Toronto lab, a total reduction of 106 jobs. These labs do water and soil sample tests, lab work to be consolidated in the Toronto lab, with most work now left to private labs, and most private labs charge more for the same tests. Therefore, there are impacts on municipalities having their waters tested. I think I saw something where agricultural people were complaining the other day as well about an increased cost they were going to face.

Inspection staff in the budget were greatly reduced, 141 jobs lost. For example, there's only one air quality inspector left for the entire province. Reduction in inspection and enforcement has resulted in a drop in charges against the polluters. As I had mentioned, 683 charges were laid against polluters in the first 10 months of 1996 compared with 1,037 in all of 1995, a 21% reduction, and fines have dropped off by 57% in 1997. You can't tell me that's because suddenly everybody has become an angel. It's because the job isn't being done.

You closed the regional office in Sudbury: 26 jobs gone. Your prosecution unit has been reduced from 10 staff in 1990 to four staff in 1996. The number of water monitoring stations has fallen from nearly 700 in 1991 to just over 200 in 1996. Many programs are ending in 1997-98, including the Home Green Up program, support for the blue box program, and rural and urban beach cleanup. The operating transfers to the Niagara Escarpment Commission have been cut by 28%, or $700,000.

In terms of regulation, legislation, you passed Bill 76, changes to the Environmental Assessment Act that tie the hands of the Environmental Assessment Board to adequately review major environmental projects. There is no requirement now that major new landfill sites be referred to the board for a full environmental review.

You passed Bill 57, changes to the Environmental Protection Act, which now gives the minister sweeping powers to exempt any person, activity or thing from the Environmental Protection Act. It gives the minister sweeping powers to offload responsibility for enforcing certain environmental standards on to the municipalities -- municipalities, I might add, that are getting other responsibilities. So you're sticking the municipalities with all of these increasing costs, and all of these good programs have to compete with one another now at the local level. You're not going to see standard enforcement across the province. You're not going to see standard quality across the province, as we used to have, under the auspices of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Environment.

The environmental regulatory review that was conducted by the member for Lincoln resulted in 40 environmental regulations that are proposed to be changed or scrapped under your so-called Responsive Environmental Protection paper. You've enacted regulation exempting established gravel pit owners from needing permits to quarry on the Niagara Escarpment. These are changes that are taking place in the context of this legislation.

I was rather taken by the Ontario Municipal Water Association press release on December 3, 1996, just a couple of months ago. It was entitled "Ontario's Drinking Water in Jeopardy: Ontario Municipal Water Association Calls for Public Hearings."

"The Ontario Municipal Water Association today challenged Premier Mike Harris to undertake full public hearings into the provision of drinking water in the province.

"Representing members who supply water to eight million Ontario residents, the Ontario Municipal Water Association today warned that the government is jeopardizing the future of Ontario's water system through deliberate policies of neglect and deregulation, without benefit of public input or consideration of alternatives.

"`We believe the government is opening the floodgates to the irreversible deterioration of water services in Ontario,' said Don Black, executive director of OMWA. `It's a situation that is transforming Ontario's reliable and safe water service into one marked by chaos and fragmentation. The government clearly has no plan to safeguard our drinking water and to ensure the high quality, low cost and reliable water system we enjoy today.'"

It's not me saying this; this is not the opposition. This is the Ontario Municipal Water Association. That's not a radical group, to my knowledge. That's a very responsible group. It's not an anti-government group. It's a group that's expressing a genuine concern. They go on to say in their press release:

"It is the province's responsibility to oversee protection of public health and the natural environment, and to ensure the availability of basic, vital infrastructure regardless of a municipality's ability to pay.

"Instead, the Ontario government is paving the way for privatization, where private operators have profit, not customers, as their prime concern. Municipalities will be further squeezed by reduced transfer payments so they may be forced to cross-subsidize other services with water revenues. This can create an incentive for municipalities to make up lost revenues through hidden taxes in water rates.

"`The Ontario government is shedding its responsibilities for this vital service to the detriment of all Ontario residents,' said Black. `Water is a vital service, not a commodity to be bought and sold. And public health should not be compromised by lax standards and minimal enforcement.'"


The Ontario Municipal Water Association detailed three areas where government initiatives threaten the future provision of water services. Let me share with you what those three areas are.

"(1) The Who Does What panel recommends offloading provincial costs to the municipal level. This makes it difficult for local governments to maintain dedicated revenues for water services and opens the door to privatization and a patchwork of operational standards. Standards are difficult to enforce since the province has cut its enforcement capability significantly."

"(2) The government has indicated it will privatize the Ontario Clean Water Agency, which would affect more Ontario residents than any other privatization such as the LCBO." By the way, I happen to oppose the privatization of the LCBO as well. "With no public hearings or input, the government is leaving the system to the whim of private operators. Privatization of water in Britain has been a failure, resulting in higher water prices and poorer service for customers and windfall profits for operators.

"(3) The government has eliminated the requirement for public referenda before dissolution of public utility commissions, which denies water customers any input or choice into the future of their drinking water. This runs counter to the government's stated intention to increase the use of referenda to encourage greater participation in local decision-making."

"Mr Black added that public hearings are necessary to allow Ontario residents input into decisions affecting their drinking water. `This will enable the government to develop a credible blueprint for the future of drinking water in this province.'

"The Ontario Municipal Water Association speaks for 237 member water authorities across the province on matters related to the treatment and supply of drinking water in Ontario. OMWA brings together a cross-section of expertise and specialization."

When I look at what the Ontario Municipal Water Association has to say, an independent body, a non-radical body, an objective body, I become concerned. They were doing a little bit of question and answer and they said, "What do people in Ontario think about their supply of drinking water?" This was an addendum to their press release. It said: "A recent Insight Canada Research poll overwhelmingly demonstrates that most Ontario residents believe that water is a public good and not a private commodity. The research shows that 77% of Ontarians feel that water rates should only be used to improve the water system and not other services; 77% of Ontario residents favour water being sold at cost and at no profit; and 76% of Ontarians want water utilities to be controlled by municipal officials, not private businesses."

One would say, in the case of the 25%, that it would probably be the provincial government they wouldn't mind. I didn't mind, as I say, when the provincial government ran it, even this provincial government, because I think some of the people working there were very much dedicated to providing good water and sewage services.

The government has had the opportunity to prohibit municipalities from selling off their water systems, but they've refused to include this in Bill 107. As my colleague the environment critic from Hamilton East said, we in the Liberal opposition will be introducing an amendment to include this sell-off prohibition in the legislation.

Given all the responsibilities dumped on municipalities, some municipalities may not be able to afford the high cost of assuming the debt and maintaining and repairing water and sewage plants. Municipalities then would be forced to sell these plants off to the highest bidder, and don't think that won't happen. It will. Given the fact that this government has a one third staff and a one third budget cut to the Ministry of Environment and Energy, there may be too few inspection and enforcement personnel left to adequately monitor the quality of our drinking water.

We are concerned with many parts of this bill. Bill 107 is part of your government's mega-week or Who Does What announcements that will result in property taxpayers facing $1 billion more in downloaded costs. The two key elements of the bill deal with downloading to municipalities the ownership of 230 water and sewage treatment plants and the responsibility for inspecting and approving septic systems. Both elements of Bill 107 are in line with certain recommendations you have received.

I express that concern. I really think this is a move in the wrong direction. I really think this is a move towards downloading and dumping on municipal taxpayers. Let's remember, whether it's water charges or other user fees that you place on people at the municipal level or whether it is property taxes, none of these takes into account a person's ability to pay. But what you are cutting is the one tax that does take into account a person's ability to pay: the income tax. And you will extol the virtues of doing that. You will go to people and say, "See, we cut your income tax," and the very wealthiest people in this province will applaud, because they're going to get most of the money. Not percentage-wise, but certainly they are going to --

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Mr Speaker, 107.

Mr Bradley: The member for St Catharines-Brock intervenes. I think he must be embarrassed by the fact that his government is borrowing $5 billion a year to pay for an income tax cut and that it is downloading so many responsibilities on to the municipalities.

Mr Froese: A point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Bradley: This will give me a little break here. That's okay.

Mr Froese: I know the member for St Catharines needs a break to get his composure and get a glass of water, so that's why I figured I'd stand on a point of order. But he's talking about everything except the bill that we're debating. I just want to inform him, and especially the people of St Catharines, that I am fully supportive of the tax cut and what we're doing in this government.

Mr Bradley: I'm glad to hear that. The people who see their hospitals closing to pay for the tax cut will be delighted to hear my friend from St Catharines-Brock defending that tax cut that we're paying for by closing hospitals in our area and downloading on to local municipalities. I'm pleased he made this intervention. I don't know if he is now, but I'm pleased he made this intervention.

But I'm getting back to the point of how you assume costs. That's what Bill 107 is about. It's about who assumes the costs for these particular programs. The reason is that we have to pay for this bizarre tax scheme that you have, which will benefit the most wealthy people in our society the most.

When I talk to people, as maybe when you talk to some people, Mr Speaker, they say to me, "Originally I thought this 30% income tax cut was a good idea," and the richest people still say it is. Now when I speak to them, they say, "But if it means the closing of hospitals in Listowel and St Catharines and Port Colborne and Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake and Grimsby, or if it means downloading of responsibility for sewage treatment plants and water treatment plants, I tell you something, I'd rather see that money stay in the system and help to preserve the quality of life that we in Ontario have today." That's what they want.

The Premier is now spending millions of dollars trying to sell himself and sell Ontario. He has different programs for the purpose of advertising. One of the best ways you sell this province is to have a high quality of life: a strong Ministry of Environment, good water and sewage system, great health care system. All of those help us to attract people to Ontario. I would say the people in these municipalities affected by this bill would much rather see the province continue to provide funding for local sewer and water works than pay for the television ads that have Premier Harris on them almost on a minute-by-minute basis.

The Conservative Party -- now the Conservative government, because it is taxpayers' money -- is spending more money on this ad campaign than the Conservative Party spent in the whole last election campaign on television advertising. Every time anyone turns on that television set and sees the Premier undoing the wires or sitting in the classroom or whatever else he's doing, they should know they're paying for those ads. That should be the reaction, not the simplistic and simple message which tries to take a very complex downloading and dumping on to municipalities and make something out of it. Instead they should be looking at the advertising.

I know why my colleague from St Catharines-Brock is embarrassed, because he knows that the advertising we're seeing on the television networks is self-serving government propaganda paid for out of the pockets of taxpayers, many of whom disagree with this government. But I digress, with your tolerance.


I want to compliment this Speaker. You people over there are trying to harass the Speaker. He understands probably better than most members of the House the latitude that's required on second reading of legislation and how one must put the intricacies of a bill in a general context. I only wish the rest of you in this House were as wise and observant and perceptive as this Speaker. He understands it, and some of the people who are trying to harass him obviously don't understand that.


Mr Bradley: I will wait for the din to die down a bit, Mr Speaker.

I want to look at something else that is going to hurt the municipalities. This is what is going to hurt them. In the context of this, at the same time that you're going to increase costs for the municipalities, you're saying to them: "Oh, but we're going to help our developer friends out. We're not going to allow those municipalities any more. We've got another bill out there, don't worry. We're going to look after you, developers."

Hazel McCallion is concerned about it, and you don't want to incur the wrath of Hazel McCallion. My friend Don Cousens, the mayor of Markham -- he used to sit in this House; now he would be called a red Tory; you remember him sitting in this House -- he's critical. He says when you're putting all these things down on the local taxpayer, when you're taking long-term care, when you're taking a lot of health care, when you're taking everything and dumping it, including this bill, dumping responsibility for sewer and waterworks on the local municipality, he is going to be very concerned about that. I don't blame those who would be concerned about this because it's all part of the mix, it's all within the context of this legislation.

We're having a change of Speakers here several times during my remarks, but the Speaker who is now entering the chair -- because I was making reference to it in the context of how money should be spent on these municipalities as opposed to advertising -- who is sitting in the chair now, the Honourable Chris Stockwell, the member for Etobicoke West, was the person who came down with the ruling which was critical of your advertising program because he observed it as being partisan in nature.

I say to the Speaker, who understands well the need for latitude, because I have copies of his old speeches, what I am explaining, Mr Speaker, as you enter the chair, is how much more productive it would be for the government to spend money on the sewage treatment plants and the water treatment plants it's abandoning instead of the self-serving government propaganda of which you were so justifiably critical just a few days ago in your landmark ruling in this House, which is now reverberating right across this province.

I look at what you people are doing and I say, put all these costs to the local taxpayer? The property tax doesn't take into account a person's ability to pay; the income tax does. If you happen to be unemployed for a period of time, then you will not be paying the same rate of income tax. Your income tax will go down. It'll take into account your ability to pay. But your municipal property tax doesn't take that into account. The municipality cannot exempt you from paying municipal taxes if you don't have a job. They'll say, "That's your problem." That's why it's much fairer to use the income tax, as opposed to the property tax, to finance many of these items.

As you get into user fees, they work to the detriment of disadvantaged people and to the benefit of the richest in our society. Whether it's for health care, whether it's for environmental services, whether it's a kid going to the hockey rink who sees the cost of ice going up so high that that kid can't afford it because you have user fees, while the children of the rich can afford to play, that's not the Ontario I'm looking forward to.

I noticed today that the Minister of Education, in the same context, said of universities and community colleges: "We're going to deregulate. They can put their tuition fees up substantially." What will happen there? That will mean the richest kids in our society will be able to go to college and university, will be able to gain an advantage, and those from lower-income families will not easily be able to do so.

All of this fits in that context. You ask: How can the debate take place? Who will oppose this? Where will the editorialists be on this? What will the writers be writing about this? I look and say that I really don't know because I see one person now controlling 58 of 104 daily newspapers in this country.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): And I'm having a very difficult time relating that back to Bill 107.


Mr Bradley: I know that the Speaker has incurred the wrath of the governing party with his landmark ruling, but I hope that he would not allow the wrath of the government -- as I know he wouldn't, being a man of integrity -- and the barracking of the government benches to influence his decision, because I have in Hansard many of the copies of his former speeches where he fully recognized the importance of allowing to speak in the general context on second reading.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Water isn't all over everything.

Mr Bradley: The member says, "Water isn't all over everything," and it is.

What I wanted to explain to you was that we can debate this in this House but you must share my concern that Hollinger, controlled by Conrad Black, will be having editorialists write about this bill; and when they're hiring former Harris advisers, former Harris policy analysts with previous experience with the Fraser Institute, that right-wing institute in British Columbia, and former Reform Party policy analysts as editorial writers, how can we expect objectivity?

We need a little more latitude in this House because there are people who get to watch this channel and they get informed. Certainly they have to watch this channel to see some of us from the Niagara Peninsula, because they're not going to read about us in the St Catharines Standard, as the member for St Catharines-Brock nods, unless of course we were bitten by a dog or something; that may be a story.

You'll be surprised to know, for instance, that the excellent question that I asked of the Premier yesterday on the Grimsby hospital -- my friend from St Catharines-Brock won't be surprised -- did not make it to the pages of the St Catharines Standard. The number one issue in the Niagara Peninsula --

The Speaker: I'm beginning to feel this speech won't make it there either unless we get back to Bill 107.

Mr Bradley: This is what happens when we have a bored Speaker, I think.

Mr Froese: Boring.

Mr Bradley: I didn't say "boring." The Speaker is anything but boring. I know it can be a tedious job at times, and the desire to intervene in the debate by one who was so vociferous in the past and made such an outstanding contribution to debates of the past is fully understandable.

Having said that, I want to say that I think it's unhealthy that Conrad Black controls all of these newspapers, including now the St Catharines Standard.

I will move back to the actual provisions of this piece of legislation and the context in which I deal with it, which is what this government has been doing.

Here's a letter, by the way, I got from the now adult son of a former strong Conservative who ends this way: "I would really appreciate any suggestions you might have on how to get this government to listen. I'm at a loss. Good luck on your own efforts and congratulations on your efforts to date." This is from Campbellford, Ontario, a former student of mine. I recall his father, and his uncle certainly today, being a strong Conservative supporter. Even those people recognize that this government is moving too quickly, too drastically and without evaluating the consequences of its actions, and that is epitomized in this particular piece of legislation.


I want to congratulate, first of all, the Liberal critic, the member for Hamilton East, on developing so many of the points to advantage, on sharing with the people of this province some of the concerns he has. He looked at this bill in the context of the following: that the Harris government has disbanded the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee, which I know the Speaker supported so strongly in years gone by; disbanded the Municipal-Industrial Strategy for Abatement Advisory Committee; disbanded the Advisory Committee on Environmental Standards; disbanded the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy; terminated funding for the blue box recycling program; cut the green communities program, which boosted Ontario's green industry, some of which was located in Etobicoke -- saved homeowners and businesses money is what that industry did; terminated environmental research grants; terminated public environmental education grants; terminated urban and rural beaches cleanup and restoration programs; terminated household hazardous waste programs; reduced the funding to the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Ontario Energy Board, which I think it is abolishing, and the Environmental Appeal Board, which is so important; cut the conservation authority funding by 70% -- you will find this amusing, Mr Speaker: I keep my old letters. You know I do not often throw things out.

Mr Froese: I think you should send the Minister of Environment.

Mr Bradley: Well, you would need a certificate of approval for my office to store things, the way it exists.

The conservation authority wrote to me, I'm going to say about 1987, and said, "We can't possibly live with this 3.5% increase in funding," and I'm saying here the Conservative government has cut conservation authority funding by 70%.

You have terminated the program aimed at preserving the province's fruit lands; you are revoking Bill 163 measures which protect the environment in the planning process, such as speeding the development of agricultural land; you are permitting contaminated soil to be used as cover at landfills; you are considering eliminating 80 regulations protecting the environment; you have refused to permit the passage of the city of Toronto's clean air bylaw; you have fired environmentalists from the Hydro board of directors; you have exempted the Ministry of Finance from the Environmental Bill of Rights; you have proposed reducing wetlands areas to which strict development restrictions apply; you are permitting the sale of environmentally sensitive lands protected by conservation authorities; you are reducing environmental regulations on the mining industry; and you have removed legislated restrictions on the development of public lands.

All of this I think paints a very accurate picture of a government in full retreat. I can hear the backup sound you hear on vehicles, the beep, beep, beep, and I can see the tail-lights as this government does a full retreat. I can hear them sounding the bugles of retreat on the environment, and this bill is only one component of that full retreat.

You will pay a price eventually. Yes, the news media don't cover environmental issues the way they used to. The environment minister can walk out of the House and head off to Ottawa at any time without being hassled.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): That's because of Conrad Black.

Mr Bradley: The member says it's because of Conrad Black and he's probably right. But the day will come when the people of this province, concerned about the environment, will rise up and throw out the government which so adversely impacted it.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Laughren: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to congratulate the member for St Catharines for his speech despite your rather restrictive admonitions to him. I thought he did remarkably well.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I'd like to hear what you are going to say to him.

Mr Laughren: No, I usually listen to the member for St Catharines when he speaks. I think he shares my view on this and some other matters -- not all matters -- in that the real agenda here is to take the sewer and water services of this province and download them on to the municipalities, put the squeeze on the municipalities like they've never been squeezed before. At the end of the day, you will get your way. You will have your way with the sewer and water services in this province and they will be privatized because the municipalities will not be able to absorb the cost of those sewer and water services. They will be desperate for money because of your downloading, and they'll be looking desperately for assets to unload to help them through a very difficult time.

I can see it coming now, and what I find so offensive about it is that this government, the pack of scoundrels that you are, you didn't have --

Mr O'Toole: Mr Speaker --

Mr Laughren: Oh, get down off your hind legs.


The Speaker: Humour doesn't enter into -- out-of-order comments or not, you've got to be a little more careful.

Mr Laughren: Yes. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for yet another admonition.

I must say that what got me going was in thinking of how the government didn't have the courage to do through the front door what they're now trying to do through the back door, and that's privatize the sewer and water services in this province, but I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to say considerably more about that tomorrow.

Mr Galt: It was interesting to hear the comments made by the two Liberal members, and particularly the member for St Catharines when he was referring to Bill 107 and talking about bizarre tax cuts. I don't know if he noticed, but I had to go around after Christmas apologizing to my Liberal friends for the traffic jams in the local shopping malls. That's what the tax cut is doing. It's stimulating the economy, it's getting all kinds of sales going on in retail outlets, and I really appreciate the Liberals reminding the public that those tax cuts have occurred because that reminds them to get out and spend the money that they have saved and that they have accumulated, and it is stimulating the economy. Thank you ever so kindly, the member for St Catharines, for continuing to remind them of that.

I think it's also very refreshing to see that the members in the Liberal Party are particularly concerned about tax increases. I think we've won the battle. They've stood up day after day, concerned about tax increases in municipalities. I never thought I'd hear that come from a member of the Liberal Party, or from the NDP for that matter, and day after day they're expressing concern about tax increases. I think that's marvellous, just marvellous. We've won the battle as far as I'm concerned.

The member for St Catharines also made reference to the advertisements that have been on the television, informing the public about who does what. If we really work hard in the spending, it may approach $8 million. It sounds like a lot, but it's just half the amount that the NDP spent, because they were double that amount, not to mention the five years that the Liberals were there, when they spent three times that much to advertise what they were doing, three times what we've been spending in this past year.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I wanted briefly to comment on the fine interventions by the member for Hamilton East and the member for St Catharines when they talk about this bill.

When I think about the implications of this bill, we're starting to see it almost before it happens. In my constituency of Algoma-Manitoulin, we are seeing sewer and water rates escalate at breathtaking degrees. The people in Elliot Lake and Espanola, and soon probably in the smaller communities along the North Shore and on Manitoulin, are seeing tremendous increases in the fees they pay for water and sewer. I was quite surprised to notice that the region of Sudbury is talking about gigantic increases to water and sewer fees.


As this bill continues the move towards privatization, making private operation profit the driving motive behind supplying water and sewer, I can tell the consumers in Ontario what that means to them. It means higher prices; it means you're going to pay more. Frankly, as the two members suggested, I think we can expect not the same kind of guarantees that we have clean water to drink and that our sewage is properly treated so that our lakes and rivers in this province are able to maintain and improve their quality.

As the critic for natural resources, one of the things I know, and I think everybody knows -- it almost goes without saying -- is that clean water, a clean environment, is the most important thing we can have for fishing, for all of the things that we take for granted in this province. For the government to steadily erode regulations and to attack --

The Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I watched on the closed circuit the comments of the member for Hamilton East and the member for St Catharines. Their comments were arresting, I tell you, exposing virtually the criminal consequences of the inevitability under this government of the privatization of water and sewage systems.

Down in regional Niagara, the regional government alone, because of the downloading -- and these are early figures; they're modest, indeed conservative figures -- is going to be confronted with a criminal shortfall of $31 million. Each municipality within regional Niagara will in its own right suffer to the tune of millions and millions of dollars in each of those cities as a result of the downloading.

I know what's going on here, and a whole lot of folks down in Niagara do too. That's why they're banding together to protest to try to stop this government as it torpedoes the Port Colborne Hospital and Hotel Dieu. We witnessed, and the member for St Catharines has talked about, the 5,000 people that gathered in the riding of Lincoln to protest this government's abandonment of hospitals.

Has this government abandoned communities? Has this government abandoned cooperative effort among members of those communities? Yes. The lure of a big, fat cheque for a one-time-only purchase of a sewer and water system is going to be compelling for a whole lot of municipal and regional councils. The consequences are going to be the worst of all worlds. Thatcher's Britain tried it and has demonstrated the inevitable failure of the privatization of water and sewage. This government is going to --

The Speaker: Thank you. Responses? The member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: I want to thank each of the members for their contribution to this, because each has been very helpful. The member for Cochrane South responded yesterday and I didn't thank him for it, so I thank him today. And the members for Nickel Belt, Northumberland, Algoma-Manitoulin and Welland-Thorold were all helpful in their remarks, even if I didn't agree with necessarily everything the member for Northumberland said. I would have preferred that he let the member for St Catharines-Brock up so he could defend the tax cut more that was being funded by the closing of the hospitals in our area, but he didn't let him up.

This is, as members have said, part of the downloading process. This is why tomorrow night at the CAW hall in St Catharines at 6 o'clock there will be so many people, hundreds upon hundreds of people, gathering to protest the closing of Hotel Dieu Hospital and other hospitals in the area. I will be there to state my position in adamant opposition to what I call total nonsense.

I consider this bill to be part of that nonsense, not a progressive move. When you start taking money away from the municipalities, you force the municipalities to either cut back services which are vital to people, or to raise user fees that do not take into account a person's ability to pay, or property taxes. That's a difference I pointed out.

The member for Northumberland said he saw people shopping in the malls during the Christmas period. I didn't think they could get that many bank presidents into the malls, and corporate giants, because that is who got the biggest tax cut: the people making the very most in our society. So we are increasingly providing one rule for the rich and the privileged and one for the rest, and this bill falls right into line with that, as all of my colleagues on this side have aptly pointed out.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I would like to start by asking for consent to split the lead-off time with my esteemed colleague, the critic for privatization, the member for Nickel Belt.

The Speaker: Is there agreement to allow the members for Riverdale and Nickel Belt to split their time? Agreed?


The Speaker: I'll take that as agreement. The member for Riverdale.

Ms Churley: They certainly don't want to hear me droning on again for 90 minutes on an environmental bill.

First of all, in case I forget, I want to read a letter which I would like the parliamentary assistant to listen to. It's dated today and it says:

"Dear Minister,

"Re: Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act

"On behalf of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, I am writing to request that the so-called Water and Sewage Services Improvement Act, 1997, (Bill 107) be referred for committee hearings, assuming the bill receives second reading.

"In our view, the proposed legislation contains numerous flaws, raises numerous issues and is in dire need of substantial amendments if it proceeds. Accordingly, public scrutiny through committee hearings is both desirable and necessary.

"We look forward to your reply.

"Canadian Environmental Law Association

"Richard D. Lindgren," counsel to the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

I would note that some of the members from the resources committee and the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy, indeed the Minister of Environment and Energy himself, are very familiar with Mr Lindgren. I think he's a thorn in their side. They continue to try to avoid Mr Lindgren because he comes at this with absolutely no conflict. I say at the outset that I don't think Mr Lindgren has been suggested by members, not he specifically, but while I've been referring to environmentalists and environmental lawyers, that they get to make a lot of money out of these hearings and these processes, I would say that in the case of Mr Lindgren and most of the environmental lawyers I know who are working for non-profit, non-governmental agencies, they do not make a lot of money and are there solely to do what they can to improve the environment, which is what this organization has been doing for a number of years.

I very much hope that the government will agree to public hearings on this critical bill because this is part of the mega-week disaster that was announced a little while ago. I am sure the government thinks that people aren't going to pay attention, and do you know what? If we don't get this out to public hearings, I suppose there is a chance that will happen. I know the members here have not been paying a whole lot of attention to this debate and will continue not to pay a whole lot of attention to this debate. When people hear the words "sewer and water," their eyes glaze over. It sounds very boring.

Infrastructure decisions; who wants to hear that? Most people think when they turn on the tap, water comes out; when they flush the toilet, it disappears; and they believe their governments are protecting their water so that they will have clean water and safe water and a reliable water source. It is the one of the most fundamental services we have to sustain life. Along with the air we breathe and the food we eat, the water we drink is essential for our basic life.

When people hear the words "sewer and water," you should listen carefully. As my colleagues the member for Hamilton East and the member for St Catharines and our privatization critic, the member for Nickel Belt, will point out later in the week, this is really all about the privatization of water.


The Minister of Environment last year, you will recall, had been quoted in the paper as saying that there was such an interest in the privatization of OCWA, our clean water agency, that he was being harassed at meetings by firms not only within Ontario and within Canada but from offshore, foreign companies, there is such interest in buying our water supply.

Why would that be? Obviously a huge profit can be made from selling water. They know that and the government knows that. They also know that it's going to cost a lot of money to fix up the aging infrastructure. They got a little worried and a little scared when there was such a big public outcry about selling off our water supply because polls show that over 70% of people want to keep our water in the public sphere.

What have they done? It's brilliant. You bring it in, Bill 107, as one of the mega-announcements. I listened very carefully to the parliamentary assistant and I took down a few notes and I'm going to just reiterate some of the things he said about this bill and dispute them.

First of all he said he's giving Ontario municipalities full title, that he's transferring responsibilities to the municipalities for septic system inspections and approval. He's saying that he is not forcing ownership. The local governments, on the whole, want the title and that will give them the flexibility to choose an operator that best services their needs. Then he goes on to say that the provincial government will concentrate on setting tough standards.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm rising on a point of order and I'm not sure that you'll be able to help me. I need to inform the House that the government House leader has just tabled a motion of time allocation on Bill 104, the education bill.

The problem I have is that we are in the middle of a series of discussions between House leaders and negotiations around the amount of time on hearings. I want you to know that what has been set out in this bill is four days for hearings in Toronto from 3:30 in the afternoon to 6 o'clock, which is 10 hours only over four days.

The Speaker: Order.

Ms Lankin: I'm sorry. I will try and keep this brief. I'm asking for your intervention at this point in time to call a meeting of House leaders because the process of discussion between the House leaders has completely broken down. We're unable to have any kind of discussion that facilitates the orderly processing of legislation and the participation of the public. I would ask you to please consider calling a meeting to see if we can resolve this.

The Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine, I know you've been here a number of years and you know full well that the Speaker can't do that. It's not within my power. I can't convene a meeting of the House leaders. I only deal with what I have that's put before me. I appreciate the concern you bring to this place, but again it's up to the House leaders to work it out. The government has rights and privileges and they've filed properly and there's nothing the Speaker can do, nor should do.

Member for Riverdale.

Ms Churley: That is just part and parcel of what this government is doing with this bill we're debating here today -- and the education bill, all the controversial bills that are going to severely cut out democracy in this province, severely change people's lives, and this government continues to try to ram them through, and what's happening here today with this education bill -- it's absolutely vital that it be debated across the province be done so.

What do they do today? They're hoping to get it out of the way while the big debate and the media interest are around Bill 103, the megacity stuff, so they can slip it under the rug so that people don't know what's going on. That is the despicable characteristic of this government in almost every bill we see before this House. They do not do public hearings unless -- the Speaker is motioning to me to get back to this bill, which I will do.

But this is so typical, and I say again, speaking of Bill 107, I'm calling for substantive public hearings on that, because you are not going to slip through the privatization of the water that we need right under our noses without public hearings, and I'm going to demand that we be given those public hearings and substantive public hearings.

As I was saying, I was outlining some of the things that the esteemed parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment was talking about, and where I was, he was saying that the provincial government will concentrate on setting tough standards. Ha. You don't have any monitoring or inspection staff left.

Then he says they will attempt to prevent the selloff, demanding that anybody who bought a public facility and public dollars went into it would have to pay that back. Well, big deal. We all know what that means. It's a cost of doing business. We know the potential for making a lot of money by providing water services is phenomenal. That's not going to stop anybody. It is yet another shell game that's being played here, put in the terms of more efficiency, that it's all in chaos, it's all a mess and we'll just shove it all off to the municipalities while they're busy downloading so many other services.

Municipalities aren't going to have money to upgrade the system, to improve the system, to build new systems. They're not going to. You know it and I know it. Why don't we stop playing this silly game of pretending that you're going to try to protect our services and keep them in the public domain when we all know what this is really all about?

I have here a file full of press clips. My colleague the member for Nickel Belt will be getting more into the privatization aspect of this, but I'm going to tell you a little bit about what happened in England after Thatcher privatized the systems. And make no mistake. That is where we are heading. If this bill passes, that is where we are heading. Our water will be privatized.

We have headlines like "Profiteering Claims Mark British Privatization," "Water Scandal" -- 480 homes cut off; 21,282 homes cut off; "BMA Calls for Ban on Water Disconnections." Do you know what was happening? This particular company was cutting off people who couldn't afford to pay their bills. There was actually a campaign in England to find a way to get poor children water, because their parents couldn't afford to pay, the rates went up so high, and poor children were going without water.

Listen to this one. "Water Staff is Told `Abandon Uniform to Escape Attacks.'" That's because the water supplies and the droughts and the other problems with water provision in England got so bad that the workers had to or were told to stop wearing their uniforms, because they were afraid of attacks. That's how angry people were.

The Sunday Times: "Water Companies Exposed as Worst Polluters of River," "Scandal of the Filthy Rich Water Bosses," "How the Polluters Get Paid," "Privatized Water Firms Secretly Overcharge Customers by £280," and it goes on and on. The privatization of the water system in England was a complete disaster. The companies made a lot of money. The environment suffered. Poor children, poor families had to go without water. There were huge droughts. At one point in the middle of a big drought, companies, local industry, were told by the private firm that then owned the water company to move, to relocate.


I'll tell you I think one of the funniest -- and if it weren't so catastrophic in terms of what it did to people's lives it's very funny -- this is the tale of Yorkshire Water, a private company in northern England. In the summer of 1995, a drought hit Yorkshire. From the middle of the summer until the end of the year, the water supply dwindled almost completely. What worsened the shortage was that the water company had failed to put any money back into the system to prepare for this drought. The waste of water, the leakage of water, amounted to about 360 million litres a day. This coincided with an announcement that the company had made an annual profit equivalent to $360 million.

During this drought, there was a politician -- I'm trying to find this here, because this is the funny part; I'll tell you while I'm trying to find it -- who decided that one of the interesting things that some of the politicians told people in the middle of this drought was that they should stop taking baths or that they should share baths and they shouldn't drink any more than so much water a day. This particular politician went to the press and bragged about the fact that he hadn't taken a bath in three months. There's a picture -- I can't find it here --

Mr Laughren: He was a Tory.

Ms Churley: He was a Tory too. This was a Tory government. He bragged about this, and there was even a picture.

Mr Laughren: But nobody noticed the difference.

Ms Churley: My colleague from Nickel Belt says it was a Tory and nobody noticed the difference. I'm glad the Speaker's not calling me to order on that, because of course it wasn't me who said it.

Anyway, he bragged about this and there was a little picture; he got big headlines in the newspaper. I think he was leaning over a sink with a little cup of water or something, showing how he washed with a little cup of water. He got a lot of press about this and he told everybody else: "Look, I can get by with only one bath every three months. Why don't you try it?" Then he got caught up in a very big scandal, because somebody caught him sneaking across the boundary into the riding where his mother lived and secretly taking showers at his mother's house. This became quite a scandal.

I'm going to talk a bit about what this bill is really doing besides privatization, because with privatization all of these things will happen and more. People will be paying a lot more for their water services, and I can assure you that there will be a lot of problems with the system.

What the government is really doing is not what the parliamentary assistant said at all. The government is leaving municipalities and their water supplies to the mercy of the private sector. What the Harris government has done already is cut off the capital grants for water and sewage infrastructure, and by selling OCWA now to the private sector -- because that is what's going to happen. You can say, "No, no, no, we didn't do it; the municipalities did it," just like you're going to download everything else to the municipalities and then when there's trouble, say, "It wasn't us, it's them," but we know what's going to happen.

This bill tries to put on a pro public sector face. It says that if a municipality wants to sell its existing water or sewage plant to the private sector, it has to pay back all the grants. Well, I've already gotten into that. The payback is only on the face value of the grant, may I add, and there's no interest provision, no depreciation either. It's a giveaway, that's what it is, and they make it sound like they'll prevent privatization because private industry won't be able to afford it. It is a giveaway. It's like saying, "Here, come and take it."

The government is reacting to the public pressure it has experienced since our party, the Ontario Municipal Water Association and the Safe Ontario Water Coalition blew the whistle on the scandal of the private sector water in England, and because the vast majority of Ontarians want to keep our water public, they fixed it in such a way that the municipalities will have to take the heat. But as I said before, the municipalities will soon need new water and sewage infrastructure money. They may need to replace a treatment plant or need new pipes. This government, the Harris government, will not be there to help them, because you've already cancelled the grants. You're saying: "You're on your own. We're going to give you these plants. You have no option, you have to take them, but we're not going to give you any money." With the massive download to municipalities, you know they're not going to have the extra money and you know where they're going to have to turn.

You know exactly what's going to happen. We've had some small examples here in Ontario, like Philip Environmental in Hamilton, where there was a huge spill of sewage into the river.

The bill will also allow an open-ended transfer of regulation of water and sewer services to municipalities. With so much of the water system going private, the government must come up with ways to download this on to them. Now they're saying that they're coming up with a tough regulatory system to protect the consumer and the environment. It hasn't done so. It keeps doing this when it brings forward new environmental bills, "Oh, don't worry. We're going to toughen the regulations."

As I said before, we haven't seen what those are, but furthermore, the inspectors and the compliance officers have been cut back so drastically -- and we fear that there's more to come -- there won't be anybody there to inspect and monitor. We all know that. The municipalities aren't going to be able to afford to hire these people, and if it's left to the private sector, we know what the private sector's bottom line is. We've seen examples of that in Britain.

What else is in the bill? The liabilities will be transferred to the municipalities with the assets; they're getting not just the assets but all the liabilities as well. The parliamentary assistant and the minister haven't talked about these massive, multimillion-dollar liabilities.

The bill specifically relieves the crown of the obligation to construct, expand or finance the construction or expansion of water and sewage works under agreements that now exist. In other words, they're leaving municipalities hanging with all of the existing agreements that are out there. They are left completely hanging.

The bill transfers to municipalities most of the responsibility for regulating the construction and use of septic systems under part VIII of the Environmental Protection Act. We know that the Sewell report and the CMHC studies and other studies have documented the groundwater and surface water contamination caused by septic tanks. This is a serious environmental and health concern.

I hope the parliamentary assistant knows this and I hope he will go back to his minister and show him some of the studies that document the kind of groundwater contamination and surface water contamination caused by septic tanks. It's all the more reason that responsibility for regulating these and the construction and use of septic tanks must be controlled by the province.

You talk about it in terms of the same old thing -- cutting red tape and trying to make the system more efficient -- but what you are doing, once again, is downloading responsibilities which will end up being dealt with in a piecemeal way by municipalities, some of which won't be able to afford to deal with this very big problem.

I certainly will be bringing forward an amendment on that and I hope that there can be consideration and that the parliamentary assistant will take a look at some of the problems with septic tanks and their usage.

Municipalities are being forced by the government to take on a massive number of services at this time. We all know that they're going to be ill-equipped to take on this new and completely vital service and responsibility at the same time that they are being forced to take on the public housing business, the assessment business, the business of welfare -- a big one -- long-term care, all of these things. All the municipalities in Ontario, all of them, even the friends of the government -- AMO, Tory mayors and politicians all across the province -- are telling this government that already with the downloading they know about, they can't afford to pay for those without raising taxes significantly. Now the government is also downloading the huge and expensive responsibility for dealing with our septic and sewage systems.


The other issue I'm going to cover briefly today is the role of OCWA. OCWA was created under our government and it is an example of the benefits of the partnership between the public sector and the private sector. I have no problem with these kinds of partnerships. I think they make sense. There are a lot of ways that the government can work together with the private sector to enhance the services we provide, to make them less expensive. There's a way that everybody can win in these kinds of public-private partnerships.

The government in the meantime is not only now breaking up and getting rid of OCWA and that partnership, downloading the responsibilities to municipalities, which will be forced to privatize, but it has also cancelled money for capital expenditures. As I've said, the agreement's already made. They are left hanging. They don't know where the money's going to come from.

Wise water use, conservation, is completely gone. That's one of the things our NDP government, under OCWA, the partnership with the private sector, had some control over. That's gone now. One of the things we insisted on was that water conservation, water efficiency, the wise use of this precious resource, be taken into account when a municipality came to the province to ask for money to build or expand new systems.

One example is that in 1994, Barrie wanted a $42-million expansion. What happened is that OCWA and the green community got together and formed a partnership. You all know about the green community programs which were established under our government to promote energy efficiency and water efficiency within our communities. It created a lot of jobs. They went into people's homes, inspected their homes and gave people information about how to be more efficient. It created jobs and saved people a lot of money down the road and also was good for local small business. Of course this government is no longer supporting that.

Some, I'm happy to say, again with the assistance of their municipality -- I know the city of Toronto has one of the very many innovative environmental programs that the city was very involved in, along with the energy conservation office and many more. Of course that's all going to disappear too if the government goes ahead with the amalgamation bill the way it is now.

Back to the green communities. When this existed, OCWA formed a partnership with them, and this request for the $42-million expansion was reduced to $29.3 million. This was done by getting together in this partnership and figuring out how to conserve water. So not only was a lot of money saved to the government, to Barrie, because these were partnerships, but indeed a lot of water was conserved at the same time.

Just recently we heard that on top of the 752 people, I believe, already laid off at the Ministry of Environment and the massive amount of money that's been cut, we've also heard that the number of water monitoring stations has fallen from nearly 700 in 1991 to just over 200 in 1996. In the 1996 work year, the ministry did no surface water monitoring at all north of Barrie, where the majority of watercourses are located.

We pointed out last year -- I guess a couple of years ago, shortly after they got in government -- that MAP, the municipal assistance program, was cancelled by this government. That program helped farmers in rural areas to prevent the runoff from going into the drinking water supply. It was a very inexpensive but effective program. All the water conservation programs and efficiency programs and wise water use programs and programs to prevent contaminants from getting into our drinking water were cancelled by this government.

Now they're getting out of the water business completely. I don't think the members from the caucus really know what's going on. I think most people, when I started speaking today, when they hear about water and sewage their eyes glaze over. It's not a sexy subject. People don't really want to hear a lot of details about it. It's there, it sounds like just a lot of infrastructure talk that most people associate with boring stuff. But when people realize that what we're talking about is that the very water we drink and rely on may be in jeopardy here, that the government, through this bill, is putting municipalities in a position where not only some of them I'm sure will want to sell but many of them will feel compelled to sell because they don't have any choice -- it's wrong. It's just plain wrong.

I've been on my feet in this House talking numerous times, at great length, about the kinds of things that this government is doing to environmental protection, therefore affecting human health in our province. They don't listen to me. Okay, I'm a member of the opposition, and I know there's some suspicion that it may be partisan rhetoric. I accept that. But they also don't listen to the experts in the field, in this case not just Mr Lindgren, whom the government mostly holds a fair amount of contempt for because he really gets under their skin.

We have organizations like the Ontario Municipal Water Association calling for public hearings and being very concerned. We have people like that talking about the concern they have about the privatization of water. Don Black from the Ontario Municipal Water Association says:

"We believe the government is opening the floodgates to the irreversible deterioration of water services in Ontario. It's a situation that is transforming Ontario's reliable and safe water service into one marked by chaos and fragmentation. The government clearly has no plan to safeguard our drinking water and to ensure the high quality, low cost and reliable water system we enjoy today."

They're very worried about what's going to happen to our water system.

The government members here today should go away and take a -- there's no point in actually reading the bill. The bill doesn't tell you very much. If you don't have very much background or expertise in this area, you'd read this bill and you wouldn't have a clue what was going on. A lot is going to be done by regulation later, but it doesn't make sense to people who don't know the issue. I don't even recommend that you read the bill. I suggest you talk to people from, say, the municipal association and ask them to explain to you what's going on in this bill. Talk to experts in the field. Find out what's really happening here. I think that some of you will change your minds about supporting this bill. Don't just take it for granted. Every word I heard from the parliamentary assistant today was nonsense; it's not what's really going on here. It's very frustrating to hear the same kind of cover-up we keep hearing about all these bills that are actually going to hugely impact people's lives in a negative way.

Mr Speaker, it being almost 6 of the clock, I will continue my discussion when we get back to this bill later on in the week.

The Speaker: It now being nearly 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 11 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1800.