36th Parliament, 1st Session

L164 - Tue 18 Feb 1997 / Mar 18 Fév 1997
















































The House met at 1331.




M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : Je désire porter à l'attention du ministre de l'Agriculture et de tous les citoyens et citoyennes de l'Ontario les résultats d'une étude réalisée par le Cancer Prevention Coalition de Chicago concernant l'usage d'hormones de croissance sur les troupeaux laitiers. Cette étude, dont les résultats ont été publiés par l'International Journal of Health Services, démontre que l'usage de l'hormone somatotrophine, utilisée aux États-Unis pour augmenter la production laitière des troupeaux, augmente le risque de cancer chez les humains qui consomment du lait.

Nous avons au Canada le meilleur lait au monde. Les citoyens consomment du lait en toute quiétude, convaincus que le lait est un aliment qui contribue à leur bonne santé. Heureusement, l'usage de l'hormone de croissance n'est pas permis au Canada, mais je sais que le débat sur l'introduction de cette hormone sur le marché canadien est déjà lancé, et que nous aurons à prendre une décision tôt ou tard.

J'implore donc le ministre de l'Agriculture pour qu'il s'assure que des études poussées, comme celle réalisée aux États-Unis, seront effectuées en Ontario avant de permettre l'usage de cette hormone, afin de s'assurer que les producteurs laitiers de l'Ontario produiront toujours le meilleur lait au monde et que la qualité de cet aliment de première importance au sein de notre régime alimentaire ne sera jamais compromise au nom de la surproduction.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I had the opportunity over the last number of weeks to work with a number of citizens within our community who are really concerned about what this government's agenda is vis-à-vis education. They look at Bill 104 and they wonder about bills that come after and really ask themselves: How will children and students fare in this new change that Mike Harris is trying to impose on education and children across this province?

They wonder, for example: How will students fare with the $1 billion being cut from education? How will children fare when class sizes become so large that the teacher doesn't have adequate time and resources to be able to properly address the concerns of the students to make sure they get a good-quality education?

They wonder how students will fare when the government starts deciding which of the programs will be taken away from the core curriculum. We know the government is musing that core curriculum should not include programs like phys ed and some of the reading programs we have through some of our libraries. They wonder how students will fare in that kind of atmosphere. They wonder how we as citizens and we as taxpayers and those supporters of school boards across Ontario will fare when the control of our school boards is taken away from our communities and put in the hands of Mike Harris and those at Queen's Park.

It seems to me that Harris ran in the last provincial election on the basis of creating government that is closer to the people and smaller government. People in our community look and see big, huge bureaucracies being controlled by school boards, and certainly not smaller government but larger.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I rise to congratulate members of Barrie's Mariposa School of Skating for their excellent performances at the recent Canadian figure skating championships in Vancouver.

Skaters from across the country and around the globe train with Mariposa, including the likes of Elvis Stojko and Jennifer Robinson. But Mariposa also trains a number of gifted athletes who are from the Barrie area, up-and-comers who we will no doubt hear more about in the future.

In the senior men's event, Barrie's very own Jeff Langdon brought home the silver medal and will go on to skate for Canada at the world championships. There was also gold in the junior dance for Barrie's Laura Currie and her partner Jeff Smith.

Several Barrie skaters had the honour of competing in the national championship, including Shaun Tilley, Kayla Gerritty, Tara and Jamie Schaack, Laura and Kim Currie and Megan Buttle.

Mariposa trains so many fine skaters that it is impossible for me to mention all of them today, but I would like to salute each and every one of them, including their parents who help make their dreams possible, their head coach Doug Leigh, and all the coaches and staff at the school. Simcoe Centre is proud to have them as part of our community.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): On behalf of the children, staff and parents of Centretown Parents Daycare, I'm delivering these Valentine's hearts to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Minister, these hearts do not represent support for your government's actions; they are broken hearts which convey distress with the downloading and reduction of services taking place in Ontario. These hearts come to you from children aged two to five and come with a simple message: "Have a heart, invest in our children."

Families are justifiably concerned that your government's downloading exercise will jeopardize licensed child care programs throughout Ontario, and that the 50-50 municipal-provincial cost-sharing agreement will bring an end to the wage enhancement grant. The loss of this grant will lower the already substandard wages paid to service providers, thereby reducing the quality of service.

Overwhelming research tells us that if we can deliver quality programs to children in the early years, we reap the benefits in the later years through reduced social costs. Over the past 40 years, successive Ontario governments have understood this and have increased child care funding. Unfortunately, the current government has been blind to this fact. Parents and children who require child care services have yet to see any of the $200 million that was to have been reinvested in child care. Instead, all they have seen is the elimination of funds, lost subsidies, centre closures, resource centre closures and a lowering of quality of service.

Minister, please listen to what the Centretown Parents Daycare and other child care groups are saying --

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


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): As members know, the government is holding hearings on Bill 104, the bill to amalgamate school boards across the province. Those hearings are being held in the social development committee of this assembly. Already over 1,050 people have contacted the clerk of the committee to indicate interest in making presentations on the implications of Bill 104 for the future education of children in this province.

Because the government decided unilaterally to close down debate on Bill 104 and to pass a time allocation motion, there are only four days of hearings in Toronto and six days of hearings outside Toronto. There is no way the committee can accommodate the over 1,000 people who want to make presentations to the committee unless the committee agrees and the government agrees to extend the hearings.

Just before lunch I moved a motion in the committee to request the government House leader to amend the time allocation motion to allow for more hearings on Bill 104. The Liberal opposition supported my motion. Unfortunately, the government members on the committee unanimously voted against the motion, to limit debate, to prevent people from being heard on Bill 104. It's obvious that this government doesn't want to know what people think about education --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.



Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): It is my honour, as the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, to announce that once again it's time to celebrate Ontario Heritage Week.

We're fortunate to live in a province whose identity is firmly rooted in its rich heritage and its strong cultural traditions. The purpose of Heritage Week is to remind all of us that Ontario's heritage comes in many forms, from the tangible -- our buildings and archaeological sites -- to the intangible: our rites and rituals and even our stories. During Ontario Heritage Week, we are also reminded and called upon to celebrate with pride the richness and profound importance of Ontario's contribution to the national identity and the world community.

We are pleased the Legislature is sitting at this time so we have the opportunity to publicly recognize this celebration and especially to acknowledge those individuals who dedicate themselves to conserving and promoting our heritage. I applaud their contribution, particularly those who freely volunteer their time and resources.

I urge all Ontarians to participate in the wide variety of heritage events being offered in every community across this great province during our Heritage Week.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Continuing frustration with the Conservative government is building across the province. In Kingston last Friday this frustration and anger bubbled over as more than 25 groups testified to the harm the Tory downloading of financial responsibility is doing to the taxpayers of our community.

The city of Kingston will be shortchanged $28.6 million annually. This translates into an average increase in residential taxes of over $540 per household and an average increase in commercial tax of 42%. It is clear that the transfer of education tax from the property tax roll and the dumping of social and health care on to municipalities will favour the province as, demographically, growth in the school-age population is much slower than the growth rate of the senior citizen population, which will require much larger expenditures in health care, long-term care and social services.

As Cathy Dunn, of the Providence Continuing Care Centre, stated, "Elderly and disabled individuals who require long-term-care services are affected not only by changes to the long-term-care service delivery sector, but also by fundamental changes to income assistance, social programs and public health."

Even the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce says, "Unless there are substantial changes made in the way commercial property is taxed, businesses stand to be the big losers from mega-week."

As so eloquently stated by Christine McMillan of the Council on Aging: "In our view Ontario is sitting on the wall, like Humpty-Dumpty. If these mega-week initiatives are not stopped, all the Queen's horses and all the Queen's" --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you. I'm sure it's a good quote, but it's not going to get recorded now.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): A few days ago, some parents from my riding tried once again to talk to the Minister of Education. They were immediately surrounded by police and once again kept from him.

In response to a media question about this, the minister said something like: The majority of people supported his reforms, and these few people who didn't support them and who supported the status quo had vested interests.

Yes, those parents do have vested interests, but I don't believe that's what the minister was trying to refer to. These parents do have a vested interest, and that vested interest is their children, their children's education and their children's future. I find it most alarming that the minister still believes -- what kind of cocoon is he in, that he still believes it's just a few school trustees and maybe a few teachers out there who are afraid, he seems to be implying, of losing their jobs and that's all they care about. That isn't the fact either. Those teachers and trustees are also aware of the implications of these kinds of changes and the massive cuts that are going to hit the schools.

The minister clearly isn't listening. He has decided it's just a few vested interests who have concerns about this. This is not good enough. The minister has to start listening.

There is a meeting in my riding tonight at Withrow school. A lot of concerned parents who have vested interests will be there, and I invite the minister --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you.


Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I welcome this opportunity to inform my colleagues about how a couple of people in my riding are taking an enthusiastic approach to the government's workfare.

In giving herself a hand up, Gloria Earl of Orillia has founded the Welfare Society Fashion Houses of Canada. She is encouraging welfare recipients to become involved and learn how to knit for a commercial market. Gloria Earl is keen on making Ontario a close-knit family.

Another constituent is approaching the training aspect of helping out welfare recipients. Next month, Patty Maheu of Penetanguishene will be handing out graduation certificates to 109 students of her Computer Training Wheels school. Maheu's school has upgraded the skills of many people on welfare, giving them greater employment opportunities.

Both of these citizens of Simcoe East represent the true spirit of this government's challenge to break the cycle of welfare dependency. They are using their entrepreneurial skills to help themselves and others. I congratulate these two women, who have the foresight to seize an opportunity for themselves and offer support to their community at large.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): On a point of privilege, the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I hope you'll indulge me on this issue regarding the $2.3-million ad campaign paid for by the taxpayers. I have two constituents who have submitted information to me that I'd like to pass on to you for your review. One is the response to the Premier talking to us in a classroom, clearly a government ad, and this is the response package, which was sent on PC Party letterhead, if you could review that for its appropriateness. The second is a request which has been documented on CBC media in Windsor, if you could review the tape. It is the tape of the interview, which shows clearly the bias in terms of government taxpayers' ads and the response a constituent from Windsor-Sandwich received. If I could submit that to you, I'd like to have some ruling from you.

The Speaker: I'm looking for direction from the member for Windsor-Sandwich. I ruled on that ad yesterday in the Legislature.


The Speaker: I'm sure the member for Windsor-Sandwich is capable of answering the question, to the member for Kingston and The Islands.

I'm looking for direction from you as to what it is you're asking me to rule on and under what point of privilege.

Mrs Pupatello: The issue here is that the taxpayers of Ontario expect that the government would spend taxpayers' money on issues that would be clearly non-partisan. In response to a government ad paid for by taxpayers' money, the receipt to my constituent was something issued on PC Party letterhead. Clearly this is in contravention of some rule which, in your knowledge, you'd find exactly where it's appropriate or not. My own sense is that it's highly inappropriate and I guess I'd like you to rule the same. The second is an issue that was brought up in the House, but because you didn't have the proof at the time -- I now have the package received, if you could please review that for a ruling.


The Speaker: Yes, thank you very much. That's extremely helpful. I will undertake to report back to the Legislature after reviewing the information.



Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Premier. On Saturday past I had the opportunity to join several thousands of people marching down Yonge Street protesting your megacity. I met along the way people from all walks of life and, in frankness, people from all political stripes. They came out on a cold February day and they left the warmth of their homes because they believe very strongly in something. They believe that your plans for reorganizing their communities are the wrong plans. They believe your plans are going to lead to an increase in taxes, they believe they're going to lead to a reduction in services, and they believe you're going to make government for them more distant, more remote.

Premier, this is an extremely important issue and I'm sure you recognize that. You are about to impose changes that will affect the way people in Metropolitan Toronto live for the next 50 years.


Several weeks ago the city of Scarborough invited the three party leaders to a debate tonight in front of 2,000 people. I'll be there and Mr Hampton will be there. Premier, why won't you be there?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We are listening very carefully to all those people that you referenced on Saturday as well. Let me say that those you referenced on Saturday who are concerned about an increase in taxes, that's our concern too. We hear them and we're responding. We're concerned that property taxes have doubled over the last 10 years under the Liberals and the NDP.

Those who are concerned about a decrease in services, we're with them, we're responding. Those services that have declined over the last 10 years -- the young boy yesterday was concerned about a class size of 37 -- those are the kinds of changes that indeed we want to make.

Local governments want some decision-making close to them. We're listening to those concerns as well. That's why we have the local member speaking to Scarborough tonight, at the invitation of Scarborough council, I think.

Mr McGuinty: The Premier is clearly ducking this one. In some ways I don't blame him. If he attended he'd have to explain why he used to call local government "the best and most efficient government" and now he's killing it. If he attended, he'd have to tell the people of Scarborough how it is that their city, which runs the most efficient operation in Metropolitan Toronto -- he'd have to tell them how his megacity can possibly benefit them. He'd have to tell them how a city of some 500,000 in size is going to benefit when it joins up with a city that's going to have, in total, 2.3 million people altogether.

You'd have to tell the people of Scarborough why it is that you said, when you attended before the Scarborough Metro East Chamber of Commerce on October 17, 1994 -- this is what you said then, Premier; you'll recall, I'm sure -- "Scarborough's fiscal efficiency is a model that should be followed by other levels of government." Now I didn't say "swallowed," I said "followed" by other levels of government.

Premier, you said Scarborough wasn't --

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

Hon Mr Harris: I'm not sure whether that date was before Frank Faubert took over as mayor or not -- I think it was, as I recall; you've gone back a few years. I think since I made that we have a new mayor, one who when he was a Liberal MPP, as correctly pointed out by one of my colleagues, supported the commercial concentration tax that cut the heart and soul right out of Toronto, and 33 other tax increases that were there. I might say that had the voters -- they probably regret it now -- voted for his opponent at that time, one Marilyn Mushinski, it probably would be a better-run municipality today than it is.

Having said all that, I might say that the people of Scarborough wanted a local representative to talk to them, so the Liberals are sending somebody from Ottawa, the NDP is sending somebody from Rainy River and we're sending that champion of local democracy, one of the local members from Scarborough.


The Speaker: Members for Kingston and The Islands, Ottawa Centre and Sudbury, please come to order. Final supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: Premier, I am attending the debate because I was invited to attend, and I think as a matter of courtesy and respect, I ought to attend. You were invited to attend and you're ducking it.

Let's be honest about this. You're losing the megacity battle and you know it. In fact one of the few people so far supporting the megacity at the public hearings was the Premier's former chauffeur. Apparently he's still taking directions from the Premier.

The pro-megacity group that has been haphazardly cobbled together -- we've heard something about this -- consists of real, grass-roots, non-aligned, impartial and objective types like, get this: Leslie Noble, former campaign manager; Tony Clement, parliamentary assistant; and Bob Harris, the party's former executive director.

Premier, let's call off the debate tonight. Let's, you and I, walk out of here right now, arm in arm, and we'll go out there and tell them you've made a mistake, you're withdrawing the bill, and that'll be the end of it. What do you say?

Hon Mr Harris: Obviously I would not agree with the member's assessment of the past 10 years under the Liberals and the NDP, that 1985 to 1995 record, versus the responsible government that the people all across the province are getting today.

But I would say this: We are listening very carefully to those who are making representations on one unified city, serving the same number of 2.2 million people but with fewer politicians and less bureaucracy but the same size. Some are expressing their viewpoints on how we can do things more efficiently and effectively under Who Does What in the future, and we take that very seriously.

For the people of Scarborough, Mr Gilchrist, who is a local Scarborough member, I think will quite ably handle himself in Scarborough versus somebody from Rainy River and somebody from Ottawa.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My next question is for the Minister of Health. Last week I raised the very disturbing story of a dying man's last days in a Sault Ste Marie hospital. His experience made it clear to me, and I hope to you, that your $1.3 billion of cuts to Ontario hospitals are hurting patients.

Today I have a letter from a Mr Zukowski, who tells us of how he visited his uncle at an Ontario hospital here in Toronto a short while ago. His uncle was in hospital because he had to have eye surgery. He is 89 years of age. This is what he writes:

"Imagine our shock when we arrived that morning to see my uncle sitting naked in a chair, tied with a bedsheet, alone and shaking violently, his untouched breakfast, by now over an hour and a half old, sitting on the bed tray nearby. Medication was yet to be given and it was nearly 10 o'clock in the morning."

Minister, I want you to tell me again, I want you to tell Mr Zukowski and I want you to tell his uncle how it is that your cuts are not affecting patient care.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): I guess the member opposite knows I can't comment on any particular case other than when cases are raised to me directly, either outside the House or inside the House, cases which involve the people of Ontario. Obviously it causes me considerable concern and I am here to say on behalf of the government, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, that there are many health care professionals out there doing their best to provide excellent health care to the people of Ontario, and I take each individual case seriously.

What I will say again to the member opposite is this government has a plan, has a vision, to put the patients first in Ontario, to put the money where the patients need the services, in the front-line services. The plan that was initiated over a year ago was to focus on taking out the administrative costs, realizing savings and putting front-line services back into health care in Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, your vision for health care in Ontario tomorrow is doing nothing for patients who presently find themselves in our hospitals and in need of basic nursing care. Let's understand what we're talking about here. We have an 89-year-old man, naked, strapped to a chair, who is unfed, sitting exposed to the world, a man for whom we have a very special responsibility, a man who is entitled to quality health care, the kind that respects his dignity as a human being. He didn't get that in Ontario in 1997. Nurses confirmed to us this morning that cases of patients being restrained -- that means tied up -- are on the increase and that's because of staff shortages, for no other reason.

You talked about the importance of delivering care and that the staff are doing their best. Yes, but you're tying their hands. There are not enough of them. Minister, do you really think it's appropriate that frail, elderly patients --

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


Hon David Johnson: I am affected by each and every one of the stories that appear in the media and stories that are brought to my attention, and most concerned. But I will say that Ontario has a vision to reinvest back into front-line services. In fact we have announced reinvestment in long-term-care services, kidney dialysis, cardiac services and diabetes services across Ontario.

That view is not only shared by myself, but on the radio the other day there was a quote from a gentleman who said: "The Ontario government, from what I have seen, is committed to the principles of the Canada Health Act. They are trying to provide top-quality care to their citizens." The author of that quote was the Liberal federal Minister of Health, David Dingwall.

Mr McGuinty: Minister, you and your government have hacked $1.3 billion out of Ontario hospitals. How can that not help but have some deleterious effects? How can it not help but hurt the quality of patient care?

Mr Zukowski's uncle has seen at first hand, experienced at first hand what this means. There was no one there to attend him because your cuts thus far have resulted in 3,400 registered nurses losing their jobs. When you're done, your plans are to lay off 15,000 nurses in Ontario -- 15,000 fewer nurses for patient care. We're talking about people being tied to their chairs, we're talking about others not being fed or others not having their diapers changed or others being discharged too early.

I've asked you before and I'm going to ask you again: How many more people, how many more patients in Ontario are going to have to suffer in our hospitals, not because of their illness but because of your cuts, before you realize that your cuts are hurting patient care?

Hon David Johnson: I think, first of all, we should get our facts straight. There is no plan to cut nurses in Ontario. In fact, through long-term-care reinvestments --


The Speaker: The member for Fort William, please come to order. Member for Ottawa West, come to order as well, please. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: Second, there has not been a reduction of $1.3 billion to the hospitals. There have been some savings realized administratively, such as a reduced number of vice-presidents and middle managers etc. There has also been a reinvestment of some $600 million --

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): They are cutting services.

The Speaker: Member for Oriole, you choose to ask the questions the way you like and the government can choose to answer them the way they like. Your heckling is out of order. Thank you. Minister.

Hon David Johnson: I try to answer them on a factual basis. I think that's the problem the opposition has.

This government is reinvesting in health care, reinvestments announced of over $600 million. We have lived up to our commitment of at least $17.4 billion in health care. What could we expect from a Liberal Party which reduced the number of hospital beds when they were in government by over 1,200 in the last two years of their term?


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. After your government has made huge cuts to the Ministry of Environment and has laid off hundreds of scientists, experts, inspectors and enforcers, we read today that the Minister of Environment has a legal problem. He is worried that our courts may find your government legally liable for regulatory negligence when someone is harmed as a result of all the cuts you've imposed on the environment, so now your government is busy drawing up confidential legal strategies in case it gets sued.

Premier, I've got a better idea for you: Why not stop the deregulation of our environment, the decimation of our environmental inspectors and enforcers and the demolition of the Ministry of Environment and Energy? Why won't you simply enforce the law that protects our environment?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think the member is responding to an article in the paper that's factually incorrect. Given that, it makes his question factually incorrect.

If the member is suggesting that the Ministry of Environment, in trying to correct the disastrous environmental record of your government, in trying to do things more efficiently, in trying to actually set standards and enforce them, something you didn't have the courage to do on either air standards or water quality standards, bringing the environmental regulation into the 21st century, not the past, in doing these things I would acknowledge this: that starting in 1994, the Ministry of Environment had numerous directives that it should be setting priorities. That was under your government. That was one of the few things we agreed with, that they should be setting priorities in how they spend their time and their enforcement time. I think everybody has to set priorities. That's a logical exercise. We've asked them to go after the most serious offenders --

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

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): This is clear evidence once again that your minister can no longer protect the environment. The Environmental Commissioner has already issued two urgent reports about that. Today there is yet again more clear evidence. Ms Willis, the ADM at the Ministry of Environment, wrote, "The layoffs will have an obvious impact on the amount of work we can accomplish."

She went on to say that the government could no longer provide the kinds of environmental services it used to. This is again more clear evidence, and you are still standing on your feet denying it. When are you going to listen to the environmentalists, the commissioner of the environment and now an assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Environment? They're telling you that you've got a problem here.

Hon Mr Harris: I think I said 1994 when the priority-setting started in the ministry, but it was 1992. I just want to correct the record -- same government, same administration. We thought that was logical. Let me give you some examples that Ms Willis is referring to, one who is very supportive of the new efforts of this government, by the way, in following through on those priorities.

Odours from manure-spreading during manure-spreading time in agricultural rural Ontario would not have as high a priority, for example, as dumping chemicals into a water source near the drinking water. Should both those calls come in at the same time, we would expect that the environmental officer would respond first to the true emergency and second to the environmental odours that would be a normal part of farm practices. That would be kind of the logical priority-setting you started in 1992 and we're very supportive of continuing today.

Ms Churley: Premier, I think you're an expert in manure-spreading around here. You are not listening to the facts here. Let me tell you what Ms Willis said further: She wanted the changes because of the large number of alterations being made to Ontario's environmental regulations by the Progressive Conservative government.


In my riding there is even more evidence that your government is not protecting the environment. There is a public meeting tonight so that residents can learn about health risks from dangerous chemicals called PAH in the soil in their backyards. This was discovered in testing in October 1995. The city of Toronto's health department was not informed until January 1997. It was kept secret, under wraps, and now a notice has gone out warning people not to let their children play in the backyards, not to eat vegetables from the backyards. This has been known by your ministry for a long time and only now is it coming to light. Premier, will you now admit that you don't have the resources to protect the environment and human health any more?

Hon Mr Harris: No, not at all. I would certainly not call setting priorities and following through on that exercise, setting tough new standards and enforcing them, at all a reflection. I understand that it's not likely that you are going to stand up and say: "Boy, the government's doing a good job. Let's adjourn and go home." I understand that and I understand your role. But when it comes to protecting the environment, this government not only takes a back seat to no one; we don't take a back seat to the disgraceful mess you left in this province.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My second question is for the Premier. Premier, you're creating an environmental deficit in this province. But I want to ask you about the federal budget, which is coming down later this afternoon. Among other measures, the federal Minister of Finance is expected to commit a sum of money to a new national child benefit to address child poverty. The speculation is that the federal government will provide somewhere between $300 million and $600 million, although we know that substantially more is required to make any impact on child poverty.

Ontario has not made a firm commitment to participating in a child benefit program. Yesterday your Minister of Community and Social Services said, "We're waiting to see what Ottawa invests." How much money must the federal government commit today to a national child benefit program in order for Ontario to say, "Yes, we'll be part of the plan"? Premier, what's your government's bottom line? How much does child poverty matter to your government?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I heard an interjection that suggested to me the Minister of Community and Social Services wished to answer this.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I did not hear that, but Minister of Community and Social Services.

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): What the honourable member is saying is simply inaccurate. This province, in conjunction with the other provinces and with Ottawa, has made a commitment to develop an integrated child benefit for people, for kids who are living in poverty in this country. I think it's probably going to be one of the most unprecedented federal-provincial initiatives I've seen in quite some time. For him to question this government's commitment to that I think is based on totally erroneous information.

Mr Hampton: I did not put words in this minister's mouth. She's quite capable of trapping herself with her own mouth. She said yesterday, "We're waiting to see what Ottawa is prepared to invest," when she was asked for a firm commitment.

Here's the problem: This government has made an art of announcing new programs for children and then not doing anything. In the last provincial budget the finance minister said they'd be spending an additional $40 million on child care and $10 million on healthy start programs for expectant mothers and young children, and yet we find today, almost at the end of the fiscal year, despite these loud announcements, that none of this money has gone to children. The government has kept all the money.

We know that child poverty is getting worse in Ontario. So I would put the question again to the Premier, though he doesn't want to answer it. We want a commitment today, Premier. We want to know how much child poverty matters to your government. Will you say yes to participating in a national child benefit and press Ottawa and the other provinces to develop national standards?

Hon Mrs Ecker: Perhaps if the member of the third party had bothered to read the press release we put out in conjunction with the other provinces and Ottawa, where we all committed to working to develop an integrated child benefit that would help children in low-income families; that would ensure there was an incentive built in for people to move off welfare into the workforce; that would not disadvantage those children currently on social assistance; and we also made a commitment that any moneys we would receive through Ottawa's options would be used to spend on other child programs that are needed in this province -- perhaps if he would pay attention to what has been happening, which we've talked about in this House on many occasions, he would know that Ontario is very committed to making this work because we know we need to do a better job to help children who are trapped either in welfare or in low-income working families.

Mr Hampton: The only person who is avoiding things here is the Minister of Community and Social Services. I've asked her twice, what is the needed federal commitment and what is Ontario prepared to commit? You don't seem to want to deal with that. We want to know, how much does child poverty matter to your government? We've seen that you can make announcements. You've made all kinds of announcements in the last year, but then you hide away the money; you don't provide any of that money for children or children's programs. So we need a clear statement of intent and commitment.

Minister, will you make a promise today to the poor children of Ontario that any savings your government gets as a result of a national child benefit will be directly reinvested as additional spending, over and above current and planned expenditures, on income support for families, on healthy start programs, on child care, on child nutrition or on any other program designed to assist children and families in need? Will you make a commitment that you will take that money and spend it additionally and not hide it away like --

The Speaker: Thank you, leader. Minister.

Hon Mrs Ecker: I've said before and I'll say again that if the member of the third party had bothered to pay attention to statements I've made in this Legislature, to statements the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has made in this Legislature and to the press release and the announcements that have been made, Ontario has been very clear in its commitment.

Unfortunately, one of the options we must deal with -- we cannot make that decision as provinces until we have an understanding of where Ottawa is coming from. We have had experience with Ottawa in the past where they have made commitments about spending they were going to give the provinces and then that money never materialized. I'm sure the honourable member is not suggesting that we should run out and sign on something where we have not got the commitment from Ottawa.

I would also like to remind the honourable member that his colleague in British Columbia, who likes to talk about the child benefit they have done, who likes to talk about how well their children are doing -- they're still getting less money in that province than they're getting in Ontario, so I don't think that our record needs to be questioned in the least, sir.


The Speaker: Well, this seems like the perfect time to introduce one of the guests we have in our gallery today. I'd like everyone's attention.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Mr Mario Dumont, leader of Action démocratique du Québec, member of the National Assembly for the riding of Rivière-du-Loup. Welcome, sir.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): My question today goes to the Minister of Health. Last week the minister declined to admit that his ministry had made mistakes with the biggest part of its responsibility. We can draw a direct line between those responses last week and Mr Zukowski tied to his chair in a hospital in Toronto, not the only elderly person treated that way. Hospitals around the province -- I can say with authority that over half these hospitals were given the wrong allocation by your ministry.

Today we learned that one of your members, the member for Simcoe East, has called his hospital and said: "We have made mistakes. We're going to give the money back."

You were given the opportunity in this House to admit that you're aware of those mistakes and are doing something about them within your ministry, and you declined to do so. I want to give you another chance today to tell us that you're aware of the $23 million in extra cuts you've made to hospitals and tell those nurses who have to tie patients, tell those other people that they're going to get their money back and they can go ahead and operate with some certainty in the face of those monstrous cuts you're making them carry out.


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, Minister of Health, Government House Leader): What I did say, and I gave a commitment, was that this government would live up 100% to the funding to the hospitals it outlined over a year ago, and I reaffirm that commitment today. I also say that we will go above and beyond that because this government believes in reinvesting in services to patients. You will see more money flowing into the hospitals in various areas.

Second, I will say in addition that this government has corrected a long-term flaw in the formula for operating funds, which was present when the Liberals were in government, which was present when the NDP was in government, which withheld a payment to the hospitals for three weeks. We have corrected that situation so the hospitals will now get all the money they deserve in the fiscal year they deserve it.

Mr Kennedy: I have a memo here from the Deputy Minister of Health trying to claim that a correction is being made. But, Minister, it is you and your government that made this mistake. It didn't happen last year; it didn't happen the year before. It only happened this year. The question people have to ask is, was this deliberate?

Your ministry is in chaos. Your hospital cuts are a mess. You've been calling hospitals all week telling them there are changes in their allocation because you made mistakes. Your assistant deputy minister in charge of hospitals left last week, the same day I raised this issue. Suddenly he's gone. Minister, you are left, left to tell us and patients out there how the chaos taking place in your ministry, taking place for Mr Zukowski and for other patients across this province is going to be addressed. Will you confirm today that you're giving the money back to hospitals, that you made too deep a cut? Will you also tell us that you'll stop making the cuts overall? They can't be done --

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

Hon David Johnson: I will confirm once again that this government is reinvesting into hospitals, into services for patients, putting patients first. This government is carrying forward a process begun by the previous government seeking the advice of the people within their communities through the district health councils, looking to reinvest money wisely within their hospitals. I'll say once again that we have corrected a long-standing formula which was in place when you were in government, when the NDP was in government -- check the record, sir -- which withheld payments to hospitals for three weeks. We have corrected that situation so now hospitals get the money they deserve in the year they deserve it.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services. You've cut a deal with Andersen Consulting Ltd, which, along with Arthur Andersen, is part of the US-based, multinational Andersen worldwide organization. Your computer systems and the systems in your offices may well need revision and addressing. The fact is that Andersen Consulting stands to make up to $180 million out of this deal you've cut with them. Surely there are companies in Ontario, Ontario-based and Canadian-owned, that are capable of doing this same work. Why do you find it necessary to hire and cut a deal with an American-based multinational to do this work?

Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Community and Social Services): As the honourable member will know, it was his government that put out the notice of intent for this particular contract. Contrary to what he appears to be saying, we do believe in an open tender process. We also believe in choosing the company with the best experience and the best ability to deliver the savings in the program we need, the best quality at the best price.

Mr Kormos: Minister, you abandon jobless Canadian workers and Canadian and Ontario expertise in favour of an American company. I think we're starting to understand why. Surely you know that Andersen Consulting is a part of the company that was forced to pay out $82 million in settlement as a result of its negligent audits up to and during the course of the savings and loans crisis in the United States, a crisis that cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.

This same company that has demonstrated its negligence has been hired by you to hack away at our welfare system. How can the people of Ontario have any confidence in you or in this company when it has demonstrated its incompetence and negligence and when you've demonstrated yours by cutting your deal with them?

Hon Mrs Ecker: I guess I'm a little at a loss why the honourable member would wish to second-guess a decision his government had made when they recognized that to make the welfare system work better for people who need those services, to make the system work better for people who are paying for those services, we need an up-to-date computer technology system.

Mr Kormos: That's a lie and you know it. That's a bold-faced lie. You're in bed with --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Welland-Thorold, that is unparliamentary language. I would ask that you withdraw.

Mr Kormos: I withdraw. I maintain that she's in bed with these actors.

The Speaker: Member for Welland-Thorold, you only get an opportunity to withdraw or not withdraw. I don't want you to replace it with anything. It's just withdraw or don't withdraw. It's your option. Minister.

Hon Mrs Ecker: We explained this in the Legislature yesterday, but the honourable member obviously was not paying attention. We believe that any dollar wasted in administration, that any dollar we can pull out of inefficient processes is a dollar we can reinvest back in a front-line service.

The auditor has been clearly flagging the fact that the processes we have in this system need to be improved. Those communities that are signing on to workfare out there have indicated very clearly that better computer technology is what they need to do a good job. That's exactly what we are doing. We are bringing in good-quality technology to make improvements in the system that take savings out of administration so we can protect those programs for people in need.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question is to the minister responsible for seniors. The federal government is cutting $2 billion over two years from its health care and social service costs in Ontario. Last week Ottawa talked about adding $50 million for pilot projects for publicly funded home care and free prescription drugs. If the federal Liberals confirm in today's budget that $50 million is going to health care, could the minister tell the House approximately how much money Ontarians can expect?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): At this point it might be premature to guess exactly how much might flow to Ontario with this trial balloon sent out by Ottawa, and there have been no official discussions with the Minister of Health. But if precedent and population trends are any indication, we could be looking at somewhere around $18 million for the province.

I'd like to say, on behalf of our province and all the other provinces in Canada, we are delighted that the federal government is revisiting the health care envelope after they have cut $7 billion over two years from all the provinces.

As you know, our government, in response to that, has strengthened its commitment. It has increased health care spending to the historically high level of $17.7 billion, implemented long-term-care reforms that have been 10 years on hold by the previous governments, we've restored out-of-country coverage for seniors and we've introduced the most comprehensive flu immunization program in all of North America. That's the kind of solid commitment seniors are seeking and it's the kind of commitment seniors deserve.

Mr Bert Johnson: Ontario currently provides the Ontario drug benefit plan for seniors and welfare recipients at a cost of $1.2 billion. We also increased the home care and community services budget to $1.1 billion. Could the minister please tell me what the impact of these federal dollars for seniors would be?

Hon Mr Jackson: The member has asked an important question: What would this impact be on Ontario's seniors who, on average, are using about 27 prescriptions a year under the Ontario drug benefit plan? Clearly the new federal money being discussed out of Ottawa would be the equivalent of paying for the first 10 pills of their first prescription in an entire year. That's only 10 pills.

While the Mike Harris government has increased home care and community health care spending in this province to the tune of $1.1 billion, that is $3 million a day being spent on home care. That is the equivalent, with the new federal money, of only three days a year. That's all we're talking about from the federal government.

To put this in context, and the Globe and Mail has referred to this as a possible election ploy, it's clear to us that the amount Paul Martin wants to give to Ontario seniors and their drug plan will be less than the amount Paul Martin gave Sheila Copps for the great Canadian flag giveaway.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Come on. You wouldn't want to leave the Speaker in the unenviable position of declaring the flag as a prop. So I'd ask that it be put away.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. You and your government have really become addicted to sanctioned gambling with the announcement of some 44 permanent mini-casinos containing over 6,000 video slot machines that are going to be placed in neighbourhoods all across Ontario.

Minister, by referendum, have you asked those communities if they want all these slot machines in their backyards?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I am sure the honourable member as well as almost everyone in this House has heard from the charities in their own local areas. The real difficulty here is that from the three-day roving casinos the Liberal government of Mr Peterson introduced there is absolutely no accountability. We've heard from a lot of charities that after having a three-day Monte Carlo event, they often make nothing or are in the hole. I don't think that's right for the charities.

By introducing permanent charity gaming clubs, we introduce an element of accountability where charities will benefit. In fact, the charities' benefit from this will go from about $10 million to $12 million under the previous procedures up to about $180 million. I think that's a boon to charities in this province. They're waiting for this.

Mr Crozier: Minister, I saw your mouth move but I didn't hear you answer the question. Do you know where the real boon is going to be? The real boon is going to be to this government because they're going to make a lot more out of it than the charities are going to make.

During the election campaign Mike Harris promised referenda for communities to decide whether or not they would get a casino. Your Premier used to be very interested in finding out what communities thought about gambling in their backyard. Now we have an announcement that you're simply going to put 6,000 video slot machines, the most addictive little machines, right in their backyards.

Minister, in light of the Premier's promise, will you give communities the option of whether they want these video slot machines in their backyard or will Coopers and Lybrand simply tell them they're going to be there?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I had the opportunity to speak to a number of mayors in some of the catchment areas that would be the beneficiaries. I must say many of them were delighted with the fact that they thought not only would this benefit their charities, this would benefit the employment situations in their own communities.

I'd like to point out as well that last year the Gaming Control Commission issued around 4,200 licences for the three-day Monte Carlo. If you multiply 4,200 by three, you get about 12,600 gaming days. When you look at the number of gaming days that will come as a result of the permanent charity gaming clubs, it's pretty close to the same.

This does not look like a great increase in the amount of gaming going on in the province, but it indicates an increase in accountability to the charities.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I've got a copy of the request for proposal dated October 20, 1995, that resulted in this government's deal with Andersen Consulting. Maybe the minister would like to stand up and correct her comments before she's assumed to have misled this House.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): To the member for Welland-Thorold, that's just not a point of order. I see you're not shocked about that.

New question, member for Cochrane South.


The Speaker: I didn't know the wording as he was yelling, but I would ask the member for Welland-Thorold --

Interjection: That's not what he said.

The Speaker: I'm not certain that's what he said either, with all due respect, but I give the member the opportunity to withdraw the comment.

Mr Kormos: I didn't, Speaker. Thank you.

The Speaker: New question, member for Cochrane South.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Every year an average of 400 small vehicles run into the side and the rear of tractor-trailers because they're not able to see those vehicles at night as there's no reflective tape put on the side of those trailers.

Research has indicated that such tragedies can be largely avoided by retrofitting trucks with reflective tapes. As of 1996 there is a requirement that all new trucks have reflective tape installed on those that are being used within the province of Ontario. However, this does not apply to trucks that are already in service.

You would know, Minister, that there was an accident a couple of years ago where a young woman died, at age 35, because her vehicle drove into the side of a truck because it didn't have that reflective tape. As a result of that, a coroner's jury recommended that a requirement of reflective taping be used on all trailers travelling on Ontario roads to the same standard as required on new trailers.

My question is simply this: Are you prepared today to follow the jury's recommendation and mandate the retrofitting of reflective tape on all used trucks travelling on Ontario's roads?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank the member for the question. I certainly concur and agree that we have to make sure our trucks on our highways are safe. I'm really happy to say that a lot of consultation has gone on with the industry and that reflective tape has been a major topic; as a matter of fact, it's been at the very top since we started our think tank back in October 1995. I think we have made some progress. Target '97 is also taking a look at some of the other things we could implement. I want to assure the honourable member that striping all trucks is on our plate. It's something we're looking forward to making sure we accomplish here in Ontario.

Mr Bisson: I certainly hope we're able to see that concretely in legislation in this House.

I want to say that the Canadian Automobile Association has challenged all shippers to serve notice to their carriers that they will only ship their products on trucks that are fitted with this reflective tape. The particular campaign is called "No tape, no freight."

Will you, as the Minister of Transportation in Ontario, ask the Chair of Management Board to make sure that any shipping that is being done on behalf of the province only be done in vehicles that are using reflective tape?

Hon Mr Palladini: Really I do understand where the member is coming from, but I want to remind him that any new trailer that gets put on the road today has to have reflective tape; that is a mandatory thing. But I do understand what he is saying about going back and making sure all trailers are done.

I want to say that the shipping association in this province has been very cooperative in helping us to establish a good, safe highway system. I also want to say that the CAA has been constantly talking with my staff, including myself, to see how we can all work together and make sure that safety is practised in Ontario.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): My question today is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. For the past couple of weeks I've been sitting on the standing committee on general government hearing deputations on Bill 103, the City of Toronto Act. I, like all members on the government side of this committee, have been listening to what the deputants have had to say.

One of the accusations that has been thrown at our government is that if and when Bill 103 passes and the municipalities of Toronto become united, our government is going to take hundreds of millions of dollars of reserve funds from the municipalities and apply it to the provincial debt. Will the minister please comment on this accusation and inform this House as to the government's plan regarding these reserve funds?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I would like to thank the member for Scarborough Centre for the question. I know he has been at the hearings many hours and I really want to let him know that I appreciate his efforts in being there to hear all the deputants.

I'm pleased to have this opportunity to clarify in the House what is actually in the legislation regarding the reserve funds of the Metro municipalities. It clearly states that all the assets and liabilities the old municipalities had are vested in and become assets and liabilities of the new city. I've said on many occasions that the province has absolutely no intention of taking the reserve funds of the Metro municipalities. Any reserve funds that belong to the municipalities before the merger will remain with the unified city of Toronto after the merger, and any individual who says the province is going to take the money is absolutely wrong.


Mr Newman: I'm glad the minister has clarified that it the House and that there will be no more wild accusations.

Could the minister please explain to the House and for my constituents in Scarborough Centre what the role of the board of trustees will be with respect to these reserve funds if and when Bill 103 finishes the legislative process?

Hon Mr Leach: Again I thank the member for the question. I'd be very happy to clarify the role of the board of trustees with regard to the reserve funds of the seven municipalities. The board of trustees will not be taking over the reserve funds accounts of the seven governments. The reserve funds will be transferred in their entirety to the new city. The role of the board of trustees is to provide protection of these reserve funds for the taxpayers of the seven municipalities. Our intent is to ensure that these new reserve funds are there for the taxpayers of the new unified city of Toronto. I hope that clarifies this issue once and for all.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Over the course of the last week we have discussed the cost of downloading social housing to municipalities from a macro perspective. We released numbers yesterday that we believe are accurate with respect to the cost to individual municipalities. Given the obvious impacts this move will have on the property tax base, do you expect that municipalities in this province will either raise rents in what were formerly Ontario Housing Corp units or do you expect they will sell them off and get out of the public housing business?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member from Windsor for his question. It's a very good question, because when this government carries out its proposals to take education off the property tax and carries out our other proposals to switch services with the municipalities, the taxpayers won't have to worry about a tax increase and renters won't have to worry about a rent increase. They'll be able to look forward to a decrease. After the transition period over the next couple of years, by about the year 2001, we fully expect the municipalities would be in a position to lower rents, because we're also going to fix up the property tax situation and property taxes as well should be able to be lowered.

Mr Duncan: The Minister of Housing does not understand what the government is doing. What the government is doing indirectly and in a most cowardly way is getting out of public housing entirely. What you are doing is keeping your Common Sense Revolution pledge to sell off public housing, to not provide public housing for the most needy people in this province, and you're leaving the dirty work to municipalities because you know that your plans will raise property taxes or they'll have to get out of it altogether.

Minister, will you tell this House how property taxpayers can be expected to bear $1.4 billion in costs? Will you tell this House now that you expect municipalities to get out of public housing and will you tell the House that you don't care about public housing because you don't care about the most poor and vulnerable in this society? You have no vision of housing. You're closing public housing. How do you expect us to have a public housing stock in this province? How do you expect that, Minister?

Hon Mr Leach: The member says that's a cowardly action. You know who wants to get out of the housing business, Mr Speaker? His Liberal cousins in Ottawa. The Liberals said, "We want to get out of the social housing business."


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Government members. Thank you.


The Speaker: Except the Minister of Education, who is being very good. Minister.

Hon Mr Leach: Both senior levels of government know and agree with the municipalities that the municipalities are far better equipped to administer and deliver social housing. Even the social housing providers in those municipalities know they are best prepared to do that and have asked for that responsibility. The member asks where they will get the money to do that. I assume they'll take it from the $6 billion they save from having education taken off the property tax.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. In January the minister announced that the school construction moratorium was over and that $650 million in much-needed school construction could go ahead. But then he created more confusion, confusion that is really bothering a lot of boards of education out there. Each school construction project has a provincial contribution and it also has a local contribution, and you've told boards of education to go out and borrow the money they need to pay for their local share.

The problem they have is, if they borrow this money and incur a debenture, under your Bill 104 they will no longer have the authority to tax. So they're wondering who will pay back these debentures. Minister, will your government be paying back these debentures and assuming the responsibility for the repayment of that local share down the road? That's the answer they need to hear from you.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the leader of the third party --

Interjections: Boo.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order.

Interjection: We want to make him feel at home.

The Speaker: All right, you're out of order. Minister of Education.

Hon Mr Snobelen: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. You were very eloquent in that rebuttal.

I want to thank the leader of the third party for the question. Yes, we did announce that there is going to be construction of new schools in Ontario. The province will live up to its commitment that we made. We made it very purposefully. We want to get the shovel in the ground this spring to build some of the schools that are necessary across this province and we will do that. Nothing that has happened from that announcement till now will delay the construction of those schools.

Mr Hampton: Minister, I hear what you're saying but I also hear what those boards are saying. For example, in my part of northwestern Ontario, the Atikokan board has a $3.2-million project but they have a $500,000 local share and they haven't been able to get anything from your ministry about how that $500,000 local share is going to be covered.

Fort Frances-Rainy River board has a $14.5-million construction project, a new high school multi-use facility. It has a local share of over $3.2 million. They can't get an answer as to how the debenture's going to be paid down, so they can't begin. The Dryden Board of Education has a project. They can't get a firm answer. The Kenora Board of Education has $5.8 million in projects with a $2 million local share. They want to proceed.

These are much-needed schools. They want to proceed. They want an answer from your ministry. First, do they have the approval to sign the contracts; second, they want to know if they borrow this money which is needed to cover the local share in some cases, will you --

The Speaker: Thank you, leader. Minister.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm very pleased to have a chance to address the question here. I hope that the critic from the Liberal Party is also listening because I believe that the correct information needs to get out there. We have been in communication with school boards and we have told them the template by which to apply, and we will build those schools and the leader of the third party certainly has my assurances of that. It's our intention to build those schools and we will build them.




Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have an important petition made out to the government of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"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 as I am in full agreement with this petition.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Whereas it is vital that occupational health and safety services provided to workers be conducted by organizations in which workers have faith; and

"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers have provided such services on behalf of workers for many years;

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

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

I signed that petition.


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

"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 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 constituents in my riding.


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

"Whereas section 30, subsection 5 of the Education Act provides for dispositions with regard to habitually absent students and therein makes reference to the Juvenile Delinquents Act of Canada; and

"Whereas reference to the Juvenile Delinquents Act has caused and continues to cause confusion throughout the courts of Ontario because of its interpretive nature; and

"Whereas different interpretations of the Juvenile Delinquents Act have caused and continue to cause inconsistent rulings throughout the courts of Ontario; and

"Whereas the inconsistent support and enforcement of the compulsory school attendance legislation threatens the very concept of compulsory school attendance;

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

"To resolve this long-outstanding problem to the educational future of Ontario's youth and reinstate the government's support of compulsory school attendance by clarifying the existing legislative confusion, by the deletion of any reference to the Juvenile Delinquents Act and by a clear adoption of the remedies available under the Provincial Offences Act."


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

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

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

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

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

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

I add my name to theirs in support.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I'd like to present a petition this afternoon on behalf of the County of Bruce General Hospital and its alliance partners, Chesley, Durham and Kincardine. The petition reads as follows:

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

I am pleased to affix my name to the top.


M. Gilles E. Morin (Carleton-Est) : À la législature de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que la fondation PACE 2000, organisme à but non lucratif, prévoit de construire une communauté intergénération résidentielle pour aînés et pour étudiants adultes sur le terrain directement au nord de l'Hôpital Montfort ;

«Attendu que les objectifs de la fondation PACE 2000 sont de promouvoir l'autonomie des aînés dans leur domicile et de favoriser l'insertion socio-professionnelle des jeunes, et que ces objectifs seront atteints avec l'appui du réseau intergénération qui favorise la complémentarité entre les âges ;

«Attendu que la congrégation des Filles de la Sagesse, l'Hôpital Montfort et la fondation PACE 2000 ont déposé ensemble le 26 janvier 1997 l'application pour changement de zonage du terrain de 21 acres, et que, au 28 janvier 1997, les autorisations n'ont toujours pas été accordées par la ville d'Ottawa ;

«Attendu que 510 signataires depuis mai 1996 ont demandé que le projet PACE 2000 soit réalisé dans les plus brefs délais ;

«Nous les soussignés demandons à la législature de l'Ontario ce qui suit :

«D'accorder la plus grande priorité aux accords municipaux et provinciaux nécessaires au développement du projet intergénération PACE 2000 sur le terrain situé directement au nord de l'Hôpital Montfort, et ce avant la mise en application prochaine de la nouvelle nomenclature de zonage de la ville d'Ottawa.»

J'y affixe ma signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): "Whereas it is vital that occupational health and safety services provided to workers be conducted by organizations in which workers have faith; and

"Whereas the Workers' Health and Safety Centre and the occupational health clinics for Ontario workers have provided such services on behalf of workers for many years; and

"Whereas the centre and clinics have made a significant contribution to improvements in workplace health and safety and the reduction of injuries, illnesses and death caused by work;

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

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

I add my name to theirs.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have 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 make the entire process a great misuse of taxpayers' dollars and tarnish 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 with the proposed unification of the municipalities into one unified city of Toronto."



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas section 30, subsection (5) of the Education Act provides for dispositions with regard to habitually absent students and therein makes reference to the Juvenile Delinquents Act; and

"Whereas reference to the Juvenile Delinquents Act has caused and continues to cause confusion throughout the courts of Ontario because of its interpretive nature; and

"Whereas different interpretations of the Juvenile Delinquents Act have caused and continue to cause inconsistent rulings throughout the courts of Ontario; and

"Whereas the inconsistent support and enforcement of the compulsory school attendance legislation threatens the very concept of compulsory school attendance;

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

"To resolve this long-outstanding problem to the educational future of Ontario's youth and reinstate the government's support of compulsory school attendance by clarifying the existing legislative confusion, by the deletion of any reference to the Juvenile Delinquents Act and by a clear adoption of the remedies available under the Provincial Offences Act."

Of course I affix my signature to this petition as I agree with it.


Mme Shelley Martel (Sudbury-Est) : J'ai une pétition à l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que Mike Harris et John Snobelen avaient promis de ne pas apporter des coupures dans l'éducation au niveau de la salle de classe, et que depuis leur élection, le gouvernement Harris a sabré plus de 430 millions de dollars dans les budgets des conseils scolaires, ce qui représente près d'un milliard de dollars supprimé du secteur de l'éducation publique sur une base annuelle ; et

«Attendu que nos enfants ont déjà perdu 50 % du financement accordé à l'éducation spéciale, ainsi que les bibliothécaires et, dans certaines régions, les maternelles, et que de nombreuses écoles ont perdu leurs programmes de musique, et que le nombre d'élèves dans chaque classe a augmenté sensiblement -- certaines écoles vont même perdre leurs autobus scolaires ; et

«Attendu que les parents à l'échelle de l'Ontario savent que la majorité des changements apportés au secteur de l'éducation ont pour but de supprimer un milliard de dollars des dépenses du gouvernement pour financer sa réduction d'impôts ; et

«Attendu que les parents savent que ces coupures affectent l'éducation dans les salles de classe et la qualité de l'éducation de leurs enfants ; et

«Attendu que les parents savent qu'ils n'ont pas été consultés ;

«Nous, soussignés, exhortons Mike Harris à cesser ces coupures qui affectent l'éducation et l'avenir de nos enfants.»

Cette pétition est signée par 31 personnes qui habitent la circonscription de Sudbury-Est. Je suis d'accord avec eux et j'y affixe ma signature.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): I'd like to present a petition this afternoon on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce of Port Elgin, and the petition reads as follows:

"Petition for the return of the drivers' examiners to Port Elgin and the reinstatement of Port Elgin as a travel point for Ministry of Transportation examiners:

"We, the undersigned, strongly support:

"(1) The return of the Ministry of Transportation drivers' examiners to Port Elgin; and

"(2) The Port Elgin issuing office be reinstated as a travel point for the Ministry of Transportation.

"We see this as a need and a demand for students, seniors and those obtaining testing for special licences."

I am pleased to affix my name to the top.


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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I'm presenting a petition signed by over 2,000 people in Windsor. "To the Ministry of Health Care" is how they wrote it:

"We, the Windsor taxpayers, petition to keep our hospital rooms open and not to close entire floors due to a lack of funds from our government. With a population of 200,000 people and a new casino and other industry on its way, we as Windsor residents have a right to the same health care for our tax dollars as London, Toronto, and other cities in Ontario. Our city is growing and we feel very strongly to keep our hospital rooms open.

"We ask the ministry to take this matter seriously and respond by reopening all the closed floors of the hospitals and designate adequate funding for the nurses so that we may be taken care of as taxpayers. Allowing hundreds of empty beds to stay closed while people are put in hallways for numerous days is a disgrace.

"As you will see by the amount of signatures, this issue will not be forgotten, nor will it disappear. We want our hospital rooms open and ready to care for the sick."



Mr Bartolucci moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 124, An Act to amend the Education Act respecting school attendance / Projet de loi 124, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation en ce qui a trait à la fréquentation scolaire.

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

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This bill is in response to the petitions that were read into the record today but also to ensure that school attendance certainly is mandatory for those students who wish to skip school. The proposed amendment is intended to clarify the law with respect to children who are habitually absent from school. Provision is made for a review process to be governed by regulations prior to taking court action.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Before we move to orders of the day, pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Downsview has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Attorney General concerning plea bargaining. The matter will be debated today at 6 pm.



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.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I look forward to getting into some detail about this Bill 106, which is An Act respecting the financing of local government. More succinctly said, this is the bill that introduces MVA to the city of Toronto, as much as the government tries to hide from the fact. They are trying to tell the people of the city of Toronto and others that they are moving on a new tax system for Ontario, namely, for Toronto, called actual value assessment. In actual fact, when you look at this legislation, what you see is a government that's moving on introducing what basically is market value assessment for the city of Toronto.

I find that very ironic because I remember as a government member between 1990 and 1995 the debate in the city of Toronto around the whole issue of MVA. I remember clearly the position that was taken by the then third party, the Progressive Conservatives, here in the House and by their leader, one Mike Harris, as being very opposed to moving to market value assessment for the city of Toronto. I thought Mr Harris and the now government whip, Mr Turnbull, and others had made very eloquent arguments against introducing this tax system called market value to the city of Toronto because they were really worried about what it was going to mean to their community and what it was going to mean to the small businesses and the residents of their communities in and around the city of Toronto.

Madam Speaker, you remember that well because you were a member of a cabinet, a member of a government, which had made a decision not to move on market value because you recognized, and I think wisely so, as a cabinet minister of the day that if we went to market value in the city of Toronto, it would be really chaotic. People's taxes in the downtown core would skyrocket. The result of that would be higher taxes for both residences and businesses in the downtown area. It would mean an outmigration of people from the city into the suburbs across the GTA. You would not only see businesses fleeing the downtown core but you would also see residents because of a number of different issues.


The government of the day, the Bob Rae government, I think made the right decision not to move on market value assessment. So we made that decision as a government and, as I say, I think it was a decision that was quite correct, not to move on MVA, because we recognized as a government, an NDP government, that it would really be a detriment to the cities of Toronto, Scarborough, North York and others which would be adversely affected by moving to this particular tax system.

As I said, I remember quite well the position of the then Tory caucus. I find it ironic that here we are, less than three, four years after that debate, with Mike Harris now as the Premier of Ontario, who has moved his status from being the leader of the third party to the Premier, who introduces a bill called Bill 106, which is what? It's MVA in window dressing. That's all it is. It's not actual value assessment, because actual value assessment, quite frankly, is market value assessment. It's a bit of a different play on words.

Succinctly put, what's the difference between MVA and AVA? MVA is a market value assessment, just as you would think. Market value assessment means to say that when the assessors go out to assess a property, they look at your property not only from the context of the building, the structure and the property itself, but they look at how much that entire property is worth in regard to the market that it finds itself in. So if I have a building in one particular area of the city where the market dictates that it should, let's say, sell at $200,000 with property and building, the taxes are reflected based on the market values of the particular building. Conversely, if I live in a different area of the city and the market dictates that the same building would be sold at, let's say, $180,000, the taxes are applied on the market value; in other words, the $180,000.

So yes, you have a difference in taxes. You have in one part of the city one building being taxed at a lower rate than in another part of the city. But I think you need to take a look at that. That's a form of equity, when you really look at it, because we're saying in the tax system, "Listen, if you can sell your building at $200,000 and the person seven or 10 or 15 blocks over in another part of the city can sell it at $180,000 because of the market, we'll reflect that on your taxes so that it balances out in the end." I think that's a fair way of approaching the assessment system.

But is that what actual value assessment does? Frankly, yes. Actual value assessment, in my view, is no different than market value assessment. Actual value assessment means to say that you will assess the building based on the actual value and you take into account the conditions of the market. The Minister of Housing and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the same person, can stand all he wants in this House and pontificate to whatever degree he wants; he can't run away from the fact that MVA and AVA are the same system.

So now within the city of Toronto, once this bill is passed and the requirements under the statutes are followed, the residents of the city of Toronto are going to find themselves -- you'll notice I'm saying "residents" and not "businesses," and I'll get to that point later. Residents in the city of Toronto who own homes are going to see their local property taxes go through the roof, literally, because you will now have a system of taxes that will be applied to the residents of the city of Toronto that is no different than MVA.

I find it quite ironic to boot that the now government whip, Mr Turnbull, who was very opposed to MVA and very vociferous in his opposition, is not saying but a peep on this whole issue now that his government is moving on its version of MVA. So I find that quite disconcerting because I thought that the opposition third party of 1990 to 1995 were true to their convictions and what they said they would do if they ever formed the government. But I find that they are not at all a party of their word. They are really a party of image and a party that likes to spin things rather than trying to deal with the actual facts of the case.

What's even more sinister about this particular bill -- "sinister" I think is a bit of a strong word. As a matter of fact, I think I'll take that back. What is really, I would say, unfair about this legislation is how taxes will be applied to different classes of properties within all the cities and all the towns and all the townships across Ontario. The government is moving in a direction that I think is very wrongheaded, and let me give you two specific areas that they are moving in, because I only have some 20 minutes to go through this.

One thing the government is doing is it's saying the government is going to remove what's called the business occupancy tax. Let's explain what that is. The business occupancy tax is a tax that is --

Interjections: A ripoff.

Mr Bisson: I hear the government members calling it a ripoff. You're about to rip off the property taxpayers in this province, that's what you're about to do, and I agree with your comment.

The business occupancy tax is a tax that is charged to businesses above and beyond the assessment that is on the property. What they do when they do the assessment of the taxation is, they look currently at the property where the business is residing, they tax that property, and then in order to support the infrastructure of the downtown and support the infrastructure that the community provides to the business sector, there is an additional assessment that is charged to the businesses that are occupying those premises. That is why they call it the business occupancy tax. This government is going to eliminate the business occupancy tax. They're saying if you're a bank and you have premises in downtown Toronto, downtown Timmins or Sudbury, you will no longer have to pay the business occupancy tax.

I guess if you're the bank, I guess if you're the business that's being affected by that, at first you say to yourself, "That's a break; that means to say I've got to pay less taxes." The problem is, and this is important, that the municipalities across the province are going to have to find the revenue by which they're going to make up for the shortfall of the money they lost with the business occupancy tax, because we all know Mike Harris and his ministers are working very hard at downloading all of their responsibilities on to the municipalities of Ontario. They're transferring over wholesale services and the cost of those services on to the municipality, everything from transit services to homes for the aged to ambulance services. You name it, they're transferring it over the municipalities, and the municipalities are going to have to pay.

So while the Harris government is throwing all these services on to the municipality, along with the additional cost, he's saying to the municipalities, "We are going to remove the business occupancy tax." The municipality is sitting there and saying that in some cases that's 15% to 20% of the assessment base on the business community, depending how big the business community is in that particular community, so they're saying, "Okay, we're going to have to go and find the money somewhere else."

Normally what would you happen, you would think, is the council would say, "Okay, they removed the business occupancy tax, so what we will do is we will transfer over that assessment on to the building in which the business is occupied." In other words, if they remove the occupancy tax, some councils would decide, "Okay, we've lost the occupancy tax; we'll raise the assessment on property within the downtown core to make up the difference." So the businesses end up paying for it through their rent -- because they're already paying for it, and I'll get back to that point in a second.

But the government is saying no. What's going to happen is the government is saying to the municipalities of this province: "You cannot transfer the cost of the business occupancy tax back on to those businesses through their rent. You're not going to be able to charge it back to the business through the property that they are renting." Instead they're saying, "Municipal councils in the province of Ontario, we want you either to cut services further, because you're losing revenue, or go and charge more taxes to the individual ratepayers in the community."

I don't know about you, Madam Speaker, but I would imagine that the residents in the riding of Riverdale who own property and their homes are not any richer than they are in the city of Timmins, and I would imagine that the residents of Riverdale, such as the residents of the city of Timmins, Matheson and Iroquois Falls, are already paying a prime amount of money in municipal taxation and really cannot afford and don't want to pay more municipal tax assessment. I'm afraid this bill is going to make that possible.

Those residents in your riding of Riverdale and in my communities of Timmins, Matheson and Iroquois Falls are going to see their municipal taxes on residences increased as a result of this bill, because the government is saying, "We're giving a tax break to the wealthy, a tax break to the banks and to the other businesses that are paying the business occupancy tax," and the municipalities will then offset that by raising the taxes to individuals who own homes within our community.


That is the most cynical form of politics there is, because this government makes no bones about it: It clearly favours one sector of our economy. They clearly stand squarely behind Conrad Black. They stand squarely behind Mr Stronach. They stand squarely behind everybody in the business élite of this province and say, "We're going to give you a break and we're going to make things better for you," but at the expense of everybody else, at the expense of your community and at the expense of my community and of the hardworking people who make up 90% of who pays taxes in this province.

I say that is wrong. A government is elected to govern on behalf of all the citizens of the province, not a select few. If there's one thing that makes a lot of people angry in this province -- increasingly angry, I should say -- it is that they're starting to recognize this government stands for big business and no one else. If they're going to do a favour for somebody, if they're going to give a handout to big business, that's fine by them, but they're going to put the boots to the average working people in this province. They're going to step all over the small business sector of this province because they believe in big business.

The other thing they're doing which is quite interesting: I always believed that the government, the Tory party, that is, had a lot of support in rural Ontario. I think that's important. For years the Tories have benefited from that support in rural Ontario. One of the reasons is that previous Conservative governments have done fairly well by rural Ontario, and rural Ontario has done fairly well by the previous Tory governments. I would say they did well by the NDP government, probably better.

What they have done in this particular case is they've really started the slide of the Tory party in rural Ontario because they are eliminating something that I would have thought was unthinkable to do in Ontario. They have gone to the Minister of Agriculture, who stood up proudly in this House and talked about how they've eliminated the farm tax rebate program. They took great pride in doing that.

Let's explain what that's all about. What they're basically saying is that there is a program in place where for farms in areas that have to pay a fair amount of municipal tax assessment, the farmer is able to participate in a program by which he or she as a farmer is able to get back some of that money they pay in municipal assessment so they can offset the running of their farms, because farming is a very expensive business to be in.

Because farms have big tracts of land, they tend to get assessed fairly well by municipalities. They get caught in a municipal assessment. Governments of the past recognized it was a problem. The municipality needed the tax assessment to be able to pay services because if you own a farm out on rural route 2 in Blackmire township or wherever it might be, you still need to have a road to go there. The way the municipality pays for that road and does the snow-clearing and builds the bridge to get to your land is to charge municipal assessment. If they didn't charge on municipal assessment, you wouldn't have the road. It's as simple as that.

The government said some years ago, "The farmers can't afford the cost of those infrastructures, so we, the province of Ontario, will introduce a farm tax rebate program so that for municipalities that charge that assessment to their farmers, the farmers are able to get some of that money back through the farm tax rebate program." It was a very successful program.

The government has decided it's going to do away with that farm tax rebate. What they've done is that in true Harris style they have conducted what I think is one of the biggest smoke-and-mirror operations in the history of farming in Ontario. They said: "We're getting rid of the farm tax rebate program. But don't worry, be happy. We're going to make sure that municipalities lower your municipal assessment on property and we're going to do things better and smarter. Rather than the government administering the farm tax rebate program and giving you that money back via a grant, we're going to tell the municipalities they have to reduce the assessment on your farm land."

I guess at first stroke that sort of makes sense to people. They sit there and they say: "Oh, yeah, that makes some sense, a little bit less administration. We can save some money. If it's done in that intent, maybe it makes some sense." The problem is, who's going to pay for this? The Minister of Agriculture is the one who's going to save the money. He's going to take that money as a savings directly to the Minister of Finance so the Minister of Finance can fund his phoney tax scheme.

But who's going to pay? It's going to be the municipal taxpayers, that's who's going to pay. What's happening is that by reducing the assessment on farm land, the municipal government has to make up the difference in assessment by raising taxes on the municipal ratepayers. The farmer's taxes on his or her house are going to go up on the residential assessment and the taxes on residential assessment throughout the municipality will go up as well.

The government stands there and says: "Boy, we're bright. We've eliminated the farm tax rebate and instead we've told the municipalities to lower the farming tax assessment." Come on. They have to give their heads a shake here. In the end people are starting to catch on that this is really smoke and mirrors.

On the one hand, yes, what all is happening is the government is getting rid of yet another expenditure. They're offloading the responsibilities of the farm community directly on to the municipal taxpayers. Municipal taxpayers have hit the wall; there's nowhere they can go. You might be able to get away in this day and age with a 1% or 2% tax increase at the municipal level, but to offset the kind of offloading this government's doing to municipalities is going to take in some cases -- well, in most cases -- a 40% to 50% tax increase above and beyond what we now pay in municipal taxes.

In the city of Timmins they've quantified this. The council of the city of Timmins under Mayor Power has sat down at the council table and asked the councillors and the department heads to take a look at the cost to the municipality of the city of Timmins: What are we losing in revenue by the government taking away revenue from us, first of all, in the tax assessment system, and how much additional expense do we have to incur as a result of the downloading?

It's unbelievable. It equals a 40% increase in municipal taxes. If the municipality of the city of Timmins wants to keep services at the same level they are now, with all the downloading the Harris government is doing on to that municipality, it's going to have to raise municipal taxes by some 40 per cent to offset the cost to residential taxpayers. I know the good citizens of Riverdale can't afford a 40% tax increase, Madam Speaker. I can sure tell you that the good citizens of the city of Timmins can't either.

People in our community are starting to wake up to that fact. I am just taken aback by how people are starting to clue in really quickly about what the real Harris government agenda is. As I walk around the community -- and I go to municipal events in and around the entire riding; I go into the malls and the downtown and various places where we meet the public in our day-to-day work as MPPs -- I can literally not move without people stopping me and saying, "Gilles, my Lord, do you see what they've done now? My property taxes are going to go through the roof," or, "I'm going to lose my ambulance care," or, "I'm not going to have this; look at what these guys are doing."

As sure as I'm standing here the support the government has I believe is starting to slip big time, because people are finally starting to clue into what this government is doing, what it's doing by way of this bill and every other bill, and that is abdicating its responsibility as a provincial government. It's saying, "We, the Conservative government of Ontario that's responsible for governing this province will not take on these responsibilities."

In effect, these people don't believe in public services. The view of the Conservative Party is that public services should be very minimal when it comes to whatever services are being offered, but even better in their view, whatever's offered should be done by the private sector. They're downloading everything and this bill is one of the means by which they're going to go around to pay for some of that.

I couldn't let this opportunity go by without having a word on the northern support grant. I want to say clearly to the members on the other side of the aisle, I want to say in strong terms, that it took the north years to lobby the provincial government to come up with what is now called the northern support grant, so that municipalities across the north, which do not have the commercial and industrial assessment you have in the city of Toronto, would have a program by which to offset our tax system.

If we in northern Ontario had the kind of assessment you have in the city of Toronto when it comes to industry and business, big office tower buildings etc, we would have enough money within our own municipalities' value of property to assess to be able to operate the infrastructure of our communities, but we have long recognized that in our communities we're basically resource-based and we're not able to raise the amount of commercial-industrial assessment in our communities that you can in cities like Toronto and Hamilton and Windsor. What's worse in many cases like the city of Timmins, where is most of our industrial assessment? It's underground. You have mines in Timmins -- some of these mines, like the old Hollinger mine or the current Kidd Creek mine, the underground workings of those mines are bigger than -- my Lord, we could probably take all the mining underneath the city of Timmins and build a highway across Canada with it. That's how much mining has been done. But our assessment on these mines we're not able to get to because all their workings are underground. So the only thing we're able to assess are the mills and the shafts and the office buildings on the mine properties, which are minimal compared to what the actual workings are underground.


The government set up the northern support grant back in 1974 or 1976; I've forgotten the exact year. The Bill Davis government recognized that northern municipalities did not have the industrial, did not have the commercial assessment of southern Ontario, that we couldn't tax much of our assessment anyway because it was outside our municipal boundaries or it was underground and we couldn't tax it. So the government put in place the northern support grant so citizens in Timmins and Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie and Kapuskasing and Hearst and Iroquois Falls and Matheson were able to get a certain degree of equity when it came to services being offered by their municipalities so we can have sewers and water, so we can have our roads plowed, so we can have our roads paved, so we can build sidewalks. We're talking about basic services here; we're not talking about glitz.

On the basis of the assessment we have, quite frankly we don't have the money to pay for some of this. I can tell you about municipalities in northern Ontario that had at that point substandard sewer and water treatment facilities because they didn't have the assessment base to pay for it. So the government of the day recognized and put in place the northern support grant. I remember the day in the year that happened, back in the early 1970s, northerners and northern mayors and councillors were very pleased by what the provincial government had done. This government is turning its back on that.

What's worse, it's not only breaking a promise made when the Conservatives ran in the last election, it's also breaking a promise of the Premier that was made in this House less than a year ago. I remember last year when the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the absentee minister as we call him in northern Ontario, was musing about cutting the northern support grant, I asked the question in this House to the finance minister and to the Premier, to which the response was that they were not going to touch the northern support grant, that no, they would not cut it.

When the Premier at the time was travelling to communities of Sault Ste Marie and Timmins doing fund-raisers so they could raise more money for the Tories in Ontario, he was rather embarrassed by the fact that his government, at the time that he was out there trying to raise funds in northern Ontario, was going to cut the northern support grant. So the Premier did the political thing: He made the promise. He said, "I'm not going to cut the northern support grant." He said it in Sault Ste Marie; he said it in front of Steve Butland and a crowd of people in the Sault and it was repeated again through one of your ministers here in the House.

I was told, "If the Premier said it's not going to be cut, it ain't going to be cut." We thought we had a victory. We thought, "Hey, right on, the government's done something right." I went back to my community and said, "We got the government to commit to the northern support grant," and I gave the government credit. But what do you do less than a year later? You forget that you made a promise. You made a promise prior to the last election, you made a promise during the last election and you made a promise after the last election, and what do you do? You break it.

The people of northern Ontario are not going to forget for two seconds. For this government to try to put itself off as the government that kept its word, that does what it said it was going to do in the last election -- poppycock. Not at all. This government, on almost all occasions, has tried to play the smoke-and-mirrors approach to politics, and in this particular case of the northern support grant, because the Premier was doing fund-raisers in northern Ontario, because the Premier and the Tory party wanted the dollars from northerners and northern businesses -- at $100 a plate, I might add -- and were looking to raise dollars for his party, he said the politically expedient thing. He said, "I will not cut the northern support grant." You broke your promise.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): That's questioning motivation.

Mr Bisson: I am questioning his motive.

Mr Wettlaufer: That's not parliamentary.

Mr Bisson: That's parliamentary. I question what you guys are doing because your government is about to destroy much of what we hold sacred in this province. I for one, as a New Democrat and as the member for Cochrane South, am not going to sit idly by as you guys tinker with the province to the point of putting citizens at risk. That is not something, in my view, that is acceptable to the people of this province. We have a tradition in this province of building on the best, of saying that we as a province will care for each other, that we will work together towards building a better and more prosperous Ontario, and I will not stand by to watch you people tinker with our present and, more dangerously, tinker with our future to the point of putting us in jeopardy.

We have people in this province who are at risk because they can't get into hospitals now because the waiting lists are getting large because of your cutbacks. We have people who have died because they can't get adequate health care services. We have people who have died because the highways of our province are not plowed half of the time in northern Ontario because your Minister of Transportation has cut the budget in the ministry for road clearance. We have people who have died driving those highways. I'm not going to sit by and let you guys get away with it unscathed.

I think the story has to be told. People are telling me across this province, as I travel around as the transport critic for the New Democratic Party, that they're increasingly starting to figure out what this government is doing. So when it comes to Bill 106, the government can stand all it wants and try to say that it is doing something that is somehow fair and equal. There's nothing fair and equal in transferring taxes from the business sector on to residential ratepayers. There is nothing fair about giving a decrease in taxes to the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank and others that have made record profits, in the billions of dollars, and giving Granny Smith an increase in her property taxes. I say that is not only wrong, that is not only --


Mr Bisson: I think there's some chirping next door, Madam Speaker. I always know when a speech is having an effect: when the government listens and heckles. It tells us they're listening to what we're saying and they're starting to feel uncomfortable. I can certainly tell there are members in this House on the government side who are plenty uncomfortable about what I'm saying, because they know what I'm saying is true and they're hearing it back home. The citizens in their municipalities within their ridings are going to them and saying, "I'm concerned about what you're doing." Sure, you got elected as a government to make some decisions in this province, but you didn't get elected to be able to --

Mr Wettlaufer: Why don't you tell the teachers --

Mr Bisson: You don't like teachers. We know that. You hate teachers. You can't stand teachers. Why don't you say it? Listen to this guy.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please.

Mr Bisson: Boy, I'll tell you, I've never seen a gang like this to get worked up. They can't stand teachers, they can't stand unionized workers, they don't like anybody who stands for anything that's progressive. All they can do is try to blame everything on a certain class of society. My, my, Madam Speaker, it is certainly telling to watch what they're doing.

So I say to the government across the way, I certainly will not be supporting Bill 106. No great surprise, the government says, but I think you're not surprised because you realize this is a draconian piece of legislation. We already have across most of Ontario a system of taxation that's based on MVA and what you're doing is introducing to the city of Toronto by way of this act MVA, something you promised you would not do prior to the last election, something you promised you wouldn't do in the last election. You're breaking yet another promise. You're introducing AVA, which is MVA, to the citizens of the city of Toronto and other cities around Toronto, and I say to you, he who breaks the promises in the end pays the price.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to respond today. I was listening intently to the member for Cochrane South. I want to make sure that the viewers today understand, and I'm here to tell you, that the members of the government are friends of the teachers. In fact, we're friends of students.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Quality education.

Mr O'Toole: Quality education. There are those who don't want to make any changes, but this government is making changes and we are accountable to the people.

When it comes down to the fair tax bill, Bill 106, for many years I've heard and most of the people here in this room -- I know Mr Bradley from St Catharines knows very well that they have been discussing the tax system in Ontario for at least the last decade. Both previous governments have backed away from it, and this government is doing something about it. In fact, I'm sure that it will be a fair tax system at the end of the day. Two people living in the same community with the same size and valued house should be paying the same tax. It just makes common sense.

Much of what we're doing in this bill is to bring fairness back to the residential property tax base and to resolve long-outstanding problems with the farm tax rebate system itself. So I'm satisfied to speak very much in support of this bill.

I think the member for Cochrane South made a couple of points. Some of them were not completely clarifying the intents of the bill, very well thought through perhaps. But I think the people in Toronto -- certainly the previous government knows full well that they backed away from the hard decision. When they were looking at MVA and the people of Toronto started to scream because they knew their taxes were going to go up if that was brought in, they backed away from it. I think what we are doing is what we promised to do: to bring back fairness to all of the systems in Ontario, whether it's education or the property tax system.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I was particularly intrigued by the member's comment that this government has targeted members of the teaching profession and students in its policies and that this bill was all part of that mix, because we know that it's going to be a circumstance where only the very rich will be able to attend post-secondary education, for instance. We're going to see that people with money are going to be able to send their children to private schools the way they do in the United States. As the public school system is bled by this government, they appropriate funding, you will see more and more people going to Upper Canada College or one of those places where rich kids get to go or privileged kids get to go. So I was glad he mentioned that as well.

From speaking to individual teachers who work on the front line of education, who deliver those services on a daily basis, who work with the children, I agree with him that there is an attack on those individuals and the role they are playing in our society. They are easy targets because what they've done is motivated those who have had some resentment of members of the teaching profession over the years; they've whipped up that resentment when they go to certain of their meetings, and as a result, these people who are on the front line are feeling somewhat beleaguered today. I had a letter from a student teacher just the other day from the Barrie area, Simcoe county, saying how the morale was so very low among those who see this government besieging members of the teaching profession.

I'm sure that the member also related this whole scheme to the tax scheme, where this government is giving a tax cut to the richest people in our society while it's cutting without mercy health care services, closing hospitals in the Niagara area, privatizing and Americanizing the system of education and health in this province. I'm glad he raised those issues during his speech.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I was very happy to see the member for Cochrane South remind members in this House and remind the viewing public out there about what the position of the Conservative government was during the 1990-95 period when our government brought in the proposal to change assessment, particularly in this city. There was a hue and cry and all kinds of whining and bellyaching like you never heard from the members of the third party who are now in government. The agriculture minister, who is here today, would well remember those debates because he was a member of that caucus who spent their time very vociferously arguing against the introduction of MVA.

What the Minister of Municipal Affairs has introduced is MVA. Let's cut right down to it: AVA is MVA. What it's going to mean in the city of Toronto, what it's going to mean to numerous other communities across this province, is an increase in property taxes. So we now see that Mike the Taxfighter has become Mike the Taxhiker, and this bill and a number of other initiatives being taken by this government are proof of that.

My colleague from Cochrane South talked about the repeal of the business occupancy tax. At the end of the day, what repealing the business occupancy tax means is that any other number of small mom-and-pop operations are going to be hit over the head, whacked over the head by an increased tax because the municipality is going to have no choice but to look to them to make up for the loss in revenue. Add to that the same tax hike that those same mom-and-pop operations and any number of other property taxpayers are going to pay when this government downloads social services, child care, health care services, public health, libraries and transit services, and any number of people right across this province are going to suffer a huge tax increase. That's what this government is bringing us. What a difference from when they were sitting on this side of the House.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I listened with interest to the opening remarks by the member for Cochrane South and it concerned me that he began his remarks by saying, "This bill introduces market value assessment to the city of Toronto," because if you start a 30-minute speech on the wrong basis, you're liable to waste the next 29 minutes, which is what happened here.

First of all, it's not market value assessment, it's current value assessment. If the member for Cochrane South would look at the act and look at the third section, he'd see that, "`current value' means, in relation to land, the amount of money the fee simple, if unencumbered, would realize if sold at arm's length by a willing seller to a willing buyer," which means what you could sell your property for.

Finally people in Ontario will actually get an assessment notice that makes some sense. They won't see some mill rate on it, some incomprehensible series of numbers; they'll see a number that actually relates to the current value of their property and the value of their neighbours' land.

Ms Martel: They'll feel better about that. They are happy about that.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, member for Sudbury East.

Mr Flaherty: The concern has always been, what about seniors with low incomes and what about persons with disabilities with low incomes if one moves to a current value assessment? Our government has addressed that concern in the act, providing that municipalities may pass bylaws deferring the taxes of seniors with low incomes and persons with disabilities with low incomes for up to eight years, which is the solution to the difficulty that some persons with low incomes would face otherwise.

The other misapprehension that my friend from Cochrane South labours under is that this is only a problem in the city of Toronto. It's also a problem in my riding, in the town of Whitby and the city of Oshawa, which also have not been reassessed, where taxes are not fair and equitable as between different parts of the community.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Bisson: To the member for Durham Centre, I can only say taxpayers in your community, as across Toronto, are going to be really happy when they read their tax bills and they're going to know in the end that they're able to understand why their taxes went up, because that's all you're doing with MVA. In the end it means a higher tax rate to the people within the municipalities who are going to be affected by the change in taxation. That's what it comes down to.

To the member for Durham East who says -- it was an affirmation. The member for Durham East stood up and said: "We believe in teachers; we love teachers; we take care of teachers. We think teachers are great." I listened to that, and they all applauded. And once the applause was finished, what did I hear? More heckling against teachers, right after the point.

That's the point we're making. You guys are targeting a certain group in our society unfairly. What you're saying is that you don't like teachers; you don't like, for whatever reason, the work they do; you don't value what they do. Those are the heckles we hear coming across from the other side.

Mr Bill Vankoughnet (Frontenac-Addington): Then why don't you want them to have the dividends?

Mr Bisson: Here we go again; more heckling. This time he wants --


Mr Bisson: I rest my case. It goes on as I speak. They're still heckling about teachers.

To the member for St Catharines, I want to thank him again for having responded to my comments, as he always does. When I get up and speak, he never forgets to mention my name in mentioning those comments, a personal thing between Jim and I.

To the member for Sudbury East, I want to say she's perfectly right. There's a new image in Ontario developing about Mike Harris. He ran in the last election and said, "I'm the Taxfighter." He ran around in his little bus with a whole bunch of other Tory minions saying, "I am the Taxfighter." Well, we're finding out through Bill 106 and we're finding out through municipal downloading, we're finding out through user fees implemented in health care and other services that Mike's new name is Mike the Taxhiker.

The member for Sudbury East is totally right. Yes, municipal taxes and other taxes will go up as a result of this government. There goes the name: Mike the Taxhiker.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): It's refreshing to hear the NDP concerned about taxes.

It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak to Bill 106, the Fair Municipal Finance Act, 1997, an act that among others before us today in this House removes the cost of education from the residential property tax.

This bill presents members with an opportunity that is unusual, indeed almost unique. There is no real doubt in connection with property tax assessment in this province what the government of Ontario ought to do. There has been agreement among the three governments of the past, the three different parties, that it is unfair and wrong to maintain the existing patchwork of different assessment systems in Ontario. Not only that, there has even been agreement among those three parties about the kinds of systems we should move to. While taking account of the hardship that might result for some people and ensuring that any change we make is gradual, we should ensure that all property is assessed according to the price at which it could be sold. Such a standard is fair and consistent.


As the Minister of Finance said in introducing this bill, "We are creating a municipal property tax system that is fair, clear, more consistent and more accountable." Instead of this fair system agreed to in principle by all parties, we have in effect many different systems in different parts of the province and often even in the same municipality.

In Toronto there is such a gap in property tax revenues from residential property that has not been assessed in decades, the city has been forced to raise taxes on business and commercial properties, so businesses pay more in Toronto than in neighbouring municipalities. This in turn has contributed to the flight of some businesses to the suburbs, which presents yet another threat to the city's revenues.

Because of the outdated assessments benefiting a few Ontarians, thousands of homeowners and businesses are paying more property tax than they should. Since the problem is so clear and it is of such long standing, one could well wonder why the other parties did not act on it when they were in government.

The member for Scarborough-Agincourt, when he was minister, said in a campaign brochure in 1990:

"Honouring Metro Toronto's request, the provincial government has taken the necessary steps to permit Metro-wide reassessment of property tax under the new system of market value assessment. This will ensure equity of tax burden between newer and older homes, bringing substantial savings to taxpayers of Scarborough-Agincourt."

Unfortunately the Liberal government was on its way out at that point, and the question remains: Why did they not act during their five years in government? The NDP similarly promised to act on a request from Metro Toronto and even went so far as to publish information on taxes that would be owing based on market value assessment. Again, however, they did not act.

Under the proposed new system under Bill 106, many homeowners could see very little change in their property taxes or even tax decreases. I wish to concentrate on some of the specific features of this bill which will improve on the status quo.

Many of the current problems revolve around assessment with the current use versus the highest and best use. One specific fear people have is that property will be taxed on a speculative value, such as in the highest and best use, rather than the current use. Under the changes made by this bill, the minister may make regulations providing for current value to be based only on current use of land as opposed to the example of the highest and best use. A municipality may opt to have such regulations applied. Currently, in addition to the assessment of land, persons carrying on a business are assessed for business assessment. This bill eliminates business assessment, which now amounts to an archaic duplication of taxes.

Regarding farm lands and managed forests, effective for the 1998 tax year the tax ratio for farm lands and managed forest property class will be 25% for all municipalities. For the past 26 years the province has rebated 75% of the property tax on qualifying farm land after keeping that money for approximately six months interest-free. That program will now come to an end and the effect of the new lower tax rate on the property tax for farms will be the same. The managed forest tax rebate was first created in 1975 and then was terminated by the NDP in 1993, being reinstated by the Harris government in 1996. The rebate will now be replaced by a system that reduces the tax rate on eligible lands and provides a permanent incentive for Ontarians to maintain and conserve private woodlots.

Regarding the phase-in of tax changes related to the 1998 assessment, municipalities will have eight years to phase in tax increases or decreases arising from the 1998 assessment, provided bylaws to this effect are passed within those municipalities in 1998.

Regarding deferral of taxes for the low-income elderly and disabled, the changes made by the bill would allow municipalities to pass bylaws to defer assessment-related tax increases on property in the residential and farm property class, provided the owners are low-income seniors or low-income persons with disabilities.

Perhaps what is most impressive about this legislation is the flexibility it provides both in municipalities and for the Minister of Finance to ensure that Ontario keeps on moving towards a fairer and more effective tax system. The minister retains some powers to make relevant regulations to ensure fairness province-wide. The minister has powers to ensure that there can be timely passage of the legislation to provide the basic certainty that municipalities need to plan for 1998. The minister also needs ongoing powers to authorize local choices that the act contemplates, choices that give local governments the freedom to implement changes fairly and with sensitivity to local needs.

With this bill Ontario will move immediately towards a fairer system of property tax assessment that will lead to a lower tax bill for many Ontarians and stimulate economic growth and jobs. The bill also provides the flexibility to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society from property tax increases, the elderly and the disabled, while further steps towards fairness and accountability are taken in the future. This will create a stronger and more prosperous Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I listened with interest to the member's well-written, ministry-written speech. Having been around this place for almost 10 years, one of the things I think, as a constituency politician, I would have a little difficulty explaining if I were a Conservative is how the replacement of the farm tax rebate program with the present system will be of benefit to people who live in those rural townships.

I was speaking briefly yesterday about the township of Berry Island, for example, whose assessment is 46% agricultural. They will still have roads to maintain, they will still have to do all those things they've always had to do, but they are also having a huge number of provincial responsibilities downloaded, dumped to them; and even if we believe the government, which is a great stretch of the imagination, believe that's a wash -- we know it isn't a wash but they say it is -- it means that your neighbour is going to pay for your farm tax rebate. That's what it means. It means the municipality still has to raise the same number of dollars. It means you're going to pay that 30% more in the township of Berry Island just to be even.

I think I would have a hard time, if I were a Conservative member in a rural area, selling how that could possibly be of benefit to anybody in that township. It isn't. There's a huge amount of revenue being lost to these municipalities because formerly the provincial taxpayer paid that money.

Ms Martel: I am pleased to make a couple of comments based on the comments made by the member for Halton North. I remember during the election campaign and actually in the Common Sense Revolution, the then leader of the third party made it really clear that his party would do nothing that would increase property taxes at the local level, that they would not make any changes to municipalities without their consultation and without their input with respect to then having an increase in property taxes. As I look at this bill, I want to ask the member how much consultation might have occurred with the municipalities with respect to this particular change. It is certainly clear to most members in this House that Bill 106 is going to result in a property tax increase for many people living across this province.

Further, in the same bill you have the same government now repealing the business occupancy tax, and because of that repeal, municipalities will have no choice but to again look at the property tax base to make up the revenue they are losing through the business occupancy tax. I wonder how much consultation occurred with municipalities that now are going to have to increase property taxes, especially for small mom-and-pop retail stores, to try and make up the difference that they're going to lose. Maybe you can explain to me why the big banks, which have made so much profit in the last two years, should somehow get off the hook and the small mom-and-pop stores should have to pay more property tax at their expense.


Finally, you really do have to explain to all of us, not only with this bill but with the downloading that is going to go on by your government to the municipal taxpayers, how it is that the commitment made in the Common Sense Revolution hasn't been broken. In the regional municipality of Sudbury, the net cost after your downloading is $105 million. That will mean a huge property tax increase for people in my community.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to congratulate my colleague from Halton North for his participation in the debate.

I was at ROMA last week and I had the opportunity and the privilege of addressing the good folks at ROMA. We have taken off the tax bill $5.4 billion -- gone, removed. The farm tax rebate: We will have a community reinvestment program -- you'd rather not talk about that -- $1 billion annually to make sure there are no rural municipalities that suffer. We will also have a community reinvestment program for capital expenditures and for social service needs of $1.6 billion. Figure that one out. We have removed $5.4 billion in taxes. In many instances it is two thirds of the tax bill. That gives our municipalities a little room to manoeuvre.

We are transferring from 20% to 50% of the cost of social services. We're not downloading social services. It's a 30% difference, and it will be administered locally.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: The opposition have a great deal of difficulty accepting that we are not throwing anyone to the wolves. We will be very much looking after our rural municipalities. Our farmers are very happy with the changes to the farm tax rebate, because the Federation of Agriculture and the Christian Farmers Federation have been asking for exactly what was delivered. I see the opposition wishing they would have had the intestinal fortitude to do what we have done in 18 months. I am proud of that record and I will stand with my rural municipal people and tell them, "We are there to support you."


Mr Bradley: I was just reading the St Catharines Standard today, where St Catharines city council is fighting the province's move to stick municipalities with social service, housing and health care costs, so they're not going to greet much of your legislation with applause. They were very concerned about the impact, as has been the regional municipality of Niagara, because they know that while you may be taking education off the property tax -- by the way, education is likely to even out in its costs because of declining enrolment -- you are throwing back on the municipalities the costs of such things as welfare, which is unpredictable; mother's allowance, which is more long-term; social housing costs, which are bound to be rather significant for the municipalities; and ambulance service, where we now have an American company coming in called Metro/Rural. They are entering the Ontario, as they say, "marketplace," with the American attitude towards health care -- not what we Canadians look at as the attitude. Americans are profit first and in the United States if you've got lots of money in your wallet, you get good health care. If you don't, it's just too bad. That's contrary to what we have in this province.

Also, there is public health, long-term care, seniors' care. The municipalities are beside themselves over the dumping of responsibilities on the municipal taxpayer. They will have no alternative but to slash even further the costs they've already slashed, or to put up municipal property taxes, which of course do not take into account a person's ability to pay. So we have a progressive tax being cut -- that's the income tax -- a regressive tax being increased, and the people of this province are the losers.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Halton North.

Mr Chudleigh: I'd like to thank the member for Algoma-Manitoulin. Of course, Manitoulin has a fairly active farming community up there. I'm surprised the member doesn't realize that the farmers in that community pay their taxes in the spring, when cash is a little short on the farm, and they have to wait for six months while that money is tied up in the government until they get their tax rebate back under the current system. They get that money back; it's used by the government on an interest-free basis.

The agricultural community will be very pleased to not pay that money out in the first place and simply use that money to increase their productivity and reduce their bank loan in order to continue in the farming community in Ontario and to strengthen their position within that community.

The member for Sudbury East, I appreciate your comments very much. The consultation process with AMO and ROMA has been ongoing for years. I understand that long before I ever considered a career in these hallowed halls of the Legislative Building, those two organizations asked the governments of the day, going back many, many years, to remove the cost of education from the residential tax rolls in Ontario.

We are doing that. We are taking $5.4 billion off that rate, as the member for Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and East Grenville has so aptly pointed out, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. He's a man who certainly has long titles after his name. That $5.4 billion is also predicted to rise to $6.2 billion in the very near future.

As the member for St Catharines pointed out, there is certainly some unpredictability in the process, which is why we have three different funds to level out that unpredictability.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?


The Acting Speaker: Order, please. The member for Prescott and Russell.

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I am pleased to rise today and speak on Bill 106, An Act respecting the financing of local government; in French, Projet de loi 106, Loi concernant le financement des administrations locales. It is my duty as an elected official to come and tell the viewers of the province, to tell the people what the impact of this bill is going to be on the communities, on farmers, on businesses, on seniors, on young couples and on the poor.

I just heard the honourable Minister of Agriculture saying a little while ago that he spoke to the ROMA people last week, to the farmers. But it's funny; I've got a journal here that is the Ontario commercial farmers' trade journal. It's very clear in my view about who will pay the taxes.

It's true, according to the government there will be a reduction of $5.4 billion in school or education taxes, but there will be a shortfall of anywhere between $3 billion and $4 billion. You might ask, "Where are we getting those figures?" I just wonder if the people of this government have sat down and done the proper analyses on all the costs to the municipalities.

I have with me here a list of all the figures from 18 municipalities of my riding. Let me tell you, there are 19 municipalities in my riding but we have done a complete study of what the impact is going to be on the local community. I said many times that this government always concentrates on the urban community and they forget about the rural community.

Let me tell you that it's the municipality that is going to have a shortfall of $2.9 million. This will mean an increase in taxes of 91%. I'm sure a lot of you members on the government side haven't sat down and looked at all the figures of what the impact is going to be on your communities.


When I look at social housing, we have in my own communities 950 units. It's costing the government at the present time $4.464 million. It's averaging $4,700 per unit. Who will be paying that $4,700 per unit as of January 1, 1998? This government is dumping everything on to our local municipality. The municipalities will have no choice but to increase the rent to those poor people who are living in those units.

We're looking at long-term care. Long-term care is going to cost, in my own counties, my own riding, over $13 million. We haven't figured that out yet. Ambulances are going to cost anywhere between $3 million and $4 million extra to the local communities.

Right here in front of me I have the town of Vankleek Hill. It's a small community of 1,941 people. It's going to cost them, in social housing, $474,911. For ambulance services, the calculation was done at the lowest level we could get. If we take this province, it's costing the Ontario government $300 million for ambulance services, not counting the air services. If we add in the $35 million already being paid by the city of Toronto, it comes to $335 million. You divide that by the population in this province and it comes to approximately $30.45 per person. So the town of Vankleek Hill of 1,941 population would be paying $59,100 for ambulance services.

But there's one point we should remember: Will the municipalities be able to afford to keep the ambulance service going? What is going to happen if the municipality decides to cut the amount of money needed by the ambulance operators? There's only one solution. What this province wants is to have the ambulance services -- I think that's what it is -- have a meter like taxicabs here in Toronto or any other municipality in Ontario. When you order an ambulance to be transported to the hospital, you'll see the meter going and it's going to add up. This is the only way we'd be able to keep that service.

Police service: It's true that it probably wasn't fair that some of the municipalities were paying for police services and others were not, but for the town of Vankleek Hill it's going to cost $330,000. How did I arrive at this figure? I contacted a lot of municipalities and the cost varies from $172 per head to $222 per person. I have based my calculation on the lowest possible, at $172 per head.

Then there is one point the people on the other side, of this government, have never said yet: Who will pay for the assessment? We have to keep up the assessment of all the properties within our own community every year. We have costs. The average cost in Ontario is going to be $31 per unit, per household. You multiply that by the population. This is the cost I got from the regional office, $31 per household. Vankleek Hill is going to be stuck with a bill of just about $30,000.

The library: There's no more grant. School tax, I agree, so I have to deduct the $615,364 from the school. Anyway, the town of Vankleek Hill will have a shortfall of $664,000.

But then I have to add up the additional costs of the county. The county's additional cost or shortfall will be anywhere between $22 million and $23 million, so this share has to be transferred to each of the 18 municipalities. If I'm looking at the amalgamation of the town of Vankleek Hill, West Hawkesbury, L'Orignal and Longueuil there will be a shortfall of $1.5 million. This is the shortfall.

I haven't worked out about the drug services we are talking about, of having the municipalities pay 50% of the drug fee to the seniors or the long-term-care patient.

If I'm looking at the town of Rockland, the 1994 population -- because that was the only figure I could get -- was 7,547. They will have a shortfall of $2.927 million. That is going to be the shortfall. If I'm looking at this with the actual mill rate they have, they will be looking at a possibility of a 91% increase in municipal taxes.

It's very important for all of us to tell the government to look it over again because it won't be affordable to live in Ontario. I'm sure you members on the other side haven't looked at every single item that has been transferred to the municipalities. Let's hope that having the Liberals and the NDP pressing the government to look it over again, you will come back and do some major adjustments, because it is impossible.

I'm looking at the town of Hawkesbury. Hawkesbury will be stuck with a shortfall of approximately $4 million. I have the exact figures here for the small village of Plantagenet. When you people came out with Bill 26 the people of the government, not of the opposition, said: "What a beauty. The ministers will have full control." But I'm talking about a small village of 964 population. They will have a shortfall of $1.5 million. To be exact, it's $1,449,264, and I haven't added the share of the county fee or the portion the county will be charging the municipality of the village of Plantagenet.

Do you think those people will be able to afford that in Plantagenet? At the present time just the water bill in the village of Plantagenet is over $800 a year. The people will be asking to move out of Plantagenet, let me tell you. But you do have friends in those areas. Just contact those people. Probably they won't give you the figures, but it is up to you, members of the government, to analyse every situation of every municipality.

It's true that I have some municipalities that would have a surplus. The municipality of Casselman would show -- they decided not to amalgamate with any other municipality; they're most favoured at the present time -- not counting the transfer of the municipality, a surplus of $29,000 because they did not amalgamate with the others. I always said, "Before you amalgamate make sure you do a complete study, a financial study."

I have all the figures here and let me tell you that in 1914 I believe when the First World War was declared we started up a tax called the First World War tax.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Temporary.

Mr Lalonde: Temporary.

In 1940 or 1942 we decided to have it on a permanent basis, but today we will call it Mr Harris's war of taxes. This is the way it should be called because it won't be possible to live. It's true that the people are saying it's about fairness. When we came down to a Confederation meeting in Charlottetown, we decided that we will help every province in Canada. We did it. We know that the province of Quebec is getting a lot more than we get from the federal government. The federal government, in this brown envelope, as I call it, of all the financial operations of the federal government, 43% of that envelope comes from the Ontario resident. Quebec is getting a real surplus of what they're paying. But we became a country because we wanted to help each other. If we look at Newfoundland, unemployment is very hard, so the province of Ontario is helping the province of Newfoundland. But does this government ever look at the possibility of helping the poor? I don't think so, not the way we have introduced this bill today.


Mr Speaker, I have here an article also from the Globe and Mail this morning that is saying it isn't fair the way this government is going ahead with this tax. They haven't done their homework. They think they have, but I really feel at this point that we shouldn't even be discussing this bill, because even the government cannot come down with the proper figure of how much it is going to cost each municipality. We haven't got those figures. We've been asking for them and the Minister of Finance has been saying all along, "Yes, we do have the figures." I always said when I was the mayor of the town of Rockland, never vote on something that you haven't received. But I think you people on the other side shouldn't be even voting on it, you shouldn't be even debating this bill, because you haven't seen the results. You haven't seen the bottom line.

I'm going to go to the town of Hawkesbury with some figures, Mr Speaker, just to show you how much Hawkesbury is going to be badly hit with this transfer. Social housing in Hawkesbury is going to cost the town of Hawkesbury $2.753 million. The ambulance services -- and I got it down very low -- $283,000. They've already got in place their police.

But another thing that I just remembered now: The Ministry of Health used to do the inspection for the septic tank. You do not have septic tank services here in Toronto, you don't have septic tank inspection in the urban areas, but in the rural areas we have it. The Ministry of Health told me that it's going to cost anywhere between $400 and $500 per house that will be building a new septic tank system. Who is going to pay for that? If it is not the municipality, definitely it would boost up the price of a house by a minimum of $500, because any inspection or any permit to build a septic tank requires a minimum of three visits. So I'm using the figure of $450 per household that requires a septic tank.

I spoke about the assessment, but the loss of the business tax in my riding alone, excluding the town of Cumberland, because I haven't got the figures yet, is $3.8 million lost in our community, in the 18 communities. When I say that you're transferring, you're relieving all the municipalities by $5.4 billion, you people on the other side haven't done your homework. You haven't looked at what the impact is going to be on every community of this province.

We talk about user fees all the time. It is true. User fees, it's a good word to use. In smaller communities, I think we'll have to look at the possibility of closing arenas. At the present time very often this is the only thing we have for recreation in small communities. We don't have public transit. It doesn't exist in our community. Public transit, for you people, if you decide to go to one of the ministries' offices, you just jump on the OTC in Ottawa or you just jump on the TTC here in Toronto. You get down there in 10 minutes. But again, in the rural area we don't have public transit. So when you talk about user fees, you should analyse, you should look at what impact it is going to have on all the rural communities.

I'm looking at the township of Russell, a population of 11,417. The cost for the police service is going to be close to $2 million. The cost for ambulance service, at the rate of $30.45 per head, is going to be $350,000. The long-term-care costs are going to be $557,000. The social housing in Embrun and Russell and Marionville will be $413,000.

I'm looking at the assessments. It's an additional cost of $115,000. The library grants will be taken off completely. Are we going to be able to afford to keep our library open? We say in French, "Une ville sans bibliotheque c'est une ville morte." A town without a library is a dead town. Will the municipality be able to afford to keep their library open? We always said the more we could use the library, the better it is for our youngsters in our community, and also our senior people. Very often we get a chance to go there and do some research. Are we going to be able to afford that? Probably with a fee. We don't get anything at no cost any more.

I'm looking at the small town of East Hawkesbury, which has decided not to amalgamate. They have a population of 3,153. It's going to cost them an additional $155,000, and this is a town that has decided not to amalgamate.

When I look at all the others that have decided to amalgamate, we end up with a big cost. Like I said a little while ago, Vankleek Hill is going to be amalgamated with L'Orignal, Longueuil and West Hawkesbury. There's going to be a shortfall of $1.5 million.

Casselman has decided to stay alone. There's a saving of $29,000, $30,000. Rockland and Clarence have decided to join, to amalgamate. There will be a shortfall of $2.3 million. I'm looking at Cambridge. A lot of people don't know about Prescott and Russell. I hope by the time I'm finished today that you'll know about Prescott and Russell. We have 18 municipalities and 45 hamlets within our riding --


Mr Lalonde: I'm sure my friend Mr Laughren here knows about the Perley bridge now since we had a long discussion at Quebec City last week. It's very important for our community to have a Perley bridge to cross the river and go to Quebec, because very often now we go and get our services in Quebec. If we want health services at the present time, we get better service when we go to Quebec than we get in Ottawa, because in Ottawa, we're on the waiting list. This is true. We could give you all the information.

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Go to Ottawa.

Mr Lalonde: We would like to go to Ottawa, but it's impossible. There's a waiting list. Mrs Deforges had to get a heart operation and she had to go to Quebec. She couldn't get on the list now. She would have had to wait probably six or eight months. By the time her time comes up, she might not be in this world.

I'm looking at Cambridge. Cambridge will have a shortfall of $1.9 million -- not Cambridge, Ontario; Cambridge in eastern Ontario. I have Caledonia in there and I also have Plantagenet south and the village of St Isidore, a small village of 740 people. They too will have a shortfall.

Every one of us in our riding will have a shortfall except Casselman, which has not decided to amalgamate, and also another town that will have a surplus of $102,000. But mind you, I have to take that additional cost that the county of Prescott and Russell will have, which will be around $23 million. This amount of money will be dumped like the government is doing to our municipalities, will be transferred to the local municipality and then it will add up. There will not be a surplus. There could probably be a shortfall of anywhere between $300,000 and $400,000.


I think this government, before it goes ahead with second reading, should realize and should sit down with every member -- there are 82 members on that side -- and look over again what effect it will have on every small community. I'm sure, my friend from the Sarnia area, there will be a great impact in that area. My friend from Oshawa, my friend from -- near Kingston anyway; I just forget his name. But anyway, every one of us will have a shortfall. I'd like to sit down and figure out what the impact is going to be on the town of Brockville alone, a town of a little over 20,000 people. Mind you, you have a lot of business tax coming from Brockville, but now you have eliminated all that.

But one of the points we should remember, and I wonder if the members of the government have realized this --

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): How's the hockey team doing, Jean-Marc?

Mr Lalonde: Pretty good, pretty good.

One thing that we haven't spoken about is, what will the municipalities do when they collect school taxes or the education taxes on business and industrial? I wouldn't be surprised if this government is looking at the possibility of transferring school bus services to the municipalities. There is definitely a reason why municipalities will continue collecting education taxes. There's a reason for that for sure.

The government has decided to take all the residential, also the agriculture -- they never spoke about the agriculture school taxes, but I'm pretty sure they're taking that away too. They abolished the whole business tax and now what's going to happen with the commercial and industrial school taxes? I'm afraid if they decide to dump this part on the municipalities, we in the county of Prescott and Russell will have an additional bill of over $11 million. This is the cost of our school buses in our riding, $11 million.

Everyone is really scared at the present time. I've been asking the Minister of Transportation what we are going to do with the school buses. If you look at the backgrounder when the minister made an announcement, when he presented a statement one day, the first paragraph of the backgrounder, "Community buses include school buses." The Ministry of Transportation or this government has decided to abolish all the transportation grants, all the grants for transit services, the bus services, community bus services, but what is going to happen with the school taxes on commercial and industrial?

This is the part I'm most worried about at the present time. Will this government say, "Now, you people at the local level, you've always said that you want to take control of your municipality"? True, they always said that, but not having a knife in our back. At the present time, all the standards will be established by the province and then they'll tell the community or the municipality: "Now you operate with your own money. We have decided to cut all the transfers."

One of the reeves, the reeve from Russell, Roger Pharand, told me one day: "Do we still need the provincial government? Now that we are going to take most of the responsibilities over, do we still need a provincial government?" Probably we only need the board to establish the criteria or the objective of this government. Probably that's all we need. I don't mind going back to my community and fighting for them again. If you transfer everything to the communities, there won't be much left. When you transfer the police services to the small communities, they will be responsible for five areas within the police services. Then one area will be handled by the province.

You've decided to transfer all the social housing. We could operate that, but let me tell you, the municipalities won't be able to afford renting the units the way they are renting them. Where will the people live? Probably it's going to be like in Jamaica, living in the mountain, having just a cardboard cover over them. They won't have any shoes. We live in a country where we have a winter. You people in Toronto here have realized finally what a snowstorm is. We get that experience every week down east. I would like to see you people driving down east once in a while. Just come down to Ottawa, come down to Prescott and Russell: You'll see we have a lot of snow and we enjoy our snow.

Once again, when you work towards the grand transfer or the subsidies to the municipality, have you realized that it is costing more for the people up north and down east than it is costing you people here in Toronto? We have the snow removal that we have to look at. You have very little. We get a snowstorm down here and the whole traffic is jammed; everybody goes home at 2 o'clock. We've got so used to that down our way, instead of at 4, sometimes we decide to quit at 5 because we know it's going to take a little longer to get home but we like our job so we stay at the office. That's the way it is down east but probably not down here. We leave early down here.

I've mentioned a lot. I think we'll have to go over this very closely. My friend from Kitchener, I don't know what the weather is down there, but I know you have a good hockey team. But anyway, you have artificial ice for that hockey team.

To come back to Bill 106, once again, members of this government, sit down with the whole caucus and realize what the impact is going to be on small communities. I will have all the figures by the end of the week, but let me tell you, the county of Prescott and Russell is going to be shortfalled by over $50 million. How do you think we are going to be able to afford this?

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

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I must say that I enjoyed very much that very thoughtful and well-researched presentation by M. Lalonde, the member for Prescott-Russell, and it's obvious that he has done his homework on this matter.

The member for Sudbury East and I attempted to do a little bit of homework in our community. We met with officials from the regional municipality of Sudbury to go over some of the numbers as to what is happening there, and that's one reason I appreciated the work that the member for Prescott-Russell had done. There, when you added up everything that's being added on to the responsibilities of the municipality, the regional municipality of Sudbury in this case, and subtracted from it the educational levy that's being removed from the local property taxes, the difference for our community -- the regional municipality of Sudbury is about 160,000 people -- comes to $105.4 million more that will be absorbed by the local property taxpayers.

That does not take into consideration any of the relief fund that the minister has talked about to help municipalities cope. But I can see how long that lineup is going to be and how much money people are going to be demanding from that fund, and there's no way that this government is going to be prepared to make up the entire difference, not at the same time they provide the tax cut for some of our better-off citizens in this province.

The impact on the local property taxpayer in the regional municipality of Sudbury would be to almost exactly double their property tax bill, almost double it to about an extra, I think it was, around $1,600 for every property taxpayer.

In closing, I wanted to once again congratulate the member for Prescott-Russell. I believe he was quoting the reeve of Russell when the reeve said, "Do we need a provincial government?" The answer is yes, but not this one.

Mr O'Toole: It's a pleasure to get up and respond to the member for Prescott-Russell. I did listen with some enthusiasm mainly to his reporting of the hockey scores. However, he does make some point that some of the municipalities are scrambling trying to come up with some numbers to sort of justify that really there is some information that's needed before they can flesh out the full cost of this transfer.

I want to assure the people that I have been a local councillor. I'm sure M. Lalonde has been involved for many years in local government, and I respect him. He's a great person. I've travelled with him, and I know he has at heart the best interests of Prescott and Russell, his riding. But I can tell you, I don't think the numbers are all completely resolved in the municipalities; you don't have all the information.


If you look back to the history of this debate, of straightening out not only the assessment system but who does what, this goes back to the Liberal government. I can report a few just off the top of my head. There was the Fair Tax Commission, which the previous government is very familiar with, and there's the disentanglement report. There was the whole exercise of the Golden report, which was our first attempt to look at it, and then we finally resolved it by asking David Crombie and the Who Does What commission to look at all the reports for the last number of years.

At the end of the day, they recommended that we take some things off the local property tax and disentangle who pays for what. Really, we're going to end up with a fairer, more understandable system. I really do believe that. We're removing from the property tax base the funding of education -- long overdue, $5.4 billion -- and we're putting back down on that tax base a whole range of services that some municipalities will have to find partnerships in delivering, and I think at the end of the day we'll do more for less. That's what the people want us to do, each elected person, to reconsider how we do business.

Mr Michael Brown: I too would like to join in congratulating my colleague the member for Prescott and Russell. I think what he had to say was something we all should consider very closely. One of the things we've been asking for in opposition was impact studies across the province: What does this mean? We've asked for them repeatedly, but good members like the member for Prescott and Russell have been able to come up with those numbers.

In my constituency, I know that in the city of Elliot Lake they estimate their shortfall to be $4 million. This is a retirement community. This will be an expensive burden on the property taxpayer in Elliot Lake if this cockamamy scheme is allowed to go forward.

I called the good clerk of Espanola, Merwyn Sheppard, shortly after this was all announced and asked him, "Merwyn, what do you think this is going to cost?" He said, "It's very difficult to figure out because we share so many services with other municipalities and it's going to be hard to come up with the bottom line." But he did say, "We're going to save ourselves $1.4 million in property tax for education, but we're going to spend at least $1 million just for the increase in general welfare and we'll have to spend at least $1.2 million more for family benefits payments," so if they just cover the social services aspect of this dumping, they're in huge trouble. That's what he told me.

I went over to Manitoulin. We're still having numbers come in because there are quite a few municipalities there, so we haven't been able to get precise numbers yet. But we do know, for example, that the cost of the ambulance transfer alone will cost them $1.5 million. They can't afford it.

Ms Martel: I want to commend the member for Prescott and Russell for his comments this afternoon and follow up on some of the points he made. First of all, he was very clear that this bill and a number of other initiatives this government is undertaking will have a very direct and very negative impact on any number of property owners right across the province. The fact of the matter is that this government's position, from when it was over here in the third party, has changed 180 degrees. When our government looked at introducing MVA, the members of the Conservative Party who sat on this side went bananas. They were totally opposed to it. They were vociferously opposed to it.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Apoplectic.

Ms Martel: "Apoplectic" is another term we should use. They were completely against a property tax increase which was envisioned in that scheme. It is the same scheme that we are seeing introduced here. It will have the same negative effect on any number of property taxpayers right across the province. It is remarkable to see how the tune of this current government has changed, from when they were over here, on this very important issue.

Also, I think it was very good that the member for Prescott and Russell told members what the impact in his community is going to be of another initiative of this government and how local property taxpayers are going to get whacked again by this government.

My colleague from Nickel Belt made it clear that in the regional municipality of Sudbury the net cost to our community as a consequence of this Conservative government's dumping of services is $105 million. It will work out to be about a $1,600 increase per household across our region.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture, who is here, can talk all they want about all the funding that's going to be in place to help municipalities like mine. Let me say that the lineup for those funds is going to be so long that the region of Sudbury will not see this government pick up that $105-million difference, and many other communities will be in the same boat as ours.

Le Vice-Président : Monsieur le député de Prescott-Russell, vous avez deux minutes.

Mr Lalonde: My friend from Oshawa just mentioned a little while ago that the numbers have not been resolved. But let me tell you, if any one of you people here in this room have tried to get some figures from some of the ministries, the minister has advised them not to give figures. We're calling the regional office. The regional office director is saying: "Call the minister's office. There's a person in there who will answer to the MPPs." We just can't get those figures. This is why even the members on the government side were not able to get the numbers.

Let me tell you, the impact is going to be really bad for the young couples, because the bottom line of the municipality has to be the same: If you have a $5-million budget, you have to get that $5 million. Today we just cannot depend on the government block transfer or the government municipal support grant.

I'm sure you people are all intelligent people. Just ask your Minister of Finance. Ask him to give you the figures. He hasn't come down with the figures to us. We would like to have them. We had to do our own homework, and I have every one from my 18 municipalities. If you people are getting the same thing, the same exercise that I do, you will see at the next caucus -- you don't have to tell us. Just tell your Premier, your boss, that it's impossible to proceed the way this government is proceeding, by dumping everything down to the municipalities. It won't be affordable to live in this province. Your young couple will have to move. Make sure you give the message to the member.

The finance committee did receive some estimates, some figures from the regional office. They were supposed to be transferred to all the MPPs. We haven't received them.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): It is indeed an honour and a privilege to rise today in this place and speak for a short time on this bill, in the context of so much else that's going on around us in the province under the aegis of governing and public policy and change.

I always find it an honour and a privilege to stand here on behalf of the people of Sault Ste Marie and, in my own humble way, to speak their voice, share with the members of this place the thoughts and ideas shared with me by the people with whom I come in contact when I go home to my riding on Friday and the weekend and rub shoulders with the ordinary citizen of this province. That's when I hear from them some of their concern, some of their excitement, the emotions, the sometimes very well-thought-out ideas they have about the things happening on their behalf in this place by way of legislation that is passed, by way of regulations that are passed and by way of new initiatives they see.

I have over the last number of months spent a fair amount of time back in my constituency, back in Sault Ste Marie knocking on doors. I probably knocked on about 350 doors back in November 1995. I've spent a fair amount of time meeting with groups, listening to people in my constituency office. On the weekend as I go about my business, sometimes at meetings, sometimes shopping in the malls or in the stores, sometimes when I'm at church on Sunday morning with my family, people come up to me and speak to me about things they're concerned about or that they hear or want me to know about. I have to tell you, in the last three or four to six months, as people come to understand and realize and feel at first hand the impact of some of what's being done to them by this government, they have more and more to share with me. Their anxiety seems to be more and more of a negative nature and their concern grows daily. They know or they're beginning to know, and will know I'm sure as time goes on, just what it is that this government is about.


I've also spent, in the last number of weeks, some time on committee in this place. I happen to sit on the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. You all know that the Minister of Finance recently appeared before that committee to deliver to us a statement on the financial affairs of this province. Following that, we had a number of groups come in to talk to us about the impact of that on them.

It's in the context of all of that that I want to put just a few thoughts on the record today re the bill that's before us, which is Bill 106, the Fair Municipal Finance Act. It, like everything else, follows the pattern this government is continually chasing and imposing and taking in order to get its business done. It's a pattern that is, by any measure or any analysis, one that buys into a notion of the world as driven by financial interests and financial interests alone. Certainly this bill, in its attempt to simplify a system that is actually quite complex and sophisticated in a short period of time, fits into that whole scheme, that whole pattern.

I remember when, in my own community, back about 10 years ago, we introduced the concept of market value assessment, and the uproar that was caused by that initiative, the difficulty it imposed on a whole lot of the citizens of my community, and how some political careers, some actually promising political careers came to a crashing end when market value assessment became the reality in my community.

You've heard in this House as late as today some of the members on this side suggesting to you that what actually is happening here under the aegis of actual value assessment is in fact market value assessment.

In my community what happened was a divide-and-conquer strategy, as it's going to do in the Toronto and Metro area and in fact across this province. It's going to set one community of people against another.

Over the years a system of tax assessment has evolved that has taken into consideration all kinds of factors that are sometimes hard to point to or be clear about or that are tangible in any way. That has gotten us to where we are today, which is a property tax system which on one hand delivers a whole range of programs that all of us have come to appreciate and expect, particularly when we find ourselves in some difficulty in some instances, but also some services that contribute to that quality of life which makes Ontario the very wonderful place it is.

What this government is proposing to do will see a very clear divide-and-conquer tactic again play out and rear its head, and at the end of the day will have this government impose a new system on us that will cause such trauma, both initially and in the long term, that some of the benefits that might be gained by doing some of what's proposed in this bill will actually be lost.

In my own community, when we brought in market value assessment, a whole lot of people who had planned out their lives to the penny financially who had some long-term plans in place were hurt very seriously by the imposition of this new approach to collect.

I'm not saying it's not important from time to time to take a look at how we tax each other to pay for the services we collectively decide are in everybody's best interests to do as a community. We should do that, and I think it's important to make sure that everybody is paying a fair share. But you can't do it overnight, and that's the first thing I want to spend just a short time talking about today: the speed at which this is all happening and the context within which it is happening.

If we do things in this place particularly that have such a fundamental and all-encompassing impact on the lives of people out there, ordinary people who are simply working hard, raising a family, contributing to their community and trying to make ends meet, we may not feel that some of the things we do here are that important, or as they play out, have the kind of impact they actually have. It's important for us to know they do. As I speak to people in my community, as I listen to groups of people who come before us in this place at committee and in other forums, there is a high anxiety level out there about all of what's going on, and this particular piece of legislation fits into that in a very classic way.

Consider for a second what this government is about, which is minimizing, diminishing the role of government in the lives of people, taking away things that government has always done on our behalf so that everybody is served in a way that's timely and helpful, the cost-cutting that goes with that, and in turn the tax break being proposed that will take away from this place the ability to continue to do some of the good things we all know we need to continue to do that we've come to expect. When we hear the Minister of Finance and his officials and some economists who come before us, and we had two before us at the standing committee on finance and economic affairs the other day tell us that as they travel the world -- I don't think it's a secret, but the ministers of this government, particularly the Premier, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism and others travel widely outside of Ontario, travel widely around the world to various and sundry meetings with the makers and shakers on the international monetary scene.

Mr Harris and Mr Eves tell this government that what they're doing is just wonderful stuff, because it's playing into their hands. It plays into their hands because what we're doing in Ontario is simplifying their ability to come in here and invest and high-grade all that is good, all the resources that are valuable and then leave us at the end of the day with what's left.

When you hear the international monetary community, when you hear the makers and shakers out there in the global economy and the economists who plug into that, who also travel in those circles, say these kinds of things and no voice, no reference whatsoever to how this is going to play out in the communities we all come from, how this is going to affect the lives of people who live on our streets, whose children play with our children, who attend the schools our kids attend, who shop in the stores we shop in, how this is going to impact the small business community in places like Hamilton, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and Windsor, when there's no reference to any of that, no impact statements whatsoever, no business plan to speak to us about how all that is going to impact, you then cast a jaundiced eye at anything they bring forward, including this Bill 106, the Fair Municipal Finance Act, which is an attempt to change the way we collect property taxes in this province and the impact it will have on communities.


We know from some of the statements that are made in this House, from some of the questions that are asked of the ministers every day in this place, from some of the speeches that are made by people on behalf of their community, that this bill and the downloading that is going on, and Bill 104 and Bill 103 and all of the other very dramatic and huge pieces of legislation that are going through this place these days at such a breakneck speed, will indeed have some very difficult and negative impacts on all the communities we represent.

I would say to you and to the government and to the people out there that we should be at the very least, even if we agree with some of what's proposed re this bill here -- and I have to say, being honest with you, that at first blush the idea of a tax assessment system for the whole province that speaks of equity and a similar way of valuing property and making a judgement as to how much tax they pay on that kind of base makes sense.

I don't think there's -- well, I shouldn't say that, but I know that when we were in government and we were trying to find ways to make sense out of a very challenging financial situation, we also were looking at what we could do to do a number of things. At the end of the day, when we got all the information in -- you'll remember that we undertook the Fair Tax Commission. I know as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education in those five exciting years that we looked as well at how we might change the financing of education in a way that would be more positive and constructive and helpful and, yes, equitable, to people across the province, both in the way we collect taxes to do that kind of thing and ultimately in the way we spend taxes to make sure we provide good services. But we found out at the end of the day that it wasn't as simple as any of us would like it to be.

Before you come to this place, particularly if you haven't been here before, you have this image of the way things work. You think you can come here with all kinds of neat and great ideas to change the world we live in. You find out very soon that it's a lot more complicated than that, that it's a lot more sophisticated than that and that we have in this place systems that have been built up over a number of years that are there for a specific purpose.

They're there to make sure that one government, no matter how huge the majority or how confident or how arrogant they are when they arrive here, or how convinced they are that what they're about to do is the right thing and in the best interests of the people of this province, runs into all kinds of checks and balances that cause them to step back, to take a deep breath sometimes, to reassess, to gather more information, to consult a little more before they make the kind of changes that we sometimes want to make in a hurry.

We all know in our heart of hearts that when we make decisions in too much of a hurry -- and we've experienced this, I'm sure. I know I have in my own personal life and in my family life, that when I jump too quickly, when I haven't taken into consideration all the information that's available to me, when I haven't listened to the people who are going to be affected most directly by the decisions I'm going to make, at the end of the day I don't always make the best decision.

Even though this bill may, at first blush, present as a valuable piece of work that needs to be done, that other governments have done some work on, when you look at it in its own right and you see the change it's going to make out there to all the municipalities, to anybody who owns property, and you put it into the context of everything else that's going on in this place, it is massive. There are days around here now when I often wonder where it is that I am. It feels sometimes like Vietnam: There's a bomb today and another one tomorrow and another one the next day.

Mr Michael Brown: It's a revolution.

Mr Martin: That's what they said. It's the Common Sense Revolution and it is indeed a revolution.


Mr Martin: Well, it may in fact be long overdue, but you've got to take your time with it. You've got to make sure that people are on board. You've got to make sure that you're hurting fewer than you're helping and you have all the information that you need.

With all the bills that you've presented -- Bill 103, Bill 104, Bill 105, Bill 106 -- and all the things you're proposing to do out there, you don't think even minimally it would make sense that you would present to us, who have to participate with you in this exercise, who are duly elected, as you are, to this place to speak on behalf of our constituents and to stand up and be heard when our constituents are impacted, particularly negatively, to share with us some impact study, some detailed plan that shows how all of this is going to shake out? At the end of the day, when you've changed the way we do municipal government, when you've changed the way we oversee and govern education in the province, when you've changed the way we pay for a whole myriad of services that have always been the responsibility of the province, when you've changed what it is that communities are going to be responsible for and add on the way that you have in the last month or two, and then bring in a bill like Bill 106 that's going to change radically the way we assess and collect taxes of a property nature, you wouldn't have in front of us, at least for each bill, an impact study that would speak about the cost, the cost to whom, and at the end of the day, what it is that we'll be able to afford to have, and if we're not able to afford to have something, the alternatives you would propose to be out there to deliver those programs, particularly if they're valuable?

I suggest that it would be helpful to all of us if at the end of the day, looking at the massive amount of change you're imposing and wanting to make happen, you would have some kind of an overall blueprint that would have it all fall into place. Sometimes in my more cynical moments, I think in some back room somewhere, perhaps behind the Premier's office or maybe locked off from the cabinet room --

Mr Michael Brown: In the war room.

Mr Martin: -- in the war room perhaps -- there is this blueprint; that you actually do know what you're doing and you're just not sharing it with us. The sense we have from watching what you're doing is that at the end of the day, as it plays out, it will not be in the best interests of those people who we feel most strongly about.

It's maybe trite or easy to say this, but I think it's important from time to time to say it, that a society is not judged by how much it gives to those around us, and in our community who already have lots, but by how it deals with and treats those who have less, those who are in need.


Mr Speaker, I don't have to share with you, I'm sure, but from time to time I have to remind the folks across the way, and sometimes some of the folks out there, but I think less and less as time goes on, because I think more and more they are getting the message and coming on board and understanding the concerns we have here as we deal directly with this stuff on a day-to-day basis. When I woke up on that fateful day in July 1995 --


Mr Martin: No, it wasn't the election day, it wasn't the morning after the election. It was the day I woke up to find that you had taken 22% of the income away from the poorest in my community. I knew then what you were about. I knew what this regime was going to be about and I had a gut feeling -- I was hoping it was wrong -- about what you were going to do and who it was you had in the cross-hairs of that rifle that you point from time to time with these pieces of legislation and with some of the initiatives that you bring down. It certainly isn't your friends on Bay Street you're attacking. It certainly isn't those on Wall Street and outside of our jurisdiction who are looking at what you're doing and saying it's wonderful what you have in mind when you do the cutting and the slashing you do.

It's interesting. The other day at the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, one of the economists was talking about how outside of Ontario now Mike Harris is right up there with Ralph Klein. They're just about to make statues out of them because they're revered so highly in those circles that you know so well because you travel in them -- we don't -- the makers and the shakers on Wall Street and the makers and the shakers you meet when you go to those meetings in Japan and Germany. They think this is just wonderful.

As a matter of fact, one of the economists said at one of the meetings she was at people were talking about Mike Harris less as a Canadian but more as an American. They said he was more American than he was Canadian. I had to say on that particular day that was one thing I could agree with him on.

Mr Michael Brown: Governor Mike.

Mr Martin: Governor Mike, absolutely, because Mike Harris and Ralph Klein are more in keeping with the tradition of the Ronald Reagans and the Christine Todd Whitmans and the governors of places like Alabama than they are in keeping with the tradition of premiers, including some of the Progressive Conservative premiers we've had in this province over the years. I highlight the word "Progressive" because there's absolutely nothing that this government has done so far to suggest to me that it understands, is in keeping with or appreciates the term "Progressive," as it applies to "Progressive" and "Conservative" in the tradition of this province and in the tradition of this country.

Speaking on behalf of my constituents, who have gone through the market value assessment process in Sault Ste Marie and seen how that played out for them and some of the impact, this bill is really not any different. This is market value assessment of a different nature and in some senses it may make some sense to be looking at and moving in a direction that is at the end of the day more equitable for everybody. But to be doing it in such a short time period, when it is so complicated and so sophisticated -- and there have been members of my party who have spoken very eloquently in this place. Mr Marchese, the member for Fort York, spoke the other night about the impact this will have on the inner city of Toronto, on the very fragile community of people who have fought over the years so diligently and so successfully to protect what they have. When you compare it to other large cities anywhere in North America it is the envy of all of them.

For you to be coming before us and suggesting that we do this in such a short time period and without the impact statements that we need to assess correctly the different parts of this bill, to see if there isn't something that could be done differently that might ease the pain a bit, is showing your arrogance and also your desperate drive to get all of this done as soon as possible so that you can help and make happy your rich friends and benefactors on Bay Street and Wall Street.

The other things I want to touch on before I finish, because I don't have much time left, are a couple of elements in the bill itself. A couple of weeks ago you came out and told municipalities that you were going to lift the cost of education off the property tax and that you were going to free up that space for them to move in and get some money out of there to do some of the things they needed to do.

Then a few days later you dumped on them, by way of the downloading, just a whole whack of things that they were going to now be responsible for that they weren't responsible for before, that the province always delivered.

Then you came in with this bill which says to them that you're going to equalize the tax system across the province. Not only are you going to do that, but you're going to remove a couple of pieces from the tax regulation that's already in place that will mean municipalities will have less money to pay for those things they will now be expected to deliver.

The business occupancy tax is one that I speak of and the farm land taxes is another. Some may say they're really not that important or that significant. I have to tell you that if you do the mathematics and you talk to the folks who collect those taxes and factor them into their budgets each year, as they look at how they're going to deliver the services their constituents want, those two pieces are going to be, at the end of the day, very significant and they're going to be gone.

I end my few thoughts here today in the way I started, saying that it's really important that this government, no matter what bill it is it's dealing with and trying to drive through this place, take the time that's necessary to listen to the folks who are impacted most directly by what will be the fallout from all that.

I suggest that in this instance and in the instances of all the pieces of legislation before us these days in this place, during this extraordinary session that doesn't usually happen, they're not listening to the folks who will be most affected. Because we don't have the impact statements we need to participate in a more helpful and informed way, we won't be able to have the kind of impact we would like on these bills and actually be able to offer suggestions for change.

Even with this bill here, Bill 106, which as I said may have in it the guts of something that could be positive, at the end it will not be either. I look forward to further activity on this.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Chudleigh: Bill 106 is about property tax, but it's really about the fairness and equitability of that property tax and how it's applied. If we look at the current assessment system in Ontario today, do we have fairness, do we have equitable treatment of people throughout Ontario? No, we do not. Do we have that under Bill 106? Yes, we do. It creates that equity and that fairness across this province that all three parties in this House have agreed to over their terms of government over the past 10 or 12 years.

There's a current system of farm tax rebate. Is that fair and equitable to the farmers of this province? No, it isn't. It was a piecemeal program that was put in in the mid-1970s and it has put hardships on farmers at particular times of the year when they don't have money to finance their tax bills and have to wait, interest-free, to get that money back. Is that fair and equitable? No, it isn't. But the system we're putting in is fair and equitable.

Is it fair and equitable to raise money for the educational process in Ontario off of residential property tax rolls? No, it isn't. That's been shown for years. AMO and ROMA have constantly asked for changes in that area and we are bringing that in. We're bringing that in in a fair and equitable manner which will put Ontario in the forefront of fairness of financing educational costs in the province of Ontario.

To further ensure that we have a fair and equitable system in Ontario, we're putting in a one-time adjustment fund of $800 million to ensure that municipalities can adjust to the new realities in Ontario. We're going to put in a fund of $700 million in cases where welfare becomes a burden to individual responsibilities through abnormal conditions. Further to that, we're putting in a $1-billion municipal restructuring fund that will continue year after year in order to make those adjustments. This is a fair and equitable piece of legislation.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin.


Mr Michael Brown: I always appreciate the comments from the member for Sault Ste Marie. I think the member for Sault Ste Marie is one of the most sensitive and well spoken members in the Legislature, and while I don't necessarily agree with all his policies, I think what he has brought to us here is a sense of what this bill's effect is.

When I was a young lad my mother used to talk about the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I always thought that was a reasonable kind of golden rule. Then when I got a little bit older my father, who happened to be a little more cynical, talked about the golden rule and he said, "You know, son, it's really he who has the gold makes the rules."

I think we are seeing that today with this legislation. Who benefits? The people with the gold benefit from what's going on here. Who doesn't benefit? It will be the people without the gold. It will be the seniors, the people in rural areas, the people who are affected by having property taxes go through the ceiling.

The member talks about taking the education tax off the residential base. That's a good idea. I don't think anybody in this province wouldn't think that's a good idea. But people like David Crombie and anybody associated with this exercise -- I think David Crombie said there's no one left standing who agrees with this -- disagree with having welfare, social housing, long-term care, ambulances and a myriad of other services dumped on to the property taxpayer.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the remarks of my colleague the member for Sault Ste Marie, and would start the same as my colleague from the Liberal Party who talked about the sensitivity and the caring Tony Martin brings to this place.

Tony mentioned in his opening remarks that he had an opportunity to bring his humble opinion and I want to say that he is certainly one of the most humble members here, although compared to many, he needn't be because, quite frankly, in his presentations he brings far more compassion, understanding and caring about community than anything this government has offered up by way of its agenda.

The fact of the matter is that it takes a great deal of hypocrisy, in my opinion, for a government member to respond to the honourable member for Sault Ste Marie and talk about fairness and equity when there's absolutely nothing fair or equitable about this government's agenda. This bill is no different than any other bill. They're ramming it through it at record speed. They're lumping it in with all kinds of other incredible changes, all of which, at the end, leave those that have the least with less and those that have the most with more. In this case any ability to have equity or fairness is lost when you add everything else that this government is doing.

In my community, your downloading of the majority of your responsibilities on to Hamilton-Wentworth is going to cost us $121 million extra at the end of the day. You talk about your fund being there. You don't talk about the escalating costs over the years. You don't talk about how long that money is going to be in place. All you talk about is your narrow agenda, one that leaves people like those in Sault Ste Marie and Hamilton-Wentworth behind the eight ball, and the member for Sault Ste Marie has the guts to stand up and take you on.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I recognize the member for Sault Ste Marie and his presentation, a very compassionate speech that he made. I would remind him there are probably two types of governments and both are very compassionate. There is the type to the left that he's referring to, instant compassion and looking after people with all kinds of money, with his style, but I'd remind him that the government of the day is an extremely compassionate government about our children and what they'll have to pay for our spending today. We're compassionate and concerned about their future and the kind of debt they are going to have.

He talks about fairness. I don't know how you could have anything more fair than actual value assessment, which is updated every year. What it's really all about is that similar properties that have similar values will pay a similar tax within that same municipality. It's all about coming up with a sound basis for that assessment.

I think you should look at the taxes. People are going to be mad because taxes go up. Unfortunately, they really should, when their taxes go up, be saying, "Thank you that in the past I had low taxes." Now they'll be paying their fair share, but looking back, they should be happy they had such low taxes in the past. Those whose taxes go down --


Mr Galt: Just listen to this. Those whose taxes go down are the people who should be angry, because they've been paying too much in the past. They're the ones who should be upset. Instead of the way that you're looking at it, use some common sense on how you go about looking at that particular item. What we've had is one of the most archaic systems of taxation going back to 1940-41, when many of the areas in Toronto were assessed, and that's the basis of today's taxes.


The Deputy Speaker: Further debate? I'm sorry: The member for Sault Ste Marie. The member for Sudbury East and the member for Hamilton Centre, you make so much noise that I even forget my own procedures. The member for Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: It wasn't just the members for Sudbury East and Hamilton who were creating the noise in this House. It was coming from all sides because we're having a hard time believing some of what we were hearing.

I want to thank the member for Halton North and the members for Algoma-Manitoulin, Hamilton Centre and Northumberland for taking the time to get up and respond to some of what I had to say. I appreciate some of the kindness that was shared.

I wish, though, that I could believe some of what was presented by the government members, but as I look out there, I see the impact of what you've done on the people in my community that I feel most strongly about. Perhaps that's a shortcoming on my part, I'm not sure, but I just can't help but be cynical about anything you do, including this bill here which, as I said in my speech, is presented as somewhat innocuous, but when you get into it, as we did when we were government, and you look at the complication, the sophistication and the interconnectedness of things, you begin to realize that you can't do it in two weeks or three weeks, that it takes longer and that you have to hear from more people and you have to have an impact statement that goes along with it.

I will be more apt to listen to, to accept and work with the government when they bring to us here for our perusal a budget that factors in the impact of what they are doing on communities, recognizes and puts numbers on some of the poverty that's being created and the tension and the stress that's being put on institutions like education, health care and social services. When they do that, I will be willing to sit down with them and to talk about what else we can do together.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for St Andrew-St Patrick.

Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I want to use the occasion today to summarize some of the misconceptions that I've heard over the course of the debate. I want as well to thank all the members of the House for their input into the bill. Some of them may not have agreed with everything that we have said or that we are putting forth, but at least they have raised some objections that I feel I want to clear up today.

First of all, I want to talk about the simplified appeals process. A lot of people are saying, "The appeals process: terrible thing, terrible thing." Actually what we are doing is fixing an outdated system that doesn't work. We are streamlining the appeals process. It's absolutely clear that the appeal will be heard by the Assessment Review Board, an independent tribunal whose decision will be binding, so there is final recourse for people who cannot work out their differences in a 90-day period. We're increasing the deadline for making appeals. We're extending it from 21 days to 90 days, which will permit more complaints to be resolved through a new informal discussion process rather than through formal hearings. We feel this is a move that is going to make the system much more clear and easy and fair for people.


The second theme that I keep hearing in these discussions is the business occupancy tax. Although this tax was created and brought in in 1904 and is outdated, unfair, some people are saying, "You should not take it off." We are eliminating the business occupancy tax. This means the taxation levels will be able to be decided by municipalities, which is how it should be and which is what municipalities have been requesting. They will have the authority to decide how to raise their revenues by applying different tax rates to different property classes. The municipality can choose whether to reduce expenditures or whether and how to recover the BOT revenues. We feel and municipalities feel that this is a much fairer system and certainly it's fairer for tenants.

Lastly, I want to raise an issue. Members on the other side of the House keep saying, "Oh, well, this is the same as market value assessment." I want to say that our new tax system is not only going to be fairer and more equitable; it is very different from the market value that both the NDP and the Liberal governments tried to bring in in their last terms.

One, as my colleague the member for York Mills pointed out, the new assessment that we're bringing in will be based on 1996 assessments rather than 1988 assessments. If you know anything about real estate, 1988 was a very volatile year and people's homes were away up, so assessments therefore were away up; 1996 is a very level, fair year.

Two, in determining a value-based assessment, actual value or current value, not highest and best use, is the value assessment we are going to be using. That is a much fairer system. I have people in my riding, for example, whose places were being valued for a business development because they happened to be in a very strategic, expensive area, living in a very humble house. The current use is a much fairer way of looking at things.

Three, taxes will be based on a three-year average of values to increase stability and certainty. That again is another important point to remember. It allows you to average your assessments over three years, and that sort of evens off the peaks, and I suppose valleys as well.

Unlike many market value proposals that other governments have suggested, municipalities may protect their most vulnerable citizens, such as elderly people and the disabled, and people who are having a large tax rise because they've been paying unfair taxes for years will be able to have up to eight years to get used to the new tax level. We feel this is a fair system to bring in.

Bill 106 certainly makes important and long-overdue changes, as everybody who has spoken on the bill certainly on our side, the government side, has pointed out. It makes changes to how services are delivered to the people of this province, and these changes will ensure that Ontarians get the highest quality of services at the lowest possible cost. It will increase accountability of governments and improve fairness for taxpayers. It will also introduce the Ontario fair assessment system, which will bring fairness, as I said, to property assessment. Similar properties, as we have pointed out again and again, with a similar value within a municipality will pay similar taxes, which is the only fair way to go.

This government, as I've said before and other people have pointed out, is taking up the challenge of fixing the problem of out-of-date and confusing assessment values. Past governments have failed to take this important step. Bill 106 creates a framework for a municipal property tax system that is fair, clear, more consistent and certainly more accountable. People in businesses who have been paying more than their fair share will see their taxes reduced.

To reiterate, I would like to thank everybody in this House who has contributed and had input into this bill, and I'm sure we may be hearing more. Thank you very much.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Bradley: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to comment on the government line which I've just heard, a line all the members are given to provide to people across Ontario. I'm really wondering how many of the Conservative members actually believe it any more. Initially they did, and the ones who want to get into the cabinet of course say most vociferously: "I do, I do. Me, me, me, Premier. Me, Premier. I believe it." That's what happens. But for the others, I'm beginning to wonder how many of the others really believe in this.

I listen to some of the members from the Hamilton area, Hamilton West and Wentworth North and so on, and they're getting queasy about this. I can understand that. With this bill, on top of all the other downloading we're seeing, I think some of the Conservative members are beginning to hear, maybe quietly, even from some of their Conservative friends on municipal councils. There are some out there who, no matter what the Harris government does, they will defend you; they will be your official spokespersons. They're people who hope they're going to get an appointment or can go and play golf with Mike Harris. There's some favour they're going to get: They can go to a big gathering with him, some social occasion.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The Albany Club.

Mr Bradley: As my friend the Minister of Municipal Affairs says, they may get to go to the Albany Club and break bread and drink champagne with the Premier and other senior members of the cabinet.

Mr Ford: They're going to see Brian Mulroney.

Mr Bradley: They want me to mention Brian Mulroney. You know, there are people out there who still remember those years, the Mulroney years. I guess the ones on the government side remember it with fondness, but many of the people I know out there remember those as less than desirable days.

Mr Christopherson: In responding to the prepared, canned speech of the member for St Andrew-St Patrick and picking up where the member for St Catharines left off, the fact is that there's just one spin to this. I still have not yet seen any of the members truly stand up and reflect on what's going to happen in their own communities in their own words, in their own notes, and talk about all the other things the government is doing. From where we sit over here, it's truly not fair to try to look at this issue in isolation from everything else you're doing, given the fact that everyone is feeling so overwhelmed. I for one am one of those who believes that is by design. That's not coincidental.

You're very much hoping, and are unfortunately somewhat successful, that by having people so overwhelmed with everything you're doing, it's difficult to give fair analysis and criticism and attention and to counterlobby and use all the checks and balances in a parliamentary democracy to respond to the initiatives and push of a majority government.

The member talks about -- I want to mention this just once and briefly, but certainly it was an inflection in the voice: "Those who know about real estate." I offer up that I and probably very few people in this place understand real estate the way the honourable member does. You win on that one hands down.


Let me say also that when you say it's a good thing that the business tax is coming off -- it's not necessarily a good thing when you take a look at the long-term implications of who has influence in the new restructured municipalities. It's going to be more difficult for the average person to become a school trustee or to become a councillor in their local area, and that will affect the kind of decisions that are made. Saying that eight years to have it factored in and phased in is going to somehow make it all right is not true when you look at what's happening to property tax --

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

Mr Baird: I listened with great interest, particularly to the comments from the member for Hamilton Centre, who said that somehow there's a belief that this government is trying to overwhelm people. I took the opportunity to look up what his government did in the last year of its mandate when it was in government. It didn't do anything. The Legislature wasn't even sitting for the last year, which sort of underwhelmed the population of Ontario. No agenda for jobs, no agenda to get us out of our debt crisis, no agenda to deal with welfare reform, and that's something this government has followed.

In response to my colleague the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, she obviously got the facts on the bill, did some research, did her homework and came to this place to debate a specific initiative, a specific piece of legislation where she could contribute substantively, something she's noted for in this place.

She mentioned the 1988 values. I can tell you what happened in my constituency: 1988 was the first year the Liberals had a majority government in 50 years, and when they got their majority government, the spending machine cranked up, I'll tell you. Inflation went up, housing prices went up and then they went right down when they forced us into a recession. As the member for St Andrew-St Patrick mentioned, 1988 values were so inflated because of all the waste and wild spending of the members in the Liberal Party; 1988 was such an abnormality, and for people in my community to have to pay taxes on the 1988 value was crazy.

Who paid more taxes, who picked up the slack for the unfair assessment rates? It was the people in the starter homes, those young families starting out, the first-time home buyers. People were saying, "Don't change the system; we'll just get these young families to pay more," these young families who might dream of the day when they could get in the car and drive their kids to Disney World on the holidays, dream of the day of owning their own home, and then they get socked by an unfair tax system.

Mr O'Toole: Whacked.

Mr Baird: They got whacked, as the member for Durham East said. That's what the comments of the member for St Andrew-St Patrick were all about.

Mr Michael Brown: I was interested in 1988. That was a very remarkable year for real estate values. It was a year in Ontario where the deficit of the provincial government was in the neighbourhood of $1 billion, about one seventh of the present government's deficit. It was a year when unemployment in Ontario was less than 6%. It was a year when people worked.


The Deputy Speaker: Member for Nepean, you had your chance.

Mr Michael Brown: It was a year that Ontario had the fastest-growing economy in the western world. It was a year that was creating jobs as never before. That was the year of 1988. Yes, property values and real estate values went up. Generally, that's what happens in an economy that is doing extraordinarily well.

It may be unfair that 1988 was used as the assessment year, but maybe 1997, if we're lucky, will be a year like 1988. If we're lucky, it would be just like that. Maybe it would be a year that people worked. Maybe it would be a year that we had prosperity. Maybe it would be a year where our children had hope, where the unemployment among our youth was at historically low levels. Maybe it would be a year we could go to school.

Maybe 1988 will happen again, but I don't see that under this present regime. This is a government that is practising New Jersey politics. This is about raising property taxes, because property taxes in your view are where the revenues for government should come from, and they have the added benefit of people being able to blame another level of government for those tax increases.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for St Andrew-St Patrick has two minutes.

Ms Bassett: The member for Hamilton Centre says I should speak from my heart. When I look at our tax system, which is unfair, not transparent, outdated, I think, "You people sitting there all these years, why haven't you done anything to change it?" In my riding of St Andrew-St Patrick --


The Deputy Speaker: Member for Hamilton Centre.

Ms Bassett: -- people in the same block are paying enormous differences in their property taxes. People who have no money or very little money, as the member for Nepean pointed out, or very little money, are seeing people who can well afford to pay more paying nothing, practically, in relation to what they're putting aside, penny after penny, to save to be able to stay in the wonderful riding of St Andrew-St Patrick, which anybody in their right mind would save to stay in if they possibly could. That is why people don't move out. Other people are saying, "Oh, well, you could move out." They want to stay there.

What we are doing with this bill, at last -- and our government, Mike Harris, has the courage to do something, not to put it off, although the Liberals I understand were going to do it and then the election came so they couldn't do it. Here we have a government that is going to act, and because we're going to act, people who know the argument so well because they wanted to do it themselves are fighting back at us. We are going to make it equitable. Some of the people who are going to be hurt or whose taxes will go up can well afford to pay it. The others are going to find that their taxes are going down, and I believe that is right and fair.

We are certainly trying to explain to people who are going to have a little bit of change that in the long run this is right.

The Deputy Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired. The member for St Catharines.


Mr Bradley: I want to thank the government benches for that warm round of applause as I rise to speak in the House today.

I'm often intrigued by the speeches that come from the government. I guess the general public doesn't use the word "spin" that much, but you know the message the government has for you. The message is created in the Premier's office by those non-elected advisers who do the polling and listen to the Republican Party in the United States. They use words like, "If you disagree with us, you're for the status quo," that's what they like to say, or "change," because they know that's a word that resonates well. I find it intriguing to listen to that in the prepared government speeches and even in some of the interventions we hear of a more spontaneous nature.

People, I remind the government, won't be sending letters to thank you when their taxes go up because of this. The people who are adversely affected will, I assure you, be writing letters of disappointment and anger when their taxes go up in certain parts of Toronto and other areas. The others, you will find, whose are going down, will say, "Why didn't you do it 10 years ago or 20 years ago?" This is not an easy situation to deal with.

I put it in the context of the whole government program. I know what's coming next. I heard how this is supposed to help people in apartments, but a lot of people out there don't know that you people are going to get rid of rent control. So all those seniors and people with modest incomes who are relying upon rental accommodation are going to find huge jumps in rents over the next several years.

It won't all happen at once, I assure you, but when they change apartments, when they change rental accommodation we'll see the cost jumping. The theory out there is that somehow the marketplace will keep prices down.

Premier Davis understood in 1975 that it did not do so, that there was extensive gouging going on. So when I hear the government say that this particular bill is going to help them, I can assure you that people in rental accommodation who will see rent control disappear despite the fact that many of the members -- I will get to VLTs later, I want to tell the member who held up the VLT sign.

Despite the fact that many government members ran on a platform of maintaining rent controls, they're going to disappear. I know that many senior citizens in my riding, some of whom may have been attracted to the let's-go-back-to-the-1950s message of the Premier, won't be very happy at going back to the rents of the mid-1970s, at least the increases that were taking place. That'll be another day and another battle but it has something to do with this bill.

There was a big announcement made one day --


Mr Bradley: I hear a reference being made to Susan Fish's fund-raiser over there and Roy McMurtry's fund-raiser, and who else was it, Dennis Timbrell's fund-raiser -- don't interject with that name -- and I look at the education and property taxes and say that one day they had a big announcement, "We're going to take education off the property taxes," and there was a big round of applause. But a couple of days later they found out that the other shoe dropped and a lot of those municipalities which were quick to applaud are today extremely critical. Even the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, not known as a militant organization by any means, particularly in recent years, has been very critical of this government for the package of legislation that it sees coming.


Your government is dumping both the responsibility and the blame for cuts and increases in municipal property taxes on the municipalities. The smart guys in the Premier's office will smile, rub their hands and say, "Look, don't you worry." I don't know if they speak at your caucus, but if they don't, they have other people speak at your caucus on their behalf, ministers, and they'll say, "You know, we've put one over on them. You know what's going to happen? They're going to thank us for the income tax cut and they'll blame the municipalities," the people the Premier calls the whiners, "for the increase in taxes and for the cuts. We'll look good and the municipalities won't, and maybe we'll get re-elected again if we can fool enough of the people with that particular promotion."

I don't think that's the case. I think people at the municipal level are too wise to fall for that, and we're already seeing that they recognize that they're getting dumped upon them very onerous responsibilities and some additional costs into the billions of dollars.

You are cutting the most progressive tax, the income tax. The income tax takes into account a person's ability to pay because it's how much a person makes in income. If a person is at the lower end of the income scale, that person pays less tax than a person who is fortunate enough to be at the highest end of the income scale. I know the bank presidents and others are happy with this because they're going to get tens of thousands of dollars in returns in terms of their income tax cut. But the poor people out there who are going to have to pay the property tax increase, the most regressive tax there is, are not going to be very happy about it.

You see, the problem with the property tax is that it does not take into account a person's ability to pay. If a person happens to be unfortunate enough to be disabled -- maybe not permanently, but for a period of time -- or that person happens to be unemployed, or that person happens to be on social assistance of some kind even for a relatively short period of time, or that person happens to be ill and unable to earn the kind of income that would be very advantageous to the person, what happens then is that the person must still pay the property tax. Nobody from the city or the town or the township or the county or the region comes and says: "Don't you worry about your property taxes. You don't have to pay them."

That's what I mean when I say it's regressive, and that is wrong. But it fits in with what many people view as the philosophy of this government: Look after the richest and most powerful people and to heck with the rest of the people, because if the rich are doing well, somehow it'll trickle down to somebody else in our society.

You are increasing those property taxes. You have to know as well, and I heard the Premier -- and I think the Minister of Municipal Affairs as well, but the Premier certainly -- saying, "The municipalities will just have to cut the way we've cut in the provincial government." Let me tell you something: They've already cut. I avoid being critical of governments in the past, but in the economic circumstances facing the NDP in the midst of a very difficult recession, they were restricting the amount of money going to municipalities. They required in those days that municipalities, as senior levels of government had to do, were going to trim. Many of them have now cut to the bone. They've cut a lot of services at the municipal level. What that has meant in many cases is again that the people with the most modest income are the worst off.

Let me give you a very tangible example, because we think a lot about hockey in this country: You think of little kids who play hockey. It's pretty expensive. Some municipalities have subsidized the costs of ice time for minor hockey. They've kept the price down so that kids who want to play hockey are able to do so because the costs aren't quite so great for signing up, for registration. But when municipalities have been faced with user fees, with the drastic cut in transfer payments -- that is, the money that goes from the province to the local government -- they have raised those fees and so fewer children -- I say to the member for Etobicoke-Humber that what happens is those kids don't get to play hockey. They have to go and play in the mall or something, or play street hockey. They can't play hockey the way that the kids of people who are rich or who have money can play. That's unfair. That's treating children, who have no control over their own circumstances, unfairly.

But it fits with the philosophy. It fits with the Americanization of this province, because what's happening in the United States is that the gulf between the rich and the poor continues to grow wider. The poor get poorer; the rich get richer. That's what you people on the other side emulate. That's what you worship. You worship New Jersey. My friends on this side of the House will know this: Property taxes in New Jersey have increased remarkably. Why? Because Governor Whitman --

Mr Christopherson: And state taxes.

Mr Bradley: State tax as well. If they're income taxes, they've come down, but the property taxes have gone up, and the Republican governor is cheered by her particular group of people in this regard.

We now have dumped on the local municipalities long-term care -- seniors' care, that is -- and we're worried about privatization. Local municipalities that can't afford this will be looking to the private sector. We'll see the profit motive entering into seniors' care.

We have sewer and water being dumped in some local municipalities. We used to have a considerable number of grants going to help out those municipalities meet their environmental obligations. Today the environment is just pushed aside. The Premier admitted it today. There was an article in the Globe and Mail, you will recall, that said this government was abandoning the environment. They were just going to try to fight off people who were calling them to account.

What else is happening in the context of this bill? Roads are being downloaded. The responsibility for roads is now going to the local municipality.

Ambulance services: In our area and your area, Mr Speaker, outside of Ottawa, an American company, Metro/Rural Corp, is moving in. In New York state, if you want to get into the ambulance, you pay over $200 to enter the door. If you want to get any service while you're in there, over $300 and so on. So that downloading to the municipalities for ambulance service is of concern.

We have a fire services bill out there that's going to cause great problems for fire services in the province. We have more and more of the police services costs now going to the local municipality. Wait till some of these Tories head to their cottages and find out that the tax bill's going to be up on the cottages because of the police services.

Mr Baird: Two minutes to go and no Conrad Black.

Mr Bradley: I'll save that for the second half.

Seniors housing is another area where you have downloaded, and these seniors are going to be very vulnerable because municipalities won't be able to handle this cost.

Development charges: You're going to fix your developer friends. You're saying: "Municipalities, we're going to put all this cost on you, but guess what? We're going to take away one of the sources of revenue you had, the money for development charges, because we want to make our developer friends happy, and that will ensure that we have a lot of people at our fund-raisers."

You're dumping public health on to the local municipalities. Even the assessment responsibility will now be a cost that will be entirely met at the local level. We see many areas.

Perhaps this is a suitable time to terminate this portion of my remarks. I have more. Members have been asking me for certain parts, certain components. I will be back tomorrow and I want to assure you that I will mention all of the factors that you have said. So I will adjourn the debate at this time, Mr Speaker.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made. The member for Downsview has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Attorney General concerning plea bargaining. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the parliamentary assistant or the minister, who's coming now, may reply for up to five minutes.



Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to raise this issue, which is an issue of some importance, with the Attorney General. I hope we can come to some sort of conclusion and have a clear answer from the minister in the public interest.

I know the minister and I share an interest in the transparency of the justice system and the importance of public confidence in that system. He has on many occasions indicated that this is of importance to him and I have no reason to doubt him. He has also indicated an interest in victims' rights, which as you know is also an area in which I have a long-standing interest. You may recall that my first act as a member of this Legislature was to introduce a private member's bill on victims' rights in October 1995.

The government subsequently brought in a bill. I must say, in introducing the government legislation the Attorney General said, "This government will not accept a system that allows victims of crime to suffer twice: first at the hands of the criminal and second under a justice system that does not respond to and respect victims' needs." He reiterated that again on June 10. Again his quote in Hansard of that day is:

"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."

Which brings me to the issue at hand, the whole issue of plea bargaining. You may recall that there was an outcry after the Homolka plea bargain. Some 300,000 people signed a petition decrying the lack of transparency in the process and indeed decrying the very bargain that was made. I'd like to point out that this was not an isolated incident. In fact CAVEAT, an association which has long been associated with victims' rights, has adopted a recommendation that asks for guidelines on the appropriate use of plea bargaining, including a mechanism for accountability, and training in the appropriate uses of plea bargaining from the victim's perspective and consultation with victims with respect to plea bargaining.

That brings me clearly to the question at hand. We've had a report by Mr Justice Galligan in the Homolka affair which indicated that he thought it would be a good idea to look into this issue. We have several statements from the minister himself indicating that the ministry was prepared to look at this. Again I cite from Hansard.

In response to one of my questions on March 19, the Attorney General said: "Certainly people at the ministry have indicated already a willingness and a desire to begin the process of setting out clearly answers to what Justice Galligan has said. They're very important." He was referring, of course, to the issue of plea bargaining. On June 6 the Attorney General indicated in a response, again to a question on plea bargaining, "The senior members in the criminal law division are working on this project and I expect they'll have guidelines prepared and dealt with."

It's now been a year, almost, since the Galligan report was released, March 15, 1996, to be exact, and we are still waiting for some guidelines with respect to plea bargaining and some clear rules as to precisely what ought to be taken into consideration by crown attorneys and how much they ought to involve victims. I remind the Attorney General that the victims' rights legislation provides for victims to be kept apprised of these issues.

Most recently, Karen Vanscoy, the mother of a 14-year-old who was murdered and in which case a plea bargain was struck, which was not what the family had wanted -- it was far less severe than they had anticipated -- has demanded clear guidelines. There is a public interest in having some clear, transparent guidelines that will show people exactly what is required, what is needed and will assure accountability in the justice system.

My question to the Attorney General is very simple: He says they are developing clear guidelines. We'd like to know when these guidelines are going to be presented.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I again want to express my sympathy to the Vanscoy family as a result of the tragedy and the loss they have suffered. Mr Speaker, I'd like to inform you and this Legislature that in this particular case, pursuant to the Victims' Bill of Rights, extraordinary steps were taken at all stages to ensure that the family was kept informed and that the family understood the process that was being undertaken. That is something that I know senior crown officials were involved with. Certainly the crown attorney who was involved with this case is one of the most experienced crown attorneys in the province of Ontario, and I know he did take those extraordinary steps to involve the family and to ensure the family was aware at each stage of what the process was and made extraordinary efforts so that the family could understand the process.

We have, I believe, done more for victims than the last two governments combined when we take a look at some of the initiatives this government has taken. We've passed the Victims' Bill of Rights, and I might add that the Liberal Party voted against the Victims' Bill of Rights when my colleague Cam Jackson, the member for Burlington, proposed at an early stage in a private member's bill a Victims' Bill of Rights. The Liberal Party voted against it. They had no interest in a Victims' Bill of Rights when they were the government, and they in fact voted against victims.

We have doubled the number of victim/witness assistance programs in the province of Ontario from 13 to 26 sites, and there will be further increases to that very important program that helps victims go through the court process. It is a very important program, probably the most important program that the Ministry of the Attorney General has developed for victims. It in fact is a program very much related to the kind of information that the member for Downsview is so concerned that victims receive, and that program is totally geared to the kinds of concerns the member has.

We've quadrupled the victim crisis assistance and referral service, taking that from I think five to 20 sites. That is happening throughout the course of 1997 and into 1998.

We've established a victim notification system to inform victims of the status of an offender, and we've also set up a $500,000 community service fund so that community groups can access this fund to provide services for victims in their community.

We've set up two domestic violence courts, one in North York -- the member's own riding is part of this court process -- and also in downtown Toronto, so that we can better prosecute cases involving spousal abuse. We've also enshrined the victims' justice fund into the Victims' Bill of Rights to ensure that when we collect the victim fine surcharge, it goes into this fund and judges have the assurance that this money will be used to offer services for victims.

These are very important initiatives that I think, and I would hope, the member for Downsview is very supportive of, and I know she would be. They speak in a great many instances to the very concerns she raises. Other issues that she raises, such as plea bargaining, are issues that we are as a ministry taking a look at. We are looking at areas of possible law reform in terms of dealing with plea bargaining, but these are difficult and complicated matters that can't be turned around overnight.

Certainly the process is under way to review certain procedural issues and ways we can ensure that we are complying with the terms set out in the Victims' Bill of Rights to keep people informed, to make sure they understand the process, to make sure they are being heard by the administration of justice and crown attorneys.

The Deputy Speaker: There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.

The House adjourned at 1810.