36th Parliament, 1st Session

L163 - Mon 17 Feb 1997 / Lun 17 Fév 1997















































The House met at 1333.




Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My statement is directed to the Premier. It's clear to all concerned that you have not kept your promise to northern residents to protect their health care. On page 6 of your election document A Voice for the North, you stated, "In order to preserve and enhance health care services for the people of northern Ontario, a Mike Harris government will guarantee current levels of health care spending." You went on to state in big, bold letters that "Not one cent will be cut."

How do you explain this to the people throughout the northwest who are now being faced with additional cuts to their hospital budgets? Let me give you a few examples: Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora, more than $700,000 in cuts; Dryden hospital, more than $625,000 in cuts; Sioux Lookout is facing a $210,000 cut in its budget; Red Lake will lose more than $125,000; Fort Frances, more than $654,000; and Atikokan, some $60,000 out of its budgets.

Premier, it is important for you to understand that the people residing in the northwest are not impressed with what you are doing. That is why, last Friday, I launched a postcard campaign that called upon you to keep your promise not to cut one cent from health care.

My constituents are telling me they will no longer sit by while you and your government dismantle their communities and their health care system. Premier, you must understand that you have placed accessible, quality health care in northwestern Ontario in jeopardy so that you can pay for your 30% tax cut for your friends on Bay Street.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): The Conservative government cuts to education are having a profound impact in the classroom. In Sudbury the next potential victims appear to be the adult learners at St Albert Adult Learning Centre.

St Albert's is operated by the Sudbury separate school board. It opened four years ago in an old elementary school designed for 200 students. There are now 1,000 adult learners registered onsite and offsite.

The centre serves adults from ages 18 to 74 and provides adult basic literary and numeracy, secondary credits towards OSSD, upgrading credits beyond a diploma, English as a second language, co-op placements, computer programming, and contract work for local businesses. It supports an onsite day care, food bank, clothing depot, counselling onsite and offsite, and has extensive referral and placement partnerships with local service agencies and businesses.

In 1996 St Albert Adult Learning Centre was named national institution of the year by the Canadian Association for Community Education. The principal, Teresa Stewart, was named outstanding national educator of the year.

But the cuts to grants for adult learners and the new changes in funding for adult basic literacy and numeracy are putting St Albert's at risk. The separate school board has now been forced to seriously consider closing the centre and dismantling the programming. This unique model of adult education, which generated a national award, may be totally destroyed.

The Conservative government cannot continue to pretend its cuts and policy decisions are not affecting the classroom. The 1,000 students and staff at St Albert's know better.


Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph): Nestled on a quiet residential street on an eight-acre site in Guelph is an award-winning seniors' residence operated by the Elliott Group -- no relation, by the way.

Recently, the Elliott was chosen by Simon Fraser University gerontology researchers to be part of a study on housing options for seniors. The Elliott was established in 1903 as a home for the aged. It has evolved over the years to offer varied levels of care in one place. Today there are three divisions: the Ellridge offers independent condominium-style living, the Ellington offers semi-independent living with support services, and the Elliott offers full-care nursing.

Simon Fraser University has spent the last several months searching across Canada for the most innovative and exemplary housing projects for seniors. The Elliott is one of the 24 most outstanding projects to be studied. It's unique in that its non-profit charitable status is without a specific charity group, nor does it receive municipal funding. Its only funding comes from the Ministry of Health for medical services.

The Elliott was also recognized for its innovative contributions to seniors care, and last year it received an award for excellence from the Ontario Association of Homes and Services for Seniors.

It is my pleasure to extend congratulations to David Hicks, the CEO of the Elliott, to his staff, and to wish continued success for the Elliott. Your care for seniors in Guelph is admired and appreciated.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): It was long coming and it was announced on September 20 that the government would finally proceed with the construction of a new courthouse in Cornwall to replace and consolidate existing facilities, dangerously overcrowded.

But now that the government is getting around to the actual tendering, the news may not be so bright. The criteria limit interested contractors to submit only previous work of $5 million or more, and only work completed since 1990, therefore excluding basically every contractor in the Cornwall area.

Since the ministry is aware of the local situation, local contractors are concerned that the ministry is sidestepping all local contractors in favour of a mega-contractor. If the ministry is to proceed with ignoring Cornwall-area contractors, whose talents and experience would fully complete the job successfully, this is bad news for our area: bad for the local contractors, bad for local construction workers and bad for the local economy.

I faxed over an urgent request for a meeting on this last Thursday, but neither the minister nor his staff have replied yet. This same minister promised a week ago, on January 29, that he would get back to me about dialysis for Cornwall, and I'm still waiting for that too.

Minister, don't stall. The closing for submissions is Thursday, February 20 --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): The government is about to announce the introduction of charitable casinos to Ontario either today or tomorrow. This disturbs me greatly, as it disturbs many citizens of my community and the leadership in my community, for a couple of reasons.

One in particular is the issue of the cuts this government has made to communities and organizations that deliver services to the very poor and vulnerable across our province. To now think that they're going to make up that difference by way of introducing charitable casinos across the province is ludicrous. To think for a minute that rich Ontario, the breadbasket of our country, will now turn to charitable casinos to fund social services, health care, education and so many other things that we take for granted across this province is ludicrous, to say the least.

The second reason that we in the Sault are very concerned about the introduction of charitable casinos is that by introducing charitable casinos, you're moving away from the introduction of strategically placed permanent casinos. Our community thought we might be privileged to have one. We already have a casino across the river that is taking money out of our city. A permanent casino in the Sault would have generated many jobs for people and money for the economy of my city, Sault Ste Marie. This won't.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): The Northumberland county waste recovery facility has been successful since its opening back in April 1996. Recently the Minister of Environment and Energy, the Honourable Norm Sterling, joined with me to tour the plant, where we saw some remarkable recycling technology. Fully 80% of the waste stream coming into the plant is now recycled or reused. This is the highest material recovery rate in Ontario.

Needless to say, this technology is good news for the environment. In its first eight months of operation more than 7,000 metric tonnes of waste material were diverted from local landfill sites. This figure is expected to rise to over 11,000 metric tonnes in 1997.

The innovative wet-dry collection system, which has moved us one step beyond the blue box program, has also cut the cost of garbage collection in half. This new facility is proving so efficient that the county is now negotiating with neighbouring municipalities to process waste material collected outside of Northumberland.

That is what I call entrepreneurial government, and I'm pleased that my home riding is now setting an example for a more cost-effective approach to waste management services.

I would urge other members of this House and municipal politicians across the province to visit us in Northumberland and experience first hand the future of waste management technology in Ontario.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): On Thursday the people of Windsor-Sandwich and many people from across Essex county spent the evening at Windsor Regional Hospital in the auditorium discussing the significant cuts made by the Harris government and its effect on people.

I'd like to present the Minister of Health with only the first segment of one of a number of postcards that are coming back. The postcard depicts someone going in for emergency service at Windsor Regional Hospital: "Fact: The Premier promised not one cent would be cut from health care. Fact: Windsor-Essex county is underfunded by a minimum of $118 million a year. Fact: That works out to $122 per person in Essex county. Fact: Windsor-Essex receives the lowest hospital funding per capita for any community over 200,000 people."

The meagre announcement that designated Windsor-Essex as an underserviced area for doctors does not solve our problems today and won't solve our problems in six months.

To the Minister of Health I say this is one of the most significant issues ever to hit Ontario. When I bring forward my private member's resolution on February 27 it will call for a stop to the cutting of base funding for hospitals. You must replace the services in the community before those services disappear. We heard from family members in Windsor-Essex and they are worried.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): This morning I joined with members of SSTOP, Seniors and Supporters Together Opposing Privatization, down in Welland at the Lions Club as they announced their kickoff of a campaign to fight the privatization of Niagara's publicly owned, regionally operated seniors' homes.

We've got six seniors' homes down in Niagara and the region has been operating seniors' facilities for over a century now. These seniors' homes, especially under the leadership of Doug Rapelje, have obtained a reputation worldwide as being innovative and leaders in the provision of care for seniors: our folks, our grandfolks and, as we age, our spouses.

This government, the Harris Tories, by downloading over $73 million on the taxpayers of Niagara region is also provoking the privatization and the selloff of our seniors' homes. I tell you, seniors and their families in Niagara are mad as hell and they're not going to tolerate it. Seniors are mobilizing there to tell their regional government no to privatization, no to the Mike Harris agenda of attacks on health care across the board, and in this instance very specifically targeting our senior citizens.

Niagara region is one of the oldest regions in all of Ontario in terms of the age of population. We have, through the grace of the last government, now undertaken the building of Rapelje Lodge, a seventh home.

The downloading of this government is nothing more than an all-out attack on seniors, and I tell you we're going to fight them.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): As the parliamentary assistant for small business, I hear often of the overwhelming need in our economy to increase access to capital in order for small business to expand and create jobs.

In the May 1996 budget, the Minister of Finance asked the Honourable Rob Sampson and myself to co-chair a committee on small business access to capital. Minister Eves wanted us to look at innovative ideas to help finance emerging small business. I want to thank Jim Brown from Scarborough West, Tom Froese from St Catharines-Brock and John O'Toole from Durham East for assisting us with this task.

Our report is completed, and our recommendations recognize the need to increase private sector competition in the supply of capital, the need to increase capital by reducing regulatory and institutional barriers, the need to further reduce compliance costs and the paper burden for small business and the need to continue to cut taxes.

There are 17 recommendations in the report, one of which is the establishment of the community small business venture capital fund. We're also recommending tax incentives to encourage the formation of these funds with a strong community focus.

These recommendations are part of the Minister of Finance's pre-budget consultations. We are asking all interested Ontarians for their comments and their advice on this report and the actions our government can take to ensure that small business gets the financing it needs to grow and --

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


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce and ask you to welcome the ninth group of pages to serve the 36th Parliament of Ontario: Darlene Aitchison, Bruce; Alan Chan, York Mills; Caitlin Cooper, Parry Sound; Allison Davey, Durham-York; Sabrina Davidson, Windsor-Walkerville; Ashleigh Fish, Burlington South; Matthew Fuller, Wellington; Colin Imrie, Peterborough; Michael LeBlanc, York-Mackenzie; Aimee Leonard, Sudbury; Rachel Lowery, Brantford; Jennifer McLean, Simcoe East; Andrew Menoguzzi, Willowdale; David Moon, Brampton South; Marjorique-B. Moran, Etobicoke-Lakeshore; Lucas Parafianowicz, St Catharines; Melissa Semplonius, Durham East; Danila Shaw, Scarborough-Agincourt; Robert Sipkema, Elgin; Charles Summers, Quinte. Welcome.



The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Dr Manuela Aguiar, a member of Parliament in the Portugal National Assembly and chair of the committee of the European Parliamentary Council on Migration and Population Demography. Welcome.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): On February 6, 1997, the member for St Catharines, Mr Bradley, rose on a question of privilege with respect to government-sponsored television commercials.

I have now had the opportunity to review the commercial in question. In addition, I reviewed my ruling of January 22 with respect to a point of privilege raised concerning other television commercials.

In my view, the commercial relating to education that the member for St Catharines brought to my attention does not attempt by improper means to influence members in their parliamentary conduct and does not impede freedom of speech in this place, nor does it relate to any specific parliamentary proceeding.

The commercial is not unlike those about which concern was raised previously in this House, in that it explains the government's philosophy and plans in a general way.

I find therefore that the member for St Catharines does not have a prima facie case of privilege.



Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and I see he's not here. Oh, he's hiding in the wings? Your presence is very much needed. I don't know if it's appreciated these days, but it's needed.

Minister, it's now clear to everyone that your plan to dump social housing on to municipalities will cost municipal taxpayers an additional $1 billion. Metro alone estimates that it will cost it $365 million. Currently, you're claiming there will be provincial standards set to maintain social housing, but now you expect municipalities and taxpayers, municipal property taxpayers in particular, to foot the bill to maintain those standards.

For the last month, expert after expert, municipality after municipality have been telling you that they cannot assume these additional burdens, these additional costs. It will simply be too much, and without increasing property taxes there's no way they can sustain these costs.

I ask you, who will be sacrificed? Will it be property taxpayers or will it be social housing?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I can understand why some of the municipalities may be concerned about doing the repairs to social housing, social housing that has been allowed to go into total disrepair over the last decade. It is going to take a substantial amount of money to put that social housing back into fit condition. We recognize that.

The federal government also recognizes that the senior levels of government should not be in the social housing business. The federal Liberals announced in their throne speech last year that they wanted to get out of the social housing business and devolve it down to the province. We are presently in negotiations with the federal government and with the municipal government on how best to achieve that, ensuring that the stock is put back into good shape and the municipalities are protected during the process.

Mr Cordiano: There's just no justifiable answer that the minister has given. There's no answer in what he says. There's no answer for municipalities; there's no answer for municipal property taxpayers. Let's be clear here. What you're saying is that you'll set the standards provincially and the property taxpayers can pay for your standards. That's what you're saying to municipal property taxpayers. What you're saying as well is that you'll set all the standards right across this province and you don't care if they happen to foot the bill for these additional standards that will be maintained. In other words, you want to take the credit but you're going to let municipalities do the dirty work for you to pay for these standards.

Minister, if municipalities ignore your standards because they choose not to overburden their property taxpayers with additional costs, how will you maintain your provincial standards? You say that you're going to maintain them, that they will be implemented and that social housing will be preserved. How will that happen if municipalities fail to increase property taxes to pay for your costs?

Hon Mr Leach: I should point out to the member opposite, as I mentioned in the first answer, that we're presently negotiating with the federal government and the municipalities as to how social housing would be devolved down to the municipalities. The federal government contributes a sizeable amount of money to the maintenance and operation of social housing at the present time. We intend to sit down with them and ensure that that money continues to flow from the federal government through the province to the municipalities so there will be funds available to help them maintain that housing stock.

Those negotiations have just started. Any municipalities that state at this point in time that they categorically know what the cost of social housing is going to be to them is mistaken, because until such time as the negotiations are completed, nobody knows exactly what that cost will be.

Mr Cordiano: Let me be very clear with the minister: The cost, in no uncertain terms, is estimated to be $1.4 billion. That's what the cost is, Minister. That's indisputable. What you're now saying is, "Oh I don't know what the cost is going to be and municipalities are just simply incorrect in saying they can't determine what the costs are." Quite frankly, we know what the costs are.

I want to turn your attention to the effects mega-dumping will have right across this province on people who are tenants. Let's talk about them for a moment, because your mega-dumping will increase property taxes not only for homeowners but for tenants as well. Their rents will go up as landlords pass on the cost of increased property taxes. Whatever scheme you're promoting under AVA as the panacea for tenants will be undermined by the additional costs that will have to be borne by all property taxpayers -- homeowners and tenants alike. To add insult to injury, you are gutting rent controls. So I ask you to tell us exactly, how do you plan to protect tenants as a result of your mega-dumping?

Hon Mr Leach: If there is any one group of citizens that is going to be assisted by the changes we're making with our property tax reform, it would be tenants. In Metropolitan Toronto, tenants right now pay between four and five times the amount of property tax of a single-family homeowner. That has been allowed to go on for the last decade. You don't care about tenants; you have never cared about tenants. We're going to go in and put a new Tenant Protection Act in place. We're also going to put in place a new property tax system that will make life seem like a panacea for tenants compared to what they've had over the last decade.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Health, and it concerns hospitals; more particularly it concerns hospital closures and bed closures. People across Ontario are quite concerned by one of the key planning instruments your government is using to shut down whole hospitals or to remove hundreds and thousands of beds from the system. You've got this new planning standard, this new hospital bed standard. My question again today is simply this: Can you tell the province today which Ontario hospitals today are meeting your new hospital bed planning standard?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): What I will say to the member opposite is that the former government set in motion the district health councils across Ontario to determine, community by community on a community-based need, what should be done in terms of restructuring in our hospitals to ensure best value, best care to the people of those communities. This government has carried on with that process, has put in place a restructuring commission which is looking at the particular needs of a community, and those particular needs may vary from community to community. There have been no hospitals closed to this point, and certainly the restructuring commission is listening to the people and community in determining the needs of a community for hospital care.


Mr Conway: You don't seem to understand, Minister, that your government has announced the closure of the Pembroke Civic Hospital, the Sudbury General Hospital, hospitals in Thunder Bay, and you're threatening to close hospitals throughout the Niagara Peninsula. Hardworking, good, law-abiding citizens in Ontario, who are very concerned by this hospital closure policy, want to know exactly on what basis you have gone into these communities and, as you've done in Pembroke, torn the guts out of the Pembroke Civic Hospital. The question remains. You've got a new hospital bed standard. Surely you can tell me and the people of Ontario on this winter day in February 1997 what Ontario hospitals are today meeting your new hospital bed planning standard.

Hon David Johnson: I will reiterate that there is no common standard across the province. The restructuring commission and the district health councils have looked community by community. In the case of Pembroke, the district health council went in and talked to the members of the community and determined what is required in that community. The restructuring commission has issued initial directives and there's still a consultation period going on in the case of Pembroke. But it is on a community-by-community basis to determine what sort of care is required, what sort of structure is required to best serve the people of individual communities, whether it's Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Pembroke, whatever community in Ontario.

Mr Conway: I believe, as do thousands of people in rural and northern Ontario, that your new hospital bed planning standard is overly aggressive and unrealistic and it particularly fails to take into account the geographic realities of northern and rural Ontario. When I look at the Pembroke report issued by your agent, the hospital restructuring commission, it couldn't be clearer to me that this new planning standard very much reflects the large urban communities of southern Ontario. But perhaps I'm just being a cynical oppositionist.

I invite you one last time, Minister, and most especially on behalf of the hardworking people in communities like Pembroke and particularly the hundreds of people who have worked for decades, and nearly a century at the Pembroke Civic Hospital, to prove me wrong and table in this House today a list of all Ontario hospitals that today meet your new planning standard.

Hon David Johnson: I'll say once again that there are no standards that must apply to every community in every nook and corner of the province. Obviously the circumstances differ in all of our communities and what the restructuring commission is doing and what the district health councils are doing is developing what is required in their communities from the grass roots up. They're using the consultations within their communities to determine a better level of health care service, a better level of hospital support within their own particular community, to use the resources that are available more wisely and more effectively within their own communities.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to take this opportunity to notify the House that in the east gallery is the ex-member for Sudbury, Mr James Gordon. Welcome. In the west gallery is the member for Oshawa in the previous administration, Mr Allan Pilkey. Welcome.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Health as well. Yesterday I attended a meeting in Windsor with several health care providers and people concerned about the future of health care in the Windsor-Essex area. The minister will know that Windsor is well below the provincial average for hospital funding. Before the minister announced further hospital cuts of $435 million for this year, hospitals in Windsor released figures which show that Windsor was already below the provincial average by $42 million per year. Now the minister has cut hospital budgets even further. The minister says he is restructuring, but the fact of the matter is, Windsor has already restructured.


Mr Hampton: Speaker, is there someone in the Liberal Party who doesn't want this question asked?

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I appreciate it's difficult on the same side. I would ask that you allow the leader to put his question.

Mr Hampton: The Minister of Health says this is all about restructuring. The fact of the matter is that Windsor has already restructured their hospital system. They've already gone from five to three hospitals. Can the minister tell us why, after Windsor has already gone through restructuring, he wants to cut their budgets even more?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): Over a year ago the province set out a funding plan for the hospitals of Ontario. That was announced by the previous Minister of Health over one year ago today. It laid out amounts of money that would be available this fiscal year, the next fiscal year and for the fiscal year 1998-99. That is a program that will allow the hospitals to determine how much money is available so they can plan accordingly for services to their communities in the years ahead. The ministry has stuck to that program, and I must say that while there has been a bit of a challenge in some cases, the hospitals have reacted extremely well to that plan and are giving a superior quality of service to the people of Ontario.

Mr Hampton: The minister tries again not to answer the question. The fact of the matter is that hospitals in Windsor have already restructured. They had already restructured before you took $365 million away from hospitals last year and $435 million additional that you're taking away this year.

I think you should go to Windsor and tell people there where you think they should make the cuts, because as health care providers pointed out on the weekend, there is a real problem in providing adequate psychiatric services for people and a real crisis looming in neo-natal intensive care. There are horror stories like patients having to call 911 from their hospital beds because nurses aren't available.

Minister, I think what you should do is you should go to Windsor. You should tell people why they're being forced to pay administrative fees in order to book surgery. Individual people are forced to pay administrative fees in order to book surgery. Will you go to Windsor? Since you insist these cuts can be made, will you go to Windsor and tell people there where these cuts should be made and how they can be made?

Hon David Johnson: I will say in general that hospitals are accommodating their funding in a number of different ways. Some hospitals have reduced the number of vice-presidents; some hospitals have cut the number of middle managers; some hospitals have combined administrations so that where formerly there were two or more administrations there's now one administration. There are many different ways that hospitals are accommodating the funding level.

I will also say that there are different circumstances in different communities. This ministry recognized an underservicing of family practitioners, general practitioners in Windsor last week by declaring Windsor to be underserviced in terms of GPs, and will have a program to assist in that regard.

Finally, I'll say that the deputy minister did attend and did discuss this matter with the people in the Windsor hospital last week and, as a result, there will be a program review that will be carried out over the next 60 days to determine if any further course of action is required.


Mr Hampton: It's interesting that everything the minister has outlined here has already been done in Windsor. Windsor has already restructured from five to three hospitals; Windsor has already gone through a process of eliminating management. Windsor has gone through all of that and more, yet this government insists on taking even more money out of hospital budgets in Windsor. In fact, Windsor is a perfect illustration of the contradiction in your story about restructuring. The fact is, not only are you taking money out of the system by restructuring, but in addition to that, on top of that, you are also cutting hospital budgets. That's really what is hurting in Windsor. Windsor is already at the bed ratio that your hospital restructuring commission says everybody should get to. Why would you want to cut them when they're already at that ratio?

Minister, it comes down to this: When that community has already done everything that's being asked in terms of hospital restructuring, why are you still trying to cut more from their budgets? Why are you still trying to cut more from their health care?

Hon David Johnson: I will give credit to Windsor as one community that did get off the mark quickly and did take steps, I'm sure excellent steps, to address health care problems in their particular community. Certainly credit needs to be given in that regard. I will reiterate that the deputy minister has attended and has discussed these issues with the representatives of the hospitals from the Windsor area, and as a result there is a program review that's under way, a 60-day program review, that will involve representatives from the district health councils, the hospitals and the ministry. The outcome of that review will assist in determining any particular outcome for the Windsor hospitals.

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

Mr Hampton: My next question is to the minister responsible for community and social services. I ask the Minister of Health, though, if maybe he can explain to Windsor why it is he's conducting the review after he's sent them letters saying he's going to take more money.

The Speaker: Your question is to the minister, please.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): To the Minister of Community and Social Services, we understand you have signed a contract with Andersen Consulting, a very large American company based in Chicago. Minister, when was the request for proposals for this contract issued, when was the contract awarded and signed, and how much money is Andersen Consulting expected to save and how much money are they expected to get out of the welfare system?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd be quite pleased to give the honourable member all the pertinent details about requests for proposals and the procedures we follow when we're using private sector contractors to do any particular task. This is not new with community and social services, as the honourable member will know. But he would also, I would think, share our desire to have increased efficiencies in the technology that we have, in the information technology we use for the social service system. As he knows, it's a computerized system which is badly out of date, and because of that, there are many things -- for example, we have inadvertent overpayments to people on welfare. I think it makes a lot more sense, rather than trying to claw that back from somebody on welfare, that we need improved computer technology to ensure that doesn't happen in the first place. That's the intent and the aim of the contract we have with Andersen.

Mr Hampton: The minister said she'd be happy to share with us the information on the contract. I'd like the minister to produce the information on the contract so that everyone in the House may have it. The minister tries to put a gloss on this and say it's about computers, but we know differently, from the experience of other provinces with Andersen Consulting. According to newspaper reports, this firm, Andersen Consulting, will be paid a portion of whatever they cut out of the social assistance system over the next four years. In other words, they're operating on commission or operating on cost plus.

What's involved here is this: You're handing the delivery of social assistance over to municipalities. One of Andersen Consulting's specialties is the privatization of social assistance; that's what they do a lot of in the United States. Is this one of the carrots you will offer to municipalities as you negotiate the downloading of 50% of the costs of social assistance? Is that what it's all about, Minister, that you plan to privatize? Let's produce the contracts so we can see really what's happening here.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I find it a little unusual that the honourable member, given that his government refused to produce any information on one of the biggest private sector contracts -- Highway 407 was something like $1 billion in public expenditures and they didn't wish to produce that.

But I think the honourable member misunderstands quite seriously what is happening here. First of all, we don't find anything wrong with incentive-based performance when we're dealing with either our own workers or with private sector contractors. Second, if we are going to find efficiencies and if we are going to find savings, I am sure he would agree that it would be much better to find those savings in administrative procedures; it would be much better to find those savings in improved computer technology. I am sure he is not expecting us to find savings out of reducing the services that we would like to provide to the people and the folks in need.

I would also like to remind the honourable member that contrary to what he keeps saying -- he keeps saying previously we should --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): This minister has spent her entire career attacking the poor rather than attacking poverty. Methinks that perhaps she's lost some of her taste for the slaughter and now wants to bring in an American consulting company to finish off the cull. She's prepared to line the pockets of Andersen Consulting, US, with taxpayers' money to carry on her attack on the poorest people in our society.

We know what happened in New Brunswick, because sources there indicate that part of what Andersen delivered there was a destaffing of the offices of community and social services. Nobody can get through to a live person. Everybody is caught up in computerized telephone processes, so all they can do is leave a message.

We know what happened when her colleague shut down eight regional offices of the family support plan and laid off 290 of their staff: Women and their children were left without moneys for rent and food and utilities and couldn't get through to anybody to resolve their problems. Is that what we've got to look forward to in your new revamped welfare system here in Ontario?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I think there are a couple of points that the honourable member should remember. The Minister of Community and Social Services contracts out many services to private sector and non-profit services. That was something that was done under his government, with all due respect, and it is something we have found has worked really well. So they did it.

Second, it is Mr Crombie who recommended contracting out welfare services, and Mr Hampton has stood in this House and said we should do everything Mr Crombie said. We rejected that particular recommendation of Mr Crombie's. Perhaps he's saying he's supporting it.

Finally, the Andersen contract is an initiative that their government started and we're following through with. If he has any concerns about it, perhaps he should ask his previous Minister of Community and Social Services.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Last week we released numbers from your ministry that said the total cost of assisted housing in Ontario, the total provincial subsidy, was $1.4 billion. You neither confirmed nor denied that.

In addition, we wonder, do you, sir, have a list, municipality by municipality, of the cost of provincial subsidy for public housing, private housing as well as for co-op housing?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): If the member is inquiring if we have a list of the subsidies that we pay to each of the social housing functions in the province, yes, we do, and I'd be pleased to provide that list of subsidies to social housing groups, OHC. I am surprised you don't have that information readily available at this time. If they don't have it, Mr Speaker, I'd be glad to get it for them.

Mr Duncan: As a matter of fact, we do have the numbers, and as a matter of fact --


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'm surprised you're that shocked, actually.


Mr Duncan: Minister, then you'll confirm these figures that have been provided by your ministry for the cost that's being downloaded to a variety of municipalities in Ontario: Durham region, 7,630 units, $47 million; Hamilton-Wentworth, 13,350 units at $57.9 million; Metro Toronto, 102,000 units, $566 million; Ottawa-Carleton, 22,870 units, $104 million; the mayor of Sudbury will be interested to know, 5,010 units at a cost of $26,939,000; Thunder Bay, 5,260, $31 million; Waterloo region, the Minister of Labour will be interested to know, 8,780 units, total cost, $45,931,000.

Minister, will you now acknowledge that you're dumping an unbearable load on municipal property taxpayers across this province and will you confirm that these numbers --

The Speaker: Thank you, member for Windsor-Walkerville. I appreciate it. Minister?

Hon Mr Leach: The member for Windsor has a wonderful imagination. I got up here not 20 minutes ago and told his colleague that no municipality can say at this point in time what the costs of social housing will be in any particular community because we're in the process of negotiating with the federal government and with the municipalities on how cost-sharing will take place, how federal moneys will flow from the federal government through to municipalities, how funding for needed capital repair will be done, for capital repair that's needed because you let it go to wrack and ruin over the last decade.

How can you sit there and say that social housing is falling apart when neither of these parties did anything over the last year to try and renovate the properties that are out there now? It's literally a disgrace that this housing has been allowed to go to this degree. We know that when we finish negotiations with the federal government and with the municipalities, everybody in this whole scenario is going to --

The Speaker: Minister, thank you very much.

New question, member for Fort York.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. There are 275,000 households that live in co-op and non-profit housing who are very worried about what's going to happen to them. Your government is the only jurisdiction in the world that is about to dump the responsibility for their homes on municipalities who don't have the money to look after them. Taxpayers are worried because you're handing them a ticking tax bomb. Interest rates are low now, but when they go up, who will pay? These buildings are getting older and when they need serious repair, who will pay?

The question to you, Minister, is to tell this House: Will the property taxpayer have to foot the bill for these increasing costs?

Hon Mr Leach: I'd just like to point out to the members opposite -- they obviously haven't been staying in tune with what's been happening in the social housing field for many years -- municipalities deliver social housing in many instances right now. Perhaps the member has heard of Cityhome in Toronto and Peel Living in Mississauga or the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Co, all of whom provide those services now.

As I mentioned earlier to my colleague from the Liberal Party, we're in the process of negotiating with the federal government how funding will take place, what moneys will be available from the federal government to flow through, what programs will be developed to ensure that the rundown stock that you allowed to go to wrack and ruin is rebuilt so that people can live in decent housing for a change, something they haven't been able to do for the last decade. We will make sure through our negotiations that we will protect tenants and people who live in social housing, something that you failed to do.

Mr Marchese: It's a very interesting thing to hear this minister saying they're going to protect them, and it's very interesting that they're about to dump MTHA, non-profit and cooperative homes down to the municipal level and they say he's going to protect them somehow. How are you doing that when you're passing down millions and millions of dollars worth of repairs just in MTHA alone? How does he have the nerve to say that? I'm not quite clear.

Then he says, "We're negotiating with the federal level of government." Well, these people at the federal level are about to wash their hands. You wait and see. Mark my words: As soon as this federal election is over, they will dump this responsibility on to this government, which is quite willing to dump it down to the municipal level. That negotiation means the protections the people are looking for are not going to be there, so no one who lives in social housing, that which is controlled by the federal level of government through co-ops and the funding it passes on to provincial governments, no one at that level or this level is safe.

Minister, will you give a guarantee -- because that's what people are looking for -- that these tenants who depend on stable housing costs won't see --

The Speaker: Thank you. Minister?


The Speaker: Member for Fort York, question time is over.

Hon Mr Leach: To the member of the third party, we know that what actions we take resulting from the negotiations with the federal government and through the negotiations with the municipal government will end up with a process and a system that is much better than what's there now.

The members opposite in both parties obviously aren't aware that the major social housing providers in the municipalities approached the provincial government and asked if they could take control of the administration and management of social housing in their communities. Certainly Peel Living, in Peel, approached this government on several occasions. As a matter of fact, they approached the previous government and said they felt municipalities were best equipped to provide the delivery of social housing. Ottawa, for example, did the same thing. The Catholic diocese, which provides a lot of social housing, also said they felt that they were in a better position to deliver and manage social housing.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is to the Attorney General. For many years, people in my community have watched our civil justice system become more and more inaccessible. More and more ordinary citizens and small businesses are coming to the conclusion that our civil courts are out of reach. Could the minister inform the House what he and his ministry are doing to address the problems in the civil courts so that they are more accessible to people who need to resolve disputes privately?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I recently announced that we would be making mandatory mediation a part of the civil justice system in Ontario, thus giving parties an opportunity at an early stage to go to a mediation and attempt to have their cases settled quickly. We have run a pilot project in Toronto and we have found that 40% of all the cases sent there after the delivery of a statement of defence were able to be settled, thus saving an awful lot of money for the litigants, who would have their cases solved and settled at an early stage before they incurred significant legal costs.

This is a very significant change to the direction that civil justice has taken. It's pursuant to a recommendation in the Civil Justice Review, which was set up by the former Attorney General and the Chief Justice of Ontario, and I believe it will have a very positive effect in saving litigants a lot of money.

Mr Baird: There have been concerns raised among some people in my community about the appointment of mediators and some criticism that the mediation could be questionable, given that it's unregulated since the service will be provided privately. Could the minister tell me how he and his ministry will work to ensure that these services will be provided in an appropriate fashion in the province?

Hon Mr Harnick: Local alternative dispute resolution committees will exist in each region around the province. Those committees will set qualifications to ensure that a roster can be struck and that we can have qualified mediators available to do all of the cases that will be necessary.

Those committees will also ensure that mediations are taking place properly. They will also deal with any complaints and they will also set even standards around the province. The important thing is to have qualified mediators available around the province so that we can let all Ontarians avail themselves of an opportunity to settle their cases early.



Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have a question for the Solicitor General. As the Solicitor General knows, the top two officials at the Windsor Jail, the superintendent and the manager of operations, have been suspended for over a month now with pay. It is understood that there are investigations ongoing under the workplace harassment and discrimination prevention policy. As the minister knows, the Windsor Jail unfortunately has an infamous reputation after a high-profile discrimination case involving a female employee in 1995. At that time, the Crown Employees Grievance Settlement Board painted a picture of a workplace totally out of control, and the minister knew that at the time. When are you going to take charge of your workplace and ensure that all employees working for the crown under your charge are treated in a proper and fair manner?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I think if the member opposite wanted to be fair, he would acknowledge that the previous concerns related to Windsor Jail did not happen during the term of this government. Certainly we're moving in very significant areas to correct systemic problems within corrections which have been there for many, many years.

We have introduced a new training program, the CO-Start program, so that we're very carefully scrutinizing the kinds of individuals who are coming into the system as correctional officers. We had Norman Inkster, the former head of the RCMP, conduct a review of the corrections ministry and we are following his advice and his suggestions with respect to changes. We recently issued a request for proposals and we're conducting a review of the culture within the Ontario corrections system.

We recognize the problems. They've been there for some time and we're making changes in a wide range of areas.

Mr Ramsay: When you took charge of correctional services, as you said, you did recognize the problem and you've had almost two years now to deal with those problems. You said that the original Windsor incident wasn't under your watch, but I have news clippings here of August 1996 about jail guards and sex probes involving two different facilities here in Toronto; sex offenders at staff parties at another institution in this city. This has been going on for a long, long time and you were the guy who said you were going to come in and clean this up. To date we still haven't seen it and now we've got two top officials at the Windsor Jail suspended under suspicion for similar sorts of behaviour.

This is under your watch. We in the opposition are asking you to clean up the act over there so that all employees know when they go to work in the morning that they're entering a workplace that is safe and free of discrimination.

Hon Mr Runciman: We are making the most significant changes in the history of the corrections system. That particular member was the minister of corrections for a period of time and certainly he was faced with challenges and difficulties as well, as were the NDP members opposite during their tenure in office. Those changes did not take place, certainly not in the significant terms that we're proposing with respect to the culture, with respect to the new infrastructure programs, with respect to the new training and hiring programs that we've instituted, and in terms of the recommendations put forward by Norman Inkster in terms of management accountability, reporting mechanisms, the whole range of suggestions which we are moving on as rapidly as we can.

As I've indicated, the corrections system is a pretty big ship. It cannot be turned around overnight, but we're moving as expeditiously and as safely as we possibly can.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Given the very disturbing history of influence peddling and criminal activity in jurisdictions in North America where the private sector delivers lottery products, have you any concerns as you poise to privatize all or parts of the Ontario Lottery Corp?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm happy to respond. I would like to let the member know that I intend to visit Sault Ste Marie next week to have a meeting with the board of the Ontario Lottery Corp, and while I am there I'll be speaking with the mayor of Sault Ste Marie as well.

I don't believe there is a history in Canada of any wrongdoing on the part of running casinos or other betting establishment and I don't quite understand the member's concern as far as the wrongdoing is concerned. But I'm happy to assure him that when I visit Sault Ste Marie next week I will have a very thorough discussion about the Ontario Lottery Corp.

The very fact that we are having a review of the lottery corporation is very good for the taxpayers in this province. Only last year we found that there was a possible saving of $36 million. I think the taxpayers appreciate that.

Mr Martin: It's interesting; there is no history of privatizing lotteries in Canada. In view of the very disturbing report that your government has some ownership of called Gambling in Ontario: Current Enforcement Concerns, 1995, and the fact that analyses show that illegal gambling flourishes in Ontario and there is potential for abuse even in the legal gaming sector; and given the fact that one of the things the Ontario Lottery Corp prides itself in is its integrity, the fact that when you buy a ticket from the Ontario Lottery Corp you know there is no scam going on and we are confident as a government that it will turn over to us for use in health care, education, social services and all the things that we find useful, millions of dollars every year; in light of the very disturbing analysis that was done by this report and in light of the history across North America of the private sector and criminal activity --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Question.

Mr Martin: -- in lottery activity, will you today commit to this House that you will not privatize any part of the Ontario Lottery Corp?

Hon Mr Saunderson: In response to the supplementary question, I'd like to point out that at the present time -- and the member refers to illegal gambling going on in the country and maybe in this province -- that there are some 20,000 or more illegal VLTs in operation in Ontario.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): That's not the question that was asked.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm very happy that by doing what we are doing as far as VLTs are concerned, they will be properly looked after and scrutinized by our government and our agencies. The private sector has done an excellent job in running the casinos in Ontario. There are three casinos now in operation -- in Windsor, in Rama township and in Niagara Falls -- and the private sector is doing a very good job in running those casinos.

I once again come back to the member's question about privatization of aspects of the Ontario Lottery Corp. All I can say to the member is that what we are trying to do is get the best possible --

The Speaker: Thank you, Minister.


The Speaker: Minister, thank you very much. New question.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): My question is directed to the Solicitor General. Since the announcement of the strict discipline facility I have received a number of calls from my riding in Northumberland. Many are worried that the Ontario facilities may resemble some of those that we hear about in the United States. They believe the Brookside facility in Cobourg already meets the strict discipline standards that you are suggesting. Could you please explain to my riding how these two programs will differ?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I want to thank the member for the question. The strict discipline camp to be instituted in Ontario will be quite dramatically different in approach from the perceived boot camps in the United States. We're not looking at the shout-in-your-face, demeaning kind of approach, but I want to say that this is not going to be any cakewalk. This is going to be a very structured 16-hour day. It's going to stress work programs, life skills, problem-solving.

There will be initially 32 to 50 young offenders. They're going to be selected based on their previous history as high-risk, repeat offenders, and that in effect differs from the Brookside approach. There will be uniforms; there will be standardized haircuts; privileges will be earned.

As an important part of this there will be a community component. Once these offenders leave the facility, they will have up to a 12-month period to be reintegrated into the community. Those supports will be there to ensure that they can become citizens and make a contribution.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Galt: Minister, that's certainly encouraging to hear. There's also concern in my riding that relates to the effectiveness of strict discipline facilities in reforming young offenders. Can you tell me what evidence you have that the government's approach will in fact be effective?

Hon Mr Runciman: I want to stress that this is a pilot program. What we do know is that the current approaches aren't working. About 64% of the offenders in the youth system are repeat offenders, and almost 80% of the folks in our adult system are graduates, if you will, or have had some experience in the youth justice system, so clearly what we're doing is not working.

We're going to monitor this pilot very closely. We'll have a request for proposals very shortly to provide the monitoring on a six-month interval basis.

The reality is, people across this province and across this country really are upset, concerned with youth crime. The federal government has refused to move, in terms of the Young Offenders Act, in a meaningful way to address those concerns. We at the provincial level are limited in what we can do, but we recognize those concerns and we are trying to do something about it.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): My question is to the Attorney General. The Attorney General on June 10 made this statement in the House:

"This government will not accept a system that allows victims of crime to suffer twice, first at the hands of the criminal and second at the hands of a justice system that does not respond to and respect victims' needs. Victims have told us that they feel alienated by the justice system. They are intimidated by the system and made to feel that their needs are secondary to the rights of the accused."

This is exactly what Karen Vanscoy feels. Mrs Vanscoy lost her 14-year-old daughter, who was shot to death, and subsequently a plea bargain was entered for manslaughter rather than second-degree murder. She feels she was inadequately informed and she feels quite frustrated at the system as it now stands.

I know the Attorney General would agree with me that victims' rights legislation is intended to give real rights to victims and not just rhetoric. I think on this the House can be agreed.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): And your question?

Ms Castrilli: How does the Attorney General respond to Mrs Vanscoy and will he agree to meet with her as she has requested?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I certainly would like to express my sympathy for the Vanscoy family and express the fact that we are always interested in improving services to victims. I'm aware that senior officials have offered to meet with the family and their counsel to discuss the Victims' Bill of Rights. In this case, I want to inform the Legislature that extraordinary steps were taken to inform the family at all stages and to respond to their concerns. A great deal of time was spent with Mrs Vanscoy.

Our government brought meaningful change to the way victims are treated in the justice system and we will continue to look for ways to improve services for victims.

Ms Castrilli: What Mrs Vanscoy wants is a meeting with the minister, but she also wants very clear guidelines with respect to plea bargaining.

I'll remind members in this House that I've raised this issue a number of times before. On March 19 of last year, the Attorney General said to us that there is a need for rules in plea bargaining cases, that people at the ministry have indicated already a willingness and a desire to begin the process of setting out clearly answers to plea bargaining. On June 6, the minister responded to a question from me, "The senior members in the criminal law division are working on this project and I expect they'll have guidelines prepared and dealt with." That was almost a year ago. We have yet to see any guidelines.

I want to ask the minister again, will he now develop guidelines and is he prepared to release them? What can victims of crime expect from this government?

Hon Mr Harnick: What victims of crime have seen is that we've done more for victims than the last two governments combined. We passed the Victims' Bill of Rights; we've doubled the number of victim/witness assistance programs in the province, spending an additional $2.7 million doing that; we've quadrupled the number of victim crisis and assistance referral service sites, spending $4.5 million by the end of 1997-98 doing that; we've established the victim notification system to inform victims of the status of the offender; we've provided $500,000 so local groups can provide services to victims in their communities; we've set up two domestic violence courts to find better ways to prosecute spousal abusers; and we've enshrined the victims' justice fund to guarantee that money collected under the victims' fine surcharge will be solely dedicated to services for victims.

We're prepared to look at the suggestions the member has made. We are continuing to have those discussions and we will do that.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister will know that Friday was the deadline for submissions requesting an individual environmental assessment on the Cross Lake road access. He will also know that while the ministry is just now developing the environmental assessment for that road access in the Temagami area, the West Nipissing group has already built the road. Isn't this a classic case of putting the cart before the horse? Why are you having an environmental assessment after the road's already been built?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): That's true; the road has been built. It was a mistake by MNR last fall and we are going through the legal procedure to make sure that all parties are notified. If there's any damage that's occurred, we'll remedy that damage.

But let me be clear that when the comprehensive planning council made its recommendations it recommended that there be an access but that the people would have to walk about 500 yards down to the water. That just discriminated against old people and disabled people and we did not accept those recommendations. I suggested there be an access that people could drive to and then park their cars back from the lake from there.

Mr Wildman: That doesn't explain why you didn't have an EA in advance.

The minister has indicated that he violated the recommendation of the comprehensive planning council in this particular case, but that's not all he violated. This is in the same area that the minister said he would set aside for possible land claims settlement, and the minister made a commitment on behalf of the government that no developments would take place in this area without consultation with the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and the Temagami First Nation. How is it that neither chief was notified of this road prior to its being approved by the ministry? How is it that you violated your own commitment to keep this land set aside, pending a land claims settlement?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I disagree with the premise. I met with the first nations back in June when I accepted, for the most part, all of the comprehensive planning council's recommendations. At that time it was my contention to set those lands aside for future economic development opportunities for the two first nations of the Temagami area.

The road was a separate issue. That was part of the CPC's recommendations. I accepted it and I went through that with the first nations at the time. MNR staff are meeting with representatives of the two first nations and we'll try to resolve this misunderstanding. As far as the EA for the road goes, it's a minor process and we're following all the legal aspects to that now.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. My riding of Durham East and indeed all ridings in Ontario are concerned about the future of the community action program for children, CAPC. CAPC is a community-based program that provides single mothers with advice on prenatal nutrition and on parenting, thereby helping to break the cycle of poverty. Minister, was CAPC part of your federal-provincial discussions that took place in January with the council on social policy renewal?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): In response to the question from the member for Durham East, at our last meetings in Toronto both my colleague Minister Ecker, at the meetings of the social services ministers, and myself, at the council, pressured the federal government to maintain funding to the CAPC program. Hopefully we will be successful. We'll find out I guess tomorrow. Certainly all of us have stated that programs that help young mothers with children, as some of the programs we've started here in Ontario -- we must be looking towards lasting benefits as we negotiate with Ottawa so that the public of Ontario, with programs run by their communities, can be successful.


Mr O'Toole: Are you hopeful that the federal government will announce tomorrow in its budget deliberations cooperation with the other provinces to address child poverty? And, Minister, have you had discussions with your partners across Canada and the council on social policy renewal?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: Again, in response to the member's question, I think everyone in this House would be interested to know that the whole issue of a national child benefit actually began with the premiers in August 1995 at a meeting of first ministers in St John's, Newfoundland. They've evolved over a period of time through the interprovincial and through the fed-prov negotiations. Hopefully we'll see something tomorrow.

I would say that my colleague, Minister Ecker, herself has been working hard with her counterparts, the ministers of community and social services across the country. I think it was to everyone's great pride that we moved forward last June with the Prime Minister to include the federal government as part of our discussions.

So as far as a national child benefit is concerned --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): New question; member for Fort William.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): My question is for the Minister of Education. The minister is aware that we have begun hearings on Bill 104 and that there have been a great number of parents who have been expressing concern about the minister's intent to take over all education funding. Their concerns are with whether or not the Ministry of Education is going to appropriately address the needs of their particular school.

We have some evidence that the Minister of Education is not able to get it right with one of those schools that he is currently providing funds for, and I raise with him again today the issue of St Patrick's school, a small high school in Atikokan, part of an isolate board. Because it is part of an isolate board, your ministry provides it not only with its funding but with its staffing guidelines. It cannot staff beyond what you allow.

St Patrick's school currently has one and a half fewer teachers than it should have because of apparent confusion within your ministry. It might not sound like a big deal, but in a small school that means the grade 6 students have only a half-time teacher.

This issue has been raised in the Legislature; it's been the subject of numerous letters and calls to the ministry. I have yet again a letter from the minister saying, "It is not my problem, it is the board's responsibility." My question, Minister, is, what do we have to do to make you understand that this one is your responsibility? You provide the dollars, you made the cut, and you are depriving these students of their teacher.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I would very much enjoy reading the letter that you're obviously going to send me today. If there is something that's within the responsibility of the ministry, we'll certainly take it on.

I do take the point, though, that the funding models we currently have in Ontario don't meet the needs of students. I do accept that. I do accept the fact that the general legislative branch and the way we fund isolate school boards are not the best ways to provide funding. That's why this government has finally taken on the responsibility for making sure that the funding for every child in Ontario is met, the needs are met for a high quality of education.

If there is an instance where we can be of some assistance now, I'd be more than happy to look at it, but I don't understand how one day the member opposite can rise and take objection to the province taking a senior responsibility and the next day suggest that's not a good idea.

Mrs McLeod: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: In reference to the minister's suggestion that I provide him with a copy of the letter so he'll be aware of the incident, the letter I'm referring to is a letter from the minister to me once again saying he's not responsible for this decision.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 34(a), I have filed with the table officer my dissatisfaction with the Attorney General's response and request a late show.



Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): My petition is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the PACE 2000 Foundation, a non-profit organization, is planning to build a residential community for seniors and mature students on the undeveloped lands directly north of Montfort hospital;

"Whereas the objectives of the PACE 2000 Foundation are to help seniors live longer in their homes and to help students acquire professional expertise and social support, and that it will be achieved with the support of the intergenerational network which promotes the interaction between seniors and students in a complementary approach;

"Whereas les Filles de la sagesse, l'Hôpital Montfort and the PACE 2000 Foundation have submitted a joint application for the rezoning of this 21-acre site, from the actual institutional P to residential R5, on January 26, 1996, and whereas as by January 28, 1997, the rezoning has still not been granted by the city of Ottawa;

"Whereas since May 1996, 510 signatories are asking that the PACE 2000 project be implemented as soon as possible on these lands;

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

"To grant highest priority to the municipal and provincial agreements which are required for the development of the PACE 2000 intergenerational community project on the lands directly north of Montfort Hospital before the implementation of the city's new zoning bylaws."

I affix my signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Whereas Mike Harris's Conservative government of Ontario is planning to destroy the present system of rent control;

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative Party made no mention of scrapping rent control during the election campaign of 1995 or in the Common Sense Revolution document;

"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with high tenant populations campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform of protecting the current rent control system;

"Whereas the government has consulted with special interest groups representing landlords and developers while cutting funding to organizations representing the 3.5 million tenants of Ontario;

"Whereas although all renters will suffer, seniors and others on fixed incomes will suffer particular hardship if rent controls are abolished; and

"Whereas eliminating rent control will result in skyrocketing rents in Ontario,

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon Premier Mike Harris, Housing Minister Al Leach and members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the attack on the 3.5 million tenants of this province."

I add my name to theirs in support.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition that reads as follows.

"A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the city of Scarborough is requiring individuals who want to participate in the mail-in referendum to provide their name, address and signature on the ballot; and

"Whereas this requirement is blatantly undemocratic and threatens the legitimacy of the democratic process; and

"Whereas the city of Scarborough makes no mention as to whether or not it will accept ballots from residents who wish to vote in confidence; and

"Whereas the question on the ballot itself is slanted towards the position of the city and cannot be viewed as a neutral question; and

"Whereas this uncertainty and undemocratic procedure makes the entire process a great misuse of taxpayers' dollars and tarnishes any results that will come out of the vote;

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to (1) speak out against this undemocratic vote, (2) disregard the results of the vote, and (3) continue the proposed unification of the municipalities into one unified city of Toronto."


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;

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition which reads as follows.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold full, province-wide public hearings on WCB reform; to listen to the voice of the people calling for improved occupational health and safety protection; and to tell the Tory government to call off its attack on the dignity and standard of living of injured workers and their families."

This has been signed by 53 residents in the riding of Sudbury East. I agree with the petitioners and I have signed my name as well.



Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads:

"Whereas the provincial government is planning to make significant changes to the delivery and governance of education in this province; and

"Whereas we, as parents, believe that school councils should play an important role in education, with clearly defined responsibilities limited to their particular school communities; and

"Whereas we, as ratepayers, are extremely disturbed that consideration is being given to abolish school boards and eliminate decision-making by locally elected representatives;

We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that the present structure of school boards within the province of Ontario continue to have a major role in governance of the schools to deal with broad policies as advocates for the students in their community, to provide cost-efficient educational services and to be directly accountable to the parents and local ratepayers."

It's signed by a constituent in my riding.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This is a petition in response to Bill 84, and it's 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; and

"Whereas we feel Bill 84 can cause major concern to the property taxpayers of Ontario 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."

Of course, I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition forwarded to me by Gord Wilson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, on behalf of all working people in this province. It reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

In support, I add my name to theirs.


M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : J'ai une pétition à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario.

«Attendu que des accidents surviennent sur une base régulière et qu'un rapport de la PPO de Rockland démontre que 23 accidents sérieux sont survenus au cours des huit derniers mois sur la route 17 entre Rockland et Orléans ;

Attendu qu'une étude démontre que pas moins de 18 000 autos circulent chaque jour sur cette portion de 20 kilomètres de la route 17 ;

Attendu que la conception d'ébauches est complétée, des audiences publiques ont eu lieu et des parcelles de terrain ont été achetées ;

Nous, soussignés, adressons à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario la pétition suivante :

Nous demandons au ministre des Transports, Al Palladini, de remettre sur la liste des priorités le projet d'élargissement de la route 17 entre le chemin Trim et Clarence Point et nous demandons au gouvernement de mettre de côté les fonds nécessaires pour l'exécution de ce projet avant de remettre aux municipalités la responsabilité de la route 17.»

J'y ajoute ma signature.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly and it reads as follows:

"Whereas Mike Harris and John Snobelen promised no cuts to classroom education, and since their election the Harris government has cut more than $430 million from school board budgets, representing a cut of nearly $1 billion to public education on an annualized basis; and

"Whereas our children have already lost 50% of their special education funding; they've lost their librarians and in some areas their junior kindergartens; many of them have no music programs left in their schools; their class sizes have increased enormously; some are in danger of losing their buses; and

"Whereas parents across Ontario know that most of the changes in education are being made just to cut $1 billion that the government needs to fund its tax cut; and

"Whereas parents know these cuts are affecting the classrooms and the quality of education for their children; and

"Whereas parents know that they have not been consulted;

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris stop these cuts to our children's education and their future."

This has been signed by 47 residents in the riding of Sudbury East. I agree with it and I have signed as well.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Firefighters need speed, experience and teamwork to save lives. I oppose any legislation that could undermine the work of my local firefighters and jeopardize fire safety in my community. Please listen to professional firefighters and amend Bill 84 to eliminate the threat to fire safety."

I will affix my signature to this petition.


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

"Whereas the Education Act of Ontario and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee equal access to secondary school education for all students regardless of age;

"Whereas Bill 34 clearly discriminates against students over the age of 20;

"Whereas factors in Metropolitan Toronto such as years of major economic dislocation, escalating social problems and consistently high levels of immigration have created tremendous need and demand for quality, effective adult education programs;

"Whereas public adult education programs in Metro Toronto are a proven success with 83% of students moving directly into employment or further education after completing short-term programs of five months or one year;

"Whereas Bill 34 clearly threatens these programs;

"We, the undersigned, urge the provincial assembly to instruct the government to withdraw Bill 34, the Education Amendment Act, because it discriminates against adult students on the basis of age."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will affix my signature.


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

"To the government of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government / Projet de loi 106, Loi concernant le financement des administrations locales.

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

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): When I was last debating this issue, I had pointed out in some detail that the history of assessment in this province is that we have a patchwork quilt, with some very recent assessments in some municipalities and in other municipalities, such as Metropolitan Toronto, very, very old assessments which reach back into the 1950s based upon a 1940s assessment year.

I had mentioned the fact that I have always been against the concept of a value-based assessment. I appear to have lost that argument. I have lost that argument within my own caucus. Indeed, I've noticed that both the NDP and the Liberals have in the past been ready to pass market value assessment.

The proposed assessment scheme that we have brought forward is not a market value assessment, but is somewhat closely related to it and is known as actual value assessment. The principal differences between the assessment scheme that we're bringing forward and the scheme which the NDP was ready to bless with some slight amendments and indeed the scheme which the Liberals had embraced are significant.

The Liberals wanted to have a 1988 assessment year. We are coming forward with an assessment year of 1996, which is the most stable year in modern history in terms of --

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): You're incredible. It should have been back in 1989.

Mr Turnbull: I hear the chortles from my friend the member for Algoma-Manitoulin. Obviously my friend has not followed values of properties, because 1988 was the most unstable property assessment value year this century, probably in history, in Canada. That, sir, was the assessment year your government was committed to introduce. Let's be very clear about this.

Mr Michael Brown: But we didn't do it.

Mr Turnbull: My friend says they didn't do it. The history was this: They had committed to introducing it on 1988 assessment. The assessment was just coming in at the time that you lost the election. You had committed that you were bringing it in on 1988 assessment. Don't try and wriggle out of it; you're papered every way to Sunday.

This system is based on 1996 assessment, which is the most stable year. We had relatively high sales last year and yet prices of properties did not go up. As a matter of fact, they went slightly down and the differential between the top and the bottom end of the market was smaller than it has been in the last few years.

Apart from a stable year, we are not implementing the system that was proposed by the two previous governments, which would have been based upon highest and best use as the basis of assessment. We are assessing on the basis of the present use.

The significance of this, as an example, would be that if somebody had a small house which was on a piece of land where they could knock it down and build a high-rise apartment building, under highest and best use the owner of that house would be taxed, even though they were using it as a residential house, as if they were going to build a high-rise building on the value of that land for building, which would have been highly unfair to the person and would have ended in forcing that person out of the house. This is not what we're doing. We're using the present use.

Another significant change over the previous system that was proposed is that it will be on the basis of a three-year rolling average, so if you do indeed in some future year have some spike in values, there will be a levelling out of that spike. As well as that, our government has brought in legislation which allows municipalities up to eight years to mitigate the introduction where you get increases or decreases in the assessment. This will have the impact of allowing municipalities to ensure that there is not any serious disruption to people on fixed incomes.

In a separate piece of legislation which our government intends to introduce in the springtime, we will be bringing forward legislation that will allow for the separate assessment of utility rights of way. One of the problems that the NDP correctly identified with the legislation they were going to bring in with respect to the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto was that under the old system, where you taxed utility rights of way at the average of the adjacent property values, it would have significantly increased the burden on those utility rights of way, which is highly unfair, because utilities typically have a very small consumption or zero consumption of services from the municipality.

Of course, I always point to the example of the derailment that occurred in Mississauga some years ago. After the derailment, the municipality sent bills to the railway company with respect to provision of police and fire services during that time, and yet all of the years they had been paying that in the assessment, which seems to be double taxation, as far as I can see. We will be addressing that.

The experience of a system in British Columbia which has been in existence for some number of years, very closely related to the system that we are bringing forward, is that after the initial year of appeals things settled down to a very small number of appeals in any year. A significant step forward that our government intends to make is that the information relevant to an appeal will be freely available to those people wishing to appeal their property values.

One of the requests that has been made by the opposition is, "Give us the impact studies for this." It seems the Liberals have forgotten that the impact study they produced was the 1988 assessment, pure and simple. When the NDP released the information on the 1988 assessment as they were about to implement it, they claimed that was an impact study; in fact, it was the numbers directly relating to the assessment. The assessment is ongoing at this moment.

I see you're nodding your head. You have some pearls of wisdom to cast before us. I cannot wait for the question-and-answer period for you to put the question, because these are purely the facts of the matter. The assessment is the impact study.

Of course, I'm somewhat perplexed when the NDP says, "Oh, you're wrong with your numbers," and old spot-on Floyd, who never managed to meet a target in all of his years as Treasurer of this province -- it is perplexing, you will permit me, Mr Speaker, to say, when we have somebody who has never been able to balance the books make a statement like that.


Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Especially when you have two sets of books, right?

Mr Turnbull: Yes, indeed, the NDP added a new wrinkle: They had two sets of books.

My friends in the opposition, the NDP, increased taxes 33 times while they were in power. Eleven of them were income tax changes. There was a $4-billion increase in taxation in the time the NDP was in power. The Liberals almost met that target; they had 32 tax increases in their few years in power. You know, 65 tax increases account for why this province is in the economic woes that it's in.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I know that this member traditionally always wishes people to stick to the topic. I believe that what he's talking about right now has got absolutely nothing to do with the fair market assessment system that we're talking about in this bill. I wonder if you could advise him to get back to the issues as raised in the bill.

The Acting Speaker: That is a point of order. I've been listening very attentively to the speaker and I thought he was very close to the subject of Bill 106. You may continue.

Mr Turnbull: I must say, a very good ruling, Mr Speaker. The fact is we're talking about taxes and we're talking about the fact that there is only one taxpayer. Clearly those people, myself included, who have fought over the years to resist a value-based assessment are disappointed that this is the basis of what we're doing. However, this is infinitely fairer than anything that the NDP or the Liberals ever touched.

I have enumerated it: The fact is that it is on the most stable year; the differentials are the lowest; we have a three-year rolling average; it's on the present use, not the highest and best use; we are going to move on utility rights of way; and most significantly, we are going to make available all of the facts and figures to allow the people who have any difficulties to appeal their assessment when it comes in. That is a fair system.

It may not be the system that the people I have often talked to over the years would like. I would urge all parties -- the Liberals, the NDP and the Conservatives -- to have another look at the idea of moving away from a value-based system. The fact is that in the Fair Tax Commission report -- I'd just like to read this into the record:

"Assessment: The system is not a system. The property assessment system in Ontario is a system in name only. In theory, Ontario has a single standard -- market value -- for assessment. In practice, the same types of property are assessed differently at dramatically different proportions of their market value in different parts of Ontario. For example, in a sample of 31 larger municipalities selected for study by the working group, the assessment of single-family residential property in Ontario ranged from a low of 1.5% of estimated 1990 market value in Toronto to a high of 41.5% of estimated 1990 value in Barrie."

Clearly, there is a problem. We have seen that with respect to all transfers from the provincial government to municipalities, because you don't have an even benchmark. That is the reason we need to have a single year of assessment for the whole of the province. If that is done, I believe those municipalities that have a legitimate problem will be able to prove it much more adequately than with the present patchwork.

I believe we are fulfilling our election mandate to make sure that taxes are fair and to reduce taxes. There will be some people who individually will be negatively impacted by this, but municipalities will have the ability to mitigate up to eight years, which is far and beyond anything that the Liberals or NDP ever contemplated, and that is enshrined right in the legislation.

With that, giving the little bit of historical background to it, I look forward to any questions from across the floor and I will be happy to remind them of their record.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gerretsen: First of all, I'd like to just comment on the member's last statement, that if it is truly a fair system, and as fair as he indicated in his 25-minute dissertation, it begs the question as to why it should take eight years to be implemented then, because I'm sure a good argument could be made that if it's really a fair system, you should implement it immediately.

There's one other thing I'd like to say, and that is that the assessment system itself is being totally changed. There has been very little attention paid to this, but I think the people of Ontario should clearly understand that the assessment function which is being carried on currently by the provincial government, and has been so since about 1970-71, will now be taken over by the municipalities. I personally have some great concern with that.

One must remember the reason it was taken over by the province in the first place. It was in order to bring in some standards of consistency throughout the province to make sure that the assessment function at the local level was not highly politicized. One can well see a situation where, for example, a particular councillor may take issue with the assessment that has been placed on a property by somebody who is in effect employed by that council, and one can just surmise all sorts of political difficulties that may come as a result of that. I'm not saying that most people aren't going to be honest in the system, but the chance of the system being highly politicized and there being possible skulduggery with respect to the system is much more likely if it's carried out at the local level.

There was always a certain safety net in making sure that the mill rate wasn't set by the same organization that set the assessment value on a piece of property, and that was the value of the old system as far as who controlled the assessment was concerned, and I would seriously ask the government to reconsider that position.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I listened with great pleasure. I'm fascinated by what the member for York Mills had to say about this legislation and I have some sympathy for him because this is his job. He's got to stand up here and defend this legislation, notwithstanding the fact that in his heart he may not agree with what it's going to do to people in his community and in communities across Ontario.

I also found of interest, because this has become something of a mantra for this government, the business about which previous government created new taxes and what the numbers were, but there's always the convenient omission of this government's creation of user fee after user fee after user fee.

I'll live with the realities of history, no two ways about it. This member, though, and his caucus mates have got to deal with the reality of new user fees left and right every time you turn around; user fees imposed on people who can ill afford them; hospitals being shut down across Ontario and indeed down in Niagara region; and hospitals being shut down in Tory backbench members' own ridings. One would hope they would be given the freedom to speak up and speak out against the government's policies which are shutting down hospitals, like the Port Colborne General Hospital, like the small but competent and essential hospital in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the one over in Grimsby.

Here is a government that would prefer, obviously, to dwell on the past, when in fact it has got hold of the reins now and the user fees and the hospital closings and the privatization and shutdown of nursing homes and seniors homes is creating devastation across this province.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): It's interesting that the member for Welland-Thorold says nothing about bringing in much-needed changes to the property tax. He talks instead about hospitals, as if to divert us from some of the major changes that we're going to be talking about in this new legislation.

As the member for York Mills pointed out, Ontario's new assessment system is certainly going to be much fairer and more equitable, and in determining value-based assessment, actual value or current value is what we are going to be looking at, not highest and best use, as was advocated in the past.

It's also interesting, as the member for York Mills pointed out, that the assessments are going to be based on a 1996 assessment, which is a very stable year compared to the 1988 year that was very unstable, when the value of people's homes rose enormously. Also, taxes will be based on a three-year average of values to increase stability and certainty, which is much fairer than in the past. Unlike many market value proposals, municipalities are going to be able to opt for eight years to phase in the tax shift resulting from reassessment, special protection to low-income seniors and low-income persons with disabilities, lower rates of tax on lower-valued commercial properties.

This is a much fairer system and people have no need to fear that when it comes in they will be pushed out of their homes. There's going to be a great period of time for them to adjust if their taxes are to go up, and an equal number of taxes are going to fall, as should be.


Mr Michael Brown: I was most amused by the comments from the member opposite, as he discussed this. The first thing I discovered is, he is totally opposed to value-based assessment. This is second reading of the bill. On second reading of the bill, you vote on the basis of the principle. So I would take it that if Mr Turnbull is a man of principle, he will be voting against this measure because he has just told us that he is absolutely opposed to the principle of this bill. Yet the chief government whip through some of the most interesting -- I use that word very carefully -- discussion of all kinds of maybe important measures within the act certainly does not speak to the principle. He says he's opposed. He's got to vote against it. That's what he just said.

Certainly, as we review the Hansard of what Mr Turnbull said in previous parliaments, we know that he is very consistent. The only thing was, when he was in opposition he was actually going to vote against it rather than make speeches about whether you use a 1988 assessment or whether you use a 1996 assessment.

If you used a rolling average back in 1988, it would have been the years 1987, 1988 and 1989, I suspect. I don't know whether they will be much different than 1996, 1997 and 1998 because we don't know; 1997 and 1998 haven't happened, so we don't know whether or not this makes any kind of sense.

I just want Mr Turnbull to get up and twist in the wind some more. This is very entertaining. It makes no sense. If you're opposed, vote no.

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

Mr Turnbull: I will start with the member for Algoma-Manitoulin and I will suggest that you, sir, are twisting what I said. I said the principle of the value is an argument I've been against, but all of the other areas I believe are fair, infinitely more fair than anything that you or the NDP ever brought in. But talking about one thing and then doing something else, you were going to cut taxes, not quite as much as us but you were going to cut taxes. You were going to cut government spending but you weren't sure where. You didn't cost it out.

Then we had our friend from Kingston and The Islands. He seems to have difficulty with the fact that we're going to allow an eight-year mitigation so that anybody who is harmed by this -- and on every tax shift that ever occurs, there are always people who are harmed and unless you accept that, you don't understand what goes on in government. As an ex-municipal politician, I suppose you're casting aspersions on other municipal politicians, that you're suggesting there would be skulduggery. I would assume not, sir. I would assume that the municipal politicians of Ontario would do the honourable thing.

As for the member for Welland-Thorold, he talks about hospitals being shut down. No, we're moving forward on the district health councils' report, which in point of fact his own government set up, and we have the Health Services Restructuring Commission, which is going to implement the program as recommended by the district health council so that it isn't politicized.

I thank my colleague the member for St Andrew-St Patrick for her kind words. She is a caring, decent, good politician who is interested in her constituents. I thank her very much.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I am pleased today to speak to Bill 106, the Fair Municipal Finance Act. I would like, for the record, any of those who may be listening to understand that what this means to your property tax bill is quite simple: This bill along with all other government policy of the day will serve to increase your property tax bill. It is quite simple.

The people at home, whether you live in south Windsor, whether you live in La Salle, whether you live on Moy Avenue or Langlois Avenue or Oxley Avenue, the reality is that this government policy serves only to dump more costs on to municipalities and towns right across Ontario which will result in increased property taxes.

Today I'd like to focus specifically on the areas of health, social housing and the environment. I'd like to talk briefly about this reserve fund as well, and talk briefly too about exactly the difference between the income tax and property tax. I understand there are certain members, and particularly the member from Brampton, who are getting their knickers in a knot over this discussion that essentially will raise property taxes in Ontario.

If I may begin just in the area of health, let us make no mistake that when the Who Does What committee got to work, what they chose to do was discuss what was the most appropriate place to fund, to pay for: drop the costs on to cities and towns across Ontario or pay for through the reserves of the provincial government. What the Who Does What came up with was significantly different from what this government chose to do.

We had a discussion in this House and our Liberal colleagues asked those questions. As an example: the dumping of ambulance costs on to cities and towns. What does this mean for the residents of Windsor, for the residents of La Salle? Those municipal politicians will make a decision. They will cut the service regarding ambulance or they will pay for the service regarding ambulance. Those are the only two choices. I can tell you that the people in Windsor and La Salle are very responsible. We recognize we must have an ambulance service in Windsor and La Salle, so naturally they'll be paying for it. That is a cost that was not borne by Windsor and La Salle in the past. It is now going to be borne by my cities and towns. The same is true right across the province.

In total we're looking at $300 million. If we look at those specifically: La Salle ambulance service, $479,962; in Leamington, my colleague Bruce Crozier tells me Leamington Sun Parlor emergency service, $2.9 million. The numbers are staggering. All this means that the good people of Leamington, their elected officials, will have two choices. They will pay and have to find that money somewhere and they only have very few places to do that -- they'll either charge user fees and through privatization they may choose to do that or they'll increase the property tax to find the revenue to pay for the ambulance service -- or they won't have ambulance service, and that in my view will not be an option, so now we're down to just two.

We increase the property tax base in all our communities across the province to pay for ambulance service -- even if we privatize, the municipalities, towns, cities are still paying for that -- or perhaps they're going to charge new user fees on to the ambulance users, those who may actually get to use an ambulance.

We had an interesting discussion with people from Windsor who are paramedics, who are active in working for the ambulance service, and they said this is an example of what they do in the United States: Before the patient jumps on board in the back of the ambulance, they have the credit card swipe right near the door, so as you're launched into the ambulance you swipe the credit card on your way in, or you get an invoice.

Depending on whether you need Band-Aids or bandages when you're in the back of the ambulance, depending on if you need a splint for something or other, you're charged according to all the goods you must use.


So here's the case, I guess. Will people who are sick, who are in need of help, who may or may not have the financial resources available for the service say, "Don't give me the arm splint; I haven't got the money to pay for it"? Will the cities and towns say: "You can't give out too many. We've got to start rationing the supplies because we're only prepared to pay X amount for our ambulance service"?


Mrs Pupatello: That is exactly the point. If we look at what's happened in other communities, here's an article from St Catharines: "Ambulance Merger with US Giant. Port Colborne Included in Deal with Seven Services." This is true. This is a story dated just last week: "A giant US ambulance service is moving into Ontario by forming a new company with seven privately run services already here."

Interestingly enough, this very same company from the United States also provides fire services and it certainly leads us to believe in the heat of Bill 84, which is still upon us. What exactly is in the store for Ontarians when it comes to fire services? What is the Harris government's intent with our firefighters in Ontario? I can tell you the Windsor firefighters are gravely concerned. This is the perfect example of an Americanization of services that the people expect to be at a certain level, and it is usually services that should not be based on people's ability to pay, in particular in the area of health.

The area of public health is something else that's being dumped on to municipalities. For those of us in Windsor who are familiar with our public health institutions, we use them readily. We use them in our school programs. We have the public health nurses who go into classrooms. They talk about all kinds of hygiene issues, general health issues with kids. These are the kinds of services now where the city councillors of Windsor and the balance of the politicians in Essex county will say: "Is this really necessary? Should we have it?"

This is part of preventive health care. Is that not what the Minister of Health said was going to be his priority? It seems to me both the one who resigned and the one we have today said that preventive health care is a priority with this government, and yet at the very first opportunity they have, they dump the cost of public health on to cities and towns across Ontario. What that means is cities and towns depending on the ability to pay from their property tax base will determine what level of public health that unit will have in their community.

If that truly is what this government had in mind, this government should have said so on June 8, 1995. This is not what the public in Ontario expected, that an element of health service as critical as preventive health care through our public health units would be dumped on to cities and towns and that its availability is going to be based on cities' and towns' and the property taxpayers' ability to pay for it.

Today in the House my colleague from Windsor-Walkerville spoke about the social housing that is being dumped on cities and towns across Ontario. The numbers run into the millions. We have to be especially concerned about how this affects the seniors in our community. I would think the Harris government took some time to show to the general public how genuinely interested they were in the wellbeing of seniors in Ontario. Why, they even appointed a cabinet minister to be in charge of seniors. Did this minister at the cabinet table say at any point in time, "Do not dump services that are required for seniors on to the local taxpayer"? Did he at any time come to the defence of seniors? Evidently not. Subsequent to this dumping measure, nothing has happened to change that.

Our colleague today came up with some very specific numbers. He talked about the numbers being downloaded right across Ontario. In Essex county, of 8,570 units that have been dumped on to Essex county at a cost of $29 million, who will be paying that cost? The cities and towns of Essex county. Where will they get the money? They're going to get it from the property taxpayer, the very same people who've been guaranteed this wonderful income tax reduction will now be paying through the nose on their property taxes. These are the same people.

For the people at home, the significant difference in who pays and how you pay -- property taxes are a significant regressive form of taxation. It doesn't matter what you earn, it doesn't matter what you can afford to pay, you must pay that level of property tax. That is significantly different from a provincial government getting income from people's ability to pay when it's linked to their income, and that's why income tax is a far more fair system of taxation. Those who make more pay more. Those who make less pay less. There was a very good reason why all those decades ago this system was brought into place.

For this government, of all governments, where Harris stood up and said, "I am the Taxfighter," I say it is sleight of hand today to be discussing the amount of dumping on cities and towns that will result in increased property taxes, increased property taxes to be paid by the same people the Taxfighter was supposed to be helping. The Taxfighter hasn't helped anyone here. Moreover, he's helped far fewer people by punishing those with that tax level that's going to go up. The tax level is not linked to what they make in a year. It is strictly linked to the value of their property. It is the most regressive form of taxation, and that, in my view, is going to be very, very difficult for people to cope with, in particular for those who are on fixed incomes.

There are individuals in my own community who now are retirees, who are on a fixed income, whether that be pension or whatever. They've spent all their working lives paying for their homes. They are now enjoying their retirement. They have been able to estimate over the next 10 or 20 years exactly what --


Mrs Pupatello: If the member from Brampton has some comments to make about my family, I suggest he put that on the record so we can debate that in due course.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): You made personal comments about me. That didn't bother you then.

Mrs Pupatello: If we're going to discuss family, I suggest the member from Brampton put that on record, if we're going to talk about whose family pays for what. I suggest that he mind his manners.

Mr Spina: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: She makes personal attacks on the member for Brampton North in the House, but unfortunately she doesn't like the comments when they come back to her. I wish the Speaker would please bring that into account whenever she opens her mouth.

The Acting Speaker: I'd like to address the member for Brampton North. That is not a point of order and I would ask that in the future you graduate your comments at the end. If you had the opportunity of thinking, I would hope that you wouldn't use those kinds of words again.

The Chair recognizes the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It's unfortunate that you have to do the job of keeping these little children in line every once in a while.

Let me talk specifically about other community --


The Acting Speaker: Order. I asked the other member to think about his comments and I would ask that you do the same thing. I would ask you to keep it in a complimentary manner if you can, and at least debate in terms of the bill that's in front of us.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Specifically, we have watched the sleight of hand by this Conservative government, and evidently supported by members, regardless of the region they happen to come from. I'd be very curious to know how concerned the members would be, say the member from Brampton: What is the dumping going on for the city of Brampton? Could it be millions of dollars in long-term health care? Could it be unit after unit of social housing costs dumped on to the city of Brampton? I find it passing strange that the member from this particular riding would choose to make a personal attack instead of worrying about his own backyard and exactly where those property taxes are going to be by the time this policy is implemented.

I go further. If we review the area of Niagara, in Niagara we have 8,390 units of social housing being dumped on to the municipalities in Niagara at a total cost of almost $42 million. Do I hear the members from those regions standing up and saying to Harris, "Don't dump these costs on to my property taxpayers"? I don't hear that anywhere. I don't hear these people, who rode in on the coattails of Mike the Taxfighter, standing up and worrying about property taxes in their own backyard.


I find it reprehensible as well that we would hear time and time again this "not one cent from health care." That is not acceptable. In my own riding on Thursday evening we had a town hall of people truly concerned about health care. We packed them in. They came in by the hundreds. Half of this auditorium was standing because we simply didn't have the room to put them. We had microphones in place so people could speak. They spoke from the microphone and they talked about their own family members who have passed away and they talked about the experiences of their own family members in our local hospitals and how they had to be present 24 hours a day because the nursing complement simply wasn't there to take care of them.

These are stories that our members from Kitchener can easily relate to. These are stories that our member from Brampton could easily relate to, because they are hearing the same story. The difference is that depending on your political stripe, you are prepared to stand up for people who deserve good health care or not. You're prepared to stand up for those who deserve to have health care not based on whether they can afford it or not, but based on where they live, based on what property tax they can afford to pay. This is not acceptable.

Had the Conservative candidates stood up in the last election and said, "We're going to cut health care. We're going to cut your hospital services. We're not going to reinvest in your community services," and been elected, we wouldn't have anything to complain about, because the people would have known what was coming. The reality is there was a sleight of hand at work. You said one thing and you're doing another. You said you would reinvest in community health services and you've done nothing about it.

Did Mike Harris go to any libraries around and say, "We're going to shut your libraries down; moreover, we're going to introduce new user fees"? Mike Harris said no new user fees, again an example of sleight of hand. What he came up with instead was a "copayment" plan. Exactly which pocket does the copayment plan come out of that the user fee doesn't come out of? There are only a couple of places you can get money from, and most of the time it's the same taxpayer. It's the same taxpayer whether you write your cheque to pay your property tax or whether you pay the user fee as you hobble up into the back of the ambulance. That's the point here.

I would suggest that those members who dare to stand today or bicker or mock at anything I have to say about the health system listen very carefully. The people in Windsor-Essex are experiencing something today that is simply a year or two ahead of the balance of the province. We have very bad public policy in the area of health. This is very clear. It is very clear that the government has chosen to remove $1.3 billion from hospitals, $1.3 billion worth of hospital cuts that we can hardly afford, in particular in Windsor-Essex, which did everything the right way. They decided among themselves that they are going to merge and amalgamate and do all the right things to better manage --

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. I've been listening attentively and I was wondering if the member from Windsor would bring her comments within the terms of the bill, Bill 106.

Mr Michael Brown: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think the comments were more relevant than anything made over there, but there should be a quorum here to hear the speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Would the table check for a quorum, please.

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): A quorum is present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Mr Speaker; I appreciate your comments as well. What could possibly be more relevant than the significant impact this dumping will have on the property tax base? While the government members want to stand up and say, "This is the difference between the MVA, the AVA, the who VA," the point is: "What is my property tax bill going to be? My property tax bill really is all that matters." I don't think the members who live in my community are all that concerned about what type of formula is used. The real relevant issue today that we cannot forget is that in this sleight of hand, while you wish to put forward Bill 106, you have already shoved down the throats of cities and towns across Ontario significant charges. The only place they will find the money is in their property tax base or in instituting user fees, the very thing that the Premier said he would never do, the biggest broken promise of this government, "No new user fees." To date we have counted 1,003 new user fees since June 8, 1995.

Mr Kormos: How many?

Mrs Pupatello: One thousand and three new user fees only in this last year and a half. Good Lord, what we still have in store for us until the next election.

I have this image of those of us requiring significant ambulance services leaping into the back of the ambulance and swiping the credit card on the way in, if they happen to have the credit card. I ask the Conservative members, are these the kinds of health services you told the people of Ontario they were going to have if they voted for a Conservative government? I don't think so. That, my friends, is a broken promise. Windsor is the perfect example of the biggest broken promise of this government: bad public policy in health care.

The dumping of long-term health care on to municipalities is one of the most destructive things that this government could do, to imagine that cities and towns can of their own effort, based solely on their property tax base, determine the needs over the next 10 years of what their housing costs will be or what their nursing home costs will be. All of us know; we all read the right books. Dr Foot, in Boom, Bust and Echo, talks about where our generations are going to be in 10 years' time.

At the same time our Minister of Education stood up and said, "We're taking away the most risky cost to the taxpayer; we're removing the education tax." That, my friends, was the most stable of them, and what you've given them in return is the most risky. It's the one you can't control because, much as you believe, you cannot control the economy, you don't know what welfare costs are going to be in five years or three years, and you have dumped that cost on to municipalities. Every one of consequence in this debate has told you it's wrong.

Mr Michael Brown: What did Crombie say?

Mrs Pupatello: David Crombie said something like, "It's ridiculous." I watched Terry Mundell walk out of his meeting with the ministers the other day, head down, shaking his head. I watched his disappointment that he couldn't get the ministers to say, "I'm going to reverse this policy decision," because he knew it was a disaster. He walked out of that meeting, having gotten absolutely nowhere with the Premier, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Housing or the Minister of Community and Social Services, knowing full well that this is the worst thing you could give to property taxpayers across Ontario, absolutely the worst thing.

I'd love to know who is advising the Minister of Health in particular on this bad public policy of dumping costs on to cities and towns across Ontario. Where ambulance services are concerned, long-term care is concerned, public health institutions are concerned, you've just dumped all the services that are going to be critical over the next 10 years to an aging population in Ontario. It is simply bad public policy.

We're going to talk to the people in Markham later today and we're going to wonder how the people in Markham are going to fare. People in Markham have a relatively low welfare base. Ah, but don't uncross your fingers too quickly. They're still in negotiations about how they're going to pool or repool the cost of Metro's welfare. The people in Markham could very well end up paying for Metro's social welfare; and the people of Oakville. Even though they were prepared to have the minister come down for this grand announcement of the dumping of those costs on Oakville, depending on the outcome of how they choose to pool these costs, Oakville's going to be dragged in there kicking and screaming and picking up a significant portion of those costs. That is the reality.

Let's be very clear: Initially it was going to be a revenue-neutral deal. When the Who Does What subcommittee panel sat down initially -- and these people spent hours and hours just going through much of this to determine what was the right thing to do -- they were told that fiscal neutrality was not to be a part of it but that they were to do the right thing. When they chose to do the right thing, the right thing was never to dump welfare costs on to cities and towns.


When he spoke to us, our county of Essex administrator, John Curran, said that it seemed to be the most futile effort he ever went through. He spent hours of his time traipsing back and forth to sit on this committee to be part of something that would actually do some good, and instead he wasn't listened to at all. They completely ignored the Crombie report; they completely ignored John Curran, who has such a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area.

What he said in the end I found quite interesting: "What has recently been described by Premier Harris in one of his television spots as a complex and dilapidated wiring system can now be depicted as a bowl of spaghetti." That from Mr Curran from Essex county. Who would know better than this gentleman what life has been like and what he perceives it's going to be like because of the significant dumping on cities and towns across Ontario?

They've stood up and said: "But that's okay. Even if we're a little bit in the negative, we've got a special reserve fund for you." I'd like to ask the member from Scarborough, Mr Gilchrist, exactly how many times over they're going to keep spending and respending this reserve fund. I don't know how many billions are in there, but apparently he's told the people of Metro, "Don't worry; $800 million for your social housing. That's okay, we've got the fund." So what do you tell the people in Ottawa? Can you say, "It's okay, we've got the fund"? Listen, by the time you finish telling everybody that you've got this special fund because they've ended up in the negative, you've spent that fund five times. The reality is, you're not going to be able to use that fund for everyone who needs it.

One of the ministers chooses to shake her head. These are the facts. You can only add up numbers to come up with a certain result. The ministers have had to recant of late because now they admit the cities and towns are going to be in a negative position: "Oops, we forgot to mention that when we announced the dumping. We said it was going to be equal, but now it's a little bit in the negative. But that's okay because we've got this special fund."

I want to know how many towns and cities now are going to be forced to come cap in hand, head down, begging for money from the provincial coffers. Will the receipt of the money from those funds be determined by who asks, what connections to the Conservative Party, what kind of political bias? Is partisanship going to be party to who gets the money from the funds? I cannot think of anything more inappropriate than cities and towns coming begging to the Conservative government only through their links through the Conservative Party.

I'm certainly not off the mark yet, because if we have our television ads and the way the television ads were given away, we have more pork barrelling going on than we've seen in history. They're back, the Conservatives of old are back. Despite all the cuts to places like Windsor and our health care system, we have seen this government spend more money on television ads alone, $2.3 million. This, friends, is more than the Conservative government spend during its election campaign.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): How about the 1980s?

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Northumberland.

Mrs Pupatello: I've got to say, $2.3 million that could very well have gone into ambulance services, hospital services. How dare this government stand and say it's going to close the emergency centre at Windsor Western when it has not brought more funds in to build up the other two sites? They'll just shut it down with no service in our community to pick it up. That is not acceptable and is just an example of bad public policy in the area of health.

The minister has heard us repeatedly tell him that there are errors that have been made in their policy. You cannot holus-bolus shut down services in hospitals before those services are available through some other mechanism in the community. That has not happened. The Sandwich health centre is now looking for $100,000 to cut because it's been told that its budget has been slashed -- this in the same community where we're losing our emergency services.

On the day of our town hall the minister announced the designation as an underserviced area. Well, thank you so much, Minister. Thank you for moving the story of our town hall from A-5 to A-1 so that everyone can know that underserviced designation does not help us this week, does not help us next year. What we need is to stop the base funding cuts to our hospitals, to reinvest that money in community services in our community. That was the basis. We bargained in good faith when we struck that deal with the province and we have not been dealt with in good faith by this government.

One message that I might leave with the caucus members of the Conservative Party: Please look in your backyard to see a significant lack, a significant error in policy concerning the health system. None of us can stand for it any longer.

The Deputy Speaker: I'd just like to remind the members that we're debating Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government. That's what we're supposed to debate. Questions or comments?

Mr Kormos: As I was listening to the member for Windsor-Sandwich speak and hearing the points of order, points of privilege, points of anything they can grasp at, the problem is that the government members still don't understand that no single piece of legislation stands by itself. Here we are with Bill 106, and as I indicated to you last week, these are all pieces of a puzzle. You can't talk about Bill 106 in isolation from the devastation that this government is wreaking upon communities across this province. It's part and parcel of this agenda.

I suspect that the government members won't be happy, they won't think that any of us are speaking to the topic, unless we're reading the same flaccid, canned, effete, pathetic speeches that they read, trying to prop up nasty, vicious legislative efforts. Well, news, folks: I'm not going to read your crummy little speeches, because I don't believe them, the public doesn't believe them and I know that more and more of you don't believe them.

I know that among government backbenchers there are growing cells of discontent; there are. There are people who when they go back to their communities are getting a message right in the viscera from constituents who have had it up to here and aren't going to take any more. I simply wish for those backbenchers the courage to stand up and speak out. Yes, speak out against Mike Harris and his policies. You'll be rewarded for it by your constituents, because as I look across the floor and as I reflect upon the crisis that this government is creating here in Toronto with its megacity proposal and on what the inevitable reaction of taxpayers and voters is going to be, I see a whole lot of Tory members --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. I listened attentively to your questions and comments. It had nothing to do with Bill 106, nothing at all. We must debate on the bill. That is the order of the day.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): I join the member for Windsor-Sandwich in the abject disgust that she must feel towards the federal Liberal government that has downloaded on this province $3.7 billion in transfer payments, which has affected our education and dramatically impacted upon our health care. I share that. But I want to return to the issue before us, Speaker, as you've asked us to do, the issue of assessment for --

Mrs Pupatello: You're desperate.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Windsor-Sandwich, you had your turn. Now it's your turn to listen attentively to what is being said by the member for High Park-Swansea.

Mr Shea: I'd like to remind us of an editorial that was in the Toronto Star on January 17:

"The problems are well documented. Provincial data for 1992 shows, for example, many of Toronto's rich and famous living in homes not assessed for decades and taxed a low rate while young, struggling families are paying for higher taxes."

I remind us that is what this government is trying to do: to redress the imbalance that is currently in the assessment system. I'm ashamed of some of my colleagues who are not supporting the government in this effort.

The member for York Mills understands the issue only too well. He has pointed out the fact that the assessment tax flow leaving Metro has been damaging this municipality for years, at the rate of $100 million per year. I remind you, they want to see Metropolitan Toronto damaged.


But the greatest sadness of their position to this point deals with tenants, because this bill in fact redresses a terrible injustice as visited upon tenants. Right now they are assessed four to five times more than private homeowners. The Liberals and the NDP do not want to see that redressed, and I say, sir, shame on them for trying to delay this.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired. The member for Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Gerretsen: Earlier in the debate today I was chastised by the chief government whip to the effect that I didn't trust municipal politicians. I do trust municipal politicians. But I think it should be understood by the people of the province of Ontario that the assessment function should not take place at the same level that actually sets the taxes as well.

But it goes even further than that. I have in my hand a request for tender document issued by the government of Ontario in which it is asking suppliers, basically local real estate firms, to come up with quotes in order to do the assessment in specific geographic areas across the province. I can tell you that this document contains a list of about 20 or 30 pages of municipalities where the assessment is going to be done privately by real estate firms in those particular areas. You tell me, is that fair? Should the assessment people who are still working for the assessment department for the province of Ontario not be doing this job?

You talk about the kind of system we're going to get. In effect, we're going to have different standards and different people doing the assessments in different areas rather than out of one uniform government department which has done it for the last 25 years.

Again I go back to the way it was before 1970, where in effect the assessment function was carried on by each local municipality, and the mishmash of assessment information and the assessed values we had in this province then. I say to the government once again, I call upon you to take a serious look at that. I know you're trying to save $120 million, which you're downloading on municipalities, but it's simply not correct to have the assessment done by the same level that in effect sets the tax rate as well.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I also want to say, as the member for Windsor-Sandwich said this afternoon, that you cannot look at this piece of legislation alone, singly, standing by itself; it fits into a larger agenda that this government is, each day as we come here, unfolding in front of us. On the surface, it's actually rather simple, but once you get into it, it's a real quagmire of quicksand that sucks in all of those things that we as a community of people collectively have decided we can afford better together than we can individually.

In this instance, we have a bill that's going to, yes, perhaps be helpful in terms of equalizing a system or making it the same across the province. But you can't look at that without looking at the larger system within which it fits, and that's the downloading of the cost of services on municipalities by this government by way of all the bills we're dealing with here in this extraordinary session of the House that has come back since Christmas and hopes to be done before the spring sets in.

What this government is about is the diminishing of the role of government. It's about cutting the cost of government at the expense of the services all of us have come to rely on as workers, as seniors, as women and children in this province, for education, for health care and for social assistance, and the turning over of some of that to the private sector, because there's a feeling here that they can deliver it in a more cost-effective fashion.

They're rejigging the way we collect taxes, who collects taxes, so that in fact at the end of the day this puzzle all fits together and we all end up losers.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Windsor-Sandwich, you have two minutes to reply.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you so much, to the members who chose to respond to my statements of the last half-hour. I have to tell you it is quite alarming to watch the disintegration of the health system in Windsor and Essex county. That is certainly my priority and the priority of any of us who come from our area.

I'll tell you that in the discussion of Bill 106 today on taxes, it is clear that this, along with all the other policies being put forward by this government, will result in increased property taxes.

Make no mistake that this government has selected to dump, and if we view the kinds of services they've dumped on cities and towns and on property taxpayers across Ontario, they are most significantly linked to health. I thought health was a priority with this ministry, with this government. Mike Harris said specifically, "Not one cent."

What this Premier, Mike Harris, and this Minister of Health have selected to do is to dump more and more costs on to residential taxpayers, on property taxpayers, and property tax is the most regressive form of taxation that exists. It is absolutely wrongheaded. I am very concerned about the direction that the policymakers are having in the Ministry of Health. It will be absolutely devastating to us in Windsor-Essex county. Moreover, it must be reversed. Funding has to stop being cut. Funding must go into community services, not dumping those services on to the taxpayers across Ontario.

To those who have selected to make more of a personal attack, may I tell you that thankfully not only do I have jackets but also have shoulder pads. I just accept all those comments from any member, regardless of the type, and certainly when I leave the House, I'm still smiling. For those who chose to focus, as the member for Welland-Thorold --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Time has expired. I just want to remind the members again that we're debating Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government. Further debate?

Mr Kormos: Speaker, before I get into the content, I understand what you're saying. We're debating Bill 106. I'm going to debate Bill 106 for 30 minutes because that's the maximum amount of time allotted to me. But I'm going to refer you -- and I have every respect for you, Speaker, and I don't want anything to happen over the next 30 minutes that's going to affect that -- to the title of the bill: An Act respecting --

The Deputy Speaker: I'd just like to inform you that the Speaker doesn't react to comments. I'll follow the procedures and if you don't debate Bill 106, I will remind you very, very straightforwardly.

Mr Kormos: Thank you, Speaker. That's why I'm addressing my comments to the Speaker. So here we are, we've got Bill 106, An Act, as you pointed out -- look, I didn't make up the title to the act. These guys did. The title of an act, as you well know, sir, is part and parcel of the body of the act, and the act can be read in the context of the title, and let's say as well the subtitles. We're talking about Bill 106, but it's An Act respecting the financing of local government. What does the financing of local government mean? It means property taxes, and that's what we're going to talk about for 30 minutes.

We go to the final section of the bill and this is where it gets a little weird, because here's another one of those oxymoronic short titles that the Tories are so fond of. The short title of the act is the Fair Municipal Finance Act. That's where we start to get into some real trouble about the contradiction between that so-called short title and what the act is going to do.

Here I am, as I mentioned to you earlier today during members' statements, just up from Welland-Thorold, and who was I with? It's not inappropriate that we're talking about property taxes, An Act respecting the financing of local government, because I was with a bunch of property taxpayers this morning down at the Lions Club, just like there was a group of property taxpayers holding a press conference and meeting in Thorold and in St Catharines.

The member for St Catharines, Jim Bradley, tells me he was up with those people from SSTOP. I told you about that earlier. It's an acronym: Seniors and Supporters Together Opposing Privatization. These people are taxpayers. Let me tell you what they know about property taxes. The folks down in regional Niagara know that this government's downloading on to property taxpayers is going to create new property taxes to the tune of at least $73 million for the taxpayers of regional Niagara. Bill 106 is, I suppose, all about how municipal governments are going to have access to that additional $73 million in property taxes, isn't it?


The folks from Seniors and Supporters Together Opposing Privatization were responding to a report that regional Niagara received indicating that, in response to the massive downloading of taxes by this government on to property taxpayers in Niagara, Welland-Thorold, St Catharines, Niagara Falls, Lincoln, Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Niagara-on-the-Lake, every single community in that region, one of the options, and it didn't recommend it but it says, that the region has in response to this downloading by the government is to shut down, privatize, sell off three of our six senior citizens' homes, when we already have lineups and waiting lists of seniors -- people who've worked hard all their lives, our folks, our grandfolks, our spouses as we get older, still on waiting lists to get into a seniors' home and yet the region is being forced to consider the selloff, the privatization of 50% of its seniors' housing stock. Property taxpayers are concerned about that.

Market value assessment, I should tell you -- and that's what this bill is all about. Let's not make a mistake about that. I can't for the life of me see how some of these Tory backbenchers persist in reading the little blurbs given to them out of their whip's office or their House leader's office or wherever that stuff comes from, somehow suggesting that the --

Mr Michael Brown: The whiz kids.

Mr Kormos: Is it coming from the backroom boys, the Tom Longs and the rest of the Longites? The brain trust? Perhaps another oxymoron.

Somehow little slips of paper are telling the Tory -- because there are Tory backbenchers here who are familiar with market value assessment. Some of them have had involvement in municipal politics. They know MVA when they see it and they know that what was referred to as actual value assessment in the Golden report and in the BC model is a far cry from what's contained in Bill 106. This is market value assessment, plain and simple, undeniable. It's there; it's in black and while. To call it anything else is to engage in a deception.

Why I want to stress that is, you see, where I come from, people know all about market value assessment. They heard all the arguments about fairness. You tell that to the folks on Dover Road or Dunkirk Road or Calais Street or Simpson Avenue down in ward 3 in Welland, seniors, retirees living in their modest wartime houses that, oh, they fixed up during the years. There are folks there, families who have lived in those homes consistently throughout, for the last 50 years. When they got those little houses as returning veterans with their spouses they had coal heaters in them, wood floors, no cupboards, a little coal box in the back and a door cut through the back. The folks who live in those houses know exactly what I'm talking about: little two-bedroom wartime houses.

Others who haven't lived in them for 50 years bought them knowing they were modest. We've got houses down there, some of them, 650 to 850 square feet, but whole families were raised in them. These are decent homes and these are decent people who live in them and many, if not most of them, now retirees on very modest fixed incomes.

Folks who worked lifetimes over at the Wabasso cotton mill or some of the other non-union shops around Welland tended not to be high wage earners, but no less hardworking, I tell you, no less committed to raising their families and seeing their kids do a little better than they were.

They know all about market value assessment because they've endured it. They've lived through it. They saw their property taxes increase by 50% to 100% when they were whacked with the fairness of market value assessment, and now they have to consider whether they're going to be able to live out their retirement years even in those modest wartime homes, because they had budgeted. When they acquired a piece of property, a home to live in as a retirement home, a little two-bedroom, 650-square-foot wartime home, they calculated what the taxes were. They relied on that as a way of budgeting what they were going to be able to sustain by way of living accommodations throughout their retirement years. But I tell you, they were beaten over the head with market value assessment.

Were there winners? No two ways about it: There were winners. There are winners at that casino down in Niagara too, but I tell you, the majority of people walking out the exit doors of Casino Niagara are losers, not winners, and the majority of homeowners confronted by market value assessment similarly are going to be losers, not winners. What was, I suppose for me particularly, downright embarrassing is that market value assessment on my old house on Bald Street, along with a whole lot of my neighbours, I concede it, to my embarrassment actually generated -- and again, when I talk fairness, what's fair? I tell you, and there's no secret, my taxes dropped by $100. Here I am, not as young as from time to time I wish I was, earning, I concede, far more money than most working people. My taxes drop, yet an old couple, seniors in their 70s or 80s, are forced to pay taxes that are 50% to double of what they were from market value assessment. That's not fairness at the end of the day, is it, Speaker? It's not fairness at all. It's a vicious attack on the ability of lower-income and fixed-income homeowners to own and maintain their homes.

I've got to tell you, I used to be a member of city council in Welland back in 1985. That's when I first became familiar with market value assessment, because there were some of those people there who were hell-bent on seeing market value assessment imposed. I was as adamant. I dug my heels in, no two ways about it. So did a whole lot of other councillors. But I dug my heels in, and no way was I going to concede anything about fairness in the market value assessment process. The numbers may, at the end of the day, generate a perception of fairness, but fairness is what you end up with when all the accounting and all is said and done.

When I see old folks and when I see fixed-income people risking losing what are almost inevitably relatively modest homes -- not that they're not nice homes; of course they're nice homes, but Robin Leach isn't inclined to come visit them, if you know what I mean. They are their homes. When I see the home ownership of seniors and old folks and retirees and people on fixed incomes being jeopardized, you can call it fair all you want, but it's the most unjust of policies that could ever be imposed, I tell you that.

You see, down in Niagara there's going to be a real property tax crisis. We all know that, because this government has downloaded $73 million, and that's just the count to date. We've had increases in our welfare rolls, as unemployment has risen under this government's regime. We've seen unemployment go up. Youth unemployment is double what it is for their parents. As we see those levels of unemployment rise and more families and folks being forced to rely on an already punitive welfare system and when we understand that this government has downloaded the cost of funding general welfare assistance on to municipalities, we're going to see property taxes increase even higher and higher and higher, all the more so in communities that have the highest levels of unemployment and the least ability to sustain those higher property taxes.

There's strange stuff going on. Let me tell you, we spoke to the Minister of Community and Social Services today about the deal that she and the government struck with this American consulting firm to revise, revamp the welfare system. I scratch my head. Here the minister was, as smug as anybody could be about having all the answers. Now all of a sudden she's going to line the pockets of some US operation with millions and millions of dollars of Ontario taxpayers' money to finish off -- I called it the culling of the welfare rolls.


Again I suggested, perhaps unfairly -- maybe it was unfair; I really don't think so at the end of the day, but some might think it was unfair -- that maybe she had lost her passion for the bloodletting, that the sounds and smell of the abattoir had finally overcome her so she was prepared to start contracting some of the dirty work out, because that's what Andersen is all about. It's all about the completion of the culling. It's all about completing this attack on the poor instead of declaring a war on poverty. It's all about punishing the poor for being unemployed and jobless and their children for being the children of families who are going to be impacted oh so acutely by Bill 106.

It's property taxes that at the end of the day are going to pay the tab that Andersen's going to come up with, isn't it? Of course, at the end of the day, that's where we've seen the downloading take place for revenue generation, and it's property taxes and property taxpayers who are going to pick up the tab.

But my question -- because I'm going to go into the business of property assessors, tax assessors, and the RFP that just went out for contracting out. That's why I bring up Andersen. This government likes doing business with American corporations and American operations. It doesn't like giving jobs to Ontarians. It doesn't. Look at the history. Minister of Transportation: Who does the Ministry of Transportation hire to do the line painting, a significant contract, on the new expanded stretches of the Queen Elizabeth Way, the QEW, down in Niagara? Does it hire Ontarians who want and need the work? No, it hires an American operation with American workers.

I'm getting to the point about the RFP for property tax assessors. When the Ministry of Transportation develops its scheme to put up glitzy ad signs, it's going to rent out -- it's the Burma Shave syndrome. Who does it hire? Who does it contract with to fabricate these signs? An American firm, American workers making profits for Americans in the United States with property tax dollars, the very sorts of things that Bill 106 is designed to accommodate.

And now where does the Ministry of Community and Social Services go for expertise? We're going to see that from the Minister of Finance as well once Bill 106 is passed. Doesn't this government have any faith in expertise here in Ontario? It doesn't trust Ontario workers, or maybe it just plain doesn't like them. I think it's the latter. It's not that this government distrusts Ontario workers.

Mr Turnbull: What about Casino Windsor? Who got the contract for that?

The Deputy Speaker: The member for York Mills.

Mr Kormos: You see, you do that, Speaker, and all that does is let him point to the Hansard to say, see, he was sitting here all afternoon.

Here we've got a Minister of Community and Social Services who clearly just plain doesn't like Ontario workers.

The Deputy Speaker: I'm trying to warn you, silent signs to bring you back to Bill 106. You don't seem to get the message. It's Bill 106.

Mr Kormos: Thank you, Speaker. The RFP, I'm told, has already gone out for property tax assessors. What this government's looking to do -- and it's very peculiar because maybe we'd better warn the municipalities now that they've got to pick up the tab for assessment as well. That was traditionally a provincial responsibility, and there were very good reasons for it. One was because the assessment job is a very sensitive and delicate one; one was to create some arm's length between the assessment process and the municipalities themselves so that there would be something as akin to fairness as this type of property tax system could ever generate.

But this government is going to put property tax assessors on the payroll of municipalities so that property tax assessors will become all that much more susceptible to, oh, the nudge, the wink and the nod of political forces in municipalities.

At the same time, here I am in the House. One wonders whether these debates have any impact at all. One wonders. Can I tell you this, Speaker? I got a letter from a couple of folks here in Toronto. They sent me a copy of the letter they wrote to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. It was a very short letter, scathing. I'll read the whole thing; it's not long.

The Deputy Speaker: As long as it is related to Bill 106.

Mr Kormos: To Bill 106 and the process, because this relates directly to megacity, and Bill 106 and megacity are intertwined as well. You know that, Speaker, I know you do.

Here's a letter of November 27, 1996, that these folks wrote to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. The letter says "John Hastings." It says: "With due consideration of all written and verbal arguments for and against the proposed amalgamation concerning Metropolitan Toronto, we, the undersigned, strongly oppose any such amalgamation. The present Conservative government does not deserve any benefit of the doubt."

Pretty straightforward for me, pretty unequivocal, as they say down in Welland-Thorold. It doesn't leave any doubt in your mind where these folks stand. Why aren't they being listened to? They sent me a copy of the letter they received from the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, a Tory backbencher: "Dear Mr and Mrs.... Thank you for your letter of support for our government's Bill 103." What was the use? What goes on? I told these people: "Do you know what's going to happen? You're going to end up on a Tory fund-raising list soon."

Clearly the Tory backbenchers aren't reading their mail. Some psychologists might call it cognitive dissonance. Others might call it plain stupidity. Others might call it arrogance and presumptuousness. "Thank you for your letter of support for our government's Bill 103." Please. It's the boilerplate stuff. It's the stuff that comes out of the brain trust. They sit up late at night earning probably far less money than they deserve or far less money than they would receive if they belonged to a collective bargaining unit. They sit up late at night writing this stuff and they tell their members, "Don't worry about what constituents are saying, just send them this letter back and cite it as presented to you." Needless to say, I intend to make reference to this correspondence as often as I'm permitted to with the indulgence of the Speaker, as we debate Bill 106. It's all about property taxation.

I'll tell you something that's important to the folks down in Welland-Thorold and, I'm confident, to the people in small towns across Ontario: Bill 106 eradicates the business occupancy tax. Let's understand exactly what that does and let's understand all the more so what that does in small communities like Welland that have been struggling to restore some people to their downtown, because their downtowns have been savaged by the malls around the perimeter of the city.

The business occupancy tax varied depending on the type of business that was occupying a particular property. In the case of, for instance, banks -- big, profitable, corporate banks that have been gouging their customers for years and years now and literally stealing money from their customers when the opportunities arise, and I know they will.

I told you a couple of months ago, maybe six months ago, about how the TD Bank has stolen money from its customers, emptied out bank accounts, drained every last nickel and dime out of them. I warned people then, if they had an account at the Toronto-Dominion Bank, to go there -- run, don't walk -- to your nearest TD Bank, take the money out and put it in a credit union where it belongs and where you can have confidence your money will be taken care of.

Banks -- profitable. We're talking about record profits for the second year in a row, multibillion-dollar profits, and no small part of it gleaned from the retirees and the pensioners and the working poor of Welland and Thorold and every other community like that across the province.


The banks have been paying a business occupancy tax based on 75% of their assessment. Small businesses, which this government purports to -- well, this government knows diddly about small business. This government's idea of small business is the same as Catherine Swift's. Small business to this government is 100 non-union employees working for minimum wage. That's what this government thinks small business is. That's what Catherine Swift thinks small business is. They wouldn't know spit from Shinola when it came to small business, I tell you.

It's small businesses that are going to get the shaft, because just as banks were paying 75% of their assessment on business occupancy tax, real small business, small retail outlets, places like Elio's shoe store, the boot shop, the one over in downtown Thorold, family-run -- these people work hard and they also sell a darned good cowboy boot for a good price, I tell you. That's over on Front Street in Thorold, Elio's shoe stop -- shoe shop, which is your last stop for shoes, I suppose.

People like Elio's have been paying business occupancy tax based on 30% of their assessment; people like Dietrich's in Welland, over on Cross Street. Here's Dietrich and his family. They run a small clothing store, have stuck with downtown Welland, serve their customers well, have invested in downtown Welland even when at times it seemed like it was an uphill battle, but there's Dietrich hanging in.

You see, what's going to happen is that the municipality is still going to have to generate the same gross revenues that were generated in the course of business occupancy tax levy. So what's going to happen? We know what's going to happen. The overall property taxes for banks and similar large, profitable corporations are going to drop while the little guys, the Elio's shoe store down on Front Street in Thorold, the Dietrich's over on Cross Street in Welland, are going to end up paying more. There aren't the resources there to do it.

Why does this government pick on the little people to punish? Let me tell you about a young worker in London, one Darrin Davies. He just purchased his first home over on St Julien Street. He purchased a home, knowing what the taxes were. As a matter of fact he took advantage of low interest rates, hoping that things would work out, that he'd be able to pay off that home. If he was lucky, I suppose, he'd maintain his job, wouldn't be forced on to the unemployment rolls -- he knows there's a risk; with this government there sure is a risk -- forced on to the streets. He's hoping, I suppose, that now that he's bought a small home over on St Julien in London, he might even have the right to start a family. It's his right, isn't it?

But this government says no to young workers like Darrin Davies, says: "No, you can't bank on the future with the Tories in power. You can't depend upon us to create any stability or security such that you can embark on starting a family, because that house you think you bought may not even be yours in a year or two years' time when we jack up property taxes to the point where it's simply going to be impossible for you to maintain that modest home that you were prepared to invest in with the hope of starting a family." Where is the confidence level out there in this government?

Talk to the women and their kids who have been betrayed by the Attorney General and his bungling, his mismanagement, his incompetent fumbling of the family support plan. These women are property taxpayers too, whether they're tenants or whether they're struggling to keep a family home that they're about to lose because the Attorney General screwed up and refused to admit it.

The Attorney General persisted in standing in this House day after day and insisting there was nothing wrong with the FSP up in Downsview, that these were all just little glitches in the system. When he was confronted with the videotape, my God, his response was immediate. These women who are victims of the FSP are victims of Bill 106 as well. They're property taxpayers too. How many times is this government going to victimize them?

The Attorney General shows his total lack of interest and concern for women and their kids who need the small amounts of support that's owed them. The Minister of Finance persists in talking about actual value assessment when in fact he's delivering market value assessment, which has been the bane of oh so many property owners across Ontario to date. Because of their revocation of the business occupancy tax, this government is in effect levying new and higher taxes on bona fide, real small business people while it's giving tax relief to the big, profitable banks, to the TDs and the CIBCs and the Royal Banks etc.

This government has got RFPs out to contract out assessment. Again, maybe some of their American corporate friends can bid on that contract too. Maybe this government can bleed even more money out of the pockets of Ontario taxpayers and put it into the profit margins of big American corporations when it contracts out assessment to an American firm.

Folks in Welland know all about market value assessment, they know all about it. The seniors know about it, the working poor know about it, retirees know about it, young families know all about it. The last way any of them would describe it is as "fair," because fairness, as I say, has to be determined at the end of the day.

Speaker, you've been very generous and charitable with your attention, and I appreciate your concern about this issue and your focus on it while I made these brief comments. Thank you, sir.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Shea: I've been listening intently to the member. I am still struggling somewhat with the comments he made in one of his earlier interventions when he in fact failed to acknowledge that it was the government of the New Democratic Party that indeed got up to the altar to perform the marriage with market value assessment only to discover that there was an extraordinary hit upon Ontario Hydro, I think something to the tune of $60 million, that caused them simply to pull back for a moment.

The interventions from my Liberal colleagues, whom I always respect, also failed to acknowledge the fact that in terms of assessment reform, which everybody in this House recognizes the need for, they failed to finally consummate the market value assessment which the government of their day had determined it would commit to based upon the 1988 property values; that would in fact have brought Metropolitan Toronto financially to its knees.

What I'm concerned about is that in the debate no one in the opposition parties is addressing the fact that this revision brings a great deal of justice and hope to tenants in this province and particularly in Metropolitan Toronto, where in fact they are overtaxed four and five times what a householder is taxed, and they're not addressing that. They're not addressing the terrible outflow of assessment value from Metropolitan Toronto, which is truly turning that inner area into the hole of the doughnut. They're not addressing that $100-million haemorrhaging. They're not addressing the fact that this proposal in fact brings in a system which is fair and equitable. It gives a three-year average, it gives eight-year mitigation for seniors so that they are not hurt. It indeed in fact gives us assessment based upon current use, not upon the highest and best --

The Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired.

Mr Michael Brown: I want to speak to some of the things the member for Welland-Thorold was talking about, because I think some of those issues are straight from the heart. I was particularly struck as he talked about the folks in those 650- or 800-square-foot war-time homes, where they bought them, they fixed them up, they invested their lives in them and under market value assessment soon saw that it was very difficult to maintain those.

I'm interested in that because I have a letter on my desk in my office from a gentleman in Elliot Lake. Elliot Lake, as members would know, has been a huge success in attracting retirees and people on generally fixed incomes, not necessarily modest but fixed. The gentleman expresses the very real concern that he moved to Elliot Lake not just for all its amenities, as it has a large amount of amenities, but because the cost of living was extremely reasonable. He talks to me about all the dumping of services from the province to the municipal taxpayer, ie, him, and he's wondering whether he is going to be able to afford to live in this beautiful community over the long term.


When we talk about this issue we have to understand that it's not market value or actual value, it's the bottom line: "How much do I have to pay to live in my house?" That's what this is all about. The member for Welland-Thorold spoke to that eloquently. The government has to understand that there will be a real report card on this and that will be the bottom line of your property tax bill.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I want to commend my colleague from Welland-Thorold for the comments he made here this afternoon with respect to Bill 106, this bill that is entitled An Act respecting the financing of local government, which should just as well be titled "An Act to force seniors, young families, small businesses, people on fixed income to pay more property taxes," because at the end of the day, as you look through the changes that the government proposes and as you take into context the changes that the government proposes with its downloading of any number of services and the millions and millions of dollars of costs attached to that, to the municipalities, that is in effect the position that all of these people are going to find themselves in.

As the government eliminates the business property tax, the government gives a huge gift to its friends in the banking community. Let's face the facts: Banks now, because this measure is in place, pay their fair share. But as the government moves to eliminate this tax, it's going to dump right back on to the small businesses, the mom-and-pop stores in any number of our communities, to pick up that loss. Municipalities are not going to be able to forgo the revenue. Municipalities are going to have to look to other sources to recoup the revenue that would have come in and are going to end up hitting the small mom-and-pop stores to a much greater extent than ever before. Who gets a gift, who gets away, but the big banks which can afford to and should be paying more, especially given the huge profits they've made over the last two years?

Property taxpayers right across the province are going to get dumped on. It was interesting that the mayor of Sudbury was here this afternoon, because he said last week to the media that municipalities are forced to go after their taxpayers for money in order to finance Mike Harris's provincial tax break. It's going to make people poorer and poorer because we're taking so much money out of their pockets when someone else is providing a tax cut. This is all about --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I was moved as well by what my colleague from Welland-Thorold said, moved by the fact that he's talking about taxes and these two groups have raised taxes 65 times over the last number of years. Please do not talk about tax hikes.

It's my understanding that in Welland they were reassessed in 1996 at 1992 values, and certainly the effects will be nominal, if anything. But he kept talking about seniors and how they would lose their homes and wouldn't have any place to go. I believe that's scare tactics. I believe it's fearmongering. I also suggest to you that the seniors will have the opportunity of being sheltered. There will be deferrals. There will be phase-ins. There will be different tax rates set by the municipalities so that they have autonomy for their own operations.

I believe that if you look at Bill 106, it is a very fair bill. If you look at some of the words in there, they're talking about fairness, they're talking about current values. If you look at municipalities of 18 or 19 townships, whatever it might be, there are some variations in them of assessment, from 1950 up to probably 1992. Is that fair? I don't believe it is. If we're going to have fairness, it must be across the board. Why we would assess something differently than what you can get for the piece of property when you sell it is beyond my comprehension. It is good, common sense. I believe that this bill is most fair and will be all across Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. The member for Welland-Thorold, you have two minutes.

Mr Kormos: Beating up on seniors and retirees and people on fixed pensions, that's not common sense, it's just plain stupid. Let's talk about real folks. You want to talk about seniors? Let's talk about Kay Bray. She worked a lifetime for the Welland Tribune, worked hard, manual labour, never made a lot of money at all and didn't have anything of a pension when she retired. She raised four kids, all of them good people. She's living in Sunset Haven now. She made the best of her life with what God gave her. She had a lot of faith in God, no faith in this government. I tell you, I'm fearful for Kay Bray and others like her, because if Niagara region is forced to shut down Sunset Haven or any of its other seniors' homes, Kay Bray won't have a place to live.

My friend here may want to talk about how somebody will take care of them. No, I'm sorry. The Kay Brays don't belong in church basements and hostels. The Kay Brays of our society have worked too hard and given too much to their community to end up on the street pushing shopping carts, living on top of TTC grates.

I'm fearful; you bet your boots I am. I'm fearful for our seniors, I'm fearful for our retirees, I'm fearful for our young kids. It's their future that's being denied them. It's their future that's being crushed. It's their future that's being devastated as this government attacks the public assets and the public resources that our parents and those before them worked for and sacrificed for. Darn it, they paid for them. I'm fearful for seniors. I'm fearful for the increasing levels of poverty this government is creating among old folks and retirees. I'm fearful for the old folks who are living right up to their modest pension incomes and who are going to be forced out of their homes if this Bill 106 infects communities like it has some already. I am afraid; others should be too.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Galt: It's certainly a pleasure for me to comment on Bill 106, respecting the financing of local government, after years of broken promises and false starts by previous governments. We've had report after report and study after study saying that we should be moving in a direction of better assessment, actual value assessment. Market value had been promoted earlier. Even the previous government agreed that this was a good idea but failed to implement it. Ontario is finally going to get property tax reform, and it's a reform that's going to be fair to all citizens in the province of Ontario.

I remember just a few minutes ago the member for Windsor-Sandwich -- it's unfortunate that she left -- was concerned about the amount of dollars this government is using to inform the public about our programs. Hopefully she can find out about this comment later, the fact that we will hardly reach the $8-million mark if we try real hard. The previous government doubled that, and their government back in the 1980s, on the average year, tripled that figure, so I think she should be very careful in her comments about the budget this government has for informing the public about our activities.

I also bring to attention the comments of a few minutes ago about the seniors and the disadvantaged being hard-pressed by the change to AVA. With this assessment, local municipalities have up to eight years to bring into effect the full actual value assessment, and if the local municipality is interested in protecting seniors and the disadvantaged -- and I know they are -- they'll certainly take advantage of this.

Ontario's antiquated system for assessing property values is unfair, inconsistent and just about impossible to understand; I know because I've tried. Bill 106 will finally give Ontarians a fair and equitable system that is indeed transparent to the taxpayer. It will eliminate wide variations in tax burden within similar municipalities and it will address long-standing concerns of property owners across this province. Those changes are long overdue.


I say that I've tried to understand the system, because there is a property tax situation in the northeast corner of my home riding of Northumberland that defies explanation. It seems that after several years of steeply rising property taxes that were completely out of step with other municipalities, citizens of the town of Campbellford were about ready to stage a tax revolt.

Not too long after the election the town councillors came to see if I could seek a solution. That was the beginning, I'm afraid, of a long and arduous investigation. Accusations flew. Some said it was the adoption of market value assessment a while back that caused taxes to skyrocket. Others blamed it on rising local school board levies. Still others said the increases were due to equalization factors mandated by the province. But nobody knew for sure.

My executive assistant at the time was a mathematician with two degrees from highly reputable institutions. He studied the problem from every angle and still did not find the solution. So we decided to call in the cavalry. We called in the ministry people, we called the people from finance and we called people from education. We called representatives from the local school board. We called them in front of the town auditors and we called them from the regional assessment office. We had them all sit down together in the same room, and guess what? We still could not arrive at a definitive explanation. No one could tell us why Campbellford's property taxes for education were so much higher than anyone else's.

More recently I've had a couple of sessions with Peter Wright from the Ministry of Education, and I think I'm starting to understand what the problem is. Campbellford was faced with a mill rate 50% higher than adjoining municipalities. They are at market value assessment in the county. Two adjoining jurisdictions, Hastings county and Prince Edward, were also at market value. But Campbellford was 50% higher than these other municipalities and its education tax requisition had been steadily climbing since 1994, through 1995, through 1996.

Part of the problem relates to this whole assessment area. Some municipalities in my riding were assessed back in the early 1940s, almost 60 years prior to the assessment in Campbellford. Campbellford is pegged on the 1992 assessment, and 1996 was the first year they actually used market value assessment to set their tax rate.

To further complicate that -- and I hope somebody can follow this because it is very complicated -- every year there are equalization factors brought to bear to try to bring the 1940 assessments, the 1950 assessments and so on to a common level. Once they get them to a common level then they can come up with the amount of the mill rate that will be charged to each one of these municipalities.

To further complicate that, it's benchmarked every four years: 1988, 1992 and 1996. The one in connection with Campbellford was benchmarked 1992 but it didn't affect the taxes until the year 1994, and at that point in time there was a significant increase in Campbellford's taxes. Some of that increase relates to the relative assessment, and since our school board includes Clarington, which is getting into the greater Toronto area, their relative assessment per home dropped in the recession while Campbellford's sat still.

Because they relatively dropped in value and dropped in spite of some of the development there -- still the total dropped -- the end result was that Campbellford, because they were relatively stable and holding their own, ended up with a higher relative assessment based on the Clarington area. The end result was that their requisition went up and it steadily went up during a recessionary time -- a supercomplicated thing to sort out. That's only part of it and very simplistic, but the end result is we are taking education tax off residents in 1998 and no longer will communities like Campbellford be caught in this kind of very-difficult-to-understand quagmire. The charges for the Campbellford area will depend totally on the services they receive in that community.

It was a real shocker, truly a case for all the king's horses and all the king's men. The property tax system was an unfair, indecipherable mess. That is not what I consider good government, although previous governments over the last 10 years have been very tolerant of this situation. That is why this bill is long overdue.

I believe Bill 106 will allow us to wipe up that mess, the mess left by governments that have gone before us. It will bring consistent valuations and clear principles to the property tax system and, above all, it will bring fairness back to property owners. With Bill 106, people across the province will be able to understand how their assessment is calculated. They will know that it is always up to date and that it reflects current property values, and they will know they are not paying too much, but instead are paying their fair share. We are all willing to pay our fair share, and that is all anyone is asking for with this bill. I'm indeed proud that this government is trying to make sure that happens.

While I'm on the subject of fairness, I'd like to address another provision of the bill: the removal of the business occupancy tax. The report of the GTA task force identified the BOT as a key area that discriminates against business owners.

It's interesting to note some of these acronyms. Business occupancy tax, the acronym BOT -- as a veterinarian, I find that's usually a grub that's found in the stomach of horses and it's a fly that lays eggs on their legs. It's interesting to see it show up here as an acronym.

Interjection: Quite a metaphor.

Mr Galt: Yes, isn't it, though.

This has the effect of driving business and investments out of Ontario, and that is a situation this government has set out to turn around. We are not talking about a trivial amount of money here. Depending on where you live in the province, the business occupancy tax rate varies from 25% to 75% of the realty tax. The average is about 40%. That can add up to many thousands of dollars a year for a small business owner. In fact, in 1995 a survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that when commercial assessments are measured as a percentage of estimated property value, those property owners paid double the rate of tax, compared with residential properties. The business occupancy tax represents a large proportion of that discrepancy, and under Bill 106 it will be gone.

Those are the kinds of changes we have to make if we are to bring jobs and investment back to Ontario. If we are to give people renewed hope and opportunity, Bill 106 will help us to do just that.

Bill 106 also addresses a question of fairness for residential taxpayers. For many years in Ontario it has been possible to own a home that is of equal size, condition and value to a home across the street and yet pay twice the property taxes. This problem is particularly acute in Metropolitan Toronto. A resident, for example, of Scarborough may be paying $3,000 a year in property tax while a neighbour living across the street in Toronto pays only $1,500 for a similar home. This is a situation that has been crying out for attention, yet no government has acted to resolve the situation. Bill 106 will certainly change that too.

As we all know, the problem stems from out-of-date tax assessments, some of which haven't been updated since the 1940s -- some, as I referred to, in my riding and also certainly the Toronto area goes back to the early 1940s. As the Minister of Finance has pointed out on numerous occasions, when assessments no longer reflect the present value of a home, the distribution of taxes is unfair.


Under the Fair Municipal Finance Act, we're making sure that property taxes in Ontario are fair. We are ensuring that all properties in Ontario are valued in the same year and we are making sure that home and business owners know what to expect when they buy into a new area.

We recognize that the changes will cause some increases in areas such as Toronto. To avoid any undue hardships when the new assessments come into effect, municipal governments will be given the flexibility to make the change in a way that is sensitive to local needs. For instance, under Bill 106, seniors and disabled people can be protected from sudden shifts in property tax assessments until a house is sold. That too is only fair.

Although it's not part of this bill, we're taking education taxes off the residential property taxes as well. That means local taxes will be tied more directly to local services. That has been a request that people have been making for the last couple of decades, particularly our seniors. Combined with the changes we are proposing under Bill 106, the removal of the education tax means taxpayers will be able to see what they are getting for their hard-earned tax dollars. They will have a better idea of how their property taxes are being spent.

I have always believed that the purest form of democracy can be found at the municipal level. Under the new system, local decision-makers will have more control but will also be more accountable to the people who foot the bill. That too is a major aim of this government. At the same time, the property tax assessment system will be simplified. Property owners have a right to know and understand how their property taxes are assessed. Bill 106 will give them that ability.

Bill 106 will also eliminate the farm tax rebate in favour of lower and more uniform assessment for farm and woodlot owners. Farm operators in my riding and across Ontario have been asking for this change for a long time. The reason is simple: The cumbersome system of asking farmers to pay excess property tax and then asking them to apply for a 75% rebate makes no sense.

This actually came in back in the early 1970s, about two and a half decades ago, when we recognized that farmers were being treated unfairly because of the high education tax on their property. In 1993, farmers became very, very nervous when they found that the tax rebate for managed forests had been eliminated and they thought they would be the next in line. We, as a very responsible campaign, committed to the farmers and to those managing the forests and indicated that we would ensure that it stayed in place and that we would replace the managed forest rebate. I'm very pleased that last spring we did return the managed forest rebate and now we're bringing them in so that the mill rate will be essentially 25% of the standard that would otherwise have been set, recognizing the need for the farmers and recognizing the conservation need for the managed forest rebate. It is a prime example of the red tape and needless bureaucracy that was built into every nook and cranny of Ontario's property tax system. This system was costing farmers time and money in needless interest charges. That is unacceptable to a government which supports the important work of farmers in this province.

I am also pleased to note that the eligible managed forests will also be assigned to this new farm class. As with the farm tax rebate, this change will end the red tape that woodlot owners had to endure for a partial tax rebate.

Bill 106 will also exempt conservation lands from property tax. This change will help to protect Ontario's environmentally sensitive areas, and as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment, I can heartily endorse this conservation move.

All of these changes have one thing in common: They are designed to bring greater fairness to provincial taxpayers and address long-standing inequities in Ontario's property tax system.

In closing, I'd like to point out that Friedrich Engels once said, "An ounce of action is worth a pound of theory." I believe the time has come to end the theorizing about property tax reform. We must take action and get on with the job, and that indeed is why I'm pleased to support Bill 106 today.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gerretsen: First of all, I think the people of Ontario should understand that all we're doing in the total reassessment of the properties in the various categories and within the various municipalities is shifting the tax burden within that municipality, and presumably the legislation is intended to be revenue-neutral as far as individual municipalities are concerned.

Having said that, let's then look at the downloading that this government is doing. These are municipal figures. These haven't been put together by partisan acts. They have been put together by the treasurers of the province of Ontario. They have looked at their own individual municipalities, and as a result of the actual shifting tax burden, these are the results.

In the city of Kingston, I've always given the figure of $23 million that will have to be raised as a result of the downloading. Well, I was wrong. At the hearings that we held this past Friday, we heard it was actually $29.3 million that the residents in the city of Kingston will have to come up with as a result of the shifting of tax burdens that you're imposing on the people of Ontario. In Brantford it's $23 million. This morning the mayor from London was on CBC Radio and it was over $50 million that the taxpayers of London will have to raise as a result of your downloading on that particular municipality. Cornwall, $10 million; Thunder Bay, $15 million. I could go on and on and on.

Yes, we want a fair system; there's no question about it. People should be assessed fairly, but there should also be a fair distribution of the cost of government between the province and the municipalities, and you're not doing that.

We all know you're taking $5.4 billion in education tax off the property tax roll, but you're adding on $6.3 billion, which includes the $120 million for the property assessment services that are talked about in this particular act, as well as the $165 million in farm tax rebates --

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.

Ms Martel: I want to say to the member from Northumberland, can he explain to me what is fair? He mentioned the word "fair" several times. What is fair about the fact that property tax owners in my community are going to pay more in property taxes directly as a result of actions your government is taking?

When I look at the business occupancy tax, the fact of the matter is that the variable rates were put in place because there was a perception that some businesses were in a position to pay more than others. That is why you have retail outlets, for example, that are taxed at a rate of about 30% and you have banks, for example, that are taxed at a rate of about 75% of the assessed value of the property. When you eliminate that tax, it means that municipalities are going to have to try and recoup that revenue somehow. They can't live without it given all of the downloading you are placing on them.

What you will see happen is an increase in property taxes for many of the small commercial and retail outlets to make up that difference, while the banks, the same folks raking in record profits across this country right now, are going to end up paying less. Tell me how that is fair for the small mom-and-pop operators who are going to get a whopping hit on their property tax as a result.

In the regional municipality of Sudbury, with the downloading that your government is going to do, regional taxpayers will pay $105 million more as a net cost. When you take away the education component and you download all the services that you are, we will pay $105 million more. That's a huge hit for property taxpayers across the regional municipality of Sudbury. Tell me how people on fixed incomes, small families, mom-and-pop stores are going to be able to afford that. What's fair about that?


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I just want to take a couple of minutes that I have here, first to compliment the member for Northumberland on his remarks in the House today on Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government. For some time the municipalities and a lot of people were concerned with regard to the market value assessment. Some municipalities, some counties, went for it; some didn't. Some still don't have it today. I think today Bill 106 will probably straighten out the mess that we have had for many years.

Under the changes made by the bill, the assessment of land will be based on its current value. I think that's only fair. When we look at the bill and we also look at what has happened in the past, taxes in some areas will go up and taxes in some areas will go down. I always felt that the people whose taxes were going down should be the ones who were the most concerned about it because they've been paying that extra for years and years, and the ones that are going up are the ones who should have been paying more.

The other good thing about this bill is the business assessment. The bill eliminates business assessment by repealing the current section 7. When we talk about what's happening here, the municipal property taxes, the current municipalities levy a tax based against commercial assessment at a rate equal to 85% of that basic rate against residential and farm assessment. This bill is making it so much different that farm land, conservation land, will be paying 25% of what the land is assessed at.

We also have the deferral of the taxes for the seniors, who need the deferrals, and the low-income people and the people who are disabled. There are things within this legislation that will help those people out.

Also, with regard to the pipelines, railways and utilities' rights of way, the municipalities will be provided with a method to pay for it.

Mr Michael Brown: I was very interested in the comments of the member for Northumberland, but I was particularly interested in his comments surrounding agricultural land, forest land and conservation land. I think we all know in rural municipalities that we have to raise so much money for local services. Even if -- which is a big "if" -- the amount of money necessary would be the same, I have one particular township where 46% of the land is assessed as agricultural. They have just lost 75% of that 46%. You do the math, but the amount of assessment has just dropped significantly within that municipality.

They obviously have to raise the same amount of money. It has to be raised. The bills have to be paid. The roads have to be plowed. That's what has to happen, yet the amount of assessment has gone down. What does that mean? The mill rate will have to go up. The money that used to come from the provincial taxpayer to look after farmers and their interests no longer is going to come from the provincial taxpayer; it is going to come from themselves and their neighbours down the line. That's where it's going to come from.

I'd like the member, whether you're talking about the forest tax rebate or the agricultural rebate and your new system, to explain to me how farmers aren't going to pay considerably more money in taxes than they do now.

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

Mr Galt: First, thanks to the member for Simcoe East for his kind comments.

In reference to the member for Kingston and The Islands, I think it's rather ironic to hear a Liberal concerned about a tax increase. During their term they increased their budget by double. It actually doubled during the short five years. They increased taxes some 32 times. I think it's really refreshing to hear a Liberal worrying about a tax increase. It's such a change to hear that. I think as a government we have finally won the battle and we have them worried about tax increases, and it warms my heart to hear those kinds of comments coming from a Liberal.

The member for Sudbury East was talking about fairness. I can't think of anything more fair than a property of equal assessment you're going to pay equal taxes on. To me that's just about as fair as you can get. The assessments will all have the same basis across the province. Even after their fair tax system report came in --

Mr Kormos: User fees for old people, user fees for kids, user fees for single mothers, user fees for sick people.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Galt: -- they were afraid to implement this. We at least have enough intestinal fortitude to bring this in.

Mr Kormos: Tell us about the user fees.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Galt: When she talked about being fair, I would ask the member for Sudbury East --

Mr Kormos: Tax breaks for the banks.

Ms Martel: The banks are going to pay less.

The Deputy Speaker: Order. The member for Welland-Thorold and also the member for Sudbury East, would you please remain quiet? The member for Northumberland.

Mr Galt: Thank you, Mr Speaker. They also increased taxes some 33 times. Was that fair? You talk about being fair when the average 25-year-old today, to pay that debt, it will cost them $290,000 during their lifetime because of the kind of debts that you increased.

Mr Kormos: Tell us about the user fees. How many new user fees? Come clean.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, the member for Sudbury East, we have measures that we can take to prevent you from shouting. Please don't push me to that wall.

Further debate?

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): This Bill 106 is another part of the megacity, mega-dumping, mega-downloading package. We've seen the Trojan Horse of the megacity come into Metro. We've also seen the downloading of welfare, family benefits, long-term health care, child care, all on the property taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto and the rest of the province. This is another part of that downloading package of the megacity mega-week fallout.

What they're trying to do in the confusion, in the smoke, they are basically downloading their responsibilities on to the property taxpayers. This is the other shoe. As someone said, they thought the other shoe was going to drop but they didn't realize the government was a centipede. There are so many shoes dropping on Metro especially, this is going to be devastating. It is another devastating blow to the property taxpayers who in many cases are seniors on fixed incomes or have small businesses. In the middle of all the confusion of the downloading, they're also asked to absorb a new tax system. Everybody from the board of trade to David Crombie is asking what this will mean to this city. How is it going to work? What will the tax bill be? What will the services be?

When the public asks, what will the tax bill be -- and I know the member for Northumberland says the public has a right to know. I asked the Minister of Finance, I asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I said, "Give us your impact studies," the neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood studies they have done. They've gone through the Annex, they've gone through Leaside, they've gone through Mimico and they have been doing some studies to show what the new taxes would be on the houses and businesses.

As members of the Legislature, we've asked for those studies the government has done with taxpayers' dollars. When municipalities have asked for their individual studies, you know what the government says? "You can't have the studies." In fact here's what they say. This is from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. This is a notice of inquiry. He said, "The ministry confirms that the three impact studies withheld are part of a cabinet submission, the record at issue which contains all existing source data for the Golden report."

They had these studies which would blow the lid off this bill, because in those three studies that the government is hiding from the public you would see what the tax increases would be on your house or your business. So the public goes to the Ministry of Finance, goes to municipal affairs, and says, "Can I see what the taxes would be like on my house with your new Bill 106?" and the government has the gall to say, "This is none of your business; it's cabinet secrecy." These are tax rolls.

If the government were truly going to do something that would benefit people, don't you think it would release these studies, put them on the front page of the Toronto Star and say, "Look, your taxes are going to decrease"? But the government knows if it were to release these house-by-house, business-by-business studies of what would happen to their taxes with this new form of market value, the public would be even more up in arms than they are today because of the downloading, because these studies would detail the massive increases in property taxes on top of the downloading.


As you know, in Metro the average house will see an increase of over $400 because of the downloading of this government, because of the downloading of welfare, downloading of family benefits, downloading of social housing. It's a double impact on Metro especially because of the fact that downloading hits Metro hardest because we have a disproportionate number of people on social assistance, we have an elderly population, we have a lot of social housing, over 100,000 units here in Metro.

On top of that downloading impact, this government is going to download market value assessment, which it said it would never do. That's what it is. They've got a different letter for it every day of the week, but that's what it is, it's market value assessment. You can imagine the impact it's going to have on the Metro economy when you're going to get the downloading that's going to put social services on to the property taxes.

I asked Wendell Cox, the famous US consultant on cities: "Is anybody else in the western world downloading social services on property taxes? Is anybody else downloading housing, downloading long-term care?" He said: "No. This is primitive. Not even in Third World countries are they doing this."

This government is asking taxpayers, and tenants through their rent, to pay for not only social services but this new tax scheme that it has the gall not to release the information on. I challenge taxpayers all across Ontario, especially those in Metropolitan Toronto, to tell the government, "If it's so good, why won't you make the figures public?" As they said in the movie Jerry Maguire, "Show me the money." They should be saying that to Mike Harris, "Show me the money." They should be saying that to Minister Leach, "Show me the money." They should be asking Ernie Eves, "Show me the money."

If this market value system is so good, why are they hiding the figures? Why are they saying they're secret cabinet documents? These are tax rolls. Going up and down the streets in the Annex, up and down the streets in Guildwood Village, up and down the streets throughout Metro, they've got these studies. If this is such a good system, why are they hiding the studies? Why can't the public, who are paying for the studies through their tax dollars, and they're going to have to pay what the new property tax is going to be, the new bill, why can't they be shown the studies? As Jerry Maguire said, "Show me the money."

For a democratically elected government to withhold that kind of information is appalling, because we're not talking about state secrets, about spy rendezvous with the North Koreans, we're talking about property tax bills.

As a member of the Legislature, when I ask for these property tax impact studies, they say it's secret, the public can't get it. You know they're hiding these studies because when the people all over Metro and the province see what it means to their taxes, the whole lid will blow off this mega-week nonsense, this mega-downloading nonsense. Now we have mega-value assessment on top of it. All done in secrecy, without any detailed -- no business impact. They're going to dramatically change the tax system in Ontario overnight, and they don't have the decency to release the impact studies they've done.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): What are they doing in committee? Who are they having as witnesses?

Mr Colle: Today they were so desperate to bring in people to make deputations before the megacity committee they had to drag out the Premier's ex-chauffeur to come in and tell us how great the megacity was. This is how desperate this government is that basically bulldozes, confuses the facts for people who want to know what their taxes are going to be.

The other thing that's most concerning is the seniors. In Metro Toronto we have a lot of seniors because we have excellent hospitals -- not for long, it seems; they're going to close about a dozen hospitals any day now. We have good public transportation, we have good libraries, we have local shopping, so a lot of seniors live in and move to Toronto. A lot of them have been able to keep their own homes. We've got a lot of 80-year-old seniors who still own their own homes. They're not causing the government any grief; they're not asking for any help from the government. All they want to do is keep their little bungalow, their little home in Long Branch or Leaside or East York. They say, "Just leave me alone."

What's happening to that poor senior on a fixed income, on a meagre pension? This government has downloaded social welfare programs, family benefits, social housing on to this poor senior's property tax. On top of that, they're going to put in market value assessment with this Bill 106. You can imagine what that senior's going to be thinking of: paying their hydro bill, their water bill, their telephone bill. Now the government's going to give them this new tax system and the downloading of social services on their property tax.

Then the government says, "We've got this great plan where municipalities can defer your payment of your tax bill." Municipalities have tried this scheme before. Seniors don't buy it. North York has tried it; the city of York has tried it. Seniors who have worked their whole life trying to get the mortgage off their property don't want Mike Harris and Al Leach and Ernie Eves to put a new mortgage on their homes. That's what 106 is doing. It's saying to seniors, "You don't have to pay the 40% in taxation; just defer it."

Here's a senior couple who have worked for maybe 30 or 40 years at some moderately paying jobs, getting rid of all their debts. So when they reach about 80 years of age, you've got this Bill 106, the market value bill, saying: "Oh, you don't have to pay that. You can defer it, in essence put a lien on your property."

In the past, very few seniors have ever taken that up, because they know they don't want to be in debt. That's what Mike Harris, with his mega-dumping and mega-downloading, is doing. He's going to impose debts and mortgages on all the property taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto. That's what this is. It's a huge mega-mortgage, simple as that. That's what this bill is going to do.

It does nothing to help the seniors who have been paying their taxes their whole life, who have kept their homes clean and tidy. Travel through the neighbourhoods of Metropolitan Toronto and you'll see these clean and tidy neighbourhoods, in many cases that seniors have built themselves and have kept up because of their sense of civic pride. Now you've got this uncertainty of the market value system coming in on top of the downloading.

We know that downloading is going to mean an average of about $400 per household in Metro. Those are Metro figures: $400 on top of each homeowner, and tenants through their rent. The board of trade said that downloading would mean about $8,000 per business. That's $8,000 extra, and the homeowner another $400, on average. Some homeowners will pay much more; I guess some a little less. So along with downloading extra property tax, you are going to see another direct hit on the property taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto.

This market value scheme, which this government in the previous election went door to door saying they wouldn't implement -- they said they would not do it, they were against -- what do they do? They're implementing market value assessment, the exact opposite of what they said they were going to do in the election. If any Tory had gone door to door saying they were going to support market value, they would have been thrown out on the street, but now, through the confusion, through the smoke of mega-week, what are they doing? They're implementing not only the downloading, wiping out local government, but on top of that they're sneaking in market value assessment.

They think people won't notice, but I'll tell you, people in the Annex have noticed, people in Leaside have noticed, people in the city of York have noticed, people up the Yonge Street corridor in Willowdale have noticed. This is going to be a property tax explosion that they're going to pin on the Tories, because as much as the Tories try to use their propaganda on television, people are smart. They will notice that this is nothing but a pure smokescreen for the disastrous downloading of taxes and responsibilities on the property taxpayers. This is what it's all about.


It's interesting to note that they always refer to the fact that all these property tax appeals have taken place, that Metro has never been reassessed. They never mention that over 400,000 properties in Metro have been appealed in the last number of years; in other words, almost half the properties in Metro have gone through an appeal process. Half of the properties have been reassessed; they've been updated. Do you know who's left to get hit with this market value bill? Basically people who would have an increase, because a majority of people who would get a decrease have already appealed successfully and that money has gone back into their pockets. The taxpayers in Metro who own homes have appealed their taxes and got the money back. It's in their pockets and they've been spending it.

The government doesn't admit that, but that's what's happened, because people have had the right to appeal and they've appealed in cities across Metro.

This is up to 1995 figures: 85,000 properties in Etobicoke have already been appealed; 33,000 properties in the city of York have been appealed; 355,000 properties in the city of Toronto have been appealed; 134,000 properties in Scarborough have been appealed; 25,000 in East York; 129,000 in the city of North York. In other words, these citizens, on their own initiative, have basically appealed their property taxes and got a reduction. Not all of them got a reduction, but a vast majority of them got a reduction, so they're up to the 1992 values already.

You know who's left out there. There are people who looked at the tax rolls and knew their tax would go up. They haven't appealed. The vast majority of people out there who haven't appealed are going to get a whacking tax increase because of this bill. All there's left out there are people who are going to lose, because most of the appeals have already gone through in the commercial and residential sector. That is what is pending for residents all over Metro, huge tax increases, very few tax decreases.

It's interesting how specific the minister was. Earlier this year -- I told you about asking. As a member of the Legislature, I asked for the impact studies on house-per-house tax increases.

The minister says in the Toronto Sun, July 5 last year: "Leach estimates about 50% of city of Toronto residents will see a decrease in their" property "taxes, while about 30% will receive an increase of less than $250 annually and the remaining 20% would be hit with increases of...40%."

Even the minister admits there are going to be 20% hit with up to a 40% increase in Toronto alone, and it's not just Toronto. I know people outside Toronto think it's just Toronto that's going to get a tax increase. There are going to be a lot of areas in Scarborough that are going to see a tax increase with this new market value system; a lot of areas of Etobicoke will see a tax increase; in the city of York they'll see a tax increase; and in North York, so it's not just Toronto.

I know the members on the government side say Toronto is going to see an increase, but the increases are going to be right across Metro and they are going to be up to 40% in many cases. How are these property tax owners, or tenants through their rent, going to afford to pay for this impact? That is why the government, when asked to release the information, when asked to show us the money, says it's a secret cabinet document. You know why they say it's a secret cabinet document? Because if they released those impact studies, house by house and neighbourhood by neighbourhood, the people of North York, the people of Etobicoke would see that this market value system is going to be the double whammy on their property taxes, along with the downloading of welfare.

That's why Anne Golden said you can't do both at the same time. You can't bring in market value assessment and downloading at the same time. It's a recipe for disaster. It's going to create hardship on business and it's going to create hardship on homeowners. These are people who have invested in their homes and businesses. It's not just coping with one thing. It's not just coping with the downloading, which, as I said, is something being done nowhere else in the western world, the downloading of social services, the downloading of long-term health care, nursing home care. As they close the 12 hospitals in Toronto to pay for that 30% tax cut, there's going to be even a greater demand on home care. How are we going to pay for the home care? Through your property tax.

This is what the pending legislation is going to do, what the mega-week, mega-dumping, mega-downloading, mega-market-value taxation are going to do to people. It's going to put more pressures on the services they need and at the same increase their property taxes up to 40%. That's why they won't release the studies, because the public will not stand for it. They hope, through their propaganda machine, they can hide it in the smoke. As I said, there are people waking up to this agenda. They realize that this government is not just about talking about changing political boundaries; it's talking about changing the political landscape.

As a speaker said today in the hearings, they're taking us back to the 1930s, when people went bankrupt because of the Depression. They couldn't provide services. That's what they're going to do with this downloading. That's what they're going to do with this market value system, which is going to hit especially hard in cities like Toronto.

In talking to Paul Pagnuelo of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, he said that this scheme, this market value, AVA system is going to impact right across Ontario. It's incumbent on taxpayers all across Ontario to ask for the numbers. They should be asking their MPPs, "Show me the money." The government has the figures on what this market value system will mean to their neighbourhoods, to their cities and towns.

Once you see those figures, which I think the government eventually will have to release -- the impact is just too great for it to keep them secret. Once they release those impact studies on what it's going to do to the property taxpayers across Ontario, the people will not stand for it. They won't be fooled by the propaganda and the spinning. That is at the heart of this issue: The government thinks it can sneak this in, in the confusion about downloading, in the confusion about amalgamation. That's why they did it all together in this package, the megacity package -- 103, 104, 105, 106 -- that with all the dumping, people will not notice. But the people are noticing all across Ontario.

The other interesting unknown in this is the business occupancy tax. In Metro it accounts for about $600 million. If that $600 million is no longer available to the municipalities, where are they going to get that $600 million? Will they increase residential taxes more? Will they increase other commercial taxes? That's another $600-million question for the people of Metro and maybe up to another half a billion or so outside of Metro.


These are all the unknowns and these are all the things that are frightening people about the rush on these bills. You know why they're rushing them. You know why they're bulldozing them. Can you imagine a government that would push forward so many dramatic changes in such a short period of time and not even release the business plan? The Globe and Mail reported, on the front page, that they were about $900 million off. They said that the downloading would be a wash; $900 million off. By the way, to whose favour? Some $900 million more dumped on the property taxpayer so the province can look good. A $900-million addition mistake?

This is how this whole thing was concocted, as David Crombie said, on the back of an envelope. They're risking the economy of this province, the economy of cities like Metropolitan Toronto, by jamming and rushing this agenda through, without a business plan, without the numbers, without the impact studies. They have nothing to prove or to demonstrate what the impacts will be.

As you know, this is all to go in by January 1, 1998. Where are the assessors? Who is going to be doing this assessment? What kind of assessment are they going to do? Are they going to sit behind their computer and do these assessments? They have to visit a million properties in Metro. How are they going to fairly assess a million properties? I think they've got four or five months to do it. How is that going to be fair? How many appeals are there going to be?

These are the questions about this whole scheme they're introducing. I don't know what they're calling it now. Last week it was fair or actual. But it is a scheme that is, again, rushed and jammed through because they think the people will not notice and understand because of all the confusion. That's why they're doing all those television ads. That's why every time you turn on the television there's an ad from the PC Party paid for by taxpayers' dollars. They're hoping to confuse and confound people. That's what this is all about.

They're trying to rush through this agenda which is basically going to download and dump provincial responsibilities on to property taxes and at the same time essentially gut these services, because they know property taxpayers won't be able to afford it. What's going to happen to long-term care if it's on the property tax? What's going to happen to nursing homes? What's going to happen to 100,000 affordable housing units in Metropolitan Toronto that will be paid for out of their property taxes? Many of them need new plumbing, new wiring, new structural work. These are going to be downloaded on to the property taxpayer; child care costs, family benefits, family benefits for the disabled and single-parent families which have never been on the property tax before now on to the property taxpayer.

You can imagine when the next recession hits. People who are losing their jobs, whose income is declining, their taxes will go up because the welfare rates go up. It's especially acute in Metro where we have a disproportionate number of people who need assistance. We have a growing demographic trend towards more seniors. This is why the gap between the 905 and the 416 is going to be further accentuated by this mega-package mega-downloading.

Just to go back to my beginning, the public has a right to know. The public has a right to know what the impact studies show on their property taxes, what it means on their businesses, what it means on their homes, what it means to their neighbourhoods.

This government has those house-by-house property tax stats. They have that information; they are not divulging it. They say it's a confidential cabinet document, property tax roll figures. I shouldn't have to go to the privacy commissioner to find out what the tax impacts are. That's where I have to go to get information. The government claims these are secret documents.

That is the message I like to give people and taxpayers: Before they accept the government propaganda on this new tax scheme, I ask them to force the government to release the figures, release the impact studies it has, which it keeps in the cabinet secret vault or whatever. Then we can have a good debate on this system, about whether it's good, whether it's fair. But right now the government has the information and is denying the public the right to see it. When someone denies you the right to see something, you know they're hiding something; if they weren't hiding something, they would make it public. If it's good news, release it; if it's bad news, you have the obligation to make it public because it's public information.

The Deputy Speaker: It being close to 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1757.