36th Parliament, 1st Session

L159 - Mon 10 Feb 1997 / Lun 10 Fév 1997




















































The House met at 1332.




Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a message for the Minister of Health. The people of Elliot Lake, the North Shore, Espanola and Manitoulin do not want the Oaks detox centre closed. A consultant who had never visited Elliot Lake recommended that the Oaks detox centre be closed in his preliminary report on addiction services in the northeast. He did meet with officials, community leaders, clients and former clients 10 days ago.

At a hastily convened public meeting, 200 people came with a message for John Butler. They said: "Don't close the Oaks. The Oaks is only two years old. The Oaks has the only addiction specialist in northeast Ontario. The Oaks has occupancy rates that are extremely high. The Oaks has remarkable outcomes. The Oaks is efficient. The Oaks meets important needs. The Oaks is an integral part of the economic rebirth of Elliot Lake."

Minister, save John Butler and his team of consultants a lot of trouble. Tell him, as I told him, that closing the Oaks treatment centre is nuts. It's just not on.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On many occasions, repeated occasions, I have asked the Minister of Community and Social Services to make clear what her plans are for child care in the province of Ontario.

After the mega-week announcement that municipalities will now have to pick up 50% of the cost of child care, she answered concerns that were raised by myself and others by saying that she was going to make child care mandatory. We have been attempting through repeated questions to get her to define that. What does "mandatory" mean? Is it that the current amount of dollars will be maintained? Is it that the current number of spaces will be maintained and will they be regulated spaces?

Every time I've asked I've been unable to get a clear answer from the minister, but others are getting an answer. Municipal social service departments, who are attending briefings with bureaucrats from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, are being told that "mandatory" is going to mean the same number of spaces that are currently in a municipality, but -- and this is a big "but" -- they will no longer have to be regulated spaces. They could be moved to informal, unregulated care.

This morning I was joined at a press conference by one parent, Arden, who has three children, who has had three dismal experiences with unregulated care. Despite all of the careful and thorough research that she and her husband did, she had situations where a child was left in diapers all day long and not changed, many of these situations. We have to ensure that this doesn't continue.


Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): I rise today to congratulate Domtar's Trenton mill, located in the riding of Quinte, for its successful first year of using the closed-loop system, an environmentally friendly manufacturing system developed by Domtar.

The Trenton mill, one of Domtar's 14 Ontario operations, employs 130 people producing 150,000 tons of corrugated medium paper each year in the manufacturing of corrugated boxes. The mill annually contributes $19 billion to the local economy.

Besides recycling 240 truckloads of old cardboard containers and scrap paper, the mill is the first integrated pulp and paper mill in North America to successfully implement the 100% closed-loop water system. Instead of discharging water from the manufacturing process into the nearby Trent River, the water is recycled back into the mill. Since the introduction of this closed-loop system just over a year ago, the water discharged back into the Trent system is as clean as the natural river water.

The Trenton mill is an important member of my constituency. The mill creates jobs, stimulates economic development and conducts business in an environmentally responsible way. Congratulations to the Trenton mill and to all the employees who work there for a job well done.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): We in the north have been speaking out for some time now about the unfair treatment of northerners by this government. The recent decision to dump billions of dollars on to the property taxpayers of northern Ontario will cause even more damage to our municipalities due to the extra costs associated with providing services and the smaller tax base.

Recently, the regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton published a survey outlining the taxation shift on to the property taxpayers of this province. Surprise, surprise. The regional municipality of Sudbury will be hit harder than any other region in the province, according to this survey. There will be an extra $1,600 required from each householder, residential taxpayer, because of these cuts. This government continues to ignore all pleas and advice from northerners that this dumping will kill northern municipalities and cause unprecedented property tax increases.

To the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, what is your plan to stop these tax increases? To the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, why are you punishing the north? To the Premier, the man from the north, why are you killing the north?


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On Thursday, January 16, in this House I asked the Minister of Health to review the operating plan of the Sault area hospitals which had been previously approved by his predecessor. I pointed out at that time that at Matthews Memorial Hospital in Richards Landing inpatient beds have been closed and the emergency service will be provided by only one nurse on duty at a time. In response, the Minister of Health said that he would review the operating plans and that he was not aware of any closures of inpatient beds.

We've seen over the weekend, tragically, further evidence of the deteriorating situation in health care in the Sault Ste Marie area. We saw a story in the Sault Star which described horrific experiences of an elderly man -- and his family -- who recently was in the Plummer Memorial Public Hospital in the Sault and unfortunately succumbed after a very difficult time in hospital with what appears to be most inadequate care.

The minister said he was going to review the operating plans of the Sault area hospitals. He said he would do what he could to ensure that there would not be cuts that were unwarranted. I ask him now to look very seriously at the Sault operations and ensure that there are no further cuts to hospital care in Sault Ste Marie.



Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): On Sunday, February 9, the Muslim Canadian community marked the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan with the feast of Eid-Ul-Fitr, or fast-breaking, which lasts for three days. Here in Metro thousands of Muslims attended a ceremony at the CNE grounds to commemorate this important holiday.

The Eid prayer is performed by the whole community at an outdoor prayer called Musala. In honour of the holiday, Muslims don new clothes, children are given presents and candy and everyone visits friends and relatives amid carnival rides, puppet shows and candy vendors.

Eid-Ul-Fitr is also the time when everyone asks pardon for all the wrongs committed by them over the past year.

Muslims of Indonesian and Thai backgrounds call this holiday Lebaron. In Turkey it is called the Candy Festival or Seker Bayrami. In Pakistan the special treat associated with the day is saween, spaghetti cooked in milk and sugar and sprinkled with almonds and dates. In Malaya, where the day is called Hari Raya, Muslims hold open houses and invite their non-Muslim friends to foster more understanding between the different religious groups. Muslims there will, in turn, visit the Chinese during lunar new year, the Hindus during Dewali and the Christians during Christmas.

The Muslims of Ontario truly set an admirable example in multicultural understanding and tolerance that we in Canada would do well to imitate. On behalf of the Ontario government, I wish all members of the Muslim Canadian community a happy and much-deserved feast of fast-breaking. Salaam Alaikum.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My statement today is in the form of an editorial that appeared in the Red Lake District News. I'm sure that if backbench members of the government were allowed, they too would be able to read to the House similar editorials which are appearing in their local newspapers.

"In typical autocratic fashion, which has become the hallmark of this current government, Minister of Education John Snobelen dropped the hammer on school boards.

"Basically, his recent announcement has relegated the governance of all schools west of Thunder Bay to one mega-board. So much for local solutions to local problems.

"The notion that serious savings can be realized by virtue of this move is tenuous at best. A centralized approach to delivery of educational services is a grinding bureaucracy waiting to happen.

"This announcement goes well beyond the Sweeney report on the reduction of school boards and well beyond the model that reasonable educators have presented to the government. If what the minister wanted was to hit educational stakeholders in a shock-troop-like manner, then he has succeeded. He is, however, gambling with the future of the young people of this province.

"This government is fond of saying that they have a mandate for change. This government did indeed get elected to bring about change. It did not get elected to slaughter a system that has taken 150 years to build.

"The minister's autocratic style of bringing about change may wash with his boss. However, he gets a failing grade around here."


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I rise today in an unusual circumstance. I find myself, thanks to the Tories -- the only thing they've ever really achieved of any significance, in my opinion, is that I stand here today agreeing with the editorial board of the Hamilton Spectator and my Liberal colleague from Sudbury, who today talked about the downloading effects of your major changes.

The member for Sudbury talked about the fact that his community was hardest hit in a survey, and the results in Hamilton-Wentworth show the same thing. But it also shows that Hamilton-Wentworth, my community, is the second-hardest-hit community in this province to the tune of $121 million that we lose because of the downloading of this government. That's an 18% increase on the property tax base of people in the Hamilton-Wentworth area, an unacceptable increase in property tax directly attributable to your actions.

Further to that, we aren't yet focusing on the fact that the items being downloaded on to municipalities are those that have the greatest increase in the future: non-profit housing costs and maintenance of infrastructure are now going to be downloaded on to municipalities; community health care, as our population ages; homes for the aged and other kinds of care for seniors are being downloaded. What about the fact that you haven't said anything about not only guaranteeing the current loss but the future losses?

At the end of the day, isn't this idea of a fund really just reintegration of something they said they just finished separating --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I rise today as the member for Scarborough Centre to inform the Legislature that constituents in my riding are calling my office and talking about the huge waste of taxpayers' dollars that the city of Toronto is spending on Bill 103.

The city of Toronto is spending $1.6 million on propaganda and a mail-in vote on the same subject. That $1.6 million includes $955,000 for a mail-in vote --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. Stop the clock, please.


The Speaker: It's not. Member?

Mr Newman: I was told when I was first elected that if I was heckled, that meant I was delivering an effective speech, so I thank the members opposite for their compliments.

Some $955,000 for a mail-in vote; $670,000 for an advertising campaign against Bill 103; $50,000 for citizens' grants -- these grants only go to people who support the one-sided position of the city of Toronto; $20,000 to a group called Taxpayers Against Megacity. This is very ironic, because real taxpayers' groups do not use government handouts that come from taxpayers in the first place. The list goes on: $3,000 for a union coalition to demonstrate against Bill 103; $4,000 for a street theatre group to perform a tug of war depicting the fight between six local municipalities and one unified city; $3,000 to the Metro Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care; $4,500 to Young Citizens for Local Democracy; $3,000 to Toronto Artists for Local Democracy; a $3,000 grant to the Labour Council of Metropolitan Toronto and York Region, partnered with the Network for Social Justice from the Days of Action.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Mr Speaker, I'd like to request unanimous consent that the previous member be permitted an additional 30 seconds to list all the money that his government is now spending on self-serving advertising on television.

The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to allow the member another 30 seconds? I heard one or two noes.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I rise to make you aware, if you are not already aware, of an incident which took place in this chamber last Thursday, February 6, which has caused grave concern to all members who care about their rights and privileges as members of the assembly.

Speaker, you will know that the member for London Centre rose on a point of order, but the occupant of the chair did not recognize the member and chose to call for another order. It is difficult to have confidence in the Chair when rulings are made which directly contradict previous rulings, parliamentary precedent and our standing orders.

If the Chair had ruled that the member was not entitled to raise her legitimate point of order at that time, we need to know when she would be in order to raise it. We also need to know if the member for London Centre is permanently disqualified from raising points of order and bringing them to the attention of the Speaker, as is called for in parliamentary precedent and in the standing orders.

In our view, the occupant of the chair conducted himself in a way contrary to parliamentary precedent, our standing orders and rulings that have been made by you, Speaker. Please allow me to explain.

On January 16, 1997, my colleague the member for London Centre rose on a point of order to bring to your attention a violation of the standing orders. As you know, standing order 97 provides all members of the assembly with the right to ask written questions of government ministries. The standing order reads, in part, "The minister shall answer such written questions within 14 calendar days unless he or she indicates that more time is required because the answer will be costly or time-consuming." The member for London Centre submitted a number of questions to the Attorney General on May 6 of last year. It has been more than 14 days since those questions appeared on the order paper.


On January 16, the government House leader sought your intervention to prevent members of my caucus from bringing these violations of the standing orders to your attention. You refused to grant the government House leader's request. You said, in part, to the government House leader:

"To the House leader, the difficulty that I as Speaker have is that all these points of order they're raising are in fact legitimate and in order. Now, I appreciate the fact that there's a process taking place here, and I understand what's going on. If they were standing in their place on improper points of order or simply adjourning and ringing the bells, I may have a leg to stand on with respect to this particular reading in Beauchesne, but quite frankly I have not ruled a single point of order out of order yet. Every one of them has been factual, it's been in order and I've had to deal with it as an orderly approach."

Before I refer specifically to what happened last Thursday, I would like to cite one more authority. The 6th edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms defines a point of order as:

"Questions raised with the view of calling attention to any departure from the standing orders or the customary modes of proceeding in debate or in the conduct of legislative business and may be raised at virtually any time...whether that member has previously spoken or not."

It then goes on to describe when a point of order can be raised:

"Any member is entitled, even bound, to bring to the Speaker's immediate notice any instance of a breach of order. The member may interrupt and lay the point in question concisely before the Speaker. This should be done as soon as an irregularity is perceived in the proceedings which are engaging the attention of the House. The Speaker's attention must be directed to a breach of order at the proper moment, namely the moment it occurred." I repeat, "The Speaker's attention must be directed to a breach of order at the proper moment, namely the moment it occurred."

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'm having a great deal of difficulty hearing the point of order. I understand that there are some conversations. If you could take them to the lobbies outside, I'd appreciate it.

Mr Wildman: On page 6806 of Hansard, you will find the record of what happened last Thursday afternoon when my colleague the member for London Centre was quite deliberately not recognized on a point of order. The occupant of the chair would not know this, but the member for London Centre was rising to bring to the attention of the House an order paper question that was about 200 days overdue. I remind you, Speaker, that you characterized this point of order about three weeks ago as factual and in order. For some reason, the occupant of your chair refused to recognize the member for London Centre. In fact, he addressed her plea to the Chair's attention by saying, "There is nothing out of order." One wonders how he would know that.

It is difficult for us and for any members of the House to have confidence in the Chair when rulings are made which directly contradict previous rulings, parliamentary precedent and our standing orders. If the Chair ruled that a member was not entitled to raise her legitimate point of order at that time, then when could she raise it?

I ask you to review the situation and ensure that in future all occupants of the chair in this assembly follow precedent, follow the standing orders and rulings that have been made previously and not follow the sorry example we saw last Thursday afternoon.

The Speaker: On the same point of privilege? The government House leader.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, in terms of the events being portrayed by the House leader of the third party, there is a highly different submission I would make to you on the course of events. My recollection is that during the course of petitions, I believe it was the official opposition that called for the adjournment of the House. There had been 30 minutes of, frankly, wasted time of this Legislature waiting for those bells. We then came back after the vote and over the next short period of time the rotation naturally fell to the government party.

The Speaker at that time, it is my recollection, recognized the member for York Mills. The member for York Mills had stood in his place and begun to indicate that the government was moving to go to orders of the day when one of the members opposite stood at the same time as the member for York Mills had gained the floor and started his motion. As a result -- I will say that the member for York Mills was very swift on his feet, as he always is -- it is my recollection that the member for York Mills had the floor and was beginning in terms of a motion.

The Speaker at that time allowed the member for York Mills to complete his motion. Indeed, I don't think the Speaker would have any knowledge of what the point of privilege was or what the point of order was. Notwithstanding that 99% of the points of privilege and points of order are simply to delay this House, I don't think he would have that sort of knowledge. But the member for York Mills had the floor, made his motion and the House carried on dutifully in that regard.

The Speaker: Much the same as committee Chairs, Deputy Speakers are in the same situation. I don't think you would expect nor would it be helpful if the Speaker started questioning rulings that were taken at committee level or when other occupants were in the chair. It wouldn't be particularly appropriate for a couple of reasons. First, I was not here at the time that this incident took place. I don't think the members would want the same restrictions placed upon Chairs of committees, for the simple reason it would be impossible to accomplish anything at committee or in this Legislature if you could appeal all decisions to the Speaker.

Those are the people who have been put in place, they're members of this House as well, and I think they have equally as honourable a process and ideas to ensure that this place runs as it should. I can't begin to start questioning how the member ruled and whether or not the member for London Centre was up before the member for York Mills, and I don't think I want to get into that. Beyond that I can only say that at the time you feel these particular orders are out of order, you should rise at that time, if the privileges, in your own opinion, have been trammelled in any way.

So I will not take the member for Algoma's point of privilege. I would caution again: At the time you have to raise it, however the Speaker of that moment rules will be my standing, and I would not want to begin to second-question any of those people who are in the chair at the time.

I want to go to the chief government whip.


Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): On a different point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to point out that in the opposition members' gallery we have a group of students from the Berzsenyl Dániel Gimnázium from Budapest visiting us, and I'm sure you would want to recognize that.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): To the chief government whip, thank you very much, and welcome. You will see full well what I mean because that wasn't in order, either.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On another point of privilege, Mr Speaker: This relates to when you were in the chair. Last Thursday, as you'll recall, I rose on a point of privilege on the assertion that the Progressive Conservative caucus operation was printing PC party advertising at public expense.

You replied to my point of privilege at that time by saying in part: "I don't think the members of this House want the Speaker to get involved in investigating this process, because this brochure was found in a recycling bin. With all due respect, it's not something I think the Speaker is going to have any success in reviewing and, secondly, I don't think has the wherewithal to in fact do just that." You went on to say, "If this brochure were sent out or you could bring in some evidence that it was printed at a certain spot or paid for by a specific account that it shouldn't have been, I would be happy to review it."

Speaker, you may have seen in Friday's media reports on this issue that the Minister of Finance admitted that the Progressive Conservative Party material was printed at public expense. He was quoted as saying: "There is no doubt somebody did not make the appropriate decision. The PC party will be billed."

On January 22, the Minister of Municipal Affairs apologized to the Legislature for disseminating information which, in your words, "convey the impression that the passage of the requisite legislation was not necessary or was a foregone conclusion." That is why you ruled that a prima facie case of contempt of this Legislature had been established. The minister waited six weeks to apologize, and only after the Speaker had ruled on the matter.

We have also seen evidence of material printed by the government caucus and faxed out anonymously under the pretence of being third-party, non-partisan material. Recipients of the faxed material learned the source of this information only after we raised the matter in the House.

In this case the announcement by the Minister of Finance that the Progressive Conservative Party would compensate the taxpayers for this betrayal of trust is welcome news. However, our caucus wonders why such admissions and apologies always follow and never precede the opposition raising these matters in the Legislature.

In the 6th edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms you will find the following reference: "Recognized parties within the meaning of the Parliament of Canada Act are allocated, on a proportionate basis, funds for establishing and maintaining research groups to aid them in their parliamentary work." In this assembly the convention has been that caucuses, or cauci, may also use their allocated funds for the purpose of communications. But it always has been made clear to all parties in this assembly that although the content of these communications may be and must be political in nature, those budgets are used to assist members of the Legislature "in their parliamentary work."

The distinction is clear: We can use taxpayers' money to communicate with our constituents and with all of the people of Ontario but we cannot use taxpayers' money to subsidize political parties and their activities.

I don't think it's reasonable to ask members of the Legislature to simply put this matter behind them. We now know that the Tory caucus has printed partisan advertising at public expense. This was discovered by accident. I wish I could give assurances to my constituents that this is an aberration, that the Tories actually got caught the first time they used taxpayers' dollars for party advertising. Unfortunately, I can't give them this assurance with any confidence.

That is why I am turning to you, Speaker, to seek your intervention in this matter. Surely there must be a better way of ensuring taxpayers' dollars are spent properly and not used to print partisan material. Is getting caught the only punishment and the only way we can possibly find out about the misuse of taxpayers' dollars?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I appreciate that information and I will reserve on that particular ruling. I hope to be ruling on a series of issues later in the week and I will try and deal with them in a package, if that's preferable.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Education. FastLane Technologies is a high-tech company based in Ottawa-Carleton which shows great promise. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago FastLane decided to move almost all of its operations, including its headquarters, from Ottawa to Halifax, and the reason it provided for making such a move was because it was unable to find people with the necessary skills here in Ontario.

It seems to me we should be doing everything we can in Ontario to ensure that we are meeting the high-tech job gap. What I want to ask of you is, tell me how your huge cuts to post-secondary education and how your tuition fee increases are helping to fill Ontario's high-tech job gap?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I can explain, and I'm glad to explain to the Leader of the Opposition what's been happening in the post-secondary community. We commissioned a report, the Smith report, that will help us, I believe, have some public policy to direct our post-secondary education system.

We are acting on those recommendations now. In fact, I was able to announce before Christmas that we would have stable funding for our university and college community. We are pushing the federal government now to help us in this next budget to have an income-contingent loans package that will help our students attend universities and have excellent programming. In addition to the Ontario student trust fund and various other instruments this government has put forward over the last two years, I believe that will help us build a more vibrant post-secondary sector.

Mr McGuinty: I wish FastLane Technologies was alone in this regard, but it's not. Northern Telecom, Newbridge, Cognos, Mitel, Jetform, Lumonics and Corel, all very promising high-tech companies, have all had to expand outside of Ontario because they can't find the necessary skill sets here. They haven't got students going through programs that will provide those students with the necessary skills to take those jobs. In fact, there are currently somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs going begging in Ottawa-Carleton alone in a high-tech sector. Maybe the greatest tragedy of all here is that for every one of those jobs we fill, we create three or four spinoffs, primarily for people who know nothing about high technology.

Last year 44 out of 50 American states increased funding to their publicly funded universities. You know what we did? You know what we did to get ready for the 21st century? We cut funding to our universities by $400 million. Do you realize that your failure to take an active and key and vital interest in education is costing Ontario good-paying jobs?

Hon Mr Snobelen: We recognize the connection between the investment in education and future payoffs in terms of the economy of Ontario, and that is why we commissioned a group of people to look at this sector, and we have taken their advice to make sure that our investments in that sector do realize a better Ontario and better opportunities in Ontario.

I hesitate to correct the Leader of the Opposition, but I attended a function, as a matter of fact, last week where NorTel helped make an investment in the University of Toronto, which they say, matched with the student trust fund this government put forward last year, will help to build a better capacity in that university, one of the finest in Canada.

I believe there is room for improvement certainly in the post-secondary sector. I believe the government needs to move to make investments that are rational and logical and based on study, and that is why we are out there now reviewing Ontario's investment in research in our universities so that we can make those sound investments in the future.

Mr McGuinty: There's no doubt that the private sector is playing an active role in helping to meet the specialty they have, but I believe, and you ought to believe, that government has a complementary role to play in that regard. You can't wash your hands of this. Get in there. Ask them how you might help.

We're getting ready for the 21st century, and anybody who understands anything about these things knows that if you want to succeed in a knowledge-based economy you have got to invest in your people. We're going to get by in the 21st century in Ontario on brain power. You've got to invest in people, and that starts from junior kindergarten all the way through to post-secondary. You're not doing that. You're failing our kids and that means you're failing the province.

How many more jobs are going to leave this province before you realize that lower personal income taxes are not what's really going to give us our competitive edge here? What's going to is a skilled workforce. When are you going to realize that?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I believe the approach of this government has been one of balance, of reason, of looking at the future of this province and making sure we can build to it, and making sure of two things: first, that we have the excellent programs in post-secondary that will get students the kind of skills that are needed by businesses here in Ontario now and in the future; but second, to make sure that when students leave those institutions they have a career and a job to go to.

That's why we reversed your government's record of increasing taxes, including payroll taxes, which drove jobs out of this province at an unprecedented level. I find it objectionable, sir, that you would stand up in this House and suggest that was not the case and that we have not reversed that. We have job growth in this province for the first time in over a decade.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Health. You may have had the opportunity to read a very disturbing account of the treatment received by a patient in an Ontario hospital, the Plummer hospital in Sault Ste Marie. This account was written by the patient's son. It tells a story of a tragedy that befell the father while a patient in an Ontario hospital. I want to quote for you one of the paragraphs.

The son wrote, when he first visited the hospital -- he lives here in Toronto -- "I was shocked by the general griminess of this hospital environment. My mother and I often found soiled diapers left discarded on the floor by my father's bed and unwashed urinals left on the same side table that was used for the food tray and medications. I was also alarmed by lapses in his basic care like not getting fed when neither my mother nor I were there to do it."

Minister, do you still maintain that your hospital cuts have not affected patient care in Ontario?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): The objective of the funding program we have set out with hospitals and the objective of the associated reinvestment program that goes along with it -- and the reinvestment program to this point involves some $800 million worth of funding into health care in the province of Ontario; reinvestments in kidney dialysis, cancer, cardiac care -- are there to make the services better. Most of those involved in the hospital field have clearly indicated that restructuring is necessary because the previous two governments, over the course of some 10 years, closed some 8,500 hospital beds, but the infrastructure, the heating and the electricity, is still there, consequently our resources are not being effectively used.

If your question is, am I satisfied that we're finished the restructuring, that more improvements are needed, I am certainly not satisfied. More improvements are needed, and those reinvestments will come in the next few weeks.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, your cuts are hurting people. Let me read a bit more of this for you. The author, the son, tells of a time when he was unable to get to the hospital, being based here in Toronto, so he had a friend visit the room. and he writes as follows:

"When she entered his room before lunch, it did not appear that much nursing had been conducted there yet. It was dark because the blinds were still closed. My father's IV stand was knocked over. He had not been shaved. His mouth was parched and his lips were cracked. A food tray arrived without any beverage. For the next two hours no nurse entered the room, nor did any staff come to feed him."

Minister, you cut, last year, $2.9 million out of the Plummer hospital budget. My question is quite simply this: How many more people in Ontario are going to have to suffer in our hospitals, not because of their illness but because of your cuts before you realize that your cuts are hurting people?

Hon David Johnson: I visited a hospital in Hamilton yesterday and I would give full credit to the staff of this hospital in Hamilton, that from what I could see, the staff were providing first-class treatment. I think if you talk to the people in the hospitals in Ontario they will say they face a challenge, as we all do, as municipalities do, as the province does, as all aspects of public administration face, but that they are coping.

It's been my experience visiting the hospital yesterday, visiting the Mississauga Hospital a week before, that indeed the people of Ontario are getting excellent service. But should that service be improved? Should there be more reinvestment? Absolutely, there should be more reinvestment, and that's what this government intends to do. This government is taking the money out, associated with administration, associated with technological advances, and reinvesting that money back so we'll have better services for the people of Ontario in the future.

Mr McGuinty: That is not happening. The author makes it perfectly clear that the cause of the difficulties his father faced was that there was not enough nursing care. It's as simple as that.

One final quote from this article. This is a man writing about his father in hospital:

"Seventy-three days after his admission to the Plummer, my father died with a severe rash around his crotch, his flesh raw and open from his being left too long in soiled diapers so many times. He had screamed in agony when being wiped during his last weekend."

That is unacceptable in Ontario in 1997. On behalf of patients found in Ontario hospitals today and those yet to be found there and their families, Minister, will you stop the cuts?

Hon David Johnson: Individual cases are a source of concern and worry. We are all very concerned about individual cases. I certainly will be talking to the Ministry of Health staff in conjunction with this one particular case. But I will reiterate, and I hope this is an objective shared by all the members of this House, that what we need to do is look at where the services are needed: Where are the chronic care services needed? Where are the cardiac care services needed? That's what the Ministry of Health is attempting to do.

All of these individual cases are a source of worry. The government has a difficult chore in terms of the $2 billion in reduced funding from the federal government, but I can assure you that we are working with the hospital community to improve services for all the people. We are reinvesting over $800 million to date.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Minister of Municipal Affairs has made a lot of statements lately about how municipalities should cut their costs. He has said that all municipalities should be cutting their budgets by 5% or 6% with little difficulty. He's also said that councillors and reeves and mayors cost too much and that they should be gotten rid of.

We understand that the Minister of Municipal Affairs, from his disclosure statement, and I've got a copy of it here, receives a salary, as an MPP and as a cabinet minister, of $111,000 a year. As well he receives a pension of about $60,000 a year from the Toronto Transit Commission -- that's the public purse, those are taxpayers -- and a significant pension from GO Transit. In other words, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is triple-dipping at the public trough, triple-dipping from taxpayers to the tune of about $200,000 a year.

Minister, can you tell us how you justify telling municipalities to cut, cut, cut while you triple-dip to the tune of $200,000 a year?


Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): What the member opposite has stated is correct: I did work 33 years with the province of Ontario, I did work 10 years with the TTC and, yes, I contributed to and receive pensions from both of those, pensions received by every other employee who worked the same length of time.

What that has to do with municipalities dealing with their budgets, trying to work efficiently and trying to get rid of waste and duplication, is a mystery to me. It's just more mud-raking by this guy across the hall.

Mr Hampton: It has a lot to do with it, that after someone has been to the bank and has taken most of the money out of the bank, they then start telling everyone else in the province that they should tighten their belts.

Minister, we also understand that in addition to your triple-dipping from taxpayers, triple-dipping at the public trough, you continue to receive $11,500 a year in salary from the Toronto Transit Commission. I wonder if you can tell us how it is that on the one hand your government says Wheel-Trans for the disabled must be cut and that transit across the board in the province must be cut, while you can still receive $11,500 a year in salary from the Toronto Transit Commission. Can you explain that?

Hon Mr Leach: To answer that very -- no, that wouldn't be parliamentary, but I'm thinking it -- question, I worked for those pensions and I get the same pension that every other employee who worked under the same conditions, years of service, worked. What that has to do with municipalities working efficiently and trying to eliminate waste and duplication, as I said, is absolutely irrelevant.

Mr Hampton: I did not hear an answer to the question. What we know is that the Toronto Transit Commission, because of this government's cuts, is being forced to cut Wheel-Trans for the disabled, and we have all kinds of disabled people in this city and elsewhere in the province who can't get transit. We also know that services generally have been cut in terms of public transportation, yet this minister continues to receive $11,500 a year from the Toronto Transit Commission. We'd like an explanation.

Minister, while you're at it, we understand that this payment system for senior managers was set up with the Toronto Transit Commission while you were the general manager. In other words, you're the one who put it in place. I'm going to ask you for an explanation again.

You stand on your feet and you tell municipal officials to cut, cut, cut all across the province. You stand there and tell them that the disabled don't matter and that Wheel-Trans can be cut. You're triple-dipping at the public trough. You're drawing at least $200,000 a year out of the public purse and $11,500 in salary still from the Toronto Transit Commission. We're asking for an explanation of how that can be.

Hon Mr Leach: The comments that were just made by the leader of the third party are not correct. I did not institute that program. It's a program that's been there for senior officials of the TTC for as long as I know. It's also no different from the program that applies to senior officials in the OMERS pension plan.

Again, what employees' pensions have to do with the delivery of services by a municipality or an agency of that municipality -- it's totally irrelevant. We contributed to that pension plan, just as former members of this Legislature contributed to a pension plan. They're entitled to their pension under those circumstances, as I am.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: I don't believe we even yet have heard an answer from the Minister of Municipal Affairs about why he still receives a salary from the Toronto Transit Commission while they're cutting Wheel-Trans services.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My next question is for the Minister of Environment. Today a group called Great Lakes United presented an alarming report about what is happening to the quality and quantity of the water in the Great Lakes. The report warns of the risk of permanently lowered lake levels causing significant harm to the environment, to recreational activities and to our economy.

This makes it all the more shocking to learn today that the Harris government, your government, has cancelled funding for the bodies developing cleanup plans for 16 water pollution hot spots in the Great Lakes. The reason given for violating an agreement Ontario signed in 1994 is that the ministry can't afford it.

The Deputy Premier in the Harris government is also the Minister of Finance, and he is responsible for slashing $200 million from the environment ministry budget. Day after day we keep hearing about environmental damage. What will it take to get this government to change its course?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Environment and Energy): This government is living up to a commitment of a tremendous commitment to the environment, to continuing to clean up the Great Lakes. We are, as the RAP program progresses, the remedial action program to clean up the 17 different sites in Ontario, shifting our resources, shifting the way we spend money so we get greater impact for the dollars we are spending.

These are tough times. We were left with a tremendous debt by the leader of the third party's party. Quite frankly, he's left us in a very difficult position to deal with issues like cleaning up the Great Lakes. If in fact he had left us in a much better financial position, we would have been able to attack these problems even more aggressively than we are. Having said that, what we're doing is doing the best we can with the dollars he left us. Quite frankly, we're doing a hell of a lot better than he did in the past.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Supplementary, the member for Riverdale.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Minister, haven't you ever heard of an environmental deficit? It's going to be generations down the road that will be paying for your phoney tax cut of today. Since this government was elected, your cuts to conservation programs, your abandonment of responsibility for water and sewage systems in Bill 107 and your privatization agenda will all threaten to make the situation in the Great Lakes worse.

The Deputy Premier should be interested in this. The mayor of Parry Sound was there today in support of this report. Listen to what was said in this report today: "Decreased lake levels could change beaches and shorelines and would leave docks and shipping and boat accesses above the water line. This would decrease shorefront property values. Recreational activities such as boating, fishing and hunting may also be negatively affected."

Minister, even if you don't care about the environment, will you consider the impacts on property values, tourism and the economy and stop these drastic cuts to the environment now?

Hon Mr Sterling: I am of course concerned about any environmental damage which occurs to the province of Ontario, to our beautiful lakes and our rivers and our land. Notwithstanding that, you should know that this government and previous governments over the past 10 years have put some $300 million towards remedial actions in the Great Lakes, a joint agreement between the federal government and the provincial government. Our federal government hasn't been quite so forthcoming with regard to its share on this. We are looking to them to show a little leadership for a change and increase their $75 million into the area which we as provincial taxpayers have put forward to cleaning up our Great Lakes.

We are concerned. We are taking some actions which have been left for want for a number of years. It is a difficult time, as I mentioned before. The member for Riverdale knows that she left us in a very, very deep hole, and we're trying to dig our way out of it. We're going to deal with these problems as they come on, and we're going to deal with them in an erstwhile manner.


Ms Churley: Minister, I don't think you even know about the report that was released today, and I suggest you read it. This government's reckless slashing in the name of this phoney tax scheme, which you neglect to mention, has decimated the monitoring, research and enforcement staff of your ministry.

You have no water conservation strategy. You're dumping responsibility for water and sewage treatment on the municipalities -- we're debating that bill now -- and you're encouraging privatization. You've even abandoned protection for agricultural land near the Rouge Valley Park. Now the environment ministry is breaking Ontario's agreements to clean up pollution in the Great Lakes. That is what you're doing, because the ministry says it simply no longer has the money for cleanup.

Do you think the people of Ontario really believe that industry is going to clean up these lakes all on its own? That's why the IJC suggested that these stakeholder groups be put together in the first place. You should be supporting them. Tell me today that you will reinstate that funding.

Hon Mr Sterling: We support these groups. Some of these groups have done some tremendous work in planning the particular actions with regard to RAP. We are looking for contributions from communities, some from the province, some from our federal government, with regard to putting forward the necessary funding support for these groups.

We believe that everybody should be involved in this. This is a joint problem. This is a problem with regard to the federal government, this is a problem with regard to the provincial government and this a problem with regard to the municipal government. We think they should all be involved in the solution. That's what we are saying.

We are saying that the private sector can be involved in this as well, but we are not for a moment abandoning our responsibility. We will continue to fund where necessary, but we are looking for better deals, we are looking for better ways to clean up than in the past and we are also looking for our federal cousins to come forward with their fair share as well.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of the Environment as well. You're great at talking the talk but you're pretty lousy at walking the walk when it comes to your commitment on the environment. You talk about your commitment at the same time that you proceed to slash almost one third of your staff. You talk about your commitment at the same time that you continue to deregulate every aspect of your ministry.

We find today that you have decided that the advisory bodies that work with you and do the job you should be doing and work well in the communities don't deserve any provincial funding. You're reducing this to what has become bake-sale environmentalism and you hope that these groups can go out, bake some muffins, maybe stand on the street corner and sell them and then fund their activities.

Can you tell me how the strategy and the plan to cut the funding for the advisory groups fits into your commitment and your plans to clean up the Great Lakes hot spots?

Hon Mr Sterling: I'd be glad to. There are really three stages with regard to RAP, the remedial action program. The first part is recognizing the problems. The second part is putting forward your plans. Quite frankly, of the 17 areas in the province of Ontario, I believe in 14 or 15 of them we are past that advisory stage where the great input with regard to those particular municipalities was needed. The stage of the progress towards addressing the problems has changed and therefore the needs in the process have changed and we are readjusting to those changes in those needs.

Mr Agostino: There's more pollution coming out of that answer than there has been out of the smokestacks in this province. Very clearly, the plans are in place, as you claim. What you now have done is cut off at the knees the groups that have worked with you, with your ministry, to put these plans in place, in order to take away their ability to monitor what you're doing, to take away their ability to follow up and make sure your commitment is followed by some dollars and some real action rather than the rhetoric that continues to come out of you as you, step by step, dismantle the environment and the ministry across this province.

What you're doing is taking away a group that was going to be there to look after and ensure that the commitments you make are followed through. That is what you've done all along. You've gotten rid of environmental regulations; you've gotten rid of monitoring stations; you now are getting rid of advisory groups. Very clearly, it's see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. "If no one's there to criticize us, if no one's there to point that out, then the problem is solved."

Can you outline specifically for the House today what your government's commitment is in 1997 for the cleanup of the environmental hot spots in this province and what the --

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

Hon Mr Sterling: As I said before, we have many projects which we're dealing with across the province in terms of this particular area. I want to tell the member from Hamilton that last week I signed a letter to commit $1 million to clean up Hamilton harbour, which neither that government nor your government dealt with in the past.

That's the kind of commitment this government is making. We're not only dealing with groups that talk and advise; we're dealing with the real part of the program, and that's cleaning up the mess that was left there by previous generations and previous governments.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Can't just make up the answers.

The Speaker: Member for St Catharines, come to order.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Minister of Health. I want to ensure that he understands that the incident raised by the Leader of the Opposition in this House today is not an individual case, as he put it, an isolated incident. To have a story in the newspaper headlined "The War Zone" in describing a hospital stay is alarming enough.

The minister should know that my colleague the member for Sault Ste Marie and I, as well as others, have received many complaints about the effects of cuts on the Sault area hospitals, specifically the Plummer Memorial Public Hospital, and that these are not individual, isolated cases.

On January 16 in this House, I asked the minister if he would review the operating plan for 1996-97 which had been approved for the Sault area hospitals by his predecessor. The minister said he would review the plan. Will the minister assure us that he has reviewed the situation and that he will not allow --

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

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): What I will assure the member opposite is that this hospital's operating plan and all hospitals' operating plans will be reviewed by their local district health councils first. That is the process. Then the operating plans come to the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Health will review all of these plans. This is part of a process leading up to the budget for 1997-98. That is the process. It's a good process and there will be a thorough review.

I would also say -- I think it has to be said and I've been in a few hospitals lately -- that we have so many good people working in our hospitals: the nurses, the doctors, all of the staff. I must say they are giving an excellent level of care to the people of Ontario. They are hardworking and they are performing an excellent service for the people of Ontario.

Sometimes when complaints come forward there may be a point of view that their services are not being appreciated. Well, they are performing well and we intend to reinvest in the services the people need to support their work.


The Speaker: Supplementary, member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Minister, let me be more precise as to the impact of your health care cuts to services in my community. This weekend's article in the Sault Star paints a terrible picture that is becoming all too familiar. Mauno Kaihla died in uncalled-for discomfort, not unlike Eric Snoddon. His family detailed his ordeal in the October 9 issue of the Sault Star. These devastating stories are directly linked to the cuts your government is imposing on hospitals and health care across this province.

Will you call the Sault Ste Marie hospital today and tell them there will be no more cuts, that they should immediately review the events leading up to the conditions found in these two of so many incidents and that you will fund any necessary changes?

Hon David Johnson: The operating budget of the Sault Ste Marie hospital was approved in last year's budget, 1996-97, conditionally, by the province of Ontario. The ministry is monitoring, the district health council is monitoring to ensure that service is maintained. Again I will say that hospitals are performing an excellent level of care across the province. I hope the impression is not conveyed by the members opposite that our hospitals are wanting. They're performing well.

I will reiterate once again that it is this ministry's and this government's intent to support their efforts by reinvesting back into the services that patients need. Hospitals are reacting by reducing administration -- some hospitals have reduced administration, some hospitals have reduced general managers -- taking away from the administrative services, providing services directly to patients.

The Speaker: New question, the member for Scarborough Centre.

Mr Martin: Mr Speaker, on a point of personal privilege: I'm just beside myself today, actually heartsick over this, and I suggest to you we on this side of the House come to this place week after week asking very sincere questions to be helpful to our constituents. I wonder how long you plan to allow the government to get up and to obfuscate and to avoid and to lie to us.


The Speaker: Order. I have to ask you to withdraw the comment you made, please.

Mr Martin: Mr Speaker, in all good conscience I cannot withdraw that comment.

The Speaker: Then I name the member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin was escorted from the chamber.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): My question is for the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance. In the third-quarter finances for the province released last week, you indicate that the province is about $500 million ahead of its deficit target for 1996-97. My constituents in Scarborough Centre want to know what this means for the government's fiscal plan. They want to know if the government is still spending $1 million an hour more than it takes in in revenue. Minister, they want to know if the government is still on course.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): As members of the finance committee of the Ontario Legislature will certainly know, the third-quarter finances report that was presented to the committee last Thursday was indeed positive news both with respect to the fact that our plan, despite what the opposition says, is working and that we are on track to eliminate the deficit in this province by the fiscal year 2000-01. We have made significant progress -- there isn't any doubt about that -- and we are about half a billion dollars ahead of our deficit target for this year, but the reality is that the deficit will still sit in this fiscal year at approximately $7.7 billion. That clearly is unacceptable.


Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member said, "Stop your tax cut." He would know, if he was in the committee or read the Ontario third-quarter finances, that with a tax reduction in Ontario our tax revenue is up $1.2 billion.

Mr Newman: The good news obviously continues. My supplementary is also for the Minister of Finance.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): You're borrowing $20 million.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order, the member for Kingston and The Islands.


The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mr Newman: I guess good news is hard to take on the part of the opposition.

My supplementary is also to the Minister of Finance. Various media reports on Friday suggested that as a result of the positive news in your fiscal and economic update, the government is planning to provide about $1.8 billion in additional funding to municipalities and schools. Minister, what can I say to my constituents in Scarborough Centre? Are these reports true?


The Speaker: Well, I appreciate all the help I can get, but that's not helping a lot. Minister of Finance.

Hon Mr Eves: As I reported in committee on Thursday, we have changed the restructuring fund from $900 million to $1.8 billion for this fiscal year in light of the fact that we have additional revenue coming into the province of Ontario.

We have already allocated $1.3 billion of that $1.8 billion: $700 million to the municipal social assistance reserve fund; $250 million for a municipal capital and operating restructure fund which will be paid out in this fiscal year; $200 million has been allocated for a new federal-provincial infrastructure works program; $100 million has been allocated to the teachers' pension plan arbitration award; $67 million has been allocated for municipal assumption of certain road and highway responsibilities, including accelerating Highway 416; and we still have a further $483 million and will be looking at ways of allocating that.

I'm sure that my various cabinet colleagues, including the Minister of Health and others, will be providing suggestions as to how the remaining money can be allocated in this fiscal year.


Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): To the Attorney General: I've been asked by the Guy Paul Morin family to bring to your attention a copy of the letter they sent to the Canadian Judicial Council, which I received this morning and which I've provided to you, in which they allege a conflict of interest on the part of Mr Justice Sydney Robins.

As you know, the terms of reference of the Morin inquiry include investigating into the criminal proceedings involving the murder charge. In 1987, Justice Robins was a judge on the appeal which reversed Mr Morin's acquittal and in which Mr Justice Robins commented, among other things, on the two inmates who were crown witnesses, one now known as Mr X. Mr Justice Robins may therefore, with others, become a subject of the inquiry.

Notwithstanding this, on Wednesday, January 22, 1997, Mr Justice Robins, the same judge, was one of the three judges refusing a court application at Mr Morin's request to lift a publication ban on the identity of Mr X. The one-man commission, Mr Fred Kaufman, supported the court application --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Mr Chiarelli: -- to lift the publication ban --

The Speaker: Thank you. Member for Ottawa West, come to order.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Considering the importance of this --

The Speaker: You know, I understand what the member for Algoma is saying, but I don't know anyone who stands and asks a question who doesn't think it's important, and if you're going to live by the numbers, you have to. Attorney General.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): It would be inappropriate for me to comment in any way on the issues pertaining to Mr Justice Robins. The Morins have taken the step of notifying the Canadian Judicial Council, and that is the appropriate place to deal with that issue.

Certainly if there was a decision made by the court of appeal that someone believed was wrong at law, their alternative would be to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. That's another option that Mr Morin and his counsel can consider, but the matter has now been referred to the judicial council and it would be wrong to comment further.

Mr Chiarelli: Attorney General, I can understand why you'd want to be very cautious and perhaps take this question under advisement, but given that the police investigation and the criminal justice system are effectively on trial in the inquiry, you have a responsibility to deal with what is an emerging issue. The public identity of, the evidence of and the crown relationship to Mr X are of crucial interest to the Morin family and to the public, and this was reinforced by the commissioner in the court application.

Will you undertake to seek legal advice on this apparent conflict of interest and report back to this House with what you've decided and your course of action? It is very critical; it is being asked for by the Morin family, which has suffered greatly because of this; and there is an apparent conflict. Would you take it under advisement, get some legal advice and come back with your answer next week?

Hon Mr Harnick: The issue is now before Justice Kaufman and I have no doubt that Justice Kaufman will deal with these issues as they arise in the course of the inquiry. If there are steps to be taken where a court's advice is needed during the course of the inquiry, there's an appropriate way to deal with that, but certainly I have every confidence that Justice Kaufman will carry on with the inquiry, which will deal with the items that the member has raised.



Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. On repeated occasions I have asked you to be clear with us about what the details are for mandatory child care as of 1998 when you download the cost to municipalities. The closest you've come was on February 3 when you said, "I recognize that municipalities are looking at their budgets, looking at what they think will be happening in the future, but we are saying to them that the number of spaces, the current system that is in existence now, is the system upon which we are planning."

Municipalities really want some clarity. Their social services departments are being told by bureaucrats in your ministry that "mandatory" means the same number of spaces they have now but not necessarily regulated spaces, that they could switch them to the informal, unregulated sector. There are many horror stories I could tell you about informal care and we're very worried that municipalities may do that. While you're working out your details, could you tell us what mechanisms you've put in place to ensure that the current level of regulated child care spaces will be maintained?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): First of all, I'd like to remind the honourable member that we're not downloading anything. What we're doing is moving education off the property tax and making an equitable transfer of other costs and responsibilities to the municipalities. The other thing I think it's fair to remind the honourable member of is that the vast majority of parents, some 90% by the latest national study, do not use the regulated, formal child care sector, so we are talking about a minority of the children and the parents that are there.

But she does make a very valid point. We have been notifying municipalities that as a starting point the regulated system that is place now, the number of subsidies, the spaces that are being funded now, is the system that we are calculating and using for planning purposes as we move into the new Who Does What responsibilities. It is an important component of the child care system and we will be protecting it.

Ms Lankin: Here in Ontario about 28% of parents use unregulated, informal care. About 35% to 37% of kids who are in child care are in regulated care -- so your national numbers don't work in Ontario -- and that's because we fought to build a high-quality regulated system. This morning I met with Arden McGregor Templeton, who is a parent of three from London. She spelled out story after story of what happened with her children in unregulated care; when I did my hearings across the province, I heard example after example.

We should be expanding on regulated care, not threatening the loss of that. You need to make it very clear that you will not allow the subsidy dollars to be spent in informal, unregulated care. We need a guarantee that the current level of regulated child care spaces will at the very least be maintained or even expanded once you make child care mandatory. Will you please be clear? Will you please give us that guarantee?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I'm certainly hoping that by working with our municipal partners, as we are doing in child care, we will be able to improve the child care support for parents out there. For many families child care makes the difference for them being able to get into the workforce or stay in the workforce, so it's certainly a very important support that we are working with our municipalities to maintain.

I'd like to also to remind the honourable member that the current child care system does include unregulated spaces and also that we have a blended way of the subsidy supports that parents get. Some are indeed being used in the unregulated sector now. It is a component of the system.

There is no question that there are concerns about quality and accountability, which the member has highlighted. We certainly highlighted that very strongly in the child care review, and that's one of the issues that we are working with our municipal partners on to try and figure out how we can continue to provide quality support for parents who need child care.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. In my riding of Norfolk there are many local volunteer groups, such as the Norfolk Field Naturalists, the local chapter of the hunters and anglers, who have an interest in seeing habitat improvements in our area. As you know, Long Point Bay in my riding is a great place for perch, bass and other species. As well, there are several coldwater streams which are trout producers. Can the minister explain what the Ministry of Natural Resources is doing to support volunteers who are involved in fishery projects?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I'd just like to inform the honourable member and the House that volunteers play a very important part in the management of our natural resources in the province. We're especially appreciative of their efforts. We have supported them again this year through the community fisheries involvement program, commonly referred to as CFIP. These projects include fish culturing and stocking projects, spawning bed rehabilitations, stream rehabilitations, fish transfers and fish ladders, and many more worthwhile projects throughout the province.

We support these groups through seed money and through technical expertise. I just want to let the member and all members of the House know that this year we've supported more of these projects, up to half a million dollars in funding for over 242 projects throughout the province. That's an all-time record.

Mr Barrett: Norfolk is also blessed with an abundance of wildlife, such as wild turkey, which was a very successful re-establishment program in my riding --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I've met a few wild turkeys from Norfolk myself.

Mr Barrett: I am not referring to members on the other side when I use the expression "wild turkey."

Also, Norfolk is a staging area for many species of duck, tundra swan and other migratory waterfowl. I understand the Ministry of Natural Resources had similar projects for wildlife habitat. Can the minister explain what is happening with that program?

Hon Mr Hodgson: This is a very important issue. We have a similar project to encourage and help our volunteers contribute to wildlife rehabilitation and producing better habitat for our animals in the province of Ontario. We do that through the community wildlife involvement program, referred to commonly as CWIP, and this year we increased that funding as well to include 140 wildlife projects across the province. We spent over $191,000 in seed money to help that out, as well as technical expertise. We want to express our thanks to the thousands of volunteers throughout the province.

As well, this money is made possible because of the special purpose account. Every time an Outdoors Card, fishing licence or hunting licence is purchased in this province, that money goes to a special purpose account to be used specifically for wildlife rehabilitation.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question is for the Minister of Health. There's been some talk in the House today about how well hospital staff are coping. Many of them were waiting for information from your ministry last week about whether or not they could keep their hospitals clean, about how many nurses they had to lay off. Your ministry circulated a list of cuts last week to the public and then circulated another list to the individual hospitals. There is a difference in those lists.

I'd like to tell you, for example, in the instance of St Catharines General Hospital that according to your ministry and the public figures for St Catharines General Hospital, $3,121,000 has been cut. In fact, St Catharines General Hospital's been told that $3,295,000 has been cut, a difference of $173,000. The same is true for Brockville hospital, for Clinton hospital, variances of $63,000 and $17,000. Can you explain to us the difference in the figures that have been made public and the figures that have been told to the hospitals about how much they have to cut this year?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): Each hospital was informed directly of the funding it would receive from the province in the year 1997-98. I don't know what lists the member is referring to. My suspicion is that somehow the member has got his hands on an interim list, a partial list; I'm not sure. There was no list circulated by the ministry, so presumably the member opposite has received from somewhere a partial list. The hospitals were communicated with directly and they know exactly what funding they will receive from the province.


Mr Kennedy: That's a totally unacceptable answer. This is your list. This is the Ministry of Health list, which you published, and it adds up to the cuts you yourself ascribed to those hospitals. Instead, when we talked not just to those three hospitals but to every hospital so far in the province, every one of them has been cut more. Why are you skimming money off these allocations? You've got one list for the public, your official list which I have right here that I'd be happy to share with you, and another one that you're sending to individual hospitals.

What are you up to? What is your ministry doing in cutting a total of $23 million more? Are you using this money, are you skimming it off to pay for the so-called reinvestments? Is that what's happening to this difference?

Will you at least do the right thing for hospitals across the province, like in Sault Ste Marie, that you've thrown into a state of confusion in the way you've done your cuts? Will you at least agree to the higher figure? Will you make sure they get --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.

Hon David Johnson: The funding to hospitals is determined through a joint committee. The committee is called the JPPC. The JPPC is composed of representatives from the hospitals as well as the Ministry of Health and looks at the available funding and designates its recommended funding to the various hospitals. The Ministry of Health has accepted that recommendation, has accepted that advice from the hospital community, the JPPC, and through that process has allocated funding to each of the hospitals.

A year ago the Minister of Health laid out a process involving a multi-year funding program to the hospitals. The JPPC, in terms of its recent funding, has followed that allocation and the funding has been communicated directly to each individual hospital.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Chair of Management Board. Last summer you decided, apparently, that one way of saving money to help pay for your tax cut was to privatize the mail services in about 15 ministries of your government, and I believe there are about 120 jobs at stake in that privatization. The employees presented a proposal to you last August which entailed some very significant savings and at the same time would have ensured some job security for some of the most vulnerable people.

My question to you is: Why did you ignore the proposals brought forward by the employees? And as a built-in supplementary, I ask you as well: Since there are about 30 employees with disabilities out of the 120, what do you plan to do to protect those most vulnerable employees of all if you proceed with your privatization plans?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): The services referred to by the member include courier services and duplicating services and mail services. The total cost to the provincial government of all those services is about $12 million a year. The ministry has determined that taxpayers could be saved money, that there could be less cost, that it could be done more effectively and efficiently through outsourcing.

The employees are welcome to bid on that particular process. My understanding is that the employees did come forward before the process with an alternative suggestion, but it did not involve the level of savings the ministry anticipates receiving through the outsourcing project.

The provincial government gives additional points to any proposal that employs current employees of the province, and those proposals will have more weight and a better chance of winning.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: You will know that on February 4, in speaking in the House on Bill 104, I referred to a rumour in the city of Sault Ste Marie that the Sault Ste Marie District Roman Catholic Separate School Board was laying off all of its auditing staff and hiring a Toronto accounting firm to do that work, and used this as an example of outsourcing or contracting out. I've been informed that that is not correct, that the Sault Ste Marie Roman Catholic separate school board has not made any decision as yet with this kind of thing in mind, so I was incorrect and I rise to correct the record.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding the order of the House dated November 2, 1995, in addition to its regular scheduled meeting times, the standing committee on finance and economic affairs be authorized to meet for the purpose of pre-budget consultations Wednesday mornings and Wednesday afternoons following routine proceedings on February 12, 1997, February 19, 1997, and February 26, 1997.

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


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): A shorter one this time, Mr Speaker.

I move that Mr Wildman be added as a member of the standing committee on social development.

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



M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai ici une pétition qui me provient des Amis de la bibliothèque de Hawkesbury, avec 308 signatures.

«Étant donné que nous croyons fermement que la responsabilité provinciale dans les bibliothèques publiques en Ontario est un droit fondamental de tous les Ontariens et toutes les Ontariennes ;

«Nous, soussignés, demandons au membres de l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario de sauvegarder la responsabilité provinciale dans les bibliothèques publiques en s'assurant de maintenir ce qui suit :

«La subvention provinciale qui permet d'assurer à tous les Ontariens et à toutes les Ontariennes un accès équitable aux documents et aux services de bibliothèques publiques ;

«La coordination de programmes de partage des ressources tel que le système de prêts entre bibliothèques et l'accès au réseau Internet ;

«Une politique permettant d'assurer l'existence du réseau de bibliothèques publiques de l'Ontario ;

«L'aide directe de la part du gouvernement provincial au niveau de services, par exemple, par l'entremise du Service de bibliothèques de l'Ontario-Sud et du Service de bibliothèques de l'Ontario-Nord ;

«Une loi maintenant l'autonomie de conseils d'administration des bibliothèques publiques.»

J'y ajoute ma signature.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I am pleased to stand today on behalf of 6,827 residents who live in the town of Walkerton and area. The petition reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, realizing the importance of local accessible hospital and medical services, therefore petition the district health council, the Minister of Health and the restructuring commission to continue to provide comprehensive hospital services at the County of Bruce General Hospital as well as at the facilities of its alliance partners, Chesley, Durham and Kincardine."

I support this petition and I am pleased to affix my signature.


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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature.



Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by 182 people from the Annex Residents' Association and the Sussex-Ulster Residents' Association in my riding.

"Whereas we live in a democratic society where the principles of due process, representation and political accountability are dearly upheld; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario is thwarting these principles by imposing the megacity of Toronto without consideration for what the residents of the affected communities want;

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

"That the government of Ontario respect the wishes of the residents of the affected megacity communities as expressed in the referenda being sponsored by their duly elected municipal representatives; and that the government of Ontario be bound by the outcome of those referenda."


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

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the firefighters of Sudbury 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;

"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 the petition as I agree with it.


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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature as I'm in full agreement.


Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I have a petition from 304 people from my riding, the Yorkdale Adult Learning Centre. They're calling to support full funding for adult students in day-time secondary school programs.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, draw the attention of the Legislature to the following:

"Whereas the Ontario government in November 1995 decreed that the funding for adult students enrolled in high school programs would be cut by almost 70%;

"Whereas since this decision has taken effect many of these adult programs have been completely cut or severely reduced, thus denying many residents the right to a full education and access to work-related courses;

"Therefore, we call upon the Legislative Assembly to restore full funding to these programs."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the right of Catholic ratepayers to govern Catholic education in Ontario is constitutionally protected in the British North America Act (1867) and the Constitution Act (1982); and

"Whereas the Minister of Education and Training is reviewing and considering a number of reforms to the education system in Ontario; and

"Whereas a number of these proposed reforms would have a serious negative impact on Catholic education;

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

"We strongly urge that the Minister of Education and Training be requested to reaffirm the government's commitment to the maintenance of Roman Catholic denominational rights, ensuring that any reforms will not lessen or abrogate any such rights; and

"Further, that the minister enter into realistic and meaningful consultation with all education stakeholders that will lead to positive change for students."

This is signed by a large number of individuals from across the province, and I've affixed my signature.


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

"We, the undersigned, strongly protest any plans to privatize TVOntario. The privatization of TVOntario would jeopardize Wawatay radio network's native language programming and Wahsa distance education services because both depend on TVO's distribution system."

That's signed by a good number of my constituents in North Caribou Lake, Weagamow, Round Lake, and I too attach my name to that petition.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I have a petition here signed by 18 East York residents. It reads as follows:

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


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

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

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

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

I affix my name to this petition as I am in agreement with it.


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

"To the government of Ontario:

"Since video lottery terminals will contribute to gambling addiction in Ontario and the resulting breakup of families, spousal and child abuse and crimes such as embezzlement and robbery; and

"Since the introduction of video lottery terminals across Ontario will provide those addicted to gambling with widespread temptation and will attract young people to a vice which will adversely affect their lives for many years to come; and

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across our province is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the desperate in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest income; and

"Since the placement of video lottery terminals in bars in Ontario and in permanent casinos in various locations across the province represents an escalation of gambling opportunities; and

"Since Premier Harris and Finance Minister Eves were so critical of the provincial government becoming involved in further gambling ventures and making the government more dependent on gambling revenues to maintain government operations;

"We, the undersigned, call upon Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to reconsider its announced decision to introduce the most insidious form of gambling, video lottery terminals, to restaurants and bars in the province."

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


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Grey-Owen Sound.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Right. I knew you'd get it. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I have a petition from the town of Bruce Mines.

"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 about 125 individual petitions on postcards that are addressed to the Legislature of Ontario and they read as follows:

"I 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, the elimination of provincial conditional grants to public libraries, the eradication of library boards and the imposition of fees for the use of public libraries."

I concur with this and I affix my signature to same.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Grey-Owen Sound, a petition.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Yes. The last was a petition too, Mr Speaker.

This is a petition from the Grand Orange Lodge of Ontario West.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Being a firm supporter of the public school system and the Protestant faith;

"We, the undersigned, hereby petition the government of Ontario to reinstate the Lord's Prayer in the public school system of Ontario."



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

"To the government of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario appears to be moving towards the privatization of retail liquor and spirit sales in the province; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a safe, secure and controlled way of retailing alcoholic beverages; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides the best method of restricting the sale of liquor to minors in Ontario; and

"Whereas the LCBO has an excellent program of quality control of the products sold in its stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a wide selection of product to its customers in modern, convenient stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO has moved forward with the times, sensitive to the needs of its customers and its clients; and

"Whereas the LCBO is an important instrument for the promotion and sale of Ontario wines and thereby contributes immensely to grape growing and the wine-producing industry;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario abandon its plan to turn the sale of liquor and spirits over to private liquor stores and retain the LCBO for this purpose."

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


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition to the government of Ontario and it states as follows:

"Since video lottery terminals will contribute to gambling addiction in Ontario and the resulting breakup of families, spousal and child abuse and crimes such as embezzlement and robbery; and

"Since the introduction of video lottery terminals across Ontario will provide those addicted to gambling with widespread temptation and will attract young people to a vice which will adversely affect their lives for many years to come; and

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across our province is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the desperate in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest income; and

"Since the placement of video lottery terminals in bars in Ontario and in permanent casinos in various locations across the province represents an escalation of gambling opportunities; and

"Since Premier Harris and Finance Minister Eves were so critical of the provincial government becoming involved in further gambling ventures and making the government more dependent on gambling revenues to maintain government operations;

"We, the undersigned, call upon Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to reconsider its announced decision to introduce the most insidious form of gambling, video lottery terminals, to restaurants and bars in the province."

I have affixed my signature to it.



Mr Parker from the standing committee on the Ombudsman presented the committee's second report of 1997.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): I beg leave to present the second report of 1997 of the standing committee on the Ombudsman.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Do you wish to make a brief statement, Mr Parker?

Mr Parker: No, thank you very much, Mr Speaker.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for 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.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I believe the member for Riverdale had the floor the last time.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I'm pleased to be on my feet again today to finish my party's, the NDP's, leadoff speech on this Bill 107. Before I get into further details I just want to remind you, Speaker, and other members of the House what this bill is about. It is one other component, one other piece of the downloading of services which this government is in the process of putting on to cash-starved municipalities all over Ontario.

I don't think a lot of people out there know about half of what this government is in the process of downloading. We've heard a lot about welfare in particular, because by now it's very clear that absolutely everybody, including the board of trade and David Crombie, is telling this government that downloading welfare is a big problem. We know that downloading long-term care is a big problem as the population ages. We know that downloading social housing is a big problem. We know that the downloading of the services we know about, that most of the public knows about, is wrong and that it's going to cost our cities and municipalities more money than taking education off municipal rolls and putting it on to provincial taxpayers. We know, it's been proven, studies show it, but this government doesn't seem to want to listen to any reputable studies that are done by experts.

Because they have absolutely no evidence that forming a megacity is going to actually save taxpayers money, they get desperate for this information, and what do they do? They go out and hire a firm to do a quick study within three weeks, people who were told not even to talk to the workers in the very area in which they were doing this study. Anyway, they came back and said there would be savings, but even they had a hard time, in those three weeks, to find where the savings would be. Interestingly enough, the savings they talk about are actually the cutting of services. I recommend that the government look a little more closely.


Ms Churley: Thank you very much. Western beaches tunnel: Yes, that's relevant to this discussion today on sewer and water services.

Most people out there do not know that one of the other megaprojects this government is handing down to the municipalities is our very water and sewer services. When people begin to understand the implications of that, I believe there's going to be a very big outcry. You will recall, Speaker, that last year the member for Nickel Belt and I stood in this House and challenged the Minister of Environment and the finance minister on reports that this government, the Harris government, was actually going to start privatizing our water. We believe there was a big enough reaction in the public that the government decided, just as it has done for now on Hydro, to back off.

But what are they doing in this bill? The actions of this government are underhanded once again in the way it is privatizing our sewer and water systems through the back door. What we have here in Bill 107 is the transfer, the downloading, of all our sewer, water and septic systems across Ontario to the municipalities. All the existing agreements with the municipalities are left in limbo. This bill says to the municipalities that if they have an agreement with the provincial government for new infrastructure or whatever, they're left in limbo. This bill cancels all that. This is on top of the government already cancelling the municipal funding for infrastructure and building new sewer and water plants, new infrastructure, and the repairing, which alone is a multimillion-dollar expense across the province.

There are no more new agreements, and now municipalities are being told that on top of all the other services they now inherit from this government, they also have to finance their water and sewerage commitments. I can assure you right now -- the government knows this, and that's why I'm calling it underhanded. They know what they're doing. They are interested in privatizing the sewer and water system in Ontario.

There is a lineup of people from out of the country, from France, from the United States, from England. The minister confessed to it. He said that for a while he was having trouble going anywhere without being caught up in an onslaught of private investors who just couldn't wait for this government to privatize the system because they know there is a lot of money in providing water services to people.

What this government did, when it got scared off from actually privatizing it themselves, was to come up with a very interesting and creative bill. What this bill does is download it all on to the municipalities, and they say that the bill is written in such a way that they want to discourage private ownership, want to encourage public ownership. If that is true, why don't they put an explicit prohibition against selling off these plants right in the bill? The reason is because they have no intention of prohibiting or trying to discourage municipalities from selling off these plants. In fact, the government knows very well that there are already some municipalities out there interested in going ahead and selling off their sewer and water systems. This gives them permission to do so.


What also is in the bill, the one piece the government holds up to try to demonstrate that it is, in this bill, making it difficult to sell off sewer and water plants -- it's laughable, absolutely ridiculous. They say that if the private sector buys a plant that is municipally owned, they will have to pay back any public grants that this municipality had received for that plant in the past. Well, if you look at the amount of money any municipality has received for a plant, it's peanuts, it's nothing. There's no interest on it and there's no depreciation either. It's a small cost of doing business. They know that, you know that, and I think it's only fair to be honest with the public and let them know what's really going on here.

One of the things that annoys me and frustrates me about this government is that they do their slick ads and they have their great names for the titles of their bills -- the sewer and water improvement act; I have to give them credit for that -- but it's not fair to the people of Ontario. What they say they are doing is not what they are going to be doing; furthermore, they know it. Because I have to use parliamentary language here, I am being very careful about how I express it, but I think everybody here knows --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I think you can get away with almost anything right now.

Ms Churley: I think the member for Kingston and The Islands is correct: I could probably get away with almost anything right now. Maybe I should try it.

This government is not being honest with the people of Ontario. This government --

Mr John L. Parker (York East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I draw your attention to the comments we just heard from the honourable member opposite and I ask you to pass judgement on them.

Mr Gerretsen: There's nothing out of order, Mr Chair.

The Deputy Speaker: Please. I didn't hear anything, but I'm sure if she said anything which was contrary to the rules of the House she would apologize, if this is the case. Is this the case?

Ms Churley: Mr Speaker, I'd be very pleased to withdraw those comments.

What I was talking about was that the government -- I'm trying to put this in a parliamentary way -- is telling the people of Ontario one thing and doing another. We see it time and time again with all these bills. I believe the government is feeling pretty cocky about what it's up to because it continues to be high in the polls.

That will not continue. One day people are going to figure out what you're really up to, and when they do that I think there's going to be a huge drop in your popularity and you're going to see more and more of the backbenchers, some of whom are with us today, starting to react a little bit to their own government's agenda. The municipalities, AMO, a lot of Tory-friendly municipalities, are not pleased with this downloading. I haven't heard a lot from them yet about this downloading of the sewer and water services, but I can assure you that the government will, we all will.

Some of them might say it's no big deal because they can privatize it, that the bill makes it so easy for a municipality to take its system and just sell it off to a company that will use the very life-sustaining water and our sewer systems and our septic systems. I may add that the government is now going to get out of the environmental protection of regulating septic systems and hand that down to the municipalities, not seeming to realize the serious environmental problems that have come as a result of improperly installed septic tanks -- a very serious mistake. I have told the government that I will be making an amendment on that. I prefer that they withdraw this whole bill. I don't think they're going to do that. I will have a series of amendments and that will be one of them.

Another amendment I will have is that within the bill the government makes it totally explicit that municipalities cannot sell off their water and sewage plants. They say they want to discourage that. Why not be perfectly clear?

I have some other concerns about the bill. Obviously, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, which is why I am calling for public hearings. Last Wednesday, when we began debating this bill, I had a letter, which I read into the record, from Rick Lindgren from CELA, asking for public hearings. I believe I've heard back indirectly from the House leader that they haven't received a lot of requests for public hearings on this bill. I want to assure the government that they will. People are just starting to figure out what's going on, and they'll be getting lots of notices and lots of requests from the public, from environmental groups, which I know this government holds in complete contempt.

I've sat on committees and seen, time and time again, the way they're treated, the way they're shut out of the process. But they will continue to come forward and demand to be heard. Even if they're not listened to at this point, they will be on the record, and God forbid it's going to happen, but one day we're going to be able to look at certain disasters because of the actions of this government on the environmental front. Unfortunately, it's going to happen and these people are going to be able to say, "Told you so."

That is the legacy this government is going to leave the environment over the years, with all of the downloading and deregulation and the cuts, and the cuts in staff. It's going to take some time. You're not going to see the results of this tomorrow. It's not like losing a job right now. Unemployment is at the top of everybody's mind, for good reason. People want something done about it now. It's disgraceful. This government ran and said it was going to create all these jobs, and more and more jobs are being lost. People are terrified.

In the meantime, the government continues to say it's going to give a tax cut, which we all know will mainly benefit the rich. They say that this tax cut is going to create jobs. There's no evidence to support that. In the meantime nothing is happening with the creation of jobs. They are giving a tax cut to the wealthy and in the meantime they are pulling the funding from the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the money that's there that's supposed to be protecting our environment, protecting the health of us and our children today.

They want to talk about deficits. I'll tell you about deficits. There is more than monetary deficits. The reason these environmental laws came into being over the last 20 or 30 years is because our society was feeling the effects of a neglected environment. It was and still is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, in fact billions of dollars, to clean up past mistakes.

Today -- very timely, actually -- we had yet another example of what this government is doing. There is absolutely no end to it. This morning I got up and saw the headline on the front page of the Globe and it said, "Government Cuts Environmental Funding," or something. I don't have it in front of me. I have it here somewhere, actually. Do you know what? What scares me about this stuff is we see these headlines -- here it is: "Ontario Cuts Pollution Funds." We're seeing these headlines so much now, people are going to become insensitive to it. That's part of the problem.


It's almost a daily basis now when the press bothers to pay attention to what's happening in the environment, and the press is not paying a lot of attention, for a variety of reasons. I think they should be; I wish the press were paying more attention. I'm happy to see Martin Mittelstaedt from the Globe is paying a lot of attention. He seems to get a lot of brown envelopes sent his way, which is good. But I'm happy to see there are some reporters who are managing to get their stories in the paper. Brian McAndrew from the Star, from time to time, through all the megacity blitz support in the Star, gets a good story in on what's happening with environmental cuts.

It's important that our media, the media who are working on environmental stories, do what we in our caucuses do. I have to go to question period meetings. We have to decide every day, Speaker, as you do in your caucus, what questions are going to be asked. With this government in particular, there's such a long list of important questions every day, it's very difficult to choose which questions you're going to get on.

I and the staff -- Charlie Campbell, who works in our research department on environmental and labour and other issues -- go and persuade our caucus that these -- and it's not hard to persuade them, but there is a problem in terms of the lineup and the awful things this government is doing right across the board to our society, to our communities, to the most vulnerable in our communities, to the environment.

I get these questions on and I like to see those from the different media. Bob Hunter is another one, from CITY-TV. They have to do the same thing. They have to go back and they have to fight with their editorial boards. I don't know how their structures work, but it's the same thing: There's a lot of competition there for what gets in the paper and what doesn't. I want to congratulate and thank those reporters and journalists who are able to get these stories in, and encourage them to keep fighting harder to do that, because the public needs to be made aware of how bad this is going to be.

When I read this this morning, "Ontario Cuts Pollution Funds," I didn't know what it was about, but I thought: "Oh, what now? Another one." Then I was shocked, and I continue to be shocked.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): You should be.

Ms Churley: Genuinely, to the member for St Catharines, I can't believe how far these guys go. I mean, the depths. I read this story and what it's telling us is that now this government is breaking international agreements. I don't think they realize the significance of that. When we start breaking our international agreements, we lose our clout, we lose our voice. We lose any credibility in the international forum when we break those agreements. Canada has had, overall, a fairly good record -- not great -- in terms of going on to the international forum. The acid rain agreement was one, although I would love to talk about that in detail some day, the acid rain agreement which my friend from St Catharines was involved in. I've got the scoop on that one.

The reality is that these international agreements are important not just in terms of cleaning up our shared resources. Of course the Great Lakes span the United States and Canada, and it's been very hard to get agreements between the two countries.

We're talking about multibillion-dollar cleanups, because it was left for so long with industry continuing to pollute with no checks and balances, just dumping it into the rivers --

Mr Bradley: That's right, all those Tory years.

Ms Churley: "All those Tory years," mentions my friend from St Catharines.

The reality is that it has to be cleaned up. The press conference today is about the cleanup of the Great Lakes. Years ago the International Joint Commission made some recommendations on how to go about such a massive undertaking, especially when you have two different countries, multi layers of government all involved in the process and lots of industry involved but some industry that had polluted years ago no longer around. It is a very difficult process and you need incredible coordination to make it work. You have to have a multistakeholder group to make it work, these remedial action groups which the minister is no longer funding, and according to the report in the paper, in the Globe and Mail, Minister Sterling said he does support these policies but he can't afford to do it any more.

The reason this is relevant to the bill we're talking about today, Bill 107, is because this report talks about not only the great need to clean up the pollution, particularly in the hot spots, but also the great need for a coordinated tests conservation program for water.

We take water so for granted. We turn on our taps, there's clean water. We flush the toilet, it's gone out into the lake. We don't know, we don't care, it's gone. We go out and we water our lawns on hot days, we go out and wash our cars, and that's just as individuals. Then there are farmers, there is industry. We all use far more water than necessary because we've never had to worry about it.

Lo and behold, we do have to worry about it. The information released in this report today, The Fate of the Great Lakes: Draining the Sweetwater Seas, what it says is that if we don't start conserving water seriously the level of our water supply is going to drop. You heard me in question period today talking a bit about that.

As I said to the Minister of Environment, even if he doesn't care about the environment -- and I would say to all the members of the Tory party we know they don't care about environmental protection, there's absolutely no question of that any more, that's a given; but they do say they care about tourism and job sustainability in their communities, all that stuff. We even had the mayor from Parry Sound at this press conference this morning because of concerns raised by this group if the levels do drop, the implication that will have on tourism and other industry in the Parry Sound area.

I would say to this government, if they're not listening to the environmentalists, listen to people like the mayor of Parry Sound, listen to the people who were at this press conference today, and understand that this is not -- and I hate to do this because I believe that protecting the environment is one of the most fundamental things that we as a society can do in terms of the legacy we leave our children and our grandchildren.

We hear time and time again from this government, when they get up and rant and rave about getting rid of the deficit, how we mustn't leave a deficit to our kids and our grandkids. They always neglect to mention that there's this little thing like a tax cut. As I understand it, I don't believe that any of their drastic cuts to date have had the tiniest impact on the deficit reduction. It's all going towards this tax cut.

They talk about leaving a deficit to our children and our grandchildren. We've got to start paying attention to other kinds of deficits. When we get alarming information that our water levels are going to go that low, that it's going to have these kinds of very scary effects, you talk about leaving a deficit to our children.

I just find it incredible that the members of that party over there, the Harris government party, do not pay more attention to other sorts of deficits and, furthermore, down the road, the kind of devastation, and I'm not exaggerating here, that will happen to various components of our environment and to our health as the result of the deregulation, the cutting and slashing and burning by this government.

We know there are going to be big problems down the road which are not only going to affect our children's, our grandchildren's and our great-grandchildren's health, we know that, but are also going to cost them a lot of money.


Let's face it, we in here are all going to be dead -- I know it's a big downer, but we are -- when, a few generations from now, this kind of lack of attention and care for our physical environment is going to start having effects on people.

I got hard-won, all-party support last year on a private member's bill to form a stakeholders' group to try to find ways and make recommendations to start the elimination of carcinogens, the dioxins and chlorines and other chemicals out there. There is enough evidence now -- in some cases not definitive evidence, but enough evidence -- that indicates that breast cancer, prostate cancer and other forms of cancer are being caused by some of these in minute amounts in the body. There is some evidence -- and everybody says there needs to be more research -- very scary evidence that some of these, like dioxins and chlorines, are mimicking hormones in the body and are actually having an effect on our immune systems and on our ability to continue the human race. That's pretty serious indeed.

Mr Gerretsen: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't believe we have a quorum in the House.

The Deputy Speaker: Would you please check to see if there is a quorum.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Dovercourt -- Riverdale. Sorry.

Ms Churley: Mr Speaker, I'm shocked you could forget where I'm from. After all, I'm one of the deputy Chairs.

Coming back to my discussion of the importance of protecting our environment, I was discussing the fact that there is enough evidence now to support the phasing out of certain chemicals that are affecting our very ability to create new life, are mimicking our hormones, are affecting the immune system. This is all fairly new research, but the evidence is very frightening.

At any rate, I got all-party support in this House that the Minister of Health -- during our government's term, Ruth Grier was the Minister of Health. There was enough concern about cancer and the increase in cancer in our society that a major study was done, and one component of it was environmental aspects; the study looked at the foods we eat, the air we breathe, all that stuff, but a component of it was on chemicals and pollutants.

This was one of the recommendations. Because this government, the Harris government, is not acting on any of the recommendations, I picked one small piece of it and said that at least, because this could have such a devastating impact even on the future of our race, on our very survival, let's put together this group of people to come up with sensible recommendations. Let's even try to reach a consensus, hard as it would be -- it always is when you have industry and environmentalists and community people and government people -- some kind of consensus on starting to phase out some of the worst chemicals we know about. We have enough evidence that we know they need to be phased out.

I can't get this government to respond in any way. I tried and tried with Jim Wilson when he was the Minister of Health and he kept putting me off. Finally, I tried Brenda Elliott and she put me off. Now I'm trying with Norm Sterling. Everybody's passing the buck here.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Oh, come on.

Ms Churley: It's true, member for Nepean. It is true. I have been trying since last year -- I don't know if you were in the House; perhaps you were and perhaps you supported this -- to get this multistakeholder group together, and I need the guidance of the Minister of Health, but they won't do it. I would just ask members who supported me on that bill to assist in pulling that together, and I know there were some Tory members. The member for Nepean said he did. The member for Mississauga South supported me; in fact I saw her whipping some of the troops over there in getting support for me. I've always said publicly that I was grateful for Margaret Marland's, the member for Mississauga South's, involvement in that. But nothing's happening.

It just goes to show that you can have the best private member's bill in the world passed, but if the government -- the cabinet, I should say -- doesn't want it to go anywhere, it won't go anywhere. There are still lots of letters and phone calls coming in about that, and this is not the end of it yet.

I want to come back to why this press conference today, and by coincidence the story in the paper, are so relevant to the bill we're discussing today. I'm going to read you a little bit from the press conference about the environmental impacts. It says:

"Water quality in the Great Lakes could be detrimentally affected. Within the diversion route itself there may be increases in water quality due to an increased dilution of pollutants. However, water quality may be reduced where water levels are lower. Lower lake levels increase the disturbance of contaminated sediments by ships and by storms. This results in the release of contaminants from the sediments, making them available to the food chain. The contaminants are, as a result, passed from fish to the birds, animals and humans who eat them.

"Wetlands are particularly sensitive to changes in water levels. Any loss of these wetlands affects the habitat of the fish and wildlife who live there. Fish spawning areas could be seriously affected. Loss of wetlands also means the loss of the numerous beneficial functions of wetlands, which include groundwater recharge, shoreline erosion prevention, temporary floodwater storage and water filtration by absorption of sediment, chemicals and nutrients."

This goes on and on about the devastating effects just a small drop in our water levels could mean. I read a quote today during question period in the House, and I'll read it again:

"Decreased lake levels could change beaches and shorelines and would leave docks and shipping and boat accesses above the water line. This would decrease shorefront property values. Recreational activities such as boating, fishing and hunting may also be negatively affected."

As I said earlier in this speech today and asked the Minister of Environment, if they don't care about the environment, if they honestly believe they can make all these cuts and fire all these people and still think they're doing more with less, God bless them, because we all know that's not going to work and that the environment isn't being protected. But surely they've got to pay attention to a study like this, which is going to impact on our property values, tourism and the economy, because they do at least pretend to care about these things.


So this report is relevant because while the government is in the process of downloading sewer and water services to the municipalities, they have gotten rid of OCWA, the Ontario Clean Water Agency, which was created under our government as a partnership between the private sector and the public sector. One of its main mandates was to work with municipalities to come up with conservation methods.

I mentioned last week an example of Barrie coming to the province desperately needing more treatment facilities and requesting huge amounts of moneys -- I don't have the numbers in front of me today but it will be earlier in Hansard -- to expand that treatment centre. Working with the green communities, which I talked about again last week -- this government also got rid of that, which was all about water conservation and energy efficiency -- and with the OCWA conservation program, they were able to save millions of dollars, therefore millions of taxpayers' dollars that this government so likes to say they are going to save. Conservation is a dollars-and-cents issue as well, but now we find out that it's far more than that.

So with the getting rid of OCWA and downloading our sewer and water plants on to the municipalities, there's absolutely no conservation program in place -- nothing. I will admit to you that when we were the government I felt far more needed to be done, that in many ways this was just the beginning, working with municipalities and citizens and industry and agriculture to start serious, real conservation of our water.

What does this government do? They look at the books and figure out they've got to get certain services off their books and on to the municipalities. They download them and they don't even say a word about conservation and efficiency. Nothing. Nada. It's all gone. Just, "We'll download it on to you; we don't care what you do with it," pretend they are encouraging keeping the sewer and water plants in the public sphere, and then make it so easy, not only easy but necessary, for the municipalities to sell the plants because they're not going to be able to maintain them. They're not going to be able to keep up the deteriorating infrastructure.

Believe me, Speaker, I'm sure most of the backbenchers don't have a clue about sewer and water projects, not a clue, and I'm sure most of the cabinet ministers don't know about it, but I can assure you that the finance minister and a few others know exactly what they are doing here. It's very, very dangerous policy, because once again we're not going to feel the effects of these cuts and these changes and this downloading for some time. But I would recommend to the government that it take it for granted that there will be calls to have public hearings not just from me and not just from environmentalists, but I would expect that AMO, some of the municipalities, would be interested in having their say publicly on some of this and trying to exert some influence with this government. I would think there are many out there who would like to have an opportunity to speak to this.

I spoke last week about the Ontario Municipal Water Association, and they are calling for a public hearing on this. They had called for a public hearing back on December 3, 1996, and the heading to their press release was "Ontario's Drinking Water in Jeopardy: Ontario Municipal Water Association Calls for Public Hearings." Speaker, I'm going to read you a bit of this. It says:

"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 plans to safeguard our drinking water and to ensure the high-quality, low-cost and reliable water system we enjoy today.'"

The press release goes on to say: "`The Ontario government is shredding its responsibilities for this vital service, to the detriment of all Ontario residents,' says 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 minimum enforcement.'"

Last week I talked at great length about what happened in England after Thatcher privatized the sewer and water systems. I'm sure my colleague the member for Nickel Belt, who is our critic for privatization, will be talking about that a little later on. There is absolutely no doubt about it that in England there are private sector companies making a lot of money selling a basic necessity like water.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): Oh no, not for profit.

Ms Churley: Yes, for profit. Selling water for profit.

Interjection: It's a sin.

Ms Churley: Yes, I think it's a sin.

Interjection: "Profit" is a bad word. It's a mortal sin.

Ms Churley: No, "profit" is not a bad word; "profit" can be a good word. But selling water for profit is disgusting and despicable and immoral.

Interjection: It's on the record.

Ms Churley: Yes, it's on the record. You guys think it's funny. You clap, you laugh and say to me that I've got something against profit. You don't get it. As usual, they don't get it; they just jump on the word "profit" and make a big deal out of that, "Here's a New Democrat once again decrying profit," not listening to the rest.

We live in a capitalist system, for heaven's sake. Profit, that's what makes the world go around, isn't it? But there is something fundamentally wrong when we get to a point when we have a government in Ontario that feels it's okay for the private sector to move in and start making a profit off water. There is something very sick about that. It makes me angry that they think that's okay. Water is something we need to sustain life, and they think it's okay to sell it off to the private sector so they can make a huge profit.

Look what happened in England. It was like reading something about a Third World country or a developing nation. There were little pamphlets put out by caring folks in England saying, "Save the water for our poor children." Do you know what was happening while these companies were making the big profit, while they were allowing the system to deteriorate? The loss of water was so great that there were great droughts and big problems, but what was going on as well is that they came up with a meterized system so that people had to plug in a special card to be scanned.

If poor people did not have that card passed through on time and scanned that they'd paid their bill, their water was automatically cut off. There were children -- are children in England who are going to school with no water in their homes. They had to go to school unwashed, no water to drink, their clothes unwashed, and you think that's okay for these corporations to be out there making big profits while poor children go for months without any water. That is sick.


I don't believe that traditional Tory values would support that. I don't believe that traditional Tory values would support the concept that it's okay for big -- in many cases, if it's sold off here in Ontario, it will be offshore companies from England, from France, which will be taking huge profits out of our province back to their own countries while some people here, if it happens the same way it happened in England, won't have proper access to water.

I would suggest to the members of this government who think it's okay for our water to be sold off for profit that they think again. There is a limit to what we should put up for profit. I would say that water, for me, goes beyond that limit, and I would suggest the government members think about that. But of course they have to believe it's the right thing to do because that's what they're doing in downloading these responsibilities to municipalities.

In Beaches-Woodbine, the Ashbridges Bay plant is one of the biggest sewage treatment plants around, probably in the world. It's been incinerating sewage for a number of years, and there is a group in the Beaches-Woodbine community, but also many people from my community of Riverdale from Citizens for a Safe Environment and other people who have been concerned for years about the dioxins and other pollutants coming out of that stack from the burning of the sewage sludge.

There's now going to be an environmental assessment about the expansion of that plant. Interestingly enough, coming back to water conservation again, there would not have to be an extension of many plants and we could save so much money if only the government would move ahead and bring in sound water conservation policies, which it's going to have to do. I don't expect this government to do it, but it's going to have to happen. But the member for Beaches-Woodbine's community and my community have been working for years and years, struggling with all levels of government to try to work this out.

Now what's going to happen? There's been an overflow problem in the western beaches for years during storms, the storm runoff. They're going to put a huge tunnel from the western beaches to Ashbridges Bay to deal with that sewage runoff. We know that the citizens from Beaches-Woodbine and from Riverdale have for years come up with really innovative, creative ways to avoid having to build that tunnel. Building that tunnel is an engineer's dream. The Metro engineers have been unable to look at other solutions to this problem, and believe me, they do exist.

We have to take a hard new look at the way we as a society deal with our waste, and that's not just solid waste and hospital waste but also sewage waste. There are all kinds of creative ways out there and creative people with ideas that this government is refusing to listen to.

I'm going to end here to talk again about the fact that we need to have public hearings on this bill. I hope we won't have a big struggle with the House leader as we have had over the past few weeks with getting appropriate and adequate public hearings on Bill 103, the megacity bill, and Bill 104, which we do not have adequate public hearings on. There was a small concession made to our party last Thursday where the government did agree to a little bit of extra hearings, but it's still not nearly enough. I hope we're not going to have a big struggle with this government over the need for these hearings.

As I said, there will be calls for public hearings and there is a need to have public hearings to get this information on the table. Believe it or not, government members might learn something from the expertise of the people out there. Not just the environmentalists but the municipalities, those who are the engineers, the people who are running our sewer and water plants. The government needs to hear about this proposed bill and --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was wondering whether there's a quorum.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Riverdale.

Ms Churley: Thank you. I'll be pushing for public hearings on this and I fully expect them.

In closing, what is this bill? The title is a fake, a phoney title. It says it is improving the system. In fact, what it is is part of the mega-week downloading, and it got buried and disappeared because of the concern and worry about all of the other downloading. But I believe when people start to realize and when municipalities start to realize the implications of this, because even those municipalities that will feel compelled, even those that want to privatize -- and this bill gives them every opportunity to do so -- I believe they will get an outcry from the citizens in their communities, because I believe, unlike most of the Tory members who are here today, most residents will not want their water sold off, and if their water is going to be sold off, they'll want to know the implications of that.

That's really what this bill is all about, because it is part of the downloading. It's the government getting out of the responsibility of providing clean, safe water for our citizens. It's the government getting out of regulating septic tanks, which is the cause of some major environmental problems and health problems and has been for a long time. It's the government downloading services that rightly belong to the provincial level, to municipalities. But we know what it is they are really doing. I started this and I said throughout my speech on this bill that the government started off by wanting to privatize water. They have friends out there who want to make a profit off our water.

The Minister of Environment said it publicly. He was bragging about it: "Gee, I can hardly go to functions any more. They're lining up and begging me to hurry up and put the water up for sale." Industry from France and from offshore, from England, knows there's a huge profit in it. They've seen what has happened in England. They don't care about all the problems it created, which I know my colleague from Nickel Belt will get into again a little later. They know there's lots of money in it, and this government made, I think, some very big promises to some very big corporations.

What this bill is really all about is downloading a service to municipalities which can't afford to maintain those services. They have done nothing with the bill, nothing to make it difficult for municipalities to sell it off. They've pretended to by saying: "Oh well, any public money which was put into that plant will have to be paid off. We know it's peanuts, it's a part of doing business. That will be easy." That's the only stipulation in the bill that will prevent the privatization.

So what we're really talking about here today is not downloading because it's privatization. The downloading in this case is going to mean massive privatization, which I object to strenuously, and I can assure you my party will be doing everything we can to fight the privatization of water.


The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions?

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I'm pleased to respond to the member, the critic for the environment. I can assure her that even though she's trying to build a motion like we're the worst things ever possible, we are watching some of the experiences in other countries and what's happened there, particularly the experience in England. We do not agree with how the water and sewer are presently managed there, even though the critic isn't interested in my response to what she had to say.

We are promoting the encouragement that it does stay within the municipality by insisting that any grants given out since 1978 would have to be given back to the province. I think that will certainly encourage them to keep that as a municipally owned facility. We're not against them having private companies running those facilities; as a matter of fact, it sounds like a good idea, if they can be so fortunate as to make a profit. Even she agreed that "profit" isn't particularly a bad word.

We see that water and sewer are really a municipal benefit to local people and we've seen where, according to David Crombie, lobbying for the provincial government, they've come in with great, big plants, get all kinds of grants for very large plants, plants so big that it ends up they can't afford to operate those and have had to come back to the province to get more dollars to actually operate and make them run.

Mr Gerretsen: She wasn't talking about that at all.

Mr Galt: I think when we turn this over and get the local municipality totally responsible, it is going to be a lot more efficient and a lot more effective, even though the critic and the member for Kingston and The Islands may not think so.

I can also assure you that with the septic system, as that's turned to the municipalities and we insist on the training and the certification of those inspectors, there's going to be far more uniformity than there is now in the checkerboard sort of patchwork we have across the province of Ontario.

Mr Bradley: The member for Riverdale, of course, fully recognizes the context in which this bill appears in this House, and the context was exemplified by the reaction of the minister today to rather significant criticism of the fact that he's no longer going to fund remedial action plans. The whole purpose of remedial action plans was, first of all, to develop such a plan, and second, to implement that plan.

Some of the development has taken place with funding which was in place in years gone by, and now, when it's time to put the money on the table to actually improve the environment, the minister has turned tail and headed in a different direction. Because he knows, as the member has pointed out, that they have cut $200 million from the environment budget, that they have reduced by almost one third the staff of the Ministry of Environment, a ministry that requires person-power and funding and physical resources and clout to do its job. It's obviously diminishing in all four of those areas rather significantly, and the member has recognized that.

She has also spotted the hidden agenda of the Mike Harris government. I read a column from the new columnist in the Ottawa Citizen. He's 28 years old, he's younger than some of the members here, but he knows everything. He was previously a policy analyst for Mike Harris and, before that, the Fraser Institute. So I know Conrad Black's not interfering in that paper at all, not at all. Anyway, he said that Mike Harris was not a neo-con. In other words, Mike Harris is too left-wing even for this writer. This member will see through that, and she has, obviously, in her speech.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I want to commend my colleague the member for Riverdale for her comments here this afternoon with respect to this bill and add that she continues to have a very strong concern for the impact of the government cuts on the environment. She has done her best in not only this speech but many others that she has made on environmental matters and the deregulation by this government throughout the 18 months that this government has been in power.

What you see here in this bill really is privatization by the back door. That's what this is all about and people should know that up front. The government has already, in its effort to finance the tax cut, cut off all of the capital grants which used to be available to municipalities for sewer and water systems. Many small municipalities, in northern Ontario in particular, made use of those grants because they didn't have the financial base in their own communities to put in sewer and water systems or to make changes and they relied on that heavily. Now the government washes its hands because it is far more important to this government to fund the tax cut than it is to make sure that small communities in northern Ontario have adequate sewer and water systems.

The second thing the government has done is to download the services on to municipalities, and they did that through mega-week as well. So not only do municipalities not have access to grants any more, but the government is offloading hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of other costs, in the regional municipality $105 million alone, so that many communities just won't have the funds they need to improve their sewage and water systems. They're going to have no choice but to go to the private sector because that's the only place where they're going to be able to find any funds. They don't have it themselves any more because of the downloading that this government is engaged in.

The question is: Does the government have a responsibility or not to look after public health? Water is a vital component of public health and this government has a responsibility but, like everything else with respect to the environment, it chooses to abdicate its responsibility, to sell off into the private sector, and instead to fund a big tax cut so those who have the most get even more in Ontario.

Mr Baird: The member opposite goes on at great length, and I think she tries to find the absolute worst example, 10 miles away from where this bill is, to point out something that's not in the bill, which suggests to me that she perhaps doesn't take great exception to the bill but rather wants to use the opportunity in her responsibilities to criticize the government.

She talked about this piece of legislation being part of the mega-week with respect to the redivision of responsibilities. While she says that municipalities will be taking over a degree of responsibility, she should of course also mention that the provincial government is taking education off the residential property tax base, relieving taxpayers of well more than $5 billion worth of expenditures, something that when they were in government they suggested was a good idea.

She's not the only one who's committed to the environment. I recall she brought forward in the last year an issue of public policy with respect to the environment that I was uncommitted on. I came and I listened and I even supported it, as did a good number of my colleagues on this side of the House, and that's very, very important to mention.

She also said something I thought was rather startling: that tax cuts don't create jobs. That's a direct quote. I was surprised, because if the last five or 10 years have shown us anything it's that the more taxes are increased the less money the government brings in. The more taxes were increased, the less jobs there were in Ontario. What we're discovering since the last election is the lower the taxes the more revenue the government's bringing in, and that's something worth putting on the record.

My colleague the member for St Catharines mentioned Conrad Black. I recall Mr Black was here for the installation of the new Lieutenant Governor as one of her guests. He was sitting not a few feet from the honourable member for St Catharines, and I was disappointed he wouldn't try to avail himself of the opportunity to try to work out the differences rather than simply putting arguments forward in the House.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Riverdale has two minutes to respond.

Ms Churley: To the member for Northumberland, I don't think the member was listening to my speech, because he brought up the fact of the public money in the bill that's required to be paid back. I spoke to that at great length last week and today, about the fact that it's peanuts, just the cost of doing business; it's a joke. The comment on some municipalities -- he keeps coming back to that -- overbuilding, too much capacity and then coming to the province cap in hand. I've been talking about that today and all last week. What we need is proper conservation policies, which, under OCWA, the Ontario Clean Water Agency that you have disbanded, are gone. You have no conservation policies any more.

To the member for St Catharines, thank you for bringing up my friend Conrad Black. I'm glad he was brought up today -- very important.

The member for Sudbury East, thank you for bringing up the tax cut. I did bring that up time and time again.

Which brings me to the member for Nepean who says that -- and it's a direct quote -- I said that tax cuts didn't create jobs. Well, we'll see what Hansard says tomorrow. What I remember saying, and I'll say now to be clear, is that the tax cuts of this government have not created jobs. You have not created jobs.


Mr Bradley: They have created chaos.

Ms Churley: You have created chaos, that's right, not jobs. What we're talking about here are the kinds of devastation that they're going to have on our hospitals and on our environment.

I talk quite a bit about the fact that people are terrified of job loss and jobs not being created. It's one of the reasons why you're getting away with people not paying enough attention to your environmental deregulation agenda, because people are so concerned about jobs. Either they can't get a job or all these jobs you've promised aren't happening. That's the problem we're talking about here. Let's see those jobs. We haven't seen them yet. But in the meantime I suggest that the government members listen to what's being said about this bill.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): It is my honour to represent my riding and my constituents of Brampton South in participating in this debate concerning Bill 107. There are a number of interesting things about this debate. It reminds me of the Shakespearian phrase, "All sound and fury signifying nothing," and I'll elaborate on that over the next few minutes.

First it should be stated for the record that municipalities already own --

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): You forgot, "...it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury." It's a metaphor --

Mr Clement: Thank you. The honourable member for Markham finishes the quote by saying that it was "a tale told by an idiot." I would not say that in this chamber, at least it's parenthetical to my remarks, but I thank the honourable member for Markham for completing my Shakespearian training.

Municipalities already own three quarters of the water and sewage plants in Ontario, so we are talking about 25% of the water and sewage plants that hitherto were the direct responsibility of the Ontario Clean Water Agency. So there we go. I just wanted that to be put on the record.

Ms Churley: He's wrong, totally wrong. He's the idiot.

Mr Clement: The honourable member for Riverdale just called me an idiot. I want to thank the honourable member for Riverdale for calling me an idiot because it certainly shows the depth of her research on this particular issue. I'll get back to the issue at hand.

Mr Sterling, the honourable minister, has said in his opening statement on this particular issue that municipalities take this responsibility, running and owning three quarters of the water treatment plants in Ontario, seriously and have already demonstrated their ability to provide outstanding water and sewage treatment services to their communities, and I agree with the honourable minister on that front. Municipalities have already shown that they have the capability, the management expertise and the resources available to deliver excellent and clean water to our communities, and I agree with our minister on that.

I would also like to make it clear that under the proposed law there is an opportunity for municipalities to undergo or engage in public-private partnerships with respect to this particular issue. But in order to sell any assets they seek to sell to any private sector buyer, they first have to repay any provincial capital grants received by them since 1978. No one is talking about selling the crown jewels here. It is strictly a case of municipalities being given more of the responsibility that they already have, and if they choose to deliver the services from a different point of view, in a different way, they have to compensate the people of Ontario for their investment over a period of time.

Another point: The government is still going to ensure that public health and the environment are protected through tough standards, training and certification for the septic system installers' inspectors. This is in terms of the transfer of septic responsibilities.

I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the government of Ontario is going to return to its proper role, when it comes to water and sewage works, so that it can set the standards for the municipalities to ensure that excellent and clean water is available to all, and that it is our responsibility, as the representatives of the people of Ontario, to ensure that those standards are met, but that the way you achieve those standards are best left to the level of government that is closest to the people: the municipal governments. I think that is a more than adequate, indeed an excellent way, to divide the responsibility in this most important area.

Here's a third myth that perhaps we're exploding, the third one this afternoon. We've heard from the opposition for a number of weeks now that somehow we are veering away from the recommendations of the Who Does What commission, headed by David Crombie, and its report. Here is another example, yet another one, and there is a multitude that will be discussed over the next weeks and months, where this is in exact accordance with the recommendations of the Who Does What panel. They themselves recognized that the delivery of water and sewage services can best be done, in the interests of the Ontario people, by the municipalities, owned and operated by them, and that the appropriate and proper role of the province is indeed to set standards. So if we may explode another myth in our deliberations today, here again we are accepting the advice of the Crombie panel. In this case it makes absolute sense, we agree with them 100% and we are following through. We are doing what we said we'd do.

We believe that by devolving these responsibilities to the municipality, this will entail and produce a better and more efficient arrangement. That means delivering the service in a better way at the least cost to the taxpayer so that we can free up some resources. I think that is the best way to protect our environment. Members on the other side say protection of the environment has got to be a priority. We agree. We are freeing up some resources. We are freeing up some opportunity in terms of government time and attention so that we can focus in on protecting Ontario's natural heritage not only for our generation but for future generations. I believe in that strongly, which is why I intend to support the bill.

Another point here: There will be a continued role for the Ontario Clean Water Agency. I want to put that on the record as well. It still will be the contractee in terms of operating services. This is in total keeping with the Ontario Clean Water Agency business plan.

Members opposite raise the spectre of Margaret Thatcher at this point and say, "This is kind of a back-door method of privatization." I want at this point to speak to that issue because there's nothing in this bill that moves that process further along. There is nothing in this bill that says this is the inevitable result of our changes. Indeed we are saying to the municipality, "Before you decide to privatize, you've got to pay back the investment over the years, at least since 1978, of the public by the Ontario government in terms of the capital cost of these projects."

At this point usually the spectre of Margaret Thatcher is raised by our friends across the way who say: "See what happened in England when it came to utility devolvement to the private sector. See how this has meant that people are starving in the streets and poor children are arriving at school both thirsty and dirty," it appears. Although I have no direct knowledge of that, I have direct knowledge of one of the key components of the changes in Britain that occurred in the utilities sector and I want to put it on the record so it is part of the debate.

Margaret Thatcher, in this particular case, and I say this without equivocation, did not act like a real free marketer when this issue was brought to the British Parliament and how it was managed. I understand my friend from Nickel Belt has some things to say about this. Perhaps we can have a scholarly debate on this.

Margaret Thatcher sold the assets to the private sector and then she guaranteed the private sector a floor price in terms of how much they could sell their water for, or what have you, to the market. Anyone who knows anything about the way markets are supposed to work knows that you don't guarantee a floor price. What will happen is that the private entrepreneur will say, "Okay, if the floor price is X, that means I've got a guaranteed price and now I will rejig my delivery of the services, in terms of cutting the fat and the duplication and inefficiency in the operation, to make sure the actual cost of production is far less than the floor price."


The net result of that, since with a guaranteed floor price no one is going to go underneath the floor price, is that there's no competition in the industry. If the owner of the asset can deliver the service to a consumer while cutting 40% of the cost, the value of that cutting exercise will not be translated into a lower cost to the consumer, because they are guaranteed by the government a minimum floor price.

In fact, what Margaret Thatcher was doing was completely antithetical to the market. She was not being a commonsense Conservative, if I may say so, in this particular moment, and the consumers paid the price. That is exactly what happens when the state tries to meddle in the affairs of the private market. The inevitable result, as Margaret Thatcher found out to her dismay, is that the price is higher and the efficiency and the delivery of the service is lower than expected.

I'm not trying to prejudge what the municipalities might find out. My only advice to them, after seeing what a mess Margaret Thatcher made because she veered away from market principles, is: Do not guarantee a floor price to anybody. Let competition and market demand drive the price and the efficiency of the service. You are guaranteed to get better results than if the government tries to do so. Exhibit A is Margaret Thatcher's Britain.

Let me talk a little about the second part of our bill, which deals with septic systems. Septic systems will become a local service, again in complete conjunction with the Who Does What recommendation that the septic system is most appropriately delivered by municipal governments. Again we are following Mr Crombie's report to the letter. We think in this particular case it makes eminent sense, and the municipalities do not disagree.

We want to focus the role of the provincial government on developing sound environmental standards. The province is going to continue to have tough rules for septic system installation and operation to protect public health and the environment. That is the appropriate role for the government of Ontario, not to hire the inspectors and deliver the subject matter of that particular agency. It doesn't make any sense, and finally a government is acting upon a bit of common sense in this particular area.

I want to say parenthetically that even with all these changes, even as we devolve the septic system installation and operation and so forth to the municipalities, Ontario spends more on environmental protection than any other jurisdiction in Canada. Our commitment to the environment is still there; it has not diminished. In fact, I believe that by properly delineating the roles of the municipality and the roles of the province, we can actually do our job better in protecting the environment than previous governments have been wont to do.

In my view, the way we are doing the septic system approvals and the operation of the septic system is another example of how local services should be delivered by local government. I know this is a revolutionary idea: local services being delivered by local government wherever possible. That provides the accountability needed to the taxpayers, to the citizens receiving those local services. This makes sense throughout. We'll talk a little later, I'm sure, on another bill, about why our social services plans follow the same model. If you are going to deliver a service locally, there has to be local accountability. Otherwise, politicians -- and members of this House, on either side, have been guilty of this over the years just as much as local politicians -- are very adept at passing the buck, finger-pointing somewhere else: "Well, it's not really my responsibility. Even though we fund it, we don't really run it, so go talk to somebody else."

That happens all the time. We've got to stop it. We've got to provide the proper democratic accountability so that the taxpayer, the citizen receiving the services, knows who is responsible for the best possible delivery of that service and holds that person, MPP or local councillor, as accountable as our democratic system allows. That is the essence, the golden thread of all our proposals: that accountability not only gives you better services, but gives you those better services at a cost which is sustainable over the long haul and at a cost which has been approved by the taxpayer at the appropriate level.

With that I end my remarks and welcome comments from my friends.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Gerretsen: I would like to address one of the issues the member opposite addressed, and that deals with why there's only a transfer of 25% of the plants. Of course, the other 75% of the plants are already owned municipally. The reason 25% of the plants are still owned by the province, quite frankly, is because they are all located in municipalities that couldn't afford to build these kind of plants on their own. That's the simple reason.

If the Ontario government, many years ago, had not gotten involved in these programs whereby they allowed municipalities water and sewer services through the construction of plants owned and operated by the province, these municipalities never could have afforded to have these plants built with the money they were taking in themselves in tax revenue.

It's totally erroneous to say, "We've only got 25% of the plants still owned by the province, and therefore it's not such a bad thing to download them to municipalities." These are the exact, same plants that never would have been built because the municipalities themselves never would have had the tax structure within their own capacity to allow these programs to take place.

You cannot pick and choose the recommendations that Crombie brought forward. It is all a total plan. Crombie was quite clear on one aspect: that you cannot download soft costs such as the health and welfare costs that the province has done in their downloading legislation. He was talking about municipalities that basically were able to look after the hard costs involved, the hard-core services such as these municipal kind of services, but he certainly didn't intend there to be any downloading of the social services. You cannot say that Crombie says it's all right for this when, quite clearly, on the other side, he's totally against this kind of downloading.

Mr Laughren: It does me good as a social democrat to come into the House in the afternoon and listen to a debate -- we used to deal in this Legislature with whether the level of services being given to people in the province was appropriate and who should pay for them and so forth. Now you come into the Legislature in the afternoon and the debate really is around ideology, pure and simple ideology.

As someone who is ideological myself, I don't find that offensive as long as we identify it for what it is. I've got no problem engaging in an ideological debate. I think that's very healthy. Every now and again I hear someone in the Legislature cry out, "Don't be so partisan," and I think: "Wait a minute. The whole nature of this place is to be partisan, and that's the way it should be."

I really like listening to the debate when it gets as polarized as it is around this issue. I was sitting here thinking about who the member for Brampton South reminded me of, and I thought, "He's the oldest Young Tory since Dennis Timbrell appeared on the scene." Of course, Mr Timbrell played a very meaningful role in this House and had major responsibilities in cabinet. His star has more recently gone into decline, but that's another story completely and I wouldn't want to clutter up this debate with that story.

I do look forward to taking part in this debate a little later in a more fulsome way, and I thank you for that time, Mr Speaker.


Mr Galt: I'd first like to compliment the member for Brampton South for an excellent presentation. He brought out a lot of interesting points, particularly about the problem in England. I think he explained it extremely well, how they sold their assets and then guaranteed a floor price. That sounds like an NDP policy, to guarantee a floor price or put on a ceiling price. That's more their style, and I'm surprised that would have come from England. But with that explanation, it's very understandable why they ended up with all this profit and what the problem was. I thank the member for that explanation.

The empowerment, the turning of these facilities over to the local people, is what they've been asking for. They'll have the flexibility to develop what they want and be more efficient and more effective, no question. The member for Kingston and The Islands said, "The 25% that are not owned now can't afford it." I think it's kind of unfortunate if you can't afford your own sewers and water. Who else is going to benefit from it other than the people who are on the system? It's just about time that they did look after their own water and sewers. I doubt that the people in Kingston want to pay for water and sewer in Cobourg or in Campbellford or in my riding; nor do they want to pay for it in Hamilton. They're happy just to pay for their own.

That is indeed what we're proposing. The 75% that presently own it -- we're going to increase that and let the other 25% take over and we are going to turn it over to them free of charge. We're not going to charge them anything for turning it over and letting them have their own operation, one which they probably should have had right from day one.

Mr Bradley: It was not long ago that the member's leader was calling the people who complain about this "whiners." I was quite surprised. There are some people here who have served at the municipal level. Simply because the local political representatives, elected municipally, had referred to the downloading or dumping on to the municipalities in a less than enthusiastic way, the Premier said they were whiners. I was surprised, because some of my Tory friends sit on municipal councils, and they were quite shocked to have the Premier of this province referring to them as whiners. I said I would raise it in the House for them and try to see if there was some clarification of that.

The member for Nickel Belt is quite correct in saying that we are dealing with an ideological government at this time, and he may like that. In fact, I can remember when he used to be a socialist and not just a social democrat a number of years ago; the new word is "social democrat." Nevertheless, his views have always been interesting in this Legislature, if nothing else, very interesting. He's often made some compelling speeches, and I think his two-minute intervention this time was a good caution to this government not to proceed in the direction it has chosen.

The parliamentary assistant says no one else benefits from these water and sewer systems. When sewage is discharged into the Great Lakes people are affected throughout a number of municipalities around the Great Lakes. Whether it's Erie, Superior, Ontario, Huron -- any of the Great Lakes or any of the waterways -- the people downstream are affected by this. That is one reason we can justify the provincial government remaining in it.

There used to be a time when the provincial government made a significant investment in clean water and sewage systems. It's abandoning that, quite obviously, in this bill.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Brampton South has two minutes to respond.

Mr Clement: I want to thank my colleagues in rotation, Kingston and The Islands, Nickel Belt, Northumberland and St Catharines, for participating with me in the debate of a very important public policy issue.

The member for Kingston and The Islands makes a very important point about how the government of Ontario probably got into this business in the first place. I'd like to assure the member opposite that the government is on record as saying it is exploring ways to help smaller municipalities meet their environmental protection and public health standards for water and sewage, and we promised to release details later on in the spring in that particular area. Perhaps we can get the honourable member's vote at that particular point.

The member for Nickel Belt in his own way has given one of these compliments, a "with friends like this, who needs enemies" kind of compliment, by congratulating me on being ideological. I was hoping to be actually not that way. Indeed, I've always been a party person and here I am calling Margaret Thatcher a socialist because I didn't think that in this particular instance she focused in on the needs of the consumer rather the needs of the special interest, in this case the business interest perhaps.

In fact, this bill is not predicated on ideology. I should say this for the record. It is predicated on the view that the best way to achieve democratic accountability and the best services at the best possible price for the taxpayer is to start to disentangle the web of government that has been the mark of Ontario governance in this particular area. We think local governments can do it better than we can. Crombie agreed. We are following through with our commitment.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I've been amusing myself this afternoon by listening to the speeches that we're hearing and it's quite amusing to hear an ideologue stand up and say: "Well, I'm not really ideological. I'm really much more pragmatic than that."

My colleague the member for Nickel Belt was right when he claimed that the member for Brampton South is beginning to pattern himself after a former member of this House, Dennis Timbrell, who was the great pragmatic Conservative of his day. Indeed, if that's what the member is doing, he's moving further away from his own colleagues. Is this a new development here in the caucus? We'll find out as that story unfolds.

There have been a number of allusions made to Britain and its experience. I'm happy to report that in Britain they've come to see the light. In fact they're just about ready to throw the Tories out of office, which would be quite an interesting development. I know the election hasn't been held yet but every indication, every sign seems to suggest that the Tories will no longer be in power in Great Britain. The election hasn't been held, it's certainly some way away, but I think there is a new era beginning to unfold in the UK and certainly that may take hold in the rest of the western world, in the democracies, in parliamentary democracies in particular.

It may be a little wishful thinking on my part, but I think the people of Great Britain saw the results of having been governed by ideologically driven parliaments, ideologically driven Conservative parties, ideologically driven leaders. They've come to realize that there's a great price to be paid for moving in a direction without having all the facts laid before you, without taking into account the practical realities of a political program, a political agenda which then ends up being impossible to implement.

Someone mentioned the Common Sense Revolution and common sense being a trait of Conservatives in Ontario today. It's becoming obvious to me and it's becoming obvious to many more people that what is being proposed is actually something far different from what ends up at the other end being implemented -- proposal and then ultimately what's being implemented.

Let's take this bill before us, 107, which gives the municipalities the 25% of the water and sewage plants that are now currently run by the province and still in the possession of the province, gives that ownership back to the municipalities, those 25% of the water and sewage plants that are now currently run by the province. As pointed out by my colleague, the member for Kingston and The Islands, indeed those sewage and water treatment plants were held under the ownership of the province precisely for the reason that those municipalities could not afford the necessary and proper treatment facilities. Therefore, the province underwrote the cost and managed those treatment plants.


In addition, what hasn't been said clearly here today is that from now on municipalities will have to conduct their own inspections. They will have to employ a whole new army of personnel to conduct inspections and to proceed with enforcement of the standards that are set. That's an additional huge cost to all municipalities. That hasn't been talked about under this legislation. How are municipalities going to cope with those additional burdens?

Ultimately, this is nothing short of a continuation of the downloading that we've seen from this government in this special session that was called by this government to do precisely that: to offload on to municipalities all of these additional burdens without adequately funding the municipalities.

What will happen? We talked about privatization. Earlier speeches referred to the potential privatization of these sewage and water treatment facilities. As was mentioned before, 75% of the facilities are currently run by municipalities, so it wouldn't be a stretch to offload on to the municipalities the other 25% that are currently held by the province. Indeed, municipalities run treatment facilities, are currently doing that. They do a great job in those municipalities that have the funding necessary to provide for that, those municipalities that have the wherewithal financially to do what has to be done.

But in those 25% of municipalities that are currently provided those services by the province that will not be the case. What will happen? They may be forced to sell these treatment plants off to the private sector because they won't financially be in a position to continue their operation. That is a practical reality; it's not one based on ideology. The fact is that they may not have the necessary capital, the necessary funding. In addition to that, the inspection and enforcement personnel required may not be adequately trained to carry out these procedures at the municipal level.

An entire additional burden is being placed on municipalities. That's a practical consideration as well. That's not something that speaks to an ideological outcome. It's simply that municipalities will not have the necessary adequate tools, financial and otherwise, to meet their obligations. This government has not provided for that. Again, this is a pattern that we're beginning to see from this current government, a pattern that repeats itself, no matter what the issue.

The legacy of this government when it comes to the environment will be one of the worst in the history of this province, because there is no doubt that when you cut one third of the staff of the Ministry of Environment and one third of the funding, you're going to leave some serious consequences, serious impacts on the environment. No one's arguing with the need to restructure, the need to make more efficient. But what's couched as being in the name of efficiency is actually real, deep cuts which eliminate really necessary services. You can't get quality for anything, whether it's education, health care or the environment, if you're going to cut as deeply as this government has. Ultimately at the end of the day you end up with, to be sure, real problems that come from this in each community across this province.

You will begin to see as a result of the downloading, as we've said repeatedly, as my leader and the rest of our caucus have pointed out, that this is nothing short of a huge burden on municipal property taxpayers. You will see the increase in property taxes. Let there be no mistake about that: That will be the result of what this government has done with respect to the offloading.

There is no doubt that health care has suffered under this government. There are huge cuts. They are closing hospitals and there are huge cuts to medically necessary services. The lines and the queues are getting longer, not shorter.

We in our party believe these are wrong. These cuts being imposed upon community after community in this province are wrong, and they're not necessary. What's driving this is the real desire on the part of this government to have a 30% tax cut in the face of a deficit which continues, even if it means sacrificing the health care that's been provided to the people of this province.

You can't have it both ways. You can't have a high quality of life and at the same time not be able to fund it. You can't do that. Something's going to give. What's going to give ultimately -- and this government is hiding its true impact -- is that the property taxpayers of this province will pay more for what this government is doing, make no mistake about that, and each one of you, as backbenchers, will have to answer to the constituents in your riding as a result.

Mr Laughren: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I apologize to the member for interrupting, but I think I'll be doing everyone a favour when I say this. I really want to make sure I heard him clearly when he said that a Liberal can't have it both ways.

Mr Cordiano: It's becoming of social democrats to try and have it both ways when they call themselves both socialists and democrats. But that's another story for another day.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): They are just taking a page out of your book.

Mr Laughren: No, the enemy is over there.

Mr Cordiano: I accept that. But I think I made myself very clear. This government, as ideologically driven as it is on the one hand, is also attempting to have it both ways. They are passing and pushing off the costs and burdens associated with their programs on to municipalities. They are the ones who will be paying. The property taxpayers of this province will be paying for this government's agenda; make no mistake about that. In the end, that will end up being the bill to property taxpayers.

Ultimately the transfer of these facilities in Bill 107 will require that these municipalities, the 25% of municipalities that currently have these facilities provided for by the Ontario government, will either privatize their facilities -- because they don't have the funding necessary to keep up with their cost, the pressures will be greater -- and/or they'll increase user fees. Water rates will go up. They'll have the freedom to do so. You'll pay more for water right across this province, and that will have environmentally damaging consequences. Ultimately that's what this government is looking at. It's got to come from somewhere, and if you're lowering standards, then it's far worse for the environment. So something's going to give with respect to the transfer of these facilities.

That's the agenda of this government whether it comes to the environment, health care, education: issues and services that matter to people. This government says, "Then you should pay for it; you should pay for it additionally." It's not good enough that we've shared collectively in those costs. That's what's been the true mark and the true greatness of our province, and we've enjoyed a quality of life that has truly been the envy of the world. But we've done that through prudent management, through an understanding that by sharing those costs and by having everyone contribute to those costs and pay for them through the income tax pooling, through the general revenues of the province, whether it came to water and treatment facilities or it came to education or it came to health care, we have provided for the best quality services so that really, literally anywhere in the world looks upon us and says, "This is the place to be."


Now they're eroding that and the environment is seriously threatened. When you cut $200 million out of the Ministry of Environment, you are impeding their ability to do what they've done over the years.

Some streamlining had to be undertaken; there's no question about that. That's been done in the private sector. Why has it been necessary? Because we can do things more effectively and more efficiently. That's not something invented by the Conservative Party of Ontario. It's been happening around the world. There are other examples in other countries where certainly the best practices are being used in other countries and other jurisdictions. This is something that has been taken on as a result of changes in technology, changes in management structures and management procedures. These are efficiencies that need to be gained, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a wholesale change of thinking and approach towards these areas of concern that are in the public interest.

Water and water treatment is in the public interest, and this government should not forgo its responsibility to ensure, by monitoring and by enforcing drinking water quality, that the Ontario government should have a primary responsibility for ensuring drinking water safety, for ensuring that sewage facilities are not spewing out toxic waste, that sewage facilities are doing what they're supposed to do, and that at the end of the treatment there is monitoring taking place.

We have to ensure that is the case, and to suggest that municipalities right across this province will conduct enforcement and monitoring and be able to afford that -- some will and some won't, but you're going to have an uneven treatment right across this province. I think that's going to cause some serious damage to the environment. It may not be noticeable today, but down the road you will have left a legacy that succeeding generations will pay for. That is cause for concern for everyone today. That is certainly something that needs to be reviewed.

I would also like to point out that the Provincial Auditor, who examined the MOEE's monitoring of drinking water in his report even before your cuts took place, even before the Tory cuts took place, suggested that there was inadequate monitoring taking place of our drinking water across this province. So when you cut $200 million out of the budget of the Ministry of Environment and then suggest, "Don't worry; everything will be fine; our public health will be upheld; this will not affect it; the cuts won't affect it; drinking water quality is to be maintained," how are you going to accomplish that? If you don't monitor and if you don't enforce, then this is something that will be shortchanged in community after community that cannot afford to have the kind of proper enforcement and monitoring that needs to take place.

Ultimately this government is not providing the tools that are necessary for municipalities to be able to take on this responsibility. I repeat: The government is downloading on to municipalities in addition to all the other burdens that have been downloaded on to municipalities. Those municipalities, the 25% whose water treatment facilities were being provided for by the province, will now have to take on those responsibilities.

They also will have to inspect and monitor the quality of drinking water. They will have additional responsibilities when it comes to building new facilities, because under Bill 107 the province will end its annual support grants for municipal sewer and water capital projects, and this is with respect to announcements made by the previous NDP government. You're not even living up to those promises. In future the municipalities will not have the necessary funding to build new facilities, and that's a cause for concern under this legislation.

The government has wiped its hands of its responsibility for this in any regard. Ultimately this government is doing what it did on so many fronts. It is offloading on to municipalities and not providing the necessary financial tools to deal with proper inspection, proper monitoring of drinking water. That's not good for public health in the end, that's not good for the environment, that's not good for Ontario's citizens, who will be forced at some point to pay for these services in either increases in property taxes or increases in user fees.

I conclude by saying that this bill does not go far enough, does not do what I think is necessary to ensure that Ontario's drinking water is safe, that sewage and treatment facilities across this province will be monitored, that proper enforcement and inspection will take place and that these will be properly funded. You have failed on all these fronts.

I would say go back to the drawing board; go back with Bill 107. It simply does not meet the requirements of our province, the high standards we've maintained on the environmental front and the high standards we've maintained with respect to public health. That should be your priority. You are abrogating your responsibility, when it comes to Ontario's citizens, in looking out for their health, looking out for the public interest, which we've all deemed to be one that the Ontario government has throughout its history maintained. You are walking away from that responsibility and turning your back, and I think it's a shameful day.

Ms Martel: I want to commend the member for Lawrence on the comments he made today and I want to reinforce some of those because they are very much at the heart of what this bill is all about. You have to look at this bill within the context of how municipalities are trying to operate these days.

The fact of the matter is that you have a Conservative government that has decided it's no longer important, as it has been historically, to ensure that communities have safe drinking water, so it has decided that it will cut off any of the capital grants that used to be available from previous governments to allow particularly small communities that don't have an adequate tax base to make sure they have a system that is adequate.

Second, you have a government that has decided it's more important to offload any number of new, additional costs to municipalities than it is to ensure that the province continues to have a responsibility when it comes to social services and health care and sewer and water. You'll have any number of municipalities that as a consequence of the dump from mega-week are going to be experiencing many new, additional costs over the next number of fiscal years.

Within that context you have a debate about sewer and water, and at the end of the day any number of small communities, particularly from northern Ontario, are going to have no choice but to look to the private sector to provide the financing that is needed either to build new systems or rehabilitate existing ones. They will not be able to find the financing anywhere else. They will have no choice. For the government to try and argue that they can look at private-public sector partnerships etc, that's just a farce. Those folks are going to end up having to privatize their systems because they won't have the money because the government has cut the grant and because of the additional costs they have to assume because of downloading.

Second, it's no wonder inspections are being turned over to the municipalities. That's because this government has cut 700 staff from the Ministry of Environment and Energy as a result of its cuts, so the staff are not available any more to do those inspections. That's going to fall to municipalities. That's an additional cost. That's a responsibility the government should continue to assume.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Comments or questions?

Mr Galt: I will respond to the member for Lawrence and some of his comments. He seemed rather worried and so did the NDP member seem rather concerned about the reductions in the ministry. It seems their only solution is to throw more money at it and that really isn't the answer. It's to work with it and come up with some better solutions.

The old Liberal philosophy seemed to be to spend and borrow and if they hadn't doubled the budget during their term and run the debt up so far, maybe we'd have a few extra dollars to work with things like the environment. But by the time they doubled the debt, it did indeed put us in some very serious trouble. I don't think maybe the Liberals quite listened to the taxpayers out there being really concerned about what they were having to pay in education tax on the property tax. We have listened and we plan to remove it.

I heard a lot about the 30% tax cut and it's unfortunate that you weren't here when I responded to the member for St Catharines the other day, but I just hope, as the Liberals, you keep talking about the tax cut because it's reminding the public out there that they do have more money in their pockets. During the Christmas period I had to go around and apologize to my Liberal friends for all the traffic jams that were occurring in the shopping malls. That's how the economy has been stimulated: record sales.

You just heard last week about the significant increase in revenues from taxes which continuously went down during the previous government's term. As they kept raising taxes, revenue kept falling. It's great to hear you worried about increases of municipal taxes. It just does my heart good to hear a Liberal worried about a tax increase. I think we have really won the battle. I think we've really won it when I can listen to a Liberal worried, actually worried, that there might be some tax increases someplace. You people, both sides over there, have stood for tax increases --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Gerretsen: Every time the member for Northumberland gets up on this bill, he just provokes the House more and more. I would just ask him a very simple question: If this is such a good deal for the municipal taxpayers and for the municipalities, why are you forcing it on municipalities? Why don't you make it optional? If they think it's such a good deal, they'll all gladly join in the program.

This bill here basically forces municipalities, even those municipalities that may be saddled with high servicing costs on plants that may have been built within the recent past etc, to own these facilities. If it's such a good deal, why don't you just make it optional and allow the municipalities and the taxpayers to decide for themselves whether they want to be part of this program? Of course, the reason is, they don't want it. They want the system to continue the way it is right now.

It's all right for you to say all the taxpayers or all the people in these smaller municipalities should be paying for their own water and for their own water plants, but a number of these plants never would have been built because the local communities simply wouldn't have had the tax base to allow them to raise enough money to pay for these installations. It's as simple as that.

If you take that argument, then I suppose we shouldn't be building roads up to isolated communities or there should be many other services that the province shouldn't be involved in because those local taxpayers aren't actually paying for those services. Government, after all, is an obligation by society as a whole to look after those parts of our communities that simply don't have the ability to look after themselves, whether we're talking about physical communities in this case or whether we're talking about the more vulnerable people in our society. That's what government is all about, and you are destroying that notion with this kind of a bill. Make it optional.

Mr Laughren: I wanted to commend the member for Lawrence for his comments on this bill. I particularly enjoyed the exchanges after he had sat down.

The speeches of the member for Northumberland are just a tad lacking in grace and civility, I've noticed. Not that that bothers me, of course, because I think what you give you get in this assembly. But I must say that the member for Kingston and The Islands, I believe, hit the nail right on the head when he talks about the role of government and what kind of people will be left out if you simply say, "We're moving to a system of user-pay." That's basically the philosophy underlying this bill and a lot of other things as well: "Let the user pay." That's fine if you happen to have the money to do that.

I remember one time someone once said that in small towns it's very difficult. He referred to them as one-horse towns, and he said, "There's nothing wrong with living in a one-horse town as long as you own the horse."

It seems to me that what the member for Northumberland is saying is: "You're on your own out there, folks. Pay what you can, and if you can't pay, then do without the service," because that's what it leads to. I know there are communities in my own constituency where, if there had not been government grants for sewer and water projects, there still to this day would not be a communal water supply nor a communal sewage disposal system, and in some of those cases, the water table was polluted to start with.

I don't know what the member for Northumberland thinks the solution is in a small community where there's virtually no tax base and a polluted water supply.

The Speaker: Response; the member for Lawrence.

Mr Cordiano: I welcome the comments, especially from the member for Nickel Belt. What has to be stated here with respect to this proposition, as has been repeated time and again, is that what this government is offering is ultimately not what it's cracked up to be; what you're getting in return is a lot less than you thought. When you talk about a tax cut, on the one hand you get a tax break from the province which amounts to a few dollars per paycheque per individual, while on the other side you're getting a huge property tax increase which they haven't told anybody about. It's coming.

What this government suggests will be the end result is certainly the opposite of what they've suggested. The hidden agenda is user fees, additional costs which come out of the pockets of individuals.

You happen to believe that, happen to believe that's the better way to go, but what you're denying and what you're throwing away completely is what we've done over countless governments of different stripes. Conservative governments of the past that were far more progressive saw the wisdom of keeping in the public domain things like water and sewage, things like safe drinking water, health care, education, keeping those in the hands of the province so the public interest was served, making sure there was a collective way of paying for those services.

Progressive Conservative governments of the past did that. You are doing an about-face on that. You're denying all of that, and you're also throwing away and undermining our quality of life. You are walking away from that. You are jeopardizing that quality of life by undermining the sustainability of those programs.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further debate?

Mr Laughren: I am pleased to be able to make a small contribution to the debate this afternoon on 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.

I must say, I wanted to get into this debate because of my own experience in my own constituency of Nickel Belt, north and west of Sudbury, where there are very many small communities, reasonably remote communities and communities with not very much of a tax base. I can tell you, if the new rules had applied to those communities, there would have been and would continue to be very serious health problems in those communities.

I can name one community just as an example, a little community called Gogama, which is about 120 miles north of Sudbury in my own constituency, where there were a couple of serious spills. One was a gasoline spill that leaked from tanks into the water table, and another was a spill of some industrial chemical from the railway that ran through there. The water table became terribly polluted, and that small community of some 500 people or so simply could not have put in an expensive sewer and water system to look after the polluted water table. They simply could not have done it. There had to be assistance from a senior level of government where the tax base is much broader. This government would have given the back of the hand to that community.


I would remind this Tory government that it was Tory governments that put most of these programs in place -- it wasn't Liberal or NDP, because for so many years it was the Tories in office -- so when you turn the clock back, you're turning the clock back on programs and institutions that your own party created, for all the right reasons.

Do you really think it's a coincidence that sewer and water programs have been subsidized by the province? Do you think that was some wild and crazy socialist or Liberal idea? No. That came up through the Tory government when they were in office. Do you really think that our own liquor distribution system, called the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, is a wingy idea from the opposition parties? Not at all. It came up through the Tories. Do you think Ontario Hydro is a crazy system and should be privatized as well? Where do you think that began?

You can shake your finger and point your fist at the opposition all you like, but most of those programs and services were started by Tory governments many years ago. Sure, the two opposition parties made changes to them, improved them and so forth -- that's their role -- when they became the government.

Mr Wettlaufer: But Floyd, just because the Tories brought them in doesn't mean they were necessarily good. We're willing to accept that they need to be revised.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Member for Nickel Belt, go ahead.

Mr Laughren: I appreciate the interjection from the member for Kitchener. I agree with him. I agree with the member for Kitchener: Just because a Tory does something doesn't mean it's good. I agree with you totally. There's nothing inherently good about what Tories do. I agree with the member for Kitchener completely.

I would just say that there's an underlying philosophy in this government, or an ideology, as I said earlier, that's driving this agenda. It's got nothing to do with better provision of services to the people of this province, absolutely nothing: It's bottom-line politics and that's the beginning and the end of it. It may make these Tories feel good to have an agenda that's driven that way, but I don't think at the end of the day it will give us a better province. I fundamentally don't believe that.


Mr Laughren: I know some of the Tories are getting up on their hind legs. I don't mind that, because it's good to have them engaged in the debate this afternoon. I'm glad there are as many of them here as there are; I appreciate their attendance here. But I can tell you that what you're doing is being driven by the wrong motivation -- not that I would ever attribute motives; I just say that their motives are wrong.

I think most people understand very clearly that as these services and facilities are downloaded on to the municipalities and as the grants are cut to municipalities for the provision of these services, the government will simply stand back and watch what happens and watch it all unfold.

There'll be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing before this story is finished, I can tell you, because it's patently transparent that what's happening here is basically a two-pronged strategy. One is to download. That's what's really driving it. You and I know that when they take education costs off the property tax and put other facilities and services on it -- which in itself doesn't bother me; it's the amount you put back on when you take the educational services off. If there was an even exchange there, you wouldn't have very many people upset about what you're doing, but when you have such a preponderance going down to the municipalities compared to what you're taking off, that's what's going to make people upset when they see what's happening to their tax bills.

Sewer and water services are no different. I and my colleague from Sudbury East met with the regional municipality of Sudbury people last Friday and went through the numbers with them as carefully as they could do them. They have no hidden political agenda at the region. We went through all those numbers, including sewer and water downloads, and at the end of the day it looks as though there's going to be, in one community called the regional municipality of Sudbury, $105 million of extra costs to be assumed by that municipality. If I could translate that into a property tax, that would double property taxes in the region, and that will not be accepted.

I've heard the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Municipal Affairs talk about these funds that are being set up.

Mr Gerretsen: It's a $10-billion fund now.

Mr Laughren: Yes, the lineup for that money is going to be awe-inspiring. There will be an incredible lineup for that, because you cannot do that to people. You cannot do it and you won't get away with it. You will simply not get away with it.

When it comes to water, it should be something that's not driven by the profit motive, it seems to me, just the same way as when Hydro became a nationalized institution back in I think it was 1906 under the Tory government of the day. They ran an election on it, they won the election on it and they brought it in. It was supported hugely across the province. Just as I feel that way about hydro, I feel that way about water as well.

It really bothers me to hear the member for Northumberland, who's turning out to be quite a spokesperson for the government on a lot of right-wing issues it seems, when he stands in his place and says that people should pay their own way, or words to that effect -- I don't want to put words in his mouth. I want to tell you that would impose very serious problems in some communities. If he took that same philosophy on health care, I know what kind of health care he'd build in this system. If he took the same philosophy on education, I can imagine the education system we'd have in this province. Or, as somebody else said -- I think it was the member for Kingston and The Islands -- about roads going to small communities, that would be a ridiculous scenario. Yet that's the picture the member for Northumberland is painting for us.

When it comes to the provision of water and sewer services, public health has to be the major concern, with the affordability to people the secondary concern, because public health is, of course, more important than anything else. But as well there's conservation. The member for Riverdale made the comment about conservation. Can you imagine any serious conservation program when the people running the water supply services need to make a profit, and in order to make a profit, the more water they sell the more money they'll make? It's a totally transparent motivation on the part of the private sector. I understand that, but surely we have to think about it when we're dealing with a program where conservation should be an important ingredient.

There's nothing mysterious about what the Tories are doing with this bill in transferring responsibility for plants to the municipal level. I can see it happening now. They'll transfer all these sewer and water services to the municipal level, then OCWA will be left there with nothing to do except manage the system or look after the system; they won't have any ownership role to play any more. At that point OCWA will be privatized -- they'll be put out for bids -- so that will be out of the public sector. Then as the municipalities increasingly feel the pressure of this downloading that's going on, they will start privatizing their water supply system.

I did some reading on what happened in Great Britain as well, and those are truly horror stories. It's fine for the member for Brampton South to rise in his place and start making excuses for what happened in Great Britain, but I can tell you it was done for the same reason you are doing it, to privatize for the sake of privatization. That's what they did in Great Britain under Thatcher. For the member for Brampton South to say that Thatcher was a socialist because she privatized the water supply I find passing strange, but anyway, some day perhaps he can explain that all to us.

But the horror stories in Great Britain are real, they're very, very well documented. I wanted to put on the record some people's feelings about this bill and what's happening to sewer and water services. Members will be aware of the Ontario Municipal Water Association, who provide services. They're hardly a group that is known for government-bashing. This is what they had to say. This is dated December 3, 1996, so about two months ago:

"`We believe the government is opening the floodgates to the irreversible deterioration of water services in Ontario,' said Don Black, the 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 goes on, quoting from the Ontario Municipal Water Association: "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."

That's not the opposition party saying that to you to score political points; that's the Ontario Municipal Water Association who are saying that, and I think you should be listening to them.

There were some polls done about privatization of water supply, and it's been mentioned before in the debate. But this was the question that was put to Ontario citizens: "In your opinion, who should control a community's drinking water system: directly elected municipal officials or private business?" This is a legitimate poll, and guess what: 76% said municipal officials, elected people, should control a community's drinking water system; 19% said private business; 6% said they didn't know. So 76% to 19%.

Who are you folks listening to? Who are you listening to over there? If it's not just seeking a bottom line for somebody, what is it? People don't want it. If you've got polls that show differently than this, I'd like to see them. I wish you'd stand up and tell me what they are. If you think the people in the province want a privatized water system, say so. Where do you get your information? That was a legitimate poll, it seems to me.

I don't want to spend too much time on the Great Britain scene, but it is so strikingly similar to what you people are doing that I really feel I must draw it to your attention. The Canadian Environmental Law Association, which many of you will know of, had this to say: "Since the water and sewage industries were privatized in England and Wales in 1989, citizens have suffered a litany of problems. Monopoly public enterprises have turned into scandal-plagued private monopolies. Britain has experienced severe water shortages and soaring water rates, up to 450% increases. Since 1989, there's been a 600% rise in dysentery, a 200% rise in hepatitis A, a significant increase in other gastrointestinal diseases related to water shortages and dramatic increases in pollution offences by these companies."

If you've got evidence that runs contrary to this, if the government has evidence of jurisdictions which are privatizing the water supply and have made it healthier, made the distribution system more efficient, please tell us: What are they? Table the reports, or at least, when you stand up to speak on this bill, bring forth that information. Don't just stand up and repeat a mantra that somebody's given you that private enterprise can do it better than public enterprise. That's not good enough. That's not good enough for the people of this province. You owe them more than that. If you've got evidence as to why a privatized water system would be better than the present system, tell us what it is and we'll listen to you and we'll have an intelligent debate on that. But for you to stand up and just simply rant and rave about how a privatized system will be better than the present system makes no sense whatsoever, and you're doing a disservice to your constituents and to the province.

I was reading in one of the British papers some national news report, and this is what they had to say about Great Britain again: "An industry whose companies continually end up in court for pollution offences, that underinvests in research and development and does not meet society's expectations for standards of service will not only alienate customers but also shareholders of the 21st century."

I could go on and on and on about what's happening in Great Britain, but I want to tell you that what they're doing there -- despite the fact that the Tories here are trying to dismiss what happened in Great Britain, saying it's not the same, it is the same. The same motivation that drove Thatcher is driving Mike Harris and the Tories in this province.

I hope the Tories have thought this one through. When they download and encourage privatization, both of the facilities and of OCWA, the umbrella body, I hope they understand what the potential problems could be.

For a long time now in this province we've talked about preventing water diversion to the United States. We've fought very hard as Canadians, not just in this chamber but elsewhere, to prevent water diversion. But I can tell you, as soon as you get into the privatization field, it's going to be irresistible for these companies to start lobbying and engaging in water diversion programs. Some of the projects that people have in mind are absolutely incredible: reversing the natural flow of water to the north back to the south and into the US. I want to tell you, that's not the solution to a water shortage in another country. I hope the government understands that, because it is a very dangerous one.

I hope as well that this government will listen to people across the province. Right now I haven't heard of a commitment for public hearings on this bill. I don't know whether there are going to be public hearings, but I think it would be outrageous not to have public hearings on a public policy matter as important as this. You really are standing tradition on its head when you privatize sewer and water facilities in this province, so I hope you will seriously consider and provide adequate public hearings across the province on this bill. There's so very much at stake.

I do want to talk for a moment about what the results of privatizing would be. I'm thinking of OCWA for a moment. Think of OCWA: I don't think the population at large really has a good sense of the Ontario Clean Water Agency. It was only created in 1993 by the previous government. I think a lot of people don't see it; it's not terribly visible out there. There are I think 800 employees who work for OCWA. They operate sewage treatment plants and -- what they own serves almost three million people in sewage treatment and almost two million in water filtration plants, so they are a big player out there in servicing sewer and water for the province.

I am very concerned that as the government goes full speed ahead without really thinking the long-run implications through, we as a province will regret very much what you've taken on here. I think what you're reacting to is simply a knee-jerk ideological motivation, and that's fundamentally wrong. I ask that you think about everything you've talked about privatizing. Water is one of them and sewage treatment is another. But there are those other institutions in the province as well, and I'm thinking, as I mentioned before, of LCBO, TVO and Ontario Hydro.

Think about what you're saying to the people of the province. What you're saying to the people of the province -- and I include the ramifications of this bill in this regard -- is, "We're no longer going to provide these services to you at cost." That was Hydro's mandate, to provide energy at cost. Same thing for the Liquor Control Board: "We're no longer going to provide things to you at cost. We're going to provide them at cost plus a profit for the private sector." That's what you're saying, and I don't for a moment think that's what the people in this province are seeking from you.


I repeat again that I'm waiting to hear from members of the government party why they're doing this and where the examples are of how it has worked so well. Show me where it's worked well when hydro is privatized, when water services are privatized. Where has it worked so well? I haven't seen it.

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Has the other 75% been privatized? No.

Mr Laughren: The member for St Catharines-Brock says: "What about the other 75%? It hasn't been privatized." The downloading is just starting, my friend. If you really think that the municipal level can absorb the amount of downloading that's taking place, then you must have a very rich municipality. I sure don't. I know the people in the regional municipality of Sudbury would not be happy if they were to see their property taxes double, if they were to see that. I don't think that can happen -- I think there would be an uproar in the province that you couldn't control -- but that means then at some point you're going to have to come back into the game with subsidies for sewer and water that you're now trying to get rid of. That's what you're trying to do: get rid of all the capital grants so you won't have to have provincial support. You're going to have to get back into the game.

What are you going to do when there's a serious health problem in a community, the example of the one I started speaking with about 20 minutes ago? That is going to happen. There are going to be problems in water tables and you're going to have to do something about it. You're going to be running from pillar to post making ad hoc policy decisions as you go. It's ridiculous. You're turning the clock back and you're not providing a better service to the people of the province -- excuse me.

Mr Gerretsen: It must be the water. It's already happening.

Mr Laughren: It's the water that's getting to me. I sometimes think that the policy wonks in the government must live in large, assessment-rich municipalities to be endorsing a bill like this -- the policy wonks; I'm not saying all the MPPs. They are obviously from all over the province, God help us; we know that. You must come from a different kind of municipality than I live in, because the municipalities that are in my constituency cannot absorb the kind of downloading you're imposing on them, and sewer and water services are just another example. That's why I'm so worried about privatization being the next step. Even if you don't do it, even if the government doesn't do it, the municipalities will because of the pressures on their bottom line because of your downloading. That's what the game plan is here.

You'll satisfy yourselves in a couple of ways. You'll scratch yourselves where you itch very nicely because you'll be getting your ideologically driven agenda of privatization in place; and second, you'll be sloughing off costs to another level of government, namely, the municipal level.

Mr Baird: You really believe that?

Mr Laughren: I really believe that. If you don't believe that, come to my municipality, come to the regional municipality of Sudbury and ask them what the results will be of downloading. Ask them. Don't take my word for it. Go and talk to them. Go and talk to the other municipal governments as well. It's not just --


Mr Laughren: I was hoping to conclude my remarks with a flourish, but I think I'd better not, lest I wake up some members in the chamber.


Mr Laughren: As a matter of fact, my colleague from Sudbury East reminded me what a former Tory MPP and cabinet minister said. Now he's the mayor of the city of Sudbury, Mr Jim Gordon, and he said he understood what was going on all right. I think he understands the Tory mind better than I do. As a matter of fact, I know he does. What Jim Gordon said -- and some of you will know Jim Gordon as a prominent Tory. The member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore certainly knows the former member from Sudbury named Jim Gordon, now the mayor. He said that all of this downloading on his town -- because he recognizes what's happening to his municipality -- is driven by the tax cut and it's baloney. That's what he said. This is a loyal, true blue Tory telling you that it's baloney and he sees through it. It's all being driven by the tax cut. You know it is and I know it is.

Can you imagine the kind of services you would be able to deliver to the people of this province if you were not doing the tax cut? About $5 billion a year worth, that's all. You could have taken it away from the deficit, reduced the deficit by that amount every year -- $5 billion. I'm not saying you had to spend it. If you're so hung up on the deficit, why are you borrowing money to implement the tax cut?


Mr Laughren: Well, that's what you're doing.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Come to order.

Mr Laughren: There's a very good-sized herd of Tories in here this afternoon and they're all up on their hind legs because they don't like being challenged on the Common Sense Revolution, especially by a Tory by the name of Mr Jim Gordon from Sudbury. He understands what this bill is all about. He understands it very well.

I look forward to this debate continuing, but there are a couple of points I'd like to make before I sit down.

One is that I want members to stand and make a commitment to public hearings on this bill. It's an important bill. I want to hear the Tories standing up and saying they too want public hearings. I haven't heard them say that. They just get up and do an ideological rant, unlike the thorough, reasoned analysis that we on this side give to all the bills. So one thing I'd like to hear a commitment on is public hearings.

What else I'd like to hear from the speakers who still will be speaking are ones who will tell us why they're doing this and where the examples are around the world of how this has worked so well.

I'm really pleased that the Minister of Environment is in here today as one of the chief policy wonks of the government.

Mr Baird: He's one of the neo-con whiz kids.

Mr Laughren: He's a neo-con whiz kid. That's correct. He's the one who's trying to drive the privatization agenda. But, of course, it has started to flounder a bit so they appointed a minister responsible for privatization. Somebody had to privatize all of those institutions and services that former Tory governments had brought into the public sector.

The Acting Speaker: It being almost 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow, and I can assure the members that we will follow up with questions and comments tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1758.